Apricum (Apricum Kingdom #1)

Orphaned and in charge of keeping her young brother alive, Helga survives by using her powers to kill for hire. But, when she is kidnapped by people wanting to exploit her, Helga's life changes drastically. No longer sure who to trust, she escapes and goes looking for her brother Finn. But she's been keeping secrets even from those closest to her, and secrets have a way of finding you, in the end... [PG-15 for violence and language - keep in mind that the protagonist kills for a living. Some references to sex.]


9. Eight

I couldn’t breathe.

I’d gone on a shopping spree the morning after I had spoken to Raul, and purchased ten different royal outfits. I had to be careful not to have them be too much in the local style, since I was posing as an outsider, so I’d gone to the only tailor shop that sold foreign fashions. Apparently corsets were in again, but unlike the historical accounts of them, they were no longer covered by voluminous dresses and multiple layers of skirts; now, they were apparently meant to be worn as a top, paired with jeans or leggings. I tugged at the top of thing, appalled at the way my breasts nearly spilled out of the constrictive material.

The woman in the shop had assured me that this was the latest fashion, but I had also made sure to buy a couple of less revealing tops, and a few dresses. I had then loaded everything into a brand case and hired a cab. Sitting in the backseat of the car now, I marvelled at how comfortable it was. We never even saw these in the Red District; the wealthy men usually had their cabs drop them off quite a few blocks before the District proper, not wanting any rumours to get started that could find their way back to their wives. It was almost silent inside, too.

If not for the scenery rushing past us, I wouldn’t have even been able to tell we were moving. As the car pulled up to the palace gates, I took a deep breath. I hadn’t been past these gates since I was thirteen.

Focus on Finn, I told myself, closing my hands together to keep them from shaking. One of the guards at the gate approached and the driver lowered my tinted window. I offered him a smile that I hoped didn’t seem nervous and handed him Lady Emma Johansen’s ID. My hair was intricately braided - courtesy of one of Freyja’s colleagues - like hers was in the photo. After examining the laminated card for a few seconds, the guard leans down, handing it back to me.

“Welcome, Lady Johansen. We’ve been expecting you. Will you be needing a lady’s maid while you’re here or did you bring one?” he asked, looking past me into the empty cab.

“Uh, I’d be most obliged if the King could spare one…” shit. Why hadn’t I thought of this? But the guard just nodded at me.

“I’ll send word to have your servant meet you at the palace’s doors, my Lady.” He stepped back and waved the cab forward.

I sat back and let out a relieved sigh. That was not a good start. I was hoping that Emma Johansen’s status would be only just significant enough to allow her access to the palace, but not important enough to warrant a private audience with the King as part of the welcome. I doubted he’d recognise me, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Besides, I’d never be able to get enough time alone with the King - without his guards - for me to interrogate him about Freyja and Finn. No, I’d have to start small. Hopefully his guards would be amenable to alcohol and flirting from a royal.

I smirked as the car pulled up to the doors of the palace. I was sure they’d find it strange that a royal - no matter how minor the royalty in her bloodline was - would flirt with them. If only they knew…

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