Chapter no 36

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

WHEN WE RETURN TO THE GOLDEN PALACE, my mind is still in Fairscape with Jas.

Sebastian escorts me to my room, and when I stop at the door and turn to him, he studies me. “I’ll take you back to see her soon,” he says.

“Thank you, Sebastian.” “It’s nothing.”

“No, thank you for . . . everything. For standing by me through all this when anyone else would send me away.” I close my eyes. “For forgiving me for taking the book and for . . . understanding the choices I made.”

I feel his fingertips on my chin, sliding along my jaw and into my hair, and when I open my eyes, his are full of anguish. “I love you, Abriella. All

that matters to me is that you’re here with me now. We’ll figure out the rest. Together.”

I search his beautiful eyes, his strong yet fine features. “I want to be bonded with you.”

Sebastian swallows, and his eyes widen. “You’re sure?”

I nod. I can’t stop thinking of the Banshee—of death sitting on my chest.

Or of the crown that sits on my head and the false king and the Unseelie prince who tried to trick me out of it. The prince who was willing to let me die so he could claim this throne. “Mordeus was right about one thing. As long as this crown is on my head, my life won’t be my own. If it’s not Finn after the crown, it will be another Unseelie. Until we can figure out how to get rid of it safely, I need the bond so you can protect me.”

“I thought you were against humans bonding with faeries.” I take both of his hands in mine. “I trust you.”

He brings my hands to his lips and kisses them each twice. “I vow to do everything in my power to give you a good life. To make you happy and protect you.”



Sebastian chose to do the bonding ceremony on the balcony outside his chambers at dusk, and my maids are giddy as they prepare me for the occasion, styling my ear-length mess of curls as best they can and taking extra time on my makeup.

When they bring out my dress, my breath catches.

“Sebastian gave us your sister’s muslin mockup, and we did our best from there. Is it what you wanted?”

“Yes.” I take in the thin emerald-colored velvet, and my vision goes blurry with tears. Only Sebastian would have thought to let me wear

something designed by my sister on this special night. The dress isn’t a dress at all, but the outfit Jas had designed for me to wear to Faerie. The one she wasn’t able to finish because Madame V sold her.

“No crying now,” Tess says, wiping at her own eyes. “You’ll make me start.”

I step into the loose-legged pants, and the velvet feels decadent against my skin. Emmaline helps me into the fitted top with its deep V.

She places a matching emerald necklace around my neck. “Also from the prince,” she says.

I close my eyes. Has he been holding the muslin mockup of this dress all this time? Saving it for this occasion?

“Why are you so sad?” Emmaline asks. “You look stunning.” “I’m not sad.” I draw in a ragged breath. “I’m ready.”



The view of the sunset from Sebastian’s balcony is breathtaking, but nothing compared with the man who stands in front of it.

Sebastian’s resplendent in a white tunic and pants of the finest linen.

There are no weapons on him tonight, only a single day lily in his hand. His eyes fill with tenderness as he tucks the flower behind my ear. “You’re so beautiful.”

I duck my head, feeling inexplicably shy, and look up at him through my lashes. “Thank you for the dress. And the necklace.”

He offers me a glass of wine from a nearby table, and I take it, grateful to have something to ease my nerves.

“I had the staff hold back a bottle of solstice wine. Typically, it’s only served on Litha, but since you liked it so much . . .” He lifts his glass and

taps it to mine. “Here’s to you, Abriella. I’ve only dreamed of being bonded to such an incredible woman.”

Tears prick at my eyes again. “And to you,” I whisper. “And a new beginning for both of us.”

We both drain our glasses, but my hands are still shaking when we return them to the table.

Sebastian summons a pile of runestones in his open palm and extends them to me.

I hesitate before reaching for one, all too aware of the magnitude of what we’re about to do. I’m ready for this lifelong bond, and yet—

No. No more doubts and no more secrets. I trust Sebastian, and I need to allow him this bond so he can protect me through whatever comes next.

Before I can change my mind, I reach for an oblong alabaster stone. The moment my fingers touch it, the rest disappear. I turn it in my palm to study the symbol. One long, thick line stretches from top to bottom of the longest side of the stone, another line angles off it to the right, and a swirl crosses the middle.

“It’s beautiful,” I whisper, stroking my thumb across the imprint. I flick my gaze up to Sebastian. His eyes are locked on the stone, and his face has fallen. “What’s wrong?”

He swallows and shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s fine.” “What does it mean?”

“This symbol can mean sorrow and loss.” He clasps his hand over mine, pressing the stone tight between our palms. “But it can also mean rebirth

after those things. New beginnings, like you said.” He bows his head and brushes his lips against mine, keeping our hands clasped. “Are you ready?”

I search his face. I love that he’s not rushing this, that he understands what it means to me. “I’m ready.”

“Abriella Kincaid, I bond my life to yours. I will feel your joy and know your pain. Near or far, we will always be close in heart, connected in spirit.” “Prince Ronan Sebastian,” I say, repeating the vows as I was instructed.

“I bond my life to yours. I will feel your joy and know your pain. Near or far, we will always be close in heart, connected in spirit.”

His lowers his head, brushing his smile across mine, his hand still holding mine tightly, almost as if he’s afraid I’ll pull away.

“Is that it?” I ask. I thought I might feel different somehow, but I don’t. “It takes a moment,” he says. He sprinkles whisper-soft kisses down my

neck and pulls my body close. Pleasure and anticipation shimmer through me. We kiss and kiss until the evening air wraps around us, like a band holding us together.

Then it’s there—a connection between us, something snapping and electric, a power pumping through me to him in an infinite loop.

“Sebastian,” I whisper. The rune is no longer between our palms. “Where did it go?”

He shifts the green velvet at my décolletage to the side and smiles. There, inked on my skin, is the rune that disappeared from our clasped hands.

The sight reminds me of Finn’s chest and all those runes inked there.

Does each represent someone he bonded with? A life he stole?

I push the thought from my mind. Tonight is about Sebastian and me.

About us. “Do you have one too?”

Swallowing, he nods and turns our joined hands to show me the inked symbol on the inside of his wrist. “We are bonded.”

My vision blurs, and my knees go weak under me. “I think I need to sit down.”

Sebastian’s face pales, but he takes my arm and leads me to a chair just inside his chambers. “I’m going to need you to drink this,” he says, pulling a vial from a pouch at his side.

Pain stabs through my chest, and my lungs seize. “Sebastian . . .” I gasp and draw my knees to my chest as the pain rips through me again. “I think someone poisoned the wine.”

“I need you to drink.” He keeps a hand on my arm. When I’m able to open my eyes, he’s watching me, concern all over his handsome face. “I’m here, Abriella. I’m right here.”

“What’s happening to me?”

“It’s a reaction to the bond. Now drink.

The pain rips through me. Sebastian’s lips are moving, but his words are little more than a soundtrack to my torture. I try to listen, try to focus on

anything except this excruciating pain ripping me apart, but I can’t. I just want to sleep until the pain is gone.

The world flashes—bright with the sunset coming in from the balcony, then the comforting darkness of unconsciousness. Light, dark, light, dark. It’s like I’m being asked to choose—life and pain or relief and nothingness.


I drag my eyes open.

Sebastian’s pressed the vial to my lips. “You’re dying. This is the only choice we have.”

“Dying?” I always imagined that death would seize me and pull me under. I never thought it would sink jagged claws into my chest and fight me down. I never imagined I’d have a chance to fight back.

“Please drink. The Potion of Life is the only way I can save you.” I hear his tears before I can force my eyes open long enough to see them. “For once in your life, stop being so damn stubborn.”

The Potion of Life.

The room spins. My lids are so heavy, and it’s hard to stay here when I want to slip away. Light or dark. Dark or light. Lark’s words echo behind the pain.

Next time she dies, it has to be during a bonding ceremony.

I see three paths before you. In each, the Banshee’s call is clear.

The vial is cool against my lips. If I drink, this pain ends? If I don’t drink, death awaits?

“Please.” Sebastian’s voice is a ragged sob. “This is the only way.” He’s hurting, and that’s worse than these claws tearing through me. I’d do

anything to ease his pain, so I part my lips. I drink.

The potion is silky on my tongue and feels like it sends me flying. Every swallow pushes another claw from my chest, lifts me away from this pain.

“Good girl,” he whispers. “You have to drink it all. That’s my girl.”

With my last swallow, the claws are gone, and warmth races along my veins, then heat, then— “Sebastian!”

My veins flood with fire, and I writhe in his arms. Please gods, not fire.

Anything but fire.

“What’s happening?” he asks.

“This is the transformation,” an unfamiliar female voice says. “One cannot become fae without some pain.”

“Fix it,” he growls. “Do something to save her from this agony.”

“Magic has a cost,” the female says. “And so does immortality. She must endure or the potion will not take. She must endure or you lose her forever.”

“I’m here,” he whispers. “I have you.”

But he doesn’t. Nothing can save me from this pain. Time lurches forward, then stands still. I see my childhood in a flash, relive the fire in

slow motion. Time teases me as seconds pass, fly by, then holds me captive as it stills again.

The world goes black again. I push away from consciousness and welcome the darkness, wrapping myself in a soft blanket.

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