After my long conversation with Viktor, the first step of my plan was beginning. Viktor was right. I couldn’t take on everyone at one time, I needed to go one by one.
The night provided little in terns of rest. My mind was busy concocting plans for each potential snake in my life. August was a main priority at the moment. The way Elena spoke of her son gave me a sickening feeling. While I didn’t get gut feelings often, my gut was telling me to protect August at all costs.
When I wasn’t thinking of plans or August’s safety, my mind was wandering back to the Aslanov family.
Their two sons in all of their beauty, playing the game with an anticipating and skillful mindset. The one family that truly seemed to enjoy the game and potential pain they could inflict on others. The eldest son Nikolai Aslanov, held such beauty it was incredible. The false emotion’s he played on his face were incredibly calculated and well formed. In the short conversation I had with him, I knew not to trust the face he put out to the world. And yet, I couldn’t shake the strange connection I felt with him. Completely different from the way I felt about Viktor, but the connection was still there.
The morning came quickly, and I groaned as the sunlight streamed through my curtains.
Part of me didn’t want to leave my room. The thought of running into Elena or Annalise was sickening. I wasn’t sure I could stand another multi-layered conversation with the two of them. Even after hours of over analyzing our brief conversations, I wasn’t sure what to think. While I had absolutely no proof, I knew August was in danger and from the look’s of it August thought the same. The importance of what he was trying to tell me ran circles in my head, but I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity to speak with August in private. Elena was much too smart to let that happen.
I pulled myself from bed when the monotony had gotten much too overwhelming.
“I know you don’t want to run into any of them again, but they could let something else slip.” Aela shrugged, sharing my intense dislike for both Annalise and Elena.
“I doubt that.” I frowned, “They don’t trust me and I’m not willing to prove myself to them.”
Another plan was formulating in my head. Nothing special, but it might provide some form of protection for August.
Viktor followed me out into the hall, not speaking another word about our hushed conversation last night. I was trusting Viktor with a lot, but I knew he could handle it. How easily he agreed to my favor last night made me wonder what he had done prior to becoming my bodyguard. He was well connected, well trained, and well spoken.
“Three o’clock.” Viktor murmured in my ear, his hot breath smelling strongly of mint.
I didn’t open my mouth to speak, I already knew what he was referring to. Instead, I nodded. Such a subtle move, one that required very little effort on my part.
I walked down the hall, Shannon once again at the forefront of my mind. Shannon was key to my plan with August. If I had the choice, I’d demand Viktor watch over the Halifax heir but I knew he would never agree. For whatever reason, Viktor took his job as my bodyguard very seriously. He’d never leave my side to protect another.
When I couldn’t find Shannon, I ran down to the kitchens. Sheila once again refused to meet my eyes as she claimed Shannon had picked up yet another shift at the cafe.
“Sheila, I know you’re hiding something.” I frowned, “You’ve always been a terrible liar.”
“Hush, girl.” Sheila scolded me, turning her back to continue cleaning.
“Please.” I sighed, “This is important, Sheila.”
“I told you not to go dragging Shannon into this mess.” Sheila grimaced, “And here she is, right in the middle of it.”
“Anything Shannon did, she did because she wanted to.” I frowned, “You and Shannon know things for a reason. Maybe you’re supposed to be in the middle of it.”
Sheila paused for a moment, turning to face me. A guarded emotion crossed her eyes. It hurt to know Sheila was pissed at me, but I never asked Shannon to do anything more than observe the guests at my Gala.
“Your Momma told me the exact same thing ten years ago.” Sheila frowned.
“I’m sure she had a good reason to say that.” I responded, refusing to back down.
Sheila paused and gave me a weary look, “I hear Shannon’s your assistant now.”
“Shannon’s so much more than just an assistant.” My lips turned up in a soft smile.
“You’re damn right about that.” Sheila huffed. I could see the walls breaking down in her eyes. She was close to giving me the information I needed.
“I’d never make her do anything.” I promised Sheila, “But I need her. She’s important to all of this.”
Sheila knew exactly what I was referring to. I wasn’t sure how, but Sheila was very aware of the game Royal’s played. From the frightened and stubborn look in her eye, she had first hand experience. I couldn’t help but wonder if my Mom had ever asked Sheila for help. I wouldn’t be surprised, she was my Mom’s closest friend.
“She’s with Erik.” Sheila sighed, setting her rag down on the counter. “Don’t ask me why or where cause I don’t know.”
“Thank you, Sheila.” I gave her a grateful smile.
“Don’t thank me, Bella.” Sheila frowned, “Just keep Shannon safe.”
I strolled down the hall, going to the one person who would know where Erik was.
“Come in.” My Dad called out as I knocked on his office door. The stress in his voice was tangible, as was the lingering hint of anger.
“Sorry to interrupt.” I smiled sheepishly.
Dad was in the middle of a conversation with none other than Bryton Duboi.
Bryton Duboi sat proudly in one of the leather chairs, a glass of dark colored alcohol in his hands. His sandy hair was neatly styled, and he was certainly dressed to impress.
“Princess Arabella.” Bryton Duboi stood from his seat and approached me.
My eyes never left my Dad’s as Bryton leaned down and kissed my hand. Aela gagged in my head, and I stifled a snicker.
“Hello, Bryton.” I nodded once he finally removed his alcohol soaked lips from my hand.
“What brings you here, Bella?” Dad asked, his Alpha King tone securely in place.
“I needed to talk with you.” I gave Dad a small and polite smile.
“You are excused, Bryton.” Dad gave a stiff smile to Bryton who stood unhappily from his seat.
“I’ll catch up with you later, Princess.” Bryton gave me a hundred watt smile and left my Dad’s office.
Once the door closed behind Bryton, Dad’s guarded expression fell. He looked like a man who had much to little sleep.
“Pompous, big headed, arrogant, ignorant excuse for a Lycan.” Dad muttered quietly, taking a deep drink of the amber colored liquid.
I couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped my lips, which quickly turned to full blown laughter. Dad was usually the one able to keep his emotions under lock and key. Mom was always the exuberant one, wearing her heart and emotion’s on her sleeve.
“I see you and Bryton Duboi are great friends.” I teased, sitting down in one of the leather chairs.
Dad looked at me without amusement, “Very funny, Bella.”
“At least I’m not the only one who dislikes him.” I grumbled, a smile on my lips at my Dad’s exasperated expression.
“In all of my years, I have not met a single person who genuinely likes the Duboi family.” Dad rolled his eyes, “Consider yourself lucky the rest of his family were unable to attend your birthday Gala.”
“Their all that bad?” I blanched. I was in fact, very lucky.
“Every last one of them.” Dad grumbled, “Bryton Duboi insists you wish to name him your mate.”
I choked on the rush of air racing to my lungs.
“He said what?” I coughed, taking deep breaths.
“Exactly.” Dad murmured with a smug smile, “Insists I don’t know my daughter.”
“Never once have I said I wanted him as a mate.” I grimaced.
“With the Duboi family you don’t need to say anything.” Dad rolled his eyes, “They take it upon themselves. Constantly nagging-”
Dad paused for just a moment, his eyes glazing over as someone spoke to him through the mind-link.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave in just a moment.” Dad cleared his throat, something hidden lingering in his eyes. “Your Uncle is in need of me.”
“I need to know which room Erik is staying in.” I kept my tone light hearted. I was simply looking to visit a childhood friend, nothing more.
“Ah, I see.” Dad nodded, apparently not seeing through my facade. “He’s in the west wing, second floor. Room twenty four, I believe.”
“Thanks.” I grinned, ready to leave when another thought crossed my mind. “Could I ask something of you?”
“Depends on what it is.” Dad smiled warily.
“I want a guard assigned to Shannon.” The carefree tone was gone from my voice in an instant, and my Dad picked up on that fact.
Dad frowned, “Why would she need a guard?”
“She is very.. valuable to me.” My words were swollen with the power that flowed through me, born in the blood that filled our ancestors for thousands of years. “Others might take note of that. I wish to keep her safe.”
“Understandable.” Dad nodded, clearly feeling the effects of my power-laced words. “I will find someone suitable for Shannon.”
“Thank you.” I smiled, “Someone from your inner circle preferably.”
“She must be very valuable to need someone of that ranking.” Dad pointed out, and I gave him a small smile.
Dad clearly knew the game I was playing, though he never once attempted to play it himself.
“She is.” I nodded, “Plus, Sheila would have my head if anything happened to her.”
Dad chuckled in response and I finally turned to leave. His last words sent a chill down my spine.
“Bella?” Dad called out, and I turned my head to meet his eyes. “Be very careful. Your Mom thought she could handle playing too.”
“My fate is different from Mom’s.” My voice sounded strange, like it belonged to someone else.