After I gave Uncle Jaspar the necklace, it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. While I believed my intentions to be pure, the thought of losing Aela for even a few days was terrifying. Uncle Jaspar provided me with what help he could and for that I was thankful.
I stayed in my bedroom well into the afternoon. The dinner cart pulled me from my thoughts.
“You can just leave it.” I nodded at one of the servants with a smile.
“Place it outside your room when you are finished, Princess.” The older woman smiled back.
I ate my dinner in silence, my mind attempting to focus on many things at once. I found I couldn’t tap into my mate at will. It was a give and take type of connection. I could only receive the emotions and thoughts from my mate if he chose to let me. It seemed he had placed a mental barrier, preventing me from obtaining any information.
I tried to build my own wall, blocking my inner most thoughts and emotions but it was harder than it seemed. No matter how hard I tried, my wall continued to crumble. The bricks turned to dust and the cement into powder. My thoughts and emotions were on display for my mate to see, and I could only hope my mate wasn’t on the wrong team. The fact that my mate could conceal his thoughts and emotions from me showed he was a man of discipline and strength. I needed someone like that now more than ever.
While at times I felt like I was alone, I knew I had people I could count on. I trusted that my Dad would believe me if I chose to come to him with my concerns. He seemed to already know how Annalise and Elena Halifax are. It wasn’t a surprise they couldn’t fool my Dad, most people couldn’t. Shannon and Viktor had been the two people to get me through these strenuous times. It was humorous how I felt as though I could trust my bodyguard with Royal secrets, something I could trust no other. Shannon had quickly become my confidant, helping guide me in a way no one else could.
My thoughts were interrupted by a crisp sheet of paper just under my dinner plate. It sat on the food cart, teasing me.
“A note?” Aela chose this moment to speak up. She was not in agreement with me giving up the necklace to Uncle Jaspar. While she whole heartedly trusted him, she insisted we keep the necklace on us at all times.
“It’s probably from one of the servers.” I muttered.
I picked the index card up, twisting it in my fingers. The corner of the paper gripped the soft skin on my finger tip and sliced it open. A single crimson drop on a pristine note card.
“Meet me in the Gardens tomorrow night at eleven o’clock. There are things your Mother never told you that would surprise even you. Come alone.”
The note twisted my stomach in ways I hadn’t experienced yet as a Royal. It send a sickening feeling of foreboding into my blood, as well as an infuriating impatience.
“It could be dangerous.” Aela frowned. “I don’t think we should go.”
“How can we not?” I questioned her, “They know something about Mom.”
Whoever had written the note knew me well enough to know what bait to dangle. They knew without a doubt my attention would be caught, and I’d have no choice but to show up.
My mind was already formulating a plan, trying to figure out how I could sneak into the gardens at night. The note specifically said to come alone, which meant they knew about Viktor. I would have to be very particular about how I escaped, as to not alert Viktor.
Again, my thoughts were interrupted by a knock on my bedroom door. This knock was frantic and filled with worry, setting my teeth on edge before I could even answer.
Before the words ‘Come in’ left my lips, my bedroom door was flung open. Viktor must’ve heard the noise and came rushing into my bedroom through the adjoining door. His hair was a tousled mess, and he wore nothing but a tank top and a pair of loose shorts. He was crouched down in a defensive position, rushing to stand in front of me. The mask he typically wore was absent from his face, giving me a wonderful view of his dark stubble and full lips. For the first time, his gloves were gone from his hands. He was completely bare to me, and my eyes were soaking up every inch of exposed skin.
His body straightened as Shannon busted into the room, her eyes filled with shock. She was a shaking mess, stammering to force the words from her lips. Her chest was heaving, her espresso skin glistening with sweat.
“You- Viktor- Coming-” She panted, unable to form the words that would change everything.
“Shannon, breathe!” I rushed the words out, closing the bedroom door and guiding her to the couch.
I shoved a glass of water in her hands and she drank greedily, faster than I had ever seen anyone drink.
“No time.” Shannon huffed, slamming the glass down on the table.
Her eyes were locked on Viktor. Her honey colored eyes were burning with knowledge.
“No time for what?” I pressed, leaning down to look into her eyes.
She was still looking at Viktor, every so often her eyes would flicker over to me.
“The guy they caught-” Shannon huffed, “He confessed.”
“He confessed?” I urged, “Who? Who, Shannon?”
“Viktor.” Shannon exhaled, “He named Viktor.”
Viktor audibly tensed beside me, and I turned to look at him.
It was impossible. There was no way in hell Viktor orchestrated the attack at my birthday Gala. The feeling in my gut roared to life, telling me this was an outrageous lie. Someone had planned this, someone had planned to frame Viktor.
“He didn’t do this, Shannon.” I shook my head, “I know he didn’t.”
“I know.” Shannon nodded, “It wasn’t Viktor.”
The two of us turned and locked eyes with Viktor. There was just a hint of shock in his obsidian gaze, but there was also a heaping amount of admiration and determination. Bodyguard or not, I wouldn’t rest until Viktor was cleared. Someone had to listen, Dad had to listen.
“You don’t have much time.” Shannon huffed, speaking to Viktor. “Their coming for you.”
Viktor darted into his bedroom, faster than I ever thought possible. Even seeing his heightened speed for myself wasn’t enough. He was impossibly fast. Before I could blink he had a black duffle bag over his shoulder.
“No, no, no.” I shook my head.
The severity of the situation was sinking in. Viktor couldn’t stay. No one would listen to him, not now. Everyone was frantic. The prisoner had finally revealed who was responsible for the lives lost that night, for the attack on their Princess. Viktor had no one on his side, no one but Shannon and I. He would never survive if he stayed. Viktor had to leave, and I had no clue when or if I would see him again. That fact petrified me, more so than the night at the club and more so than my bloody birthday Gala.
“Shh.” Viktor stepped towards my shaking frame.
I hadn’t realized I had been going into shock until Viktor came close to me. His musky scent filled my nose, and somehow I managed to gather enough strength to let him leave.
I would let him leave for his own safety, but I would never let him go.
Viktor rushed over to my window, slamming it open with brute force. I stumbled past the table, following him as far as I could. I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted to leave with him. I was willing to blindly sacrifice my thrown, my people, all for this man.
“Don’t-” I couldn’t find the words to say.
How could I be so selfish? How could I beg him to throw away his life for my fragile feelings.
Viktor was halfway out the window, my heart following him.
“Remember what I asked.” I rushed the words through trembling lips, praying he would understand what I meant.
In a move that I could’ve never anticipated. Viktor grabbed my face with his bare hands and slammed his lips onto my own.
Sparks. Fucking sparks.
Sparks coursed through my lips like a shot of adrenaline. My frayed nerves were healed, my broken heart hammering in my chest. The sparks caressed the sides of my face where his hands rested. His warm skin resting against my own was one of the best feelings I had experienced in my short life. I knew that if I were to die tomorrow, this moment would play in my mind. Now I understood why I could never let Viktor go. He was a part of me, as I was a part of him.
My lips meshed against Viktor’s, fitting perfectly. We had been made for eachother. Our souls knew this from the beginning, and now our bodies had finally caught up. The brick wall that had been in my mate’s mind exploded on impact. His flustered yet oddly calm emotions coursed through me. He wasn’t afraid for himself, he was afraid for me. The feeling of fear coursing through him was raw and untouched, as though he had never experienced this emotion before. From listening in on his thoughts and emotions, I knew why he chose this moment to reveal himself to me. He couldn’t live with himself if he were to die without ever letting me know, without ever telling me how much I truly meant to him.. He was nothing and everything I had ever expected in a mate, making him absolutely perfect.
Our kiss was far to brief, and my body ached to meet his own. His lips were pulled from my own with a reluctance I could taste on my tongue.
Another second passed, one last look into his obsidian eyes before he jumped from my window.
“Mate.” The word fell from my lips, Aela’s voice mixing with my own.
A second later, nearly every guard in the mansion busted through my bedroom door.