The Everlasting Rose (The Belles, #2)(10)

“Is this...” I start to say.

Rémy clears his throat and doesn’t meet my eyes. “A place where no one will search for us. And if they did, the soldiers would be easily distracted.”

“Smart,” Edel says, patting him on the shoulder. “I knew you were good for something.”

He stiffens. “Wait here.” He pulls his mask tight and vanishes up the stairs.

A nervous tremor pulses through me. I look around, alert with adrenaline. Women push a variety of pavilion carts advertising the strongest bourbon pies and the savoriest meat skewers and the perfect ale to warm one’s belly. Men and women stumble in and out of the buildings along the street—some holding bloated purses ready to gamble in the card salons, and others looking for love and companionship. Many readjust their masks to cover garish makeup and hold on to their face embellishments, the trend of jewel-embedded skin very popular here. Gris beggars rush to every available person asking for spare leas and spintria.

“We need to go look for her,” I repeat.

“No,” Edel spits back. “I’m not risking my life for Amber.”

“She’s your sister!”

“She’s your sister.” Edel crosses her arms over her chest. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s changed.”

A few newsies parade through with their voice-trumpets. Their shouts hit us in heavy waves.

“Buy the Daily Orléansian for exclusive first pictures of construction on Queen Sophia’s new prison being built in the middle of the Royal Harbor,” one cries out.

“Power of Belle blood discovered.”

Edel and I freeze and lock eyes.

“Royal scientists give first interviews about the breakthrough to the queen’s favorite newspaper, the National.” The newsie waves around a reel. “Watch it now.”

“Disgraced Guardian of the Belles, Madam Ana Maria Lange Du Barry missing. Report just released via the Orléansian Times.”

The sound of Du Barry’s name sends a shudder through me. I step forward to buy the paper, but Edel grabs my arm and shakes her head. I stand frozen beside her as the newsies’ headlines hit us one after the other. “Did you hear that? About Du Barry?”

“She could be found at the bottom of the Rose Bayou for all I care.” Edel points up. Blimps skate overhead with silkscreen banners holding our pictures. No longer Amber’s portrait. The leas reward has doubled.

The sight of it makes my heart somersault.

It happened so fast.

“We should buy the papers, then go back for Amber. I know you and she have never been the closest, but she—”

“I saw what she did,” Edel says.


“A leaked newsreel circulated after Sophia’s lady-of-honor Claudine died. I watched that arcana challenge Sophia made the two of you participate in at her dinner party. The tattlers had it until Sophia threatened to shut down the press and made them come before the Minister of News.”

The memory of that night hits me in waves:

Claudine’s vacant eyes.

Claudine’s slack mouth.

Claudine’s dead body.

“I saw how she acted. She wouldn’t stop. She was the same old Amber. Always needing to win. You tried to stop her. I saw the pain on your face.”

My heartbeat quickens with each accusation Edel lobs at Amber. I’m unable to defend her.

A vendor stops to stare at us. “Care for a bourbon pie?”

Edel runs her off.

We step a little away from the Red Velvet Salon staircase.

“We were both at fault. I should have refused,” I whisper to her.

“She should’ve helped you both get out of that game. But Amber has always, always had to win above all else.” Edel balls her hands into fists. “The one with the best marks from Du Barry. The one who got the first pick of dresses and desserts. The one who had to go first with every group lesson given to us. I thought it was just a bad habit from when we were little. Her maman spoiled her. I thought she’d grow out of it—”


“No excuses. The rest of our sisters don’t behave like that. You don’t do that.”

“Sophia tortured her during her time as favorite. You can’t—”

“I don’t trust her anymore.”

Another blimp crests overhead, bathing us in a dark shadow.

Rémy reappears at the top of the entrance stairs. Edel rushes up toward him, leaving me and our conversation behind.

I climb the stairs and step through the door. The space reminds me of the candy houses we’d built as little girls to celebrate the new year and call sweetness from the God of the Ground. Red-and-gold-papered walls hug us inside a decadent living room that looks up to five wraparound floors. Blush-pink lanterns putter about, bathing each level in pale shades of light. Perfume blimps squirt rose water. Velvet chaises and tufted chairs hold glamorous powdered and primped women and men.

We follow Rémy to a hall that smells like dried flowers and clove smoke, then up a flight of stairs and down another hall. My body is tense, my nerves coiled up like a spring. My argument with Edel replays over and over again in my head. Her words—“I don’t trust her anymore”—drumming through me like discordant music on a stringed misen.

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