Hecuba slapped Cassandra across the face. Before Cassandra registered the assault, Hecuba gripped Cassandra's shoulder. She shook her daughter.

"He's dead. I'm so sorry, but he is. And no amount of pretending will change that."

Cassandra fought it, but her sanity clung to her mother's words. Its strength grew until it crushed the fantasy she'd created. The disturbing truth slammed into her, and she fell against the Queen.

"But he promised," she whispered, then burst into tears.

Hecuba hugged her again. She didn't say anything, didn't make empty declarations. She just held Cassandra as her heart shattered for the second time.