“It’s all right,” Kennet told him, but he kept his eyes on me. “She can stay.”
“If you are sure, my Prince,” the footman said, eyeing me with disdain.
“Give us a moment alone. And make sure you don’t let anybody get by this time.”
The footman bowed then turned and left, closing the door behind him. Kennet’s room didn’t appear all that different from my own, except the finishings were nicer. The wallpaper wasn’t peeling, and sheer silver curtains ran along the window that faced the water, giving the room a greater sense of privacy.
Kennet took off his tie and tossed it on the bed. “By the look on your face, I’m assuming this isn’t a friendly visit.”
“You know why I’m here,” I snapped.
“No, I really don’t.” He sat on the bed, sounding tired, and most of his usual swagger had disappeared. He seemed world weary in a way that I hadn’t thought Kennet capable of.
“Why didn’t you defend your brother?” I asked.
“Why didn’t you?” he shot back.
“Because he’s not my brother, and I’m not the Prince. They never would’ve listened to me.”
Kennet stared down at his satin bedspread. “They were arresting the King, Bryn. They weren’t going to listen to me either.” Then he shook his head. “I’m not sure he’s innocent.”
“You think he did it?” I asked.
He looked up at me. “You don’t?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
Kennet motioned to me. “Well, there you go.”
“You still should’ve defended him.”
“Just because he’s my brother? Or because he’s my King? You think he should get a free pass?”
“No. Of course not.”
Kennet cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. “You think I had something to do with it.”
“I haven’t ruled out any possibilities yet.” I chose my words carefully.
“You don’t trust me?” Kennet smirked a little and stood up, walking toward me.
“I think it would be unwise to trust anybody in Storvatten right now.”
“That is probably very true.” He stopped mere inches away, looking down at me. “Why did you come to my room, Bryn?”
“I want to find out the truth about what is going on here.”
“But you don’t trust me.”
“Maybe I can tell when you’re lying,” I countered.
“Oh yeah?” Kennet raised an eyebrow. “Am I lying when I say I want to kiss you right now?”
I took half a step back, surprised by his frank declaration, and it took me a moment to figure out how to counter him. “Prince, I value your friendship, but that is all.”
He stepped closer, smiling down at me. “You would deny your Prince a simple kiss?”
I looked up at him sharply. “You would order me to?”
“No, of course not,” Kennet corrected himself quickly. “You know I didn’t mean it like that.”
“How do I know that?” I asked as I studied his face. “I don’t know you, and I don’t trust you.”
For once, he didn’t have a smart comeback. The weariness I’d seen in him earlier was creeping back in, and I felt a small pang of sympathy.
“Today has been a very long day, and the days ahead are only going to be longer,” Kennet said, his voice a low, resigned rumble. “And as much as I’d usually love to play these games with you, I don’t have it in me today.”
“I don’t want to play any games,” I told him. “I just need you to be honest with me.”
He let out a deep breath. “I will answer any questions you ask me as honestly as I can.”
“Did you try to kidnap or hurt the Queen?”
He pulled his head back in surprise. “No. Of course not.”
“Do you know who did?”
“It’s my understanding that it was that Konstantin Black fellow.”
“Do you know him?”
“Konstantin?” Kennet shook his head. “No. I never met him.”
I narrowed my eyes, appraising him. “You’re not lying?”
“No, I swear,” he insisted, and for once I actually believed him. “I never met him. I never even heard of him until you told us about him.”
“Did your brother have anything to do with the Queen’s kidnapping?” I asked.
Kennet opened his mouth but seemed to think better of it. His gills flared with a deep breath, and finally he said, “I think my brother is involved in a great number of things that I know nothing about. He is a good man, and he tries to be a fair King, but he’s been in over his head since the day he was crowned. No matter what he has done, I’m certain that he never meant to hurt anybody.”
“What about you?” I asked.
“What about me?” A smile began to play on his lips.
“Are you a good man?”
“No, I would say I’m not a very good man,” Kennet admitted. “But I would never do anything to hurt my brother. Despite our occasional differences, I love Mikko, and I won’t let anything bad happen to him.”
“You let him go to jail,” I reminded him, and he flinched.
“Mikko is in jail,” he contended. “But I’m not the one who arrested him, and there will be a trial. He will have the chance to clear his name, and I’ll stand by him.
“Besides, there are worse things than jail,” Kennet added.
“Did you hire Cyrano to kill you brother?” I asked.
Kennet rolled his eyes. “I already told you I’d never do anything to hurt Mikko. Haven’t I answered enough of these questions?” He stepped backward and sat on the bed.
“I have one more question,” I answered. “Do you know why anyone would want me dead?”
“What?” Kennet shook his head, appearing appalled by the idea. “No. Of course not. Who wants you dead?”
“No one. Never mind.” I tried to brush it off, since that was easier than explaining that Konstantin Black had visited me in a dream to tell me that Viktor Dålig had put a hit out on me.
Kennet smirked. “I can’t imagine a single reason anyone wouldn’t want you around. Other than your incessant questions, of course.”
The darkness of the water outside my window made it impossible to see if the sun had come up yet. I lay in bed not sleeping, the way I had spent most of the night not sleeping, waiting for my alarm to go off and tell me it was morning and I could get up and actually accomplish something.