“Don’t be crude,” Matt growled, and Duncan took a step back, as if he expected Matt to hit him.
“And you can’t say anything to anybody about this,” Willa warned him. “You know what would happen if this got out.”
Willa was a Marksinna, and even though her abilities were nowhere near as strong as mine, she was still one of the most powerful ones left. Matt was a human from a host family, relegating him to an even lower class than trackers and mänks. If Matt was caught defiling Willa’s important bloodline, they’d both be exiled.
Considering they were two of my closest friends, I didn’t want that to happen. Not only would I miss them terribly, but the Vittra might go after them to get to me. They needed to stay in Förening, where they were safe.
“Of course I won’t say anything.” Duncan crossed his heart to prove his sincerity. “I never told anyone about Finn and the Princess.”
“Duncan, shut up,” I snapped. I didn’t need Matt to be reminded of that right now.
“Please don’t be mad,” Willa said, incorrectly thinking my irritation was with her. “We didn’t want you to find out this way. We’ve been waiting for the right time to tell you, but you’ve had so much going on lately.”
“And this doesn’t change the way we feel about you,” Matt rushed to explain. “We both care about you a lot.” He gestured to himself and Willa, but he didn’t look at her. “That’s one of the things that drew us together. We didn’t want to hurt you.”
“You guys, I’m not hurt.” I shook my head. “I’m not mad. I’m not even that surprised.”
“Really?” Willa tilted her head.
“No. You’ve been spending so much time together, and you’re always flirting,” I said. “I kinda knew something was going on. I just didn’t expect to walk in on you like that.”
“Sorry.” Matt’s blush deepened. “I really didn’t mean for you to see us that way.”
“No, it’s okay.” I shrugged it off. “It’s not a big deal.”
I looked from one of them to the other. Willa’s dark eyes were worried, and her light brown waves of hair cascaded down her side. She was very beautiful, and she’d already shown how kind and loyal she could be.
“You guys make sense,” I said finally. “And I want you both to be happy.”
“We’re happy.” Willa smiled, and she and Matt exchanged a look. It was one of those sweet loving ones, and it even made Matt smile.
“Yeah, we’re happy.” Matt nodded and pulled his gaze away from her to look at me.
“Good. But you two have got to be careful. I don’t want you getting caught and banished away from me. I need you both.”
“Yeah, I know you need me,” Willa said. “Aurora would eat you alive without my help.”
“Don’t remind me.” I grimaced and flopped on one of Rhys’s old beanbag chairs. “And I’ve only been engaged for like forty-eight hours. Everyone’s all afraid of the Vittra, but I swear, this wedding is going to be the death of me.”
“If you don’t want to marry him, don’t marry him,” Matt said. He sat down on the couch next to Willa, but he’d turned on his disapproving big-brother voice. “You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s not Tove.” I shook my head. “I’m fine with marrying Tove.”
“You’re ‘fine’ with marrying him?” Willa laughed and looped her arm through Matt’s. “How romantic.”
“You should’ve seen the proposal,” I said.
“Where is the ring, by the way?” Willa asked, looking at my hands. “Is it out getting sized?”
“I don’t know.” I held my hands out to look at them, as if I expected a ring to magically appear. “He didn’t give me one.”
“That’s horrible!” Willa rested her head on Matt’s shoulder. “We have to correct that right away. Maybe I’ll say something when we’re with Aurora tomorrow.”
“No!” I said fiercely. “Please don’t say anything to her. She’d force me to pick out something hideous.”
“How can she force you to do anything?” Duncan asked. He sat cross-legged next to me on the floor. “You’re the Princess. She’s your subordinate.”
“You know Aurora.” I sighed. “She has ways.”
“That’s weird.” Duncan looked at me as if seeing me in a new light. “I thought life would be so much different for royals. That you had total freedom.”
“Nobody’s really free.” I shook my head. “You spend like twenty hours a day with me. You know how much of my time is free.”
“That’s really depressing.” Duncan’s shoulders sagged as he thought about this. “I thought your life was like this because you were new, but it’s always gonna be like this, isn’t it? You’ll always have to answer to people.”
“So it would seem,” I agreed. “Life isn’t a fairy tale, Duncan.”
“And you know what they say,” Willa chimed in. “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
“Well, that was embarrassing to hear you say that, so I’m good.” I stood up. “I’ve got lots of studying to do tonight. I’m going to squeeze in some training before I meet with Aurora tomorrow. Do you think you can keep her busy until I get there?”
“If I must,” Willa groaned.
“Don’t overwork yourself,” Matt said as I was leaving the room. “You’ve got to make time to be a kid. You’re still young.”
“I think my days of being a kid are over,” I said honestly.
Willa bailed early on in the planning. She said she had to have supper with her father, but I suspected that she couldn’t take Aurora anymore.
We were in the ballroom. The skylights were finally fixed, but a layer of snow covered the top of them, making the ballroom dark and cavelike. Aurora assured me that the snow would be removed in time for my engagement party, as if I were worried about that.
She flitted about the room, mapping out where the tables and decorations would be. I helped as often as she let me, which wasn’t very often. Her poor assistant was running around like mad to do everything Aurora asked.