Illusions Of Fate Page 65

Perhaps it was selfish, but I cannot bear to have my country sullied by one crazed man\s actions. Lord Downpike was already a murderer, after all. Kelen\s secrets died with him, and that must be good enough for me. I saved Melei, and I probably saved Albion and the continental countries as well. But I did not manage to save the person that made the world shine for me.

Eleanor must see the shift in my expression, because she puts a hand on my shoulder. ’’Finn\s memorial was well-attended. The prime minister himself came, along with the Saxxone ambassador. It was a nice ceremony.’’

I close my eyes and nod. ’’I would not have entrusted it to anyone else. I\m certain you did beautifully by it. I\m sorry I didn\ come, but I find . . . well, there is so much packing and planning to be done, and I knew none of his friends, anyway, and . . .’’

’’It\s all right, Jessamin.’’ She hugs me. The doorbell rings and she stands. ’’That will be Ernest.’’

’’Please give him my thanks once again. For trying to help with getting Finn to the prime minister.’’

’’I will. As for me, I\m ready for tea. A tea all alone where I do not have to regale anyone with my lurid tales of intrigue and heroism.’’ She pauses. ’’I will miss this house. It\ll be lonely returning to my big, empty place without you. I think I\ll convince you to live with me yet. I\m very persuasive.’’

I wave my hand with a small smile. She walks out, closing the door softly behind her.

I pick up my things and move to another chair, away from the square of late afternoon sunlight streaming in through the library window. I spent the last two weeks staring at my shadow, willing it to be more than just mine, willing it to show me some hint, any hint of Finn. I drove myself near mad with grief, and after spending his memorial yesterday standing by the window staring at my shadow until I could not see anymore, I vowed never to watch for it again.

Last night I dreamt of the tree-arched path of Fate. It was dark, and I was alone, and I did not know how to move forward anymore. Even now the pain of missing him threatens to well up and drown me. But I will not dishonor his memory by devoting my life to mourning him. He wouldn\ approve, and it would go against the things I think he loved about me.

I wish I had told him everything I loved about him. Love about him. I can hold on to those, at least. I twist the heavy gold ring on my hand. I took the glove off yesterday, when the last of the sensations had finally faded. Another gift from Finn I will keep forever my hand whole and unblemished, with his ring on my index finger.

I hear the door open again behind me. ’’Honestly, Eleanor, I will not move in with you. You\ e welcome to come to Gallen. I\m certain we could find something for you to study.’’

A voice that is not Eleanor\s answers me. ’’I plan on studying history scholars, actually.’’

All the grief I have neatly packed and stored in the shadows of my soul springs up, rising into my throat and choking me. I stand, unable to turn, unable to draw a breath for fear of being mistaken, my eyes glued to the floor. A fine pair of shoes enters the narrow range of my vision.

They cast no shadow.

’’You\ e dead,’’ I whisper, still not daring to look up.

’’Nearly,’’ Finn answers, his voice the soft song of my dreams. I look up, barely able to see him through tears. He\s thinner, with the pale and drawn look of someone who has been sick for a long time but is on the mend. ’’It\s a tricky thing, trying to use a transport spell stored in your body while being pulled down a river bleeding to death. You will have to excuse me for getting lost and taking so long to get back to you.’’

’’I will excuse no such thing.’’ I throw my arms around his neck and bury my face in his shoulder. ’’You are not excused, you will never be excused, and you will spend the rest of your life making it up to me.’’

He laughs. ’’I had planned on nothing less.’’

My lips meet his, and I do not resign myself to this fate. I claim it as my own. Forever.


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