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She held his gaze, though hers was blurry. “Think,” she urged him. “Is this how you want your own son to mourn you one day? Is this the lesson you want him to learn?”


ALLTHEFIGHTwithin Paris Apollo bled out of him then.

All the fury that had propelled him here today disappeared as if it had never been.

Because she was right. His parents would never have wanted this, not any of this. They would have delighted in Troy. They would have played with him and laughed with him, and they would have found his mother a marvel just as Paris Apollo did.

They had wanted nothing for him but happiness.

He put his hands on top of hers, holding them there. Trapping them. “I don’t know how to do this,” he grated out.

And Madelyn, his beautiful Madelyn, with her face wet with tears and the world he didn’t deserve in her eyes, gazed back at him as if he really was the man she had described on that beach last night. “I don’t think anyone does. Not really. It’s all a lot of muddling and hoping for the best. All the best things in life are that way, I’m pretty sure.”

“All I do is let them down,” he said, his voice low and gruff. “My parents. My people. You. Troy. It is inevitable.”

“Everybody lets the people they love down now and again,” Madelyn whispered back fiercely. “It’s called being a complicated person. It’s part of being alive. What matters is what you do next. Not how you broke it, but how you choose to fix it. How youtry.”

Paris Apollo stood there, in this room where he had trained and planned, raged and mourned. And even though the light of this summer’s day poured in, as ever, he had only seen the darkness.

Until Madelyn walked in and brought the sun with her.

And suddenly, he couldn’t bear that they were separated. By these two inches, by the clothes they wore.

But not, for once, in that too-wild, too-untamed way that everything had been between them since she’d come to Ilonia. Since they’d met, for that matter.

Today he thought about all the things she’d said to him on that dark beach. He thought about loving her, not losing her.

And this time he kissed her, not with desperation, but with hope.

Slow, sweet, devastating hope.

He took his time. He helped her out of her clothes, then kicked off his trousers.

He lost himself in the way she smiled at him, bright with that joy he’d always craved, and then even wider when he smiled back.

They had taken each other too many times to count. He had tasted her so often and so well it should have been impossible to find anything new, but he did.

As if she was brand new to him every time.

The woman he loved. The woman he had always loved.

The only woman for him, just as she’d said.

He pulled her down with him onto the softest of the rugs that were thrown only sparingly across the floor here. And he made his lazy way down her body, easing her over onto her belly so he could spend some quality time with the nape of her neck, the enchanting indentation along her spine, the flare of her hips and pert bottom. He found his way to the mysteries beneath, curving his fingers around to find the center of her need, slick and hot.

And slowly, but not so sweetly, he set her alight.

When he turned her over again, he looked down at the way she was splayed out before him. The way she gave herself to him in all this light pouring through the glass.

And Paris Apollo understood that whatever came after, these were their vows. This was their ceremony.

He could see on her face that she knew it, too.

“I love you,” he told her, though he had never said those words out loud to anyone save his parents. And though her eyes got bright with emotion, he didn’t stop. “I was so in love with you in Cambridge that it made me a stranger to myself. I had to get appallingly drunk to keep myself from chasing you home. If I’d known you came back, I knew I would never have let you leave.”

“I love you, too,” she told him, solemn and certain. “I have always loved you, too.”