“Did he personally do that to you?” I asked quietly.
“What?” Loki looked up at me, his golden eyes meeting mine.
He had a scar on his chin, and I’m certain he didn’t have that before. His skin had been flawless and perfect, not that the scar detracted in any way from how handsome he was.
“That.” I touched the mark on his chin. “Did he do that to you?”
“Yes,” he answered thickly.
“How?” I moved my hand, touched a mark he had on his temple. “How did he do this to you?”
“Sometimes he’d hit me.” Loki kept his eyes on me, letting me trace my fingers on his scars. “Or he’d kick me. But usually, he used a cat.”
“You mean like a living cat?” I gave him an odd expression, and he smiled.
“No, it’s actually called a cat o’ nine tails,” he said. “It’s like a whip, but instead of one tail, it has nine. It inflicts more damage than a regular whip.”
“Loki!” I dropped my hand, totally appalled. “He would do that to you? Why didn’t you leave? Did you fight back?”
“Fighting back wouldn’t do any good, and I left as soon as I was able,” Loki said. “That’s why I’m here now.”
“He held you prisoner?” I asked.
“I was locked up in the dungeon.” He shifted and turned away from me. “Princess, I’m glad to see you, but I’d really rather not talk about this anymore.”
“You want me to grant you amnesty,” I said. “I need to know why.”
“Why?” Loki laughed darkly. “Why do you think, Princess?”
“I don’t know!”
“Because of you.” He looked back at me, a strange, crooked smile on his face. “I didn’t bring you back.”
“But…” I furrowed my brow. “You asked to go back to the Vittra. We bartered with the King so he could have you.”
“Yes, well, he still thought you would come around.” He ran a hand through his hair and sat up straighter. “And you didn’t. It was my fault for letting you go in the first place, and then for not bringing you back.” He bit his lip and shook his head. “He’s determined to get you, Princess.”
“So he tortured you?” I asked quietly, and I tried to keep the tremor from my voice. “Over me?”
“Princess,” Loki sighed and moved closer to me. Gently, almost cautiously, he put his arm around me. “What happened isn’t your fault.”
“Maybe. But maybe this wouldn’t have happened if I’d run away with you.”
“You still can.”
“No, I can’t.” I shook my head. “I have so much I need to do here. I can’t just leave it all behind. But you can stay here. I will grant you amnesty.”
“Mmm, I knew it.” He smiled. “You’d miss me too much if I left.”
“Hardly,” I laughed.
“Hardly?” Loki smirked.
He’d lowered his arm around me, so his hand was on my waist. Loki was right next to me, his muscles pressed against me. I knew that I should move away, that I had no justifiable reason to be this close to him, but I didn’t move.
“Would you?” Loki asked, his voice low.
“Would I what?”
“Would you run away with me, if you didn’t have all the responsibilities and the palace and all that?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I think you would.”
“Of course you do.” I looked away from him, but I didn’t move away. “Where did you get the pajamas, by the way? You didn’t bring anything with you when you came.”
“I don’t want to tell you.”
“Why not?” I looked sharply at him.
“Because. I’ll tell you, and it will ruin this whole mood,” Loki said. “Can’t we just sit here and look longingly into each other’s eyes until you let me kiss you?”
“No,” I said, and finally started to pull away from him. “Not if you don’t tell me-”
“Tove,” Loki said quickly, trying to hang onto me. He was much stronger than me, but he let me push him off.
“Of course.” I stood up. “That’s exactly the kind of thing my fiancé would do. He’s always thinking of other people.”
“It’s just pajamas!’ Loki insisted, like that would mean something. “Sure, he’s a terrifically nice guy, but that doesn’t matter.”
“How does that not matter?” I asked
“Because you don’t love him.”
“I care about him,” I said, and he shrugged. “And it’s not like I love you.”
“Maybe not,” he allowed. “But you will.”
“You think so?” I asked.
“Mark my words, Princess,” Loki said. “One day, you’ll be madly in love with me.”
“Okay,” I laughed, because I didn’t know how else to respond. “But I should go. If I’ve given you amnesty, that means I have to go about enacting it, and getting everyone to agree that it’s not a suicidal decision.”
“You’re welcome,” I said and opened the door to go.
“It was worth it,” Loki said suddenly.
“What was?” I turned back to him.
“Everything I went through,” he said. “For you. It was worth it.”
My relaxing birthday turned into a meeting frenzy because I’d granted Loki amnesty. Most people thought I was insane, and Loki had to be brought in for questioning. They had a big meeting where Thomas asked him lots of questions, and Loki answered them the same way he did for me.
But truthfully, he didn’t have to explain much after he lifted his shirt and showed them his scars. After that, they let him go lie down.
I did have a nice, quiet dinner with Willa and Matt, and that was something. My aunt Maggie called, and I talked to her for a while. She wanted to come see me, but I’d been stalling the best I could. I hadn’t explained to her what I am yet, but she knows I’m safe with Matt.
I’d wanted her to come out for Christmas, and I planned on telling her about everything then. But then the Vittra started going after the changelings, and I thought they might go after her to get to me, so I postponed seeing her again.
She’s been traveling a lot, which is good, but she doesn’t understand what I’m doing at all. I can’t wait until this all calms down so I can finally have her in my life again. I miss her so much.