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Chapter 127 –The Queen's Tale– Raine's POV

The sun had risen. Vampires littered every free space of the small house, lying on the couches and floors, fast asleep. Cage and I sat at the dining room table, having offered to take the first watch. Neither of us was ready to be separated from the other, even by sleep. I held a steaming cup of coffee to my lips and swallowed, feeling the hot liquid run down my throat into my belly. Cage sat reclined back, deep in thought, with his leg bent at the knee and his foot propped up on another chair. His fingers gently tapped on the side of his resting mug.

"What now?" I murmured.

His glance flickered to me. "We need to get the Queen back to Armand. Now that she is no longer a risk to him, we can expect the full support of his forces to protect you from Marku."

My stomach twisted. I began hesitantly, "Strategically, that makes sense..."

His eyebrow rose. "But?"

"She is no longer a risk to Armand, but he is most certainly a risk to her. Cage, you know he will lock her away and torture her without mercy for trying to take his life."

Cage's features turned hard. "It is due punishment for her crimes."

I leaned forward, my eyes flashing. "No, it is not! And you know it. Her mistake was loving the wrong man. Armand never cared for her. He spurned her, leaving her isolated without male companionship. On top of that, she was publically humiliated by him. She had to watch another woman take her place in every way except the title of Queen. She never would have sought out Vladimir's affections if Armand had properly filled his role as her mate. He is equally guilty, if not more so!"

His lips were set in a thin hard line. The muscles in his law twitched. "He was guilty of having an affair, of ignoring her. She is guilty of attempted murder. There is a difference."

"Have you never been driven to desperation? Desperate people do desperate things."

His expression remained tight, but he didn't continue to argue the point, knowing we weren't going to agree. He murmured, "Her frustration and anger make sense. But what I don't understand is her choice to have him assassinated, knowing the physical pain it would cause her."

From across the room, a small voice interjected, "I can answer that."

My head snapped around to see Ileana staring at us. She had her legs gathered in a chair, holding her knees to her chest. I hadn't realized she was awake. Cage nodded toward one of the dining room chairs. "Join us."

Ileana stood carefully from her seat and walked over, her steps labored, her pain obvious. She flinched as she obediently sat in a chair opposite us.

"Speak," Cage ordered.

The Queen inhaled slowly to steady her voice. "I had already found someone who could reverse the mate bond."

I gasped. Cage sat forward, his foot falling from the spare chair. He stared at Ileana intently. "That's not possible."

"I thought so too, but more than one source confirmed it. Killing Armand was never a part of my plan. It was Vladimir's but not mine. I was getting ready to run. And I was close. I had just moved the finances I needed. Vladimir promised to give me a month after I left before he killed Armand. It was a risk because there was a possibility the bond couldn't be broken and then I would face eternal torment. However, when the opportunity arose and Armand was struck immobile before him, Vladimir decided to act. I knew the pain would be fierce, but I wouldn't stand in Vladimir's way because even if I broke free, Armand would hunt me relentlessly."

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