“I know the Vittra are a threat!” Rhys shot back. “I just … we came here to…”
Hearing his confusion, I got up off the bed, moving to intercede before Rhys figured out why he’d let me talk him into coming here.
The truth was, Rhys didn’t agree to come here. He wanted to meet Matt, but he was adamant about my safety and had flat-out refused to let me leave the security of the compound. Unfortunately for Rhys, I had persuasion. When I looked at people and thought about what I wanted them to do, they would do it, whether they wanted to or not.
That’s how I convinced Rhys to go with me when we ran away, and I needed to distract him before he caught on.
“The Vittra lost a lot of trackers in that fight,” I interjected. “They’re not eager to repeat it anytime soon. Besides that, I’m sure they’re sick of trying to get me.”
“That’s highly unlikely.” Finn narrowed his eyes, studying Rhys’s bewilderment, and then he looked darkly at me. “Wendy, do you care nothing for your own safety?”
“I probably care more than you do.” I crossed my arms firmly over my chest. “You were leaving to go on to another job. If I had waited one more day to leave, you wouldn’t have even known I was gone.”
“Is this about getting my attention?” Finn snapped, his eyes burning. I had never seen his anger directed at me this way before. “I don’t know how many times I have to explain this to you! You are a Princess! I mean nothing! You need to forget about me!”
“What’s going on?” That was Matt, shouting from the stairs. If he came up here and caught Finn in my room, it would be very, very bad.
“I’ll go … create a diversion.” Rhys glanced at me to make sure that was okay, and I nodded. He darted out the door, saying things to Matt about how awesome the house was, and their voices faded as they went downstairs.
I tucked my curls behind my ears and refused to look at Finn. It was hard to believe that the last time I had been with him, he had been kissing me so passionately, I could barely breathe. I remembered the way his scruff scraped against my cheeks and the way his lips pressed against mine.
I suddenly hated him for that memory, and I hated that all I could think about was how badly I wanted to kiss him again.
“Wendy, you are not safe here,” Finn insisted quietly.
“I’m not going with you.”
“You cannot stay here. I won’t allow it.”
“You won’t allow it?” I scoffed. “I am the Princess, remember? Who are you to allow me to do anything? You’re not even my tracker anymore. You’re some guy being a creepy stalker.”
That sounded much harsher than I’d meant it. Not that anything I said ever really seemed to hurt Finn. He just stared at me, his gaze level and unfazed.
“I knew I would find you faster than anyone. If you don’t come home with me, that’s fine,” Finn said. “Another tracker will be here shortly, and you can go with him. I’ll just wait with you until he arrives, to ensure your safety.”
“It’s not about you, Finn!”
He had played a larger part in my leaving Förening than I would ever admit, but it really wasn’t just him. I hated my mother, my title, my house, everything. I wasn’t meant to be a Princess.
Finn looked at me for a long moment, trying to understand where this was coming from. I had to fight the urge to squirm as he scrutinized me. His eyes flashed darkly for a second, and his expression hardened.
“Is this about the mänsklig?” Finn asked, referring to Rhys. “I thought I told you to stay away from him.”
Mänsklig were the human children taken in exchange for Trylle babies. They were the lowest in the Trylle hierarchy, and if a Princess was caught dating one, they’d both be banished forever. Not that I cared, but I didn’t have any feelings for Rhys that weren’t purely platonic.
“It has nothing to do with Rhys. I just thought he’d like to see his family.” I shrugged. “It has to be better than living in that stupid house with Elora.”
“Good. He can stay here, then.” Finn nodded. “Matt and Rhys are taken care of. Now you can come home.”
“That is not my home. This is my home!” I gestured widely to my room. “I’m not going, Finn.”
“You are not safe.” He took a step closer to me, lowering his voice and staring into my eyes. “You saw what the Vittra did in Förening. They sent an army out to get you, Wendy.” He put his hands on my arms, strong and warm on my skin. “They will not stop until they have you.”
“Why? Why wouldn’t they stop?” I asked. “There’s got to be Trylle out there who are easier to get than me. And so what if I’m a Princess? If I don’t come back, Elora can replace me. I’m meaningless.”
“You are far more powerful than you know.”
“What does that even mean?”
Before he could answer, there was a noise on the roof outside my window. Finn grabbed my arm and threw open my closet door, shoving me inside. As a rule, I don’t enjoy being tossed into closets and having the door shut in my face, but I knew he was protecting me.
I opened the door a crack, so I could watch what happened and intervene if necessary. Even as mad as I was at Finn, I would never let him get hurt over me. Not again.
Finn stood a few feet from the window, his eyes blazing and his shoulders tense. But when the figure climbed through the window, Finn only scoffed.
The kid coming in tripped on the windowsill. He wore skinny jeans and purple shoes with the laces untied. Finn towered over him, looking down at him wearily.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” The kid flipped his bangs out of his eyes and pulled down his ill-fitting jacket. It was zipped all the way up, and the bottom met the top of his jeans. When he bent over or moved, it rode up.
“Getting the Princess. They sent you after her?” Finn arched an eyebrow. “Elora really thought you’d be able to bring her back?”
“Hey, I’m a good tracker. I’ve brought in way more people than you have.”
“That’s because you’re seven years older than me,” Finn replied. That made the clumsy kid twenty-seven. He looked much younger than that.
“Whatever. Elora picked me. Deal with it.” The kid shook his head. “What? Are you jealous or something?”
“Don’t be absurd.”
“So where is the Princess anyway?” He looked around my room. “She ran away for this?”