Mina’s silence in response to the subtle bullying did not by any means signify that she conceded. Only time would prove who was better. Mina would have to beat the girl in life, and not with words. After all, Annalora could say as many mean and hateful things as she wanted, but they would only hurt if Mina believed them, and she didn’t.

But she couldn’t let the conversation lead to more questions about where she was from. She had to let her pride take the hit to protect her home.

“What’s that? You don’t disagree? Well, when I’m queen that will be one of the first things I do.”

“Well, if you become queen, I will volunteer to go to this far off land just to get away from you,” Ever responded.

“Pixies are the bane of society,” Annalora snarled. “Everyone knows they are the weakest in Fae magic. Truthfully, I’m surprised you made it this far without cheating.”

“I didn’t cheat.”

The gnome rolled her eyes and answered, “Quit lying to yourself.”

“I. Didn’t. Cheat!” Ever yelled, her wings fluttering furiously. The wind picked up, tossing things about. A ceramic vase flew across the room and crashed into the wall inches from where Annalora’s head had been just moments before.

The smug smile fell from her face at the same time the vase crashed to the ground. Ever realized her mistake and quickly calmed herself, but not before Annalora got in one last jab. “You are one messed up pixie.”

“Enough!” Dinah spoke out. There’s no use fighting amongst each other. This is not a battle that will be won by tearing each other down. Focus on the next test. Only one will be crowned Princess to rule beside Teague as a Fate. Only one will someday have all the power that is bestowed upon the queen. And that girl will be one of the four of us. Who among you is confident enough in your position to be making enemies with one of the future Fates? I, for one, am not willing to take that chance.”

When Dinah’s insight settled upon the room, a heavy silence followed. Mina looked at the nymph in admiration. She would make a wonderful princess. She was patient, kind, and intelligent. The Fae needed someone like her. If Teague chose her, there’s no way he would be disappointed, and she would never betray him.


Mina paused to study the three remaining girls. Ever was already in love with Teague, and she loved him enough to follow a part of him to the human plane—which meant either she didn’t pass the next test or she wasn’t chosen in the end. Ever had never once let on about participating in a princess test. Surely she would have told Mina she was once betrothed to Jared or Teague. That wasn’t something she thought Ever could have kept secret. There would be a very real possibility—if Teague chose Ever—that they could live a happily ever after. He wouldn’t turn evil. He wouldn’t seek out Mina’s family and continually curse them.

But if he didn’t choose Dinah or Ever that left—Annalora. The vibes Mina got from her were enough to make a polar bear shudder. It was quite probable that Annalora would be the winner. She was the only one selfish and heartless enough to send Teague to the dark side.

The proverbial light bulb switched on in Mina’s mind. What if she was here to sway Teague’s decision from Annalora to Ever or Dinah? Mina gently slid off a glass slipper and saw that the diamonds had started to fall again. That had to be it! Her quest wasn’t to save her family but to save the prince before her time ran out.

Mina paced her room like a grounded teenager. She would try and rest in a chair for a few minutes, but then she’d have the urge to move. The slippers sat on the edge of her bed, taunting her. She was afraid to put them on. What if they sent her spiraling back to the future before she was ready?

But at the same time she was ready. She couldn’t help but think of home and Brody. Her heart ached. Prince Charming was probably worried sick and she hadn’t even dropped a slipper for him to find her. Inwardly, she cringed at the thought of him alone with the Lara and Daphne at the ball. Mina should be there with him, not here.

“You seem upset.” His voice came from the shadows of her room. She almost cringed at how much he sounded like Jared. Teague moved from the darkness and sat on the one cushioned chair in her room, flinging his long legs over the arm and clasping his hands over his stomach. He looked completely at ease, and it didn’t seem to bother him that he was once again intruding on her privacy.

“I am upset. Really. Locks on the door would be great.”

“There are locks.” He pointed to the door and the large iron keyhole.

Mina frowned at him. “I mean locks to keep you out.”

He laughed. “There is no such thing.”

“I gathered as much. Since you are once again in my room.”

“This is my room.” He gestured to the whole castle. “All of this belongs to me. I can go where I please. And right now, I feel like being right here.”

There was no use arguing. She moved across the room and sat down on the bed, tucking her feet up under her. Closer to her shoes.

“Why are you here?” Teague’s words lacked their usual spite. “I’ve been pondering the question since I met you, and I can’t come up with a reason. It’s obvious that you aren’t here for the same reason as the others. You had no clue as to the goings on of the test. And why were you wandering around in the royal woods the other night?”

Mina felt her insides clench with nerves. “I’m here to try and save my family.”

“And your family is living in the woods?”

“No.” She measured her words carefully. “Someone cursed my family, and now they’re in danger. I’m here to find a way to save them.”

“So you’re here hoping that if you become my betrothed, I’ll somehow end the curse and save your family?”

“I, uh…uh…no.” The words stuttered out. “That is not my intention. I’m not a fool, and I don’t have false aspirations. I doubt I’ll pass the next test. Everything I’ve done so far has been a complete fluke. But I am hoping that you will find true love and happiness.”

His leg stopped swinging over the arm rest, and he leaned up to look at her. Surprise was all over Teague’s face as he pondered her words. Finally, he said, “Thank you. But I can’t help but wonder why.”

“Why does there need to be a why? You can’t just accept my well wishes?”

“Not without wondering what’s your motive? All females cover their motives behind sweet words and false intentions.”

“No, I’m really hoping that if you find your Happily Ever After, your reign will be a peaceful and prosperous one for all races.” Mina truly believed in every single word she said. “And I think that Ever Farindale is perfect for you. She’s sweet, kind, and would follow you to the ends of the earth.”

A dark shadow hovered over Teague. Was he angry at her suggestion? “Why would you say such things?”

Mina wasn’t sure how she’d upset him, but she sure had.

“Are you trying to influence my decision toward another competitor? Unheard of. You really are surprising.”

“Is it that surprising that I tell you the truth? She loves you, you know.”

“Love? Love has nothing to do with this.”

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