“Don’t you want to love the person that you will eventually marry?”

“Love, no. Tolerate, yes. The throne demands someone strong. That’s all that matters. Strong bloodlines.”

“That’s horrible.”

“That’s the way it is.”

She didn’t speak. She simply waited and watched Teague. He seemed content to just sit next to her without talking. For a moment, he looked like he had fallen asleep. His eyes had closed and he looked relaxed. Again, he resembled Jared.

“What do you think of Dinah?” Mina asked softly.

Teague’s face scrunched into a frown. “Really? This again.” He opened one eye at her. “Fine. Bestow upon me all of her fine qualities, if you think to persuade me.” He waved his hand in her direction.

Mina pursed her lips. “She’s patient, wise, powerful, and can make a delicious dessert.”

“You lie. I bet she makes horrible dessert.”

She laughed. “Well, maybe for you, because of your sour attitude.”

He waited a few more minutes and then opened both eyes again, watching her expectantly. “You’ve failed to speak up for Annalora or yourself.”


“Annalora doesn’t need someone to speak for her. She can tout her qualities—what few there are—loud enough to be heard in the next kingdom.”

Teague smiled wryly. “True. But you? You don’t want to speak up and convince me that you’d make a perfect choice?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t belong here. And as soon as you’re engaged, it will be time for me to leave.” She didn’t really know how else to explain it. The Fae plane could never be home to her. She couldn’t abandon her family, her friends.

“It’s because of him isn’t it?” he asked, surprising her.

She wondered if he knew about Brody, but then he continued. “It’s the one named Jared. You love him?” He sat up and studied his clasped hands.

“I-I do. I mean I did. But there’s no chance for us anymore.”

“You, who champion love, would give it up so easily?” He looked at her, seeming disappointed.

She sucked in her breath and her thoughts spun wildly in her head. She had to push back her feelings about Jared. “As you said before, you’re not marrying for love. Please, think about what I said about the other girls. Don’t waste any more time with me. Spend the rest of the night getting to know Ever or Dinah. Give them hints on the third test.”

“How do you know there will be a third? What if I’ve already made my decision?”

“Isn’t that how it always is in the stories? There are always three tasks. So I just assumed…am I wrong?”

He paused in thought. “There don’t have to be three. I can end this anytime I want. The Fates will be happy if I just choose someone. The first test was to narrow down the selection down based on qualities. The other tests are only to make the final decision easier.” He leaned back in the chair again. “Now you’ve got me interested in your stories. One day you’ll have to tell me some of them. But really, you don’t even want to know what the next task is?”

Mina walked to her door and motioned for Teague to leave.

Teague stood up and stared at her, his face filled with disbelief. “You’re dismissing me. Me?” His pointed to his chest.

She shook her head. “I’ve told you. I’m not here to marry you. I’m here to save my family, and I believe that I can do that by making sure you marry the right person.

So don’t waste any more time here.”

His eyes went dark, and his mouth pressed into an irritated line. “As you wish.” He gave her a mock bow, opened her door with a wave of his hand, and slammed it behind him.

She listened carefully and didn’t hear the lock click into place. To be safe, she waited another a half hour before opening the door and sneaking into the dark palace corridor. It was empty. Her stomach was growling, and she knew that the guards would probably be back shortly to escort them to dinner.

Which would be an awkward affair. She didn’t think she could sit and pretend to be cordial with Annalora any longer. Mina headed down the hallway and tried her best to backtrack to the library, hoping beyond hope that Teague had put the Grimoire back there.

Footsteps and a feminine giggle approached. Mina ducked into an alcove and found herself, once again, in the bathing chamber with the mermaid fountain and the waterfall. If only Nix could see her now. There wasn’t much time, so she just hid behind a column as the voices grew louder. And then they were recognizable. She cringed.

“I feel so special that you’re sneaking off to be alone with me, my prince.” Annalora’s voice resounded like nails on chalkboard in Mina’s ears. Or it might have been her teeth grinding in anger. This was not what she meant for Teague to do. Annalora? Come on, Teague.

“Think nothing of it, my dear. I’ve been wanting to be alone with you for a while.” His voice sounded husky. Why was he trying to get close to Annalora? Was it just that he was a boy, and they tended to do the opposite of what they were told?

Mina wanted to take off her shoe and throw it at him, until she realized she wasn’t wearing them.

Annalora giggled again, making Mina’s skin crawl. It was a fake, look-at-me kind of laugh. They walked past the bathing pools, and Mina did her best to stay hidden behind a pillar, but she kept one eagle eye on the couple. Annalora walked arm-in-arm with Teague up to the fountain. She oohed and aahed over the large waterfall and the mermaid statue.

“It’s beautiful,” she exclaimed.

“Not as beautiful as you.” Teague teased, making Annalora let loose her annoying giggle.

“Of course not. There’s nothing as beautiful as me.” She turned, grabbing his hands, and pulled him toward the water. The closer they came to the pools, the closer they came to large potted ferns surrounding the pools. Then they were out of earshot and covered by the greenery.

Part of Mina wanted seize the moment and escape, but the other part wanted to sneak closer and spy on them.

Teague had never taken her out of her room. He just visited her behind a closed door. Was that because he didn’t want the girls to see him wooing her? She’d thought he was showing her favor. But instead, he was just being a guy. Her jealousy won out, and her bare feet made no sound as she tiptoed to the closest ferns to watch the proceedings.

Annalora pretended to slip, throwing herself into Teague’s arms. He caught her and held her closely.

“Oh my, I almost landed in the fountain,” she breathed out softly, using the moment to wrap her hands around his neck and pull him closer to her. Mina rolled her eyes in disgust. There was no way she would fall into the fountain. The floor wasn’t even wet. But Annalora didn’t care, and it seemed that Teague didn’t mind her forwardness. Annalora came to the same conclusion, because she softly pressed her lips to his.

Teague was only momentarily caught off guard, but he returned the kiss. Or that’s how it looked from Mina’s angle.

Mina was so furious at the betrayal. She honestly wished the girl would fall into the fountain. A second later, she saw a vine sneak out from the closest potted plant and reach up the girl’s leg.

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