“This is my room.” I walked out of the closet, and the new tracker jumped. “You don’t need to be condescending.”
“Um, sorry,” he stumbled, blushing. “My apologies, Princess.” He offered me an unsure smile and did a low bow. “I’m Duncan Janssen, and I’m at your service.”
“I’m not the Princess anymore, and I’m not going with you. I just finished explaining that to Finn.”
“What?” Duncan looked uncertainly at Finn as he adjusted his jacket again. Finn sat down on the edge of my bed and said nothing. “Princess, you have to come. It’s not safe for you here.”
“I don’t care.” I shrugged. “I’d rather take my chances.”
“It can’t be that bad at the palace.” Duncan was the first person I had ever heard genuinely call Elora’s house a palace, even though it sort of was one. “You’re the Princess. You have everything.”
“I’m not going. You can tell Elora that you tried your best, and I refused.”
Duncan once again looked to Finn for help. Finn shrugged at Duncan, and his shift to indifference startled me. I had put my foot down on the subject, but I hadn’t really expected him to listen.
“She can’t possibly stay here,” Duncan said.
“You think I don’t agree with you?” Finn raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t think you’re helping.” Duncan fidgeted with his jacket and tried to stare Finn down, a task I knew was impossible.
“What do you expect me to say to her that I haven’t already said?” Finn asked, sounding surprisingly helpless.
“So you’re saying we simply leave her here?”
“I’m right here, you know,” I said. “And I don’t really appreciate the way you keep referring to me like I’m not.”
“If she wants to stay here, then she’ll stay here,” Finn said, continuing to ignore me. Duncan shifted and glanced over at me. “We’re not going to kidnap her. That leaves little in the way of options.”
“Can’t you, like”—Duncan lowered his voice and fiddled with the zipper of his jacket—“you know, convince her somehow?”
Word of Finn’s affection for me must have spread through the compound. Aggravated, I refused to let my feelings for him be used against me.
“Nothing is going to convince me,” I snapped.
“Do you see?” Finn motioned toward me. Sighing, he got to his feet. “We should be on our way, then.”
“Really?” I couldn’t hide the shock in my voice.
“Yeah. Really?” Duncan echoed.
“You said there’s nothing I can do to convince you. Has that changed?” Finn turned to me. His voice was hopeful, but his eyes were almost taunting. I shook my head firmly. “Then there is nothing left to say.”
“Finn—” Duncan started to protest, but Finn held his hand up.
“It is as the Princess wishes.”
Duncan looked skeptically at Finn, probably thinking that this was some sort of trick, much as I was. There had to be something I wasn’t getting, because Finn wouldn’t just leave me here. Sure, that’s exactly what he had done a few days ago, but that’s when he thought leaving was what was best for me.
“But Finn—” Duncan tried again, but Finn waved him off.
“We must go. Her ‘brother’ will notice us soon,” Finn said.
I glanced at my closed bedroom door, as if Matt would be lurking right there. The last time Matt and Finn had a run-in it had not gone well, and I was not eager to repeat the experience.
“Fine, but…” Duncan trailed off, realizing too late that he had nothing to threaten either of us with. He gave me another quick bow. “Princess. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
I shrugged. “We’ll see.”
Duncan climbed out my bedroom window, practically falling onto the roof. After he was out, he half jumped, half fell off the roof. Finn watched him apprehensively for a moment, holding my curtain open, but he didn’t follow after immediately.
Instead, he straightened up, looking over at me. My anger and resolution were fading, leaving me hopeful that Finn wouldn’t really leave things this way.
“Once I’m out this window, lock it behind me,” Finn commanded. “Make sure all the doors are locked, and never go anywhere alone. Never go anyplace at night, and if at all possible, always take Matt and Rhys with you.” He looked past me for a moment, thinking of something.
“Although neither of them are really good for much of anything…” His dark eyes rested on mine once again. His expression was imploring, and he raised his hand as if he meant to touch my face, but he lowered it again. “You must be careful.”
“Okay,” I promised him.
With Finn standing right in front of me, I could feel the warmth of his body and smell his cologne. His eyes were locked on mine, and I remembered the way it felt when he tangled his fingers in my hair and held me so close to him I couldn’t breathe.
He was so strong and controlled. In the brief moments he allowed himself to let go of his passion with me, it was the most wonderfully suffocating feeling I’d ever had.
I didn’t want him to leave, and he didn’t want to leave. But we had both made choices we were unwilling to change. He nodded once more, breaking eye contact, and then turned and slid out the window.
Duncan waited at the bottom of the tree, and Finn dropped gracefully to the ground. From the window, I watched Finn coax a hesitant Duncan away from the house.
When they reached the hedges separating my lawn from the neighbors’, Finn looked around, checking to make sure no one was there. Without even looking at me, he and Duncan turned and disappeared.
I closed the window, locking it securely the way he’d said to. I felt a terrible ache watching him go. Even though he had done this kind of thing before, I couldn’t wrap my mind around Finn really leaving and convincing Duncan to leave me too. If he was so concerned about the Vittra, why would he leave me so unprotected?
It finally dawned on me. Finn had never left me unprotected, no matter what I or anybody else wanted. As soon as he had realized I wasn’t going with him, he hadn’t wanted to waste any more time arguing. He would wait in the wings until I changed my mind or …
I shut the curtains tightly. I hated being spied on, but I also found it strangely comforting that Finn was watching over me. After having my window open for so long, my room felt chilly, so I went over to my closet and pulled on a heavy sweater.