I wasn’t surprised that Elena couldn’t smell my change in scent when she walked into my bedroom. My room had smelled like Viktor ever since he left. The smell had begun to fade, its intensity rising as I used Viktor’s body wash in my baths.
My Dad had called everyone into the living room, Shannon and I included. Each Royal was present followed by, Uncle Jaspar, Dad, Shannon and me.
Bryton Duboi gave me a hard look, one that held just a fraction of sympathy. Geoff Halifax looked haunted, like a Father who had lost his only son. Elena was playing the part of grieving Mother, not daring to show her real face in front of my Dad. Even Annalise Halifax had her own mask of sadness, though not nearly as convincing as her Mother.
My heart hammered in my chest. I stood off to the side with Shannon, hoping my scent wouldn’t waft around the room. There were already many scents lingering to begin with, hopefully masking my own for the time being.
I wasn’t afraid for the world to know about Viktor and me, but there was a time and place for everything. This wasn’t the place to reveal what Viktor and I were. I needed his name cleared first.
Erik stood off to the side, his lips pressed in a tight line. Erik didn’t know the entire thing was set up. He looked sad for the Prince he never truly knew.
“August was clearly troubled.” Elena shook her head, dapping at her eye with a small cloth. “We had never expected—this.”
“You say he jumped from the window?” Dad’s dark eyebrow lifted at Geoff Halifax. Geoff Halifax looked tormented but seemed to be holding himself together. It was what everyone expected from him, a part he played well.
“I saw it.” Geoff’s voice was rough, thick with grief. “I came a minute too late.”
“You mustn’t blame yourself.” Elena shook her head at her husband. “I witnessed his body as well. I arrived shortly after my husband.”
“I can vouge for it as well.” Beta Devin coughed, clearing his throat. “I was in the kitchen when I saw him fall past the window.”
Beta Devin shot me a clear look, one no one else noticed.
“I will tend to my son’s body.” Geoff Halifax cleared his throat, giving Elena a long look. “If you would excuse me, Alpha King.”
“Of course, Geoff.” Dad frowned, “If there is anything you need, simply speak it.”
Geoff Halifax left the room, followed by Elena and Annalise. Dad turned to the rest of us, the loss clear on his face. Dad was quite good at putting on a mask for the world, better than I thought he would be.
“While I know sleep will not come easily, rest is important.” Dad frowned, “You all may return to your quarters. Except for you, Bella. I would like a moment with you if you would.
Shannon and I stayed behind. I watched out of the corner of my eye as Uncle Jaspar left the room. He seemed unaware of my suspicions, exactly the way I wanted him.
I wanted to confess everything to my Dad, telling him what Uncle Jaspar had done. While I wanted to, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. Uncle Jaspar is Dad’s brother, his last living family. I needed concrete proof that Uncle Jaspar had betrayed Dad. Anything less would plant doubt and suspicion. I couldn’t pit family against family. It would be my word against Uncle Jaspar’s, something that I couldn’t afford to let happen.
Once everyone else had left the room, Shannon and I stood silently. Dad opened his mouth to speak, but clamped it shut as he stared at me. My stomach dropped, even though I knew this would happen. I made my decision back in the bedroom, and now I had to live with it.
“Has he marked you?” Dad kept his voice even, his eyes flaring with anger. Now that everyone had left the room, he could smell the change in my scent. My own scent was mixed with Viktor’s, creating something sweet yet spicy.
Without hesitation, my hand flew up to the healing mark on my neck. It wasn’t in a she-wolf’s nature to be ashamed of her mark. A mark was meant to be worn proudly, showing the world you had been claimed.
“He has.” I nodded. The anger drained from Dad’s eyes, acceptance filling his gaze.
“Have you marked him, Bella?” Dad continued his line of questioning.
“Yes, Dad.” I pressed my lips together tightly.
Dad’s face fell as he looked at me, sadness filling his eyes. I knew what he was seeing. He was looking at his little girl, the one he raised since birth. He was finally realizing I wasn’t little anymore. I had found my other half and stepped up to help my Kingdom. He struggled to accept that reality, the reality that would leave me in constant danger. He couldn’t shield me from the world anymore, keeping threats at bay and from my mind. I was too old and too stubborn to stay out of the fight any longer.
“I am happy for you, Bella.” Dad forced a smile on his face, pulling me into his chest. His scent had always smelled like home to me. Whenever I missed Mom so badly it hurt, his scent always calmed me down. His scent used to be mixed with Mom’s, but her’s faded when she died. That piece of her soul left my Dad, leaving a hole in his heart. I couldn’t imagine going through the same thing, losing Viktor as soon as I found him.
“Thanks, Dad.” I murmured; my eyes closed as my head rested against his shoulder.
“You may want to avoid Elena and Annalise for some time.” Dad murmured, “To avoid arousing suspicion. They’ll be able to smell the change in your scent, though they may not be able to identify the source.”
“They’ll know I found my mate.” I nodded in agreement, “They just won’t know who it is.”
“Get some rest, Bella.” Dad gave me one last squeeze, “We still have to get through tomorrow.”
Shannon and I headed back to the bedroom in silence, Beta Devin following closely behind. He followed the two of us into my bedroom, closing the door silently. When he turned, his eyebrow was raised as he looked over my face.
“I’m assuming what happened tonight wasn’t a mistake.” Beta Devin’s lips were pressed tightly together. “You’re lucky I wandered down to the kitchen for a drink, saw August drop from the window just in time. He was very much alive.”
“I couldn’t afford to tell anyone else.” I frowned, “The less who knew, the better.”
“Be careful, Princess.” Beta Devin nodded seriously, “August Halifax owes you a debt. Be sure not to owe any of these Royal’s, they’ll never let you forget it.”
“I won’t.” I shook my head, “I’ll be careful.”
“Goodnight, Princess.” Beta Devin bowed his head, “Goodnight Shannon.”
Beta Devin left through the adjoining door, closing it behind him quietly.
“He knew my name.” Shannon scoffed, a cheeky grin on her face.
“Well of course he knew your name.” I chuckled, “You’ve only been hanging out with me since I was three.”
“Yeah, but no one but your Dad really acknowledges me.” Shannon shrugged, seemingly unbothered.
“That’s going to change.” I smiled softly at her, “When were finished with this mess, you’ll get the recognition you deserve.”
Shannon gave me a grateful look, but otherwise remained silent. The times of believing humans were inferior needed to be done with. When I stepped up to the throne, humans would be treated equally. They already were in my Kingdom, but it can be difficult for some to let go of the past. That kind of narrow thinking started wars, ended families, and separated mates.
“I’m going to try and talk to Viktor.” I murmured, climbing onto my messy bed.
“Not going to get a bath this time?” Shannon lifted her eyebrow, taking her place on the couch.
“No.” I shook my head, a smile gracing my lips. “This bed has more memories.”
“Too much information.” Shannon groaned, turning over on the couch. I wasn’t listening though; my eyes had already closed. Images of Viktor flowing through my head.
The click of the mate bond was instantaneous. It was easy making the connection to Viktor now that we were marked and mated.
‘Viktor?’ I murmured quietly, ‘Did everything go to plan?’
Viktor’s consciousness flooded into my own. I could taste his longing on his tongue, his love swirling around my body like a warm cocoon.
‘He is safe, little Princess.’ Viktor’s rough voice called out in my head, thick with his unusual accent.