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Rhys and I went through the kitchen and out the back door, to the secret garden that bloomed even in the middle of the night. Scaling the high brick walls that surrounded the palace compound would’ve been impossible if I didn’t have Rhys to give me a boost. Once I pulled him up, we both jumped down on the other side.

Without even brushing the dirt from our clothes, we ran along the wall. Rhys led the way because he knew the area better than I did. We’d nearly made it to the garage when we had to duck behind a bush to wait for a guard to pass.

Once the guard moved on, we hurried to the garage. Rhys found his new motorcycle but didn’t start it. He pushed it out of the garage, leaving the engine and lights off so as not to attract attention.

At the edge of town was the gate manned by a guard, and I doubted he’d let the Princess through. Rhys had a plan, though. He knew of a weak spot in the fence a ways down the embankment. He’d heard of other mänks getting through it when they ran away.

I had to help Rhys steady the motorcycle so it wouldn’t go tumbling down the hill as we made our way through the trees and the brush. Apparently the hole in the fence was even larger now than it had been before. That’s how some of the Vittra had broken in, and the Trylle hadn’t fixed it yet. Typical of them, to be more focused on securing the palace than making sure the town of Förening was safe.

We were able to get the motorcycle through without much trouble, and it was then, as we pushed it up the hill, that I started feeling the exhilaration and relief of escape. I ignored any pangs of sadness or longing for some of the people I’d met here, like Willa and Tove, and I just tried to focus on the fact that I was getting away. I was free.

Once we got to the road, Rhys started the motorcycle. We sped off into the darkness, and I sat on the bike behind him, wrapping my arms tightly around his waist and burying my face in his leather jacket.

The sky had that eerie blue glow of very early morning when we pulled up in front of my house. Rhys hadn’t even turned off the motorcycle before Matt threw open the front door and came jogging down the porch steps.

Even in the dim light I could see how stricken Matt looked. I jumped off the bike, and, completely oblivious to Rhys, Matt threw his arms around me. He held me so tightly to him, it hurt. I didn’t care, though. I buried my face in his shoulder, breathing in his familiar scent and relishing the protection of his arms. I was finally home.