Ascend / Page 17

Page 17


“It looks like it.” Tove glanced over at my dress and the piles of train that had been tacked up on the back so I could dance. “The train itself has to weigh like ten pounds.”

“At least,” I agreed. “So… I’d like to get out of it.”

“Oh, right.” He paused. “Go ahead. I guess.”

“Well… I need your help.” I gestured to the back of it. “There’s like a thousand buttons and snaps to undo, and I can’t reach them.”

“Oh, right, of course.” Tove shook his head. “I should’ve known.”

I turned my back to him and stood patiently while he undid all the buttons and snaps. It seemed ridiculous when I thought about it. This dress was meant to come off, but it took him at least fifteen minutes to get them all undone. And the whole time, neither of us said anything.

“There you go,” he said. “All done.”

“Thank you.” I held the dress in the front to keep it from falling off, and I turned to face him. “Should I… do I need to put pajamas on?”

“Oh.” He rubbed his hands on his pants. “Um, if you want to.”

“Are you going to?” I asked.

“I… yeah.” He bit the inside of his cheek and lowered his eyes. “We don’t have to. I mean, you know, have sex. We can if you want to. I guess. But we don’t have to.”

“Oh,” I said, because that seemed like the only thing to say.

“Do you want to?” Tove asked, looking at me.

“Uh… not really, no,” I admitted. “But we could try kissing, maybe.”

“No, that’s okay.” He scratched the back of his head and looked around the room. “We can take this slow. Tonight’s only the first night. We have our whole lives to… figure out how to sleep with each other.”

“Yeah,” I said, and laughed nervously. “So, I’ll go put on pajamas?”

“Yeah, me too.”

Still holding my dress around me, I went into the closet only to find a problem. I had no clothes here. None of Elora’s clothes were even in here. The closet was bare.

“Do you have any clothes?” Tove asked from the bedroom. “Because these dressers are empty.”

“Oh, hell, I bet they did that on purpose,” I sighed and walked back out.

“They didn’t give us clothes because…” He trailed off and smiled thinly.

“So I have nothing to sleep in.”

“You can wear my tee shirt,” Tove offered. He undid the top buttons of his dress shirt, then pulled it over his head, revealing a plain white tee shirt. “Do you want to?”

“Yes, thank you,” I said.

He took off his shirt, then handed it to me. I turned around, so my back was to him, and I pulled on his tee shirt. I stepped out of my dress, and it felt amazing to be free of it. Everything about me felt lighter.

When I’d finished, I saw that Tove had taken off his pants, so he was wearing only his boxers. I went around to my side of the bed and sat down on the edge. I peeled off the jewelry I’d been wearing, except for my new wedding ring with a giant diamond.

I climbed into bed, sliding underneath the mounds of covers. The bed was massive, so even after Tove got in it, there was still plenty of room between us. I waited until he was settled, then I leaned over and turned off my bedside lamp, submerging the room in darkness.

“Is it okay?” Tove asked.

“What?”

“That I don’t love you.”

“Uh, yeah,” I said carefully. “I think it’s okay.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should tell you. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but I thought you should know.” He moved in the bed, and I felt a subtle motion on my side.

“No, it’s okay. I’m glad you told me.” I paused for a minute. “I don’t love you.”

“And that’s okay?”

“I think so.”

“It was a nice wedding,” Tove said, somewhat randomly. “Except for the part with your dad.”

“Yeah. It was really nice,” I agreed. “Willa and Aurora did a good job.”

“They did.”

The day had been exhausting, and I hadn’t slept much the night before. So it didn’t take long for sleep to overtake me. I fell asleep on my wedding night, still a virgin.

The doors burst open, startling me awake. I nearly jumped out of bed. Tove groaned next to me, since I did this weird mindslap thing whenever I woke up scared, and it always hit him the worst.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” Loki chirped, wheeling in a table covered with silver domes.

“What are you doing?” I asked, squinting at him. He’d pulled up the shades. I was tired as hell, and I was not happy.

“I thought you two lovebirds would like breakfast,” Loki said. “So I had the chef whip you up something fantastic.” As he set up the table in the sitting area, he looked over at us. “Although, you two are sleeping awfully far apart for newlyweds.”

“Oh my god,” I groaned and pulled the covers over my head.

“You know, I think you’re being a dick,” Tove told him as he got out of bed. “But I’m starving. So I’m willing to overlook it. This time.”

“A dick?” Loki pretended to be offended. “I’m merely worried about your health. If you’re bodies aren’t used to extraneous activities, like a long night of lovemaking, you could waste away if you don’t get plenty of protein and rehydrate. I’m concerned for you.”

“Yes, we both believe that’s why you’re here,” Tove said sarcastically and took a glass of orange juice that Loki poured from him.

“What about you, Princess?”  Loki looked up at me as he filled another glass.

“I’m not hungry,” I sighed and sat up.

“Oh really?” Loki arched an eyebrow. “Does that mean that last night-”

“It means that last night is none of your business,” I snapped.

I got up and hobbled over to Elora’s satin robe that had been left on a nearby chair. My feet and ankles ached from all the dancing I’d done the night before.

“Don’t cover up on my account,” Loki said as I put on the robe. “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen.”

“Oh, I have plenty you haven’t seen,” I said and pulled the robe around me.


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