Ascend / Page 37

Page 37


“Sorry,” I said, unsure of what else to say.

“Don’t be sorry. He was the one hitting you.”

“No, he wasn’t.” I shook my head. “I mean, he was. But that’s not Tove. That’s not who he is. He would never hurt anybody. He just…”

I trailed off. I wanted to cry. My face stung from where Tove had slapped me. But that’s not even why I wanted to cry. He was sick, and he was only going to get sicker. Tomorrow he’d be better, but eventually his powers would eat away at his brain. Eventually, there wouldn’t be any Tove left.

“Hey.” Loki touched my arm. “Come on. You can’t stay here with him tonight.”

16. One Night

I’d gotten Aurora and sent her in to stay with Tove for the night. I felt guilty for leaving him, but she would be better equipped to handle him if he got out of control again.

Since she was staying with Tove, I took her room. The four-poster bed sat in the corner, draped with red curtains and sheets. One of the walls was very crooked, practically leaning on top of the bed, and it made the room feel even smaller.

My powers hadn’t drained me as much as they had Tove, but my mind felt strange. Not aching, exactly, but almost numb. My thoughts were a little scrambled and disjointed, and it didn’t help that Tove had just slapped me

“Are you going to be alright now?” Loki asked. He’d walked me over here, and he waited just inside the doorway.

“Yeah, I’m great,” I lied and sat down on the bed. “The entire kingdom is falling apart. People are dying. I have to kill my father. And my husband just went crazy.”

“Princess, none of that’s your fault.”

“Well, it feels like it’s all my fault,” I said, and a tear slid down my cheek. “I only make everything worse.”

“That’s not true at all.” Loki walked over and sat on the bed next to me. “Princess, don’t cry.”

“I’m not,” I lied. I wiped at my eyes and looked over at him. “Why are you even being nice to me?”

“Why wouldn’t I be nice to you?” he asked, looking confused.

“Because.” I pointed to the scars covering his back. “That’s because of me.”

“No, it isn’t,” Loki shook his head. “That’s because the King is evil.”

“But if I had gone with him in the first place, none of this would’ve happened,” I said. “None of these people would’ve died. Even Tove would be better.”

“And you would be dead,” Loki said. “The King would still hate the Trylle, maybe even more so if he blamed them for brainwashing you. He would eventually attack them.”

“Maybe.” I shrugged. “Maybe not.”

“Stop.” He put his arm around me, and it felt safe and warm. “Not everything is your fault, and you can’t fix everything. You’re only one person.”

“It never feels like enough.” I swallowed and looked up at him. “Nothing I do is ever enough.”

“Oh, believe me, you do more than enough.” He smiled and brushed a hair back from my face. His fawn eyes met mine, and I felt a familiar yearning inside of me, one that got stronger every time I was with him.

“Why did you want me to remember?” I asked.

“Remember what?”

“When we were in your room, you said you wanted me to remember that I wanted you to kiss me.”

“So you admit you wanted me to kiss you?” Loki smirked.

“Loki.”

“We were about to go see the King, and I didn’t know what would happen,” Loki said. “I thought he might tell you the truth about how I was sent to seduce you, and you would hate me for that. But if you remembered that you’d wanted me to kiss you, maybe you wouldn’t hate me quite as long.”

“You knew that the King would expose you, and you took me anyway?” I asked.

“I couldn’t let go you alone.”

“Why didn’t you just kiss me?” I asked. “Wouldn’t that have been a better thing to remember?”

“It wasn’t the right time.”

“Why not?”

“You were on a mission. If I kissed you, it would’ve only been for a second, because you were in a rush to go,” he said. “And a second wouldn’t be enough.”

“So when is the right time?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he whispered.

He had his hand on my cheek, brushing away a tear, and his eyes were searching my face. He leaned forward, and his lips brushed against mine. Delicately at first, almost testing to see if this was real. His kisses were soft and sweet, and so very different than Finn’s.

As soon as I thought of Finn, I pushed him from my mind. I didn’t want to think of anything. I didn’t want to feel anything except Loki. The exhaustion of the night was pushed away as something surged through, something warm and hungry.

Loki kissed me more deeply and pushed me back on the bed. He wrapped an arm around my waist, lifting me up and pulling me farther onto the bed. I clung to him, my hands digging into his bare back. The scars felt like braille under my fingers, scars he’d gotten to protect me.

“Wendy,” he murmured as he kissed my neck, his lips trailing all over my skin and making it tremble.

He stopped kissing me long enough to look at me. His light hair fell into his eyes. Something about the way he looked at me, his eyes the color of burnt honey, made my heart beat faster.

It was like I’d never truly seen him before. All his pretenses had fallen away, his smirk, his swagger, were all gone. It was just him, and I realized that this might be the first time I was really seeing him.

Loki was vulnerable and kind and more than a little frightened. But more than that, he was lonely, and he cared about me. He cared about me so much it terrified him, and as much as that should’ve scared me too, it didn’t.

All I could think about was that I’d never seen anything more beautiful. It felt strange thinking of a boy that way, but that’s what he was. Looking down at me, waiting for me to accept him or push him away, Loki was beautiful.

I reached for him and touched his face, almost astonished that he could be real. He closed his eyes and kissed the palm of my hand. One of his hands was on my side, and his grip tightened, sending hot shivers all through my body.

“I hate to even ask this but…” Loki trailed off, his voice husky. “Are you sure you want to do this?”


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