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“I may have left out a few details,” I admit, turning back around. Really important details. “But what I told you was the truth.”

His eyes flare with a promise of punishment he’s never directed at me before. “Is that so…Lukia.”

I grip the pillow hard, something breaking inside me. Griffin remembers everything I tell him. As his Magoi advisor—his expert on all things magic, royals, realms, creatures, and Gods—I once told him Beta Fisa’s name is Lukia. The missing heir to the Fisan throne. The Lost Princess.

Her name isn’t Lukia, and somehow Griffin knows that now. He knows it’s me.

A dull numbness starts to cut me off from the nausea churning in my empty stomach, and I realize I’ve gone light-headed.

“You’re good and just and fair,” I say hoarsely. Looking at him is like seeing a mirage. Here one moment, and everything I could possibly want. Gone in the blink of an eye.

Harshly, he asks, “And what are you?”

The question opens a barely scabbed-over wound, and the answer hurts. I’m a murderer. Fratricide? All in a day’s work. Twice. Serving up innocent people to an evil queen, knowing it was their doom? Been there. Done that. Abandoning Fisa, Fisans, to the whims of a vicious sociopath because I was too scared to stick around? Yeah, that’s me, too.

Bile stings my throat. I swallow, and it tastes like the bitter end. “A liar, a killer, and a coward.”

Intense stillness overtakes Griffin, giving the impression of calm. It makes me shudder on the inside. Before I even see him move, he whips the pillow from my grasp and flings it across the room. It knocks over a vase, and the painted jar shatters, leaving broken pieces on the floor.

I shatter, too, the person I was just becoming fragmenting into shards like the broken vase. That woman only had a tenuous, tentative grip on my heart and mind to begin with. Now, my new, stupidly hopeful expectations float around me in a vortex of shame.

“What are you doing?” I whisper, heat searing the backs of my eyes.

“You don’t share what’s on the inside,” he grates out.

Griffin stares at me, but there’s no desire in his eyes. Only raging disappointment, and I’ve never felt so exposed and vulnerable in my entire life. I don’t just feel stripped. I feel stripped raw.

“So you’ll look your fill at the outside?” I ask.

His nostrils flare. After a charged breath, he tosses the sheet back to me. “Cover yourself.”

My throat closes up. Those two words hurt me more than I ever imagined they could. Like a ringing body slap, they sting from head to toe.

“Catalia Fisa.” Griffin chews up and spits out the name I never told him in full. I’ll never be “just Cat” again. I’m not even Cat of Fisa. I don’t just come from my realm. I am my realm. “Body and soul, Your Highness. Inside and out. I want both. Or neither.”

My heart goes into painful overdrive, twisting and hammering against my ribs. “Neither?”

His flat stare says, You heard me. He doesn’t open his mouth.

“But Griffin—”

“Don’t.” He turns like a caged animal and prowls the length of the room. His voice the low rumble of a breaking storm, he growls, “Don’t you dare lie to me again.”

Pressing my lips together, I wrap the sheet around myself, knot it, and then stand. Physically, I’m at a huge disadvantage compared to Griffin, and lying down only makes it worse. Standing isn’t much better. My legs are weak. My chest feels hollow. “How did you find out?”

“That you’re Beta Fisa? The absent link in the Fisan line? The runaway princess?” He barks a harsh laugh I don’t like at all and then cuts me a sidelong glance from under slashing brows. “That your bloodthirsty mother is one of the few people that can keep me from fixing this Gods damned place and making it better? That you’re the oldest living spawn of the scourge of Thalyria!”

I flinch. That last part isn’t a question, even rhetorical. It’s a condemnation. A slur. Griffin whips another savage look in my direction, his strong hands balling into fists. My eyes track those big, powerful hands. I used to wonder if he would use them to hurt me. Maybe I should never have stopped.

I shrug, a hot-cold knot tightening in my chest. “That’s one way of putting it.”

Griffin’s stare turns blistering. Then his bellow rattles the windows, and what’s left of his usual iron self-control deserts him faster than I can blink. He picks up a chair and hurls it across the room. It cracks against the wall with a menacing thud, one leg snapping off completely. A bowl follows, a basin, and then a pitcher filled with water. I watch in dumbstruck anguish as things splinter, shatter. His face is terrifying to look at. Every inch of his body is coiled taut in anger. He picks up another heavy chair and pounds it into kindling. When there’s nothing left to destroy, he overturns the table with a vile curse and then kicks the underside so hard the wood cracks. The solid piece of furniture screeches across the floor, and I wince.


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