“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Sleep well, Princess.” Aurora glanced up to smile at me.
Duncan and I walked Willa out, and she kept trying to convince me tomorrow would be fun. At the front door, she hugged me tightly and promised me everything would work out the way it was meant to.
I don’t know why that was supposed to be comforting. What if everything was meant to be a disaster? Knowing that it was meant to be horrible wouldn’t make it any better.
“Do you want me to go in with you?” Duncan asked when we got to my bedroom.
“Not tonight.” I shook my head. “I think I need some time to myself.”
“I understand.” He smiled reassuringly at me. “I’ll see you in the morning then.”
I shut the door behind me and flicked on my light, and I stared down at the giant ring on my finger. It signified that I belonged to Tove, to somebody I didn’t love. I went over to my dresser to take off my jewelry, but I kept staring at the ring.
I couldn’t help myself, and I pulled it off. It was really beautiful, and when Tove gave it to me it had been so sweet. But I’d begun to hate that band.
When I took it off, I glanced into the mirror on the back of the dresser, and I nearly screamed when I saw the reflection. Finn was sitting behind me on the bed. His eyes, dark as night, met mine in the mirror, and I could hardly breathe.
“Finn!” I gasped and whirled around to look at him. “What are you doing here?”
“I missed your birthday,” he said, as if that answered my question. He lowered his eyes, looking at a small box he had in his hands. “I got you something.”
“You got me something?” I leaned back on the dresser behind me, gripping it.
“Yeah,” he nodded, still staring down at the box. “I picked it up outside of Portland two weeks ago. I meant to get back in time to give it to you on your birthday.” He chewed the inside of his cheek. “But now that I’m here, I’m not sure I should give it to you at all.”
“What you are talking about?” I asked
“It doesn’t feel right.” Finn rubbed his face. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”
“Neither do I,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see you. I just… I don’t understand.”
“I know,” he sighed. “It’s a ring. What I got you.” His gaze moved from me to the engagement ring sitting the dresser beside me. “And you already have one.”
“Why did you get me a ring?” I asked tentatively, and my heart beat erratically in my chest. I didn’t know what Finn was saying or doing.
“I’m not proposing to you, if that’s what you’re asking.” He shook his head. “I saw it and thought of you. But now it seems like poor taste. And here I am, the night before your wedding, sneaking in to give you a ring.”
“Why did you sneak in?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He looked away and laughed darkly. “That’s a lie. I know exactly what I’m doing, but I have no idea why I’m doing it.”
“What are you doing?” I asked quietly.
“I…” Finn stared off for a moment, then turned back to me and stood up. “I don’t want you to marry him.”
“Finn, I-” I began, but he held up his hand, stopping me.
“No, I’m not asking you not to,” he said. “You need to do this. We both know that. But I don’t want you to.”
All I’d ever wanted from him is for him to admit how he felt about me, and he’d waited until the day before my wedding. It was too late to change anything, to take anything back. Not that I could have, even if I wanted to.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked with tears swimming in my eyes.
“Because.” Finn stepped toward me, stopping right in front of me.
He looked down at me, his eyes mesmerizing me the way they always did. He reached up, brushing back a tear from my cheek.
“Why?” I asked, my voice trembling.
“I needed you to know,” he said as if he didn’t truly understand it himself.
He set the box on the dresser beside me, and his hand went to my waist, pulling me to him. I let go of the dresser and let him. My breath came out shallow as I stared up at him.
“Tomorrow you will belong to someone else,” Finn said. “But tonight, you’re with me.”
His mouth pressed against mine, kissing me with that same rugged fierceness I had come to know and love. I wrapped my arms around him, gripping onto him as tightly as I could. He lifted me up, still keeping his lips on mine as he carried me over to the bed.
Finn lowered me down on the bed, and he was on top of me within seconds. I loved the feel of his body on mine, the weight of it pushing on me. His stubble scraped my skin as he covered my face and neck with kisses.
His hands went to the straps of my dress, pulling them down, and I realized with some surprise how far things might actually go tonight. He’d always put the brakes on things before they got too heated, but his hands were cupping my breasts as he kissed me.
I reached up, unbuttoning his shirt so fast, one of the buttons snapped off. I ran my hands over his chest, delighting in the smooth contours of his muscles and the pounding of his heart. He leaned down, kissing me hungrily again, and his bare skin pressed to mine.
His skin smoldered against me, his mouth searched mine, and his arm was around me, holding me tighter still.
As we kissed, my heart swelled with happiness, and a surge of relief washed over me when I realized my first time would be with Finn. But that thought was immediately darkened when I realized something else. My very first time might be with Finn, but that would also be my only time with him.
I still had to marry Tove tomorrow. And even if I didn’t marry him, I could never be with Finn.
The last time I had really even seen Finn was at the night before my engagement party, nearly three months ago, when we had kissed in the library. He’d been horrified by what he’d done, that he’d let himself choose a moment with me over duty, even for a second. He’d left the palace as soon as he had chance.
The mission to track down the other changelings, he’d volunteered for, and part of me believed it was to get away from me. We’d barely said a word to each other in months. I had been without him, taking over the palace, training with Tove, and preparing for my wedding.