“So what about this Maggie? What’s she like?” Rhys asked.
“She’s pretty cool. A little overly attentive sometimes, but cool,” I said. “She put up with a lot of crap from me. They both did, really.” I thought about how strange this all was, that they weren’t my family anymore. “This is so weird. They’re your brother and your aunt.”
“No, I understand. They’re your family too,” Rhys said. “They loved you and raised you. That’s what family is, right?”
I had needed someone to say that to me for so long, and I squeezed his hand gratefully. I still loved them and always would, and I just needed that to be okay.
“Wendy!” Finn came down the hall, still dressed in his pajamas. Instinctively I pulled my hand back, and Rhys stood up. “What are you doing?”
“I just woke up. We were just talking.” I looked up at Rhys, who nodded in agreement.
Finn glared at us both, and I felt like we’d just been caught robbing a bank.
“I suggest you get ready for school,” he said icily.
“Yeah, that’s what I was doing anyway,” Rhys said, then smiled down at me. “I’ll see you later, Wendy.”
“Yeah, okay.” I smiled back at him.
“What are you doing?” Finn hissed, glowering down at me.
“I already told you,” I insisted and stood up. “We were just talking.”
“About what?” Finn asked.
“My family.” I shrugged. “What does it matter?”
“You cannot talk to him about your host family,” Finn said. “Mänsklig cannot know where they come from. If they did, they would be tempted to track down their families, and that would completely ruin our entire society. Do you understand that?”
“I didn’t really tell him anything!” I said, but I felt stupid that that hadn’t occurred to me. “I missed Matt, and I just said stuff about how neat he was. I didn’t tell Rhys where he lived or anything like that.”
“You have to be more careful, Wendy.”
“Sorry. I didn’t know.” I didn’t like the way he was glaring at me, so I turned and started walking down the hall toward my room.
“Wait.” Finn grabbed my arm gently so I would stop and look at him.
He took a step closer to me so he was right in front of me, but I was trying to be mad at him, so I refused to look at him. I could still feel his eyes on me and the heat from his body, and it did little to help me maintain my anger.
“What?” I asked.
Finn lowered his voice. “I saw you holding his hand.”
“So?” I said. “Is that a crime?”
“No, but . . . you can’t do that. You cannot get involved with a mänsklig.”
“Whatever.” I pulled my arm from his grip, irritated that the only thing he ever thought about was his job. “You’re just jealous.”
“I am not jealous.” Finn took a step back from me. “I am watching out for your well-being. You don’t understand how dangerous it would be to get involved with him.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered and started walking back to my room. “I don’t understand anything.”
“That’s not what I said.” Finn followed me.
“But it’s true, isn’t it?” I countered. “I don’t know anything.”
“Wendy!” Finn snapped, and grudgingly, I turned back to look at him. “If you don’t understand things, it’s because I didn’t explain them well enough.”
He swallowed hard and looked down at the floor, his dark eyelashes falling on his cheeks. There was something more that he wanted to say to me, so I crossed my arms, waiting.
“But you were right.” He was clearly struggling with the words, and I watched him carefully. “I was jealous.”
“What?” My jaw fell open, and my eyes widened with surprise.
“That does not affect the job I have to do, nor does it change the fact that you absolutely cannot become involved with a mänsklig,” Finn said firmly, still looking at the floor instead of at me. “Now go get ready. We have another long day ahead of us.” He turned around and started to walk away.
“Wait, Finn!” I called after him, and he paused, half looking back at me.
“The matter is not open for discussion,” he replied coolly. “I promised I would never lie to you, so I didn’t.”
I stood in front of my bedroom door, reeling from his confession. For the first time, he had actually admitted that at least some of his feelings for me had nothing to do with the job at hand. Yet somehow I was supposed to forget all that and go about as if everything were normal.
I spent a long time getting ready, still making sense of what Finn had told me. It thrilled me that he cared enough to feel jealous, but I also realized how pointless it was. He’d never do anything that conflicted with his sense of honor and duty.
Even with me taking so much time, Finn never came to get me. Eventually, I perched at the top of the spiral staircase to wait for him. I thought about going down to his room, but I didn’t really feel comfortable with that. Besides, he’d probably send me away.
From the top of the stairs, I watched in surprise as Tove Kroner pushed open the front door. He hadn’t knocked or anything, and he raked a hand through his messy hair, looking around.