Page 22

Elora lay on her chaise lounge, her dark gown flowing out around her. Even in repose, she had an innate elegance to her. Her poise and beauty were qualities I’d been envious of when I first met her, but now I saw them as nothing more than a weak façade. Everything she did was for appearance, and I doubted that anything went deeper than that with her.

I stood just inside her parlor, my arms crossed over my chest. She held her arm over her eyes, as if the light were too painful to deal with. She was plagued by regular migraines, so that might have been the case now. Or maybe not, since she left the blinds open on the glass walls, letting the morning light stream in.

“I’m glad to see you’re safe,” she said but didn’t move her arm so she could actually see me.

“I can tell.” I walked over and stood directly in front of her. “Elora. You need to tell me the truth. You can’t keep hiding stuff from me this way, not if you want me to rule someday. I’d make a very horrible Queen if I was ignorant to everything.”

I decided to play it reasonable, instead of shouting all the things I really wanted to say.

“And now you know the truth.” She sounded tired of the conversation already, and it’d only just begun. She finally lowered her arm, wearily meeting my angry stare with her dark eyes. “Why are you looking at me that way?”

“That’s all you have to say to me?” I asked.

“What more do you want me to say?” Elora sat up in one smooth, graceful move. When I didn’t back down, she stood up, apparently not fond of the idea of me looking down on her.

“I was just kidnapped by the Vittra, the King of whom is my father, and you have nothing to say to me?” I stared at her incredulously, and she walked away, putting her back to me as she went over to the window.

“I’d feel more sympathetic to your plight if you hadn’t run away.” She folded her arms over her chest, almost hugging herself as she stared out at the river flowing below. “I specifically forbade you from leaving the compound, and we all told you it was for your own protection. After the attack, you knew firsthand the dangers of leaving, and you left. It’s not my fault you put yourself in that situation.”

“Because of the attack I thought they’d be too injured and afraid to try anything like that again!” I yelled. “I didn’t think the Vittra would have any reason to keep coming after me, but I would’ve if I had known about my father.”

“You took your life into your own hands when you left, and you knew it,” Elora said simply.

“Dammit, Elora!” I shouted. “This isn’t about placing blame, okay? I want to know why you lied. You told me my father was dead.”

“It was far simpler and cleaner than telling you the truth.” She said that like it would make everything okay. It was easier lying to me, so that’s fine. I wouldn’t want to make her life complicated or anything.

“What is the truth?” I asked her directly.

“I married your father because it was the right thing to do.” She didn’t say anything more for so long I thought she might not continue, but then she said, “The Vittra and Trylle have been fighting for centuries, maybe forever.”

“Why?” I stepped closer to her, but she didn’t look at me.

“Various reasons.” She gave a slight shrug. “The Vittra have always been more aggressive than we, but we’re more powerful. It led to an odd power structure, and they were always jostling for more control, more land, more people.”

“So you thought marrying Oren would end centuries of fighting?”

“My parents thought so. They had arranged it before I even came to Förening.” Elora had been a changeling, like I had, though she rarely spoke of it. “I could’ve contested it, of course, the way you contested your name.”

She said that last part somewhat bitterly. As part of returning to the Trylle, I was supposed to undergo a christening ceremony and change my name to something more fitting. I hadn’t wanted to, and thanks to the Vittra busting up the ceremony, I hadn’t had to. Elora had relented and allowed me to keep my own name, and I’d been the first Princess to do so in our history.

“But you didn’t contest it?” I asked, ignoring her little jab at me.

“No. I had to put my own wants behind the greater good of the people. That’s something you’ll have to learn to do.” The light shone on her hair as if she had a halo. She turned back to the window, and it was gone.

“If a simple wedding would end the abhorrence, then I had to do it,” Elora continued. “I had to think of the lives and wasted energy of both the Trylle and Vittra.”

“So you married him,” I finished for her. “Then what happened?”

“Not a lot. We weren’t married for very long.” She rubbed her arm, stifling a chill only she felt. “I’d met him a handful of times before the wedding, and he’d been on his best behavior. I hadn’t loved him, but…”

She didn’t finish her thought, and the way she let it hang in the air led me to believe that she had cared for him.

I couldn’t imagine Elora caring for anyone. When she flirted with Garrett Strom, it seemed like a show. I’m not sure if they were actually dating or not, but he seemed to like her and hung around a lot. Plus, he was a Markis, so she could marry him if she wanted.

Both Finn and Rhys had told me of a secret, long-standing affair that Elora had had with Finn’s father, after my own father was gone. He’d been a tracker and was married to Finn’s mother, so they could never be together openly, but Rhys claimed that she truly loved him.