By the time Matt came into my room, I had already changed into my pajamas. They were worn and comfortable, and I loved them.
“Wendy, what is going on?” Matt whispered. He shut the door behind him and locked it, as if Rhys were some kind of spy. “Who is that kid really? Where did you go?”
“I can’t tell you what happened while I was gone. Can’t you just be happy that I’m here and I’m safe?”
“No, not really.” Matt shook his head. “That kid is not right. He’s so amazed by everything.”
“He’s amazed by you,” I corrected him. “You have no idea how exciting all this is for him.”
“None of this is making any sense.” Matt ran a hand through his hair.
“I really do need to get some sleep, and this is a lot for you to process. I get that. Why don’t you go call Maggie? Let her know I’m safe. I’ll get some rest, and you can think about everything I’ve been saying.”
Matt released a defeated sigh. “Fine,” he said, then his blue eyes went hard. “But you better think about telling me what’s really going on here.”
“All right.” I shrugged. I could think about it, but I wouldn’t tell him.
Matt’s gaze softened again, and his shoulders slackened. “I am glad you’re home.”
I could see just then how terrible this had all been for him. And I knew I could never disappear like that again. I went over and hugged him tightly.
Matt left me alone in my room, and I crawled into the familiar comfort of my twin bed. I had been sleeping in a giant king-sized bed in Förening, but somehow, my narrow bed felt so much better. I snuggled deeper in the covers, relieved to be somewhere that felt sane again.
I’d always had an inkling that I didn’t fit in with my family, despite Matt’s devotion to me. My mother had nearly killed me when I was six years old, claiming that I was a monster and not her daughter.
Turns out, she was right.
Less than a month ago, I found out I was a changeling—a child that is exchanged in secret for another child. Specifically, I was switched at birth with Rhys Dahl. It turns out that I’m a Trylle. Trylle are basically glamorous grifters with mild superpowers.
Technically, I’m a troll, but not in the creepy little green monster sort of way. I’m of normal height and fairly attractive. In Trylle culture, the use of changelings is a practice that dates back centuries. The custom’s intention is to make sure Trylle offspring have the best childhoods possible.
I’m supposed to be a Princess in Förening—the compound in Minnesota where the Trylle live. My birth mother is Elora, the Trylle Queen. After spending a few weeks in Förening, I decided to head home. I had a falling-out with Elora, who had forbidden me from seeing Finn Holmes simply because he’s not royalty.
I escaped and took Rhys with me. In Förening, Rhys had shown me genuine kindness, and I felt he deserved some of that in return. I brought him here to meet Matt, since he is really Rhys’s brother, not mine.
Of course, I couldn’t tell Matt all of that. He’d think I was completely insane.
Growing drowsy, I thought again how good it felt to be home. It only took ten minutes for Rhys to shatter that comfort when he crept into my room. I was almost asleep, but the sound of my door opening made me alert. Matt had gone downstairs, presumably to make the phone call I suggested, and if he knew Rhys was in here, he’d kill us both.
“Wendy? Are you asleep?” Rhys whispered, sitting gingerly on the edge of my bed.
“Yes,” I muttered.
“Sorry. I can’t sleep,” Rhys said. “How can you sleep?”
“It’s not that exciting for me. I lived here before, remember?”
“Yeah, but…” He trailed off, probably because he had no argument for that. Suddenly he tensed and sucked in his breath. “Did you hear that?”
“You talking? Yes, but I’ve been trying not—” Before I could finish my sentence, I heard it too. A rustling sound outside my bedroom window.
Considering I had just had a horrible run-in with some very bad trolls known as Vittra, I was alarmed. I rolled over and peered at the window, but the curtains were drawn, blocking my view.
The rustling turned into actual banging, and I sat up, my heart pounding. Rhys shot a nervous glance at me. We heard the window slide open, and the curtains billowed out from the wind.
He stepped into my room in one graceful move, as if entering through bedroom windows were nothing out of the ordinary.
His black hair was slicked back impeccably, but he had stubble growing along his jaw, making him look even sexier. His eyes were so dark they were nearly black, and he took one discerning look at Rhys before settling them on me, making my heart forget to beat entirely.
Finn Holmes had snuck into my room.
He still managed to stun me the same way he always did. I was so happy to see him that I almost forgot how angry I was with him.
The last time I had seen Finn, he was slinking out of my bedroom in Förening, per his deal with my mother. Elora told him that he could spend one more night with me before leaving. Forever.
We had only kissed, but Finn had failed to let me in on Elora’s plan. He didn’t even bother to say good-bye. He didn’t fight it or try to get me to run away with him. He just crept out of my room, leaving Elora to explain to me exactly what had happened.
“What are you doing here?” Rhys asked, and Finn pulled his eyes off me to glare at Rhys.
“I came to collect the Princess, of course,” Finn said, but irritation saturated his words.
“Well, yeah, but … I thought Elora reassigned you.” Rhys seemed thrown by Finn’s anger, and he fumbled for a minute. “I mean … that’s what people were saying around Förening, that you weren’t allowed around Wendy anymore.”
Finn tensed noticeably at Rhys’s words, his jaw flexing, and Rhys looked down at the floor.
“I’m not,” Finn admitted after a moment. “I was preparing to leave when I heard that you two had vanished in the middle of the night. Elora was deciding who would be best suited to track Wendy, and I thought it would be in her best interest if I went after her, what with the Vittra stalking her.”
Rhys opened his mouth to protest but Finn cut in.
“We all know you did a wonderful job of protecting her at the ball,” Finn said. “If I hadn’t shown up, you might’ve protected her right into getting murdered.”