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He expected she might flinch at that, but if anything, she stood taller. And her gaze remained as it ever was, direct and steady. “You didn’t care about me. Why would it cross my mind that you’d care if I had a child? I’ve already apologized, Paris Apollo. And I’m sorry that you can’t accept my thinking on this. But that doesn’t mean I’m lying about it.”

“And do you truly believe that I will ever let you leave my sight again?” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken, his voice a dangerous throb. “Do you imagine for one moment that now, having finally met the son you kept from me, I would ever let him go again?”

He watched that move through her and was glad of it. Glad that she might feel some small portion of what he did.

“I told you that I’m happy to share custody with you,” she said very carefully. And perhaps not as steadily as before.

“Do you imagine your happiness signifies?”

“I saw how you were with him today. It was...” And he thought that the way she swallowed then—too hard, too loud—showed that she was as distressed by this as he was. But he didn’t wish to know that. He did not wish to see it. “I can’t change the past.”

“Perhaps not. But understand that I own your future, Madelyn. Because you owe me. And I have no compunction whatsoever in taking what I am owed.”

“Whatyouare owed.” She let out a sharp laugh at that. Her gray eyes flashed hot. “You are unbelievable.I don’toweyou anything.”

And something in him—that roaring beast—stilled in anticipation.

Because this was the fight he had longed for. He could see it all over her, in the way her whole body vibrated as she pushed away from the rail and stepped toward him. The way she scowled at him, temper making her flush bright, as if she wanted nothing more than to get into the fight they both were spoiling for.

Neither did he.

“Believe it,” he suggested. Not kindly.

“I am Troy’s mother. I decide what happens to him and who gets to see him, not you. You’re not even on his birth certificate. You have no rights here that I don’t grant you.”

“You forget who you are speaking to,” he shot back with a soft menace. “You are on Ilonian soil, where it has already been decided that Troy is my heir. Your wishes matter as much as a foreign birth certificate does, which is to say—not at all.” She started to argue, but he slashed a hand through the air, cutting her off. “I have been gentle with you, Madelyn, but you must know by now that I am the law here. WhateverIwish. WhateverIcommand. You have the standing I grant you as a courtesy, but nothing more.”

Something in her seemed to ignite. She closed the distance between them, once again making the foolish mistake of touching him. This time not with a finger, but a whole palm. She slapped it into the center of his chest and then looked faintly surprised, as if she’d actually believed she could toss him back across his own terrace.

Paris Apollo did not move even the faintest centimeter.

“I want nothing from you,” she threw at him. “Not one thing.”

“You’re a liar.”

“Does that make you feel better? To imagine that you still have the same hold over me that you did when I was so foolish and so naive and actually believed that you were the man you pretend to be?”

Madelyn let out high, strange sort of laugh that he understood was meant to function much as that slap had. And he could feel the force of it. It was far more effective than a hand on his chest.

But then, he had a use for that, too. He reached up and covered her hand with his.

And he could feel that fire again, the great wave of it. An impossible blaze, sweeping through him, through her.

As if, together, they set the night on fire, making their own lightning storm.

“You’re the one who dragged me here,” she seethed at him. “I want nothing to do with you and nothing from you, ever.”

“Except this, Madelyn,” he growled, using his hand to jerk her off-balance and into his arms, splayed out over the wall of his chest. “Exceptthis.”

And this time, when he brought his mouth down on hers, it was a reckoning.

It was condemnation, accusation, and far and above either, an immolation.

Paris Apollo felt that same explosion in both of them, and then everything was fire.

The night. The two of them.

And he knew that what was required here was strategy. Tactical prowess. But he had none of that to give, not with her taste in his mouth, changing him. Recreating him.