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Isabella.” He pronounced my full name carefully, then playfully ruffled my hair with his free hand. A shock ran through my body at his casual touch. “Bella, I couldn’t live with myself if I ever hurt you. You don’t know how it’s tortured me.” He looked down, ashamed again. “The thought of you, still, white, cold . . . to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses . . . it would be unendurable.” he lifted his glorious, agonized eyes to mine. “You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever.

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