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He stepped into my room in one graceful move, as if entering through bedroom windows were nothing out of the ordinary.

His black hair was slicked back impeccably, but he had stubble growing along his jaw, making him look even sexier. His eyes were so dark they were nearly black, and he took one discerning look at Rhys before settling them on me, making my heart forget to beat entirely.

Finn Holmes had snuck into my room.

He still managed to stun me the same way he always did. I was so happy to see him that I almost forgot how angry I was with him.

The last time I had seen Finn, he was slinking out of my bedroom in Förening, per his deal with my mother. Elora told him that he could spend one more night with me before leaving. Forever.

We had only kissed, but Finn had failed to let me in on Elora’s plan. He didn’t even bother to say good-bye. He didn’t fight it or try to get me to run away with him. He just crept out of my room, leaving Elora to explain to me exactly what had happened.

“What are you doing here?” Rhys asked, and Finn pulled his eyes off me to glare at Rhys.

“I came to collect the Princess, of course,” Finn said, but irritation saturated his words.

“Well, yeah, but … I thought Elora reassigned you.” Rhys seemed thrown by Finn’s anger, and he fumbled for a minute. “I mean … that’s what people were saying around Förening, that you weren’t allowed around Wendy anymore.”

Finn tensed noticeably at Rhys’s words, his jaw flexing, and Rhys looked down at the floor.

“I’m not,” Finn admitted after a moment. “I was preparing to leave when I heard that you two had vanished in the middle of the night. Elora was deciding who would be best suited to track Wendy, and I thought it would be in her best interest if I went after her, what with the Vittra stalking her.”

Rhys opened his mouth to protest but Finn cut in.

“We all know you did a wonderful job of protecting her at the ball,” Finn said. “If I hadn’t shown up, you might’ve protected her right into getting murdered.”

“I know the Vittra are a threat!” Rhys shot back. “I just … we came here to…”

Hearing his confusion, I got up off the bed, moving to intercede before Rhys figured out why he’d let me talk him into coming here.

The truth was, Rhys didn’t agree to come here. He wanted to meet Matt, but he was adamant about my safety and had flat-out refused to let me leave the security of the compound. Unfortunately for Rhys, I had persuasion. When I looked at people and thought about what I wanted them to do, they would do it, whether they wanted to or not.

That’s how I convinced Rhys to go with me when we ran away, and I needed to distract him before he caught on.

“The Vittra lost a lot of trackers in that fight,” I interjected. “They’re not eager to repeat it anytime soon. Besides that, I’m sure they’re sick of trying to get me.”

“That’s highly unlikely.” Finn narrowed his eyes, studying Rhys’s bewilderment, and then he looked darkly at me. “Wendy, do you care nothing for your own safety?”

“I probably care more than you do.” I crossed my arms firmly over my chest. “You were leaving to go on to another job. If I had waited one more day to leave, you wouldn’t have even known I was gone.”

“Is this about getting my attention?” Finn snapped, his eyes burning. I had never seen his anger directed at me this way before. “I don’t know how many times I have to explain this to you! You are a Princess! I mean nothing! You need to forget about me!”

“What’s going on?” That was Matt, shouting from the stairs. If he came up here and caught Finn in my room, it would be very, very bad.

“I’ll go … create a diversion.” Rhys glanced at me to make sure that was okay, and I nodded. He darted out the door, saying things to Matt about how awesome the house was, and their voices faded as they went downstairs.

I tucked my curls behind my ears and refused to look at Finn. It was hard to believe that the last time I had been with him, he had been kissing me so passionately, I could barely breathe. I remembered the way his scruff scraped against my cheeks and the way his lips pressed against mine.

I suddenly hated him for that memory, and I hated that all I could think about was how badly I wanted to kiss him again.

“Wendy, you are not safe here,” Finn insisted quietly.

“I’m not going with you.”

“You cannot stay here. I won’t allow it.”

“You won’t allow it?” I scoffed. “I am the Princess, remember? Who are you to allow me to do anything? You’re not even my tracker anymore. You’re some guy being a creepy stalker.”

That sounded much harsher than I’d meant it. Not that anything I said ever really seemed to hurt Finn. He just stared at me, his gaze level and unfazed.

“I knew I would find you faster than anyone. If you don’t come home with me, that’s fine,” Finn said. “Another tracker will be here shortly, and you can go with him. I’ll just wait with you until he arrives, to ensure your safety.”

“It’s not about you, Finn!”

He had played a larger part in my leaving Förening than I would ever admit, but it really wasn’t just him. I hated my mother, my title, my house, everything. I wasn’t meant to be a Princess.

Finn looked at me for a long moment, trying to understand where this was coming from. I had to fight the urge to squirm as he scrutinized me. His eyes flashed darkly for a second, and his expression hardened.