Home > Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart #1)

Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber

 


PART I

 

The Tale of Evangeline Fox

 

 

1

 

 

* * *

 


The Whisper Gazette

WHERE WILL THE BROKENHEARTED PRAY NOW?

By Kutlass Knightlinger

The door to the Prince of Hearts’ church has disappeared. Painted the deep bloodred of broken hearts, the iconic entry simply vanished from one of the Temple District’s most visited churches sometime during the night, leaving behind an impenetrable marble wall. It’s now impossible for anyone to enter the church—

 

* * *

 

Evangeline shoved the two-week-old newsprint into the pocket of her flowered skirt. The door at the end of this decrepit alley was barely taller than she was, and hidden behind a rusted metal grate instead of covered in beautiful bloodred paint, but she would have bet her father’s curiosity shop that this was the missing door.

Nothing in the Temple District was this unattractive. Every entry here was carved panels, decorative architraves, glass awnings, and gilded keyholes. Her father had been a man of faith, but he used to say that the churches here were like vampires—they weren’t meant for worship, they were designed to entice and entrap. But this door was different. This door was just a rough block of wood with a missing handle and chipped white paint.

This door did not want to be found.

Yet it couldn’t hide what it truly was from Evangeline.

The jagged shape of it was unmistakable. One side was a sloping curve, the other a serrated slash, forming one half of a broken heart—a symbol of the Fated Prince of Hearts.

Finally.

If hope were a pair of wings, Evangeline’s were stretching out behind her, eager to take flight again. After two weeks of searching the city of Valenda, she’d found it.

When the gossip sheet in her pocket had first announced that the door from the Prince of Hearts’ church had gone missing, few imagined it was magic. It was the scandal sheet’s first article, and people said it was part of a hoax to sell subscriptions. Doors didn’t simply disappear.

But Evangeline believed that they could. The story hadn’t felt like a gimmick to her; it had felt like a sign, telling her where to search if she was going to save her heart and the boy that it belonged to.

She might not have seen much evidence of magic outside of the oddities in her father’s curiosity shop, but she had faith it existed. Her father, Maximilian, had always spoken of magic as if it were real. And her mother had been from the Magnificent North, where there was no difference between fairytales and history. All stories are made of both truths and lies, she used to say. What matters is the way that we believe in them.

And Evangeline had a gift when it came to believing in things that others considered myths—like the immortal Fates.

She opened the metal grate. The door itself didn’t have a handle, forcing her to wedge her fingers into the tiny space between its jagged edge and the dirty stone wall.

The door pinched her fingers, drawing a drop of blood, and she swore she heard its splintered voice say, Do you know what you’re about to step into? Nothing but heartbreak will come from this.

But Evangeline’s heart was already broken. And she understood the risks she was taking. She knew the rules for visiting Fated churches:

Always promise less than you can give, for Fates always take more.

Do not make bargains with more than one Fate.

And, above all, never fall in love with a Fate.

There were sixteen immortal Fates, and they were jealous and possessive beings. Before they’d vanished centuries ago, it was said they ruled over part of the world with magic that was as malevolent as it was marvelous. They never broke a bargain, although they often hurt the people they helped. Yet most people—even if they believed the Fates were merely myths—became desperate enough to pray to them at some point.

Evangeline had always been curious about their churches, but she’d known enough about the mercurial nature of Fates and Fated bargains to avoid seeking their places of worship. Until two weeks ago, when she’d become one of those desperate people the stories always cautioned about.

“Please,” she whispered to the heart-shaped door, filling her voice with the wild and battered hope that had led her here. “I know you’re a clever little thing. But you allowed me to find you. Let me in.”

She gave the wood a final tug.

This time, the door opened.

Evangeline’s heart raced as she took her first step. During her search for the missing door, she’d read that the Prince of Hearts’ church held a different aroma for everyone who visited. It was supposed to smell like a person’s greatest heartbreak.

But as Evangeline entered the cool cathedral, the air did not remind her of Luc—there were no hints of suede or vetiver. The dim mouth of the church was slightly sweet and metallic: apples and blood.

Gooseflesh covered her arms. This was not reminiscent of the boy she loved. The account she’d read must have been wrong. But she didn’t turn around. She knew Fates weren’t saints or saviors, although she hoped that the Prince of Hearts was more feeling than the others.

Her steps took her deeper inside the cathedral. Everything was shockingly white. White carpets, white candles, white prayer pews of white oak, white aspen, and flaky white birch.

Evangeline passed row after row of mismatched white benches. They might have been handsome once, but now many had missing legs, while others had mutilated cushions or benches that had been broken in half.

Broken.

Broken.

Broken.

No wonder the door hadn’t wanted to let her enter. Perhaps this church wasn’t sinister, it was sad—

A rough rip shattered the church’s silence.

Evangeline spun around and choked back a gasp.

Several rows behind her, in a shadowed corner, a young man appeared to be in mourning or performing some act of penance. Wild locks of golden hair hung across his face as his head bowed and his fingers tore at the sleeves of his burgundy topcoat.

Her heart felt a pang as she watched him. She was tempted to ask if he needed help. But he’d probably chosen the corner to go unnoticed.

And she didn’t have much time left.

There were no clocks inside the church, but Evangeline swore she heard the tick of a second hand, working at erasing the precious minutes she had until Luc’s wedding.

She hurried down the nave to the apse, where the fractured rows of benches ceased and a gleaming marble dais rose before her. The platform was pristine, lit by a wall of beeswax candles and surrounded by four fluted columns, guarding a larger-than-life statue of the Fated Prince of Hearts.

The back of her neck prickled.

Evangeline knew what he was supposed to look like. Decks of Destiny, which used Fated images to tell fortunes, had recently become a popular item in her father’s curiosity shop. The Prince of Hearts’ card represented unrequited love, and it always depicted the Fate as tragically handsome, with vivid blue eyes crying tears that matched the blood forever staining the corner of his sulky mouth.

There were no bloody tears on this glowing statue. But its face did possess a ruthless kind of beauty, the sort Evangeline would have expected from a demigod that had the ability to kill with his kiss. The prince’s marble lips twisted into a perfect smirk that should have looked cold and hard and sharp, but there was a hint of softness to his slightly fuller lower lip—it pouted out like a deadly invitation.

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