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The Conviction Excerpt

A little tease at what is to come in The Conviction

“So, you know who but not names?” Sage’s tone is full of disbelief. “You expect me to buy that?”

“I have guesses. I don’t know for certain who. You must understand, most sympathize with one rebellion or another but take no action. How can I say someone I know is a sympathizer but don’t know if they’ve actually done wrong? I’d be accusing with no evidence.”

“But you said ‘he’. I’m not asking for all of them. I’m asking who that ‘he’ is.”

“Only a guess.” I can’t give them my father’s name. But there is someone else I could give them. The other “he” who betrayed me: Jake, my ex-fiancé who until last night hadn’t realized I’d abandoned him. Was that fair to a man who’d been so good to me and treated me like I was already his princess — other than telling me to do whatever it took to kill his enemy, including sleeping with him.

I am angry with Jake. He’d broken me with how he’d pushed me into this, but to give him up like this? Most of all, when I feel guilty that I couldn’t even admit to his face how I hated him for what he’d done to me?

“If it’s just one person, we’ll find him innocent or guilty easily enough,” Sage replies. “Or does this ‘he’ matter more to you?”

The prince and I meet eyes. We can’t help it. We both know what Sage means. He’s challenging me. Prince Gavril knows I have an ex at home I am trying to get over. It was how I explained why I was so unhappy when I came here. Sage suspects this ‘he’ is the boy I once loved.

Sage set me a test. Who matters more? I have to prove it: Jake or Gavril. Though I already made my choice, having come down to this moment makes it all the more real, and so much worse.

“Jake...” I whisper as my lip shakes; my eyes drop to the floor. It is like denouncing who I had been, denying everything about my life before I came here: the good, the bad, everything in that world, and who I’d been. I have to become the princess they want and reject the life I had before. In giving up Jake’s name, I give up all I had been. If I am forced to go home now, I’ll be worse than dead. The Loyalists will never forgive me for this no matter how my father tries to defend me. I gave up their choice for king.

“What?” Sage encourages me to speak up.

I shut my eyes against the flood of tears, glaring up at him. He heard me. I know he did. He wants the others to hear it from me. “Jake,” I spit bitterly at him.

“Last name?”

I pause. “I-I don’t know.” The realization is a blow. I was going to marry him, and I don’t know his last name? He knew mine, but I’d never asked his. What kind of relationship had we been in? I was sure it was real, loved him, loved how he loved me. I was sure all would be perfect. Did he even know my fake surname?

What would Jake say in reverse? An image of him being grilled just like I am by his father and fellow Loyalists comes to mind, Jake whispering my name as the traitor as I had his. His face filled with pain and shame like mine is. My best friend and love is now the enemy I had to betray, and he me. What had I let my life become?

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