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Although Matt seemed to be letting his big-brother duties slide. He seemed preoccupied with Willa, teasing her and laughing with her. She surprised me more than anybody, though. She actually ate the pizza. Even I wouldn’t eat pizza, but Willa ate it with a smile.

Unlike the last time I watched movies in Rhys’s room, I made sure to leave before I fell asleep. I excused myself while everybody was in the middle of watching The Evil Dead.

On my way to my room, I saw Finn making his rounds. I said hello to him, but he wouldn’t even nod or acknowledge my presence. Duncan apologized on Finn’s behalf, which only made me angrier. Finn shouldn’t need other trackers to make me feel better.

The next morning, Tove woke me bright and early. With him living in the palace, he no longer had to commute here. It felt way too early to get up, but Tove’s insomnia had gotten worse since moving to the palace, so I didn’t complain.

After I got ready, we spent a long day training. We went to the kitchen, which was ordinarily deserted, but with all the guards and people in the palace, the cook was on full time. Much to the chef’s dismay, Tove had me practicing on moving pots and pans.

I was hoping for something like The Sword in the Stone, with all the dancing dishes, but it didn’t work out that way. I did get a couple cast-iron pans to float, and I nearly took off Duncan’s head when I flung a saucepan across the room using only my mind.

Part of me was ecstatic that I’d finally gotten stuff to move. Tove thought it had something to do with me slamming the door when Elora was hurting Loki. It had unlocked whatever had been preventing me from harnessing my potential.

The part of me that was thrilled was eventually drowned out by the part of me that was exhausted. By the time we finished, I’d never felt so drained in all my life. Duncan offered to help me up the stairs to my room, and while I could’ve used it, I refused to let him. I had to learn to master this stuff on my own.

I didn’t want people like Duncan and Finn, and even Tove, risking their lives to protect me. Or even if they weren’t risking their lives, I didn’t want to need them. I was stronger than the rest of them, and I had to take care of myself.

I knew I couldn’t master everything overnight, but I’d work as hard as I needed to until I was as strong as everyone believed I could be.

After a long stretch of training, I took a short break, and then we had a defense meeting. Tove, Duncan, and I went, along with a few select guards, and Elora. Both Finn and his father Thomas were already in the room when we arrived. I said hello to them, and while Thomas responded, Finn ignored me. Again.

The meeting didn’t amount to much. Elora filled us in on what was happening. No more Vittra had broken in. Loki hadn’t escaped. She went over the guard shifts with the trackers. I wanted to ask about her plan to barter with the Vittra over Loki, but Elora shot me a warning gaze, and I knew now wasn’t the time to bring it up.

When the meeting ended, I wanted to head to my room, take a long hot shower, and go to sleep. Just before I hopped in the shower, I realized I was out of body wash and went to the hall closet for more.

My brain felt numb and seemed to be short-circuiting. For some reason, I could barely feel my extremities, like my fingers and toes. A migraine pulsed at the base of my skull, and the vision in my left eye was a little blurry.

Training today had been harder on me than I had allowed myself to admit. Tove offered several times to take a break, but I’d refused, and it was catching up with me now.

I think that’s why I lost it when Finn walked past me again without saying hello. I’d walked down the hall, wrapped in my robe, to get the body wash, and Finn happened to be making his rounds once again. He walked by, I said hello, and he wouldn’t even nod or smile at me.

And that was it. That was the final straw.

“What the hell, Finn?” I shouted, whirling on him. He stopped, but only because I’d startled him. He looked at me, blinking and slack-jawed. I don’t think I’d ever seen him look so caught off-guard before. “Of course you won’t say anything. Just stare blankly at me like you always do.”

“I–I—” Finn stammered, and I shook my head.

“No, really, Finn.” I held up my hand to stop him. “If you can’t be bothered to even acknowledge my existence, you shouldn’t start now.”

“Wendy.” He sighed, sounding exasperated. “I’m simply doing my job—”

“Whatever.” I rolled my eyes. “Where exactly in your job description does it say be a dick to the Princess and ignore her? Is that in there somewhere?”

“I am merely doing my best to protect you, and you know it.”

“I get that we can’t be together. And it’s not like I’m so weak-willed that the simple act of saying hello to me will cause me to jump your bones in the hall.” I slammed the closet door. “There is absolutely no reason for you to be so rude to me.”

“I’m not.” Finn’s expression softened, looking pained and confused. “I…” He lowered his gaze to the floor. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to act around you.”

“Why would you think that ignoring me would be the best way to go?” I asked, and to my own surprise, tears brimmed in my eyes.

“This is why I didn’t want to be here.” He shook his head. “I begged the Queen to let me go—”

“You begged her?” I asked, and that was too much.