“This is you calm?” I raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“No.” Tove stared off at nothing again, then turned back to me, his green eyes meeting mine. “You intimidate me.”
“I intimidate you?” I laughed, unable to stop myself, but he wasn’t offended. “I’m the least intimidating person ever.”
“Mmm.” His face hardened in concentration. “Maybe to some people. But they don’t see what I see or know what I know.”
“What do you know?” I asked gently, startled by his confession.
“Have they told you?” Tove eyed me again.
“Told me what?”
“Well, if they haven’t told you, I’m certainly not going to.” He scratched at his arm and turned his back to me, walking away and looking around the room again.
“Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s not helping,” I said, growing frazzled. “You’re only confusing me more.”
“My apologies, Princess.” Tove stopped moving and bowed at me. “Finn wanted me to talk to you about your abilities. He knows you can’t start your real training until after the ball, but he wants you to be prepared.”
“Finn asked you to come over?” My heart thumped in my chest.
“Yes.” His brow creased with confusion. “Does this upset you?”
“No, not at all,” I lied. Finn had probably asked Tove over so he wouldn’t have to deal with me. He was avoiding me.
“Do you have questions?” Tove stepped closer, and I was once again struck by the subtle green tinge to his skin. On a less attractive guy it might’ve been creepy. But on him it managed to look strangely exotic.
“Tons,” I said with a sigh. He cocked his head at me. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
“You have nothing to be afraid of, you know.” Tove watched me closely, and I think I might’ve preferred it when he was scared to look at me.
“I’m not afraid.” It took effort not to squirm under his gaze.
“I can tell when you lie,” he said, still watching me. “Not because I’m psychic, but because you’re so obvious about it. You should probably work on that. Elora is very good at lying.”
“I’ll practice,” I muttered.
“That’s probably for the best.” Tove spoke with an intense sincerity that I found disarming. His disjointed insanity even had its own charm. He looked down at the floor, his expression turning sad. “I rather like you this way. Honest and flustered. But it’d never work for a Queen.”
“No, I don’t suppose it would,” I agreed, feeling a bit melancholy myself.
“I’m a bit scattered too, if you hadn’t noticed.” He gave me a small, crooked smile, but his green eyes stayed sad. With that, he crouched down, picking up a small oval stone off the floor. He flipped it around in his hand, staring down. “I find it hard to stay focused, but I’m working on it.”
“So . . . not to sound mean or anything, but why did Finn want you to help?” I rubbed my arms, hoping I didn’t upset him by asking.
“Because I’m strong.” Tove tossed the stone aside, apparently tiring of it. “And he trusts me.” He looked back at me. “So let’s see what you can do.”
“With what?” I asked, confused by the abrupt change of subject.
“Anything.” He spread his arms wide. “Can you move stuff?”
“With my hands, yeah.”
“Obviously.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re not a paraplegic, so I assumed you were physically capable.”
“I can’t do much. Just persuasion, and I haven’t used it since I’ve been here.”
“Try.” Tove pointed to the chandelier dangling above us. “Move that.”
“I don’t want to move that,” I said, alarmed.
An image flashed in my mind. The painting I had seen in Elora’s room, all dark smoke and red fires around broken chandeliers. Except the image in my mind seemed much more vivid, as if I could smell the smoke and see the fire raging, casting new shadows in the painting. The sound of glass shattering echoed in my ear.
I swallowed hard and shook my head, taking several steps back from the chandelier. I hadn’t been underneath it exactly, but I wanted to get farther away.
“What was that?” Tove asked, cocking his head at me.
“Something happened.” He studied me, trying to decipher my reaction, but I just shook my head. It felt like too much to explain, and I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t imagined it. “Interesting.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“I hate to do this, since you look so frightened, but I need to get you out of my head.” He looked up at the chandelier, and my eyes followed his.
My heart raced in my chest, and my throat felt dry. The crystal shards twinkled and chimed and started to shimmer. I took several steps back, wanting to yell at him to stop, but I didn’t even know if he’d listen. Then the whole chandelier started to sway, and I couldn’t hold back.
“Stop!” I shouted, my voice echoing through the front hall. “Why are you doing that?”
“I am sorry.” He exhaled deeply, and looked back down at me. I kept my eyes locked on the chandelier until I was certain it’d stopped moving. “I had to do something, and there was nothing else in the room I could move, except for you yourself, and I didn’t think you’d like that either.”
“Why did you have to move anything?” I snapped. My panic had started to fade, replaced by a pulsating anger, and I clenched my fists at my sides.
“When you get frightened like that, you project it so intensely.” He held up his hands, pushing them out to demonstrate. “Most people can’t hear it or feel it anymore, but I’m particularly sensitive to emotion. And when I move things, it helps focus me. It kinda shuts off the noise for a while. You were too strong. I had to silence it.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t need to freak me out like that.” I calmed a bit, but my words still came out hard. “Just don’t do that again, please.”
“It’s such a shame.” Tove watched me, looking both bemused and rueful. “They won’t even be able to see what you really are. They’ve all gotten so weak that they won’t be able to tell how powerful you are.”