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Meanwhile, the papers unearthed photographs of her that she had to stare at furiously, trying to place them. One from some play she was in way back in high school. Another that made her look ferocious, clearly on her way out of work one night.

One of her on the front porch of her parents’ house that could only have been sent in by a childhood friend.

But even stranger than the unearthed photography was the appearance of people like the nasty Lady Annabel, who rose from the darkest part of Madelyn’s memories to splash herself all over every available surface she could find. Entertainment shows. Blog posts. Tabloids in all forms. In each and every one, Annabel gave authoritative statements regarding not only her close personal knowledge of Paris Apollo—Wink-wink, yes, darlings,thatkind of knowledge... the man is a tiger—but also her own reflections on how she, personally, had brought Paris Apollo and the most unlikely girl in the world together all those years ago in Cambridge. She even made up bald-faced lies about what had gone on between them since.

Casting herself as the matchmaking center of it all, of course.

Madelyn told herself she really shouldn’t be surprised that Annabel was as repulsive as ever. She wasn’t. What surprised her was that she couldn’t bring herself to look away.

Even though she had no intention of staying in Ilonia. She certainly had no interest in becoming Paris Apollo’s queen.Marrying him, for God’s sake. It was nothing but idle interest that led her to look through the Ilonian papers, too. They were so helpfully translated into three languages.

She found herself in all of them. And also, always lower down in whatever was going on at the palace, articles discussing a rash of strange, vigilante-type justice on the islands. Or so the papers assumed, as every morning the central police station reported that certain well-known miscreants were delivered to them. Not the general thieves and addicts and scam artists who cluttered up the seedier parts of the harbor. But the kind of villains who had troubling connections to Ilonian aristocrats.

One reporter went so far as to say it almost seemed to her as if a net was closing. Around what, no one dared say.

But the fact that the former King and Queen had died in an accident at sea that everyone whispered was far more than an accident always seemed to be the undercurrent in every article that Madelyn read.

And so every night, Madelyn lay in that bed of hers in the new wing of the palace, where the paparazzi were never allowed, and thought of the things she’d seen in the shadows.

Of Paris Apollo, dressed to disappear, scaling walls and taking himself off into the dark.

Yet in the daylight, as his people tried to apply more and more pressure to her, she found what occupied her thoughts the most was the undeniable fact that he had yet to introduce himself to Troy.

He had not even tried.

“How long are we going to be on vacation?” Troy asked her over breakfast one morning. “I miss home.”

Madelyn and her aunt exchanged glances. “I miss home, too,” Madelyn said calmly. “But I think it’s fun here. Don’t you?”

“Everybody talks about the King,” her son told her, his gray-green eyes big and wide and so innocent it made Madelyn want to wrap him up in cotton wool and protect him forever. “But I never get to see him.”

That lodged itself like a bullet beneath her ribs. Every time she breathed, it hurt. Every time she even thought about moving, it was like that very same spot got irritated and inflamed her whole body.

And so, when his people cornered her on her way to the library later that day, she lost her cool.

“Are these the orders of the King?” she demanded, staring coolly at the man who was always chasing her down with these details, dressed in smooth black and forever aiming that obsequious smile her way. It only made him seem all the more condescending. “You’ve been sent here on his behalf, I expect?”

“Of course, madam,” the man said in his fine, overly cultured voice. “Nothing is done in the palace without the King’s express direction.”

“Then let me give you anexpress directionof my own,” she replied. She knew it was important that she not speak from the place where that bullet was lodged. She knew that it was necessary she seem as unbothered and unaffected as she assumed Paris Apollo was. But it was so much harder than she expected. “Your king has a child. A child who has never met his father. Why on earth would I succumb to any of his demands when he can’t do his own child the most basic of courtesiesand meet him?”

“It is not ours to question the will—” tutted the man.

“Maybe it’s not yours,” Madelyn interrupted him fiercely, that bullet wound throbbing inside her. “But it’s certainly mine. Especially where my son is concerned. I don’t want to hear another word about what Paris Apollo wants. Not until he stops talking about responsibilities for others and meets his.”

She didn’t wait for the man to answer. She brushed past him and stormed off down the hall, carried along on the force and power of her own self-righteous indignation, not caring at all if the entire palace knew exactly how furious she was.

And part of her was braced for Paris Apollo’s immediate appearance, but he didn’t come. Not that day. Not the next. And it wasn’t until they were creeping toward the end of their second week of life in the Ilonian Palace that she accepted the fact that he...wasn’t going to come. It didn’t matter that he’d sent his doctors that first day to take the blood samples that would prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what Madelyn had always known to be true. It didn’t matter that he’d brought Troy here in the first place.

She couldn’t begin to imagine the reason he was avoiding hisheir apparent, especially not when she’d sat on that terrace and listened to him talk so callously of all the ways he could use Troy’s existence for his own ends. But he had no intention of meeting his own child. He’d made that patently clear.

He proved, once again, that he was exactly who Annabel had said he was. The man who broke his toys.

Madelyn told herself she didn’t care. She’d never expected them to meet in the first place. She would be perfectly happy to take Troy right back home.

Even if, deep down, there was a part of her that thought that actually, the fact she’d never tried to meetherresponsibilities where notifying Paris Apollo was concerned was nothing to be proud of, either.

And so in the end, some days later, she was completely unprepared to come around a corner in the gardens, laughing at Troy’s antics, and come face-to-face with Paris Apollo.