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Warmth spread down her back from where his hands pulled her closer. They were hidden behind the cover of trimmed bushes that littered his family’s extensive gardens. Her heart pounded in her chest, reminding her that she was falling hard for him despite how forbidden it all was. Their families would never approve. However, she didn’t care. All she wanted was to close the space between them.

            Only a little further…

Nimue opened her eyes and sighed. The same dream had taunted her for weeks now. It was harder to deal with than her imprisonment within the dungeons of the Cunningham castle. Weeks of coming to terms with that she’d been abandoned to face the rage alone. Even after she nearly killed herself to save a pair of ungrateful Dukes.

Derek. His name was on the tip of her tongue as much now as it had been the day they were discovered in his family’s gardens. As they knew, the families did not approve. Rivalries had run deep, even if the Daughtry family was technically the most powerful noble family under the Crown. Sorcerers always did hold grudges for ungodly amounts of years. It came with the near immortality that their magic granted them.

Pushing her shackles as far up her arms as she could, she rubbed the sore skin of her wrists. This imprisonment had only proven what she had always known deep within her heart. She was a prisoner through and through. Now, it was official.

“If you would behave, Mother would allow you back to your rooms.”

Nimue glanced up and met the green eyes of her elder sister. Caroline was the favorite, with perfect control over her abilities, and never once in trouble. Of her sisters, Caroline was the one she had seen the most and had been fooled into thinking that cared for her.

“Why? A cage is a cage, no matter what furnishings are in it,” Nimue bit out, draping one arm over a raised knee. It was less than proper for receiving the Crown Princess, but she stopped caring about proper things. “At least here I do not have to deal with the tittering of the maids.”

“No matter what happened, or what you are, you are a Cunningham Princess. Lysandra and Isabelle have also been petitioning that you be allowed proper rooms, even if you do not get any help.” Caroline ignored her, continuing her thoughts aloud and pacing in front of the bars of her cell. The bright fabrics of Caroline’s dress looked out of place in the dark of the dungeons.

Nimue’s own dress had looked much the same when she was first shackled down in her cell. The only thing that still looked like it belonged to royalty was the amulet around her neck. The deep red gem sparkled with the magic it drained from her, ready to be siphoned off as it always was when it became full.

If it wasn’t drained, her magic became rather…unpredictable. As was the fate of the Conduit; immense natural magic that was siphoned off by whomever got their hands on the Conduit.

“Titles and blood don’t make me true Royalty. If I wasn’t a Conduit, you’d just let me rot down here. Mother is doing this now because the news got out and she doesn’t want to share my magic.” Which was the truth of the matter when they got down it and they both know it. Caroline was trying to seem like a big sister only because she was next in line and it was easier for her if Nimue didn’t hate her as well. “I never wanted your crown, not that I had a chance at it, but you all are determined to keep me tied to you.”

“If you hadn’t saved those boys-…”

“Those boys treated me better than any of you ever have,” Nimue hissed, cutting off her sister with a violent shake of her chains. “They taught me the control you refused to let me have, let me learn spells and never once asking for an ounce of my magic or draining it from me.”

“Doesn’t matter now, does it? They ran away,” Caroline brushed imaginary dirt from her sleeves and turned on her heel. “They don’t deserve your continued loyalty, and certainly not your love. Grow up little sister and you can live in luxury again.”

“I do not want your charity,” Nimue wanted nothing more than to strike her sister down there. But she wasn’t the one truly worthy of her ire. No, that woman was only just descending the steps.

“You don’t want anything, Nimue,” Cassandra Cunningham spared a smile for eldest before frowning at the youngest. Her green eyes were full of barely kept anger. The Queen was not pleased when things didn’t go her way and for nearly a month, Nimue had not been doing as she was supposed to. “The ambitious can be bought and the power hungry can be pleased, but you are none of these.”

“Upset that I am no longer scared of you?” Nimue went as far as her chains would allow, standing tall to look her mother in the eyes. She looked the most like her mother, with their sharp features and midnight colored hair. Her sisters were all fair haired and much softer, the types of beauties that men fawned over.

“If I had known you would be such an unpredictable child, I would have drowned you as a babe.”

“Why don’t you come in here and I’ll show you just how unpredictable I can be?” Nimue challenged, a smile curling across her lips. Abandoned by Alek and Derek was one thing, but it didn’t change the fact that they had helped her learn control. It gave her an advantage with her immense power.

Born to a royal family had given her a chance to learn how to use her magic. Conduits were known from birth, magic rolled off of them in waves. Because they were wells, they were never taught to use magic so that they could exploited. She was given her amulet as a child to store the excess magic and had it drained once every few days.

Nimue’s gaze moved between the Queen and the Crown Princess. If either of them stepped within the confines of her cell, they would be past the wards that lined all the cells and well within the reach of her spells.

“Do not be silly, child, you are no match for me. Paltry spells from those Daughtry hooligans are nothing compared to me.” Cassandra laughed, waving Caroline up the stairs. There was a small exchange, with the mention of visitors, and Nimue understood why she had guests.

“Don’t have an offering, do you mother?” She laughed, a dark little thing as she moved over to the bed she was allowed. The only luxury offered in her cell. “Need a bit of Conduit magic to please your guests and for the circle, do you?”

“Do disrespect me, Nimue.”

“Do not underestimate me, Mother,” Nimue resumed her earlier position, her gaze lifting up to the small window. She could almost smell the flowers from here. “I told you that I would not let you take what is rightfully mine any longer. This magic is not yours to take but mine to give and you will never get another drop of it.”