And then he was pulling away.
“Baby, don’t go.” The words were torn out of her.
But the prince still turned his back on her, and all she could do was stand there, crying.
Surreal, everything was so painfully surreal—-
When the prince started to walk away, her body started to shake with uncontrollable sobs.
Igor, you were wrong.
I’m not his special lady.
And then he was gone.
Time slipped past her, and she started to sway.
Grant caught her before she fell. “Fawn—-” He lifted her up and hurriedly laid her on the couch. Kneeling next to her, he turned her face to him—-
Shiny, shattered eyes stared back at him.
God, God, oh God—
It was like looking into the mirror.
Grant yanked her to him, his arms closing around the only girl he loved.
This was his fault, he thought sickly, all this was his goddamn fault.
His arms tightened around Fawn. She would have never fallen in the prince’s clutches if he hadn’t betrayed her, wouldn’t be hurting if he hadn’t—-
“He’ll come back, w-won’t he?”
The sound of her voice made Grant want to weep, and he could only hug Fawn more tightly, telling himself that he was just imagining it.
Dear God, please let me be just imagining it.
Please let her not be as broken as me.
“You b-believe the same thing, don’t you?”
Fawn pushed him away, her shiny, shattered eyes looking up at him with the need to hear a lie. “He’ll come back. Right?”
God, oh God.
Once, Grant had thought nothing could be worse than what he had gone through at the prince’s hands.
But now he knew he was wrong.
Seeing someone as kind and as innocent as Fawn drowning in a sea of pain the same way he had—-
This was worse.
A thousand times worse—-
“You b-believe me, d-don’t you?”
Grant swallowed hard. “I b-believe you.” He might be broken beyond repair, but he wouldn’t let the same thing happen to Fawn. “He’ll come back.” His voice tightened. “I promise.”
The prince didn’t allow himself to think but instead threw himself into work, both the real kind and the secret type, saving and destroying lives, knowing from experience that it was the only way to move on.
It was how he had survived the loss of his parents.
It was how he had coped with Georgie’s death.
And this one wouldn’t be any different.
One day, the devastating pain that kept him awake every damn night would pass.
One day, he would find it in himself to be glad that he had done the right thing.
One day, he would be able to breathe without thinking of her.
One fucking day.
But until then—-
He would continue to pretend.
Because pretensions made the world go round.
When Grant Bennett contacted him, a month had already passed without the prince remembering a single fucking day. The text message the younger man had sent him was irritatingly cryptic, and for one moment he was tempted to ignore it altogether.
Showing it to Noah and Igor, he asked flatly, “What do you think of it?”
I have an important thing to talk about, and you’ll regret it if you don’t come.
“I don’t believe the boy has the guts to threaten you,” Noah said finally. “But I also don’t see any harm in meeting with him.”
Igor nodded. “I don’t see any mention of you having to come alone either, so that makes it even less of a threat.”
The prince slipped his phone back in his pocket. “Neither of you see this as possibly affecting our timetable?”
Both men shook their heads.
“I’ll take your advice then. The two of you stay here and make sure Beatrice Crichton is never alone.”
The drive back to Christopoulos University was swift, but every second of it chipped away at the prince’s armor, and by the time he reached the university’s standalone library, tension had made him stiff and grim-faced, and it didn’t help when the skies turned overcast in a blink.
Rain started to fall, and one of his bodyguards rushed to him, handing the prince an umbrella. Nodding his thanks, he stood outside the library and waited for Grant Bennett to show up.
An entire half hour passed, and yet the prince remained where he was.
A sardonic smile touched his lips.
You can’t fucking fool yourself, Reid Chalkias.
From the very start, he knew this was a setup, knew from the very start that Grant Bennett had no intention to show up. But he had come anyway because it had given him an alibi.
A reason to go to a place where he might see her—-
And finally, he did see her.
Well played, Bennett.
The prince watched Fawn step out of the school building across the street, hair swept up in a ponytail and her curves hidden under a loose black dress.
He watched her hungrily, obsessively-—
Whatever Bennett’s ulterior motive was for making the prince see her again, it didn’t fucking matter.
What mattered was that he was able to see her again one last time.