“Why did you do that?” I asked Tove.
Tove shrugged. “It’s the best way to keep you safe.”
“So?” I asked in a hushed whisper, since a few people still milling about could overhear. “Why is it so important to keep me safe? Maybe the Vittra should have me. Marksinna Laris is right. If all these people are getting hurt over me, then maybe I should go—”
“Laris is a stupid, uppity bitch,” Willa cut in before I could finish that thought. “And nobody’s gonna sacrifice you because things are tough. That’s insane, Wendy.”
“The royals are crazy and paranoid. What’s new?” Tove leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “You’re going to be good for the people. But you have to live long enough to do it.”
“That’s comforting.” I leaned back in the seat.
“I’ll head home and pack,” Tove said, standing up.
“You really think you need to stay here to watch out for me?” I asked.
“Probably not,” Tove admitted. “But it’s better than staying at home, and it’ll be easier for me to help you with your training.”
“Fair enough,” I said.
“So.” Willa turned to me after Tove walked away. “You need to have a girls’ night. Especially since the house is going to be crawling with boys from now on.”
I would’ve agreed to anything if it got me out of the War Room before Elora had a chance to lecture me, but a girls’ night actually didn’t sound that bad. Willa looped her arm through mine as we left the room.
We camped out in my room all night. I thought Willa would want to play dress-up or something silly, but we both wore comfy pajamas and lounged around.
After the meeting, I’d asked about the history between the Vittra and Trylle, and Willa had found a book in her father’s things. She let me read through it, and answered my questions as often as she could. In exchange, I had to do karaoke with her and let her give me a pedicure.
I didn’t make it through as much of the book as I would have liked, and I didn’t find out all that much. Vittra attacked, Trylle retaliated. Sometimes the body count was quite substantial, other times it was only minor property damage.
I ended up staying up way too late with Willa, and by the end of the night, the book had been forgotten. We resorted to singing along with Cyndi Lauper and dancing.
Willa spent the night, and she was a massive bed hog, so I slept terribly. I stumbled out of the bedroom in the morning, feeling like a train wreck. I wanted to go downstairs, eat something, drink some water, and then not move again for another three or four hours.
Duncan wasn’t loitering outside my door when I left my room, and I thought it was good for him that he finally got a chance to sleep in.
I made it a few steps down the hall when I realized why he’d slept in.
Finn walked toward me, his hands clasped behind his back, and I groaned inwardly. He was already dressed, his pants freshly pressed and his hair slicked back. My hair was insane, and I had to look awful.
“Good morning, Princess,” Finn said when he reached me.
“Yeah, or something like that,” I said.
Finn nodded once, and he walked past me. I looked around, expecting to see another person summoning him, but there wasn’t anyone else.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“My job, Princess.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “I’m walking the halls to watch for intruders.”
“So you’re not even gonna talk to me?”
“That’s not part of my job,” Finn said and kept walking.
“Excellent,” I said with a sigh.
Stupidly, some part of me had been excited about the prospect of Finn being reinstated. But I should’ve known better. Just because he’d be around all the time didn’t mean anything would change between us. It would only make the whole situation more awkward and painful.
capulets & montagues
“Why are you here?” I demanded, and Loki only raised an eyebrow in response.
His room was in the old servants’ quarters, and it wasn’t quite the cell I’d expected. Duncan had explained that the palace had once been overflowing with live-in help, but the last few decades had seen a drastic reduction in both the mänsklig and the Trylle who stayed around. Meaning there were fewer people to staff the palace.
Even though we didn’t have a dungeon, I’d thought Loki would be kept someplace similar to where the Vittra had put me. But this was just a room, similar to the one Finn stayed in when he lived here, except this one had no windows. It was small, with an adjoining bathroom and a twin bed.
To top it off, Loki’s bedroom door was wide open. A tracker stood guard a little ways down the hall, but he wasn’t even at the door. I had convinced Duncan to distract him because I wanted to talk to Loki alone for a minute, and it hadn’t been that hard for Duncan to steer the guard away.
Loki lay on top of the blankets on the bed, his hands folded behind his head and his legs crossed at the ankles. A plate of food sat on the end table, untouched.
“Princess, I didn’t know you’d be visiting, or I’d have straightened up the place.” Loki smirked and gestured vaguely around his room. There was hardly anything in it, so it wasn’t messy at all.
“Why are you here, Loki?” I repeated. I stood just outside the door, my arms crossed over my chest.
“I don’t think the Queen would like it much if I left.” He sat up, swinging his long legs over the edge of the bed.
“Why don’t you leave?” I asked, and he laughed.
“I can’t very well do that, now, can I?” Loki stood up and sauntered toward me.
Some rational part of me thought I should step back, but I refused to. I didn’t want him to see any weakness, so I raised my chin high, and he stopped at the doorway.
“I don’t see anything stopping you.”
“Yes, but your mother works best in ways you cannot see,” he said. “If I were to leave the room, I’d become so violently ill, I’d be unable to walk.”
“How do you know for sure?”
“Because I tried to leave.” Loki smiled. “I wasn’t going to let a thing like bodily harm stop me from escaping, but I underestimated the Queen. She’s very, very good with persuasion.”
“How does that work? She used persuasion and told you what would happen if you left the room?” I asked. “And now you can’t leave?”