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Traitors. Thieves. Liars. Lovers. We had been all of these.

I have stolen hearts that weren’t mine to take.
Betrayed my country for the sake of another night in my lovers’ bed.
Lied to the people I said I loved.
All for the tarnished crown of an empire than can no longer exist.

The first time I saw Blair I forgot what I was meant to be. The last time I saw Ben, I remembered.
I am the kingmaker.
The fixer.
The healer.

I am the one who can end this.

Emeralds is the final book in the Tarnished Crown Trilogy.

Main tropes:

  • Morally grey heroes (x2)
  • Steamy MMF Royal Romance
  • Dark!

Intro to Chapter One

Prologue March

Nothing prepares you for the moment when your heart shatters.

No one ever tells you that it’s made from shards of glass so fragile that it can never be repaired and that the scars left behind will never truly heal.

I’m standing in the corner of a dimly lit room, the silence smothering the three people in it.  Blair slipped through the door from the rain and froze, her eyes still holding the scene that she saw, that she still sees.

No one ever told me that you could break a heart by giving someone yours.

Her back’s to the door that’s closed and I don’t know if she’s going to turn round and leave or stay there forever, and I want it to be forever, because if she leaves I don’t know if she’ll come back.

Ben doesn’t move.  He’s become part of the scene, arms folded, jaw set, but his eyes blaze and his gaze doesn’t leave Blair.  She returns the look unafraid, because she does everything unafraid.  Even now, in this shack of a cabin four miles from where she should’ve been, she’s nothing but fire and stone.

Blair doesn’t look at me and it kills me.  Every flare Ben sends, she returns and the sparks are a banquet for those who want to believe in all the happy endings, a false feast because we all know that whatever we dreamed, whatever love stories we conjured up in that fog between sleep and waking, they can’t exist.

This world doesn’t have the oxygen.

“When were you going to tell me you weren’t dead?”  Her eyes stay fixed on Ben and he doesn’t move.

“Maybe I wasn’t.”  His voice is calm and still and low.  He doesn’t lift his eyes from her but he isn’t taking her in; she’s not his last meal.

Blair’s chin lifts, that regal gaze a cannon’s aim, or it should be.

Ben won’t be bowled over.

“You seem to like disappearing on me.”  She’s cool, too cool.

“I promised to keep you safe.”

The room darkens further as she erupts into flames, taking two, then three steps closer to him.

“I can keep my own self fucking safe, Benjamin Smith, everything apart from one fucking piece of me.”  Her head snaps round and her eyes are on me; they hold tears.

My chest cracks.

“You lied.”

Her hand grasps my heart.

“You let me believe he could be dead.”

It squeezes and twists until it beats no longer.

“I’m sorry.”  They’re the only words I can muster, the only truth I can speak.

“He had to, Blair.” Ben’s voice is without a hitch.  Steady.  My rod of steel.

She spins around to Ben.  “Why?  Didn’t you think I could keep a secret?  I’ve been keeping secrets all my life – it’s something I’m well-fucking versed in; how to lie.  Which reasons did you give yourselves for it?  To keep me safe?  To stop my heart from breaking when you went away again?  Because I was better with Isaac?”  

She looks back at me.

“I have no fucking idea what I’m doing here.”  Her voice fades, blonde hair falling out of the tie she has it in.  “I found out from Ivy.  Had to see it for myself.  That you were alive.”  

Ben doesn’t move.  He’s still frozen and I want to know what’s going through his head because his expression isn’t giving anything away.

“I spent years never knowing if you were alive or dead or imprisoned in some foreign country.  Every time I saw your father I asked him how you were and before he answered I’d be dreading him telling me you weren’t coming back.  I’ve just lived with how that felt and it made me want to die too.  That’s how you protected me.  That’s the mistake you nearly made.”

It’s now I see Ben’s face pale, his arms dropping to his sides.  He would never forgive himself if anything happened to Blair and as much as we’ve become something these past months, she has a part of him that no one else will ever touch.

“It’s more complicated than that.”  My words draw her stare to me.

“Is it?  Because you seem to have come off well in this.”

The coldness in her voice perishes me.

“It isn’t like that.”

“Really?  Because you had me in your bed and Ben tucked away here.  Best of both worlds, Isaac?”

I hear them break.

Hearts.  Three of them.  

As irreparable as the tarnished crowns that fall from our heads.  

I was born the bastard son of the man who governed a country I loved.  I was taught to become a politician, one who could charm and appease and mediate.


But here I am raw and ungroomed.  Here, with these two people that I love, I am the bones of me, without finesse or polish or any of the pretty words I know how to grace the ears of people who wield the power.

“Fuck you.”  The syllables are slow off my tongue.

Ben turns to me, eyes cold.  Blair doesn’t react.

“It would’ve been easier if I did use you.  Then I could walk away.  But don’t expect me to, either of you.”

Because I’m there now.  Those fractured shards of my heart still pulse and as much as they hurt with every beat, I don’t want them to stop.

I don’t want this to stop.

The three of us.

If we can be repaired.

Nothing prepares you for the moment when your heart shatters.

Nothing prepared me for this.  In this room, with a man whos heart’s so guarded he doesn’t know what he can feel and a woman who feels she can never be loved just for herself.

Nothing can prepare us for what must come.

A coronation with a tarnished crown.

Worn by who?

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