“Finn!” I gasped, and he finally looked at me, his dark eyes a mixture of relief and panic.
“This is bedlam!” Tove growled.
A table had been flipped on its side, and it separated Tove from Finn and me. Using his abilities, Tove sent it sailing into a Vittra attacking the Chancellor, and then he rushed over to us. All the Vittra seemed to be busy, so he had a moment to catch his breath.
“It’s worse than I thought.” Finn pursed his lips.
“We’ve gotta protect the Princess,” Tove said.
I squeezed Finn’s hand and watched as Jen started to get up, only to be slammed back into the wall by Tove.
“I’ll get her out of here,” Finn said. “Can you handle it down here?”
“I don’t have a choice.” Tove barely had time to answer when Willa started screaming across the room. I couldn’t see her, and that scared me even more.
“Willa!” I tried to run to see what was happening, but Finn wrapped his arms around me, pulling me back.
“Get her out of here!” Tove commanded as he took a step in the direction of Willa’s screams.
Finn started dragging me out of the ballroom while I strained to see what was going on. Tove had disappeared, and I couldn’t see Elora or Willa. As Finn pulled me, my feet hit Rhys’s leg, and I remembered that he was lying unconscious, bleeding on the ground. I struggled against Finn’s arms, trying to reach Rhys.
“He’s fine! They won’t touch him!” Finn tried to reassure me. He still had one arm around my waist, and he was much stronger than me. “You’ve got to get out of here!”
“But Rhys!” I pleaded.
“He’d want you to be safe!” Finn insisted and finally managed to get me to the ballroom doors.
I looked up from Rhys and was stunned to see the chaos of the room. Then all the chandeliers suddenly crashed to the floor, and the only light came from the things that were in flames. People were screaming and yelling, and the sound was echoing off everything.
“The painting,” I murmured, and my mind flashed on the picture I’d seen in Elora’s drawing room. This was it. This was the exact scene.
And there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. I couldn’t even understand it until it was too late.
“Wendy!” Finn shouted, trying to move me into action.
He let go of my waist and took my hand, yanking me out of the room. Using my free hand, I pulled up my dress to keep from tripping on it as we raced down the hallway. I could still hear the carnage from the ballroom, and I had no idea where we were running to.
I didn’t have time to ask him where we were going or to feel thankful that I was with him again. My only consolation was that if I died tonight, I’d at least have spent the last few minutes of my life with Finn.
We rounded the corner toward the entryway, and Finn stopped sharply. Three Vittra were coming in the front doors of the palace, but they hadn’t seen us yet. Finn changed direction, darting across the hall into one of the sitting rooms, pulling me with him.
He closed the door quietly behind us, leaving us in near darkness. Moonlight spilled in through the glass, and he ran to a corner between a bookcase and the wall. He pulled me tightly to him, shielding me with his body.
We could hear the Vittra outside. I held my breath, pressing my face into Finn’s chest and praying they wouldn’t come in the room.
When they finally ran past, Finn still didn’t loosen his grip on me, but I could hear his heartbeat slow. Somewhere beneath all my panic and fear I became aware of the fact that Finn held me tightly in his arms. I looked up at him, barely able to make out his features in the light from the windows next to us.
“I saw that before,” I whispered, looking up at him. “What happened in the ballroom. Elora painted it. She knew that was going to happen!”
“Shh,” Finn said gently.
I lowered my voice. “But why didn’t she stop it?”
“She didn’t know when it would happen or how,” Finn explained. “She just knew, and the only thing she could do to prevent it was to add more protection.”
“So then why did you leave?” I asked softly.
“Wendy . . .” He pushed back stray curls from my face, and his hand lingered on my cheek as he looked down at me. “I never really left. I was just down the hill, and I never stopped tracking you. I knew what was happening as soon as you did, and I raced back here.”
“Are we gonna be okay?” I asked.
“I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”
I looked up at him, searching his eyes in the dim light, and I wanted nothing more than to stay in his arms forever.
The door creaked open, and Finn tensed instantly. He pushed me back against the wall, wrapping his arms around me to hide me. I held my breath and tried to stop my heart from pounding. We heard nothing for a second, and then the light flicked on.
“Well, well, if the prodigal stork hasn’t returned.” Jen smirked.
“You won’t get her,” Finn said firmly.
He pulled away from me just enough so he could face Jen. I peered around him, watching Jen walk in a slow semicircle toward us. He walked in an oddly familiar way, like something I had seen on Animal Planet. And then I realized—Jen was stalking his prey.
“Maybe I won’t,” Jen allowed. “But getting you out of my way would probably make it easier, if not for me, then for somebody else. Because we won’t stop coming for her.”
“And we won’t stop protecting her.”
“You’re willing to die to protect her?” Jen raised an eyebrow.
“You’re willing to die to get her?” Finn challenged evenly.
In the ballroom, Tove had insisted they had to protect me, and I hadn’t thought he even cared for me all that much. Was it just that I was the Princess? Had Elora endured similar attacks when she first came home?
I clenched the back of Finn’s jacket and watched the two of them stare each other down. I didn’t understand what was so damn important about me that so many Vittra were willing to kill, and, according to Finn, so many Trylle were willing to die.
“Neither one of you has to die,” I said. I tried to slip around Finn’s arm, but he pushed me back. “I’ll go, okay? I don’t want anybody else to get hurt over this.”
“Why don’t you listen to the girl?” Jen suggested, wagging his eyebrows.
“Not this time.”
“Suit yourself.” Jen had apparently tired of talking and dove at Finn.