“I don’t know how you can stand that creepy mind-speak thing she does with you, Finn.” Rhys shook his head. “I would freak out if she was in my head.”
“Why? There’s nothing in your head for her to get into.” Finn stood up, and Rhiannon giggled nervously.
“What did she say to you, anyway?” Rhys pressed, looking up at him.
Finn dusted off his pants, ridding them of dirt and leaves from the bench, but he didn’t respond.
“Finn? What’d she say?”
“It’s nothing to concern yourself with,” Finn admonished him quietly, then turned to me. “Are you ready?”
“We have a lot to go over.” He glanced warily at the house, then back at me. “Come on. We better get started.”
As we walked back to the house, I realized that whenever Elora left, I was able to breathe again. Whenever she was present, it was as if she took all the oxygen from the room. Breathing deeply, I ran my hand up and down my arm to stifle the chill that ran over me.
“Are you holding up all right?” Finn asked, noticing my unease.
“Yeah, I’m great.” I tucked some of my curls behind my ears. “So . . . what’s going on with you and Elora?”
“What do you mean?” Finn looked at me from the corner of his eye.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged, thinking of what Rhys had said after she’d left. “It just seems like she looks at you intently a lot, and like you understand exactly what she means.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, it dawned on me. “That’s one of her abilities, isn’t it? Talking inside your head? Kind of like what I can do, but less manipulative. ’Cause she’s just telling you what to do.”
“Not even telling me what to do. She’s just talking,” Finn corrected me.
“Why doesn’t she talk to me like that?” I asked.
“She wasn’t sure if you’d be receptive. If you’re not accustomed to it, hearing another person’s voice in your head can be unsettling. And she didn’t really need to.”
“But she needed to with you?” I slowed down, and he matched my pace. “She was talking to you privately about me, wasn’t she?”
Finn paused, and I could see that he was considering lying to me. “Some of it, yes,” he admitted.
“Can she read minds?” I felt slightly horrified at the thought.
“No. Very few can.” When he looked over at me, he smiled crookedly. “Your secrets are safe, Wendy.”
We went into the dining room, and Finn set about preparing me for dinner. As it turned out, I wasn’t completely socially stunted and had a basic understanding of manners. Most of what Finn said amounted to commonsense things, like always say please and thank you, but he also encouraged me to keep my mouth shut whenever possible.
I think his task had been less about preparing me for the dinner and more about keeping me in line. The secret things Elora had been telling him had just been a warning to babysit me—or else.
Dinner was at eight, and the company was arriving at seven. About an hour or so before that, Rhys popped in to wish me good luck and let me know he was heading over to Rhiannon’s, in case anybody cared. Shortly after I got out of the shower, Finn came in, looking even sharper than usual.
He was clean-shaven for the first time since he’d stopped going to school, and he wore black slacks and a black button-down shirt with a narrow white tie. It should’ve been too much with all that black, but he managed to pull it off, all the while looking incredibly sexy.
I had on only my bathrobe, and I wondered why nobody here thought it was inappropriate for boys to barge in when I wasn’t dressed. At least I was doing something semi-sexy: sitting on the edge of my bed putting lotion on my legs. I did it every time I showered, but since Finn was in the room, I tried to play it off as being sensual when it really wasn’t.
Not that Finn even noticed. He knocked once, opened my bedroom door, and only gave me a fleeting glance as he headed straight to my closet. After a little while, I sighed in frustration and hurriedly rubbed the rest of the lotion in while Finn continued to rummage through my clothes.
“I don’t think I have anything in your size,” I said and leaned farther back on my bed, trying to see what he was doing in there.
“Funny,” he muttered absently.
“What are you doing in there?” I asked, watching him, but he didn’t even look at me.
“You are a Princess, and you need to dress like one.” He went through my dresses and pulled out a long white sleeveless gown. It was gorgeous and much too fancy for me. When he came out of the closet, he handed it to me. “I think this might work. Try it on.”
“Isn’t everything in my closet suitable?” I tossed the dress on the bed next to me and turned to look at him.
“Yes, but different things are better for different occasions.” He came over to the bed to smooth out the dress, making sure it didn’t have any wrinkles or creases. “This is a very important dinner, Wendy.”
“Why? What makes this one so important?”
“The Stroms are very good friends of your mother’s and the Kroners are very important people. They affect the future.” Finn finished smoothing the dress and turned to me. “Why don’t you continue getting ready?”
“How do they affect the future? What does that mean?” I pressed.
“That’s a conversation for another day.” Finn nodded toward the bathroom. “You need to hurry if you’re going to be ready in time for dinner.”
“Fine.” I sighed, getting up off the bed.
“Wear your hair down,” Finn commanded. My hair was wet, so it was behaving now, but I knew that as soon as it dried, it would turn into a wild thicket of curls.
“I can’t. My hair is impossible.”
“We all have difficult hair. Even Elora and I. It’s the curse of being Trylle,” Finn said. “It’s something you must learn to manage.”
“Your hair is nothing like mine,” I said dourly. His hair was short and obviously had some product in it, but it looked smooth, straight, and obedient.
“It most certainly is,” Finn replied.
I meant to prove him wrong, so impulsively I reached out and touched his hair, running my fingers through the hair at his temple. Other than being stiff with product, it felt like my hair.
It wasn’t until I had done it that I realized there was something inherently intimate about running my fingers through another person’s hair. I had been looking at his hair, but then I met his dark eyes and realized exactly how close I was to him.