“That would be fantastic. Thank you.”
“No problem.” He smiled broadly, always so happy to be of service, and dashed back the way we’d come to find Elora.
I continued back to my room to think. Between the kidnapping, my parentage, Tove’s training, and now my attempts to save Loki, my head was spinning. Not to mention that my own people were so eager to throw me under the bus at the defense meeting yesterday.
I wondered if this was the place for me. I really didn’t care to rule a kingdom, so in a way, it didn’t matter what crown I ended up wearing. Sure, Oren seemed evil, but Elora wasn’t far off from that herself.
If I left with the Vittra, they would leave the Trylle alone. Maybe that would be the best move I could ever make as Princess.
“Wendy!” Matt shouted, drawing me from my thoughts. I’d been passing his room on the way to my own, and he had his door open.
“Matt,” I replied lamely as he rushed out of his room to meet me. He was in such a hurry that he carried the book he’d been reading with him. “Sorry I haven’t seen you much lately. I’ve been busy around here.”
“No, I understand,” he said, but I wasn’t sure he did. He held the book to his chest and crossed his arms in front of it. “How are you? Is everything still okay? Nobody’s really telling me anything, and with the attack the other day—”
“It wasn’t an attack.” I shook my head. “It’s just Loki, and he’s—”
“Is that the guy that kidnapped you?” Matt asked, his voice hard.
“Yeah, but…” I tried to think of some excuse to rationalize a kidnapping, but I knew Matt wouldn’t buy any of it, so I stopped. “He’s only one guy. He can’t do that much. They have him locked up, and everything’s fine. It’s safe.”
“How is it safe if there’s still people breaking in?” Matt countered. “The reason we’re staying here is because it’s the best place for you, but if they can’t keep you safe—”
“It’s safe,” I insisted, cutting him off. “This place is crawling with guards. We’re better off here than we would be out in the real world.”
I didn’t know if that was true exactly, but I didn’t want Matt going off to find out for himself. Oren knew how protective I was over Matt now, and he was definitely the type of guy who would use that against me if he had the chance. Matt’s best bet was staying here, under the watchful eye of the Trylle.
“I still don’t completely understand what’s happening here or who these people are,” Matt said finally. “I have to trust you on this, and I need to know that you’re safe.”
“I’m safe. Honest. You don’t need to worry about me anymore.” I gave him a sad smile, realizing that was true. “But how have you been? Have you been finding stuff to keep you busy?”
“Yeah, I’ve been spending some time with Rhys, which has been nice,” Matt said. “He’s a good kid. A little … weird, but good.”
“I told you.”
“You did.” He smiled.
“And I see you found something to read.” I pointed to the book he held.
“Yeah, Willa found this for me, actually.” Matt uncrossed his arms so he could show me the book. It was hand-bound in faded leather. “It’s all the blueprints and designs for the palaces over the years.”
“Oh, yeah?” I took it from him so I could leaf through the yellowed pages. They showed the ornate designs of all the lush homes the royalty had lived in.
“I told Willa I was an architect, and she tracked down this book for me.” Matt moved closer to me so he could admire the drawings with me. “Her dad had it, I guess.”
I instantly felt stupid. Matt’s only real passion in life was architecture, and we lived in a luxurious palace perched on the edge of a bluff. Of course he would love this, and I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me sooner.
Matt started pointing things out in the drawings, telling me how ingenious they were. I nodded and sounded amazed when it seemed appropriate.
I talked to Matt a bit longer, then headed down to my room to take a break. No sooner had I flopped down on my bed than I heard a knock at the door. Sighing, I got out of bed and threw it open.
Then I saw Finn, standing in my bedroom doorway, his eyes the same shade of night they always were.
“Princess, I need you,” he said simply.
“Beg pardon?” I said when I found my voice.
“The Queen has found time to see you,” Finn said. “But you need to hurry.”
With that, he turned to walk down the hall. I stepped out and shut my bedroom door behind me. When Finn heard it, he slowed a bit, so I assumed I was supposed to catch up to him.
“Where is she?” I asked. I didn’t hurry to catch him, so he glanced at me. “Where am I meeting Elora?”
“I’ll take you to her,” Finn replied.
“You don’t need to. I can find her myself.”
“You’re not to be left alone.” He paused until I reached him, then we continued side by side.
“This place is swarming with guards. I think I can manage walking down the hall to see Elora,” I told him.
I hated that I had to walk down the halls with him and pretend like I didn’t care about him. The silence felt too awkward between us, so I struggled to fill it.
“So … what’s it like working with your father?” I asked.
“It’s acceptable,” Finn said, but I heard the tightness in his voice.
“‘Acceptable’?” I glanced over at him, searching for any sign that would give away how he really felt, but his face was a mask. His dark eyes stared straight ahead, and his lips were pressed into a thin line.
“Yes. That’s an apt way to describe it.”
“Are you close to your father?” I asked, and when he didn’t answer, I went on. “You seemed close to your mother. At least, she cares a great deal for you.”
“It’s hard to be close to someone who you don’t know,” he said carefully. “My father was gone most of my childhood. When he started being around more, I had to leave for work.”
“It’s good that you get to be around each other now,” I said. “You can spend some time together.”
“I could give you the same advice in regard to the Queen.” He gave me a sidelong glance, something teasing in his eyes that played against the ice in his words.