Font Size:  


That shiver took her over, and she could feel him in ways that reminded her of things best forgotten. Best left in the past and never thought of during the light of day. Or in public. Things better locked away, like those dreams she sometimes had—

Stop,she ordered herself desperately.

This was probably her trial and execution, and here she was gettingoverheated. It was embarrassment on top of embarrassment.

Worse, she could tell he knew.

But he was turning to the crowd and speaking again.

“It is my great honor to present to you the future Queen of Ilonia,” Paris Apollo said in a voice that sounded as if it could have carried all the way to the sea without any microphone. As if perhaps it carried across the sea, too.

And for a moment, Madelyn glanced around, expecting some other woman to step forward and thinking that this was really the ultimate slap, wasn’t it? It was as if she could see that awful Annabel in her head again, smirk at the ready...

But no other woman rose or came toward the dais.

Once again, it took entirely too long for the penny to drop. Her first reaction was a rush of something far too much like joy for a woman who knew exactly what Paris Apollo’s promises were worth. Then she had the stray, strange thought that maybe if she became a queen, her parents might finally be proud of her again. But even as she thought that, her temper kicked in.

But as it did, she saw a slight disturbance back near the glass walls. Just the faintest movement, back behind the cameras.

Madelyn’s blood turned to ice in her veins as she saw her aunt Corrine, smiling in her usual cheerful way. And worse, the little boy with her, looking a little bit sleepy and distinctly sulky, likely because he didn’t want to admit how tired he clearly was—

“You can’t do this,” she hissed at Paris Apollo over the applause and cheers that greeted his announcement. She hadn’t even noted the crowd’s reaction, so busy looking for appropriate queens and finding Troy instead.

“I think you’ll find I can,” Paris Apollo returned silkily, his hand moving to cover the mic she hadn’t even seen clipped to one of his robes. “I suggest you smile, little Queen. You are so good at it.”

And what could Madelyn do? He had trapped her. Corrine was bent down, whispering in Troy’s ear. Troy had clearly seen her himself, because he was smiling wide and looked as if he might break at any moment and run for her.

Madelyn would never forgive Paris Apollo for this. To risk her son in this way. To throw him like so much meat before these vultures, exposing him to the world—

“In the days to come,” the King was saying then, as if blissfully unaware of what he was doing to her, “I hope that you will not only come to know my Madelyn as I do, but will come to love her as your own.” He took her hand, the one he’d been holding all this time, and lifted it to his lips. And when he saw the murder that she knew had to be all over her face, he only smiled. “We will be wed within the month.”

And it was not until the gong rang again that Madelyn realized he had tricked her.

That Troy was not here so that Paris Apollo could expose him, but to ensure she kept her silence while he made his announcements.

Worse, it had worked. Because now, like it or not, the entire world thought she was engaged to marry the King of Ilonia.

Leaving Madelyn well and truly trapped with the man—theKing—who she had failed to tell was the father of her son.

And whatever he might decide to do about it.


PARISAPOLLOTHOUGHThe was keeping himself together masterfully, if he said so himself. And he was King now. What he said was as good as law.

Yet he had underestimated how hard it would be to come back to the palace.

Where his parents were not and never would be again.

And he had been unprepared for how difficult it would be to see his own flesh and blood, hisson,and not react. Not even approach him, there in that crowd, because it would draw too much attention to the child and it wasn’t time yet. Not yet.

Not until he’d come to a better place with...all of it.

He had even underestimated his own reaction to claiming Madelyn as his future queen, something that sat uneasily on him even now. It had not felt like the chess move he’d thought it would. It had not felttactical. It had been significantly moretactile,in fact.

Paris Apollo had taken her hand, there at the foot of the stairs that led up to the dais, and it was as if the years had melted away. As if he was still that fool who had imagined futures with Madelyn. The same idiot who had thought he was more to her than just another European landmark, easily checked off a list and forgotten before the plane taxied down the runway at Heathrow.