I wasn’t even sure where the words had come from, they just emerged from my mouth without warning. Even though I couldn’t figure out their source, I knew they were the truth. Mom’s death was a horrible tragedy, one I’m sure was orchestrated by a Royal or someone of high ranking. Dad had never been able to figure out the true cause of her death, forcing him to call it a simple rogue attack. I knew it was risky playing the same game, but I couldn’t sit idle. Dad was an amazing ruler, that much was clear. Our own Kingdom was flourishing, but others were failing. I wondered how many lives had been lost in other Kingdoms because Dad refused to play the game.
I headed to the west wing of the Mansion, trudging up the stairs to the second floor. I nearly knocked on room twenty four when Viktor’s gloved hand stopped me. His hand wrapped around my raised hand, a single finger coming to his mouth in an attempt to tell me ‘quiet’. Only when I heard the hushed voices on the other side of the door, did I understand. Viktor released my hand, nodding in the direction of the door. I let my eyes close and strained to listen in on the conversation. I could easily tell it was Shannon and Erik.
“The less who know the better.” Erik whispered almost angrily.
“She has a right to know, Erik.” Shannon responded, the same anger laced in her tone.
“I know-” Erik was quick to respond, but Shannon cut him off.
“Sh.” Shannon hushed, and the room fell silent. “Someone’s listening.”
I swallowed back the unease and irritation in my stomach and knocked on the door. For a moment no one answered. Finally, Erik opened the door. His face was guarded, but a grin broke out on his face when he realized it was me.
“Bella.” Erik smiled, pulling me in for a hug. “I’m sorry I hadn’t been around to visit.”
“It’s not a problem.” I smiled back, “Could I come in?”
“Oh of course.” Erik chuckled.
I walked into Erik’s suite and looked around. Shannon was no where to be found, clearly hiding.
“Shannon.” I rolled my eyes, “I know you’re here.”
Shannon stalked out from the bathroom, an apologetic look on her face.
“Could I talk to Shannon for a minute?” I smiled at Erik.
“Kicking me out of my own room?” Erik huffed, his dark eyebrow raised. “Alright, alright. I’m going.”
Erik left the suite and walked down the hallway. I kept my mouth shut until his footsteps faded into silence.
“Anything you need to tell me?” I raised my eyebrow at Shannon.
“I could be askin’ you the same thing.” She met my defiance with her own.
“It’s not that simple.” I sighed.
My first plan was in the works. The more people who knew, the less chance it would have to actually succeed.
“It never is.” Shannon frowned, sitting down on the sofa.
“Is something going on between you and Erik?” I raised my eyebrow at her.
A deep blush formed on her espresso skin as she waved my words away.
“You know better than to ask that.” Shannon rolled her eyes, “Nothin’ like that is goin’ on between me and Erik.”
“If you say so.” I teased.
“We’re workin’ on something, Bella.” Shannon grimaced. Her honey eyes were filled to the brim with underlying knowledge.
“Can’t you tell me?” I frowned, “If it makes you feel better, I’ll send Viktor away.”
“No.” Shannon shook her head, “Let Viktor stay. He’s the one whose gonna keep you alive.”
I risked a glance towards Viktor, butterflies swarming in my stomach as his dark eyes burned into my own.
“Someone put a hit out on you.” Shannon pursed her lips.
“Well, that explains why people keep trying to kill me.” I mumbled, remembering the party with Caroline and my birthday Gala very clearly.
“It’s more than that.” Shannon mumbled, “The amount of money their offering is..staggering.”
“What does that have to do with what you and Erik were talking about?” I frowned.
“A month ago Erik heard a rumor. Just some piss-poor drunk guy was crossing through his Kingdom and made a total wreck of things.” Shannon shook her head, “Got a special audience with Erik for it. Couldn’t stop talking about this pretty green eye’d Princess these men were hired to kill.”
“He was talking about me?” I frowned.
“Had a picture and everything.” Shannon’s eyes wandered to the window. “Erik couldn’t get much from the guy but he figures the man got drunk and passed out in some alley. Must’ve heard the information from a couple of the men hired to kill you. One of them dropped the photo and the drunk guy picked it up.”
“What does that have to do with your plan?” I pursed my lips. I didn’t need Shannon putting herself in any danger for me.
“We’re trying to find out who ordered the hit.” Shannon sighed, “Erik’s Kingdom is small, but he still has some people on his side. Plus, there’s a lot of people who wanna help you.”
“Help me?” I was surprised. Sure, Dad was a great ruler but why would they want to help me?
“Yup.” Shannon nodded, turning her honey eyes to my own. “You have a lot of friends, Arabella.”
“One third of the world wants to kill me, another third wants to help me, and the last bit want to marry me.” I groaned, letting a tired chuckle fall from my lips.
Humor twinkled in Shannon’s eyes, “Well I don’t want you dead, and I definitely don’t wanna marry you. Guess that makes me team good guys.”
“Gee, and here I thought you were trying to take the place of my mate.” I smirked as Shannon rolled her eyes.
“Hell, my job as assistant is hard enough.” Shannon shook her head, “No way in hell do I need to rule.”
I glanced to the clock on the wall. It was nearing three o’clock which meant I needed to return to my bedroom quickly.
“That reminds me, I’m assigning you a body guard.” I forced the words from my mouth in a rush, knowing she wouldn’t be happy. She reacted the way I expected.
“Arabella, I don’t need no damn body guard.” Shannon huffed, giving me an incredulous look. “Did you not hear everything I said to you? No one can know about what Erik and I are doin’.”
“I understand.” I nodded, “But I am not leaving you unprotected.”
“No one’s after me, Bella.” Shannon shook her head. “Their after you.”
“Everyone important to me is at risk.” I frowned, “That includes you.”
“You’re not gonna change your mind on this are you?” Shannon frowned.
“No. I’m not.” I shook my head, “It’ll be someone from Dad’s inner circle, someone we can all trust.”
“Alright.” Shannon pursed her lips, “Not that I have any say in the matter.”
“There is one more thing I need to ask of you.” I smiled sheepishly.
Shannon raised her eyebrow, “Uh huh.”
“Watch August for me, please?” I frowned. “He’s terrified and.. I think something bad is gonna happen to him.”
“I’m not a warrior, Bella.” Shannon huffed, “If someone tries to kill the guy, I can’t protect him.”
I shook my head, “His Mom and sister work behind the scenes. If August was going to die, I don’t think it would be some grand spectacle. I doubt they would send someone to murder him.”
Shannon paused for a moment, “I agree. If August was gonna die, I’d bet good money they were the cause.”
“I would too.” I nodded, “Just shadow him. Don’t let him out of your sight, and don’t let him eat anything that touches Elena or Annalise’s hands.”
“Alright.” Shannon nodded, “But I expect a promotion.”
“Deal.” I grinned.
I headed back to my room quickly, Viktor hot on my tail.
The two of us stepped into my suite and Viktor craned his head to make sure no one was listening.
“One hour.” Viktor murmured, his obsidian eyes burning into my own.
“Come back to me.” I pleaded, truly worried for his safety.
In a move that was slow and calculated, Viktor raised his gloved hand and ran it down my cheek. I couldn’t resist the shiver that rolled through me, nor the urge to feel his skin against my own. I recoiled at the thought, the thought of my mate flooding into mind.
Viktor left without another word, but our eyes said it all.