Chapter 24

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Once the door to the parlor closes, I'm unleashing the beast

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Once the door to the parlor closes, I'm unleashing the beast. "What is the meaning of this?" I ask Gregori. "How could you just tell the entire universe about Gio? Do you know what you've done?"

"And you." I turn to Marc. "Why didn't you tell me? Why are you always keeping these kinds of secrets? I understand why you did when I was a kid, but now, there's no excuse. I am the General of the UFE and I should be treated as such!"

If there's one thing I hate most in the world, it's using my title to get what I need, but if it's the only way for Marc, for everyone, to see how serious I am, then I will keep using it.

Marc steps back, eyes and mouth wide open in shock, and I can already tell this wasn't his decision either before Mom steps up.

She slaps me across the face. It stings, it removes my breath and cements me in my place. "Stop acting like a child. If you want respect, then you must show it towards others. If you want to be trusted, then you must prove you are trustworthy."

"Says the woman who betrayed her own race," I snap, regretting them the moment they leave my mouth, but I can never take those words back. I can never change the past.

Hurt, she lowers her guard. Her eyes gloss over, lips tremble as she raises her hand for another slap. I wince, feeling its ghostly impact. Darious catches her wrist before it can touch me and keeps holding it high above.

"This isn't only a family matter. This is also a diplomatic issue," he says, then lets Mom go. "When Gregori graciously let you into his home, one of the contracts we specifically had you sign was a disclosure agreement for this very reason, Caterina."

She tsks under her breath. "You of all beings should understand the need to protect her young. I wasn't about to give away my son's identity over a contract."

"Only when it conveniences you," Darious says. "It doesn't matter what my personal views are. Amaranthine knows your history. They know you scheme and lie and will kill in the name of justice."

"And so you'll lock me away."

He sighs, digging into his hair. What was tamed and presentable is now furrowed in a rage of knots. "I could never take a mother away from her kids, but I can neither forgive this act."

Why does life have to be so complicated? Why can't we live in a world where our worries are simplistic? My feet are backing away from them before my mind can keep up. The need to run away overwhelms me. I can't stay in this room.

Gio's by the door, looking as out of place and out of mind as anyone I've seen. I grab his arm and shake him awake. "Is this what you were going to tell me earlier? Please tell me you had nothing to do with this. Tell me this was all Mom's decision."

"Primordial would find out, eventually. They would have asked questions about why one of your guardians has blue eyes. Why he looks so familiar," he says, knowing full well how similar he looks to his own father, the late primordial crown prince.

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