“Come on, Duncan,” Willa said as she pulled Matt from my room.
“What?” Duncan asked, then caught on. “Oh. Right. I’ll be … um … outside.”
Duncan closed the door behind him, leaving me alone with Finn. I sat up straight and moved to the edge of the bed so my legs dangled over. Finn stayed by the door and didn’t say anything.
“Did you need something?” I asked carefully.
“I wanted to see how you were doing.” He looked at me in that way that went straight through me, and I lowered my gaze.
“I’m good, considering.”
“Did the Queen explain things to you?” Finn asked.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I don’t know if I’ll ever really understand this world.”
“She told you she’s dying?” Finn asked, and hearing him say it made it worse.
“Yeah,” I said thickly. “She told me. And she finally told me what makes me so special. That I’m the perfect blend of Trylle and Vittra. I’m the ultimate bloodline.”
“And you didn’t believe me when I said you were special.” That was Finn’s attempt at a joke, and he smiled ever so slightly.
“I guess you were right.” I pulled down my hair, which had gotten messy from lying on it, and ran my fingers through it.
“How are you taking that?” Finn asked, coming closer to the foot of my bed. He stopped by the bedpost and absently touched my satin bedding.
“Being the chosen one for both sides in an epic troll battle?”
“If anybody can handle it, you can,” he reassured me.
I looked up at him, and his eyes betrayed some of the warmth he felt for me. I wanted to throw myself into his arms and feel them wrap around me, protecting me like granite. To kiss his temples and cheeks, to feel his stubble rubbing against my skin.
Despite how badly I wanted that—I wanted it so much I ached—I knew that I had to become a great Princess, which meant that I had to use some restraint. Even if the restraint killed me.
“Elora wants me to marry Tove,” I blurted out. I hadn’t meant to tell him that way, but I knew it would ruin the moment. Break the spell we were under before I acted on it.
“So she told you?” Finn said with a heavy sigh.
“What?” I blinked at him, startled by his response. “What do you mean, she told me? You knew? How long did you know?”
“I’m not sure, exactly.” He shook his head. “I’ve known for a long while, before I met you or Tove.”
“What?” I gaped at him, unable to find the words that matched the confusion and anger inside me.
“The marriage had been arranged for some time, the Markis Kroner and the Princess Dahl,” Finn explained calmly. “I believe it was only finalized a few days ago, but it was what Aurora Kroner had always wanted. The Queen knew it was her best chance to secure the throne and keep you safe.”
“You knew?” I repeated, unable to get past that part. “You knew that she wanted me to marry somebody else, and you never told me?”
He appeared confused by my reaction. “It wasn’t my place.”
“Maybe it wasn’t your place as a tracker, but as the guy making out with me in this bed, yeah, I think it was your place to tell me that I’m supposed to marry someone else.”
“Wendy, I repeatedly told you we couldn’t be together—”
“Saying we shouldn’t be together isn’t the same thing, and you know it!” I snapped. “How could you not tell me, Finn? He’s your friend. He’s my friend, and you never thought to tell me?”
“No, I didn’t want to interfere with the way you thought of him.”
“Interfere with what?” I asked.
“I was afraid you might hate him to spite your mother, and I didn’t want that. I wanted you to be happy with him,” Finn said. “While you wouldn’t be marrying for love, you are friends. You could have a happy life together.”
“You … what?” My heart felt like it had been ripped in half. For a moment, I didn’t speak. I couldn’t make my mouth work. “You expect me to marry him.”
“Yes, of course,” Finn said, almost wearily.
“You’re not even gonna try to…” I swallowed back tears and looked away from him. “When Elora told me, I fought with her. I fought for you.”
“I am sorry, Wendy.” His voice had gotten low and thick. He stepped closer and raised his hand as if he meant to touch me, but dropped it instead. “But you will be happy with Tove. He can protect you.”
“I wish everyone would stop talking about him that way!” I sat back on the bed, exasperated. “Tove is a person! This is his life! Doesn’t he deserve better than being somebody’s watchdog?”
“I can imagine worse things in life than being married to you,” Finn said quietly.
“Don’t.” I shook my head. “Don’t joke. Don’t be nice.” I glared up at him. “You kept this from me. But worse still, you didn’t fight for me.”
“You know why I can’t, Wendy.” His dark eyes smoldered, and his fists clenched at his side. “Now you know who you are and what you mean to the kingdom. I can’t fight for something that isn’t mine. Especially not when you mean so much to our people.”
“You’re right, Finn, I’m not yours.” I nodded, looking down at the floor. “I’m not anybody’s. I have a choice in all of this, and so do you. But you have no right to take my choice away from me, to tell me who I should marry.”