As I opened my eyes, I flinched against the cold bathwater lapping at my skin. My head was throbbing painfully, but I was successful.
I had finally gotten to speak to Viktor since he was forced to leave. His rough voice swirled around my head, soothing to the ears.
Excitement bubbled through me, but so did fear. Viktor would be here tomorrow night. I’d be able to see him again, considering none of the guards spot him.
Shannon shot up from the couch as I walked into the room, her lips turning in a grin as she read the joy in my eyes.
“Will he be able to get here?” Shannon leaned forward, listening intently as I relayed our conversation.
“Tomorrow, midnight.” My voice was hushed.
“Good.” Shannon nodded, thinking to herself. “Now we just need to get August out of the house. Maybe have him leave a note.”
Shannon’s face fell when I told her about Uncle Jaspar and what I had planned.
For whatever reason, he had betrayed me. My mind refused to accept it, remembering how he had watched me grow up. He had always been close to Dad.
“How are you going to look that man in the face knowing what he did?” Shannon shook her head, a grimace on her face.
“I don’t know, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” I pursed my lips. “I can’t just throw out those kinds of accusations, not against my own family. Dad won’t want to believe it.”
“We can’t let him get away with this, Bella.” Shannon frowned, “Who knows what else he’s gotten into.”
“He won’t get away with this.” I shook my head, “But I can’t tell Dad with flimsy proof. He would believe Uncle Jaspar before he believed Viktor.”
“Just another impossible task to our endless list.” Shannon frowned.
“Like I said, you’re always right.” I nodded mournfully.
* * * * *
There was too much going on in such a short amount of time.
We got what sleep we could manage, which meant a few measly hours of tossing and turning. The two of us awoke to a note slid under the door.
Meet me in the gardens at 10.
“He’s found something out.” Shannon nodded positively, “He wouldn’t tell us to meet if he hadn’t.”
A couple minutes later a knock sounded on the door. One of the servants entered with a breakfast cart. It was the same younger guy that served my Dad. He glanced at Shannon and I wearily, averting his eyes to the dinner cart.
Shannon gave the servant a long look, turning to meet my eyes.
The young servant was slow, taking his time as he uncovered each dish. As soon as he finished, Shannon continued talking. I think Shannon’s paranoia was worse than my own, but she’s always been rightfully suspicious.
“He’s not going to be happy I told you.” Shannon shook her head.
“Erik will understand.” I frowned.
We made it to the gardens with five minutes to spare. The Gazebo was empty, the breeze warm on my skin. I hadn’t taken the time all week to come out here and deeply appreciate the flowers. The thick floral scent was in the air, vibrant colors stood out against the green grass.
“He never said where in the garden.” I shrugged, and we continued walking.
We spotted a dark head of hair as we walked into the center of the garden. The flowers were much thicker here, the gardeners much scarcer.
I had Beta Devin wait in another part of the garden. He complied reluctantly, giving me another frown before trudging off.
Erik’s eyes met mine first, and a grimace formed on his face. His blue eyes flickered over to Shannon.
“Well, I suppose I couldn’t expect her to hide it forever.” Erik shook his head.
Erik led the three of us to the very back of the garden. The property line was another hundred feet away, through thick forest. Just as I was going to open my mouth and ask if this was necessary, I realized there weren’t any gardeners back here.
“Never know whose listening.” Erik grinned cheekily, “I had a hard time learning that at first.”
“What did you learn?” Shannon frowned, getting right to the point.
“I can’t figure out who’s behind the hit.” Erik shook his head, “No one saw his face, and no one got his name.”
“Then why did you call us all the way out here?” Shannon huffed, her hand on her hip.
“I did find something else out.” Erik shrugged, seemingly used to her attitude. “The same guy also asked for a necklace, a necklace he claimed would be in your possession.”
I knew the implications; my brain having made the connection instantly. My brain rejected the idea, trying to shield myself against what that might mean for Uncle Jaspar.
Awareness flashed Shannon’s eyes, the same look of confusion on her face.
“Anything you’d like to share?” Erik lifted his eyebrow, his blue eyes flitting between Shannon and me.
“Not at the moment.” Shannon shook her head.
“Is the information helpful, at least?” Erik frowned.
“It’s helpful—just not in the way we anticipated.” I grimaced.
The two of us made our way back to Beta Devin, once again retreating to my suite. While we hadn’t left the house in the last few days, our time was anything but uneventful.
Between the two of us, we had enough to think about for weeks. We both decided it would be best speaking with August as soon as possible, giving him time to prepare for tonight.
Geoff Halifax opened the door, a polite smile forming on his face as our eyes met.
“Here to see Elena?” Geoff asked, “I’m afraid she’s in town with Annalise.”
“I’m actually here to see August.” I smiled up at him, trying to keep my eyes genuine.
Geoff gave me a lopsided grin and knocked on the door to his son’s room.
August peaked his head from around the door warily, his eyes lighting up as he noticed Shannon and I. August came out of the bedroom, a look of relief on his face.
“You know were leaving in a couple days, right?” August frowned. His fiery hair was a bit more messy than usual, his clothes wrinkled and slightly crumpled.
I shot a weary look at Geoff, my eyes once again returning to August.
“You can talk in front of my Dad.” August nodded, “He knows what’s been going on.”
“Elena told me he was clueless.” My eyebrow lifted. Perhaps Geoff Halifax was more than meets the eye.
“Elena thinks everyone is clueless.” Geoff Halifax grunted.
“You’re the King.” Shannon pointed out, a frown on her face. “Why can’t you just get rid of your wife?”
“Get rid of her?” Geoff scoffed, “She has more followers in my Kingdom than I do. She has most of my guard in her pocket.”
“We’ve known for awhile what she had planned.” August frowned.
“And once we leave here, it’s going to be harder protecting him.” Geoff frowned, giving his son a sad glance.
“We have a plan.” My eyes flickered to Shannon, “Not the best, but it’ll keep you safe.”
Geoff sat down on one of the couches, his huge build taking up most of the room.
“And what would that plan be?” Geoff grunted, his red eyebrow lifting at the two of us.
“My old bodyguard, Viktor.” Pleasure flooded through me at the sound of his name, “He’s on the run, framed for the attack.”
“I’m well aware of that.” Geoff nodded, “Elena’s doing, her and that Bryton boy.”
“He’s innocent.” I pointed out, “And he’ll be here tonight. August needs to leave with him. He can keep him safe until you find a way to get Elena out.”
“What makes you so sure he’s innocent?” Geoff raised his eyebrow, “You talk awful fondly of your old bodyguard.”
“Viktor’s my mate.” It was the first time I had stated the fact out loud. It made a sharp pang of longing run through me, one that made me almost wince.
“Your mate?” Geoff nodded, surprise twinkling in his eyes.
“It means we can trust him.” I sighed, “He’ll be here tonight at midnight.”
“Mom will know the truth if I just ran away.” August frowned, looking over at his Dad. “She would send others after me.”
“I’m afraid he’d be in just as much danger.” Geoff frowned, his eyes on his son.
“Maybe we could fake his death.” Shannon shrugged, and the three of us went silent.