Stalking out of the house, he found Noah and Igor waiting for him outside, the limousine’s engine already running and on standby.

He stopped dead in his tracks. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“We heard your conversation, sir,” Igor said. “We’ll be coming with you.”

The prince said in a hard voice, “No.” What he planned was against the law in every sense, and he didn’t want any of his men involved.

“We can either ride with you or we’ll follow behind you.” Noah’s tone was matter-of-fact. “Either way, sir, we will stand by you.”

“She’s important to us, too, sir—-” Igor’s voice suddenly cracked, and it was the first time for the prince to see the other man look every year of his age.

The prince breathed hard. “You’re both fucking idiots,” he muttered jerkily. “What…happened was my fault.”

Noah shook his head, saying hoarsely, “When we got to her that day—-” The older man’s gaze started to blur as memories rushed in, and he remembered Fawn’s bleeding, disfigured face. God.

He had survived war more times than he wanted to remember, and yet why could none of those battles compare to the pain of knowing that he, too, had played a role in Fawn’s suffering?

“She was already delirious, and we had to rush her to the chopper for medical attention. We hooked her up, stopped the bleeding, and then, she saw me—-” Noah’s chest heaved. “She smiled, sir. Like she hadn’t just had her face carved up. And you know why? You know what your fawn said, sir?”

The prince turned ashen at the bleakness that darkened the older man’s gaze.

“She asked me to tell you it doesn’t hurt as much as it looks.”

Ah.

Tears fell on Noah’s weathered cheeks. “Your love made her strong. That’s the only thing you gotta remember. The only thing that’s important.”

And the prince realized that all this time he had thought he was alone in his suffering—-

The people around him had been suffering, too.

They were blaming themselves, too.

But most important of all—-

They loved Fawn, too.

He said unevenly, “Let’s do this then.”

Igor and Noah nodded.

“And if we don’t make it out alive—-”

The two nodded again.

In spite of everything, the prince was unable to prevent his lips from twitching. “That was a joke,” he said mildly.

His two most trusted men stared at him blankly.

But then Igor, who had been with him from the very start, said finally, “It must be the end of the world.”

The prince laughed hoarsely. “That’s what my mother says.”

He had made his first joke during his adoption hearing, he had made a joke when he had asked Fawn to be his lover, and now—-

He was hoping his joke, however fucking lame it was, would be a good omen as well.

Because he needed every bit of luck he could get.

On his way to the hospital, he made a call to his friend Silver March, relaying his favor in terse terms.

Silver called him back after five minutes, and the man said succinctly, “Slade Wyndham’s agreed to stonewall the procedure. He’ll have admin dump a ton of paperwork on them, but it can only buy you an extra thirty minutes.” Silver paused. “Needless to say, you’ll be paying for all damages incurred.”

“He can charge me any fucking amount he wants, as long as it stops Fawn from going under the knife.”

“Good luck,” Silver murmured.

“Thank you.”

Fifteen minutes passed, and every minute felt like an eternity of suffering.

When they made it to the hospital, the prince and his men took the service elevator, knowing that they would meet less resistance this way. The three of them made it past both the police officers and private security employed by Bennett’s parents without being seen, but when they finally reached the private hallway leading to the operating room, the prince knew that bloodshed was inevitable.

Grant Bennett saw him first, and the younger man stiffened, his face turning white in shock.

Seeing it, his parents and Fawn’s mother followed his gaze, and so did the two lone police officers stationed outside the doors of the operating room.

Everyone tensed.

A second later, and the prince and his men were up against the police officers in a fast draw battle—-

The prince had his gun out first, followed by his men while the middle-aged but inexperienced officers were still fumbling for their weapons.

The prince slowly moved forward.

Noah stayed back, guarding the doors to the hallway.

Igor followed behind the prince, his gun trained on the officers.

The prince turned to Fawn’s mother. “I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances, but I have no choice.”

“Haven’t you hurt my daughter enough?” Dana’s voice shook with suppressed emotions.

“I’m sorry,” the prince said doggedly, but even so his grip on his gun remained steady, and the cold-blooded look in his green eyes didn’t ease, his gaze remaining on the police officers as he continued to make his way to the operating room.


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