“Elora wants me to marry Tove,” I blurted out. I hadn’t meant to tell him that way, but I knew it would ruin the moment. Break the spell we were under before I acted on it.
“So she told you?” Finn said with a heavy sigh.
“What?” I blinked at him, startled by his response. “What do you mean, she told me? You knew? How long did you know?”
“I’m not sure, exactly.” He shook his head. “I’ve known for a long while, before I met you or Tove.”
“What?” I gaped at him, unable to find the words that matched the confusion and anger inside me.
“The marriage had been arranged for some time, the Markis Kroner and the Princess Dahl,” Finn explained calmly. “I believe it was only finalized a few days ago, but it was what Aurora Kroner had always wanted. The Queen knew it was her best chance to secure the throne and keep you safe.”
“You knew?” I repeated, unable to get past that part. “You knew that she wanted me to marry somebody else, and you never told me?”
He appeared confused by my reaction. “It wasn’t my place.”
“Maybe it wasn’t your place as a tracker, but as the guy making out with me in this bed, yeah, I think it was your place to tell me that I’m supposed to marry someone else.”
“Wendy, I repeatedly told you we couldn’t be together—”
“Saying we shouldn’t be together isn’t the same thing, and you know it!” I snapped. “How could you not tell me, Finn? He’s your friend. He’s my friend, and you never thought to tell me?”
“No, I didn’t want to interfere with the way you thought of him.”
“Interfere with what?” I asked.
“I was afraid you might hate him to spite your mother, and I didn’t want that. I wanted you to be happy with him,” Finn said. “While you wouldn’t be marrying for love, you are friends. You could have a happy life together.”
“You … what?” My heart felt like it had been ripped in half. For a moment, I didn’t speak. I couldn’t make my mouth work. “You expect me to marry him.”
“Yes, of course,” Finn said, almost wearily.
“You’re not even gonna try to…” I swallowed back tears and looked away from him. “When Elora told me, I fought with her. I fought for you.”
“I am sorry, Wendy.” His voice had gotten low and thick. He stepped closer and raised his hand as if he meant to touch me, but dropped it instead. “But you will be happy with Tove. He can protect you.”
“I wish everyone would stop talking about him that way!” I sat back on the bed, exasperated. “Tove is a person! This is his life! Doesn’t he deserve better than being somebody’s watchdog?”
“I can imagine worse things in life than being married to you,” Finn said quietly.
“Don’t.” I shook my head. “Don’t joke. Don’t be nice.” I glared up at him. “You kept this from me. But worse still, you didn’t fight for me.”
“You know why I can’t, Wendy.” His dark eyes smoldered, and his fists clenched at his side. “Now you know who you are and what you mean to the kingdom. I can’t fight for something that isn’t mine. Especially not when you mean so much to our people.”
“You’re right, Finn, I’m not yours.” I nodded, looking down at the floor. “I’m not anybody’s. I have a choice in all of this, and so do you. But you have no right to take my choice away from me, to tell me who I should marry.”
“I didn’t arrange this marriage,” Finn said incredulously.
“But you think I should marry him, and you’ve done nothing to stop it.” I shrugged. “You might as well have arranged it yourself.”
I wiped at my eyes, and he didn’t say anything. I lay down on my bed and rolled over so my back was to him. After a few minutes, I heard him walk away and the door shut behind him.
Sara Elsing, Queen of the Vittra, was set to arrive at three the next afternoon to collect Loki Staad, so the morning was filled with a series of defense meetings. I attended with Tove, Aurora Kroner, Garrett Strom, the Chancellor, and a select few trackers, like Finn and his father.
Elora was noticeably absent. She didn’t have the strength for it, and she wouldn’t be able to regain her strength until after Loki left.
When we stopped for lunch, Tove invited me to join him, but I declined. I liked Tove as much as I always had, but I felt weird around him knowing that we were expected to marry.
Also, I wanted to get in a moment alone with Loki before he left. It might be the last chance I ever got to speak with him.
This time, I didn’t use Duncan to do my dirty work. I sent the guards away myself. They protested, but with an icy glare I reminded them I was the Princess. I didn’t care if anyone talked about it. Loki was leaving anyway. There would be nothing left to gossip about.
“Ooo, I love it when you’re feisty,” Loki said after I made the guards leave. He leaned on the footboard of the bed, his usual cocky grin plastered on his face.
“I’m not being feisty,” I said. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“You’ve come to say good-bye, I take it?” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ll miss me terribly, I know, but if you want to avoid all that, you can always come with me.”
“That’s quite all right, thank you.”
“Really?” Loki wrinkled his nose. “You can’t actually be excited about the upcoming nuptials.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, tensing up.
“I heard you’re engaged to that stodgy Markis.” Loki waved his hand vaguely and stood up. “Which I think is ridiculous. He’s boring and bland and you don’t love him at all.”
“How do you know about that?” I stood up straighter, preparing to defend myself.
“The guards around here are horrible gossips, and I hear everything.” He grinned and sauntered toward me. “And I have two eyes. I’ve seen that little melodrama play out between you and that other tracker. Fish? Flounder? What’s his name?”
“Finn,” I said pointedly.
“Yes, him.” Loki rested his shoulder against the door. “Can I give you a piece of advice?”
“By all means. I’d love to hear advice from a prisoner.”