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You think you couldn’t kill me because you loved me?” Mina sneered at him. “It was because you were weak. That’s why I never loved you. You were always a weak, stupid boy.”

I pounded on the armoire doors, and Mina turned back to look at me. She cocked her head, realizing that she wasn’t alone, and picked up the dagger Konstantin had dropped on the floor. I hit the doors again, harder this time, and they flew open.

“Oh, I should’ve known.” Mina snickered. “He brought his dumb little bitch with him too.”

“You’ve always underestimated me,” I said. “But not today.”

I ran at her. She tried to stab me, and I grabbed her wrist, bending it back until she dropped the dagger. Then I punched her as hard as I could. Mina staggered back, her lip already bleeding.

“I know you always wanted to fit in, and you never could,” Mina said, giving me a wide berth as we circled each other. “But I’ve the means for it. I’ve got the one thing you always needed, to be accepted—money. You let me go, and I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted. Respect. Acceptance. A kingdom.”

“You know, that’s what Konstantin always thought you wanted,” I said. “That if you had enough money, and the crown, and the throne, and the kingdom, eventually you’d be happy. But I don’t think you really wanted any of it. You just wanted to destroy it all.”

She smirked. “Greed is always such a great motivator, and I know it’s worked for so many of those that have joined my team. But you’re right. The truth is that I just wanted to take everything from those that had taken from me. I just wanted to see the Kanin obliterated from this earth.”

“The only thing I want is to see you dead,” I told her. “And that’s something that I’m gonna have to do for myself.”

She dove toward me, scratching at me with her nails, fighting the only way she knew how. I punched her again, and then I kicked her in the stomach. Mina doubled over, but she didn’t go down.

As I walked over to her, I picked the dagger up from the floor, and I kicked her again. Mina started promising me all the money in the world, and I grabbed her by the hair, yanking her back up.

“Please, anything. I will give you anything and everything,” she tried, pleading for her life.

“I would stab you through the heart, but I don’t think you have one,” I said, and then I slid the dagger across her throat. I let go of her hair, and her body fell lifeless to the floor.

“I wish I had the strength to clap,” Konstantin said faintly.

He was slumped low on the wall, barely breathing, and I raced over to him. I knelt beside him, and he was starting to slide to the side, so I put my arms around him and held him up. His body felt cold and heavy, and I didn’t know how much time he had left.

“Why did you do that, Konstantin? Why didn’t you let me help you?”

“I didn’t want you getting hurt anymore. You’ve already been hurt so much by the things I’ve done. This time I just wanted to protect you.” He reached up, brushing my hair back from my face before letting his hand fall back down.

“You don’t need to protect me. You never did.”

“I know.” He smiled weakly. “Do you remember when I told you that for love, I’d kill myself again?”

I nodded. “Yeah, when you were in the dungeon. You were talking about Mina.”

“I would go through every awful moment, every terrible mistake, and even this knife to the heart. I would gladly go through it all again, but not for Mina. But because it brought me here with you.”

A tear slid down my cheek. “Konstantin. There were better ways you could’ve ended up here.”

“Maybe,” he admitted, and his eyes started to close. “But I just wish I’d been deserving of your love.”

“You always were,” I told him, and a smile started to form on his lips before his last breath came out. I held him against me, crying onto his chest and wishing more than anything that I would hear his heart beat again. But it never did.



Bryn?” Ridley was calling my name from the stairs. I honestly didn’t know how long I had been kneeling there with Konstantin.

I blinked my eyes, feeling as if I’d just woken from a dream, and looked around at the disarray of the Queen’s chambers. A few feet away from me, Mina lay dead on the rug, which was now stained red. Her rabbit Vita hopped out from underneath the bed, inspecting the situation.

“Bryn?” Ridley yelled again and pushed open the bedroom door. “Holy shit.” He stepped into the room, his eyes fixed on the Queen’s body, and repeated, “Holy shit. She’s dead.”

Then he looked over at me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” The tears had dried on my cheeks, and I nodded. “I’m okay. Konstantin is dead.”

“Yeah, I figured that.” Ridley moved carefully toward me. “Are you ready to let him go?”

I looked down at the body in my arms. His skin had paled so much, and he felt like ice against me. All of the determination and life had drained from him. Everything about that body that made it so wonderfully Konstantin was gone.

I set him gently on the floor, and I held out my hand to Ridley, letting him pull me to my feet. I’d been kneeling for so long, my legs had gone numb and weak, and I had to lean on Ridley to keep from falling.