Chapter no 45

Once Upon a Broken Heart

Before Evangeline could suck in a breath, Jacks was directly in front of her. His lips curved into a devastating smile that on anyone else might have looked inviting or flirtatious, as if throwing a knife at her feet and daring her to stab him was the equivalent of asking her to dance.

“Jacks—” Evangeline tried not to sound as if her heart was racing. “Don’t you want to hurt me anymore, Little Fox?” His finger reached

out and lightly traced her exposed collarbone, setting every inch of her skin on fire. “You can pick up the dagger any time now.”

But Evangeline couldn’t pick up the dagger. She could barely manage to keep breathing. His hand was now at the hollow of her throat, careful and caressing. Jacks had touched her before—last night he’d held her while she’d slept, but he’d acted as if that had been torture. His touch hadn’t been warm or curious.

Or maybe she was the one who was curious. She knew she shouldn’t be. But hadn’t she wondered what it would be like to be wanted with the intensity that Jacks seemed to want things?

His mouth curved wider as his hands moved from her throat to her shoulders and slowly slid the cape away, leaving more of her skin exposed.

“You should go back on the other side of the gate.” Her voice was hoarse.

“You’re the one who said I needed a distraction.” His fingers drifted lower, trailing down her chest to the sensitive stretch of skin right above the

lacy line of her corset. “Isn’t this better than talking?” One finger dipped all the way into the corset.

Her breathing hitched. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“That’s what makes it interesting.” His other hand found her jaw, while the finger in her corset gently stroked just above her heart, coaxing it to beat even faster.

“You can always pick up the blade,” he taunted. “You wouldn’t like me as a vampire, Little Fox.”

The warm hand at her jaw tilted her head back until she met his eyes. They were dilated to nearly full black and somehow still as bright as broken stars.

She needed to back away. This was wrong for so many reasons, and worse than that, it was incredibly stupid to let him keep touching her, to like the way he kept touching her.

He wouldn’t even be doing this if it weren’t for the vampire venom.

It didn’t matter that he was being gentle, that his knuckles were barely brushing her skin as they skimmed their way from her chest to the back of her neck, while his other hand traveled to her hip, slowly gliding over her skirts as he eased her closer. The crypt was freezing, but Jacks was warm enough to heat every inch of Evangeline as the hand at her neck slid into her hair, twisting his fingers around the strands before shoving them away from her neck and—

His teeth grazed her pulse.

“Jacks—” It was suddenly impossible to form words. His hot mouth was against her throat, and his teeth were on her skin. His teeth! Evangeline finally pressed against his chest. But it was as useless as trying to battle a block of marble. Hot, sculpted marble. She wanted to tell him not to bite her, but saying the word bite didn’t seem like the wisest idea just then. “You won’t want this later…”

“Not really thinking about later.” He licked her, one languorous stroke up the column of her neck.

She gasped, “You don’t even like me.”

“I like you right now. I like you a lot.” He gently sucked her skin. “In fact, I can’t think of anything I like more.”

“Jacks—this is all from the vampire venom.” She pressed harder against his chest, frantic, but he didn’t seem to notice. His tongue was on her neck, toying with her pulse. “You—” Her words faltered as his teeth grazed her again, raking over all her sensitized skin in a way that should not have felt so incredibly good.

She had to stop this. One bite. One spilled drop of blood and they’d both be in trouble. “If you do this … you’ll never see the sun again. Won’t you miss the sun?”

His only response was another tortuous lick, and then his other hand was tightening around her hips, pulling her closer as if preparing to—

“You need me to open the Valory Arch!” Jacks stilled at her words.

His breath went jagged as his lips hovered over her pulse. He didn’t bite her. But he didn’t release her. If anything, he held her tighter. He was burning up against her. She tried to calm her breathing, certain he could feel her racing heartbeat and hear the blood rushing in her veins beneath his parted mouth. But he didn’t lower his lips.

He didn’t move except to breathe in and out.

She didn’t know how long they stood there, wrapped in an embrace that she couldn’t fight and that Jacks couldn’t seem to let go of. There were moments he struggled. He tangled her hair in his fingers, their cold tips brushing her scalp—

Cold. His palm was cold.

Evangeline dared to look up as morning sunlight crept through the mausoleum window. They’d survived the night.

Jacks’s arms tensed as if he’d just had the same realization.

Everything that had burned suddenly felt like ice. His chest, his arms, his breath upon her neck.

He extricated himself from her slowly with stiff, ungraceful movements. He was once again the Jacks who’d carried her to LaLa’s flat. The heat, the want, the hunger, all of it had vanished with the night. His hands were awkward as he untangled his fingers from her hair. It was eerily reminiscent of when Apollo had been freed from Jacks’s magic. Only Jacks wasn’t angry, just exquisitely uncomfortable.

At least he wasn’t laughing. Evangeline didn’t think she could have borne it if he’d teased her for letting him get so close or for gasping as he’d licked her neck.

Her cheeks were suddenly burning, and she was grateful he didn’t look at her when he bent down to grab his dagger.

She took a moment to turn, smooth her hair, and take a deep breath, inhaling the cool, crisp morning instead of him.

“Here.” Jacks’s voice was right behind her. And then she felt her ruffled cloak. He placed it across her shoulders and quickly secured the straps to her corset. “If you freeze to death, the trouble I’ve gone to keeping you alive will be wasted.” His mocking tone was back, clipped and cutting, and yet she felt the soft brush of his fingertips lingering against her neck before he pulled away.

Evangeline tried not to react. She wasn’t even sure he realized he’d done it. When she spun to face him again, he was back to being indifferent as he strode toward the mausoleum exit.

She started to follow, when she saw it, glittering against the ground. The dagger he’d tossed at her last night. The one with all the broken gems. He’d picked up her cloak, but he’d left the little knife. “Wait—”

Jacks looked at her over his shoulder.

She picked up the blade and held it out.

A ghost of a frown turned down his mouth. She couldn’t read the look in his eyes, but his tone was brusque. “Leave it.”

He disappeared through the door without another glance.

Evangeline closed her hand around the dagger’s jeweled hilt.

She was going to keep it, but she didn’t let herself wonder why.



A layer of icy dew covered the cemetery grounds, and an army of tiny dragons covered the tops of the tombstones, snoring little sparks that tempered the air from frosty to chilled.

Jacks scrubbed a hand over his face. There were bruising circles beneath his eyes that hadn’t been there before. “We need to get somewhere safe,” he said.

“What if we went back to Wolf Hall?” she suggested.

He gave her a look that could have withered a forest. “Do you want to be locked up in a dungeon?”

“You didn’t let me finish. I’ve been thinking about what Chaos told us. If Apollo was actually killed by this malefic oil and not LaLa’s tears, then the witch who bought the oil from Chaos and poisoned Apollo with it might have been my stepsister.”

Jacks narrowed his eyes—or were they drooping? He really did look exhausted. She was weary, too, but it was piled deep beneath a number of far more urgent feelings and needs like figuring out who had killed Apollo.

After Luc’s revelation, Evangeline was becoming more inclined to think that the murderer was her stepsister. But did she only think this because Luc had said that Marisol had cursed him, or was it because Marisol was actually guilty?

“I’m not entirely sure why Marisol would have wanted to poison Apollo,” Evangeline admitted, “but I keep wondering about that spell book she bought. I was thinking we could sneak back into Wolf Hall, and you could use your powers on her to compel her to tell us the truth.”

“Even if I thought this was a good idea, which I don’t, I couldn’t help youuu…” Jacks trailed off, slurring his words at the end.

“Are you all right?” Evangeline asked.

He met her gaze and yawned. “I—I—” He struggled briefly before pausing to rub his eyes. “I’m fine. Just tired from—” He swayed on his feet.

“Jacks.” She reached out a hand to steady him.

He flinched away. “I’m fi—ne,” he repeated, but even those words were marred by a yawn.

“You’re falling asleep on your feet.”

“I don’t—” Jacks yawned again, mouth stretching wide as his eyes fell all the way shut.

“Jacks!” She quickly shook him awake.

He blinked at her, fuzzy-eyed, as if he were intoxicated. Nothing about him was sharp. He was all soft around the edges, with his tousled golden hair and his drowsy blue eyes. It might have been amusing under other circumstances—and it was a little comical now. She pictured it as a scandal


But this fatigue did not seem natural. “Jacks, I think there’s something

wrong with you.”

“That’s not anything new.” He gave her a slow, impish smile. “I just need to … find a bed.”

He staggered from her to the closest cemetery plot, as if it would suffice.

“Oh no—” She grabbed his solid arm and tugged him back toward her. But she didn’t know how long she could keep fighting him. If Jacks actually chose to lie down, she was not strong enough to pick him up. “You can’t sleep here, Jacks.”

“Just for a bit, Little Fox.” His pale eyelids fluttered up and down. “This is probably just a side effect of the venom,” he murmured. “There’s always a cost to unearned power…”

He swayed toward the ground.

She grabbed his shoulders to steady him once again. Side effect or not, they couldn’t stay here. “We need to get somewhere safe, remember? Tell me where you’re living.”

Instead of answering, Jacks pulled away and sagged against a nearby tree covered in posters with her likeness. They seemed to have multiplied overnight, growing like a paper plague. Only now they didn’t simply say she was missing.




Princess Evangeline Fox, formerly known as Valenda’s Savior Sweetheart, is wanted for the murder of her


husband, Crown Prince Apollo Titus Acadian. Believed to be highly dangerous and possibly in possession of magical abilities. If you spot the princess, do not approach her. Contact the Royal Order of Soldiers immediately.


Evangeline didn’t know if she wanted to scream or cry or just let Jacks curl up with her as if she were his blanket. It wasn’t enough that her parents had died, that her first love had been cursed by her stepsister, that she’d been turned to stone, that she’d lost her father’s curiosity shop, and that she’d married a prince who was cursed and then killed—now they were officially blaming her for his murder.

“Jacks, please come back to your senses! I’m no longer missing, I’m wanted for murder.” She shook him until he opened his eyes. But if she’d expected a coherent reply, she would have been disappointed. Jacks’s only response was to rip down the poster and shut his eyes again.



It was not easy to get Jacks out of the graveyard, and it was even more challenging to find out where he lived. Whenever Evangeline asked about his home, Jacks just kept shaking his golden head and saying, “LaLa’s is closer.”

Unfortunately, either LaLa’s flat had moved during the night or Evangeline was too anxious to be any good with directions. She climbed back to the spires, but she couldn’t find LaLa’s home among the many shops and stacked cottages. It didn’t help that as they scaled the endless steps, Jacks kept slumping against the nearest doors and walls and muttering about apples.

She risked buying a few pieces of fruit from a vendor, but after taking one bite, Jacks dropped it and leaned heavily against her shoulder.

Her heart fluttered at the contact, which was the absolute wrong response.

A woman carrying a load of wash stared at the two of them a little longer than would have been deemed polite, and Evangeline’s panic increased. They needed to find somewhere to hide. They couldn’t keep wandering around like this. Someone would figure out who they were and call the royal soldiers.

The world was waking up with each passing second. The cries of vendors selling papers and clams and morning sea tonics were filling the bustling streets below. She tried to shut out all the noise and concentrate on finding a safe place to hide. But Evangeline kept hearing the sound of a bell, merrily ring-ring-ringing an endless string of tinkling sounds as if to say, Look at me! Look at me!

Evangeline, of course, knew that bells could not speak. But her mother had told her bells had a sixth sense. She’d said to always polish them, always mind what you say in front of them, and always listen to the bells that ring when they shouldn’t.

Evangeline cast about the spire until she saw the cheery iron bell wildly swinging back and forth above a closed black door with a sign that said Go Away.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

The bell didn’t stop until Evangeline briefly left Jacks, approached the door, and knocked.

No one answered.

The bell kept ringing, more furiously. Evangeline tried the knob.

It didn’t budge. The door was locked, but no one seemed to be inside. Hoping the bell was doing her a favor and showing her a place to hide, Evangeline pulled out Jacks’s dagger and pricked her finger with the tip. “Please, open.”

The knob turned with a gentle click.

Evangeline quickly found Jacks curled up in front of the nearest door, clutching a scandal sheet to his chest like a blanket.

“Come on now.” She crouched down to slip an arm under his shoulder, and for once, he didn’t fight her or try to drag her with him to the ground.

His head lolled against her as she walked him toward the black door, slouching under his weight.

“You’re so lucky I’m here,” she grunted.

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Jacks mumbled. “I wanted you here, Little Fox. Who do you think asked Poison to save you and suggest to his empress that she send you to Nocte Neverending?”

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