Chapter no 27

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

ROLL OVER AND PRESS my hand to my forehead. My mouth feels like it’s full of sand. Every muscle aches. I curl onto my side and whimper.

“Don’t be dramatic,” Finn says.

My eyes fly open, and I sit up so fast the room spins. Images come at me in waves. The party. The dancing and the wine. Emmaline’s—no, Pretha’s hand on my wrist as she dragged me away.

Then Finn. The shower. The begging.

Gods above and below . . . so much begging.

My face burns, and Finn smirks. “Problem, Princess?” he asks, rocking back on his heels.

I wanted it to be me. I hadn’t even admitted that to myself, but last night I told him. I threw myself at him, and he denied me. Held me in place as I begged for his touch. And even through my humiliation, the thought of his lips on my neck makes my skin heat.

I collapse back on the bed and cover my face with both hands. “Go away.”

He chuckles. “You didn’t want me to go away last night. In fact, when I tucked you into this bed, you were begging me to stay. I have to admit, you made some pretty intriguing promises.”

I peek at him between my fingers, and just as I expected, the ass is

smiling. He never smiles, but of course this most mortifying morning of my life would be the occasion of his shit-eating grins. “I hate you.”

“Also not what you said last night.”

I roll over and bury my face in the pillow. “I was drunk on faerie wine. I didn’t mean it.” My words are muffled, but judging from his chuckle, he heard them anyway.

“That’s not how it works, Princess. It lowered your inhibitions, made you aroused, yes, but you’ll notice you didn’t pull Pretha into the shower and beg her to touch you.”

No. I’d very specifically wanted Finn, and he had endured my pathetic pleas. “If I had any taste at all, I would have,” I mutter. I roll to my back

and frown. “Faerie wine never affected me like that.”

“The wine isn’t to blame. Whatever was in the wine is your culprit.” He places three vials on the bedside table. “If anything ever makes you feel like that again, take one of these at the first sign and get somewhere safe. The

elixir will counteract the effects of the drug, but you must take it right away. By the time Pretha got to you last night, it was already working its way through your system and we had to wait it out. Many fae would have taken advantage of you if they’d found you in that condition. They could’ve gotten you to . . . make decisions you might not be ready for when sober.”

But not Finn. “Thank you,” I say, but I can’t get the scowl off my face.

He tosses clothes on my bed. “Quit feeling sorry for yourself and get dressed.”

I throw my pillow at his face. He catches it in one hand and smirks at me.

No, not smirks. Smiles. Something’s changed between us, so I risk a question. “Who’s Isabel?”

His light brown skin pales, but for once he doesn’t evade. “Isabel was the woman I loved. I planned to marry her and give her children.” He swallows. “But she died.”

“What happened to her?”

His silver eyes look haunted when he says, “She was mortal.” “I’m sorry, Finn.”

“But not sorry you finally got some information out of me?” I roll my eyes, and he nods at the clothes in my lap. “You should get dressed.”


“The prince is planning to take you away to the summer palace tonight.”

I don’t want to know how he knows more about my plans with Sebastian than I do.

He cocks his head to the side. “You still want to go, don’t you? Go to the palace, find the book, free your sister?”

“Of course.”

He folds his arms. “So get dressed.” I point at the door. “After you leave.”

His perfect lips quirk into a mocking smile, and I remember the way they felt against my skin—soft against the sharp sting of his teeth when he bit me. “You didn’t mind stripping in front of me last night.”




The house is unfamiliar to me, but it’s easy enough to find my way to the kitchen. Finn’s waiting with Kane when I come downstairs. They’re dressed in leather riding pants and vests, with swords strapped to their backs and knives to their thighs. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes off Finn’s powerful legs—all I can do not to remember how intimate I got with those corded muscles last night.

Finn lifts his mug, amusement dancing in his eyes. “We have coffee.”

Embarrassment, guilt, and shame all mingle in a cocktail that makes my cheeks burn even hotter than they did last night.

I nod. My head’s still aching, my thoughts fuzzier than I’d like. “Thank you.” I cross the kitchen and pour myself a cup of the steaming dark brew.

“Heard you had an exciting night,” Kane says, wriggling his brows at me. “Now I regret going out on patrol when Finn wanted to take the shift. I

would’ve happily helped you through the worst of it.” He winks, and Finn shoots him a look.

I meet Kane’s lewd stare. “There aren’t enough drugs in the world.”

“Your loss,” he mutters. “At least I know how to take care of someone who’s been dosed with faeleaf. A good male wouldn’t have left you begging.”

I spin on Finn, gaping in horror, and he holds up both hands. “I didn’t say a word,” he says.

Kane smirks. “Jalek could hear you through the walls. Old house.”

When I woke up, I didn’t think the memories of last night could be any more mortifying than they were. I was wrong.

“What do you remember?” Finn asks.

My gaze flies to him and then to Kane. I open my mouth to shut him down—because, seriously, thin walls or not, I don’t want to have this

conversation in front of anyone, especially not Kane. But then I see that no one looks amused anymore.

Before Pretha brought you here,” Finn says. “Who gave you the wine?”

I sip on my coffee and wait for my memories from last night to come into focus. They remain blurry at the edges, but . . . “There were so many people there. I got my wine from a waiter just like everyone else.” Unless all the

wine was drugged.

He seems to see the thought on my face. “I haven’t heard of anyone else suffering ill effects from the wine,” he says. “If anyone else was drugged, it was kept quiet, which certainly couldn’t be done if everyone at the party

was dosed.”

I draw in a sharp breath as a thought occurs to me, but I shake my head, willing it away.

“What?” Finn asks. “You suspect someone. Tell me.” “Sebastian’s friend Riaan talked with me at the party.”

Kane mutters a curse. “Of course. Keeping his prince’s hands clean.”

“What? No. Bash would never have wanted me drugged, but Riaan found me after I’d had a couple of drinks and . . .”

“And what?” Finn asks gently.

I shake my head. “It’s personal.”

Finn’s brows disappear under his hair as if to say And last night wasn’t?

“It doesn’t matter.”

Kane grunts. “But it does. What did he do?”

“He didn’t do anything.” My cheeks heat, remembering the conversation and Riaan’s suggestion that I go make everything right between me and Sebastian. “He was trying to be a good friend.”

“What did he say? ” Finn asks.

“I was upset because I’d seen Sebastian with another girl—one of the ones he’s considering marrying.”

Finn folds his arms. “You mentioned that last night.”

“I went to the party to get my mind off it, but I saw Riaan and told him what happened. He found me later and let me know that the girl was gone and that it was a good time to . . . regain Sebastian’s trust.”

Kane gapes at me. “Why the hell do you need to regain his trust when he’s the one who was with another female?”

I bow my head. “He’s supposed to be choosing a bride. Since I won’t take the position, it’s not exactly fair that I was upset about this.”

Kane snorts. “How convenient for him.”

A thousand excuses for Sebastian’s behavior sit on the tip of my tongue, but each tastes a little sour even in the light of a new day, so I swallow them back. Yes, I wish he’d been more up-front with me about his physical relationships with the other girls. Yes, it hurts that he left my room and took someone else to his. But my complicated feelings for Sebastian are even

more complicated by what happened last night with Finn . . . or what didn’t happen but easily could have.

“Did Riaan suggest that you bond with the prince?” Finn asks, his jaw ticking.

“Yes, but I was hurt, and of course I can’t do that without risking my mission where Jas is concerned.”

Finn’s brows shoot up. “Interesting. That’s a different tune from the one you were singing before about never wanting the bond.”

“Of course,” Kane mutters. “The golden prince has her right where he wants her.”

I bristle. “Screw you, Kane.” I turn my glare on Finn. “Why do you care so much about who I bond with . . . or if I ever do?”

“Because, Princess,” he says, and the bite of anger in his voice stuns me, “bonds have consequences. If you think for one minute—” He’s cut off by the front door slamming.

Pretha rushes into the kitchen, Lark in her arms. The child has blood running down one leg, and she sobs as her mom slides her onto the counter.

Finn puts a hand on his niece’s shoulder. “It’s okay. It’s just a scrape. It’ll heal.” Lark nods but lets out another hiccupping sob. Finn wets a towel and gently presses it to the girl’s knee.

Pretha sees me watching and folds her arms. “She doesn’t heal.

“She’ll heal just fine,” Finn says over a shoulder. He turns back to his niece and gives her a reassuring smile. “Won’t you?”

The child nods and wipes her tears, clearly determined to put on a brave face for him.

“She heals like a mortal,” Pretha says, spitting the word mortal from her tongue like it has a foul taste.

Finn shoots her a warning glare before returning his attention to Lark’s cut. “Does that hurt?”

“It could get infected—like yours did—and what then, Finn?” Pretha says. I’ve never heard her sound so panicked.

“Abriella, do me a favor and take Pretha outside while I get Lark cleaned up?”

I want to stay and see why a banged-up knee is making Pretha so sure that her immortal child’s life is in danger, but I understand why Finn needs

me to take her away. With every panicked word out of Pretha’s mouth, Lark’s face grows more stricken and more tears fall.

“Come on,” I say, gently taking her arm.

“I’m fine,” Pretha says. She lifts her chin, and I can tell that her need for bravery in this moment is greater than Lark’s. “I’ll calm down.”

“Take a walk,” Finn says, his eyes on Lark’s knee. “I’ve got this. It’s just a bleeder. Not that deep at all.”

I tug on my friend’s hand and lead her out the back door. She follows reluctantly, but not without throwing a final desperate glance at her daughter before we leave.

“Why?” I ask Pretha when we’re alone on the patio. She knows what I mean—why does Lark heal like a mortal?

“It’s . . . like a disease. She’s been this way her whole life.” As someone who’s always healed quickly and easily, it must be terrifying to see her daughter heal as slowly as a mortal.

“Is there a cure?”

She barks out a laugh, but there’s no humor in her eyes as she swipes at her tears. “What do you think we’re doing here?”

I shake my head. I guess I don’t know. I thought they were searching for King Oberon’s crown so Finn could take his rightful spot on the throne.

What does that have to do with Lark? But then I see the obvious

connection, and my heart sinks. “This disease—Finn has it too, doesn’t he?”

Pretha slowly lifts her head. She studies me for a long beat, as if she’s trying to decide something very important. “Abriella, all the shadow fae age and heal like mortals. They have for twenty years.”

“But I’m sure I’ve seen fae who heal quickly.”

She nods, calmer now, if more desolate. “Yes, but not Unseelie.”

“Is that why Finn doesn’t use his magic? And why you tell Lark not to use hers? Because it’s dangerous somehow, and they’re now . . . mortal?”

“Yes and no.” She shakes her head. “For fae, magic and life are one.

There is not one without the other. As long as the Unseelie are aging and healing like mortals, using magic is just too costly.”

Life is magic. Magic is life. Finn tried to explain this to me when we first started training together. No wonder Pretha panics when she catches Lark using magic. The child is unknowingly shortening her own life.

“Why? How did this happen to them?”

Pretha steps closer, and the silver webbing on her forehead glows as she grips my shoulders. “I wish I could tell you more, Abriella, but I cannot.”

“How am I supposed to help if none of you tell me anything? How many times did I ask about Finn and his magic? Or why he doesn’t heal?”

“We’ve brought you into our home even though you live with and love a man who would like to see the entire Unseelie Court taken down. How

could we trust you with the truth? How could we share that vulnerability?” “But now—” I say. “Now you trust me?”

She loosens her grip on my shoulders and strokes her hands down my

arms. “Even as I stand here knowing you may give your heart and your life to the wrong prince, I trust you. And Abriella, you should know this is no

small thing.”

The wrong prince? That implies that Finn wants my heart. Does he? It shouldn’t matter. I love Sebastian. But . . . “Tell me more. Explain this.


“I can’t. If I try . . .” She opens her mouth, but no sound comes out, and she wraps her hands around her throat as if she’s choking.

I step forward. “Pretha? Are you okay?”

She drops her hands and does a full body shudder. “Like I said,” she says, her voice hoarse, “I cannot.”

“Are you somehow spelled to not be able to speak of it?” I ask.

She doesn’t nod, but I see it in the way she holds my gaze. She physically cannot say more.

“Okay.” I don’t want her to hurt herself again. “I understand. Tell me what I can do to help.”

“Find the Grimoricon and return it to the Unseelie Court.”

The Unseelie Court. Mordeus. “Mordeus has magic,” I say. “I’ve seen him use it again and again. Does this disease not affect him?” Because

surely he wouldn’t shorten his own life by using his magic on things so trivial as making a decanter of wine appear in his hand.

“Mordeus has proven he’ll go to any length to maintain his power—and even greater lengths to get more. Magic is a big part of that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know.” She sighs and turns toward the door. “I used to think it was better that way, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Pretha,” I say as she wraps a hand around the knob. “After I get the final relics for Mordeus, I have a lot I need to figure out, but whatever I decide, I hope you . . . I hope everyone understands that this isn’t easy for me. I’ve had feelings for Sebastian for two years, but Finn . . .” I swallow. My gaze

slips to the kitchen window. Inside, Finn is cleaning Lark’s knee and making her laugh. I think of the way he refused me last night when I was drugged out of my mind and begging. Of his cocky grin this morning. “Finn is my friend. I don’t want to lose either of them.”

When she turns back to me, her smile is sad. “In the end, you will have to choose.”

I think of Sebastian and how badly it hurt me to see him with that other girl. I think of how tempting it is to excuse it, just so I don’t have to

sacrifice the little time I have left with him before he finds out that, of the two of us, my betrayals might run the deepest.

Pretha doesn’t realize she’s wrong. There will be no choice for me.

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