Severin studied it. He had used it several times to look for Oliver to no avail. He hadn’t thought to use it until a scant week ago, and for some odd reason the mirror didn’t respond whenever Severin asked to see him. He hoped it wasn’t because the young groom was dead.
Severin was driven from his thoughts when there was a knock at the door. “Someone is here to see you, Your Highness,” Burke said, poking his head in the room.
“Show them in.”
Burke opened the door, and Oliver jumped through.
“I found her, Your Highness! I found her! I couldn’t hardly believe it, she was real hard to track down, but now she’s here and she’ll fix everything,” Oliver said.
“Oliver, calm down. Where have you been? I’ve been sending soldiers and search parties all over Loire looking for you. What possessed you to leave without warning?” Severin said, scowling at the sheepish boy.
“He was looking for me.”
Severin looked to the newest member of the party and gravely bent over in a bow when he realized who it was. “My lady.”
“There’s no need to bow. I am an enchantress, not nobility,” said Angelique, the enchantress who had returned Severin’s sanity to him and saved his servants from disappearing.
She was still breathtaking and lovely, beautiful enough to be the envy of every woman in Loire, but as Severin stared at her radiant beauty he thought—for just one moment—longingly of unruly black hair and lips formed in smiles that were too wide for polite society.
“I disagree. One with your standing deserves every display of respect,” Severin said.
“Severin, what is wrong?” Angelique said. “You are human again, every joy in life should be yours. Why is your heart heavy?”
Severin looked away from Angelique, unable to face her. “Oliver, find Bernadine and report in to her.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Oliver said before leaving the study, glancing over his shoulder.
“You have a loyal servant in that one. It takes a lot of courage to track an enchantress across two countries,” Angelique said.
“He has more courage than I would wish for him to possess,” Severin dryly said.
Angelique smiled. “Perhaps, but it speaks loudly of his love for you… and for this Elle he has told me so much about.”
Severin briefly shut his eyes.
“Severin, what happened? Something must have gone terribly wrong to make you so miserable. Please, explain.”
“Elle, the girl Oliver told you about. She won over my servants before attempting to befriend me.”
“And that is a bad thing?”
“She is a liar. Everything she told me was a lie.”
Severin hesitated. Once Elle was revealed to be an intelligencer, Severin doubted everything. He didn’t think she was indentured, or that her family lived in the country. But his conversation with Lucien had proved she was telling the truth in all those instances. “No, not everything. But she did not tell me she was employed by my brother.”
“And what does her livelihood have to do with your curse?” Angelique gently asked.
Severin was silent for a long time. “She didn’t love me,” he finally admitted. “She was just like every other woman who loved my wealth or family.”
“That cannot be.”
“But it is!” Severin said. “Her love was nothing but a lie.”
“But your curse—,”
“The curse broke because I fell in love with her! My servants know it, I know it. Our curse was removed not because Elle loved me, but because I loved her, and she does not return my love,” Severin said, clenching his hands. “I didn’t fall in love with any of those other women, although Heaven knows I tried. But Elle…I knew I loved her the moment before I realized she was a liar.”
“Oh, Severin,” Angelique said, placing a warm hand on his shoulder. “I am so sorry.”
“Yes. Now you know,” Severin said squaring his shoulders, putting his emotion behind him.
“No,” Angelique said, shaking her head. “I am sorry. I must not have explained your curse well enough. In order to break the spell that doomed you to live as a beast, you had to fall in love with a girl and she had to fall in love with you. It was not one or the other.”
Severin hesitated. “You mean…?”
Angelique nodded. “Because your curse broke I know not only do you love Elle, but Elle deeply loves you.”
Angelique’s explanation shocked Severin to his core. He had never thought Elle really loved him. It was like the floor had fallen out from under him. “What have I done?” Severin said.
“Oliver tells me she has gone on a journey?”
“A mission. She’s a Ranger, an intelligencer,” Severin said.
“You don’t know where she is?” Angelique asked.
Severin shook his head. “I know what she was sent to do, but I’ll never be able to find her.”
“Ridiculous. Of course you will. You have a magic mirror,” Angelique said, walking up to the full length looking glass.
“I’m not certain it works anymore. I tried having it display Oliver, but it wouldn’t.”