Cracked KingdomBy: Erin Watt
These Royals will ruin you.
Ever since Hartley Wright met Easton Royal, her life hasn’t been the same. There are enemies behind every corner and dangers beyond each door. When tragedy strikes and steals her memories, she can’t trust anyone, not even the blue-eyed boy who promises her that everything will be all right.
Because while Hartley’s memory is full of gaps, her instincts tell her Easton is dangerous. She doesn’t know if he’s the snake in the garden or her chance at salvation. The chaos he brings wherever he goes is too much to handle, the intense feelings he evokes are too confusing to unravel.
Easton wants her to remember. Hartley thinks it’s better to forget.
She might be right.
Tragedy. Treachery. Trust. Hartley has to face the facts—in this world, you can’t escape the Royals. Either you live by their rules or you die by them.
Light of life.
Everyone is screaming.
If I weren’t in a state of shock—not to mention drunker than drunk—I might’ve been able to hear the individual shouts, connect them to certain voices, make sense of the caustic words and angry accusations being hurled around.
But right now, it sounds like one unending wave of sound. A symphony of hatred, worry, and fear.
“…your son’s fault!”
“Like hell it is!”
My head is buried in my hands, and I rub my eyes against my callused palms.
“…even here?...should have you taken out in handcuffs, you son of a bitch…harassment…”
“…like to see you try…not afraid of you, Callum Royal. I’m the district attorney—”
“Assistant district attorney.”
My eyes feel dry and itchy. I’m sure they’re bloodshot, too. They always get bloodshot when I’m wasted.
Something smacks my shoulder, and one voice breaks through the others. I jerk my head up to find my stepsister regarding me with deep concern in her blue eyes.
“You haven’t moved in three hours. Talk to me,” Ella begs softly. “Let me know you’re okay.”
Okay? How could I be okay? Look at what’s happening, for fuck’s sake. We’re in a private waiting room at Bayview General—the Royals don’t have to wait in the real ER waiting room with the rest of the peasants. We get special treatment everywhere we go, even hospitals. When my older brother Reed got stabbed last year, he was rushed into surgery like he was the president himself, no doubt taking an OR slot from someone who needed it more. But Callum Royal’s name goes a long way in this state. Hell, the country. Everyone knows my father. Everyone fears him.
“…criminal charges against your son—”
“Your fucking daughter is responsible for…”
“Easton,” Ella urges again.
I ignore her. She doesn’t exist to me at the moment. None of them do. Not Ella. Not Dad. Not John Wright. Not even my younger brother Sawyer, who was just allowed to join us after getting a couple stitches on his temple. Massive car accident and Sawyer walks away with a scrape.
Meanwhile, his twin brother is…
Fuck if I know. We haven’t received an update about Sebastian since we got to the hospital. His bloody, broken body was whisked away on a gurney, his family banished to this room to await the news of whether he’s alive or dead.
“If my son doesn’t survive, your daughter will pay for this.”
“You sure he’s even your son?”
“You goddamn asshole!”
“What? Seems to me like all your boys need DNA tests. Why not get all the testing done now? We’re at a hospital, after all. It’ll be easy enough to draw some blood and confirm which one of your boys is a Royal, and which one is O’Halloran spawn—”
“Dad! SHUT UP!”
Hartley’s anguished voice cuts into me like a knife. The others might not exist to me right now, but she does. She’s been sitting in the corner of the room for three hours. Like me, she hadn’t spoken a word. Until now. Now she’s on her feet, her gray eyes blazing with fury, her voice high and ringing with accusation as she lunges toward her father.
I don’t know why John Wright is even here. He can’t stand his daughter. He sent Hartley to boarding school. He wouldn’t let her move back in once she returned to Bayview. He shouted at her tonight, told her she wasn’t part of his family and threatened to send her little sister away.
But after the ambulances took Hartley, the twins, and the twins’ girlfriend away, Mr. Wright was the first person to leave for the hospital. Maybe he wants to make sure Hartley doesn’t tell anyone about what a piece of shit he is.
“Why are you even here!” Hartley screams out my thoughts. “I wasn’t hurt in the accident! I’m just fine! I don’t need you here and I don’t want you here!”
Wright yells something back, but I’m not paying attention. I’m too busy watching Hartley. Since her car collided with the twins’ Range Rover outside her father’s mansion, she’s insisted she’s fine. Not to me, of course—nope, she hasn’t looked my way even once. I don’t blame her.