EVIL VILLAIN (The Royal Court #3) - Rebel Hart

1

Cherri

Waking up in the mornings now made me sadder than it used to.

At least when I woke up in Deon’s bed, it smelled like him, but it’d been eight months since he’d last been there, and his scent was officially gone. Any clothes he left behind were clean and smelled only of laundry detergent or the gathered mildew from being untouched for more than half a year. If I wasn’t staying with his mother, I’d be inclined to say that I didn’t have anything left of him, but at least I still had his smile through hers.

Even if she didn’t smile much those days.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” Ciara was standing at the kitchen counter and looked back over her shoulder to smile at me when I walked in. “Would you like some eggs? We have leftover ham, so I could put some ham in like you like them?”

“That sounds really yummy, thank you,” I replied.

Sinking down into one of the kitchen chairs, I noticed that the microwave said it was just past seven in the morning.

Eventually I’d have to leave and face my life.

Ciara’s deep red hair was pulled back into a messy bun with wisps hanging off of it, and her eyes were sunken and sallow. Though she had never been a particularly large woman, she was borderline emaciated from how little she’d been eating as of late, and whatever energy she did have from the little bits of food she ate were going into worrying about her son.

I couldn’t blame her.

“You’re having some too, right?” I asked.

“I’ve already eaten,” she replied.

Without responding, I scooted my chair back from the table and walked over to the sink, I looked into it, seeing it totally bare and bone dry, then I looked over at Ciara. “Really? Out of your hand?”

She glared over at me. “What are you, my mother?”

“I might as well be,” I said. She was cracking eggs into a bowl, so I walked over, picked a few additional ones out of the carton and cracked them into the bowl. “There. Enough for two.”

A huff of frustration puffed out of Ciara’s nose, but she didn’t say anything back, just resumed mixing the eggs with a little bit of milk and some seasonings. I returned to my seat and rested my head on the table, knowing that Deon would want me to be making his mother eat, at least a little bit. If he knew she was starving to death while he was missing, it’d make everything worse.

I was making a list in my mind of everything that I had to take care of, starting with leaving my current accommodations and ending with going to my new ones. It would require a chat with my parents, and probably my brother too, though I was dreading that the most. I also had to face my friends, to whom I’d been absolutely awful for the past six months.

“Ugh,” I opted to say out loud. “It’s gonna be a long day.”

Ciara snickered from over near the oven. “What makes one of the first days of summer vacation for a rich girl a long day?”

One place Ciara and I differed was in our pocketbooks, but nearly everything else was the same. I used to live in the same rundown neighborhood as her until my dad got promoted and we moved to South Postings. Being back in her house in North Postings felt much better to me. I missed being in a house where you actually crossed paths with the people you’re living with.

“Well, first—and this is bad news for you and me—” I started, and Ciara looked over at me. “I think I’m moving out today.”

She scoffed. “So much for sixty days’ notice.” Then she chuckled. “I’ll be sad not to have you around anymore. Are you going back to your parents’?”

“No,” I said. “I’m actually—prepare to lose your mind—going to stay with Nathan.”

Ciara’s eyes widened. “What?”

My cheeks puffed up as I took in a huge gulp of air, and deflated as I sputtered out. “I’ll wait until the eggs are done. I’ve got some explaining to do.”

Ciara’s eyebrows went up, but she took my excuse and returned to the eggs. Like me, Ciara always maintained that Deon was still alive. When I lost my mind a little bit after his disappearance, my parents kicked me out and I ended up going to stay with Ciara. I hadn’t told her that, as of a week ago, I had confirmation that Deon was alive out there somewhere,

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