Author's Note: This is an exclusive excerpt from the final book in the Kanin Chronicles.
"So, what do you say, white rabbit?" Konstantin Black asked. "Friends?"
He sat on the stool next to me, his gaze was unwavering. His thick eyebrows arched hopefully above the dark silver of his eyes, and the black waves of his hair fell over his face as he tilted toward me.
All I could do was gape at him, too stunned to think or move. I didn't even know if he was really there or not. It would make more sense that I had unknowingly passed out in a random diner in Missouri, and I was suffering from a stress induced nightmare or possibly a lysa.
There was no way that Konstantin could be here with me. Not after I'd spent five days on the run from Doldastam after being arrested for treason and accused of murdering the Skojare Prince Kennet Biâelse and my friend Kasper Abbott.
I'd done everything in power to stay under the radar – I only used cash and burner phones, and I hadn't even built up the nerve to actually use the phone and call anyone back home yet. I moved constantly and stayed off the grid in dive motels in small towns.
There was no possible way that anyone could've found me, not even Konstantin Black.
"Bryn?" Konstantin asked, since I'd done nothing but stare at him for the past minute.
Then, because I had to be sure he was real, I reached out and touched him, pressing on the black leather jacket covering his bicep, and he looked down at my hand in bewilderment. I half-expected the coat to give way and him to disappear in a puff of smoke, but instead, I felt the
firmness of his muscle underneath.
"Are you feeling alright?" He looked back at me with what appeared to be genuine concern in his eyes, but I wasn't sure if I could trust him. "You really look like hell."
"That's how you're going to sell the idea of friendship? By telling me I look like hell?" I asked dryly.
Not that he was wrong. I wasn't sleeping or eating much, so I was even paler than normal. My attempts at dying my hair black to help mask my identity left my normally blond waves a sickly gray color, since dye never really took hold in troll hair. The swelling on my left eye had finally gone away, but the bruise had shifted to a putrid yellow color that I wasn't able to cover completely with makeup.
"I'm selling it with brutal honesty," he said with a wry smile. "I want you to know that you'll get nothing but the truth from me."
I scoffed. "There's no way in hell I'm gonna believe that."
"Come on, Bryn. Try me." He rested his forearms on the counter, almost pleading with me.
"What are you even doing here? What do you want with me?" I demanded.
"I already told you – friendship."
I rolled my eyes. "Bullshit. Everything is always bullshit with you."
"How can you say that?" Konstantin shot back, incredulous. "I've been nothing but honest with you."
"Sure, sure. You've been nothing but honest when you tried to kill my dad or when you tried to kidnap Linnea."
He pressed his lips into a thin line. "I already apologized about what happened with your dad." I glared at him. "Not that anything I say will ever make that okay, but you know that I regret it."
"How can I know that?" I shook my head. "I don't really know anything about you."
"Why are you being so combative?" Konstantin asked, his voice getting louder. "I'm only trying to help."
"You're a traitor who's been working with someone that nearly killed me!" I yelled back, not caring how loud I was being in the small diner.
"Yeah, well, right back at you!" Konstantin shouted.
The waitress came over, interrupting our heated conversation, and set down the iced tea I'd ordered in front of me. She stood with her hand on her hip, eyeing us both up with suspicion. Before, she'd looked at me with concern despite her weariness, but Konstantin and I both clearly looked like people on the run from something, and now we were arguing.
"Is everything okay here?" she asked, her eyes flitting back and forth between the two of us.
"Yeah, it's fine," Konstantin replied curtly without looking at her.
"Well, you better keep your voices down, before you starting upsetting the customers," she said with a slight southern drawl, and she slowly turned and walked away.
Konstantin waited until after she had gone to the other end of the diner before speaking. "And I tried to save Linnea." He sat up straighter, indigent. "I did save her, actually. Without my intervention, she'd most likely be dead."
From what Linnea had told me, that sounded true enough. Since I couldn't argue with Konstantin, I turned the stool away from him and focused on my iced tea.
He sighed, then he leaned toward me and in a voice just above a whisper, he said, "I know what you're going through. Four years ago, I was almost exactly where you are. I know how frightening and lonely it feels when the kingdom turns against you."
I took a drink from my tea and didn't say anything, so he went on, "I know you and I have been on opposite sides for a while, and I know I've made a lot of wrong choices. But I'm trying to make up for them, and ... now I'm alone, and you're alone. So I thought we could be alone together."
He leaned back away from me. "But I won't force this. If you wanna go through this all alone, then be my guest. Take on the world by yourself. I won't fight you." He reached into his pocket and tossed a few dollars on the counter. "The drink's on me."
I heard the stool creak as he got up, but I didn't look back. Not until I heard the door chime, and I turned to watch him walking out the door, into the bright spring day. In a few more seconds, he'd be gone, and I'd have no way to contact him or find out what he knew.
So even though I wasn't sure exactly how this friendship thing would play out, or even if this wasn't some kind of trick, I knew what I had to do. I cursed under my breath, and then I jumped off the stool and ran out after Konstantin.