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I found it disturbing how matter-of-factly he talked about all of this, as if we were talking about biology homework instead of the possibility that I possessed some kind of paranormal ability.

“How do you know?” I asked. “How do you know what I have? How did you even know I was doing it?”

He shrugged. “Experience.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s complicated.” He rubbed the back of his head and stared at the floor. “You’re not going to believe me. But I haven’t lied to you, and I never will. Do you believe that, at least?”

“I think so,” I replied tentatively. Considering we’d only spoken a handful of times, he hadn’t had much of an opportunity to lie to me.

“That’s a start.” Finn took a deep breath, and I nervously pulled at a strand of my hair as I watched him. Almost sheepishly, he said, “You’re a changeling.” He looked expectantly at me, waiting for some kind of dramatic reaction.

“I don’t even know what that is. Isn’t it like a movie with Angelina Jolie or something?” I shook my head. “I don’t know what it means.”

“You don’t know what it is?” Finn smirked. “Of course you don’t know what it is. That would make it all too easy if you had even the slightest inkling about what is going on.”

“It would, wouldn’t it?” I agreed.

“A changeling is a child that has been secretly exchanged for another.”

The room got this weird, foggy quality to it. My mind flashed to my mother, and the things she had screamed at me. I had always felt I didn’t belong, but at the same time I’d never consciously believed it was true.

But now, suddenly, Finn confirmed all the suspicions I had been harboring. All the horrible things my mother had told me were true.

“But how . . .” Dazedly, I shook my head, then one key question sprang to mind. “How would you know that? How could you possibly know that? Even if it were true?”

“Well . . .” Finn watched me for a moment as I struggled to let everything sink in. “You’re Trylle. It’s what we do.”

“Trylle? Is that like your last name or something?” I asked.

“No.” Finn smiled. “Trylle is the name of our ‘tribe,’ if you will.” He rubbed the side of his temple. “This is hard to explain. We are, um, trolls.”

“You’re telling me that I’m a troll?” I raised one eyebrow, and finally decided that he must be insane.

Nothing about me resembled a pink-haired doll with a jewel in its stomach or a creepy little monster that lived under a bridge. Admittedly, I was kind of short, but Finn was at least six feet tall.

“You’re thinking of trolls the way they’ve been misrepresented, obviously,” Finn hurried to explain. “That’s why we prefer Trylle. You don’t get any of that silly ‘Billy Goats Gruff’ imagery. But now I have you staring at me like I have totally lost my mind.”

“You have lost your mind.” I trembled in shock and fear, not knowing what to think. I should’ve thrown him out of my room, but then again, I never should’ve let him in.

“Okay. Think about it, Wendy.” Finn moved on to trying to reason with me, as if his idea had real merit. “You’ve never really fit in anywhere. You have a quick temper. You’re very intelligent and a picky eater. You hate shoes. Your hair, while lovely, is hard to control. You have dark brown eyes, dark brown hair.”

“What does the color of my eyes have to do with anything?” I retorted. “Or any of those things—”

“Earth tones. Our eyes and hair are always earth tones,” Finn answered. “And oftentimes our skin has almost a greenish hue to it.”

“I’m not green!” I looked at my skin anyway, just to be sure, but there was nothing green about it.

“It’s very faint, when people do have it,” Finn said. “But no, you don’t. Not really. Sometimes it gets more predominant after you’ve been living around other Trylle for a while.”

“I am not a troll,” I insisted fiercely. “That doesn’t even make any sense. It doesn’t . . . So I’m angry and different. Most teenagers feel that way. It doesn’t mean anything.” I combed through my hair, as if to prove it wasn’t that wild. My fingers got caught in it, proving his point rather than mine, and I sighed. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“I’m not just guessing here, Wendy,” Finn informed me with a wry smile. “I know who you are. I know you’re Trylle. That’s why I came looking for you.”

“You were looking for me?” My jaw dropped. “That’s why you stare at me all the time in school. You’re stalking me!”

“I’m not stalking.” Finn raised a hand defensively. “I’m a tracker. It’s my job. I find the changelings and bring them back.”

Of all the major things that were wrong with this situation, the thing that bothered me most was when he said it was his job. There hadn’t ever been any attraction between us. He had just been doing his job, and that meant following me.

He was stalking me, and I was only upset about it because he was doing it because he had to, not because he wanted to.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” Finn admitted. “I’m sorry. We usually wait until you’re older. But if you’re already using persuasion, then I think you need to head back to the compound. You’re developing early.”