- Crystal Kingdom
I pursed my lips, hating that his reasoning sounded plausible. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“I didn’t think you’d believe me. Was I wrong?”
I looked away from him, considering everything he’d said. “I listened. Now will you let me go?”
“Fine.” He sighed, then let go of me and stepped back. He stood with his hands on his hips, watching and waiting to see what I’d do.
“Who killed the King?” I asked, rubbing my wrists.
“Viktor didn’t say, but I would assume that Mina did.”
“He didn’t say that either, but when they’d spoken of it before, poison had been their top choice.”
“Why did Viktor think you wanted to know?”
“I’ve kind of been his right-hand man. He’s kept me apprised of everything.”
I arched an eyebrow. “So when everything big is about to go down, he sent you out on an errand?”
“It was supposed to be quick. He thought I’d be back by now.”
I walked closer to him, stopping so I was nearly touching him, and I looked up at him. “What does he think you’re doing now?”
“Tracking you. I told him that you’ve been very elusive.”
“And he believes you?” I asked.
“For now.” He paused. “But he won’t for much longer.”
“What happens then?”
“He’ll send men to kill us.”
“So what do we do?” I asked.
“We?” A soft smile touched his lips. “Does that mean you trust me?”
I sighed. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” I moved away from him and sat back down on the bed. “So what is our plan? Where do we go from here?”
“We keep moving. We can’t sit still.” He motioned to the bathroom. “You should shower, and then we should get out of here.”
From the window of our room, I could see the mountains behind us. Since Konstantin had gotten the phone call, we’d been driving nearly nonstop for over twenty-four hours until we finally stopped at a bed-and-breakfast in Wyoming.
Konstantin had insisted on driving most of the way, so he crashed as soon as we’d checked in—sprawled out on top of the covers on the bed. It was a small room with a kitschy western feel, but it wasn’t bad. Besides, we didn’t need a credit card to check in, and the less of a paper trail we had, the better.
Between using a card at the Holiday Inn and our interlude with the Omte, Konstantin felt especially paranoid that Viktor would be able to find us if he wanted to.
On the long drive, I’d tried to talk about what to do next, but Konstantin seemed unable to think of anything beyond “get away right away.”
And truthfully, I didn’t know what to do or where to go from here. With Konstantin sound asleep, I decided to go outside to get some fresh air and think.
The bed-and-breakfast held eight rooms, and it was a quiet place. There was a wraparound porch with a few rocking chairs facing a magnificent view of the mountains. It was a bit chilly out—only in the fifties and breezy—so I had it all to myself, and I sat on one of the chairs, crossing my legs underneath me.
I still wasn’t sure if I should trust Konstantin, but without him, I was completely alone and isolated with Viktor’s men and Kanin scouts after me. With Konstantin, I wasn’t much better off, but he knew a few more things than I did, and at least he was here.
One thing I did know for sure was that I couldn’t stay on the run like this, not for much longer. Running wasn’t accomplishing anything. Konstantin would argue that it was keeping us alive, and he was right, but to what end? What was the point of doing this if it meant constantly moving and looking over our shoulders everywhere we went?
Beyond that, I knew that with the King dead, things in Doldastam had to be descending into chaos. That was just what Mina wanted so she could be the one to save them. But only after she got rid of anyone who stood in her way. Things were only going to get worse before they got better—if they got better.
If Mina was willing to do all these awful things to those who loved her, like Konstantin and Evert, then what kind of monarch could she possibly be? She was vindictive, greedy, and remorseless. The kingdom could only suffer under her rule.
I rocked slowly in the chair, feeling the warmth of the sun, and wondering what my fate might be, when my pocket began to vibrate. It took me a few seconds to realize that my phone was ringing. I scrambled to get it out before it went to voice mail, and saw that it was an unknown caller.
I debated not answering it for a second, but then I realized that if Viktor Dålig or Mina had somehow gotten this number, I was already in deep crap whether I took the call or not. So I went for it.
“Hello?” I answered, feeling a little out of breath.
The caller waited a beat before saying, “Bryn?”
Relief washed over me so intensely I nearly cried, but I held it back. “Ridley.”
“It is you, thank god it’s you,” he breathed in one hurried sentence.“When I saw the missed call on my phone, I thought it had to be you.”
“How are you?” I asked. “How is everything?”
“Everything is . . . not good.” He sounded pained. “Everything’s falling apart, Bryn. I’m calling from a phone that Ember got me, and I don’t think they can trace it. They shouldn’t, since they don’t know it exists. I had to talk to you. I had to know that you’re okay. Are you okay? Are you somewhere safe?”