Chapter no 10

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

DREAM OF FIRE. Of baby Jas in my arms. I dream of my mother’s desperate pleas for a stranger to heal me and the sound of her tears when he agrees. I dream of night so dark all I can see are the Barghest’s fangs as it lunges for my neck. I dream of silver eyes, and of Jas at five, telling me to count while she hides. Don’t peek! The prince will help you find me.

When I wake, I’m no longer in Sebastian’s chambers. Light pours into the room from a massive wall of windows. Two servants busy themselves

around me—one at the foot of the bed, preparing a small breakfast tray, and the other filling the tub inside an attached bathing room.

Did Sebastian carry me here or did he have a goblin move me? It

shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. But after the way he carried me into the castle in his arms last night, it’s all too easy to imagine him moving me here while I slept. Too easy to imagine that tenderness in his eyes and him dipping to press a kiss to my cheek. I catch myself clinging to the image before shaking it away. Not why I’m here.

As I sit up in bed, the servant adjusts a bouquet of orange day lilies before turning to me. A human. She wears a plain blue dress that hangs loosely on her plump frame, her blond hair tied into a simple but sleek braid. I pat my own hair, which is no doubt wild from a night of restless sleep in a strange bed.

“Good morning, Miss Abriella. I’m Emmaline and that’s Tess,” the

woman says, gesturing to the servant in the bathroom. “Would milady like a bath or breakfast first?”

I press a hand to my growling stomach. It’s been far too long since I’ve had anything substantive to eat, and though I’m accustomed to going

without food, I’m pushing even my limits. “Breakfast, please.”

She beams at me as if I’ve just offered her a gift. “Good choice.”

Tess emerges from the bathroom, wiping her hands on a beige smock.

Twins, I realize when I see her blond braid and identical smile. “Would you like your meal in bed or at the table?”

“The table is fine.” I throw my legs over the side of the bed and stretch, yawning. I was so tired and weak when I fell asleep last night, but this morning I feel better than I have in days—maybe months. The healer must have repaired more than the damage from the Barghest. “Do you have


“Of course. The prince told us that you prefer coffee,” Tess says. She bites back a smile, and she and Emmaline exchange a meaningful look. “And day lilies.”

“We asked around,” Emmaline says, leaning in conspiratorially. “He didn’t request flowers to be brought to any of the other girls.”

“Or assign any of them their own rooms yet,” Tess adds, winking at me.

I don’t have to fake my surprise and delight as I approach the table. I run a finger across a soft orange petal. A renegade butterfly flutters in my

stomach as I remember Sebastian tucking the flower behind my ear. I don’t want to feel anything for him, but how can I not?

I take a seat at the small table by the windows, pausing a moment to

appreciate the heat of the sun on my face. I’ve always been too much of a night owl to care for mornings, but I’m so rested after a full night’s sleep that I feel almost optimistic.

Channeling my inner Jasalyn. She’d be proud.

I take a sip from my mug. It’s different from the brown water folks at home call coffee. This is thicker and more decadent. Layered—as if I can taste the sunshine that warmed the beans and the berries on the bush beside it. It’s as if my love of coffee before was only about its potential and I’m finally tasting it as it should be. But even this can’t distract me from the feast waiting for me. A plate full of pastries, colorful berries, a cup of

creamy yogurt, and a platter of cured meats and cheeses. I take a flaky pastry from the tray and nearly moan as it melts on my tongue. I lose myself in the food as my maids busy themselves around me.

I’ve stuffed myself to the point of discomfort when I realize the maids have gone still behind me.

“Your Highness,” they say in unison.

When I turn, they’ve both frozen in low curtsies in front of Sebastian, who gives them a curt nod and warm smile. In truth, I expected the human

slaves in Faerie to be drugged or mindless and treated like disposable tools,

but if the twins are representative of life for humans here, my assumptions were completely off base.

Maybe nothing is how I thought it was.

“Tess, Emmaline,” he says, nodding to them. “How are you this morning?”

“Good, Your Highness,” Tess says, standing.

“Happy to get to know Lady Abriella,” Emmaline says.

These women don’t look at Sebastian as if he’s their jailer. Their

expressions are closer to that of doting aunts. And Sebastian treats them to the same charming smile that made half of Fairscape fall for him.

“Could you ladies give me a moment alone with Lady Abriella?”

“Of course,” they say in unison. They each dip into another brief curtsy and scurry away.

Sebastian waits until the door closes behind them before he turns to me. “How are you feeling this morning?” He runs appraising eyes over me, and I shift, suddenly self-conscious in my nightgown in a way I was too tired to be last night.

“I’m good.” I wrap my arms around myself. “I just woke up half an hour ago. Good as new.”

He nods, but I can tell this doesn’t surprise him. He knew I was okay, or he wouldn’t have let me out of his sight. That’s not why he’s here this morning. “What we talked about last night—do you really want to do this?”

I hold my breath and nod. Please don’t send me home. Please don’t make me fail Jas.

He rolls his shoulders back. “Okay then. You’ll have to go before my mother and me this afternoon and state your wish to . . .” He clears his throat but doesn’t finish.

“Marry you?” I ask.

He nods. “I know how you truly feel, of course, but my mother cannot.” “I understand.”

He turns to the day lilies and adjusts them in the vase, avoiding my gaze. “I need to ask you a favor.”

“What’s that?”

He’s quiet for so long, I begin to fidget with my silverware. When he does speak, his voice is lower than before. “Keep our history a secret. I

don’t want my mother knowing that we met before today. It would . . . skew her judgment of you.”

There is no future for me and Sebastian, so this shouldn’t hurt. But I can’t deny the sharp twisting in my chest. “You don’t want her to know where I

came from. That I cleaned fancy houses instead of living in one?” That

aside from thievery and hiding in the dark, I don’t have any skills or talents to speak of.

“I don’t want her to know anything that might make her question why you’re really here.” He swallows and turns back to me. There’s a storm of worry brewing in those sea-green eyes. “Despite my better judgment, I don’t want you to leave, Brie. I like the idea of having you around.”

I wish you’d stop saying sweet things. “Do you think your mother will allow me to stay?”

“I’ll insist. It’ll be fine.” He takes my hand and skims his thumb across my pulse point. Awareness shivers through me, but when I look down, my scar is gone. “What—did you . . .”

“It’s a glamour,” he says quickly.

I stare at that smooth skin on the inside of my wrist and frown. I like my scar. It’s a reminder of who I am, where I came from, and what I will

sacrifice for the people I love. It represents the only truly good things about me. “Is that necessary?”

“I’m afraid so.” I hear the regret hanging on his soft words.

What kind of mother is she that she won’t allow her son to marry a girl with so much as a small scar? “Okay. I understand.”

“I have to go, but I will see you soon. Remember not to let on that you knew me before you arrived at the castle, and don’t tell anyone details of your life. They can know your name and that you’re from Fairscape, but that’s enough.”

I nod, and as I watch him go, my stomach clenches uncomfortably.

How can feeling unworthy of a position I never wanted make me feel so small?



I play my part. A human girl excited over the prospect of marrying a faerie prince.

I’m bathed, scrubbed, plucked, and moisturized to within an inch of my life. Tess and Emmaline ask me questions about home, about what I think of Sebastian, about what it’s like to have his eye. I try to act like a regular human girl who’s known luxuries rather than having provided them for others. I pretend I don’t know more than I should about their prince—like the way he gravitates toward the outdoors when the sun is out, or the way the muscles in his back ripple when he swings a sword. For them, I pretend I don’t know what it’s like to feel those soft lips meet mine, and for myself I pretend I don’t want to feel that again.

The entire morning is surreal. My maids treat me like I’m some beautiful princess from a foreign land, not the penniless human thief who lived in a

cellar for the last nine years. If I’m honest, their doting is . . . nice. I’ve

spent all my time going unnoticed, being unremarkable, and I’m surprised to find that there’s some part of me that likes having them coo over the blazing red of my hair and the hazel eyes I’ve always found too plain.

They present me with half a dozen dresses of different shades and styles, each more lovely than the last. Jas would have swooned over the gowns as if they were priceless works of art, but all I can think is how much I’d rather wear pants. If I’d been in pants last night, I might’ve stood a chance when running from the Barghest. Now isn’t the time, though. I need to dress in

something the queen will find appropriate for her son’s potential bride.

“Hair all up or half up?” Emmaline asks. She drops my curls and hides her delighted giggle behind her hand. “The prince thinks you’re lovely

either way, I’m sure.”

I cock my head to the side, studying her in the mirror. “Why do you laugh like that when you talk about Prince Ronan liking me or asking you to do things for me? Is that uncommon with the fae?”

The maids exchange another long look. “Not with the fae,” Tess says. “But Prince Ronan . . .”

Emmaline shakes her head subtly and offers me an apologetic smile. “We shouldn’t say.”

“I wish you would.”

“It won’t hurt anything,” Tess says under her breath to her twin.

Emmaline bites back a smile, then lets it loose. “Our prince has been reluctant to choose a bride. He’s been doing what he must because this is

tradition, but he’s not been involved in any of it. He alone has been responsible for all these delays in the ceremony.”

“He didn’t even show up the first night of the ball,” Tess says. “Rumor has it he told his mother he wasn’t ready, but she moved forward with it anyway. Eventually he had to comply, but he’s been . . . distant.”

“Until you showed up,” Emmaline says, pinning a curl at the back of my head. “Now he’s suddenly very interested in the process. So interested it

seems he’s already decided. Make sure Abriella has coffee. Please prepare dresses for Abriella. Could you put a bouquet of day lilies on her breakfast tray?

“And of course he also gave you the nicest guest quarters,” Tess adds. “And the sweetest maids, it seems,” I say softly.

The twins giggle happily at the compliment, but it’s not just flattery. I know it’s true. Sebastian has done all this for me and I’m not sure I deserve it.

I sit still as they finish my hair. They pull the top half of my hair back and pin it in place, but they leave the rest down, using special creams to tame my curls and make them hang perfectly.

These women want to be my friends. That simple kindness fills me with guilt as I imagine how I’ll have to deceive them in the days ahead, but I lock up the feeling and push it aside. Starting now, I will use every tool at my disposal to get Mordeus his relics and free Jas.

Even these human servants’ kindness. Even Sebastian’s blind trust.

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