Zahra's mouth formed a silent O. Stunned and taken by complete surprise, she felt her stomach lurch. She had been engaged to the Prince? He had been the fiancee who had broken her heart without knowing it? He was the one who had considered her unfit to be his bride?
For a moment, all the unforgiveness that Zahra had once felt came flooding back. It was only moments later that she realized why the Prince had broken the engagement.
During the short months in which the Prince had been engaged...it was during those months that the mysterious Tia - the Prince's dearly beloved mistress - had been living at the castle.
He didn't break the engagement because he didn't think I was good enough! He broke the engagement because he was in love with someone else! The pieces all fell together with perfect clarity.
Except for one part, a piece that Zahra didn't want to acknowledge.
It was Cain's obnoxious voice that broke the silence. "Don't you see, Zahra? It's your fault that Tia left Alexander. It's your fault that he's brokenhearted! She left him because she found out he was engaged to someone else! She gave up on him because of you! And by the time he called off the engagement, she had already left. The Prince's pain is a result of your engagement. I told you to call it off right away, but no! You insisted upon doing the 'proper' thing! It's too bad that it took you so long to become the woman you are now: someone who always disobeys the rules."
Zahra was so angry and hurt that she could barely lift her face. "You're blaming all this on me - as if I had a clue!" she whispered, but her heart pulsed with guilt. The Prince's downfall had been a product of their engagement? Is this all my fault?
"It's time for you to know what my plan is, now that you know what your past is," Cain said, resuming their old topic. "You're going to write a letter, Zahra. You're going to write a letter to Alexander, asking him to come and rescue you. You've only known him for a week or so; the chances of him coming to get you would be very slim...unless you told him that you wanted to meet him and offer him your forgiveness...and yourself."
Zahra was practically shaking with rage. "You're suggesting I tell him that I'm taking him up on his offer to be his mistress?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting," Cain said with a cruel sneer. "Tell him you don't want him to come if he's going to refuse you. We'll see where his heart truly lies - with you or with his own selfishness."
"You're judging him wrongly!"
"Am I? Why do you care, Zahra? Why do you care?"
"I care because..." Zahra lost her voice and her will to speak. The silence beat down upon her with every pulse of her heart. "I care because..."