“I think it’s nice.” I understood what she meant, but it was still a beautiful room. All the glass gave it a sleek yet opulent feel.
“Your ‘friend’ is staying with us.” She chose her words carefully and walked over to the throne. She ran her fingers along the arms much the same way I had, letting her black manicured nails linger on the details.
“Yes. The … boy. Matt, is it?” Elora lifted her head, meeting my eyes to see if she was correct.
“You mean my brother,” I said deliberately.
“Don’t call him that. Think of him however you’d like, but if someone hears you say that…” She trailed off. “How long will he be staying with us?”
“Until I feel it’s safe for him to leave.” I stood up straighter, steeling myself for another fight, but she didn’t say anything. She simply nodded once and looked out the window. “You’re not gonna try to stop me?”
“I’ve been Queen for a while, Princess.” She smiled thinly at me. “I know how to pick my battles. This is one I suspect I couldn’t win.”
“So you’re okay with it?” I asked, unable to hide the shock in my voice.
“You learn to tolerate the things you cannot change,” Elora told me simply.
“Do you want to meet him or anything?” I felt unsure about what I should do.
I didn’t know why she’d come to talk to me, if it wasn’t to stop me from doing something or tell me I’d done something wrong. That seemed to be the only time she sought me out.
“I’m certain I’ll see him in due time.” She smoothed her black hair and walked a bit closer to me. “How is your training going?”
“Fine.” I shrugged. “I don’t get it, really, but it’s okay. I guess.”
“You’re getting along all right with Tove?” Her dark eyes met mine again, as if studying me.
“Yeah. He’s fine.”
Whatever she saw in me must’ve pleased her, because she nodded and smiled. Elora stayed and chatted with me a few minutes longer, asking more about the training, but her interest waned almost immediately. She excused herself, citing business to attend to.
Once she had gone, Tove returned to continue the training, but I suggested we get lunch instead. We went down to the kitchen to discover Matt making something for him and Willa. Rhys was at school, so it was just the two of them.
Willa threw a grape at Matt, and when he tossed it back, she giggled. If Tove noticed anything unusual about their banter, he didn’t say anything, but he hardly looked up from his plate. He ate in total silence, while I watched Matt and Willa with confused fascination.
I ate in a hurry, then Tove and I went back to training while Matt and Willa were still eating. Not that either of them really seemed to notice or care about our departure.
The rest of the day didn’t afford me much time to think about how strange Matt and Willa were acting. Training went on in the throne room much the way it had in the morning. Toward the end of the day I began feeling tired, but I didn’t stop until Tove called it quits.
After Tove left, Duncan followed me upstairs, because I couldn’t seem to ditch him no matter what I said. I wanted to be alone, but I let Duncan in my room. I felt weird and mean making him stand out in the hall all the time.
I know he supposedly was a bodyguard, but he wasn’t some stiff in a suit with an earpiece. He was a kid in skinny jeans, which made it hard for me to treat him like staff.
“I don’t understand why you hate it here so much,” Duncan said, admiring my room.
“I don’t hate it here,” I said, but I wasn’t sure if that was true.
My hair had been up in a messy bun, and I took it down, running my fingers through the kinks and curls. Duncan looked at the stuff on my desk, touching my computer and CDs. I would’ve been mad, if any of it were really mine. Everything had come with the place when I moved in. Even though this was my room, very little in it felt like it actually belonged to me.
“Why’d you run away?” Duncan picked up a Fall Out Boy CD and investigated the track list.
“I thought you knew why.” I got into my bed, immersing myself in the overflow of blankets and pillows. I folded a pillow under my head so I could see him better. “You seemed to have it all figured out.”
“When?” He set the CD down and turned to look at me. “I never seem like I have anything figured out.”
“That’s true,” I said, pushing a dark curl off my forehead. “But at my house, when you came to get me. I thought you knew.”
When I’d first met him, he’d said something. I couldn’t remember exactly what it was, but he’d implied he knew what had happened between Finn and me. Or at the very least, he’d known why Finn had been dismissed, which was because of the way Finn felt about me.
Although I wasn’t so sure about Finn’s feelings anymore. I doubted they were real now, if they had ever been. We had lain in this very bed, kissing and holding each other. I’d wanted to do more, but Finn had stopped things, saying he didn’t want to disturb me. But maybe he’d never really wanted me at all.
If he had, he wouldn’t have just left that way. He couldn’t have.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Duncan shook his head. “I don’t think I ever understood why you left.”
“I must’ve imagined it, then.” I rolled onto my back so I could stare up at the ceiling. Before he could ask me more about it, I changed the subject. “What happened to you guys anyway?”
“When?” He’d moved on from the CDs to perusing the small book collection I had.
They weren’t terrible, but they’d all been Rhys’s and Rhiannon’s choices, so they weren’t really my tastes. Other than a book by Jerry Spinelli, there was nothing I would have picked out for myself.
“Back at my house. You guys left, and the Vittra kidnapped me. What’d you do? Where’d you go?”
“We didn’t get very far. Finn planned on sticking around. He thought you’d come around eventually.” Duncan picked up a book and absently flipped through it. “But we only made it a block away, and they jumped us. This guy with scraggly blondish hair, he just looked at us, and we were out.”
“Loki,” I said with a sigh.
“Who?” Duncan asked, and I shook my head.