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Tristan’s neck burned. What could Leslie have done?

Eight months?

His mum.

“Henry?” The king’s voice was commanding but now filled with concern. His blue eyes were a mixture of steel and compassion that reminded Tristan of being a child and knowing he was in trouble.

Henry looked even more miserable. “Jenn,” he said softly, turning to look at her. “If only I’d sent your mum with you the day I sent you away. If only you’d never returned. Then William couldn’t have manipulated me for so long and everyone I care about wouldn’t be butchered by this monster.”

Tristan’s palms grew clammy.

Henry locked gazes with him and then with his dad. He murmured, “I’m terribly sorry. I should’ve chosen a different path. Nothing was clear to me at the time. I was a mess and Leslie was worse. But now I can see nothing is worth bending to William’s demands. If this maniac becomes king and hurts our people, I’ll never forgive myself.”

What had Henry done? Could he or Leslie possibly have … killed Tristan’s mum? Nausea threatened to choke him, and he had no clue what to say. His dad didn’t seem to, either.

“Brilliant genius,” William corrected. “I will keep Jennifer and Leslie alive, at least until Henry tries to betray me again, or any of them outlive their usefulness. Prime Minister Shule will be a necessary figure for the transition of power. It’s enough for the Augustinians to get used to a new royal family. I want them to have a familiar face with their prime minister.” William’s voice was benevolent, as if he were doing the entire country a favor. “I might even allow Jennifer to still become a princess.” His gaze raked over her. “Treven needs a well-connected and gorgeous bride to produce me legitimate royal heirs.”

“No,” Tristan roared as Jennifer cried out in dismay, her beautiful face pinched in horror. Tristan’s hand shook as he pointed his Ruger at William. He was a crack shot, trained by his incredible twin. He could kill the man and end all of this.

As if William guessed how close he was to pulling the trigger, he stepped behind Jennifer.

“Now.” William grinned. “Let’s get back to the big reveal so we can leave the royals here to die. The entire cave is wired to blow. I’ll take Jennifer and Henry back home, where Philippe and my trusted men will quietly kill the unsuspecting Raymond, Steffan, Derek, Malik, Chief Jensen, Major Chad, and the unworthy American princesses. We’ll keep Princess Sophie and my rightful granddaughter Sunny alive. I do so love comforting grieving widows. When Naomi isn’t watching.” His smile was creepy. “That bratty Kiera we’ll ship off to boarding school in Siberia.”

At least he wouldn’t outright murder Kiera. Tristan’s muscles tightened. He wouldn’t let William get away with any of it. They all still held their pistols, but with Henry and Jennifer in William and Philippe’s grasp and their silent, muscle-bound flunkies holding automatic guns, it was difficult to think how to fight their way free without risking Jennifer or Aliya’s safety.

“I apologize, Aliya, that you have to die. I usually don’t murder beautiful women, but with the big reveal Henry is about to give us, and the fact you tried to elevate yourself from white trash to Augustine princess, of course you understand why you must be silenced.”

“Oh, you’re quite the quintessential gentleman, aren’t you, you lily-livered rattlesnake.”

William only smiled at Aliya’s insults. “Time to get it all off your chest, eh, Henry? I want the former king to die knowing his closest friend started his downfall and betrayed him.”

Henry glowered at him. Tristan couldn’t imagine his friend and Jennifer’s dad would say anything because of William’s goading, but maybe he did need to get it all off his chest. He immediately started talking in a low, mournful rumble, studying the king. “Nolan, I can’t express how deeply sorry I am. Leslie never meant for Anne to get hurt. You know how she loved her, but Leslie became irrationally jealous and emotionally unstable. Naomi manipulated her expertly, pretending to be her only loyal friend …” He hung his head.

“Henry.” The king’s voice was soft. Resigned. “What happened?”

“Yes, Henry,” William mocked. “Tell him what happened. How Leslie killed Queen Anne in a fit of jealous rage because you and the queen were sleeping together.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from everyone. Tristan knew the snake was lying, but even saying such filth out loud stained his mum’s memory.

“Dad?” Jennifer asked. “No …”

“That is a lie,” King Nolan said. “Henry would never betray Leslie, and Anne would never betray me.”

“Are you certain?” William asked. “They were young lovers, after all. Young love is so romantic and full of sparkle and shine. It’s hard to forget those feelings. Ask Prince Tristan. He’d move heaven and earth for the love of his youth.” He touched Jennifer’s shoulder. She flinched away from him. He looked her over with a lustful sneer. “So beautiful. Hard to blame him.”

Tristan was ready to shut William’s disgusting mouth and get the loser far away from Jennifer.

“Henry?” The king ignored William and tilted his head to the prime minister with all the grace of a king. Tristan was always proud of his father and today more than ever.

“I also would never betray you,” Henry said, standing as straight as his injuries would allow. “Naomi poisoned Leslie’s mind to Anne and me. She convinced Leslie we were having an affair. At a lunch outing the day of Anne’s murder, Leslie persuaded Anne to meet in the middle of the lake on the ice at two a.m. Some sort of silly dare they’d done in college reenacted. I believe Anne was hoping to salvage their friendship.” He took a breath.

Tristan was sick to his stomach and didn’t want to hear the rest, but it made sense now. Naomi and William had been behind his mum’s murder. Of course they had.

“I woke to Leslie sneaking out of the cottage. I followed her across the frozen lake. When I approached, she and Anne were arguing. Anne kept claiming she would never cheat on Nolan and I wouldn’t cheat on Leslie. Sadly, Leslie was not thinking rationally, fed on Naomi’s steady diet of lies and manipulation. She shoved Anne.” He stared at the king. “Now I am certain that William and Naomi must’ve planned it all out and broken up the ice. I don’t think they cared if Anne or Leslie fell and died, but there was no way the queen could have slipped through the frozen lake without a hole being made.”

Tristan’s heart thumped heavily in his chest.

Henry passed a hand over his face. “It was all such a blur that night. Before Leslie or I could reach for Anne, she was gone, and Naomi and William were suddenly there. William had a pistol and Naomi had a camera. They explained that we would now do whatever they needed us to do, unless we wanted the truth of the queen’s death revealed. Leslie would rot in a prison cell the rest of her life, and Jennifer would be murdered.”

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