Ice Kissed / Page 54

Page 54


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“He wanted Mikko in jail so he could get the crown,” I said, thinking aloud. “First he hired Konstantin to kidnap Linnea and make it look like Mikko either kidnapped or killed her. I don’t know how he got in touch with Konstantin, but if Konstantin and Viktor Dålig are working some kind of operation with hired hands and weapons, they needed financing.”

“And we saw how well Cyrano Moen was paid,” Kasper added.

“Kennet told me that after he fired Bayle, Bayle had run off,” I said. “But if Bayle has been working with Kennet this whole time to make it all happen, it would make sense for Kennet to send him away before they could question him and find exactly how he was tied to this whole mess.”

I’d been suspicious of Kennet since I met him, but I’d also been suspicious of Mikko and nearly everyone else I met in Storvatten, so it had been hard for me to decide how culpable he might have been.

I looked over at Kasper. “Kennet did it all, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know if we can prove it, but yes. I think he did.”

“He’s here right now, celebrating with Evert and Mina,” I said. “And they should know. They probably can’t do anything, but they need to know they’re aligning themselves with someone who has connections to Konstantin and is helping to finance the attacks on our kingdom.”

“Holy shit.” Tilda expressed my sentiments perfectly. “Evert is gonna be pissed when he finds out. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he declared war on the Skojare.”

She was right, and while that would have very negative ramifications for the Skojoare, it didn’t change anything. The King needed to know the truth.

“I have to tell him, and it’ll be better to do it before Kennet leaves,” I said. “Maybe he’ll just lock up Kennet, and we can avoid an all-out war.”

I started to make my way to the door, since I didn’t have time to waste.

“Wait. I’ll go with you,” Kasper said, then he looked over at Tilda. “I mean, if it’s okay.”

“You don’t have to.” I shook my head. “I can do this alone.”

He turned back to me. “I know you can. But we worked in Storvatten together. This is kind of our job, which means I should be there too. I want to help you make this case.” Then he looked to his new wife. “As long as it’s okay with Tilda.”

“The bed and breakfast will still be there in a few hours,” Tilda told him with a smile. “You should go and do this. It’s important. And besides, I wouldn’t mind a little more time to make sure I’ve packed everything.”

“Thank you.” Kasper went over to her and kissed her quickly. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” She watched us go with an anxious smile, and as we walked out the door, she added, “Good luck.”

FORTY-ONE

recrimination

We stood inside the meeting room, under the cold gaze of King Evert’s coronation painting. Kasper stood rigidly beside me like a true member of the Högdragen, even though he was wearing a T-shirt and jeans instead of his uniform.

I had taken to pacing and chewing absently at my thumbnail. In my head, I tried to organize my thoughts and the best possible way to tell Evert about what was happening. It was important that he believe me, but it was also important that he didn’t react rashly and attack Storvatten.

When we’d reached the palace, Elliot Väan had been standing guard at the door. Fortunately for us, Elliot had been Kasper’s best man and was a good friend. Kasper managed to convince him to let us in and request that the King come and meet us.

The door opened behind us, startling me because I’d been deep in thought, and I turned to see Elliot holding the door open. A few moments later, almost as if she’d been deliberately trying to make an entrance, Queen Mina walked into the room. Elliot closed the door behind her, standing guard inside the room.

I wasn’t sure what Mina had been doing before Elliot summoned her, but she looked more regal than ever. The train of her white gown flowed out over a foot behind her. Her hair was done up in twisted braids nestled at the top of her neck, and she’d donned a silvery fur stole that complimented the sapphire necklace.

Her crown—a platinum tiara encrusted with diamonds, including a massive one in the center—sat atop her head. Whenever she wore it, she seemed to carry her head a bit higher, lifting her chin slightly. I wasn’t sure if it was to counteract the weight of the jewels, or if she was just putting on airs.

“Elliot claimed that you need to see the King urgently on important business.” Mina walked around the table, eyeing Kasper and me with her cool gaze. She stopped directly across from us, beneath the painting of Evert. Instead of sitting down, she remained standing and rested her hand on the tall back of the King’s chair.

“Yes, we did,” I said.

“The King is very busy. As you can imagine, with the impending war, he has much to do and can’t possibly take the time to meet everyone who wants to see him,” Mina explained in a tone far frostier than the one I was used to hearing from her, and I wondered if she was suffering from a hangover that was making her so cross. “He has asked me to see you and find out if what you have to say is as important as you believe it is.”

I glanced over at Kasper, but he kept his gaze straight ahead. This already wasn’t going the way I’d hoped, and now I wasn’t sure what to do.

The Queen could be maddeningly night and day. Even without a possible hangover in play, she vacillated from warmth and kindness to ice queen on a regular basis.

Mina didn’t seem that open to hearing what we had to say, but I didn’t know how else we’d get to talk to the King.

“Thank you for taking the time to see us, my Queen,” Kasper said. “I know how busy your schedule must be.”

“I’m often busier than the King, so let’s get on with this, shall we?” Mina drummed her fingers along the back of the chair in impatience, causing the many rings on her fingers to sparkle in the light.

“We have reason to believe that Prince Kennet Biâelse is behind the events in Storvatten, not his brother King Mikko.” I plunged right in, deciding that we had a better chance of getting through to her if we played it straight.

Mina arched an eyebrow but her expression remained otherwise unmoved. “Is that so?”

“We have a great deal of evidence to back up our claims, and we’d be happy to go over all of it with you and the King,” Kasper said.


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