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Once again, all she could think was that he’d made himself into some kind of weapon. And that weapon was aimed directly at her.

She should probably have more of a reaction than that exultant,shiveringthing inside her.

He stopped when he was much too close. Madelyn felt her heart in her throat, pounding so hard she was surprised she didn’t choke, as he reached over—

She wanted to squeak out a protest. She wanted to turn and run. Or maybe she wanted to throw herself into his arms instead. But she had more than just herself to think about now, so she stood fast, planted her feet in the ground, and didn’t move an inch.

Somehow, she faced him. Somehow, she didn’t run.

Or worse, surrender to that longing that had already been her undoing once before.

And she had never been more aware of anything in her life, so intense and so darkly hot, as the way he reached over, took a bit of her damp hair between his fingers, and tucked it behind her ears.

It should have been a sweet, kind thing to do. Tender, even. Affectionate.

But she could see the expression on his face.

She could feel the way it knocked through her, making her knees feel weak. Making a strange heat bloom behind her eyes and a matching one deep between her legs.

“My parents were murdered,” he told her, his voice as dark as the gathering night outside. And she could feel it inside her, too, as if he was a rainstorm, pounding its way through her. Drenching her. Growing stronger and wilder with every moment. “And everyone responsible will pay. I have not spent these years catering to my feelings, Madelyn. I have been preparing myself for the battle ahead. And I tell you this now. If I discover that you have anything to do with what befell them—”

“Are you... Are you accusing me ofmurdering your parents?” It came out in a whisper because that was all she could manage. “Me?A waitress from halfway around the world?”

“You call yourself a waitress, but what Angelique has proved is that you are a pawn,” Paris Apollo told her, almost softly. “But the trouble with pawns is that they can be played by anyone. It will not go well for you if it turns out you have been embroiled in the plots I intend to expose.”

“I have nothing to do with these games you’re playing,” she managed to say. She felt a kind of wildfire power move inside her that she knew came entirely from being a mother. Troy’s mother. Because even here, high up the side of a mountain, in a place she hoped her son would never visit, she would protect him. She didn’t care about herself, but she would protect him if it took her final breath. No matter what reaction she might be having to the man who’d fathered him. “I want nothing to do with them. You didn’t know you had a son before today and really, there’s no reason for you to involve yourself with him at all. He’s fine. He has a good life. He’s happy and he’s loved. The last thing in the world he needs is to be caught up in...whatever this is.”

She waved her hand between them, only realizing after she’d done it that it was a rough approximation of the careless way she remembered him waving his hand back in England. To indicate his boredom. To bring people closer to him or send them away.

To remind everyone at all times how languid and yet above them all he was.

What she didn’t expect was for Paris Apollo to catch her hand in his.

For a moment, there was nothing between them but the touch of his flesh to hers. The heat of his hand, flooding her with too many memories to bear.

That mad fire that had burned her alive—and worse, she’d liked it.

“I suggest you make yourself comfortable,” he told her in that low, too-dangerous voice of stone and darkness. “It is pitch-black outside and there are no lights to mark the trail. It is too treacherous to attempt tonight.”

“I’m not staying here. That was never... I didn’t agree to that.”

He ignored that outburst. “If you follow this hall to the far end, you will find the kitchen. Feel free to help yourself to anything that appeals to you. If you wish to rest—and I suggest you do—there are many chambers to choose from.” The words he used sounded almost welcoming, but his tone reminded her of bullets. One after the next, and none of them anything but deadly. “Pick any you like.”

Paris Apollo stepped away from her then, but it seemed as if it took him a little too long to drop her hand. Or maybe it only seemed that way to her because she couldfeeltoo much. Or because she wanted him to feel something. Anything.

And then, when he did finally drop her hand, she could still feel it, and that was incalculably worse.

“You have had five years to make all the decisions you liked,” he said quietly. Too quietly, when his eyes blazed the way they did. When she still felt like a tattered bit of target practice, and worse, like the lover he’d discarded years ago—but as if it had just happened anew. “It seems you made all the wrong ones. But that time has ended. And now, Madelyn, I am afraid that both you and I must suffer the consequences of the decisions I have already made.”

Then, to her astonishment, he actually turned and left her there.

And she didn’t see him again until morning.

When a helicopter landed on the top of the Hermitage and the King of Ilonia informed her with a particular glittering look in his pale green eyes that they were headed back to the palace at last...

But it was if she’d brought something terrible upon herself, not as if she’d won.