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Chapter no 40 – Evangeline

A Curse for True Love

Aurora Valor’s iridescent skirts fanned out around her in a perfect circle as she slumped to the ground in an elegant mess. Strands of violet hair fell across a forehead without so much as a thin worry line. Her expression seemed almost serene. Aurora reminded Evangeline of a damsel in distress, patiently waiting for her prince to come.

But when Evangeline looked more closely, Aurora’s countenance seemed more of a veneer than an actual reflection of how she was feeling.

Her pretty eyes hardened and her musical voice struck a bitter chord as she looked up at Evangeline and asked, “What did you do? Why did Jacks fall for you?”

“Well, she’s not a raging bitch like you,” said LaLa.

Aurora flinched. Another piece of her veneer cracked as her mouth pinched into an ugly frown.

“Where is Jacks?” Evangeline demanded. “And what have you done to his heart?”

Aurora laughed. “You think I’m the reason he did this?” She picked up the dead fox’s tail and swatted it carelessly back and forth while the poor fox lay there, its eyes vacant. “As much as I appreciate the symbolism, I had nothing to do with it.”

“I don’t believe you. I know you cursed him,” Evangeline said. “I found your old spell book. You’re the reason he killed the first girl he loved, the one who turned into a fox.”

“Yes, but I’m not the reason for this.” Aurora dropped the dead fox’s tail. “Jacks did this on his own, for you.” Her voice turned sour with something like jealousy, as if she wished for Jacks’s torment the same way she’d wished for his love.

“You’re the one who took his heart,” said Evangeline.

“I didn’t take it! He gave it to me willingly. But I don’t have it anymore.”

“How do you not have it?” asked LaLa skeptically.

Aurora threw her head back against the tree in another dramatic pose. “Jacks came to see me earlier. He demanded the heart. When I wouldn’t give it to him, he knocked me out.” She pointed to the growing bruise on her temple. “Once I woke up, Jacks was gone. So was the heart.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Evangeline said. “If Jacks took his heart back earlier, then why would he do all this?” She motioned her hand toward the dead fox.

Aurora laughed. “You think Jacks took his heart because he wanted it back?” She laughed again, happier and harder.

“I think we should get out of here,” murmured LaLa.

“You should,” said Aurora, still laughing. “Once Jacks finishes destroying his heart, he’ll be back and he’ll kill more than just a wild fox.”

Aurora started playing with the fox’s tail again. She swished it back and forth, back and forth as the blood rushed hotter and faster between Evangeline’s ears.

LaLa might have said something, but Evangeline couldn’t quite hear it over the words repeating in her head: Once Jacks finishes destroying his heart.

She wanted to believe Aurora was just being awful. That she was trying to torment her. She wanted to say that Jacks wouldn’t destroy his heart, but she’d also never thought that Jacks would trade his heart, either. One of the things Evangeline loved about Jacks was his determination, his drive, his intractable pursuit of the things that he wanted most. But she didn’t want to believe that what he wanted now was to feel nothing. That he could disdain his heart so much. That he could give up on love, on everything, entirely.

Evangeline wanted to scream and curse. And a part of her also just wanted to drop down to her knees and cry.

Jacks was the Prince of Hearts—he’d been searching almost all his entire life for love. And now here she was—and he was giving up?

“Where has he gone?” she asked Aurora. “And how do I stop him?” “You don’t.” Aurora sighed and wearily tilted her head to the side, as if

she was the one who’d been the most inconvenienced by all of this. “I told you, you’re too late.”

“Then just tell me where he’s gone!”

Aurora rolled her eyes. “He didn’t exactly tell me his plans before he clocked me on the head.”

“I know where he’s gone,” murmured LaLa. “There’s only one way to destroy a person’s second heart.”

“How?” Evangeline asked.

LaLa swallowed thickly and looked at her guiltily. “I’m sorry, Evangeline.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because if it wasn’t for me, there would be nowhere for Jacks to go. The heart that a person uses to feel is a powerful thing and it can only be destroyed by fire. But not just any ordinary fire.”

“How do you know this?” asked Evangeline.

LaLa continued to look pained. “After Dane was locked up in the Valory, I wanted to destroy my heart.”

“You wanted to destroy your heart because of Dane?” Aurora snickered.

LaLa glared at her. For a second, Evangeline could see she was reconsidering the idea of torture.

“You can hurt her after you tell me how you think Jacks is going to destroy his heart,” said Evangeline.

“The only way to destroy a second heart is with the fire of a royal phoenix tree.”

“You planted a phoenix tree? Are you an idiot?” Aurora shoved up to her feet, and suddenly she looked genuinely frightened. Her cheeks were high with angry color. She must not have truly believed that Jacks was actually going to succeed at destroying his heart; she had been toying with Evangeline, taunting her for fun.

“Where did you plant the tree?” Aurora asked. “As if I would tell you,” LaLa said.

Aurora turned to Evangeline. “Do you know where it is?”

Evangeline had a feeling she did, but she wasn’t about to tell Aurora.

She’d seen the tree her very first night in the Magnificent North.

It was the night before Nocte Neverending; Apollo had been lounging across the branches of the phoenix tree, posing for a portrait. Although she’d actually noticed the spectacular tree before she’d noticed the prince.

Her mother had told her the myth of the phoenix tree, as had her former tutor, Madame Voss. It took the leaves of a phoenix tree over a thousand years to slowly turn to gold—real gold—but if a person plucked one before all the leaves changed, then the entire tree would go up in flames.

That must have been what Jacks planned to do. Pick a golden leaf, turn the tree to fire, and then toss his heart in the flames. And she had no doubt he would do it. Unless she stopped him.

“I don’t want Jacks to actually destroy his heart,” said Aurora. “If you tell me where you planted the tree, I can show Evangeline how to get there using an arch.”

“I don’t want your help,” said Evangeline. “And I wouldn’t trust it.” Thankfully, she also hoped that she didn’t need it. She was fairly certain she knew where LaLa had planted the phoenix tree—she just needed to get there before Jacks did.

“LaLa, where is the closest arch?” she asked.

If LaLa could tell her where the arch was, Evangeline was certain she could coax the arch to take her to the clearing with the tree. Her blood opened any door, and arches in particular always responded to her.

“I’ll go with you,” LaLa said.

“Thank you,” Evangeline said. “But I think I need to go alone this time.

If I’m going to save Jacks, it’s not going to be through force.” “Then how are you going to save him?” asked Aurora. “With love.”

Aurora laughed again. The sound of it was getting uglier.

Evangeline’s cheeks heated, but she refused to be embarrassed. “Love is nothing to laugh at.”

“It is today. Because you see, Evangeline, even if you save Jacks’s heart, it’s not going to be enough to save you. If you ever kiss him, you will die. It doesn’t matter if your love is the truest love that the world has ever seen.”

Evangeline reminded herself Aurora was a liar; until moments ago, this whole scene had a been a charade. But she didn’t look as if she was acting

now. Aurora looked disturbingly triumphant.

“When I realized Jacks was never going to kill the fox girl, I put another spell on him,” Aurora said. “But the story curse twisted the truth of it. It’s not Jacks’s true love who will be immune to his kiss and make his heart beat again. Only a girl who will never love Jacks can survive the kiss. Maybe your love can save his heart, but if you decide to kiss him, you’ll just be one more fox that Jacks has murdered.”

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