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“That’s not how it works. You don’t have the right to know other people’s thoughts just because they include you,” he said. “Just the same as I don’t have the right to yours just because they’re about me.”

“You presume that I think of you?” I fought the growing blush on my cheeks and shook my head, trying to get back to the point. “Just tell me what’s going on. And don’t just tell me to wait for Elora to tell me, because that’s not good enough. Not after seeing this.”

I put the painting down and returned my gaze to Finn.

“Fine. But get out of there before Elora finds you.” He moved back from the doorway, making room for me to step out.

I had to climb over all the paintings I had disturbed, but he didn’t tell me to put them back in order, which was good because I didn’t think I could. The room had no organization, and all the paintings were placed haphazardly.

Once I made my escape, Finn shut the door, making certain it was locked properly.

“So?” I asked, looking at him expectantly. He had his back to me, testing the door again to be sure it wouldn’t budge.

“So, that’s Elora’s private room.” He turned to look at me and pointed at the door. “Do not go in there. Do not touch her private things.”

“I don’t know what’s so bad about them. Why does she paint them if she’s gonna hide them away?”

He started walking down the hall, so I went after him. “She paints them because she has to.”

“What do you mean?” I crinkled my brow. “Like an artist’s urge takes hold of her?” I thought about it more, and it made even less sense. “Elora doesn’t seem like an artist type.”

“She’s not, really.” Finn sighed. “She has precognition.”

“What? Like she can see the future?” I asked dubiously.

“Kind of.” He wagged his head, like that wasn’t quite right. “She can’t see it. She can only paint it.”

“Wait.” I stopped short, and he walked a few more steps before stopping to look back at me. “You’re telling me all those paintings were of the future?”

Finn nodded. “At the time they were painted, yes. Some of them are old, and they’ve already happened.”

“But that means the picture of me, that’s in the future!” I pointed back at the room. “What does that mean? What am I doing?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged, as if he hadn’t thought of it. “Elora doesn’t know.”

“How can she not know? That makes no sense—she painted it.”

“Yes, and all she knows is what she paints,” Finn explained slowly. “She doesn’t see anything. She picks up the brush, and it just . . . comes out. Or at least that’s my understanding of the process.”

“But why would she just randomly paint me looking so scared?”

“It’s just how it is,” he said, a note of sadness in his voice. Breathing deeply, he started walking away again. “And that’s why the room is locked.”

“What do you mean?” I chased after him.

“People want to know more about what she’s painted, but she doesn’t have the answers,” Finn said. “Or they want her to paint a particular spot in the future, and she can’t. She has no control over what she sees.”

“What’s the point of it, then?” I asked. I quickened my pace to keep up with him, staring at his profile while he continued to stare straight ahead.

“She thinks it’s a punishment.”

“For what?”

“Everybody has something to be punished for.” He shook his head vaguely.

“So . . . she has no idea what will happen to me? Or how to prevent it?”


“That’s horrible,” I said, more to myself than him. “That’s even worse than not knowing anything.”

“Precisely.” Finn looked at me and slowed down, then stopped completely.

“Will I be able to do that? Have precognitive painting?” I asked.

“Maybe, maybe not.” His eyes searched mine, in that soft way they did sometimes, and if I hadn’t been worrying about my impending doom, I would’ve felt my stomach flutter.

“Do you know what my abilities will be?”

“No. Only time will tell for sure.” He looked away, staring off at nothing. “Based on your parentage, they’ll be very strong.”

“When will I know for sure?”

“Later. After your training starts, and maybe when you get a bit older.” Finn smiled thinly at me. “You have much to look forward to.”

“Like what?”

“Like everything.” He smiled more genuinely, and turned to walk away again. “Come on. I want to show you something.”


secret garden

Finn led me through the house and down a hall I didn’t know existed. We went out the side door and stepped onto a narrow gravel trail lined with tall hedges. It curved around the house, leading us down the bluffs before it opened into a beautiful garden. The house and balcony hung over part of it, leaving half of it in shadows, but the rest was bathed in the warm bright glow of the sun.

Brick walls covered in thick flowered vines kept the garden blocked off from the rest of the world. Apple, pear, and plum trees blossomed all over the garden, making it more of an orchard than a garden. Flowers of pink and purple and blue sprang out in small beds, and mossy greens like creeping Charlie grew in patches along the ground.

It was on a hillside, so the whole thing tilted down. As we walked down the trail, I slipped a bit, and Finn took my hand to steady me. My skin flushed warmly, but the second I caught my balance, he let go of my hand. Still, I refused to let it dampen my mood.

“How is this possible?” I asked as butterflies and birds flitted about the trees. “None of these things are in season. They shouldn’t be flowering.”

“They always flower, even in winter,” Finn said, as if that made more sense.

“How?” I repeated.

“Magic.” He smiled and walked ahead.

I looked up at the house towering above us. From where I stood, I couldn’t see any of the windows. The garden had been built in the perfect spot so it wasn’t visible from the house, leaving it hidden among the trees. It was a secret garden.

Finn was ahead of me, and I hurried to catch up to him. The sound of the wind in the trees and the river flowing echoed through the bluffs, but over that I heard laughter. I walked around a hedge and saw a pond that inexplicably included a small waterfall.

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