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It had the same kind of opulence as the palace in Förening, but the tones were deeper and richer. It felt more like a luxurious castle.

“This is really nice,” I said, not hiding the surprise and awe in my voice.

“Yes, of course it is. It’s the King’s home.” Loki looked at me, bemused by how stupefied I appeared. “What else would you expect?”

“I don’t know. After being downstairs, I assumed something creepier and dirtier.” I shrugged. “You didn’t even have electricity down there.”

“It’s for dramatic effect. It’s a dungeon.” He led the way down a corridor decorated the same as the hall.

“What would happen if I tried to escape?” I asked.

I didn’t see anyone else. If I outran Loki, I could probably get away. Not that I knew where to go, and I still wouldn’t be able to free Matt and Rhys.

“I would stop you,” he replied simply.

“The same way Kyra did at my house?” A pain flared up in my rib, as if reminding me of the damage she’d caused.

“No.” Something dark flickered across his face for a second. He quickly erased it and smiled at me. “I would simply take you in my arms and hold you there until you swooned.”

“It sounds romantic when you say it that way.” I wrinkled my nose, remembering how he’d made me pass out by staring into my eyes. It hadn’t been painful, but it hadn’t exactly been pleasant either.

“It is when I envision it.”

“That’s a little twisted,” I said, but he shrugged in response. “Why did you kidnap me and take me here?”

“I fear you have too many questions for me, Princess,” Loki said, almost tiredly. “You’d do better saving them all for Sara. She’s the one with the answers.”

We walked the rest of the way without saying anything. He led me down the hall, up a flight of stairs carpeted in red velvet, and down another hall before stopping at ornate wooden double doors. Vines, fairies, and trolls were carved into them, depicting a fantasy scene in the vein of Hans Christian Andersen.

Loki knocked once with dramatic flair, then opened the doors without waiting for a response. I followed behind him.

“Loki!” Sara shouted. “You are to wait to be let into my chambers!”

Her room was much the same as the rest of the house. A large four-poster bed sat in the center, with unmade crimson sheets on top of it.

A dressing table sat on one side of the room, and she was perched on a small stool in front of it. Her hair was pulled up in the same tight ponytail as before, but she’d changed out of her clothes. A long black satin robe hung about her.

When she turned to look at us, the fabric moved as if it were liquid. Her brown eyes widened with shock at the sight of me, but she hurried to compose herself.

A hobgoblin stood next to her, the same kind as Ludlow. He had attempted to dress up, wearing a small butler’s uniform, but he had the same horrible skin and haggard appearance. Long necklaces, layered in diamonds and pearls, hung from his hands. At first I didn’t understand why, but soon I realized he was holding them for her, like a living jewelry box.

A yapping ball of fur jumped off the bed when we came into the room. It stopped just short of us, and I saw it was only a Pomeranian. The majority of its rage seemed directed at me, and when Loki told it to be quiet, it fell silent. Eyeing me warily, the dog walked toward Sara.

“I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” Sara forced a smile at me, and her eyes turned icy when she looked at Loki. “I would’ve dressed if I had known you were coming.”

“The Princess was getting restless.” Loki lounged on a velvet couch near the end of the bed. “After the day she’s had, I thought she deserved a break.”

“I understand that, but I’m a tad unprepared at the moment.” Sara continued glaring at him and gestured to her robe.

“Well, then you shouldn’t have sent me to retrieve her so soon,” Loki said, returning her stare evenly.

“You know that we had to do—” Sara cut herself off and shook her head. “Never mind. What’s done is done, and you’re absolutely right.”

She smiled at me, her expression leaning toward something warm. Or at least something far warmer than my mother Elora ever managed.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Even after all they’d done, I still had no idea what the Vittra really wanted with me. I knew only that they refused to stop coming after me.

“Yes, we should talk.” She tapped her fingers on the table for a minute while she thought. “Can you give us a minute, please?”

“Fine.” Loki sighed and got to his feet. “Come on, Froud.” The little dog ran happily to him, and Loki scooped him up. “The grown-ups need to talk.”

The hobgoblin carefully set the jewelry on the table, and then headed toward the door. He walked slowly, his gait wobbly thanks to his stature, but Loki loitered so that the troll made it out of the room before him.

“Loki?” Sara said when he reached the doors, but she didn’t look at him. “Make sure my husband is ready for us.”

“As you wish.” Loki made a small bow, still carrying the dog. When he walked out, he shut the doors behind him, leaving me alone with Sara.

“How are you feeling?” Sara offered a smile.

“Better. Thank you.” I wasn’t certain that I should be thanking her. She had healed me, but she had something to do with me getting hurt in the first place.