Aequus (Royal Protector Academy 2)(4)

By: Randi Cooley Wilson


He shrugs. “I assume it has to do with Tristan’s recent visit to the earth realm. Freya has her father’s ear and I’m sure she has mentioned my brother’s newfound fondness for you, which most likely made him afraid that Tristan would change his mind. As you are aware, Your Highness, this agreement binds the two most powerful lands across all realms. It doesn’t take a genius to smell Oren’s desperation and desire to solidify that partnership. And quickly.”

I glance from the good-looking nymph to the waterfall cascading gently behind him, and then back to him again.

The tightness in my chest constricts, and I’m forced to push out a sharp breath. Something about this seems off.

“I think the real question is why the desperation? Why does Oren seek the backing of the woodland realm with such furiousness that he’s willing to force nuptials for land he will never govern?” I ask. “It’s as if he’s afraid, or knows something is about to happen to threaten the realms.”

His face pinches. “Perhaps he plans to rule both.”

“That’s impossible. The only way Oren could rule both realms is if Queen Ophelia and Tristan—” My brows rise. “You don’t think he’s planning to kill them?”

Zander shakes his head. “Oren is too smart for that. That said, he won’t be able to control my brother once Tristan reigns. No one can,” he adds with pride. He pauses, looking around uncomfortably before dropping his voice. “Perhaps Oren is hoping Freya and Tristan will produce an heir right away, one that he eventually can control?”

I swallow the bile in my throat at Zander’s words.

“Then he’d be out of luck. Tristan would never—I mean … he wouldn’t let a—his child, be controlled by Oren. Or anyone else,” I bark out. “As his best friend, you know this.”

“Maybe it’s truly as simple as Oren fearing Tristan will change his mind, given his feelings for you,” he reasons.

“Ophelia and Oren signed the decrees when Tristan and Freya were a day old. Royalty cannot break marriage decrees; their agreement is binding. Not to mention Oren pushed the first date up before Tristan was assigned to me.”

“True.”

“And even if they were to be married tomorrow, the queen has a long reign in front of her. Other than solidifying their alliance, rushing their marriage makes no sense.”

“Unless,” Zander whispers.

“Unless, what?”

“What if Ophelia and Oren are truly working together, as a united front? Think about it, the two most powerful supernatural realms in existence coming together, seeming to be enemies, yet they’re working behind the scenes to secure even more influence? Total realm domination.”

I stare at Zander because his theory is plausible.

“It would also explain why the queen is holding Tristan to his promise, knowing he has feelings for you,” he adds.

His words seep in, before I speak in a hushed tone.

“Zander, what you are describing is marital coercion, with the purpose of undermining the line of succession.”

“Yes. I am speaking of high treason,” he confirms.

“Holy shit,” I blow out in a sharp exhale.

“Deceitfulness in any form within our world is a clear show of disloyalty—even if committed by the sitting queen and emperor.”

I scoff. “If your theory is true, as the future heir to the protector throne, I can’t intercede in matters of supernatural sovereignty unless directly attacked. Regardless of my feelings for Tristan. If I step in, my own actions could be looked upon as threatening the security of the two largest and most powerful immortal realms. These accusations could very well trigger a war—and get me killed.”

His gaze narrows. “As the gargoyle princess, you can arbitrate without your uncle Asher’s approval if human souls are in danger, or a protector’s existence is threatened.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means, if they are plotting realm dominance that will include the earth dimension, which places humans in danger. It is your duty to protect them. Not to mention, Tristan is half gargoyle and therefore your subject. It is within your rights to also safeguard him,” he points out.