As impossible as I knew it was, I wanted an instant solution. I needed Viktor back, needed his name clear. My Dad was right, any solution wouldn’t be instant. There were too many people working against us, too many people eager to see us removed from the throne.
The name Nikolai Aslanov didn’t seem to surprise my Dad. His face fell into a dark grimace, his eyes flaring with anger.
“Why do you hate them so much?” I paused, tracing my eyes over the deep grooves in my Dad’s face. His eyes practically burned with hatred, with malice for the entire Aslanov family.
“A story for another time.” Dad grunted, turning to refill his glass.
“Dad.” I scowled, “I can’t be kept in the dark anymore. Can’t you see it’s not helping?”
Something flashed in Dad’s eyes, something I had never seen before. It was the look of a cruel King, one I had the pleasure of never meeting. The glint in his eyes reminded me of Nikolai. Nikolai had that same cruel light in his gaze.
“Ask me anything else, Bella.” Dad’s voice was hard, and I knew he wouldn’t budge. “Some things are best kept in the dark.”
I couldn’t fathom this conversation going any further, and turned to leave as frustration bubbled in my veins.
“Bella?” Dad called out, his voice sounding tired and somewhat weak.
I turned and looked at my Dad, startled by the sound of his voice. He looked more tired than usual, but that wasn’t too surprising after everything that had happened. Bruise-like circled ringed his eyes. I had never seen him looking so under the weather before. The thought sent a jolt of panic into me.
“You and August Halifax are close?” Dad’s dark eyebrow lifted as he waited for an answer.
“Yes.” I nodded, “I trust August.”
“Well--I would like to inform you that in four days time, the Halifax family will be returning to their own Kingdom.” Dad pursed his lips, his eyes flickering with hidden meaning.
“I see.” I nodded, a frown forming on my face. It would be impossible to protect August in his own Kingdom. I could only imagine how many people Elena had under her wicked claws.
“If you intended to make plans with him, I’d suggest doing it before he leaves.” Dad gave me a curt nod, his eyes flashing as he brought his cup to his lips.
His meaning stood out in my mind. If I were going to help August, I needed to do it before he left. I had no idea how I would help him, how I would prevent his life from being taken. I knew one thing for certain, if August Halifax left our Kingdom, there would be no one to save him. He would die at the hands of his own family. Not directly I’m sure, but his Mother and Sister would certainly be the ones pulling the strings.
‘But why not just say it out loud?’ Aela murmured.
A quick knock sounded at my Dad’s bedroom door.
My Dad’s eyes never left my own, not even as he called for the person to come in.
A young guy pushed the door open, pulling a silver dining cart. The guy rolled it up to my Dad, his small eyes flickering between the three of us warily.
“Dinner, Alpha King.” The guy’s voice was polite, giving my Dad a short bow before uncovering the food.
“Remember what I said, Bella.” Dad grunted, “I’m sure Shannon wouldn’t mind spending the night with you. Take care and keep your voices down, the walls are very thin.”
I tried to keep the confusion from my eyes as Shannon followed me to the door. Emotionless masks I could handle, but riddles were another thing entirely.
Shannon and I left my Dad’s bedroom, closing the heavy and ornate door behind us.
“What--” I opened my mouth to ask Shannon what the hell my Dad was talking about.
Shannon put a single finger to her lips and tapped another finger against the wall. When I gave her a deadpan look of confusion, she rolled her eyes and tapped on her ear.
I let out a frustrated huff as I caught her meaning, wondering how I could be so blind to miss it. My Dad’s words were clear, just spoken in a way to fool the ears. He wanted to let us know to keep quiet, there were people listening. I’m sure Elena, and her daughter were behind it but what proof did I have?
You couldn’t go around killing Royal’s, not without proof anyway. Killing a Royal without sustainable proof was grounds for war. I’ve never been the violent type, but I couldn’t help imagine the possibilities. None of this would be happening if it weren’t for the Aslanov family and part of the Halifax family.
‘Don’t beat yourself up.’ Aela murmured, ‘It has been a long night.’
Shannon and I walked down the hallway, our footsteps echoing down the corridor.
“I guess that means I’m sleeping over.” Shannon chuckled humorlessly. “It’s alright. I wasn’t going to get sleep either way.”
“That makes the two of us.” I nodded, threading my arm through hers with a tired sigh.
The two of us flopped down on my bed, neither knowing exactly what to say. How could we know someone wasn’t listening? Would we have to speak in riddles from now on? Shannon rested her head against my shoulder dramatically, and I chuckled as her thick curls spilled over my shoulder.
“You sure you don’t feel something for Erik?” I chuckled, trying to lighten the heavy mood. I shot her a smirk that widened when she snorted and rolled her eyes.
“As if I have time for guys in the middle of this mess.” Shannon shook her head, her curls tickling my face.
“There’s always time for guys.” I nodded positively.
“You’re soundin’ awful like Caroline right now.” Shannon chuckled lowly.
“Speaking of Caroline, where has she been?” I frowned, feeling guilty for not thinking of my other friend earlier.
“Her Momma’s been kinda suffocating lately.” Shannon shrugged, “Almost dyin’ and all.”
“I understand.” I chuckled, “It seems I’m a magnet for that lately.”
“Well, you got some people on your team.” Shannon nodded thoughtfully. “Got two future Kings, your Dad, your Uncle, a very large bodyguard, and a very beautiful would-be Psychic on your side.”
“Let me guess, Sheila’s the Psychic?” I asked innocently, letting a laugh leave my lips as she shoved me away. I rolled over on the bed and chuckled as Shannon’s lips broke out into a smile.
“You’re lucky your not some stuck up, snooty Royal like that Halifax girl.” Shannon smirked and shook her head. Her mocha curls bounced, her golden eyes flickering with humor.
“Oh you’d still be my friend.” I teased.
“I’d probably smack you around a lot, but you’re right.” Shannon thought for a moment and shrugged, “I’d still be your friend.”
That was one of my favorite things about Shannon. She didn’t see titles the way others did. Sure, I was the future Alpha Queen but that didn’t mean I needed to be treated like some otherworldly being. I was still a person, which meant I was prone to mistakes. I was grateful I had someone like Shannon, someone who would tell me exactly how she felt.
“You’d smack around the future Alpha Queen?” I gasped dramatically, my hand over my heart.
“Your damn right I would.” Shannon nodded and let out a chuckle, “I’m a human. If I hurt you then there’s really somethin’ wrong.”
Shannon and I spent most of the night talking, sometimes convulsing into laughter. I appreciated moments like this, moments were I could try and forget everything that was going on. You always needed happiness and laughter, especially when times were dark. The decision to make Shannon my assistant was one of the bests I had made. She was a true friend, always telling me how she felt and standing by my side.
While the Royal’s liked to underestimate her, I was thankful of that. They didn’t need to learn the truth. How Shannon seemed to notice everything, learning secrets others would rather keep in the dark. She had a knack for simply knowing the truth, for being able to see past the masks of others. She was just a human, and yet she already held so much power.
For the sixth or seventh time our laughter died down and we were left in silence. Shannon’s smile slowly fell from her face, her eyes flickering to the window Viktor had left from. My own laughter was forgotten and my heart lurched at the sight. I didn’t even have to try, I knew if I closed my eyes Viktor would be there. What I felt for him wasn’t quite love, but it was something else.
“What are we going to do about August?” Shannon grimaced, “We can’t keep him from leaving. Something has to be done before he leaves.”
“Do you think were being listened to right now?” I paused, lowering my voice before I said anything further.
“I don’t think so.” Shannon shook her head, encouraging my reply. I was beginning to trust more and more what Shannon said.
“What can we do?” I frowned, “We can’t just kill---the two of them. We could find some way for him to escape his family--but what becomes of his throne?”
“I can’t think of anything that’ll work, but we can’t let August die.” Shannon frowned, looking over at one of the windows.
“It would be easier if I could just talk to Viktor.” I grimaced, “He could help, I’m sure of it.”
“How could you talk to him?” Shannon frowned, her head cocking to the side.
“Sometimes mates with a really strong bond can communicate through thoughts.” I shrugged, “I could’ve sworn I felt his emotions at one point, but it takes ages to get to sharing thoughts.”
“Well--have you tried?” Shannon pursed her lips, the making of some plan forming in her head.
“Of course I’ve tried.” I sighed, “I tried the minute he left.”
“I mean have you tried when you weren’t all stressed out?” Shannon frowned, crossing her arms over her chest.
“If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been stressed out ever since my Birthday Gala.” I pointed out, my eyebrow lifting.
“All I’m sayin’ is, you might get somewhere if you relaxed and then tried.” Shannon shrugged, “We could use his help. Maybe we could even get August away from his family--Just long enough to get some proof against them.”
“With the way Elena and her daughter are, that plan sounds impossible.” I grimaced, my heart going out to August Halifax.
“It’s the least impossible of our options.” Shannon huffed, “We need to get you talkin’ to Viktor.”