CHAPTER ONE PRINCESS EVELYN
“ANY NEWS?” HE ASKED, LEANING against the doorframe, his arms folded across his chest. He was worse than Zain when it came to acting like he owned the place. But then, she supposed, he kind of did. Prince Stefan. Her new husband.
She wanted to spit out some witty retort, but when she opened her mouth she descended into one of the terrible coughing fits that left her body shaken and tissues covered in a dusting of white powder. They often brought her to her knees.
“Just as bad?” he said.
She didn’t have the energy to answer. Just as bad. Of course it was just as bad. Didn’t he have eyes to see?
She collapsed back down onto her bed, the voluminous duvet enveloping her body like a cocoon. She closed her eyes, unable to remember the last time she had felt this weak. She even felt like her power was waning. She
knew she would feel different . . . she had given away half of her Talent to her new husband (dragons, she hated that word) after all. But if anything, it felt like something else was draining her. This virus, this mysterious illness she had, was becoming a serious problem. Stefan had been giving her a pill that seemed to keep the worst of it at bay—he took the same one—but he wouldn’t tell her what the pills were for.
She hated being reliant on him. She hadn’t left the palace since Sam’s ceremony that had proclaimed her a Master Alchemist. A familiar wave of guilt washed over the princess as she thought about her friend, Samantha Kemi. Not long after the ceremony, she’d seen Sam on TV. She was being interviewed on a newscast, claiming that Stefan had been the real mastermind behind the bombing of the Laville Ball, and that the person who had taken the blame—Emilia Thoth, Evelyn’s now-deceased evil aunt—had been just a pawn in Stefan’s larger game.
Stefan had walked in while she’d been watching the cast and turned it off with a flick of his finger. When Evelyn tried to turn it back on again, the screen remained black.
She had meant to confront him about Sam’s accusations, demand he tell her the truth! It was just that this illness was making her so weak, she could barely focus . . .
She opened her eyes as he approached her. “I was afraid of this.” He reached over and put a cold hand on her
forehead. She jerked away, but couldn’t get far. “You were my last hope. I needed you to be strong enough to fight it. I’d always heard that you were the strongest Royal that had ever been in Nova. Now we only have one option.”
“Hmm?” She knew what he was saying was important, but she kept drifting in and out of consciousness. “Fight what?” she mumbled. “Do you know why I’m ill? What are the pills for? Why haven’t you told anyone?” She struggled to sit up, wondering when her limbs had turned to lead.
“Hush now, Princess. There won’t be any more pills for you.”
Her eyes rolled around in her head, her gaze finally landing on her arm. There was something stuck into it. A syringe. Stefan was injecting her with something. “What are you doing?” she cried. But the words came out muffled and squashed together. She wasn’t even sure that they made any sense.
“Hush,” he said again. “The virus is going to spread. There’s no way to stop it—I see that now.”
“Wait . . .” She struggled against the pull into sleep, but it dragged her down anyway, aided by Stefan’s hand pressing firmly on her forehead. The last thing she saw before her eyes closed forever was Stefan’s curious-looking tiger-striped eyes staring down at her, and his final words.
“Dragons help us all.”