Chapter no 37

These Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, 1)

THE STARS HAVE NEVER LOOKED SO BRIGHT, the night sky never such a velvety black. Cool night air whips around my skin, brushing across my ears and

cheeks like the lightest, sweetest kisses.

A tall male with broad shoulders and dark curls has his back to me, his face tilted up to study the stars, as if he too depends on them for answers.


When he turns to me, I’m struck anew by his beauty. He’s wearing a black shirt, the top two buttons undone, and his soft leather pants are as dark as the night beyond. Some distant thought nags at me. I’m not

supposed to be here with him, but I can’t remember why . . .

“I think . . .” I look around us. There’s no landscape. Only vast night sky. “Is this real?”

I lift a hand, skimming my fingers over the sharp point of my new, elven ears. “I died,” I whisper, remembering now.

“Died and were born anew. You’re sleeping now. The metamorphosis . . . it is never easy, but your mortal flesh fought it harder than most.”

Because I never wanted to be fae.

A reaction to the bond. Sebastian was prepared with the Potion of Life, prepared to save me when the bond ended my mortal existence. Nothing in the curse included danger to mortals who bonded with the Seelie. But how could he have known? As I try to wrap my mind around the thought, it falls away, lost in the never-ending darkness.

I look down at myself. I’m dressed in the green gown Jas designed, but there’s nothing beneath my bare feet. We’re floating with the stars. “This is a dream.” Even if the lack of landscape didn’t give it away, I’d know it was true because I feel none of the anger and frustration I know I’m supposed to feel toward Finn. I feel . . . peaceful.

He nods and rolls back his shoulders as he surveys the sky. “A dream.

One of the best I’ve had in years.”

“I don’t want to go back.” I bite my bottom lip. “So much pain.”

“The pain will be gone when you wake.” His silver eyes look sadder than I’ve ever seen them. “Are you happy?”

“I’m not sure I know how to be happy. It’s been so long since I’ve had the luxury.”

“Now you have your whole immortal life to figure it out.”

I look around the starry night sky that seems to cradle us here—outside of reality, outside of time. Even my thoughts feel suspended in this moment. “What happened?”

“After you left my catacombs, I had Pretha get you back to the Golden Palace. I knew you wouldn’t go with us, but I couldn’t leave you alone and bleeding in the Wild Fae Lands.”

Finn. Finn was the one who got me back to safety. I feel no surprise at this news. “I mean what happened after that?”

“You’ll understand the rest soon enough.”

“More secrets,” I say, but I’m too relaxed for the words to sound angry. “I am sorry—for what it’s worth. I never expected . . .” He squeezes the

back of his neck. “I tried to find a way out of involving you. Even after your mother’s protection ran out and I knew where to find you, I searched for a way. I saw you in a cellar, saw you work until your fingers were bloody, paying your debts and caring for your sister. I searched and

searched for another way. My father put me in an impossible position when he gave his crown to a mortal girl.”

I ponder this. I never thought of it that way. Finn had an entire kingdom to think of . . . all those refugees. The children. “Do you hate him for it?”

His lips twist into a semblance of a smile. “I did once.” His gaze flicks to mine. “Before I knew you.”

I study the stars again. “I thought I had no hope, that there was nothing to believe in anymore, but when I think about your people and the camps . . . I hope. And still I believe you can help them.”

Swallowing, he closes those hypnotic silver eyes and bows his head. “Despite all I did to you? Before you?”

“Despite that.” Sighing, I let the stars sing to me. “I like it here. It reminds me of something my mother used to tell me when she took me outside at night.” Something I’d forgotten until now.

“What?” he asks. “What did she say?”

“That no matter how hopeless I feel, there’s always a little more hope inside me. That no matter how faithless I think I am, there is always

something to believe in.” When I turn to look at him, he’s staring at me, eyes soft, jaw a bit slack. “Maybe that sounds foolish to an immortal.”

“Not at all.” He swallows hard. “May you always have a star to wish on, Abriella, and a reason to believe.” He begins to fade into the darkness.

“Finn, wait.” He rematerializes before me and waits, silently. “Why are you using your magic to visit my dreams? What of the cost?”

“Ah, what are the shadow fae good for but foolish dreams and ghoulish nightmares?” His eyes flick over me—from my eyes to my collarbones, down my gown, and to my bare feet before bringing them back up and

settling on my wrist. I follow his gaze. My scar is gone. Not glamoured

away, but gone. Its absence is an echo in my mind. Because it wasn’t a scar at all but the mark of the one who wears the Unseelie crown. “There is no cost now that the curse has been lifted, but it’s not my power that brought us here. I’m not using my magic.”

“Then how?”

“You’re using yours.” Then he disappears, and the dream fades to nothing.



“The healer said she needs her sleep.”

Puzzle pieces swirl in my head, weaving and shifting. Answers just out of my grasp.

“Well certainly, but she can sleep after the coronation.” “The prince will want her there.”

The prince. Sebastian. Sebastian’s sudden appearance in my life two years ago. He moved in next door and charmed me from his first smile. Seven years after my mother left. Almost to the day.

“These are the first days of these new times. If she’s to be his queen, she should be by his side.”

“She’s been through too much. I don’t think she’s ready to wake. The potion takes a toll.”

The potion. The potion Sebastian had with him. The one he somehow knew he’d need.

I feel something important there. Like a word on the tip of my tongue.

But consciousness slips through my fingers alongside the answer that’s just beyond my grasp.

“She’s coming out of it. Just look at those eyes.”

“Princess Abriella?” There’s a gentle shake on my arm. “Princess, you need to wake up. We have to get you ready for the coronation.”

I drag my eyes open, sit up, and look around the room. I’m still in Sebastian’s chambers, but everything is just a little different. Brighter? More . . . defined?

“Oh, Prince Ronan will hate that he’s missing her first look at the world through her fae eyes.” Emmaline says, practically squealing. “Someone

send for him.”

“You make a beautiful faerie, milady,” Tess says. “As if you were born that way.”

Faerie. I’m a . . . faerie? It all comes back to me in a flash. Choosing the rune, saying the bonding vows with Sebastian, the ever-weakening pain of death . . . The Potion of Life.

“I’m so sorry to rush you, Your Highness, but if you’re going to make it to Prince Ronan’s coronation, we need to get you in the bath quickly now.” Died. I died. But why? How did Sebastian know I’d have that reaction to the bond? He knew the bond would kill me. He knew he’d have to make me

fae or lose me forever.

One of the servants takes my hand and leads me from the bed. I waver on legs that don’t feel like my own.

Another servant holds up a dress. “You will look beautiful standing by the new king’s side in this.”

I’m still woozy from sleep. From the potion. What they’re saying doesn’t make sense. “The new king?”

The ladies laugh. “Prince Ronan, your Sebastian, will take the throne today with our lady by his side. So many reasons to celebrate.”

I close my eyes to that blow. In my dream, Finn said the curse had been lifted. The queen has died and it’s my fault.

There’s too much to take in.

I open my eyes again and give a start. Emmaline and Tess aren’t the women I knew. They’re faeries, with pointed ears, glowing skin, green vines tattooed down their arms. “You aren’t human?”

“The prince had us glamoured,” Emmaline says. “To make you more comfortable.”

“But now we can be our true selves with you,” Tess says. “Why do you look so sad? You will make a wonderful queen.”

“Beautiful too,” Emmaline adds.

Why do look so sad? Why do they sound so joyful? “Queen Arya,” I say, swallowing. “She passed while I slept?”

Emmaline’s eyes go wide, and she and Tess share a long look before she looks back to me. “No, no, milady. The queen is well. Prince Ronan will take the Throne of Shadows.”

I stumble backward until my legs hit the bed. I sink into the mattress,

shaking my head. Oberon’s crown would have shifted to Sebastian when I died, but . . . “I don’t understand. I thought only a fae with royal Unseelie blood could take the Throne of Shadows.”

“Yes, milady,” Tess says. “And Sebastian is both Seelie and Unseelie royalty.”

Emmaline nods. “We were unable to speak of it until he wore his father’s crown and the curse was broken, but now we can celebrate who he is.”

“A joyous day,” Emmaline says, and all the other servants in the room chorus in agreement.

His father’s crown? Anger surges, even as I grapple with this information, trying to reorder the puzzle pieces, make sense of them. “I thought King Castan was the prince’s father.”

“King Castan, rest his soul, raised the boy,” a servant behind Tess says.

She has horns, and her wide blue eyes glow like a summer sky. “But Prince Ronan is Oberon’s blood. Conceived in the mortal world during the eclipse, our prince brings day and night together. Light and dark. He is the new king who has been raised to unite our kingdoms.”

Sebastian is Unseelie.

He’s Unseelie, and he knew I’d die when I bonded with him. He knew I’d have no choice but to take the Potion of Life, even though I never

wanted to be a faerie.

“A prayer answered,” another servant says. “He and his mother have searched long and hard for his father’s crown. Then he found you.”

“He . . .” I swallow, remembering his whispered promises to me.

I vow to do everything in my power to give you a good life. To make you happy and protect you.

He lied to me. Manipulated me. He let me believe that Finn was the only one trying to trick me into a bond, let me believe that he only wanted to love me, to protect me. “He knew.” My words are sharp and hard, but they don’t hold a fraction of the anger that’s surging through my blood.

“No one could speak of it until his father’s crown was returned to him,” Tess says. Her joyful expression has shifted to one of worry. “Should I . . . get him for you?”

“It’s time to dress now,” Emmaline says. She approaches me slowly, extending a hand like she might toward a frightened animal. “After the

coronation, you and the new king will be married. You will be a beautiful bride and an honorable queen.”

Queen to a male who appeared in my life right after my mother’s protection ran out. To a male who’s been planning for years to trick me out of the Unseelie crown. A male who stole my power and lied to me about his own.

Something in my chest cracks open, and the servants scream as darkness floods the room. My darkness.

Sebastian may have the crown, but somehow this power—the power that came with Oberon’s life, with his crown—it remains my own. Magic is life. Life is magic. Maybe in choosing to give me the Potion of Life, Sebastian unknowingly tied these powers to me.

The servants scramble for light. Someone calls for the sentinels in the hall, but I silence their screams, wrapping them in shadows.

They expect me to dress pretty and show up to be his queen.

I am not a pretty thing to be manipulated. I am darkness, and the power rushing through my veins is stronger than ever. This is what it’s like to be fae and have magic. Magic is life.

And with the darkness swirling about the room and my shadows becoming one with it, I feel more alive than I ever have.

I walk past panicking servants, past guards scrambling to summon fae light. I walk past Riaan and the royal guard as they command light to fill the halls. I walk and watch their magic fail next to the might of mine. Rage pulses through my blood, demanding vengeance, retribution.

But . . . there. Beneath that rage is something else. An emotion that is not mine. A thread of panic, a tightening bond that tells me Sebastian will be turning the corner a second before he does.

Sebastian races down the hall, runs toward me. In the darkness I’ve cast upon the palace, the crown of twinkling starlight is visible atop his silver-blond hair. I see him more clearly now than ever, and I stare at the tattoos on his chest and neck. Dozens of rune tattoos I’ve never seen before.

Another glamour. Another way to deceive the human.

He stops near me and spins in the darkness. “Abriella.” His panic hums in my blood. He feels me, but he doesn’t see me. I see him, though. I see him and I feel him. I am shadow and darkness and stronger than the girl he sacrificed for that crown. “Stop this, Brie. Lift the darkness. We need to talk.”

But he can’t make me stop. And he can’t keep me from walking away from the Golden Palace with nothing but my darkness and the betrayal that has wrapped itself around my immortal heart.

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