“Haunting, isn’t it?”
I jumped, scared shitless, having heard the voice coming from nearby. It was quiet, sophisticated … almost soothing. I began to relax upon seeing who had spoken.
A man. Dressed in a suit, leaning against the wall, down the stairs from where I was hiding, doing not one thing to hide the fact that he was smoking a cigarette in a very old building only barely up to current codes.
I watched as he took a drag on the rolled tobacco and flicked the ashes off to the side.
Wiping my tears from my eyes, I sniffled and said, “You don’t know the half of it.”
A smirk crossed his lips.
The look in his eyes was … mesmerizing. I couldn’t help but stare at his face, arguably the most handsome face I had ever seen. Maybe it was the way he was dressed. Michigan men didn’t dress like this, at least not in this part of the state. Maybe in Lansing, or parts of Detroit.
This man was from a whole other world. He definitely didn’t belong here.
“Is that so?” he asked. “Must be more going on than simply mourning old classmates,” he said before taking another drag on the cigarette.
I could tell from his accent that he was British. He seemed to think he knew a lot. Even if he was right, which he was, I wasn’t about to tell him that.
“That’s funny. You must’ve been a teenage girl once, or you’re still going through puberty.”
He chuckled. “No, I most definitely was not, nor am I.”
“My mistake,” I said sarcastically.
I wiped my eyes again and looked away, but it was almost as if I was forced to turn back seconds later. The man was … so hard to look away from. Brown hair, short and slicked back; pale skin. He was beautiful.
In a way that was gross because he was clearly at least ten years older than me, but I supposed there were worse things. It wasn’t against the law for me to think he was gorgeous.
His eyes, though. They were almost gray in color, or some kind of a dull blue, and I didn’t know how to describe them. It was like he could see right through me; connect to my soul. I could smell his cologne, and it was rather soothing; seductive, even. Vanilla and something else, but I couldn’t pick it out. Perhaps I didn’t know what it was.
This tall, slender, posh British man was stealing my thoughts away and I had only just met him.
“Is there something I can help you with?” I asked. “Or do you make it a habit of standing in dark staircases and stalking teenage girls?”
The man laughed. “Forgive me, miss. But I was here long before you showed up. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’ve got that backwards.” He finished off the cigarette and stomped it out on the ground. “But to answer your question, I’m here to look after a friend of a friend.”
I raised a brow. “A friend of a friend? Does this friend’s friend know you?”
More importantly, did they know he was here?
Alan asked again, “Do you want backup? I have Christian and his team on standby. Just say the word, and they’re on their way.”
That’s when I could smell them.
It was too late.
I shook my head as I replied. “No. They won’t get here in time. The team I have here will have to do. If we haven’t checked in at Zero Nine Hundred Hours, inform Brimm and deploy the forces.”
I didn’t give him time to respond. I hung up and frantically searched for Emilya through the windows.
She was walking out the main door with her jacket on and bag over her shoulder. She was leaving.
It was time.
But before I could move, I was struck from behind. The blow knocked me across the roof and onto the back lawn of the school. Two werewolves waited for me near my landing spot, and another jumped down from the roof. All three were ready for combat.
I’d had worse odds, but perhaps none as stressful and high risk as these.
“Well, gents,” I said. “Never thought Aleksander would stoop this low, but … let’s do this.”
One of them lunged at me.
It was time to fight for not only my life … but hers.
When I reached the door, Maric was waiting for me. “Sorry for the interruption,” he said, his voice not even a little sincere. “But you and I need to have a chat about the new Queen of Normandy.”
“Do we? In what context?” I asked, crossing my arms. “Because I couldn’t care less about her.”
“You don’t think her very existence is going to start giving people ideas?” Maric asked. “That they can change things?”
I sighed. I knew what he was getting at.
“Maric, this sounds like a personal problem, and I suggest you go speak to your own people about it.” I turned to go back into my chambers, but Maric grabbed my shoulder. “Are you serious right now?” I asked, shrugging him off.
Point-blank, he asked, “Why’d you do it?”
Oh for fuck’s sake.
“Maric, I didn’t kill Elijah. Now fuck off or I’ll have you thrown out of my palace.” He might’ve been a king, but I was the king of this country. He was in my house, and I could do whatever I pleased with him.
I was also getting really tired of everyone accusing me of killing my archenemy … regardless of whether I had the best motive to do so.
I only wished I could remember what had happened that day. It would give me peace of mind to know with absolute certainty that I hadn’t done it.
Maric looked me square in the eyes and said, “The truth will come out, Alek. You know it will.”
“I’m sure it will,” I replied, “and when it does, it’ll prove I didn’t fucking do it.” Looking at my soldiers, I said, “Gentlemen, escort the Pearalan King off of Romynian soil. Make sure he’s put back in the sea where he belongs.”
The soldiers took hold of Maric’s arms. “You’re going to regret not having this conversation, Alek! Think about the problems we’ll be facing if people start getting ideas.”
“Let them have ideas,” I said, heading back into my chambers. “It only becomes a problem if they take action.” I closed the door once I was back inside.
I could hear Maric calling down the hallway as the soldiers forced him out.
I knew my country had problems right now because someone had attempted to kill the new Normandy queen and lord commander. I’d deal with it the only way I knew how once I knew who’d done it.
Until then, Maric needed to stay the fuck out of my business.