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Chapter no 52

Once Upon a Broken Heart

Tiberius staggered on his feet.

If Evangeline had been standing, she would have undoubtedly lost her footing as well.

She expected him to try to take the confession back or grab the iron from the guard and run her through. Wasn’t that what a murderer would do? But perhaps it wasn’t just the antidote side effects that had torn Tiberius’s confession free.

Instead of fighting back, Tiberius fell to his knees and brought his hands to his face. “I didn’t mean to kill him. It was supposed to be you.” Eyes rimmed in grief and anguish met hers. “I didn’t want to hurt my brother. I found a poison—a Fate’s tears that were only supposed to affect females. But it seems that story was a lie.” Tears finally streamed down Tiberius’s cheeks, long, endless rivers of them.

It was almost like when she’d cried from LaLa’s tears, only his heartache was entirely real. Tiberius sobbed the way that only broken things could, and Evangeline couldn’t help but start crying with him. She cried once more for Apollo, she cried with relief that she was still alive, and she cried for Tiberius. Not for the part of him that had tried to kill her but for the part of him that had killed his brother by mistake. She didn’t know what it was like to have a sibling, and given all that had happened between her and Marisol, she doubted that she would ever understand. But Evangeline understood how it felt to lose family, and she could not fathom being responsible for that loss.

She didn’t know how long they both sat there crying. It could have been half the night, a handful of hours, or minutes that merely stretched out to feel like forever.

The female guard who’d been poised to kill her had untied Evangeline right away, but it wasn’t until after dawn that several of the other guards escorted Tiberius out to take him to a holding cell. He didn’t try to fight them.

“What’s going on?” Marisol chose that moment to come out of her room. “Tiberius—”

The defeated prince looked up, his anguish briefly departing, but this time, it wasn’t replaced with love. “If I ever see you again, I will kill you, too.”

It seemed the spell had finally broken, though Evangeline didn’t know if it was because of her antidote or if Jacks had been right about real love being strong enough to break love spells, and it actually was Tiberius’s love for his brother that had broken through when he had confessed the truth. He turned back to Evangeline. “For my last request, I never want to see her face again.”

“No—my love!” Marisol started to cry, and she kept the performance up even as Evangeline had soldiers lock her inside of her room until further notice. Like Tiberius, she didn’t want to see her stepsister anymore.

Evangeline couldn’t blame everything that had happened on Marisol. Marisol hadn’t been the one to poison her or Apollo. But Evangeline did wonder what would have happened if Marisol had not put a spell on Luc. Would fate have intervened in another way to turn Evangeline into the girl in the Valory Arch prophecy? Or would things have worked out differently for her and Luc and Apollo and Tiberius? Was she destined to end up here, or was it just one of many possible paths? She would never know, but she had a feeling this question would always haunt her.

 

 

It didn’t take long for Evangeline to transform from fugitive back into princess. She was moved into another untainted royal suite, with a roaring fire and lots of thick cream carpets that felt wonderful beneath her tired

feet. Everyone seemed to want to fuss over her, exclaim how glad they were that she was safe, and how they all knew she couldn’t have killed Prince Apollo.

Evangeline wasn’t sure if she believed any of them, but she accepted all the fussing.

At the urging of servants, she’d bathed and changed into a much more comfortable gown of white satin with a striped black underskirt and a bodice decorated with pretty black embroidery. Northerners didn’t wear full black for mourning, but it was customary to at least wear some.

Even more guards and servants and half-awake palace officials were called into the suite after that. For hours, it was a flurry of maids bringing Evangeline warm food, and officials making requests and suggestions that sounded a lot like orders. Jacks had yet to appear, and she tried not to worry too much about it. Maybe he just hadn’t come because her name had been cleared?

Hours ago, a messenger had been sent to Kristof Knightlinger and The Daily Rumor so word could get out about Evangeline’s innocence. Given how fast gossip spread, the entire kingdom probably knew by now.

But she still would have liked to have seen Jacks and told him the news herself. Ever since she’d proved her innocence, Evangeline had been eager to see Jacks’s face when she shared that she’d confronted Marisol, discovered who had really killed Apollo, and cleared her name on her own.

Only now that it was nearing late afternoon, her eagerness had turned into tightness in her chest.

Why hadn’t Jacks shown up at Wolf Hall? He should have seen her note. Unless he was still asleep? Yesterday, she’d been amused by the idea of Jacks being slayed by slumber, but now it unnerved her. What if his fatigue hadn’t just been a side effect of the vampire venom?

“I need a coat,” she said.

One of the many maids in the room stepped closer to the blazing fire. “Would you like me to put another log on?”

“No, I need to step out,” Evangeline said. She knew no one wanted her to leave Wolf Hall. The Council of Great Houses, which now included Evangeline, was being called to assemble as soon as possible to discuss

what was to be done now that one direct heir was dead and the other was in prison. Any minute and she’d be summoned to meet them, but she wasn’t sure she could sit and wait any longer. She needed to make a quick trip back to the spires to check on Jacks.

She knew she shouldn’t care so much, but she couldn’t stop fearing that something was wrong.

“Your Highness.” A soldier near the door cleared his throat. “There’s a gentleman who’s just arrived, and he’s insisting upon seeing you. He—”

“Let him in.” Evangeline didn’t allow the soldier to finish. It seemed she’d been worrying about Jacks for nothing.

“I’m afraid he’s not with me. We’ve put him in the receiving solarium.” “I’ll take you to him, Your Highness.” It was Havelock.

Evangeline would have rather gone alone. But earlier, Havelock had been the sole guard who hadn’t looked at her with pure loathing. He’d also suggested that Tiberius postpone the wedding to Marisol, which showed bravery as well as good intuition on his part. If she were going to be safe with anyone, it would probably be Havelock.

There were more protests as they ventured out the door: “The council members are on their way!”

“You can’t leave now!”

“You’re too tired—you’re going to pass out if you walk all that way!” And then there was a lower voice, inside her head, speaking only to her. Little Fox. Where are you?

It’s about time, she thought. I’m heading to you right now. Don’t—Jacks’s voice turned worried. I’ll come to you.

Evangeline found herself smiling just a little. She liked that he sounded concerned.

Just wait for me, she thought. She was already on her way. And she thought it wasn’t very far.

Evangeline had only been to the brightly lit receiving solarium once, with Apollo. He’d taken her and Marisol on a tour of Wolf Hall when they had first moved into the castle. She’d been enchanted by the beautiful fortress that Wolfric Valor was rumored to have built as a gift for his wife, Honora. Evangeline had imagined there were secret passages behind every

tapestry and trapdoors hidden beneath the carpets. But now, with fatigue clouding her vision, everything was a blur of stones and vaulted ceilings, fireplaces to battle the endless drafts, sconces full of unlit candles, the occasional bust, and the not-so-occasional portrait of Apollo.

When she passed one of Apollo and Tiberius, with arms around each other’s shoulders, she had to pause. Apollo looked so happy and vibrant. It was the same way he’d often looked at her. She’d thought his expressions had been pure enchantment, but now it was painfully tempting to wonder if things had been realer than she’d believed, if she’d been right to hope they could have really fallen in love. But she would never know. What would have been was a question that no one ever knew the answer to.

Evangeline started walking again, following Havelock into a windowless hall void of tapestries and lit by crude torches that smelled of earth and smoke and secrets. She might have only been to the receiving solarium once, but this was utterly unfamiliar.

“Is this the right way?” she asked.

“We had to take a detour,” said Havelock. His face was impassive, the perfect palace soldier.

If not for the creeping feeling of unease crawling over her skin jolting her back to alertness, Evangeline might have believed him.

Did you get lost, Little Fox? Jacks’s voice again, but he sounded farther away than before.

Maybe you should meet me after all, she thought back. Then to Havelock: “I think I’m going to turn around.”

“That would be a mistake.” The lilting voice came from behind her.

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