“Um, thanks,” I said, untangling myself from her hug.
Willa Strom was a few years older than me, and the only Trylle other than Finn who actually called me “Wendy” instead of “Princess,” so I guess that made us friends. Her father, Garrett, was Elora’s only friend, and Willa had been insanely helpful and kind after Finn left the first time. Without her, the christening ceremony would’ve been a disaster even before the Vittra broke in.
“My dad was telling me that the Vittra had kidnapped you, and nobody knew for sure what was going on.” Willa could be snobby, but the concern on her face was sincere. “I rushed over here as soon as I heard you were back. I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said, but I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.
“Duncan?” Willa looked at him, as if noticing he was here for the first time. “You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no way Elora would let you be her tracker.”
“See? Underrated.” Duncan smiled. He seemed to take some pride in it, so I let him have it.
“Oh, my god. I’m gonna talk to my dad.” Willa shook her head, tucking her perfectly tamed light-brown waves of hair behind her ears. “There’s no way he can do this.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine.” I shrugged. “I’m in the palace. What can happen here?”
Willa gave me a knowing look, but thankfully, before she could say something, Matt announced breakfast was done. When I had been regaling him with the tales of being Trylle, I had conveniently left out the part about the Vittra busting in here and Oren being my father. I thought it would freak him out too much.
“Are you gonna eat some too?” Matt asked Willa. He dished up the flapjacks, and, polite as ever, he included her. “We’ve got plenty to go around.”
“Are those blueberry?” Willa wrinkled her nose, looking totally disgusted by the prospect of eating them. “Eww. No way.”
“They’re really good.” Matt slid a plate toward her.
For reasons I didn’t completely understand, there were few foods we actually enjoyed. We mostly ate fresh fruits and vegetables. I didn’t like juice of any kind, although I did like some wine. Pancakes were made with processed flour and sugar, so they were never that appealing, although I had been eating them for years to appease Matt.
“You’re not gonna eat those, are you?” Willa was completely aghast as I picked up my fork and prepared to dig in.
Matt had given Duncan a plate too. I’m sure the pancakes sounded as appealing to him as they did to Willa and me, but Duncan followed suit and picked up his fork.
“They’re pretty good,” I said.
I had been assured by many people over the years that they were really good, although I’m not sure how anyone could taste them after they drowned them in syrup the way Matt and Rhys were doing. Duncan and I declined syrup. There was no way we could ever force them down like that.
“I’ve cooked for Wendy for years,” Matt said, unfazed by Willa’s reaction. “I know how to make food that she likes.”
In general, he had gotten pretty good at it, but there were a lot of times when I ate things just to make him happy. And also, I’d starve if I didn’t.
“Oh, yeah, right,” Willa scoffed. “Like I’m gonna trust a mänks in sweats and a baby tee to make me pancakes.”
“Willa,” I said. “He’s my brother, okay? So lay off.”
“What?” She tilted her head, not fathoming what I meant. “Oh. You mean he’s your host brother?”
“Yeah.” I took a big forkful of the pancake and shoved it in my mouth.
“You know he’s not your real—”
“Willa!” I snapped with a mouthful of food, and I choked it down. “I understand the semantics. Now drop it.”
“I can understand how that dweeb Duncan can eat that.” Willa smoothed out her designer outfit, trying not to look offended that I’d snapped at her. “But you’re a Princess. He’s too stupid to—”
“Hey!” Matt said. He had been sitting next to Duncan, eating, but he stopped and glared at her. “I get it. You’re fancy and pretty and rich. Good for you. But unless you wanna go over there and make us all breakfast, then I suggest you quit your bitching and sit down.”
“Whoa!” Rhys laughed. He loved seeing her put in her place.
Willa made a face at Rhys but didn’t say anything. When Matt went back to eating his pancakes, she sat down on the stool next to me.
Since I’d first met Willa, it was clear she walked around with a sense of entitlement. She was nice to me because she thought we were equals, but she definitely didn’t feel the same way about everyone else.
“I am thirsty,” Willa said after a minute, sounding pouty.
Automatically, Duncan stood to get water for her, but Matt shook his head, stopping him. Uncertainly, Duncan sat back down. As a tracker, he spent a lot of his life waiting on changelings. Trackers were considered staff and treated as such by royalty.
“You know where the fridge’s at,” Matt said between bites.
Willa opened her mouth but didn’t say anything. She turned to me, hoping I would come to her aid, but I only shrugged. She did know where the fridge was at, after all.
After a minute of deliberating, she got up and went over to the fridge. Rhys snickered under his breath, but Matt shushed him.
I found the whole thing kind of amazing. Finn had been Willa’s tracker, and a strict one at that. But she never listened to him or treated him with as much respect as she did Matt, who by Trylle standards was much lower in rank than Finn.
In the five minutes he’d known her, Matt had managed to whip her into shape better than anyone else ever had.
Willa hung around me for the rest of the afternoon, and she seemed relieved when we split off from Matt and Rhys. Rhys wanted to play some war video game or something, and I didn’t feel like it.
Instead, Willa and I stayed in my room. Duncan stood outside my door for a bit, but eventually I felt sorry for him, so I had him come in and sit down.
She sorted my clothes because she liked doing that, and I lay on the floor, watching Willa and thinking about how weird it was that this was my life. She organized them in some way that I didn’t understand, even after she’d explained it to me.
All the while, she talked about how great her training had been going. Willa had power over the wind, and she hadn’t thought anything of it before the attack.