“Once we get past here, we won’t be going the same way, so you don’t have to wait for me.”
He turned back to look at me. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m going to find Kennet. Our only way out of this is getting him to confess his part in this. Otherwise we’ll have to spend the rest of our lives on the run.”
I wasn’t sure how much knocking guards out and escaping a pair of shackles would do to help convince anyone I was innocent, but once I found Kennet and got him alone, I’d do whatever it took to get him to tell the truth.
And if I couldn’t get him to admit everything, I would get him to tell me something that would help me gather more evidence to convince Evert that he was working with Konstantin Black and Viktor Dålig. Evert would take his wife’s side in many things, but he would never stomach any aid to his nemesis.
“I’ll go with you,” Kasper said.
I shook my head. “No, you need to take Tilda and get out of here as fast as you can.”
“You think I want to drag Tilda and the baby along with me into a life in exile?” he asked. “I need my name cleared just as much as you do, so I’m going with you. We started this together, we finish this together.”
I relented. “Okay.”
Kasper leaned forward, craning his neck out into the hall, and it must’ve been clear, because he dashed out into the hall and I ran after him.
We sat in wait behind the door of the en suite bathroom. I’d left it partially open so I could peer through the narrow crack. When the bedroom creaked open, I held my breath and leaned forward, trying to see the figure who had come in.
In the late 1800s, the Kanin had enjoyed an influx of cash thanks to a few well-placed changelings and the industrial revolution. That allowed Queen Viktoria to undertake a massive remodeling project on the west wing of the palace, including the installation of dumbwaiters in the guest rooms.
Guests of the palace were always dignitaries, and the Queen didn’t want them to be forced to trek down the cold halls to the kitchen or wait for servants to bring up inevitably chilly food. (Even in the nineteenth century, we had a problem keeping the massive stone palace warm.)
All Kasper and I had to do was get down to the lower level beneath the west wing, which was separated from the dungeon under the east wing. That required a lot of moving quietly, hiding against walls, and dashing into broom closets and restrooms until guards passed by.
And it all had to be done very quickly. Right now, hardly anyone knew that we’d been arrested, let alone that we’d escaped, so our sneaking around was more of a precaution. But we were in no position to take chances.
Once we made it down to the west wing, I left Kasper to choose the appropriate dumbwaiter because he had more knowledge of the palace. As a Högdragen, he knew most of the ins and outs of the palace, since that had allowed him to better protect it.
Given the cozy relationship between Kennet and our King and Queen, we both surmised that he would most likely be staying in the finest room we had. That fortunately made finding the dumbwaiter a bit easier, because the nicest guest chamber was on the south corner of the palace, in a massive turret.
Once we made it up to the bedroom, I set about checking to see if it was Kennet’s room. Thanks to the servants who made the beds and tidied up, it was nearly impossible to tell if the room had been used at all.
The heavy drapes were pulled back from the massive windows that ran along the rounded walls, leaving only sheer curtains to let light in, but I didn’t know if that meant anything. Though it was a lush suite, I noticed absently that the French windows were in need of repair—the paint was chipping and the wood appeared warped.
Confirmation that we’d found the right room came from the massive wardrobe across from the four-poster bed. When I opened it, I found a fur-lined parka and silver suits hanging up, including an all-too-familiar sharkskin one.
Kasper and I decided that our best course of action was to surprise Kennet, especially since we couldn’t know if he had a guard or two in tow, so we hid in his bathroom. Kasper stood slightly behind me, leaning against the embossed wallpaper, with Elliot’s sword still clutched in his hand.
We’d waited for what felt like eternity, but in reality, it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes until the doors finally opened. I caught a glimpse of a shadow—someone moving in the room—but I couldn’t tell who the person was, and if it was merely a maid instead of Kennet.
I leaned so close to the door that my nose brushed up against it, and finally he turned enough so I could see his face—it was Kennet. He took off his jacket and tossed it on the bed, and as far as I could tell he was alone. I decided to go for it.
The door didn’t make a sound when I opened it, and Kennet stood in front of the window, pushing the voile curtains aside to get a better view of Doldastam.
While we’d been waiting, Kasper and I had decided it would be better if I took the lead with Kennet, since he and I had a bit of a history. But Kasper stayed only a step or two behind me with his sword drawn, so Kennet would know we meant business.
“Kennet,” I said.
He whirled around, his eyes startled and wide, but within seconds, a smirk appeared on his face.
“Nothing can hold you back, can it?” Kennet asked.
“No thanks to you,” I snapped.
“Bryn, that wasn’t my idea,” he reminded me. “You can’t blame me for your Queen being overzealous.”
“Yes, yes, I can. You did nothing to defend me.”
“What should I have said? ‘Yes, it’s true what she says. It’s all my fault. Lock me up and throw away the key’?”
“That would’ve been nice,” I said dryly.
“Look, I didn’t want you locked up, but I didn’t exactly have a choice.” Kennet held up his hands, trying to appear innocent. “You backed me into a corner.”
I shook my head. “You’re such a conniving weasel. I can’t believe I ever found anything likable about you.”
“Hey.” He scowled. “I liked you too. And despite everything else that’s going on now, I did have fun with you, and I’m sorry that things have gone the way they have.”
“Everything you said was a lie,” I hissed at him. “Your whole act was to keep me distracted so I wouldn’t notice what was really going on with you.”
“I’ll admit, I was told to keep you occupied so you wouldn’t get yourself into any trouble. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my time with you.” He tried to flirt with me, but it just felt forced and sleazy. “Some things can be both work and pleasure.”