Ascend / Page 18

Page 18

“You should get married more often,” Loki teased. “It makes you feisty.”

I rolled my eyes and went over to the table. Loki had set it all up, complete with a flower in a vase in the center, and he’d pulled off the domed lids to reveal a plentiful breakfast. I took a seat across from Tove, only to realize that Loki had pulled up a third chair for himself.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Well, I went to all the trouble of preparing it, so I might as well eat it.” Loki sat down and handed me a flute filled with orange liquid. “I made mimosas.”

“Thanks,” I said, and I exchanged a look with Tove to see if it was okay if Loki stayed.

“He’s a dick,” Tove said with a mouthful of food and shrugged. “But I don’t care.”

In all honesty, I think we both preferred having Loki there. He was a buffer between the two of us so we didn’t have to deal with any awkward morning after conversations.

“So, how did everyone sleep last night?” Loki asked between sips of his mimosa.

There was a quick knock at the bedroom doors, but they opened before I could answer. Finn strode inside, and my stomach dropped. He was the last person I’d expected to see. I didn’t even think he would be here anymore. After the other night I assumed he’d left, especially when I didn’t see him at the wedding.

“Princess, I’m sorry-” Finn started to say as he hurried in, but then he saw Loki and stopped abruptly.

“Finn?” I asked, stunned.

“What are you doing here?” Finn looked appalled and pointed at Loki.

“I’m drinking a mimosa.” Loki leaned back in his chair. “What are you doing here?”

“What is he doing here?” Finn asked, turning his attention to me.

“Never mind him.” I waved it off. “What’s going on?”

“See, Finn, you should’ve told me when I asked,” Loki said between sips of his drink.

“Hey, did you guys…” Duncan was saying when he walked into my room. Apparently, since Finn had left the door open, he thought he could waltz on in.

“Sure, everybody just walk on in. It’s not like I’m a Princess or anything, and this is my private chamber,” I sighed.

When Duncan saw the bizarre scene, he stopped and motioned to Loki. “Wait. Why is he here? He didn’t spend the night with you two, did he?”

“Wendy is into some very kinky things that you wouldn’t understand,” Loki told him with a wink.

“Why are you here?” Finn demanded, and his eyes blazed.

“Will somebody please tell us what the hell is going on?” Tove asked, exasperated.

“I would, but this is a private conversation,” Finn kept his icy gaze locked on Loki, who looked completely unabashed by it.

“Come now, Finn, there are no secrets between us,” Loki grinned and gestured widely to Tove and me.

“Is it private as in Tove and Duncan should leave?” I asked carefully. I didn’t know if Finn’s visit was about me, and if it was, I wasn’t sure if I should let him have a moment alone with me.

“No,” Finn shook his head. “It’s about the kingdom, and I don’t trust the Markis Staad.”

“I have amnesty, you know.” Loki leaned forward, sounding irritated. “That means she trusts me. I’m an accepted member of your society.”

“No one will ever accept you,” Finn said coolly. “And I sincerely doubt that –”

“Just spit it out!” I snapped. “I am very tired. I’ve had a very long weekend. So if there’s something I need to know, you should hurry up and tell me.”

“My apologies.” Finn lowered his eyes. “I was in a security briefing this morning with my father. Apparently there’s been a Vittra attack on Oslinna, and it was brutal.”

“Oslinna?” I asked. “I have a meeting with their head Markis tomorrow morning.”

“I doubt that anymore,” Finn said quietly. “He’s dead.”

“They killed him?” I gasped, and I heard Tove swear under his breath. “When did this happen? How many others were killed?”

“We’re not certain of the total loss yet,” Finn said. “It happened sometime during the night, and we’re still getting word on it. But so far, the death toll is in the thousands.”

“Oh my god.” I put my hand to my mouth, and I wanted to throw up or cry.

Thousands of people had been killed while I was dancing. My people, who I was sworn to protect. And it might have been my father after he left the wedding. It was a ten-hour drive to Oslinna from here, but it would be possible for him to get there. He could have slaughtered them all because he was angry with me.

Or maybe not. This might have been his plan all along. He agreed to peace with Förening, and then went after our changelings, and now he’s attacking the other Trylle communities. This could be his first step toward total war.

I swallowed back any emotion I had, because that would only get in the way. I needed a clear head if I wanted to help what was left of the people of Oslinna.

“We have to do something,” I said numbly.

“My father is arranging a defense meeting now,” Finn said.

“Is that why he didn’t come to get me?” I asked. Finn’s father, Thomas, was head of security, and he was the one who usually reported the problems to me.

“No.” Finn gave me an apologetic look. “He didn’t want to inform you. He thought we should wait until we knew more, since you’d just gotten married.”

“I’m still the Princess!” I stood up. “This is still my duty. It doesn’t stop because of a silly party.”

“That’s why I came to get you,” Finn said, but he’d looked away, and I didn’t think that had been his only motivation for retrieving me this morning.

“Is this why you’re here?” I asked Duncan.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I was downstairs getting breakfast, and I heard a couple of guards talking about the Oslinna attack. I thought you’d want to know.”

“Thank you,” I said. I held my hand to my stomach, trying to ease the nerves inside me. I had to be cool and calm. “Get the defense meeting set up. We need to get moving on this as fast as we can.”

“Of course,” Finn nodded.

“Duncan, can you run and get Willa?” I asked, and using mindspeak, I said, She’s down in Matt’s room. She’d spent more nights with him than at her home lately.

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