“You’re so full of shit. You’ve only ever cared about yourself,” I spat at him. “You’ve told me over and over that you love your brother, and look how you treated him.”
His expression hardened. “I do love my brother.”
“Spare me your lies, Kennet. We all know what you did.”
“You know nothing about what I did!” he shouted. “Mikko hated being King. It made him miserable. He never should’ve been crowned in the first place. But he had to take the job, not because he was the most qualified, not because he was the best one in our family for the position, but simply because he was born first, and Father insisted that Mikko fulfill his obligations.”
“So you have him imprisoned for life?” I asked mockingly. “That fixes everything?”
“Once this is all over and I’m officially King, I’ll pardon him and set him free. He’ll be fine, and he’ll be happier in the end.” Kennet tried to reason away his sins. “We both will.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that you tried to kill the woman he loves,” I reminded him.
“Is that what Linnea told you?” Kennet rolled his eyes. “That’s some fairy tale fantasy she has. And that’s all beside the point, since I never laid a hand on her.”
“You hired the person who did,” I countered.
He sighed. “You make it all sound so evil, but it wasn’t. They told me that if I gave them sapphires, they’d help me dethrone my brother in a nonlethal way. Mikko has been so unhappy since he’s been King, and I was honestly doing this for him as much as I was for me.”
“If that’s what you tell yourself, go ahead.” I shrugged. “Maybe if you keep on going with that, your brother will pardon you after you confess.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Confess? Why on earth would I do that?”
“Because this is over,” I told him. “The Queen may be blinded by your lies, but as soon as King Evert hears about your involvement with Konstantin Black, he’ll investigate and find out the truth. He’s too paranoid to let it go, so you should make it easy on yourself and just admit what you know.”
“Konstantin Black?” Kennet laughed. “I never even met the guy before you arrested him.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “What are you talking about?”
“I never met him. I’d never even heard of him or this Viktor before you all started going on about them.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Then who did you deal with?”
He tilted his head, a bemused smile on his lips. “You still don’t get it, do you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“This is bigger than either of us.” Kennet stepped closer to me, and from the corner of my eye, I saw Kasper raise his sword. “You think you can come in here and threaten me, and I’ll just bow down and do as you say, but you’ve got nothing to threaten me with.”
“I think you’re grossly underestimating the situation,” Kasper growled, and Kennet glanced over at him.
“You and your little sword are nothing compared to what would be done to me if I betrayed my allies,” Kennet told him bitterly.
As soon as he said that, my mind flashed back to the dungeon on Storvatten, when Konstantin had still been in his prison cell and Bent Stum had been lying dead with his wrists slit. Konstantin insisted that Bent had been murdered to keep him from spilling the truth, and when I pushed him to tell me by whom, Konstantin told me nearly the exact same thing that Kennet just had.
Whomever they were both working for had them scared as hell.
“You killed Bent Stum,” I realized. “So he wouldn’t talk and ruin everything for you.”
“I did what I had to do,” Kennet admitted. “And I’ll keep doing what I have to do.”
His aquamarine eyes almost always seemed to sparkle, but now as he looked down at me, they seemed much more muted, almost glazed. The smile had gone from his face, replaced by a sad vacancy.
Then, without warning, he raised his arm and punched me in the face. It was so unexpected that I didn’t have time to block it. And he was much stronger than I’d anticipated, especially for a Prince. I stumbled back, falling against the bed.
He’d hit me in my left eye, and the trauma to my head was enough to exacerbate my injury from Viktor. My eyesight blurred in both eyes. A white light replaced the vision in my right eye while my left eyelid began to puff up, closing off my sight.
For a few horrible seconds, I could only hear the sound of fighting going on around me—grunting, cursing, and then the clatter of the sword falling to the floor. I wanted to help Kasper, but I couldn’t see, and I didn’t want to blunder in blindly and make things worse. Kasper wouldn’t use deadly force unless absolutely necessary (the sword was meant to be more of a threat) since we needed Kennet alive to clear our names.
Finally, the figures before me came into focus. They were rolling around on the floor, fighting over the sword. I started to move toward it, meaning to grab it, but Kennet got it first and rolled over onto his back, holding the sword pointed out in front of him as Kasper got to his feet.
“This game is done,” Kennet said, standing slowly with his eyes and sword locked on Kasper. “You aren’t going to let this go, which means that I can’t let you go.”
“It doesn’t need to come to this,” Kasper said, holding up his hands in a gesture of peace.
Kennet only smirked in reply, and in a moment of desperation, Kasper charged at him. I was sure he meant to get the sword away from Kennet again, but that wasn’t what happened.
I was standing right behind Kasper, and I saw the sword come out his back—the sharp metal stained red as it poked out between his shoulder blades. The blood flowered out around it, darkening his white shirt.
Kennet’s face paled, and he let go of the sword, allowing Kasper to stagger back. I rushed over, catching him just as he began to fall and lowering him to the floor, but I kept my arm around his shoulders, holding him up so the blade wouldn’t move.
“It’ll be okay,” I said thickly, even though I didn’t believe it.
Kasper stared at me, his dark eyes uncomprehending. He moved his mouth as if he meant to say something, but nothing came out. And then, as I held him in my arms, Kasper took his last breath and his body went lax.
“It had to be done,” Kennet said in a low voice.