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But something about this moment made me think of Ridley, and how I’d snuck out of bed that cold night when all I’d wanted was to stay in bed with him forever. And despite whatever feelings Konstantin seemed to bring up in me, I still felt that way. I still wanted to be with Ridley more than anything.

The very thought of him made my heart ache. I missed him terribly, and I had no way of knowing if he was safe. If Mina was as insane as Konstantin made her sound, she could’ve locked Ridley up forever.

I knew that we needed to be here now, getting the Omte to help us put a stop to Viktor’s army, but the second that was over, I needed to get back to Doldastam. I didn’t care what it meant for me, but I would do whatever it took to make sure Ridley was safe.

My jeans lay on the floor in a rumpled pile, and I brushed a cockroach off them. I crouched down in the moonlight and pulled the TracFone out of my pocket. The battery was nearly dead, since it hadn’t been charged while we’d been here and I’d used quite a bit of battery life on the flashlight.

It was after midnight, and according to the clock, that made it Friday, May 16. It had been over a week since I’d left Doldastam, since I’d last seen Ridley. Would it be safe enough to call? And it was in the middle of the night. Who would be monitoring his calls now?

I bit my lip, staring down at the flashing battery on the screen, and debating what I should do. All I wanted was to hear his voice, to know that he was okay.

And then without thinking, I started dialing a number I had dialed hundreds of times before when I had been on missions. At that moment, the consequences didn’t seem to matter. I just needed him.

I held the phone up to my ear, listening desperately. It seemed to take forever until I heard the sound of ringing—faint and tinny. I closed my eyes, and in my mind I was begging Ridley to pick up.

But instead of Ridley’s voice I heard a despondent beep. I held the phone out, looking at it. The call had been dropped, and the message below the date warned me there was no service. I’d barely had a bar when I’d dialed in the first place, but I’d hoped that would be enough.

Now, staring at the useless phone in my hands, I wanted to scream or throw it against the wall. But I didn’t want to wake up Konstantin and explain what exactly had me so upset.

So I lowered my head against my chest and wrapped my arms around my head and took deep breaths. My whole body was trembling, and my chest felt like it had been ripped out. I squeezed my arms tighter, trying to literally hold myself together.

The locks on the door started to click open, and I nearly did scream then. I jumped to my feet, and I saw that Konstantin had done the same—throwing off his covers and leaping out of bed. We were ready for whatever was coming our way.

Since Bekk had delivered us back to the room after we’d had our meeting, we’d had no visitors. I’d been right about taking the figs, or else we would’ve had nothing else to eat for the day.

And now someone was coming in, in the middle of the night.

I saw the orange flame of the torch before I saw the figure coming in behind it. He had to bow down to get in the door, but as soon as he straightened up, it became clear that it was Helge Otäck, the Viceroy.

“It’s time for you to go,” Helge said with that serpentine smile.

“What?” I glanced over at Konstantin. “Are the men the Queen is sending ready to go?”

“No, I’m afraid you won’t be taking any men with you,” Helge continued calmly. “The Queen spoke in haste today, and she’s changed her mind about everything. So it’s best for you to get out of here, since her hospitality has run dry.”

“But the Queen—” I started to argue.

“The Queen wants you to go,” Helge snapped. “And if you don’t leave on your own, I’ll get Torun and he can make you go.” He smiled wider then, revealing his jagged teeth, and I had a feeling that he’d get a great deal of enjoyment from watching Torun tear Konstantin and me apart.

“Bryn,” Konstantin whispered, probably sensing that I wanted to continue fighting with Helge anyway. “We need to go.”

And since there wasn’t anything more that we could say, Konstantin and I gathered our clothes and fled in the middle of the night, like prisoners making a break for it.



We’d sprung for the Holiday Inn, since we both needed a place where we could feel clean after our time in Fulaträsk. After we had made our way through the wetlands, Konstantin had driven for hours before we stopped, on the off chance that the Omte decided to give chase.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” I said for the hundredth time as I paced the room.

“It doesn’t have to make sense. They’re the Omte!” Konstantin was growing exasperated at having the same conversation with me. “Bekk even said they couldn’t be trusted.”

“But Bodil wanted to do this!” I insisted. “I know she did. The Queen was for it. It’s her stupid Viceroy that interfered.”

“That’s probably true,” Konstantin admitted. He rummaged through his duffel bag, tossing clean clothes on the bed beside him. “Since you seem too worked up to shower, I’ll go first.”

“Why would Helge talk her out of it, though?” I asked. “And did he even talk her out of it? Maybe the Queen was still for it, and that’s why he made us leave in the middle of the night. We should’ve fought him.”