“Those are valid points,” Oren said. He’d taken to walking again, and he had his back to me. “How does Loki play into all of this?”
“He’s Vittra,” I said. “By being kind to the Trylle, he will help convince them that you’re not bad. That this has been a misunderstanding. He’ll help gain the trust of the people on your behalf.”
“Are you sure you want him though?” Oren turned back to face us. “I could send Sara in his place.”
“They already know Loki,” I said. “They’re beginning to trust him.”
“You mean you trust him.” Oren smiled wider at that. “He didn’t tell you, did he?”
“That’s too vague,” I said. “I can’t possibly know what you’re referring to.”
“Marvelous!” Oren laughed. “You don’t know!”
I licked my lips. “Know what?” I asked.
“It’s a lie,” Oren laughed again.
“It’s not all a lie,” Loki said quickly. From the corner of my eye, I saw the way his skin paled, and I heard the tremor in his voice. “The scars on my back are not a lie.”
“Yes, well, you earned those.” Oren stopped laughing and gave him a hard look. “You failed me one too many times.”
“I didn’t fail you,” Loki said carefully. “I refused you.”
“No, you failed.” Oren stepped closer to him, and Loki struggled to keep eye contact with him. “She didn’t run away with you. She chose someone else over you. So you failed.”
“What?” I asked, and a sick feeling grew inside my stomach.
“I wouldn’t have brought her back here,” Loki said, and he wouldn’t look at me.
“You say that now,” Oren said and stepped away from him. “But that’s not what you said when you got back.”
“I was in the dungeon, and you were beating me!” Loki shouted. “I would’ve agreed to anything.”
“You did agree to anything,” Oren said. “You agreed to seduce the Princess, to trick her into falling in love with you so you could bring her back here to me. Isn’t that right?”
“That’s right, but –” Loki started, but Oren cut him off.
“You went to her palace and got caught on purpose so you could stay with her, spend time with her, manipulate her,” Oren said.
“That’s not exactly how –” Loki said.
“And when Sara brought you back, you told me you almost had her,” Oren smiled, as if telling a funny anecdote. “You told me how she’d nearly kissed you, and the way she blushed when you suggested that she marry you instead of that idiot she’s with now.”
Loki said nothing. He stared at the floor and bit his lip. A horrible pain grew inside my chest, because I knew it was true.
“Didn’t you?” Oren yelled, and Loki jumped, but he kept looking down.
“I had no choice,” Loki said quietly. “I was following orders.”
“That’s okay then, isn’t it?” Oren smiled when he looked at me. “Everything that has ever transpired between the two of you is a lie. But he did it because I asked him to, so that makes it okay. Doesn’t it? It’s okay knowing every word he ever said is a lie?”
“That’s not true,” Loki said and lifted his head. “I didn’t lie. I never lied.”
“How can you trust anything he says?” Oren shrugged.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, surprised by how even my voice sounded.
“Because I was hoping you would reconsider,” Oren said. “You can go back to your palace, go back to your husband and your kingdom, but leave Loki here with me. You don’t want or need him. He’s useless. He’s trash.”
“No,” I said, meeting Oren’s eyes. “He goes with me. If you want the deal, if you want me and my kingdom as soon as I become Queen, then he goes with me now. Or the deal is off.”
“He means that much to you?” Oren asked. He walked up to me, stopping in front of me so close I could feel his breath on my face. “Even knowing how he’s betrayed you, you still want him back?”
“I promised I would take him back with me, and I will,” I answered deliberately.
“You keep your promises,” Oren said. “Good. Because if you don’t keep this one, if you don’t give me your kingdom as soon as you are Queen, Loki will be the first one I kill. I will do it right in front of you. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Good,” he smiled. “Then we have a deal. All of Trylle will be mine.”
“And until then, you won’t lay a hand on any of the Trylle people or towns,” I said. “You will leave us all in peace.”
“Agreed,” Oren said and held out his hand.
I shook it and I couldn’t help but feel like I’d made a deal with the devil.
Sara walked us to the door, and I didn’t say anything the entire way. She said very little, but at the door she told us both to be careful. She hugged Loki, and it looked like she wanted to hug me, but I wouldn’t have let her.
Loki and I went out to the car, and I refused to even look at him. When we got in the car, I stared out the window, and he started in.
“Wendy, when I agreed to it, it was before I knew you,” Loki said.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Just drive,” I snapped.
He sighed but said nothing more, and the car pulled away from the Vittra palace.
I should’ve felt more relief. I’d gone to talk to Oren, and I’d gotten what I wanted. Oren hadn’t killed either of us, which had actually been a very real possibility, and I’d bought more time for my people.
I didn’t even realize how much I’d cared about Loki until I found out it had all been a lie. Loki had just been following orders, and in a weird way I didn’t blame him for that. But I still felt like a foolish idiot, and I don’t know why he’d continued to play games with me even after he’d left the Vittra.
What hurt the most is that I had been tempted. The night that Loki had come for me in the garden, I had been tempted to run off with him. I even felt bad for turning him down. I’d been afraid that I’d hurt his feelings.
But it had all been a lie.
I kept twisting my wedding ring and refusing to cry. I suppose this is what I deserved for cheating on my fiancé, for wanting to cheat on my husband. Regardless of what kind of marriage Tove and I had, that didn’t justify whatever I had been feeling for Loki.