"I can stop the sadness," Kieran said. "I can make this end with a snap of my fingers. I can stop you feeling this betrayal. With me, you'll never feel upset, you'll never feel pain. Even if you get hurt, I'll stop you feeling the pain. You've guessed I'm telepathic - I can stop the pain sensors in your mind."
He looked intently into my eyes.
"I can keep you happy. Not to mention safe. The whole point of us being alone together is that I won't let anyone come between us. If anyone harmed a hair on your head, I would kill them."
I was shocked. "Kieran!"
"No one will dare," he said confidently.
I looked around me. At my friends and, yes, my family too, who didn't want to look at me.
I had an incredibly tough decision to make. Surrender to the irresistible, mysterious Kieran whose offer I'd been considering seriously since the ball or face this loneliness and probably lose my sanity through total emotional breakdown.
Kieran stroked my face. "I don't want you to go insane, Evee."
"They really don't care?" I asked weakly.
"And you do?"
I desired more than anything to jump into the depths of his eyes and totally lose myself in him. But what about my unanswered questions?
"I'll tell you everything you want to know," Kieran said. He clicked his fingers and suddenly we were on the bed in the house where I had faced my first fear. He sat on the bed and tugged me down beside him.
"I'm bound by a contract that says I can't just take anything I want," he said. "Your mortality was fine since it wouldn't force you to be mine in the way kidnapping you and plain hypnotising you would. I had to make it a challenge to try to get you, a challenge that involved you finding more about yourself so that you could make the correct decision. I also wanted to learn more about you, in case I'd missed anything in the years I'd watched you."
"You've been watching me for years?"
"Ever since you were ten. I noticed you in one of the large pools in my world which can be used to watch and fell in love with you. You have such a pure heart and brilliant mind that captivated and intrigued me. It angered me to see the people you trusted didn't care as much as they should: you deserved all the love in the world. I knew I had to fix you, to show you that you're worth more than you've ever thought, to give you the love that you were due. And so, for six years I planned this, obeying every rule my contract binds me to. And now, here we are."
I wanted to cry at Kieran's beautiful words - they tugged at my heartstrings and touched my soul. I couldn't do that. But there was something else I could do. Something deeper and more meaningful.
If no one else cared for me, what good would winning this game do? I would return to an unhappy life, spending the rest of my days in despair, maybe even deteriorating until I became suicidal. What a waste of life that would be. With Kieran, I could have a new start, lead a life full of wonder, excitement and, most importantly, contentment. I didn't care to see the beautiful things he could show me: I just wanted to be with him. My sole source of true enjoyment would be him. I longed for him so badly that my heart ached. So why delay this any moment? It wasn't as if I cared about losing anymore: I would gain nothing from victory.
I looked up at Kieran, into his beautiful black eyes so full of care and concern for my welfare.
This was not failing, this was sweetest surrender.
"I give in," I told him.
Kieran smiled: a wonderful smile that warmed my heart.
"Oh, Evee," he said, and then began kissing me with such passion that I almost collapsed from the overwhelming nature of the sensation.
I lay backwards on the bed, pulling Kieran down upon me and kissed him back, knowing this was the right decision, cursing my stupidity for not seeing it sooner and luxuriating in the delight of the knowledge that I belonged to him now. My mind blanked, my actions were instinctive, my heart was pounding and my soul was singing.