Page 32

Pushing the door open slowly, I peeked in, half expecting to find the royal bathroom or something. When nobody screamed at me to go away, I pushed the door open wider and stepped inside. Unlike the other rooms, this one was completely dark.

Feeling along the wall, I finally found the light switch and flicked it on. The room reminded me of a large storeroom. It had no windows, and the walls were dark brown. With a bare lightbulb in the ceiling, it held none of the grandeur of the rest of the house, and it had no furniture.

But it was filled to the brim with paintings. Not hanging on the wall. Just stacked and piled around in every available space. At first I assumed they must be leftovers from the King and Queen room, but from what I could see, none of them were portraits.

I picked up the one nearest to me, and it was a lovely picture of a newborn baby wrapped in a blue blanket. I set it aside and picked up another, which appeared to be Elora, looking much younger and even more beautiful, dressed in a gorgeous white gown. Despite the beauty of the picture, her eyes looked sad and remorseful.

Holding the picture at arm’s length so I could get a better look at it, I realized something. It had the same brushstrokes, the same technique as the painting of the baby. I picked up another picture to compare, and it was the same too.

These were all painted by the same artist.

I thought back to the drawing room and the painting I had seen Elora working on. Something with dark smoke and chandeliers. I couldn’t be certain, but I would guess these were hers.

I sifted through a few more of the paintings, growing even more bewildered, and then I saw one that stopped my heart cold. When I picked it up, I wasn’t surprised to see my hands were shaking.

It showed me, looking about the same as I did now, except dressed nicer. I wore a beautiful flowing white gown, but there was a tear in the side of the dress, revealing a thin line of red blood. My hair had been pulled back, but it was starting to come loose, wild strands falling free.

In the painting, I lay on my belly on a marble balcony. The floor around me was covered in pieces of glass that shimmered like diamonds, but I didn’t seem to notice. My outstretched hand extended past the balcony, reaching into a dark oblivion.

But my face was what struck me the most. I looked absolutely horrified.

Once I got past that, I realized something even more disturbing. This picture looked exactly like me. And I’d only been here for a day. There was no way Elora could’ve painted something this detailed within twenty-four hours of meeting me.

But how could she paint me with such accuracy if we’d never met?

“I should’ve known you’d be snooping,” Finn said from behind me, startling me so much I dropped the painting.

“I—I got lost.” I turned to look at him standing in the door way.

“In a locked room?” He raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms.

“No, I—” I started to formulate some kind of lame excuse, but decided against it. I picked up the picture, the one of me reaching for nothing, and held it up for him to see. “What’s this?”

“It appears to be a painting, and if you hadn’t gathered from the locked door, it’s also none of your business.” It came as a relief that Finn didn’t sound very upset. At least not as upset as Elora would be if she found out I was in here, I’m sure.

“This is me.” I tapped the picture.

“Maybe.” He shrugged, as if he wasn’t convinced.

“No, I wasn’t asking. This is me,” I insisted. “What am I doing?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Finn sighed. “I didn’t paint it.”

“Did Elora?” I asked, and when he didn’t say anything, I took that as my answer. “Why would she paint this? How did she paint this? We’d never met before yesterday.”

“She gave birth to you. You’d met before,” Finn replied dryly.

“Yeah, when I was a baby. That doesn’t count.” I raised the picture higher so he couldn’t help but look at it. “Why would she paint this? Or any of these?”

“In all your myriad questions about this room, did you ever stop to ask yourself why this room is locked?” Finn gave me a hard look. “That Elora might not want people looking at these?”

“Yeah, it did occur to me.” I looked back down at the painting, ignoring him. “But this is me. I have a right to know.”

“That’s not how it works. You don’t have the right to know other people’s thoughts just because they include you,” he said. “Just the same as I don’t have the right to yours just because they’re about me.”

“You presume that I think of you?” I fought the growing blush on my cheeks and shook my head, trying to get back to the point. “Just tell me what’s going on. And don’t just tell me to wait for Elora to tell me, because that’s not good enough. Not after seeing this.”

I put the painting down and returned my gaze to Finn.

“Fine. But get out of there before Elora finds you.” He moved back from the doorway, making room for me to step out.

I had to climb over all the paintings I had disturbed, but he didn’t tell me to put them back in order, which was good because I didn’t think I could. The room had no organization, and all the paintings were placed haphazardly.

Once I made my escape, Finn shut the door, making certain it was locked properly.

“So?” I asked, looking at him expectantly. He had his back to me, testing the door again to be sure it wouldn’t budge.