“I need to get ready for the day, and I can’t very well let you out of my sight.” He wore pajama pants and a T-shirt, and his dark hair wasn’t as sleek as it normally was.
I nodded and hurried after him. He walked fast and pissed off, and I fell about a step or two behind.
“I really am sorry, you know,” I said. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep there. We were just watching movies, and it got late. If I had known it would be like this, I would’ve made sure I was in my room.”
“You should’ve known, Wendy!” Finn exclaimed, exasperated. “You should know that your actions have consequences and the things you do matter!”
“I am sorry!” I repeated. “Yesterday was so boring and I just wanted to do something.”
Finn whirled on me suddenly, startling me so I took a step backward. My back hit the wall, but he stepped closer to me. He rested an arm against the wall on the side of me, his face only a few inches from mine. His dark eyes were blazing, but somehow his voice remained calm and even.
“You know how it looks when a girl spends the night alone with a boy. I know you understand that. But it is so much worse when a Princess spends the night alone with a mänsklig. It could put everything in jeopardy.”
“I-I don’t know what that means,” I fumbled. “None of you will tell me.”
Finn continued to glare at me for another painful minute, then sighed and took a step back. As he stood there, rubbing his eyes, I swallowed back tears and caught my breath.
When he looked back at me, his eyes had softened a bit, but he didn’t say anything. He just walked to his room and, uncertainly, I followed him.
His room was smaller than mine, but a much more comfortable size. Even though the blinds were shut, I could tell one of his walls was made entirely of glass. Dark blankets covered his bed, and books overflowed from several bookshelves. In one corner he had a small desk with a laptop on it.
Like me, he had an adjoining bathroom. When he went in it, he left the door open, and I heard the sound of him brushing his teeth. Tentatively, I sat on the edge of his bed and looked around.
“You must stay here a lot,” I commented. I knew that he stayed here on and off, but to have a room full of stuff implied a more permanent living situation.
“I live here when I’m not tracking,” Finn said.
“My mother is quite fond of you,” I said dimly.
“Not right now she’s not.” Finn turned off the water and came out, leaning on the doorframe to his bathroom. Sighing, he lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.”
“It’s okay.” I shrugged. I still didn’t understand why he’d been that mad, but he had a point. I was a Princess now, and I had to start behaving like one.
“No, you didn’t deserve it.” He scratched his temple and shook his head. “My anger was misdirected. When you weren’t in your room this morning, I panicked. With everything going on with the Vittra . . .” He shook his head again.
“What’s going on with the Vittra?” I asked, my heart speeding up.
“It’s nothing to concern yourself with,” Finn said. “My point is that my emotions were high when I couldn’t find you, and I snapped at you. I apologize.”
“No, it’s my fault. You guys were right,” I said. Finn just stood there looking away from me, and then I realized something. “How did you even know I wasn’t in my room?”
“I checked on you.” Finn gave me a look like I was an idiot. “I check on you every morning.”
“You check on me when I’m sleeping?” I gaped at him. “Every morning?”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Why would you know that? You’re sleeping,” Finn pointed out.
“Well . . . it just feels weird.” I shook my head. Matt and Maggie used to check on me, but it felt strange knowing that Finn would come in and watch me sleep, even if it was only for a second.
“I have to make sure you’re safe and sound. It’s part of my job.”
“You sound like a broken record sometimes,” I muttered wearily. “You’re always just doing your job.”
“What else do you want me to say?” Finn countered, looking at me evenly.
I just shook my head and looked away. My pants suddenly became very fascinating, and I picked lint off them. Finn kept looking at me, and I expected him to finish getting ready. When he didn’t, I decided that I had to fill the silence.
“What is a mänsklig?” I looked at Finn again, and he exhaled.
“The literal translation for mänsklig is ‘human.’” He tilted his head, resting it against the doorframe, and watched me. “Rhys is human.”
I shook my head. “I don’t understand. Why is he around?”
“Because of you,” Finn said, and that only confused me more. “You’re a changeling, Wendy. You were switched at birth. Meaning that when you took the place of another baby, that baby had to go somewhere else.”
“You mean . . .” I trailed off, but it was incredibly obvious once Finn said it. “Rhys is Michael!”
Suddenly my crush on him felt very weird. He wasn’t my blood brother, but he was my brother’s brother, even though Matt wasn’t really my brother either. It still felt . . . not right, somehow.
And really, I should’ve noticed sooner. I couldn’t believe I didn’t. Rhys and Matt looked so much alike—their sandy hair, blue eyes, even the way their faces were shaped. But Matt’s worry had hardened him, while Rhys was quick to smile and laugh.
Maybe that’s why I hadn’t noticed it. The complete contrast between their personalities had thrown me off.
“Michael?” Finn looked perplexed.
“Yeah, that’s what my mother—Kim, my fake mom—named him. She knew she had a son, and that’s Rhys.” My mind swirled. “But how . . . how did they do it? How did they switch us?”
“It’s relatively simple,” Finn explained, almost tiredly. “After Rhys was born, Elora induced labor with you, and using persuasion on the family and hospital staff, she switched you out for him.”
“It can’t be that simple. The persuasion didn’t really work on Kim,” I pointed out.
“We normally do same-sex exchanges, a girl for a girl, a boy for a boy, but Elora had her mind set on the Everlys. It doesn’t work as well when you do a boy-to-girl switch like that. Mothers are more likely to pick up on something being wrong, as was the case with your host mother.”