Caroline took my confession as expected, the girl did love gossip after all.
“What?” Caroline’s jaw dropped. I’m guessing she didn’t expect my answer. “What makes you say that?”
“I have my ways.” I shrugged, “People talk, and that’s the name they’ve been saying.”
“That’s crazy.” Caroline shook her head, “Now that’s some gossip people will love--”
“You can’t tell anyone.” I shook my head, “I don’t need this flying around.”
“It could endanger Bella’s life.” Shannon frowned, catching onto what I was doing with ease. “Her Dad’s trying to find some evidence against Elena Halifax.”
Caroline’s mouth popped open in a little ‘o’, but she promised not to tell anyone. She continued pressing me for more gossip while we finished lunch, none of which I gave. Sometimes it was refreshing talking to Caroline. She never really took anything seriously. Sometimes it was annoying, others it was helpful. She could put things into perspective at times, making you realize a problem wasn’t as big as it seemed. This time however, she did not help.
I felt somewhat guilty testing her loyalty like that. I held some hope that she wouldn’t spill what I told her, but Caroline did have a penchant for gossip.
After eating lunch with Caroline, Shannon and I headed back up to my bedroom. We stopped in the kitchens, talking to Sheila for just a few moments.
“Come over here.” Sheila motioned with her head, walking into one of the many dining rooms. This one was clear of people, which I noticed right away. She shut the door tightly behind her and gave it a wary glance.
Beta Devin stood silently behind us. Unlike Viktor, it was all too easy to forget Beta Devin’s presence. I couldn’t feel his presence around me the way I could feel Viktor.
“Sorry ‘bout all that.” Sheila shook her head, “Things are gettin’ weird around here.”
“Weird?” I frowned. I never liked Sheila or her daughters cryptic words. Their words held so many meanings, some of which even they didn’t know.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if them Royal’s got people watchin’ in on us.” Sheila shook her head, her eyes revealing her distaste for our guests.
“I wouldn’t either.” I shook my head, shooting Shannon a weary glance.
“Which is why I wanted to talk to the two of ya.” Sheila nodded, giving her daughter a serious look.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” Shannon frowned, obviously sensing the tension.
“I want you to stay with Arabella from now on.” Sheila nodded, looking at ease with her decision. “Now that you’re in this mess, I need you protected.”
“Nothins’ gonna happen to me Mom.” Shannon shook her head, but even she looked wary.
“Nonsense. You’re close to the Princess which makes you a threat. And now that the damn world knows your her assistant, you need watchin’ over.” Sheila shook her head, “If that’s alright with you, Bella?”
“Of course it is.” I nodded honestly. “She can stay as long as she needs.”
“Good.” Sheila pursed her lips, “Now go on. I got cleanin’ to do. These newcomers make more messes than they can clean.”
The three of us left the dining room, Shannon and I continued walking back to my bedroom.
“You can just stay in my room.” I shrugged, “I’ll get one of Dad’s men to bring in a spare bed for you.”
“You don’t need to go doin’ all of that.” Shannon shook her head, “The couch will work just fine.”
“I don’t know how long you’ll be staying with me.” I frowned, “We’re getting you a bed. And I’ll send some guys to your house to grab your clothes and stuff.”
“There’s no talkin’ you outta this, is there?” Shannon pursed her lips.
“Nope.” I shook my head, “Besides, you’re my assistant. Once this is all over, you’re getting your own suite in the house.”
Shannon’s eyebrow raised, happiness twinkling in her honeycomb eyes. Shannon was always reluctant to accept anything from me, while Caroline was more than happy. Shannon and her Mom weren’t considered wealthy, but they also didn’t struggle to pay their bills. I didn’t see anything wrong with using what I had to benefit those closest to me. If Shannon or Caroline ever truly needed anything, they’d know I was right there. With Shannon, you more or less had to force things on her. Each time, you could see how grateful she was in her eyes.
“Will it have one of those fancy bathtubs you got?” Shannon’s lips twitched into a grin, “Cause I like that bathtub.”
“Of course.” I chuckled, “Full walk in closet, mini-bar. Only the best for my assistant.”
“Maybe I could get a placard put on my door.” Shannon mused to herself, “It’ll say Alpha Queen Arabella Adair’s Personal Assistant.”
“That’s a lot of words to put on a placard.” I chuckled, linking my arm in hers. “We can definitely get you one for your office.”
“My office?” Shannon’s lips parted, her eyes dancing.
“Well, duh!” I scoffed, “I would never let my assistant work out of some broom closet. You need a fully renovated office.”
“This isn’t coming out of my future Christmas bonus, is it?” Shannon raised her eyebrow at me, making me convulse into laughter.
“No.” I shook my head, still giggling from the look on her face. “It won’t come out of your Christmas bonus.”
Just as we turned down the hallway where my bedroom door was located, we ran right into Bryton Duboi. Something about Bryton Duboi irritated me instantly. Maybe it was because of the constant façade I had to wear whenever he was around. It was clear he had been looking for me, only irritating me further. He looked the same as ever, tanned skin and sun kissed hair. Gorgeous by all standards, but his personality was severely lacking.
“We keep running into each other like this.” Bryton chuckled, running a hand through his sun-kissed hair.
I had spent days specifically avoiding Bryton Duboi. His constant pressuring for an answer was driving me mad. He was the only one I pretended around, acted as though I were nothing more than a ditsy Princess. The act was getting strenuous, and Aela hated pretending to be something she wasn’t.
“I do live here.” I pointed out, again.
Bryton frowned, no doubt noticing my sudden personality change. Aela was pressing against the walls of my mind, fed up with the shallow routine.
‘I swear.’ Aela snarled, ‘If we have to giggle and twirl our hair for him one more time, I am going to lose it.’
‘I can’t stand it either.’ I mumbled, ‘As far as I’m concerned, Bryton Duboi isn’t our most important problem at the moment.’
‘Then lets deviate from the script.’ Aela shrugged, a sly smile forming on her face.
It took a total of three minutes for Bryton Duboi to bring up his proposal to me. His offer to take the place of my mate. I had stifled a gag far too many times. There wasn’t a chance in hell I’d be his trophy wife while he ruled my Kingdom.
“You’ve been keeping me waiting, Princess.” Bryton Duboi flashed me a beaming smile, one that must’ve made many girls fall to their knees. “Anyone else and I’d keep on moving, but you are simply too irresistible to pass up.”
“Am I?” I quipped, “Or is my Kingdom irresistible?”
Shannon covered her snort with a well placed cough, and I could practically feel the amusement rolling off of Beta Devin. Bryton Duboi’s face contorted in confusion.
“Your Kingdom is vast, which is clearly--appealing.” Bryton shrugged, clamoring to regain some control. “But it is you who are the prize.”
“I’m not a prize to be won.” I rolled my eyes, “And my Kingdom is mine to rule. No man---mate or not, is going to take my Kingdom from me.”
“I wouldn’t take anything.” Bryton shook his head, “It would belong to the both of us.”
It seemed Bryton Duboi didn’t fare well when control was slipping from his grasp. I hadn’t seen it before, but it was becoming clearer. Bryton needed control of a situation, control of the flow and words that were spoken. I was nearly positive Bryton also craved control over his women, wanting them to bend to his will.
‘We don’t bend for anyone.’ Aela snickered, ‘He should’ve found himself another Queen if he wanted that.’
“Bryton, I reject your offer.” I kept my voice polite, formal. I was done pretending to be something I wasn’t. My life was in danger either way. It was best to show them what I was capable of, that I wasn’t going to sit by while they tried to steal my Kingdom. “I will wait for my mate--someone deserving to stand by my side.”
Bryton Duboi’s carefully placed façade fell from face, allowing me to catch a glimpse at the monster. For just a split second, fear rushed through me. Bryton Duboi was a bigger player than I had anticipated, and I knew I had just made myself a new enemy.
“I was trying to help you.” Bryton Duboi shook his head, looking genuinely sympathetic for just a split second. “I was giving you a way out, but you weren’t smart enough to take it.”
“I don’t need your help.” I shook my head, “I have those I trust to help me.”
“You don’t need my help?” Bryton chuckled darkly, “Good. Because when the time comes, you won’t have it.”
Bryton leaned in close, and I felt Beta Devin stir from behind me.
“Back up, Duboi.” Beta Devin snapped, but Bryton hardly registered his words.
“With what they have planned, you’ll want my help.” Bryton murmured, his ocean colored eyes burning into my own. “When you lose everything, I want you to think about my offer and how ignorant you were to turn it down.”