Chapter no 13

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

FIND SEBASTIAN IN THE TRAINING RING on the roof of the highest turret,

shirtless, his bare chest glistening with sweat in the glow of the setting sun.

He’s sparring with another shirtless male. I try to take note of the

stranger’s golden hair or the tattoo that runs down the side of his neck and over his shoulder—but I can hardly take my eyes off Sebastian long enough to catalogue anything about his partner. And worse? I can’t get my mouth to form the words I need to let him know I’m here.

It’s not just his physique that makes me nearly mute. It’s the reminder of those days in Fairscape. The times I’d pretend to read while watching him train in the courtyard. The times he’d catch me watching and wink over his shoulder, and the way that simple gesture sent a flurry of butterflies through me. He and Jas were the bright spots in a dark and difficult existence; it’s a struggle not to let myself cling to him when I feel like I’ve lost them both.

Sebastian spots me and gestures to his partner for a break. He grabs a towel and uses it to wipe the sweat off his brow. “Is everything okay?”

Words, Brie. Use your words. “I’m fine. I just . . .” I swallow. “I wanted to talk to you. But I can go if this is a bad time.” I wince. Catching him up here seemed like a good idea, but now I feel presumptuous. Never mind that I don’t want to draw too much attention to what I’m about to request from him. “I didn’t mean to cut your workout short.”

“Don’t leave,” Sebastian says. “We were just finishing up.” He pours a glass of water and offers it to me. When I shake my head, he tilts the glass to his lips and drains it. I’m captivated by the movement of his throat as he swallows.

The other male catches me staring and his chest shakes in silent laughter.

He winks at me knowingly before pulling a dark shirt over his head. “He can’t keep up with me anyway,” he says. “The prince went soft while he was in the human realm.”

Sebastian grunts. “You lost three of five rounds. I wouldn’t be too cocky if I were you.”

“Before you left, I would have lost all five.” He shrugs and smiles as he offers me his hand. “I’m Riaan. You must be the captivating and heart-

stealing Abriella I’ve heard so much about.”

My cheeks blaze—at that description and at the thought of Sebastian talking about me in those terms—but I manage a nod. “It’s nice to meet you, Riaan. Do you two train together often?”

Riaan shakes his head. “Not nearly as often as we used to. This one’s too busy for me. Preparing to be king. Choosing a bride.” He shoots me a meaningful look, then adds, “Though if you ask me, he should just grovel until you agree to take the position.”

I open my mouth, then snap it shut again, turning to Sebastian before I say anything incriminating.

“Riaan’s my oldest friend,” Sebastian says softly.

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Riaan says with a wink. He fills a glass of water and lifts it in mock salute before heading down the stairs and leaving Sebastian and me alone on the rooftop.

“I shouldn’t have interrupted,” I say, still thinking about what Riaan said.

Maybe it would be easier to hold a grudge against Sebastian if I didn’t know he returned the feelings I’ve harbored from the day we met, but every reminder tests my convictions.

He waves away my concern. “We were finishing up anyway. My mother wants him to accompany her to the north this afternoon.”

“What’s in the north?” “Another palace.”

I laugh.

“What?” he asks.

“You say that the way Jas might refer to another dress for my spoiled

cousins.” I look around, taking in the view of the expansive grounds around the Golden Palace. “I can’t imagine having one place like this, let alone


When I turn back to Sebastian, he’s frowning. “It’s absurd, isn’t it?” he asks softly. “So much excess here when so many suffer in Elora. I didn’t realize . . . not until I moved in with Mage Trifen.”

“Why did you do that anyway? You have magic—better magic than any human could dream of having. Why did you take an apprenticeship with a human?”

“Human magic is different, and I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I don’t need it.” He turns to the view beyond, and his gaze goes distant. “I know I’m going to need every advantage I can get if I want to be the best ruler for my people.”

“When will that happen? When will you rule?”

He shakes his head. “Only the old gods know the moment, but I want to be prepared.” He refills his glass and takes another drink, adding, “You didn’t come up here to talk about my apprenticeship.”

“No. I came about something else. But . . . it seems silly now.” He grins, sensing my embarrassment. “What is it?”

I grab a lock of my hair and twist it nervously. “I’ve been thinking about how we can find Jas, and I remembered legends of this magical mirror that would show you anyone you wished to see.”

His eyes go wide. “The Mirror of Discovery?”

“I never knew what it was called.” I smile to hide the lie. “But when you look into it, you can ask to see someone. Maybe we could use it to locate


“It’s hard to know what you’d see if you used it.” He frowns, thinking. “It can be unpredictable.”

I swallow. Please get it for me. Please. “But wouldn’t it be worth trying?” I blow out a breath. “Such an ancient piece of magic. I’m . . . curious.”

He laughs. “It’s the thief in you—don’t make that face, I mean it as a compliment. But I can’t have you breaking into my mother’s sacred

sunroom to appease your curiosity. I’ll see what I can do.”



“Won’t the people at the palace think it’s strange that I’m gone so often?” I ask the next day as Pretha escorts me through the front door of Finn’s house in the form of Eurelody.

“They’ll think you’re studying with your tutor at her home. Finn paid the old scholar’s family well for use of the place.” She closes the door behind me, then shimmies her shoulders. The wings disappear and her body snaps back into the one I know as Pretha.

“Is this your . . . true form?” I ask, nodding at her.

“This?” She smiles slowly, and her face lights up. She’s stunning. I wonder if she’s Finn’s wife or partner or—I squelch the errant thought. Why do I care who he’s with? “Yes, this is my true form.”

“Can you fly when you have the wings?”

She snorts and waves at me to follow her down the dimly lit hallway to the back of the house. “It depends on the form I take. I can’t fly when I shift into Eurelody, because Eurelody can’t fly. Other forms . . .” She shrugs.

“Sure. Sometimes. Though it takes a lot of energy to shift so completely.”

I follow her through a set of double doors into a massive library that has two-story ceilings and bookshelves lining every wall. In the middle of the room, a trio of fae males gather around a table, discussing something in low tones. I recognize Kane, and I think the other two were guarding the door to the office the night Kane carried me into the tavern. Finn isn’t anywhere to be seen, but his wolves are napping in the shadows at the back of the library.

“Hell-ooo,” Pretha singsongs, and the males straighten.

Kane grabs something off the table—a map maybe?—and rolls it up before sliding it into the back of his pants. “The princess returns,” he grumbles.

I arch a brow. “If you don’t want me here, then why does your prince keep sending her to retrieve me?”

“Ignore Kane,” Pretha says. “He’s perpetually cranky.” Kane scowls at her, and the other two chuckle.

Pretha points to the male with dark skin, short black dreadlocks, and

silver webbing on his forehead much like Pretha’s. “Abriella, this is Tynan,” she says. He smiles as he offers his hand, and I shake it. “And Jalek,” she

says, pointing to the other, a pale-skinned male with buzzed white hair and dark green eyes. This one doesn’t offer a hand. Instead he gives me a curt nod and takes a step back, as if he doesn’t want to get too close to me.

I clear my throat. “It’s . . . nice to meet you all.”

Jalek grunts. “She’s a terrible liar. You’re sure she can dupe the prince?” “Hush, you,” Pretha says. “Abriella is the best chance Finn’s court has.” I arch a brow. Finn’s court. “You’re not Unseelie?” I blurt.

She grimaces and exchanges a look with Tynan. “Not by birth.” Sighing, she adds, “I was born one of the Wild Fae, but I pledged my allegiance to Finn long ago.”

I look to the others. “And you three?”

“Unseelie born and bred,” Kane says, pounding his fist against his chest. “But don’t worry,” Tynan says. “Not all Unseelie are as ugly as that one.” Kane gives Tynan a vulgar gesture, and Jalek bites back a smile.

Pretha ignores them all. “Tynan is Wild Fae, like me. And Jalek is Seelie by birth. Many years ago he was a courtier for the golden queen’s father.”

“Old ass,” Kane mutters.

“I’d rather be old and wise than young and dumb,” Jalek says, but his eyes remain on me, studying my reaction to this information.

I try not to gape. I was always under the impression that the fae were strictly loyal to the court they were born into, but Finn seems to have

assembled a little band of misfits. “And you all work for Finn?”

“We work for the greater good for all of Faerie,” Pretha says, pulling her long hair over one shoulder and beginning to braid it. “And since Finn is leading that charge, yes, we work for him. We work with him.”

Jalek narrows those vivid green eyes at me. “Have you spent much time with Queen Arya at the palace?”

I shake my head. I haven’t laid eyes on the queen since the day I went before her to pretend I wanted to marry her son. “No. She’s not around much.”

Jalek and Tynan exchange a look, and Kane mumbles something I can’t hear.

“I think you all have somewhere you’re supposed to be this morning,” Pretha says pointedly, and instead of bristling at a female ordering them around, the three males nod and head toward the library’s double doors.

Females so rarely have any meaningful power in Elora, and I can’t help but respect Pretha a little more.

Tynan is the last to leave. He stops in the doorway before turning back to Pretha. “Misha and Amira have requested a meeting with Finn. Amira

specifically asked for you to attend. I thought you might want to prepare yourself.”

Pretha’s smile falters, but she quickly pastes it back in place and nods. “Thank you for letting me know.”

He turns away and lets the doors swing closed behind him. “Who are Misha and Amira?” I ask.

“King and queen of the Wild Fae. They’ve been essential in our mission over the last two decades.”

If they’ve been so essential, why does Pretha look shell-shocked at the news that she’ll have to meet with them?

She draws in a deep breath and rolls back her shoulders. “How’s your search for the mirror coming? Have you asked the young prince yet?”

I nod. “He’s working on it.”

Pretha gives me a tight smile. “Good. Now, let’s work on your training, shall we?”

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