“That really sucks,” Duncan said, sitting on the chest at the foot of my bed.
“You were talking to her and she just collapsed?” Willa asked. She rested her elbow on the pillow next to mine and propped her head up so she could look at me.
“Yeah.” I nodded. “The worst part is I was arguing with her right before it happened.”
“Aw, sweetie.” Willa reached out and touched my arm. “You know it wasn’t your fault, right?”
“Did she say what she’s dying from?” Matt asked. The crease on his forehead deepened; he knew I had left something out.
“You know Elora.” I shrugged. “She’s vague on details.”
“That’s true,” Matt said with a sigh, and that answer seemed to satisfy him. “I just don’t like mysterious illnesses.”
“Well, nobody does, Matt,” Willa said with a teasing lilt to her voice.
“What were you and the Queen arguing about?” Duncan asked. He was changing the subject, which I would’ve been grateful for, until I remembered the answer to his question.
I was supposed to marry Tove Kroner.
“Oh, hell.” I leaned my head back so it thudded against the headboard.
“What was that for?” Willa asked.
“Nothing.” I shook my head. “It was just a stupid disagreement. That’s all.”
“Stupid?” Matt came over and sat on the bed by my feet. “Stupid how?”
“You know, normal stuff,” I floundered. “Elora wanted me to be a better Princess. More punctual and stuff like that.”
“You do need to be more punctual,” Matt agreed. “Maggie was always on you about that.”
Another reminder of Maggie stung my heart. I hadn’t spoken to her since we’d returned to Förening. Matt had a few times, but I’d been avoiding her calls. I had been busy lately, but the real reason I put off talking to her was because hearing her voice would only make me miss her too much.
“How is Maggie?” I asked, ignoring the ache in my chest.
“She’s good,” Matt said. “She’s staying in New York with friends, and she’s really confused about everything that’s going on. I keep telling her that everything’s fine, that we’re safe, and she needs to lay low.”
“You need to talk to her, though.” Matt gave me a hard look. “I can’t keep being the go-between.”
“I know.” I picked at chipped paint on my teacup and lowered my eyes. “I don’t know how to answer her questions. Like, where we are and when we’re coming back and when I’ll see her again.”
“I don’t know how to answer them either, but I make do,” Matt said.
“Wendy’s had a long day,” Willa said, coming to my rescue. “I don’t think now is the time to lecture her on things she should be doing.”
“You’re right.” Matt gave her a small smile before looking at me apologetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get on your case, Wendy.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said. “You’re just doing your job.”
“I don’t really know what my job is anymore,” Matt said wearily.
Someone knocked at the door, and Duncan jumped up to get it.
“Duncan, stop it.” I sighed. “You’re not the butler.”
“Maybe not, but you’re still the Princess,” Duncan said, and he opened my bedroom door.
“I hope I’m not disturbing anything,” Finn said, looking past Duncan at me.
As soon as his dark eyes landed on mine, my breath caught in my throat. He stood at the door, his black hair mussed a bit. His vest was still neatly pressed but it was marred with a dark stain from Elora’s blood.
“No, not at all,” I said, sitting up farther.
“Actually, we were—” Matt began, his voice hard.
“Actually, we were leaving,” Willa cut him off. She scooted off the bed, and Matt shot her a look, which she only smiled at. “We were just saying that we had something to do in your room. Weren’t we, Matt?”
“Fine,” Matt grumbled and stood up. Finn moved aside so Matt and Willa could walk out of the room, and Matt gave him a warning glare. “But we’ll just be right across the hall.”
Willa grabbed Matt’s hand to keep him moving. Finn, as usual, seemed oblivious to Matt’s threats, which only made Matt angrier.
“Come on, Duncan,” Willa said as she pulled Matt from my room.
“What?” Duncan asked, then caught on. “Oh. Right. I’ll be … um … outside.”
Duncan closed the door behind him, leaving me alone with Finn. I sat up straight and moved to the edge of the bed so my legs dangled over. Finn stayed by the door and didn’t say anything.
“Did you need something?” I asked carefully.
“I wanted to see how you were doing.” He looked at me in that way that went straight through me, and I lowered my gaze.
“I’m good, considering.”
“Did the Queen explain things to you?” Finn asked.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I don’t know if I’ll ever really understand this world.”
“She told you she’s dying?” Finn asked, and hearing him say it made it worse.
“Yeah,” I said thickly. “She told me. And she finally told me what makes me so special. That I’m the perfect blend of Trylle and Vittra. I’m the ultimate bloodline.”
“And you didn’t believe me when I said you were special.” That was Finn’s attempt at a joke, and he smiled ever so slightly.
“I guess you were right.” I pulled down my hair, which had gotten messy from lying on it, and ran my fingers through it.
“How are you taking that?” Finn asked, coming closer to the foot of my bed. He stopped by the bedpost and absently touched my satin bedding.
“Being the chosen one for both sides in an epic troll battle?”
“If anybody can handle it, you can,” he reassured me.
I looked up at him, and his eyes betrayed some of the warmth he felt for me. I wanted to throw myself into his arms and feel them wrap around me, protecting me like granite. To kiss his temples and cheeks, to feel his stubble rubbing against my skin.
Despite how badly I wanted that—I wanted it so much I ached—I knew that I had to become a great Princess, which meant that I had to use some restraint. Even if the restraint killed me.