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Levana climbed onto her shaky legs.

Haddon lowered the gun. His eyes roved over her body—her glamour’s body—full of lust and anticipation.

Ignoring the tears now drying on her cheeks, Levana flung herself toward Haddon. He lifted his arms to accept the embrace.

Instead, he received a knife, handle deep, in his chest.

As horror and comprehension crashed into his expression, Levana shoved him away. He stumbled back, collapsing against the wall.

She fell to the floor beside Evret. Agony clawed up her throat and exploded in a shrill wail.

As soon as Levana was out of danger, his last reserves of energy left him and Evret slumped against the side of the bed.

“Evret!” she cried, surprised to find that her terror was real. Watching the spark dim behind his eyes, the way those gray and emerald specks seemed to fade in the darkness, was more painful than she’d imagined it would be.

I vow to love and cherish you for all our days.

“Evret,” she said again, whimpering now. Her hands joined his, trying to block the wounds. Down the hall there were new footsteps. It could not have been more than a minute since Haddon had entered the room, yet it felt like a lifetime had passed. Looking down, she saw blood splattered across her nightgown. Blood covering their hands. Blood on the two wedding bands he still wore, pressed up against each other.

Here is what I think of love.

She sobbed. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Oh, stars. Evret.”

“It’s all right,” he gasped, dragging his arms around her and pulling her against him. “It’s all right, sweetheart.”

She cried harder.

“Please. Please. Take care of Winter.”

She sobbed.

“Promise, My Queen. Promise you’ll take care of her.”

She dared to meet his eyes. They were intense and melting and struggling so hard to stay strong. To hide his pain. To pretend that he wasn’t dying.

At some point, guards arrived. A doctor. Even Winter, with her pale nightgown and frightened tears. And Sybil, too, unsurprised it seemed, by the expressionless set of her brow.

Levana hardly saw any of them. She was alone with Evret, her husband, her beloved, clutching his hand as the blood cooled on her skin. She felt it the moment he was gone, and she was left alone.

She could not stop crying.

It was all her fault. Everything was her fault. She had ruined every moment she had with him, from their very first kiss.

“I promise,” she whispered, though the words burned her throat. She did not love the child. She had only loved Evret, and now she had destroyed even that. “I promise.”

Reaching for the pendant around her neck, she broke the chain with a firm yank. She slipped the charm into Evret’s hand as Sybil pulled her away, and a screaming Winter collapsed against her father to take her place.

Her sister’s words came back to her, thundering in her ears, filling up all the hollow places in her heart.

Love is a conquest. Love is a war.

Here is what I think of love.

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