“Can I help you?” I called down. As Princess, I felt like I ought to be hospitable, even if I felt flustered and confused as hell.
“Uh, yeah. I’m looking for you.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked to the bottom of the steps, but didn’t go any farther.
“What for?” I wrinkled my nose, then, realizing I’d sounded rude, shook my head. “I mean, I beg your pardon?”
“Just to help.” Tove shrugged.
I walked slowly down the stairs, watching his eyes search the room. He never did seem comfortable looking at me.
As I approached him, I took in the soft natural highlights coursing through his dark hair. It was long and unruly, hitting just above his shoulders.
His tanned skin had a subtle mossy undertone, the green complexion that Finn had told me about. Nobody else had skin like that, except maybe his mother, but hers was fainter than Tove’s.
“Help me with what?” I asked.
“What?” He’d taken to chewing on his thumbnail. He glanced up at me, still biting it.
“What are you here to help me with?” I spoke slowly and carefully, my tone bordering on condescending, but I don’t think he noticed.
“Oh.” He dropped his hand and stared off, as if he’d forgotten why he’d come. “I’m psychic.”
“What? You can read minds?” I tensed up, trying to block him from reading any of my thoughts.
“No, no, of course not.” He brushed me off and walked away, admiring the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. “I can sense things. And I can move things with my mind. But I can’t read your thoughts. I can see auras, though. Yours is a bit brown today.”
“What does that mean?” I crossed my arms over my chest, as if I could hide my aura that way. I didn’t even really know what an aura was.
“You’re unhappy.” Tove sounded distracted, and he glanced back at me. “Normally it’s orange.”
“I don’t know what that means either.” I shook my head. “I don’t know how any of this is supposed to help me.”
“It’s not really.” He stopped moving and looked up at me. “Has Finn talked to you about training?”
“You mean the Princess training I’m doing now?”
“No.” He shook his head, chewing the inside of his cheek. “For your abilities. It won’t start until after the christening. They think if you had any handle on them before you were indoctrinated, you’d run wild.” He sighed. “They want you calm and docile.”
“This is you calm?” I raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“No.” Tove stared off at nothing again, then turned back to me, his green eyes meeting mine. “You intimidate me.”
“I intimidate you?” I laughed, unable to stop myself, but he wasn’t offended. “I’m the least intimidating person ever.”
“Mmm.” His face hardened in concentration. “Maybe to some people. But they don’t see what I see or know what I know.”
“What do you know?” I asked gently, startled by his confession.
“Have they told you?” Tove eyed me again.
“Told me what?”
“Well, if they haven’t told you, I’m certainly not going to.” He scratched at his arm and turned his back to me, walking away and looking around the room again.
“Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s not helping,” I said, growing frazzled. “You’re only confusing me more.”
“My apologies, Princess.” Tove stopped moving and bowed at me. “Finn wanted me to talk to you about your abilities. He knows you can’t start your real training until after the ball, but he wants you to be prepared.”
“Finn asked you to come over?” My heart thumped in my chest.
“Yes.” His brow creased with confusion. “Does this upset you?”
“No, not at all,” I lied. Finn had probably asked Tove over so he wouldn’t have to deal with me. He was avoiding me.
“Do you have questions?” Tove stepped closer, and I was once again struck by the subtle green tinge to his skin. On a less attractive guy it might’ve been creepy. But on him it managed to look strangely exotic.
“Tons,” I said with a sigh. He cocked his head at me. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
“You have nothing to be afraid of, you know.” Tove watched me closely, and I think I might’ve preferred it when he was scared to look at me.
“I’m not afraid.” It took effort not to squirm under his gaze.
“I can tell when you lie,” he said, still watching me. “Not because I’m psychic, but because you’re so obvious about it. You should probably work on that. Elora is very good at lying.”
“I’ll practice,” I muttered.
“That’s probably for the best.” Tove spoke with an intense sincerity that I found disarming. His disjointed insanity even had its own charm. He looked down at the floor, his expression turning sad. “I rather like you this way. Honest and flustered. But it’d never work for a Queen.”
“No, I don’t suppose it would,” I agreed, feeling a bit melancholy myself.
“I’m a bit scattered too, if you hadn’t noticed.” He gave me a small, crooked smile, but his green eyes stayed sad. With that, he crouched down, picking up a small oval stone off the floor. He flipped it around in his hand, staring down. “I find it hard to stay focused, but I’m working on it.”