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THEHELICOPTERFLEWthem down from the Hermitage, across the sea, and in low over the old harbor and ancient city that clung to the cliffs below the palace.

Where it seemed the entire kingdom of Ilonia had taken to the streets to greet them.

Madelyn thought she was having a kind of panic attack, but it was impossible to tell if all that wild roaring was coming from inside her or the throngs of cheering Ilonians down below. Because even from high up in the air, the celebrations in the streets were loud enough to be heard over the rotors and reverberate inside her body.

Making her feel dangerously, hecticallyalive.

It made her ask herself what on earth she was doing here.

With him.

It had been a long night. She’d spent the first part of it convinced that Paris Apollo was testing her in some way and was in all likelihood watching her as she tried to decide what to do. She’d wheeled around and headed outside once he left her, not trusting him at all. But when she’d rushed across the stone court and through the door to the outside of the Hermitage’s walls, she saw he’d told her no more than the truth.

The night had come in fast. The hail that had turned to rain and then back again didn’t help. She might have braved the trail anyway, but he hadn’t been lying about the light and weather situation, either. Madelyn could not see a thing outside the Hermitage walls. She could barely see her hand in front of her own face. She told herself she could hug the side of the mountain as she went down, and she could creep along as slowly as she liked—

But the same problems remained. First, she had more than her feelings to consider, which should have been the only thing that mattered to her. Second, even if she didn’t topple off the side as she slipped downhill, there was no telling if anyone waited for her in that parking area halfway up the mountain. If no one was there, that meant she would be stranded, alone and outside on this island for the night. For the night or even longer, depending on whether or not anyone decided to look for her.

Depending on when orifParis Apollo noticed she was gone, then did or did not raise an alarm.

And as much as she might have liked to make a point by doing exactly that, she couldn’t.

Because she had to think about Troy, not just her damned wounded pride.

So Madelyn had turned around, located her spine, and marched stiffly back inside the Hermitage. Then she’d made her first order of business finding a room with a decent lock.

Though she wasn’t quite certain if she wanted to lock Paris Apollo out...or herself in.

It had been a bit lowering to discover that there were a great many rooms with dead bolts aplenty. She chose one, locked herself in, and then sat there for some time. Like all the other rooms she’d peeked into, the chamber she’d picked was comfortably and simply furnished. Despite the actualKingin residence, this was not a place of overwhelming opulence. That surprised her. The furniture was sturdy, the rugs cozy, and in some rooms, there were fireplaces that leapt to life at the touch of a button.

If she’d had any other reason for being there, she probably would have loved it.

Once she’d gotten herself warm and dry in front of the fire, she’d followed her hunger pangs down to the kitchen, where she found food and drink. As promised. It was all simple and easy and good. Fresh-baked bread. Hard cheese and savory sausages. She’d fixed herself a plate, then headed back to her room, furtively, expecting Paris Apollo to appear at any moment—

But he hadn’t.

Not even when she had thought she heard him—not that she could imagine the famously lethargic Paris Apollorunningthrough the stone halls or moving heavy things about, as it sounded like he was doing at one point.

Madelyn had told herself it was the wind.

And she’d talked herself out of wandering around the halls later to see if she could find him. She’d decided that would suggest a level of interest in him and his activities that she didn’t wish to convey.

No matter that she might feel exactly that level of interest and more.

Also, the way he’d looked at her as ifshewas the monster who had betrayedhim—and she could see why he might feel that way, as unfair as it felt to her after she’d been the one to struggle through Troy’s birth and infancy on her own while he appeared in tabloids, wearing supermodels like so many cloaks, not that she’d looked—made her think that perhaps she’d be better off making sure she didn’t provoke him.

She slept fitfully, dark and odd and fire-licked dreams in her head, and woke to the sound of the helicopter in the distance.

The flight across the sweep of the Ilonian islands was beautiful. An aching kind of beauty, the sort that didn’t make her want to drink cocktails and dance on white-sand beaches but rather...wander about in the wild, lonely, desolate far reaches of these moody islands.

Until you find yourself, she thought.

And then had to sit with how strange that thought was. As she wasn’t lost. She didn’t have the time or the privilege tolose herself, and if she did, it wouldn’t behere.

With the man who brooded in the seat beside her.

“What are we doing here?” she asked him as they climbed out of the helicopter on the landing pad adjacent to the palace.

“I suspect you can work that out,” was his reply, in the same harsh voice he’d used since yesterday.