Ascend / Page 52

Page 52


“My Queen,” Loki said from behind me, and I turned around to see him smiling.

“You’re the first one to call me that.”

“How does it feel?” he asked, sauntering over. He touched a vase sitting on the table, then looked at me. “Do you feel like Your Royal Highness yet?”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But I don’t know that I ever did.”

“You’ll have to get used to it,” Loki smirked. “I predict a long reign ahead of you. Years of being referred to as Your Majesty, Your Grace, Your Excellence, My Liege, My Queen, My Lovely.”

“I don’t think that last one is a formal title,” I said.

“It should be.” Loki stopped in front of me, his eyes sparkling. “You are a vision, especially with that crown.”

“The crown.” I blushed and took it off. “I forgot I was wearing it.” It was truly stunning, but I felt ridiculous in it. “I had to wear it for the ceremony, but… that’s over now.”

“It is a beautiful crown.” Loki took it from me, admiring the intricacies of it for a moment, before setting it aside. He stepped closer to me, so we were nearly touching, and I stared up at him.

“How are things going?” I asked. “Do they understand the layout of the Vittra palace?”



“No, I’m not going to do this,” Loki said, his voice firm but low. His hand went to my waist, feeling warm even through the layers of fabric. “Everything is about to go to hell very quickly, so I want one moment where we don’t talk about that. We pretend it doesn’t exist. I want one last quiet moment with you.”

“No, Loki.” I shook my head, but I didn’t pull away. “I told you that was one night and it could never happen again.”

“And I told you that one night wasn’t enough.”

Loki leaned down, kissing me deeply and pressing me to him. I didn’t even attempt to resist. I wrapped my arms around his neck. It wasn’t the way we had kissed before, not as hungry or fevered. This was something different, nicer.

We were holding onto each other, knowing this might be the last time we could. It felt sweet and hopeful and tragic all at once.

When he stopped kissing me he rested his forehead against mine. He breathed as if struggling to catch his breath. I reached up and touched his face, his skin smooth and cool beneath my hand.

Loki lifted his head so he could look me in the eyes, and I saw something in them, something I’d never seen before. Something pure and unadulterated, and my heart seemed to grow with the warmth of my love for him.

I don’t know how it happened or when it had, but I knew it with complete certainty. I had fallen in love with Loki, more intensely than anything I had felt for anyone before.

“Wendy!” Finn shouted, pulling me from my moment with Loki. “What are you doing? You’re married! And not to him!”

“Nothing slips by you, does it?” Loki asked.

“Finn,” I said and stepped away from Loki. “Calm down.”

“No!” Finn yelled. “I will not calm down! What were you thinking? We’re about to go to war, and you’re cheating on your husband?”

“Everything’s not exactly the way it seems,” I said, but guilt and regret were gripping my stomach. My marriage might be over, but I was still technically wed to another man. And I should be worrying about things more important than kissing Loki.

“It seemed like you had your tongue down his throat,” Finn glared at us both.

“Well, then, everything is exactly as it seems,” Loki said glibly.

“Loki, can you give us a moment alone?” I asked. He sighed and looked like he was about to protest. “Loki. Now.”

“As you wish, My Queen,” Loki muttered. He walked past Finn as he left the room, giving him one more discerning glare, but they said nothing to each other. Loki shut the doors behind him, leaving Finn and I alone in my room.

“What were you thinking?” Finn asked, sounding at a loss for words.

“I was thinking that we’re about to go to war, and my mother just died,” I said. “Life is so very, very short, and I… I love him.”

Finn winced. He looked away from me, and he chewed the inside of his cheek. It broke my heart to hurt him, but he needed to hear the truth.

“You barely know him,” Finn said carefully.

“I know,” I nodded. “I don’t know how to explain it. But… it is what it is.”

“It is what it is?” He laughed darkly and rolled his eyes. “Your love must not mean much the way you throw it around. It wasn’t that long ago you pledged it all to me, and here you are – ”

“Here I am married to another man because you wouldn’t fight for me,” I said, cutting him off. “I did love you, Finn. And I still care about you. I always will. You are good and strong, and you did the best you could by me. But… you never really wanted to be with me.”

“What are you talking about?” Finn asked. “I wanted nothing more than to be with you! But I couldn’t!”

“That’s it right there, Finn!” I gestured to him. “You couldn’t. We can’t. I mustn’t. You always took everything at face value, and you never even tried.”

“I never tried?” Finn asked. “How can you even say that?”

“Because you didn’t.” I ran my hands through my hair and shook my head. “You never fought for me. I fought so hard for you. I was willing to give up everything to be with you. But you gave up nothing. You wouldn’t even let me give up anything.”

“How is that a bad thing?” Finn asked. “I only wanted what was best for you.”

“I know that, but you’re not my father, Finn. You were supposed to be my…” I trailed off. “I don’t know what. You were never my boyfriend. You refused to be anything more to me, unless you saw me interested in another guy.”

“I was only trying to protect you!” Finn insisted.

“That doesn’t change anything.” I took a deep breath. “I have been fighting to change things around here, to make the kingdom better for trackers and all the Trylle. And you have been fighting to keep things the same. You are content to live in this ridiculous hierarchy.”

“I am not content,” he said fiercely.

“But you’re not doing anything to change it! You’re just taking it, and that I could live with. You’re willing to simply accept your fate. But you expected me to do the same, and that I can’t stomach, Finn. I wanted more. I need more.”

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