Her older sister holds her hand. At three or four, the girl is just as lovely as she is now, with pale blonde hair and piercing blue eyes that match her mother’s.
Regina cries softly, clutching my arm. “It’s her.”
I turn away, choking back emotion that doesn’t usually plague me.
“Her name was Eleanor,” I say to Regina, tilting my head back to stare at the ceiling, willing my weakness to leave me.
“Why did she say it was Alice?” Regina asks, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“She was young,” Wallen answers. He’s older than Regina and me by almost two decades and was Father’s valet before he started attending me. “It was difficult to understand her. She was probably asking for her sister.”
I was eight when Eleanor came to us. I remember…but not as well as Wallen.
Well enough, however, to know that this is her.
Why did it have to be her?
Regina chokes on a sob, turning from us, and dark memories flood the room. Though Eleanor was never truly ours, we loved her.
And none of us will be able to forgive Mother for what she did.
“Do something with the portrait, Wallen.” I clear my throat. “I cannot keep it in here.”
“Would you have me destroy it, Your Highness?”
“No,” I say immediately, the idea unthinkable. “But store it somewhere we don’t have to look at it. Somewhere my mother won’t find it.”
“Or Drake,” Regina says softly.
“Yes,” I reply.
Wallen covers the portrait and steps into the hall, leaving me with Regina.
“Brahm,” she cries, hugging herself.
“I know,” I murmur gently, wrapping my arm around her shoulder.
“They looked so much alike,” she says. “Do you think…do you think Ali—Eleanor would have grown up to look like Alice?”
My face tries to crumple, but I fight it. “Don’t do this to yourself.”
Regina nods and steps back, her eyes already red from crying.
“It’s getting late,” I say gently. “Go to bed.”
“Are you all right?” she asks, dabbing her face.
She blinks quickly. “If you need me…”
I wait until she’s gone before I sink into a chair and let my head hang. Alice’s parents died because they were searching for her sister. Her life has been turbulent because of us.
If we had tried to locate Eleanor’s family when she was first brought to us instead of treating her like a puppy, perhaps the tragedy could have been avoided. Eleanor might have lived a normal life. She and Alice would likely be with their parents tonight, content and happy, maybe chattering about a ball they would attend come the weekend.
Untouched by Faerie and its cruel ways.
Before I can think about my decision, I stand and pull off my jacket, quickly dressing in my black garb. A few minutes later, wearing my mask and a bandage I do not require, I stand outside Alice’s balcony door.