“Loki—” I started to protest.
He put his hands on my face, and they felt warm on my skin, even though they should’ve been cold from scaling the wall. He leaned in to me, but he paused before his lips touched mine. His eyes met mine, searching them for any resistance, but I didn’t have any.
His mouth covered mine, and warmth stirred inside me. He tasted sweet and cool, and his skin smelled of fresh rain. My knees felt weak, and my heart battered against my chest. His hands moved back, tangling in my hair and pressing me to him.
I wrapped my arms around him, and he felt strong and powerful against me. I could actually feel his muscles, like warm marble, and I knew he could crush me if he wanted to. But the way he touched me was passionate and delicate all at once.
I wanted to give in to him, to his invitation, but a voice of reason gnawed at me. My stomach fluttered with butterflies, then twisted with knots.
“No, Loki.” I pulled my mouth from his, gasping for breath. I put my hands on his chest and took a step back. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Wendy.” Loki watched me walk backward away from him. His expression was so desperate and vulnerable, it made my chest ache.
“I’m sorry. But I can’t.”
I turned and ran to the palace, afraid that I would change my mind if I hesitated any longer.
The next few days were a blur. I did everything I could to keep my mind off the kiss with Loki, or the horrible ache inside me that I knew I might never see him again. I just had to put it behind me and move forward with my engagement.
The training with Tove left me with a constant dull headache in the back of my skull. Making arrangements with his mother left me with pain in the remainder of my head. Willa tried her best to work as an intermediary, but Aurora didn’t seem ready to let our earlier conflict go.
Elora was feeling better, so she joined us one afternoon. I thought having her there would help dispel the tension, but it didn’t. When Aurora wasn’t busy picking at me, she was picking at Elora. And when she wasn’t doing that, they were both picking at me.
I spent most evenings in the library with Duncan, studying as much as I could about the Trylle way of life. I’d found a Tryllic dictionary, and I had to keep leafing through it as I looked through older documents. It was impossible to guess what it meant, since Tryllic didn’t use the English alphabet. For example, the word Tryllic looked like this—
With the small desk lamp as the only light in the room, I sat at the desk with my nose buried in a book. Duncan was at the shelves, combing through the acres of books to find ones that he thought would be best. He did know more about Trylle history than I did, but not much more.
“Burning the midnight oil?” Finn asked, scaring me so much I nearly screamed. He stood at the edge of the desk, and I hadn’t even heard him come in.
“Yeah, I guess.” I stared down at the faded pages of the book, keeping myself focused on them instead of Finn.
I hadn’t talked to him since I’d kissed Loki. In a bizarre way, I felt as if I’d cheated on him. That was really silly, considering I was engaged to Tove, and what little Finn and I had together was long over.
“I have something I need to go check on,” Duncan said, taking his cue to exit.
He didn’t need to, since I doubted that Finn and I needed privacy, but it was nice that he tried. He gave me a hopeful smile before he slipped out, leaving me alone with Finn.
“What are you looking up?” Finn asked, nodding to the stacks of books on the desk.
“Anything. Everything.” I shrugged. “I figured it was about time I got to know my history.”
“It’s a very large history,” Finn said.
“Yeah. That’s what I’m finding out.” I leaned back in my chair so I could look up at him. The dim light from the lamp left most of his face in shadow, but his expressions were so unreadable anyway, it didn’t really matter.
“The engagement party is tomorrow,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be upstairs primping and preening with Willa?”
“Nope. I get to do that in the morning.” I sighed, thinking of the long day ahead of me tomorrow.
“On that note, a congratulations is in order.”
“Really?” I closed the book I’d been reading and stood up.
I didn’t want to be that close to Finn anymore, so I went over to a shelf and put the book away. I wasn’t sure if it was the right spot, but I needed an excuse to move.
“You’re getting married,” Finn said, his voice cool and even. “Congratulations is appropriate.”
“Whatever.” I shoved the book hard in the bookcase and turned around to face him.
“You can’t be mad at me for being supportive,” Finn said, letting disbelief tinge his words.
“I can be mad at you for whatever I want.” I leaned against the bookcase. “But I don’t get you at all.”
“What is there to get?” Finn asked.
“You practically ripped my arm off because you thought I was flirting with Loki. But I’m getting married to Tove, and you treat us both like nothing’s happening.”
“That’s entirely different.” Finn shook his head. “The Vittra was bad for you. He would hurt you. Tove is your intended.”
“My intended?” I scoffed. “Were you protecting me for him? Making sure that nobody else tainted me until Tove got me?”
“No, of course not. I was merely protecting you. Your good name, your image.”
“Right. That’s what you were doing when you had your tongue down my throat?”
“I don’t know why you always resort to being so crude.” He lowered his eyes in disapproval.
“I don’t know why you always have to be so proper!” I shot back. “Can you tell me how you really feel for once? I’m marrying somebody else! Don’t you care at all?”
“Of course I care!” Finn yelled, his eyes blazing.
“Then why aren’t you doing something?” I asked as tears filled my eyes. “Why don’t you at least try to stop me?”
“Because Tove will take care of you. He will defend you.” Finn swallowed hard. “He will be able to do things for you, with you, that I never could. Why would I take that away from you?”
“Because you care about me.”
“It’s because I care about you that I can’t!”
“I don’t believe you.” I shook my head. “You don’t even care when I’m with him. How could you get so angry when I was with Loki? You admitted you were jealous when I hung out with Rhys. But when I’m around Tove, you’re fine.”