Ascend / Page 22

Page 22


But this might be dangerous. I didn’t know what the Vittra’s plans might be. I hadn’t expected them to start attacking us, so I’d clearly underestimated Oren’s determination to destroy us. Or, more specifically, me.

Even though Finn hadn’t been home for the better part of a month, his residence was still technically the palace. What few earthly possession he had were here in his room in the servants’ quarters. As I went to his room, I passed Loki’s, and I was pleased to see that the door was shut. He’d taken my advice to lay low.

Finn’s bedroom door was open, and he was packing a few clothes to take with him. I wasn’t sure how long he’d be gone, but it had to be at least a few days. It depended on how badly damaged Oslinna had been.

“Are you about packed?” I asked. I stood in the hall just outside his door, too afraid to go in further.

“Yeah.” Finn glanced back at me. He shoved a pair of boxers in the duffle bag and zipped it up. “I think so.”

“Good.” I twisted the wedding band around my finger. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I don’t have much of a choice.” Finn picked up his bag and turned to face me. He kept his expression blank, and I hated that he did that so well. I hated that I never knew what he was really thinking or feeling.

“Of course you have a choice,” I said. “I’m not forcing you to go.”

“I know that. But they need somebody experienced, someone who isn’t an idiot to go along. My father has to stay here, and I’m the next logical choice.”

“I could go,” I offered. “I should. I can be of more help.”

“No. What I said at the meeting is still true,” Finn said. “You’re needed here.”

“I’m not doing anything here except waiting until you get back.” I didn’t like the way that sounded, so I lowered my eyes.

“We won’t be gone that long,” Finn said. “We’ll probably bring the survivors back to Förening. They can have shelter here.”

“I should ready the palace for extra guests then,” I said, and I hated that. He would be out at battle, and I would be at home, making sure the beds were made. “I should be going with you. This is ridiculous.”

“Princess, this is the right place for you,” he said, almost tiredly. “But it’s time for me to go. I don’t want to make them wait for me.”

“Yes, sorry.” I stepped aside so he could walk past me. His arm brushed against me, but he didn’t even notice. As he walked by, I said, “Be careful.”

“You say that as if you care,” he muttered.

“I do care,” I said defensively. “I never said that I didn’t. That isn’t fair.” He stopped with his back to me.

“The other night, you made your intentions perfectly clear.”

“So did you,” I said, and he pivoted to face me. “And you made your choice.” He’d chosen duty time and time again, and if he had to sacrifice something, it had been me.

“I never had a choice, Wendy,” Finn said, sounding exasperated.

“You always did. Everybody does. And you chose.”

“Well, so did you,” he said finally.

“That I did,” I agreed.

He stared at me for a moment longer before turning and walking away. I hadn’t wanted that to be my last conversation with him before he left. Part of me still feared that something might happen, but Finn could handle himself.

There were going to be survivors coming, and I needed to get the palace ready. I had never considered myself domestic, but Willa and Matt would be good at that sort of thing.

I found them together in Matt’s room, and Willa was trying to explain to him what happened in Oslinna without freaking him out too much. That was our general approach with telling Matt stuff. We didn’t want to keep him completely out of the loop, but he would have had an aneurysm if he understood exactly what we were up against.

“The Vittra killed people?” Matt asked. He sat on his bed watching Willa straighten her hair. We may be in crisis mode, but that didn’t mean her hair had to look like it. “They actually killed people like you?”

“Yes, Matt.” Willa stood in front of the full-length mirror across from him, running the straightener through her long hair. “They’re the bad guys.”

“And they’re doing this because they’re after you?” Matt asked, turning to me.

“They’re doing it because they’re bad people,” Willa answered for me.

“But that Loki guy, he’s one of them?” Matt asked.

“Not exactly,” I said carefully. I stood off to the side of the room, and I leaned back against the wall.

“He was though,” Matt said. “He kidnapped you before. So why are you always hanging out with him?”

“I’m not.”

“Yeah, you are,” Matt insisted. “And the way you danced with him at your wedding? That’s not the way a married woman acts, Wendy.”

“I danced with a hundred guys that night.” I shifted my weight and stared down at the floor.

“Leave her alone, Matt,” Willa said. “She was having some fun at her wedding. You can’t blame her for that.”

“I’m not blaming her for anything. I’m trying to understand.” He scratched at the back of his head. “Where is your husband, by the way?”

“He’s down talking to the team before they leave,” I said. “Giving them instructions and words of encouragement.”

“You didn’t want to see them off yourself?” Willa asked, turning a bit to look at me.

“No.” I thought back to my conversation with Finn and shook my head. “No. Tove’s got it covered. He’s the Prince now. He can share some of the responsibility.”

“When do you think the refugees will get here?” Willa asked. She set the straightener down on the nearby dresser, and I could see burn marks on it from her doing the same thing many times before. She must pretty much live here now.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Maybe in a day or two or six. But we should have the rooms ready, just to be safe.”

“Well, we can definitely help you with that.” Willa leaned forward, inspecting her hair to make sure it was perfect, and then she turned around. “Where are the extra blankets and cleaning supplies?”

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