My heart skipped a beat, and I knew I should be nervous or upset with him, but I wasn’t. “Do you really believe that?”
“I don’t know. But I hadn’t planned on trying. I just knew that if Oren sent others along with me, they wouldn’t stop until they got you, and that didn’t seem fair.”
“So you’re not going to try to drag me back to Ondarike?” I asked.
He narrowed his eyes a little, as if really considering it. “No. It’d be far too much trouble.”
“Too much trouble?” I said doubtfully. “Couldn’t you just knock me out again and throw me over your shoulder? Or at least you could’ve when you first got here, before you let yourself become a prisoner.”
“I didn’t let myself.” He laughed. “Sure, I didn’t fight as hard as I could, but there wasn’t a point. I didn’t really want to take you away. I just wanted it to look like I did, so the King wouldn’t have any reason to kill me.”
I tilted my head, studying him. “So you’re only here to save your own neck?”
“It seems that way, doesn’t it?”
“Have you done something to me?” I asked.
I felt a little light-headed, and my pulse was racing. His caramel eyes almost seemed to hypnotize me, and my stomach fluttered. The only time I’d felt something like this before had been around Finn, and I didn’t want to believe that I might feel something like that for Loki, that I might be attracted to him. So I hoped that Loki had put me under some kind of spell, maybe the same way that he’d rendered me unconscious before.
“Like what?” Loki raised a curious eyebrow.
“I don’t know. Like that knockout trick you did on me before.”
“No, I haven’t.” He let out a long sigh, almost sounding regretful. “And I doubt that I ever will again.”
“Why not?” I asked.
The corner of one side of his mouth curled a bit, and he leaned in closer to me. For a moment I was afraid he might kiss me, and as my heart hammered in my chest, I realized that I was more afraid that he wouldn’t.
His eyes were still locked on mine, but I pulled my gaze away, searching his face. His tanned skin was smooth and flawless, his jaw strong and yet somehow delicate. Loki was quite stunning in his own right, and I think I’d been trying to ignore that since I met him.
Just before his lips touched mine, he stopped short. I could actually feel the warmth of his breath on my cheek.
“I want to know that when you’re with me, you’re here because you want to be, not because you’re forced.” He paused. “And right now you’re not moving.”
“I—I—” I tried to stutter out some kind of response, and I looked away and jumped up off the bed.
“Now who’s the one playing games?” Loki sighed. He leaned back on the bed and watched me.
I took a deep breath and crossed my arms over my chest.
“Wendy!” Duncan shouted from down the hall, and I turned to see Finn standing in the doorway, glowering at both Loki and me.
“Princess, you need to leave his room immediately,” Finn said. His voice sounded even, but I could hear the rage seething beneath.
“What is that about, by the way?” Loki asked, giving me a confused look. “Why are these trackers telling you what to do all the time? You’re almost Queen. You have dominion over everything.”
“I suggest you keep your mouth shut before I shut it for you, Vittra.” Finn glared at Loki, and his eyes burned. Loki, for his part, didn’t appear even mildly threatened, and he yawned.
“Finn—” I sighed, but I left the room anyway. I couldn’t talk to Loki in front of Finn, and I didn’t want to fight with Finn in front of Loki.
“Not now, Princess,” Finn said through gritted teeth.
As soon as I came out of the room, Finn grabbed the door and slammed it shut. I faced him, preparing to yell at him for overreacting, but he grabbed my arm and started yanking me down the hall.
“Knock it off, Finn!” I tried to pull my arm from him, but physically he was still stronger than me. “Loki is right. You are my tracker. You need to stop dragging me around and telling me what to do.”
“Loki?” Finn stopped so he could glare suspiciously at me. “You’re on a first-name basis with the Vittra prisoner who kidnapped you? And you’re lecturing me on propriety?”
“I’m not lecturing you on anything!” I shouted, and I finally got my arm free from him. “But if I were to lecture you, it would be about how you’re being such a jerk.”
“Hey, maybe you should just calm—” Duncan tried to interject. He’d been standing a few feet away from us, looking sheepish and worried.
“Duncan, don’t you dare tell me how to do my job!” Finn stabbed a finger at him. “You are the most useless, incompetent tracker I have ever met, and first chance I get, I’m going to recommend that the Queen dismiss you. And trust me, I’m doing you a favor. She should have you banished!”
Duncan’s entire face crumpled, and for a horrible moment I was certain he would cry. Instead, he just gaped at us, then lowered his eyes and nodded.
“Finn!” I yelled, wanting to slap him. “Duncan did nothing wrong!” Duncan turned to walk away, and I tried to stop him. “Duncan, no. You don’t need to go anywhere.”
He kept walking, and I didn’t go after him. Maybe I should have, but I wanted to yell at Finn some more.
“He repeatedly left you alone with the Vittra!” Finn shouted. “I know you have a death wish, but it’s Duncan’s job to prevent you from acting on it.”
“I am finding out more about the Vittra so I can stop this ridiculous fighting!” I shot back. “So I’ve been interviewing a prisoner. It’s not that unusual, and I’ve been perfectly safe.”
“Oh, yeah, ‘interviewing,’” Finn scoffed. “You were flirting with him.”
“Flirting?” I repeated and rolled my eyes. “You’re being a dick because you think I was flirting? I wasn’t, but even if I was, that doesn’t give you the right to treat me or Duncan or anybody this way.”
“I’m not being a dick,” Finn insisted. “I am doing my job, and fraternizing with the enemy is looked down on, Princess. If he doesn’t hurt you, the Vittra or Trylle will.”
“We were only talking, Finn!”