“Why can’t you dance with me?” I would’ve loved to dance with him. It would’ve been a blessed reprieve after everything I’d been through tonight.
“Mänks.” He pointed his thumbs at himself. “I’m lucky I’m even allowed in.”
“Oh.” I looked down at the floor, thinking about what he’d just said. “Not to sound rude or anything, because I’m glad you’re here, but . . . why are you here? Why aren’t you banned or something equally ridiculous?”
“Didn’t you know?” Rhys asked with a cocky grin. “I am the highest mänks in the land.”
“And why is that?” I couldn’t tell if he was teasing me or not, so I tilted my head, watching as his expression got more serious.
“Because I’m yours,” he replied softly.
He was invited because he was my mänsklig, my opposite, but when he answered, that wasn’t what he meant at all. Something in his eyes made me blush for real this time, and I smiled sadly at him.
One of Elora’s aides burst into the corner, ruining what was left of the moment, and demanded that I take my seat at the head table with the Queen. The christening ceremony was about to start, and a knot formed in my stomach. I hadn’t heard what my name was to be, and I was depressed about the idea of changing it.
“Duty calls.” I smiled apologetically at Rhys and started to walk past him.
“Hey.” Rhys grabbed my hand to stop me, and I turned to look at him. “You’re gonna be great. Everyone’s raving about you.”
“Thanks.” I squeezed his hand gratefully.
A cracking echoed through the room, followed by a tinkling that I didn’t understand. The sound was coming from everywhere, so it was hard to place right away. But then it looked like the ceiling was raining glitter, and the skylights crashed to the floor.
Rhys realized what was happening before I did, and, still holding my hand, he yanked me behind him. We were in the corner, out of the way of most of the glass, but from the agonized screams, I gathered that everyone else wasn’t so lucky.
Dark figures fell through the broken skylights, landing on the floor with surprising grace. Blood and broken glass layered the floor. Before I recognized them, I remembered the uniform. Matching long black trench coats, like a crime-fighting team.
The word seemed to swell through the room without anybody saying anything: Vittra.
Vittra had broken in, crashing through the ceiling, and Trylle guards circled them. In the very center I saw Jen, the tracker who had been so fond of hitting me, his eyes scanning the room.
“You are not invited. Please leave.” Elora’s voice boomed above everything else.
“You know what we want, and we’re not leaving until we get it.” Kyra stepped forward, Jen’s accomplice from before. She walked on the glass with bare feet but didn’t seem to notice. “She’s got to be here. Where are you hiding her?”
Jen turned toward me, and his black eyes met mine over Rhys’s shoulder. When he grinned wickedly, Rhys realized we were in trouble. He started to push me toward the door, but before we made it, Jen bolted toward us, and everyone burst into life. The Vittra scrambled, going after the guards and other Trylle.
Elora glared at Kyra, who collapsed on the ground, writhing in pain. Nobody had touched her, and based on the look in Elora’s eyes, I figured that Kyra’s agony had something to do with Elora’s abilities.
I saw Tove bound over the table he was sitting at, using his powers to send Vittra flying without even touching them. People screamed, and I felt a strong wind blow through the room, surely Willa’s attempt at helping.
Then Jen was in front of us, blocking out the chaos of the ballroom. Rhys stood his ground in front of me. He moved to defend me in some way, but Jen lunged forward and punched him, throwing him to the ground.
“Rhys!” I reached out for Rhys, but he didn’t move. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t dead, but Jen grabbed me around my waist, restraining me.
“That’s what you have protecting you now?” Jen laughed. “Did we scare off Finn?”
“Let go of me!” I kicked at him and tried to pry his arm off me.
With his arm still gripping me, we both abruptly went flying backward, as if someone had pushed him. He slammed into the wall, and his arm loosened enough that I could scramble away from him on my hands and knees.
Dazed, I got to my feet and tried to figure out what had happened. Tove stood on the other side of a glass-strewn table, holding his hand palm-out at Jen.
I smiled appreciatively at him, but my smile disappeared as soon as I got a look at the room. The Vittra clearly had the upper hand. Even though the Trylle in the room outnumbered the Vittra attackers, most of them weren’t fighting back. The trackers were throwing punches and pushing back against the Vittra, but most of the royalty appeared to do little more than cower in fear.
A visiting Trylle on the other side of the room had begun using fire, and I could feel Willa’s wind whipping about. Garrett had no real powers of his own, but he was attempting hand-to-hand combat with the Vittra, even though they physically appeared to be much stronger.
Other than Tove, Willa, Elora and the Trylle using fire, none of the other Trylle really seemed to have abilities, or at least they weren’t using them. The room was total pandemonium, and it was about to get worse. Even more Vittra streamed in through the ceiling.
“This is why you need to work on your persuasion.” Tove looked at me evenly, and another Vittra charged at his back.
“Watch out!” I yelled.
Tove turned, throwing his hand back and tossing the Vittra across the room. I looked around to grab a weapon when I felt Jen’s arms around my waist again. I yelled and fought as hard as I could, but his arms felt like granite around me.
Tove turned his attention back to me, but two other Vittra chased after him, so he only had a moment to send Jen flying back into the wall again. We hit even harder this time, and it jostled me painfully, but Jen let go.
My head throbbed from the impact, and I blinked to clear it. A hand took mine, helping me to my feet. I wasn’t sure if I should accept it, but I did anyway.
“You’ve got to be more careful, Tove,” he said.
“I was just trying to get her free!” Tove snapped, and another Vittra yelled as Tove sent him flying into a table across the room. “And I’m busy here!”
I turned back to see who had helped me, and all the air went out of my lungs. Wearing a black hoodie under a black jacket, Finn surveyed the mess around me. He stood right next to me, holding my hand, and I couldn’t think or move.