Viktor was gone; he was actually gone. I had just found out the identity of my mate and he slipped through my fingers within seconds. I couldn’t process anything other than the horrific longing I felt coming from Viktor, and the insane urge to chase him into the darkness.
Shannon stood silent, her eyes glistening with acceptance. I didn’t bother asking if she had known all along; it wouldn’t surprise me anymore. She probably found out weeks ago.
Aela wanted to scream--to curse the two of us for being so stupid, so blind. It’s funny how easily you miss things, only to realize the signs were right in front of you the entire time. The strange connection I felt towards Viktor, the constant urge to be near him and touch him, all effects of the mate bond. The leather gloves that seemed to follow him wherever he went. Some small part of me was curious, why wouldn’t he want me to find out the truth? But in the end, it didn’t matter. My mate was gone, framed for a crime he couldn’t ever commit.
I whipped around from the window, locking eyes with my Uncle Jaspar.
“Find your Dad.” Aela’s voice was frantic in my mind.
Dad could fix this, he had to. Dad would believe me, would understand the truth and find a way to bring Viktor home, home to me.
“Where’s Dad?” I grimaced at Uncle Jaspar, trying to still my trembling fingers.
Dad wasn’t with Uncle or the guards. Why wouldn’t he be?
Instead, a head of pale blonde hair popped out from behind Uncle Jaspar’s shoulder. Elena’s calculating gaze was set on my face, measuring the flush of my cheeks, the slight bruising on my lips. I wondered if her piercing gaze could see exactly what happened just a few moments earlier. I wondered if she were smart enough to put the pieces together, and what that might mean for Viktor and I.
“He’s not here.” Elena hissed, her eyes flitting to Uncle Jaspar.
“What’s going on?” I snapped, my eyes wild as they looked at the determined expression on Uncle Jaspar’s face.
“Bella.” Jaspar began but my low growl made him skip pretenses. “We have enough knowledge to know Viktor was behind the attack at your birthday Gala.”
“That’s insane.” I growled, “Why would he make an attempt on my life just to protect me in the end?”
“Poor girl.” Elena tutted, “He must have her all confused.”
“No one has me confused, Elena.” I snapped, my eyes narrowing as I took in her petite form.
The victory gleaming in her eyes was unmistakable, but her face made no movements as to show her true emotions. Her mask was strong, while mine has cracked.
“I’m finding Dad.” I snapped, grabbing Shannon’s hand and storming up to Uncle and the guards.
“Bella your Dad’s not feeling well, I believe the stress is affecting him.” Uncle Jaspar sighed, “Just let him relax tonight.”
My gut twisted at his words, but something needed to be done. I couldn’t wait until the morning, until they finally catch up to Viktor. As selfish as it sounded, Uncle Jaspar’s words changed nothing about my decision to find my Dad. Dad’s the Alpha King, which I know is stressful but this is quite literally his job. Dad always taught me to value mate’s above everything else, which is what I planned on doing. I couldn’t wait the night until he was feeling better. Something needed to be done now.
“I’m going to see him, Uncle.” My chest vibrated with a low growl, power spewing from my words. The power passed down from my Father to me swirled in my veins, drawing all of the attention in the room.
“Bella--” Jaspar opened his mouth.
“Stand aside.” I snapped, and I felt Shannon tuck herself behind me.
The guards stood aside on command. Betraying the Royal family was against everything they stood for. Uncle Jaspar was simply the Alpha King’s brother, I was the heir to the entire Kingdom. My word trumped Jaspar’s, and he knew it.
Uncle Jaspar hesitated, then finally stepped aside. A poised and emotionless Elena stepped aside along with him. With Shannon’s wrist still gently clasped in my hand, I walked from the bedroom and down the hall as fast as I could.
“You were scary back there.” Shannon shook her head, her curls bouncing around her heart-shaped face.
I let out a sharp breath, one I didn’t realize I had been holding. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about dragging you into this mess.”
Shannon frowned, “I don’t know about you, but I think I need to be in this mess.”
“Did you know?” My voice came out in a whisper.
Shannon went silent, but her eyes held the truth. “Yes, I knew.” She nodded.
“For how long?” I mumbled, my eyes locked on her own.
“Awhile.” Shannon frowned, “It wasn’t my place to say.”
“No.” I shook my head, “I don’t blame you. I should’ve realized it sooner.”
“You’ve had a lot going on.” Shannon gave me a wry smile and I returned it with a half-hearted one.
“What’s it like?” Shannon frowned, keeping up as we practically ran down the hallway. “With him gone.”
“I feel like a piece of me went with him.” I answered honestly, “The mate bond isn’t about ‘true love’, it’s about someone who holds the other half of your soul. Viktor’s always had mine--It just took me too long to realize it.”
“We’ll get him back, Bella.” Shannon’s honey colored eyes practically glowed with determination. “We’ll get him back, save August, find out who really caused the attack and get rid of all these damn snakes.”
“I hope so.” I chuckled humorlessly, “Right now, there’s too many people who want me dead and I’m one bodyguard short.”
We raced down the hall to my Dad’s suite. My mind was too flustered to bother mind-linking him. I was too busy reaching out with my mind, scrambling for any sense or feeling of Viktor. The mate-bond was clearly established in my head, and at one point I had been able to feel some of his emotions. If there was just a way I could contact him, things could go a lot smoother.
My mind was being pulled a hundred different ways. I was thinking of plans to get Viktor back, and plans to save August from his crazy family. My mind was beginning to connect the two. While I needed to clear Viktor’s name as soon as possible, his disappearance could be beneficial to August’s situation.
I knocked roughly on my Dad’s door, throwing the door open before he could finish saying ‘come in.’ I pulled Shannon in behind me, as far as I was concerned Shannon had the right to hear what was going on. I trusted her loyalty without fault, and knew whatever she heard would only benefit us.
“They took him.” I huffed out, struggling to catch my breath.
The fear, paranoia, pressure, and loss all threatened to weigh down on me. I couldn’t give in right now, not while Viktor was in danger.
Dad sat across the room, a class of amber liquid in one hand and a paper in another. The look in his eyes told me he knew exactly what was going on. My heart hammered in my chest at that, wondering how he could’ve allowed this to happen.
“I see.” Dad murmured, standing from his seat.
“Dad, what’s going on?” My voice was verging between frantic and angry.
“Bella, we will fix this.” Dad nodded, his voice doing little to sooth me.
“So you know?” I snapped, “You know he didn’t do this.”
“I know.” Dad nodded, looking like he wanted to say more.
“Is it because he’s my mate?” I snapped, anger was seeping through my tone.
Surprise flitted across my Dad’s eyes, “I suppose he couldn’t keep it hidden for much longer.”
“What are we going to do?” I snapped, “How are we going to get him back?”
Dad hesitated, looking at me as though he couldn’t tell if I was his little girl or a powerful ruler. He couldn’t distinguish the two, he simply saw me as his little girl. That was his cause for keeping me in the dark for so long. He couldn’t make the change in how he saw me. It was time I started acting the part. If I wanted him to treat me like a ruler, I’d show him I was one.
“I will do this on my own if I must.” I forced my voice to become calm.
Power seeped through my tone. It seemed to do that without command, simply coming to my aid when I needed it most. The power of the future Alpha Queen was different from her Dad’s. Dad’s swirled around him in thick layers, chafing the skin much like sandpaper. Mine seemed to whip around me, battering the skin like arctic lashes. Understanding flashed in my Dad’s eyes as he felt the power coming off of me.
“The Halifax and Duboi family are calling for Viktor’s head.” Dad murmured quietly, “What do the two of you make of that?”
Dad looked down at Shannon and I. I wanted to groan in frustration. This wasn’t time for a lesson on Royals, this was time for action.
One look into Shannon’s honey colored eyes, and I knew we were in agreement.
“Their up to something.” I was confident in my words. “They want the attention placed somewhere else. Viktor’s my body guard, and a damn good one at that. Of course they want him gone.”
Dad nodded, “I agree, something doesn’t sit right. We can’t be impatient about this. Impatience leads to mistakes.”
“For what it’s worth---I think I already know whose responsible for the attack at your Gala.” Shannon’s voice was quiet, her honey eyes flickering to my Dad and I.
She had Dad’s full attention, and I nearly felt bad for her. She was the subject of his intense gaze, but she refused to falter.
“I couldn’t understand the language, but one of the masked men said a name.” Shannon murmured, “The man who pointed his gun at Viktor, said something about Nikolai Aslanov.”