Ascend / Page 31

Page 31


This could serve as a wakeup call. I should be concentrating on saving my marriage and my kingdom. Not some stupid boy.

“I am sorry,” Loki said after we’d been driving for an hour or more. I didn’t respond, so he went on, “I never meant to hurt you. I know I shouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place.”

I stared out the window. I hadn’t even looked at him since we left.

“Wendy,” he sighed. “Wendy. You have to talk to me. At some point, you’ll have to talk to me again.”

“I don’t have to do anything,” I said. “I got you out of there alive. I did my part.”

“I am sorry, Wendy!” Loki yelled. “But I did what I had to do. Alright? And it was before I knew you, and you didn’t even get hurt.”

“I didn’t get hurt?” I laughed darkly. “Thank you for telling me how I feel.”

“No, I meant the King didn’t get you.”

“But what if I had gone with you?” I asked, and I turned to him with tears in my eyes. “When you told me to marry you, if I’d agreed, you would’ve taken me back to him.”

“No,” Loki said. “I wouldn’t have. When I asked you to run away with me in the garden, I meant it. I wanted you to run away with me.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said and wiped at my eyes. “I can never trust anything you say again.”

“This is such bullshit.” He shook his head, and abruptly he pulled the car over and put it in park.

“How is this bullshit?” I yelled. “You’re the one that lied to me! You tricked me!”

“I never tricked you!” Loki shouted. “I never lied! Everything I have ever felt for you has been real!”

“Stop, Loki! You can stop! I know the truth now!”

“No, you don’t!”

“I can’t do this.” I shook my head. “I won’t do this.”

I had nowhere else to go, so I got out of the car. We’d travelled far enough so that we were in snow again, and I stepped barefoot into the cold. The stretch of highway was deserted, and empty cornfields went for miles.

“Where are you going?” Loki asked, jumping out of the car after me.

“Nowhere. I need fresh air.” I pulled my cloak tighter around me. “I need to be away from you.”

“Don’t do this,” Loki begged and walked after me. “You only heard it from him. You don’t know what really happened. You have to listen to me.”

“Why?” I asked, turning to face him. “Why should I listen to you?”

“He would’ve killed me. He executes everyone who doesn’t follow orders. I had to obey. When you came to the palace, he saw the way we interacted, and he thought he could use it against you. That you would fall in love with me.”

“I will never love you,” I said bitterly, and he winced.

“I’m only telling you what the King thought,” Loki said carefully. “So he told me to get you to willingly come back with me, and I said I would. Because I didn’t have a choice.”

“I understand that,” I said. “I really do. And I can even forgive that. But why didn’t you tell me when you broke down my door begging for amnesty?”

“Because it didn’t matter,” he said. “Oren may have told me to pretend to care about you, but I cared about you for real. Why would I tell you that somebody asked me to lie when I’d only been telling the truth?”

“I don’t know how I’m supposed to believe anything you say,” I sniffled and stared out at the bleak whiteness around us. I could see a car coming, far off down the road.

“I made a choice between you and the King, and I chose you,” Loki said.

“When?” I asked. “After he’d beaten you?”

“No, I chose you knowing what he’d do,” Loki said. “In the garden, we were alone. I could’ve knocked you out and thrown you over my shoulder, then taken you back to the King. It’s not exactly what he asked for, but he would’ve spared me if I had.

“But I didn’t.” He stepped closer to me, and I looked back at him. “He told me what he’d do to me if I didn’t return you to him, but I couldn’t do it. And he tortured me, Wendy! I went through hell for you!”

“Why did you go back?” I asked thickly.

“Because if I stayed, it would break the embargo, or he could argue that it did,” Loki said. “So the King could come and take you. I didn’t want to risk that.”

I didn’t even notice how close the passing SUV had gotten until it squealed to a stop next to us, nearly hitting our Cadillac. Loki moved toward me, and Tove jumped out of the driver’s seat. Finn ran around the car and charged at Loki.

14. Confrontation

Finn punched Loki in the face, and Loki raised his fist like he meant to strike back. That wouldn’t be so bad, except Loki was about fifty times stronger than Finn and would bust his face in.

“Loki!” I yelled. “Don’t you dare hit him!”

“You are so lucky.” Loki glared down at Finn and wiped at the blood on his nose.

“What the hell were you doing?” Finn shouted at him. “What’s wrong with you? You had no right to take her anywhere!”

“Finn,” Tove said. “Stop. Calm down. She’s fine.”

Duncan and Willa climbed out of the backseat of the SUV, and my heart sunk. Loki had been right. They had been part of the rescue mission too, and if we’d left an hour later from the Vittra palace, Duncan, Willa, Tove, and Finn would all be dead.

“Like this was my idea!” Loki yelled back at Finn. “She’s the Princess. She commanded, and I obeyed!”

“You don’t obey a suicide mission!” Finn shouted.

“It wasn’t a suicide mission,” I said, loud enough to be heard over their yelling.

They stood in front of the Cadillac, staring down at each other, and strangely, I was grateful that Loki was so much stronger than Finn. If they were equally matched, Loki probably wouldn’t hold back, and it would be a fist fight.

“Are you okay?” Willa asked, walking over to me.

“Why are you on the side of the road?” Duncan asked.

“I needed fresh air,” I said. “Everything’s fine. I got the Vittra to back off until I’m Queen. They won’t attack any of us, no matter where we are.”

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