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Silence filled the cavern. Even William seemed to realize they all needed time to process this awful truth.

All the pain of his mum’s death resurfaced. Tristan’s breath came in quick pants and his free fist clenched. His beautiful, kind mother, slipped through the ice, gone … Had she come up in a different spot and been trapped under the ice? He couldn’t think about it or he’d be sick.

“I sent Jennifer away to keep her safe,” Henry continued, “thinking it was easy to come up with an excuse for her leaving as she left on humanitarian missions all the time. Looking back, I should’ve sent Leslie with her and taken the wrath for the death myself. Prison would’ve been so much better than being William’s tool.” He shot a wrathful look at William.

“Sadly, you can’t change the past,” William said cheerfully. “You can only change the future. Let’s focus on my future now. We’re going to tie you all up. My men and I will leave with Jennifer and Henry, and you’ll have almost fifteen minutes to contemplate your pathetic lives and your miserable deaths before you explode.” He grinned. “I would rather watch my men shoot each of you, but Naomi and I feel that the people of Augustine will respond better to you dying in an explosion. Very tragic and something for them to rally around as I sweep in and benevolently take over my rightful kingdom.”

Tristan wanted to roll his eyes. William was so demented it would be comical ... if he didn’t have the advantage over them with weapons and no one he loved having a gun pointed at their head.

“I’m through being manipulated by you,” Henry yelled, the words echoing off the cave walls.

It startled Tristan. His finger twitched on the trigger. Would Henry do something crazy? The wild look in his eyes said he would.

Tristan prepared to defend Jennifer first, then his dad. Curt would protect Aliya.

“You do have another option, Henry,” William said placidly. “I’ll kill you with the king. High-level officials will clamor to be your replacement and I’m sure the people will adapt.”

“I’ll take it,” Henry said.

“No, Dad,” Jennifer begged.

It was too late.

Henry leaped at William. His hands were tied behind his back, but he launched himself with enough power to slam his shoulder into William’s chest and knock him to the ground and away from Jennifer. William’s head hit the cave wall with the hollow thud of a skull crumpling. Tristan could hope.

Philippe instantly ducked behind Jennifer, keeping the gun pressed to her temple.

Tristan wanted to take out Philippe and check on Henry and William, but he didn’t have time. He shot the guard on the right. His dad and Curt shot at the same time and took out the guard on the left. Both of the guards went down and didn’t move.

Tristan drew in a steadying breath. They needed to disable Philippe and rescue Jennifer, then find the detonator to the bomb.

“Let her go,” he demanded of Philippe.

“And allow you to shoot me?” Philippe asked. “No thank you, sir.”

He yanked Jennifer down to a crouch beside him, ripped William’s bag from his shoulder, and stood. “I’ve got the detonator here. Jennifer and I will back up slowly to the exit. If you don’t follow me, I’ll let her go at the cave exit and I won’t blow the cave. If I hear any sounds of pursuit, I’ll shoot her and detonate the bomb immediately.”

“Philippe, don’t,” the king commanded. “Let her go.”

“I can’t let go of my only insurance, sir. My apologies for betraying you.” He dragged Jennifer toward the door. She struggled against him. “Stop fighting me or I’ll shoot you, then Tristan and his family.” He said everything in the same respectful tone he’d always used. No sneering or mocking like William would have done.

Jennifer instantly stilled, allowing him to drag her toward the door.

“Best wishes to all of you in the next life,” Philippe said in a congenial tone.

Tristan’s heart raced and his body broke out in cold chills. His stomach threatened to turn itself inside out.

Jennifer. He met her gaze. Her deep-brown eyes looked terrified but determined. How could he rescue her with Philippe shoving his gun into her temple? Even if Tristan killed him on the first shot, his finger could reflexively pull the trigger and kill Jenn.

Please help, he begged heaven above.

But he hesitated too long, and the woman he loved was hauled out the door.


Jennifer stared into Tristan’s blue eyes. She hoped he could see how deeply she loved him and how much she didn’t want to die.

Her heart threatened to pound right out of her chest as Philippe tugged her through the door, scratching her shoulder against the doorframe.

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