“I’m not really a Princess.” I shook my head and tucked my hair behind my ears. “Not in the real sense of the word. I mean . . . I just got here.”
“You look like a Princess to me.” The way he smiled at me made me want to blush, so I looked down, unsure of what else to do.
“So what about you?” I kept my head down, but I raised my eyes to meet his. The smile playing on my lips felt oddly flirtatious, but I didn’t mind. “Are you some kind of Prince?”
“Hardly.” Rhys laughed. He plucked at his sandy hair, looking rather sheepish. “I should probably let you finish getting dressed. The chef is off tonight, so supper is on me.”
Rhys turned and walked down the hall, whistling a song I didn’t recognize. I shut my door, wishing I could understand this all better. I was a Trylle Princess to a grifter empire, and I had a mänsklig living across the hall from me, whatever the hell that meant.
I lived in this amazingly stunning house with these cold, indifferent people, and the price of admission was stealing from the only people who cared about me. Sure, Finn was here, but he had made it perfectly clear that his only interest in me was business.
I went through my closet, looking for something to wear. Most of the clothes seemed too fancy for me. Not that I had grown up wearing rags or anything. In fact, if my mother . . . er, Kim . . . hadn’t gone crazy and left, these would be exactly the kind of clothes I’d be expected to wear now. All high-class fashion pieces. Eventually I managed to dig up a simple skirt and shirt that resembled something I’d actually wear.
I was starving, so I headed off to find the kitchen to take Rhys up on his offer. The tile floors were cold under my feet, and strangely, I had yet to see any rugs or carpet in the entire house.
I had never been fond of the feel of carpet on my feet, or really the feel of anything on them. When I thought back to my glimpse of the closet here, as large and full as it had been, there hadn’t been any shoes. It must be a Trylle thing, and that thought was oddly comforting. I was part of something.
I passed through the living room, where a fireplace filled the partial wall separating it from an elegant dining room. The furniture appeared to be handcrafted wood and was upholstered in white. The floors were all smooth golden wood, and everything was aimed toward the glass wall, forcing you to admire the view.
“Nice digs, right?” Rhys said, and I whirled around to find him standing behind me, smiling.
“Yeah.” I looked around the room appreciatively. “Elora definitely has good taste.”
“Yeah.” Rhys shrugged. “You gotta be hungry, though. Come on. I’ll whip you up something in the kitchen.” He started walking out of the room, and I followed him. “You’ll probably hate what I make, though. You’re into all that health food junk like everybody else, right?”
“I don’t know.” I had never thought of myself as a health nut, but the things I preferred tended to be organic and vegan. “I like natural things, I guess.”
He nodded knowingly as he led me past the ornate dining room into a massive kitchen. There were two professional-grade stoves, two massive stainless-steel fridges, a gigantic island in the center, and more cupboards than the residents in this house could possibly use. Rhys went over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of water.
“Water, right?” Rhys held it out to me, and I took it from him. “I’m really not the best cook, but you’ll have to settle for my cooking.”
“How often do you have a chef?” I asked. In a place like this, they definitely had some kind of staff.
“Part-time.” Rhys took a sip from his Mountain Dew, then set it on the island and went to the other fridge to start rooting around. “Just weekends, but that’s because it’s usually when we entertain. I don’t know what Elora eats during the week, but I’m on a fend-for-yourself basis.”
I leaned on the island, drinking my water. This kitchen reminded me of the one in our house in the Hamptons, the one Kim had attempted filicide in, but that one had been smaller. If she hadn’t left, this was probably how I would’ve been raised. In fact, I’m sure this was how she had been brought up.
Maggie easily could’ve lived like this. I thought back to what Finn had told me about Matt and Maggie living well below their means. I wondered why it was so important to them to preserve the family nest egg.
The only explanation that made sense was that they were saving it for me—to make sure I was taken care of for the rest of my life. Which probably seemed all the more necessary given my problems at school.
Funny that the very thing Elora planned to steal from them was precisely what they planned to give.
And Maggie had made it clear through her choices that taking care of me herself was more important than spending money. She had made a choice that my own mother never would have.
“So you like shitake mushrooms, right?” Rhys was saying. He had been pulling things out of the fridge, but I had been too lost in thought to notice. His arms were overflowing with vegetables.
“Uh, yeah, I love mushrooms.” I straightened up and tried to see what all he had, and for the most part it looked like things I enjoyed.
“Excellent.” Rhys grinned at me and dropped his armload of food into the kitchen sink. “I’m going to make you the best stir-fry you’ve ever tasted.”
He went about chopping things up, and I offered to help him, but he insisted that he could handle it. The whole time, he talked amicably about the new motorcycle he’d gotten last week. I tried to keep up with the conversation, but all I knew about motorcycles were that they went fast and I liked them.
“What are you making in here?” Finn came into the kitchen, his expression vaguely disgusted.
His hair was damp from a recent shower, and he smelled like the grass after a rain, only sweeter. He walked past me without even a glance in my direction and went over to where Rhys had thrown everything into a wok on the stove.
“Stir-fry!” Rhys proclaimed.
“Really?” Finn leaned over his shoulder and peered down at the ingredients in the pan. Rhys moved to the side a little so Finn could reach in and grab something out of it. He sniffed it, then popped it into his mouth. “Well, it’s not terrible.”
“Stop my beating heart!” Rhys put his hand over his heart and feigned astonishment. “Has my food passed the test of the hardest food critic in the land?”