I pulled my legs up underneath me, leaning away from him. “I already told you.”
“No, you didn’t. Not really.” He slid down off the arm of the couch so he could face me. “You told me that he’d been in the room, you’d fought, and that he must’ve knocked you out. That was about it.”
“That’s about all there is to tell.”
“But what I don’t understand is, why was he there?” Ridley paused. “Was he waiting for you?”
“I don’t know.” I ran my hand through my hair.
“Did he hurt you?” he asked with an edge to his voice.
“We fought, and he knocked me out, so yes.” I gave him a look. “But other than that, I’m okay, and I got in a few good punches.”
“Why didn’t he kill you?” Ridley asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he didn’t. But … he’s tried to kill your dad, he killed Emma. He obviously doesn’t care if he gets blood on his hands, so why did he leave you alive?”
I lowered my eyes. “I think he does care if he gets blood on his hands. And I think Bent killed Emma, not Konstantin.”
“Are you…” Ridley’s expression hardened, and he narrowed his eyes. “Do you have feelings for him?”
I groaned, but my cheeks flushed. “Don’t be gross, Ridley.”
“There’s clearly something going on between the two of you—”
“Why?” I snapped. “Why is there ‘clearly something’?”
“Because he should’ve killed you, and he didn’t. And you should’ve killed him, and you didn’t. So something’s going on, and I want to know what it is.”
“It’s not like that.” I shook my head.
“Bryn.” He set his mug down on the table and moved closer to me. “I’m just trying to understand.” He put his hand on my thigh, and I chewed my lip.
“Konstantin Black is a bad man who has done bad things, who will do bad things again,” I told him, willing myself to meet his gaze as I spoke. “I know that. But there’s something more going on, something much bigger at play.”
“I know that you think he’s working for someone else, and you’re probably right,” Ridley said. “But that doesn’t mean he deserves your sympathy.”
“I’m not sympathetic.” I sighed. “At least I don’t want to be. But I’m not ready to completely distrust him. Not yet.”
“He’s done terrible things. He’s not to be trusted,” Ridley implored me to understand, his eyes dark with concern.
“I know. I will take care of Konstantin. I promise.” I put my hand on his, trying to convey that I meant it. “But please, for now, can you not tell anyone that I saw him in Calgary?”
“You want me to lie to the King and Queen?” Ridley asked with exaggerated shock.
“You’ve done it before,” I said with a hopeful smile.
“No, don’t look at me like that.” He shook his head, then sighed. “Fine. I’ll keep this between us. But Bryn, this is a very dangerous game you’re playing.”
“I know,” I admitted, and squeezed his hand. “Thank you for keeping my secret.”
“You can always trust me with your secrets,” he said with a crooked smile, and the look in his eyes made my heart ache. “You know, that’s the real reason I went on this mission.”
“What is?” I asked.
“I was afraid you’d run into Konstantin, and I didn’t want you to go up against him alone. And then I wasn’t even there when you fought with him,” he said, and guilt flashed across his face.
“I was fine. I took care of myself,” I insisted.
“No, I know.” He lowered his eyes for a second, taking a fortifying breath, as if he were building up to something. His hand was still in mine, and he ran his thumb across it. Finally, he lifted his head, meeting my eyes willfully. “On the train, you questioned my commitment to the mission.”
“Ridley, I didn’t mean it. I know you did everything you could in Calgary—”
He held up his other hand, silencing me. “I know, and I’m sorry that things didn’t work out better for Emma and for you in Calgary, and I’m sorry that we didn’t arrive sooner. But I’m still glad I went. For you, I would lay down my life any day.”
If he’d leaned in to kiss me then, I would’ve let him. I would’ve gladly thrown my arms around his neck and pulled him tighter to me as his lips pressed against mine.
But he didn’t. He just stared into my eyes for a moment, filling me with a heat that made me feel light-headed and nervous and wonderful all at once.
Then there was a knock at the door, and he pulled his hand away from me, and the moment was shattered, and I could suddenly breathe again.
As Ridley got up to answer the door, I looked up through the small windows near the roof and tried to peer through. I got a glimpse of a girl, and I was hit by the painful realization that I’d stayed here too long. That I shouldn’t have come to visit at all.
“Oh, good, you’re home!” Juni said in relieved delight when Ridley opened the door, and I was already hurrying to pull on my boots. She threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly, and my cheeks flushed with guilt at the fantasy I’d just been having in which I would hold her boyfriend in much the same way.
“I was so worried about you,” she said as she held him.
“I’m okay, I’m fine,” he tried to comfort her.
I cleared my throat as I put on my coat, since they were standing in the doorway, blocking my exit.
“Oh, Bryn, I didn’t realize you were here.” Juni let go of Ridley and gave me a wide smile. “I’m glad to see you made it back safely, too.” Her smile gave way to sadness. “I heard about the poor girl in Calgary.”
“Thank you, but I should really be going,” I said, returning her smile with a lame one of my own.
“You don’t need to go.” Ridley pulled away from Juni so he could turn to me.
“No, I do. You two need to catch up anyway.”
I couldn’t force a smile much longer, so I slid past them as politely and quickly as I could. With hurried steps, I walked back to my loft, feeling more conflicted and lost than I ever had before.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” Ember stood over me looking down, so her bangs were falling into her eyes. Her arm had a brace on it, but otherwise the medic had almost completely healed her, and she spotted me as I did bench presses.