Chapter no 30

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

SEBASTIAN SPINS ME AROUND and presses my back against a tall wooden door. “This is your room,” he whispers against my lips.

My skin is warm, my cheeks flushed from the wine, and my heart full from the conversation. One hour turned to two, and it was like old times— just the two of us, talking and laughing.

“This is where I’m supposed to say good night.” His hands drift slowly down my sides—fingertips leaving a burning trail in their wake. When he reaches my hips, he squeezes gently.

I slide a hand behind his neck and study his face. I love the strong lines of his jaw, the piercing beauty of those sea-green eyes, his slightly parted lush lips. “So soon?”

Smiling, he brushes those lips over mine. Once, twice. The third time, his tongue sweeps across my bottom lip, and I melt a little. “Thank you for this. I know nothing’s simple right now, but I’m glad we’re here.”

Me too. I know it’s the wine, but right now I’m glad for everything, from the heat of his body to the fact that there’s a bed on the other side of this door. “I need to tell you a secret,” I whisper.

He pulls back, his eyes searching mine, his face solemn. “Yes?”

“I don’t deserve you.” I thought I could make a joke of it, but tears prick my eyes. “And one day you’re going to realize that.” You’re going to realize I’ve used you to give Mordeus what he wants. You’re going to realize I’ve

weakened your kingdom to save my sister. And you’re going to know that

even as sorry as I am that it will hurt you, if it means saving Jas, I would do it all over again.

“Hey.” He strokes his thumb along my jaw. “None of that. We were having a good time, and these tears are gutting me. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you, but I’m too selfish to let you go.”

I bury my face in his chest and shake my head. “Don’t let me go. I need you to hold on.”

His swallow is the only sound in the quiet hall. “I thought I could walk away until it was safe, but I was wrong.”

I lift my head. “Until it was safe?”

“You are in danger every moment you remain in my realm, yet I can’t bring myself to . . .” He searches my eyes. “You don’t understand yet, but I need you.”

“Bash . . .” I lift to my toes and press my mouth to his.

I want to drag him to my bed and beg him the way the drugs made me beg Finn. When Sebastian touches me, it feels like walking into the sun

after a week stuck in Madame V’s cellar. I forget all about my conflicting feelings for the Unseelie prince. About Finn’s secrets and his tributes.

About the queen and the book. About a little girl’s prophecy and a goblin’s glee at telling me I have to kill the queen if I want to break the Unseelie

curse without dying.

Sebastian kisses me back with more intensity than before. His hands plunge into my hair, and he tilts my mouth to his. I want to soak him up. To revel in these moments until I’m covered in them. Whatever my life is after he finds out the truth, I want to be able to remember this feeling—being loved and protected by Sebastian. Not Prince Ronan, not the next Seelie king, but my Bash.

When he pulls away, his breathing is ragged. He leans his forehead

against mine. “I can go to my own chambers or I can go in with you.” He swallows. “But if I stay, I need you to ask. I need to know this is what you want. That you’re ready.”

I graze my fingertips along his jaw, relishing the short stubble I feel there. My feelings may be as complicated as my loyalties, but what I want from him right now isn’t complicated at all. “I want you to come inside. I want you to stay.”

His chest rises and falls with a deep breath and maybe something more.

Maybe, like me, he’s navigating emotions that are heavier and more

complicated than the stories teach us love should be. I take his hand and lead him into my room.

He waves his hand, and a soft breeze closes the door behind us. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.” Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe this will make everything worse when he finds out the truth, but . . . “I want this.”

Stepping forward, he reaches around me and slowly unlaces my dress. I let it fall from my shoulders and stand still in front of him in nothing but a

flimsy lace camisole, matching underwear, and the dagger he strapped to my calf. I let him look at me, and when he lifts his eyes to meet mine, they’re hot, dark. I feel beautiful. If guilt nags at me from a corner of my mind, I lock it away to focus on him.

“You’re perfect,” he whispers. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

As soon as I say it, I see the vulnerability in his eyes and hate myself for the question. He didn’t kiss me until that last day in Fairscape because he knew I hated the fae. He believed I would hate him when I found out the truth.

I don’t have long to dwell on the realization because he’s taking me in his arms and cupping my face in his hands. He kisses me long and hard, hands trailing up and down my back, over my shoulders and my breasts, across my stomach. He grips my hips in his big hands and kisses his way down my neck, nipping and sucking at the sensitive flesh, setting my wine-warmed

skin ablaze with every kiss, every scrape of his teeth and flick of his tongue.

His fingers are rough where they curl under the top of my camisole. The thin strap snaps when he tugs it down, baring me to his mouth and his

wicked tongue. My eyes float closed and my head falls back. Nothing matters but the feel of his kisses, his hands on my body, the tingle of his teeth scraping across that sensitive peak. My core tightens with pleasure, with need, and I press closer, telling him what I need with the arch of my back and the soft sounds that spill from my lips.

I tug on his hair until his mouth finds mine again, and our tongues seek and stroke. He’s never kissed me like this. Raw, feral, ravenous. I unbutton his tunic and slip it from his shoulders. I want that sun-kissed skin all over me. But then he steps away, and I whimper in protest.

His lips quirk into a cocky grin. “I’m not going far. I promise.” He presses a single finger to my breastbone, and my skin tingles as his hand flares with light. He trails a finger down between my breasts, over my

stomach, over each hip, leaving a glowing path in the wake of his touch. As the light fades, the fabric falls away, even my scabbard and dagger fall to the floor with a thud, leaving me completely nude, my undergarments in tatters on the floor.

He devours every inch of me with his gaze, lips parted, breath jagged.

“Magical showoff,” I say, grinning as I reach for him.

His deft fingers stroke down my back, over my hips, and back up. “What good is magic if I can’t use it to impress the woman I love?”

My heart squeezes at the words, and I freeze. I’ve known I loved Sebastian for a long time, but I’m not sure I ever believed he could return those feelings. I didn’t believe I was worthy of his love, and he’s giving it to me now, when my actions prove I’m not.

“I do love you, you know.” His eyes are hooded as he looks down at me. “Does that scare you? Knowing . . . who—what I am?”

Guilt breaks out of its cage and slices through me. “I was so ignorant, Sebastian, and so much of my prejudice came from my mother’s choices. But you . . .” I trace his ear with my fingertip, lingering at the pointed peak. He closes his eyes and shudders against me. “I loved you in Fairscape,

loved the mage’s apprentice who kept me from despair, and I love you now. The golden fae prince who loves his family and wants to find a way for feuding kingdoms to find true peace.” I look into his eyes and send up a rare prayer to the gods: that whatever happens after this night, whatever

comes of Sebastian and me, he’ll never doubt that I meant these words.

“I’m so sorry I ever thought I wanted you to be different. I love you as you are.”

He opens one palm and a pile of shiny jewels appears there. Then the other opens and silky red rose petals spill to the floor. “Anything you want, Brie. Anything I can give you is yours.”

I sweep away the contents of both hands, sending the jewels clinking to the floor and the petals scattering around us. With a step forward, I guide his arms back around me. “I don’t need flowers or jewels. I want only you.” I press my mouth to his and slide my hands up his back, relishing the feel of his warm skin under my hands and against my breasts. “I want this.”

He nuzzles his face in my neck and breathes in deeply. “Have you done this before?”

I nod. It was last year, and only a few times with a young man who

worked at one of the houses I cleaned. There was no real emotion between us, just physical connection. Escape. It was good, but with Sebastian, it will be so much more. “Is that okay?”

He chuckles, a low and warm sound that fills my belly with want. “Sure.

Just don’t give me any details, okay?”

I shake my head. “None of it matters.”

He cups my face, but he’s shaking almost violently.

“Sebastian.” I take his hands in both of mine. So big and broad, rough with calluses. “Have you done this before?”

“No. Yes, I mean—” Shaking his head, he takes a deep breath. “I’ve done this, but never with someone I love.” He swallows. “I’ve never felt like this about anyone, and it scares me a little—how I feel about you. How much I need you. It scares me how . . . how this has all come together.”

I smile. “Here we are. Against all odds.” I release the button at his waist, and our hands tangle as we work together to free him of his pants.

I’m not shy when I look at him—at his tanned skin and strong chest, at the tight muscles of his abdomen and his powerful thighs and . . . the rest of him. I do blush at that, but I don’t turn coy. I know what I want. I walk to the bed. Keeping my eyes on him, I settle onto the feather-soft mattress and crook a finger, beckoning him to join me.

He takes me in again and again, and my skin grows warmer with each pass of his eyes. When he finally climbs onto the bed, he lies at my side and props himself up on one elbow. With his free hand, he strokes down my body, dipping just below my navel and making my breath catch, then back up, between and across my breasts.

I hold his gaze and arch under his touch, guiding his fingers where I want them. “I imagined this,” I whisper, reaching for him. “Imagined you like this. I never thought it would happen. Don’t walk away now, okay?”

“I couldn’t if I wanted to.” His eyes darken, and he shifts and settles over me. The weight of him sends a delicious pleasure pooling low in my belly. I draw my knees up and lead him to settle between my thighs, gasping at the press of him against my sensitive center.

“You’re okay?”

I nod, but okay isn’t the right word. I’m desperate and needy. I’m grateful for this moment and scared of what comes next. I’m in love and loved and undeserving. I’m not okay, but I want this. “You?”

He smiles at that. “Better than ever.” Sadness darkens that smile, as if he senses the undercurrent of my thoughts. “I want more than this, but if tonight is all I get, I’ll take it.”

“I want more too,” I whisper, then echo his words back to him, back to the gods who’ve granted me this moment of happiness. “If tonight is all I

get, I’ll take it.”

I slide my hands into his hair and hold his gaze as I shift my hips to guide him inside me. My body tightens, and his breath hitches. His hands frame my face, and he slowly begins to move, but I can sense him holding back

and I need more than these tentative touches. I guide his mouth down to mine and kiss him until he’s helpless to do anything but let go and give us both what we need. Soon enough any guilt or sadness is gone and we become our pleasure, become nothing more than the connection between us

—and a kernel of hope that this love might be enough.



Can’t. Breathe.

My eyes fly open, and the specter of a woman peers down at me. I open my mouth to scream, to gasp for air, but she’s sitting on my chest and my lungs refuse to expand.

She leans forward, like a lover leaning in for a kiss. I can’t stop her. My arms won’t move. I want to turn, to flail, to kick and push, but my body isn’t my own. I’m paralyzed. Trapped.

“Abriella,” she says, her breath dancing along my cheek. My name is a song from her lips, and her silver hair floats around her face like she’s in water. “Abriella, Abriella, Abriella.”

The song of my name is haunting but beautiful. I’m so transfixed, I forget that I need air. I forget that I can’t move. I watch her lips and let the melody fill my ears.

I feel consciousness slipping from me, and I let it. She continues to sing my name as the world goes black.



Lark stares at me with big silver eyes. We’re underwater in a deep, dark

abyss, and her hair floats around her like the Banshee’s did. The only light emanates from her glowing silver eyes as she strokes my face. I’m still not breathing, but I’m not sure I need to.

Someone in another world is calling my name. Not the Banshee.

Sebastian. Calling my name from above this abyss, begging me. I look up, but the surface is too far away to see.

Lark’s small fingers trace a path from my temples to my chin and back.

When she meets my eyes, I sense her words in my mind more than hear them. “I see three paths before you. In each, the Banshee’s call is clear. Don’t be afraid.”

My body jerks in the water as if some invisible hand has shaken me. Lark’s eyes flick up to the surface. I see it now—ripples of light as the surface grows closer.

“Remember your deal with the false king. He will be true to his word.

Choose your path wisely, Princess.” Her eyes sparkle in delight as she leans forward and whispers in my ear, “Now breathe.”

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