“Why would you do this? Because I didn’t cast aside my fiancée and offer to make you a queen? Is that why? Are you punishing me because I would not make you royalty?” He growled. “And after—you vengeful shrew.”
She thrust her chin upward, trying to hold back tears, trying to look defiant. “No, that’s not it. It’s much, much simpler than that,” she said, her voice breaking. “A scandal. You promised me a scandal. And you did not deliver.”
“The hell I didn’t,” he growled, advancing on her. “I told you everything.”
“But it wasn’t the scandal I wanted. I told you, I needed to find out what happened with James Chatsfield. I needed a scandal about the Chatsfields. Well, I found it. And it isn’t personal. But I had to do this for Isabelle. I told you, from the beginning.”
He turned away from her. “You did.”
Her chest broke apart, a flood of pain roaring through her. “Zayn...”
He held up a hand. “Do not speak to me. The only purpose of keeping you here was to prevent that secret from getting out. And it is now too late. I want you out. I do not want to see you again. I will send a servant to help you collect your things, I will send a car for you and I will arrange for your flights back to New York. We will have no need to speak after this.”
And with that, he strode from the room, leaving her more alone than she had ever thought possible.
She dropped to her knees, desperately sweeping the glass from her phone screen up with her hands, not quite sure what she thought she would accomplish. There was no fixing it. There was no fixing any of this. It was broken. Broken into too many pieces to ever be reassembled. To ever be healed.
She picked up the phone, stared at the hollow place where it had been lit up, stared at everything she had broken. She hurled it across the room, and broke the rest of it. She leaned forward, her forehead touching the ground, a sob escaping her lips followed by a wrenching cry.
Finally she had wanted everything. Finally she had asked for everything.
And just as she had always feared, it was out of reach to her. Because Zayn could not choose her, Zayn could never choose her.
The bastard child of a rich man who had never wanted her would hardly ever grow up to be a princess.
She had been right all along. Fairy tales simply weren’t for girls like her.
And they never would be.
But Isabelle would be protected. In the end, she had accomplished what she had set out to do. She had brought scandal onto the Chatsfields. She had brought her friend salvation.
And in the process, she had lost her heart.
ZAYN CALLED HIMSELF a hundred kinds of fool after Sophie left. He poured himself a drink, intent on washing away the pain in his lungs, the pain in his chest. That he feared he would not be able to.
He would have to call Leila, he would have to call his mother. He would have to warn them what was about to happen. And worse, he would have to admit his fault in it. This was his doing, as it had been when Jasmine had died. He did this, he exposed them to these sorts of things, because of who he trusted.
“No.” He spoke the words out loud to the room, as if that would make them magically be true. As if it would make Sophie the woman he had believed her to be, and not the woman she had proven herself to be.
He could not believe she had betrayed him. Not really.
She had asked him to want more for himself, more than a marriage that was simply for his country. She had made him believe he might find that. With her.
This was why he shouldn’t want more. Because the moment he did...the moment he did, he ruined everything.
He had brought her into his home, he had given her the tools she needed to destroy them.
But why? He still didn’t know why. Didn’t know what Isabelle needed, or why Sophie had felt compelled to do this. And he needed answers, dammit. He needed them.
He took another drink. And his chest burned, but not from the alcohol.
What was it that she had said to him? That duty without love was empty. Well, his actions had certainly proven empty in the end where she was concerned. And he had thought...he had felt things for her. He had given up so much for her.
And though he wanted to lock her in a dungeon for what she’d done...he could not wholly regret the change in himself.
Yes, Sophie had turned out to be false, but she had also given him hope, hope in something that had turned out to be a lie, but he wondered now what was possible. And he feared it was too late to turn back.
Too late to want less.
“Damn you, Sophie,” he said. How could she have done this? Made him believe. Made him love.
And yet...had she really betrayed him? He couldn’t imagine it. He couldn’t fathom that—the woman he’d held in the tent, the woman he’d kissed in the rain, the woman who’d told him it wasn’t his fault. That he was more than the tragedy he’d always blamed on himself.