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This novel has been updated as of 4/3/13. 

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“It’s going to be okay, Ashe,” I whisper. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

Ashe looks at me with wide eyes, and I’m shocked he’s able to focus. His gaze usually darts around in a frantic search for danger, fluttering this way and that, never daring to settle on one object.

Now Ashe stares right at me. Into me. He seems to realize it’s pointless to look for danger; five castle guards have already burst into my chambers and surrounded him, their spears pointing at Ashe’s chest. The arrest orders hang heavy in the air: “By command of the High King, the Guardian of Princess Faye is to be taken into custody, where he will await trial for treason.” Ashe’s black eyes settle on mine, the pain in them a silent accusation.

Ashe knows he’s about to die. And he knows I’ve lied about his Fate.

I can’t feel guilt. I can’t feel anything. There’s only my ragged breaths and tears pressing against my eyes. Ashe steps toward me, even though I’m in the opposite direction of the exit. No, I silently beg him. Run. I don’t realize I’m shaking my head until Ashe falters.

“Stop,” one of the guards hisses, even though Ashe already has. “Don’t go near the Lady Faye.”

Ashe freezes, and my heartpounds wildly. “Just count the beats when you get scared,” Ashe told me months ago, as he pressed his palm over my heart. “Remember that I’ll protect you until the day they stop. And don’t be scared anymore.”

I gasp in air. One, two, three, four

 Ashe steps forward, his face hard with determination.

Five, six, seven

One of the guards shouts and stabs with his spear. At Ashe. My Ashe.

My heart stops.

I scream at the guard, telling him to stop, to leave, to disappear and never show his face again. But my words are a jumbled mess, and it’s too late. The spear pierces Ashe’s wing, drawing blood. Nausea fills me as the red blood mingles with his crimson feathers. I’ve always loved Ashe’s wings. They mark him as an Angel, the one bit of perfection in my life.

Now those wings are ruined.

Ashe’s eyes never leave me, even as the guard tears his spear out of the wound. I swallow hard. I’ve never stared into Ashe’s eyes for too long, knowing I’d probably lose myself in all the pain and loneliness in their depths. Now I never want to look away.

“Get moving,” the guard with the bloodied spear growls. He stabs at Ashe again, but Ashe grabs the shaft of the spear before it strikes him. He yanks the spear from the guard and snaps it in two. Ashe allows one of the halves to clatter to the stone floor, but keeps hold of the sharpened end. His gaze slowly sweeps over the four guards with weapons, a low growl rumbling in his throat.

The other guards brace for an attack, but then their leader says, “Wait.”

I recognize this leader as Jolik. He was my bodyguard for awhile before Ashe became my Guardian. I’m not sure how many bodyguards I went through—five, six?—but they never lasted long.

Jolik nods to Ashe. “Let him say goodbye.”

The weaponless guard speaks up. “He could kill her.”

“He won’t,” Jolik says, shaking his head.

Ashe doesn’t wait for Jolik to change his mind. He drops the broken spear and rushes to me. Cupping my face with one hand, he uses the other to press me against him. Familiar heat radiates off him this close. Ashe kisses me so gently, I barely feel his lips against mine. But I can feel the desperation, and as he presses me a little closer, I know this is a goodbye.

The kiss only lasts a moment. Then the guards drag him away, and those threatening tears finally spill. I’m not sure if the tears are angry or anguished. Or maybe just broken.

“You’re right, Faye,” Ashe says over his shoulder.  “Everything is going to be okay. I promise.”

I don’t get to respond. The last guard exits my chambers and slams the heavy door closed, leaving me truly alone for the first time in years. I take a shuddering breath, willing the doors to burst open, for Ashe to come rushing back to me.

They don’t. Silence settles over the room, screaming the truth:

Nothing will ever be okay.

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