Neiva, Princess of Fey, wandered through the gardens surrounding the royal residence. She hadn’t a clue where her friends had gone. Off flirting with boys, no doubt. She rolled her eyes. Goddess, they were so daft at times. She couldn’t understand why anyone would act so silly just to impress boys. And really, did it impress them? If it did, boys were even dafter than girls.

She hummed as she walked. It felt great to be away from lessons and tutors for a while. Sometimes, she simply wanted to be alone. That was a rare occurrence. Though Dad said it would only get worse, and she should enjoy this “carefree time”. Neiva snorted. What did he know? He hadn’t been fourteen in centuries.

A rustling to her left caught her attention, and she stopped. The hedges parted to reveal a path. She tilted her head, trying to see where it led. She’d never noticed it before. Curious, she started down the narrow trail. It wound farther and farther away from the formal gardens. A part of Neiva’s mind told her to turn back—her father would be furious if he knew she was in unfamiliar areas without protection—but she continued on. Something was drawing her. She didn’t know what, but she couldn’t sense anything bad or harmful.

The overgrown path opened up to a small glade. In the center, a pool of water stood surrounded by a rough stone wall. Neiva approached and peered into the water. It was crystal clear; she could see the flat stone lining the bottom. Tentatively, she dipped a finger. The cool liquid began to swirl at her touch.

“Good afternoon, Princess.”

Neiva jolted and spun toward the voice. “I’m sorry I startled you.”A young woman stood barely a foot away. How had she approached without Neiva’s notice? Even if she had flashed into the small clearing, Neiva would have felt the disturbance on the air.

“Good afternoon,” she answered. “I don’t know you. How is it you know who I am?” “Everyone knows the Princess of Fey.”

Neiva felt her cheeks heat, embarrassed at the obvious answer.

“I’m Mara. You look lost, Princess. Is there something I can assist with?”

She squinted slightly as she studied the woman. Why did she have to wander away? Now she was alone, in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar person. This was the type of situation her father lectured about constantly. Though the woman appeared harmless.

“I’m not lost,” she insisted. “The pool called to...” She stopped herself from finishing the sentence. People thinking she was crazed was not a good thing.

Mara smiled. “It called to you. Of course. That is the way it often is. Have you looked within?”

Neiva frowned. “At what? It’s just water.”

“Look again, dear one,” Mara encouraged.

Uneasiness caused Neiva’s stomach to clench. “Why? What am I looking for? What is

this place?”

Mara laughed, and Neiva closed her eyes at the beautiful sound. It traveled on the wind

and wound around her, like a living thing. It soothed her, calmed the tightness inside her. “So distrustful. Wonderful! Your parents have done a fine job. Have you heard of the

Waters of Fate?”

“Of course.” Neiva rolled her eyes. Everyone knew about the Waters. “They tell you

whether you have a true mate. Sometimes, they’ll only show enough for you to know you have one, and sometimes, they’ll actually reveal who it is.” She glanced at the pool. “These are the Waters?”

“They are indeed. Have you looked within?” she repeated.

“All I saw was water.” Neiva was mortified as tears welled up. “I guess I don’t have a true mate in this life.”

“Perhaps you should look again,” Mara suggested. “You only had a moment before.”

Neiva turned and stepped to the pool. Bracing her palms on the rough stones, she leaned forward and peered into the Waters. After a moment, the water darkened and swirled. Soon, it was churning—a small, contained storm—splashing up on the wall, bathing her hands in coolness.

“Keep watching,” Mara murmured.

In the middle of the chaotic water, images began to form. Neiva could make out the forms of a man and woman. They were embracing. But, Goddess, it was so blurred. She leaned farther. The image sharpened. Her heart stuttered as she recognized herself—or rather an older version of herself. She shifted her gaze, and her heart stopped altogether.

“It can’t be. He’s my mate?” She straightened and turned to look at Mara. “How? How can it be him? My father will never allow it.”

“Never question Fate, Princess. She has paired the two of you together. You are halves of the same soul. Even the King cannot deny or change that.”

Neiva looked into the Waters again, where the man and woman still shimmered on the surface. They looked so happy. Warmth blossomed in her stomach and spread through her body.

“How will I tell him? Blessed Lady Above, how will I tell Dad?”

Again, Mara’s laugh slid around her, comforting her. “You’ll have no need to tell your mate. He’ll know when the time is right. As for the King, you and your mate will find the right moment to inform him. How fortunate you are, Princess. Not everyone finds their other half in this life. He is a good, strong man.”

Neiva knew that to be true, but her head spun over the revelation. “Maybe it’s a mistake...” Her mouth dropped open.

The woman was gone. The glade was empty, save Neiva. She glanced back down. The Waters were clear once again.

She sighed. One thing was certain. She was telling no one about this. They’d think she was insane. She started down the path to the gardens on trembling legs.

Goddess, she had a true mate...