Switched Page 23

“Wait,” I said, my voice small and uncertain. She raised her head, looking at me with disdain. “Just . . . um . . . where’s my father?”

“Oh.” Elora looked away from me and stared out the window. “Dead. I’m sorry. It happened shortly after you were born.”

Finn had promised me a different life where I belonged, but really, it seemed to be the exact same life with different trappings. My mother here seemed almost as cold as my fake mom, and in either life, my dad was dead.

“Also, I don’t have any money.” I shifted uneasily.

“Of course you don’t. You probably won’t have access to your trust fund until you’re twenty-one, but with persuasion, you can get it sooner. Finn tells me you’re very advanced with that.”

“What?” I shook my head. “No. I don’t even have a trust fund.”

“I specifically chose the Everlys because of their wealth,” Elora said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I know you chose them for their money, because it certainly wasn’t for their mental health.” I lowered my eyes, realizing I had been smart with her, but quickly plowed through it.

“My dad killed himself when I was five, so none of his insurance paid out. My mom never worked a day in her life, and she’s been in a mental institution for the past eleven years, which has eaten a lot of her funds. Not only that, we’ve moved around a lot and wasted tons of money on houses and tuition. We’re not poor by any means, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near the kind of rich you think we are.”

“Stop saying ‘we.’ They’re not part of you,” Elora snapped and sat up. “What are you talking about? The Everlys were one of the wealthiest families in the country. You couldn’t have bled them completely dry.”

“I don’t know how much money we—they—have, but we don’t . . . er . . . I didn’t live like they were that rich.” I was almost shouting in frustration. “And you weren’t listening, I had a terrible childhood. My fake mother tried to kill me!”

Elora seemed more shaken by my confession that my family wasn’t loaded than she was about Kim trying to kill me. She sat very still for a moment, then took a deep breath.

“Oh. So she was one of those.”

“What do you mean by that?” I pressed, and by now I was livid. I couldn’t believe the casual, callous air that she had about my attempted murder. “‘One of those’?”

“Oh, well.” Elora shook her head as if she hadn’t meant to say that. “Every now and again, a mother knows. Sometimes they hurt the child or kill them.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. You knew there was a chance that she might kill me?” I snapped and stood up. “You knew that I could die but you just left me? You didn’t care what happened to me at all!”

“Don’t be so melodramatic.” Elora rolled her eyes. “This is the way we live. It’s a very small risk, and it rarely happens. And you lived. No harm done.”

“No harm done?” I pulled up my shirt, showing her the scar that stretched across my belly. “I was six years old, and I had sixty stitches. You call that no harm done?”

“You’re being disgusting.” Elora stood up and waved me off. “That’s not at all how a Princess should behave.”

I wanted to protest, but nothing came out of my mouth. Her reaction left me feeling dazed and strange. I let my shirt fall back down over my belly, as Elora glided over to the window. She clasped her hands in front of her and stared outside. She never said a single word, but a minute later Finn appeared in the doorway.

“You need something, Elora?” Finn did a small bow to her back, making me think she probably had ways of seeing him even when she wasn’t looking.

“Wendy is tired. Set her up in her room,” Elora commanded diffidently. “See that she has everything she needs.”

“Of course.” Finn looked at me. His dark eyes were comforting, and even though I knew this was just his job, I felt relieved knowing he was there.

He left hastily, and I hurried after him. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, trying to steady my nerves. I was still reeling from everything, trying to make sense of how I fit into all this.

Elora was right, though. I probably did need to get cleaned up, and maybe if I slept on it, everything would seem better somehow. But I doubted it.

Finn led me up a winding staircase and down another elaborate hall. At the end, he opened a heavy wooden door, revealing what I assumed was my room. It was massive, with high-vaulted ceilings, and one entirely windowed wall that made it seem even larger.

A gigantic four-poster bed sat in the center, and an array of gleaming modern furnishings surrounded it. The room boasted a laptop, flat-screen, gaming systems, iPod, and every other gadget I could possibly want. Finn opened the closet door, which was already stocked with clothing. He opened another door and flicked on the light, revealing my own private bathroom, which more closely resembled a spa.

“How do you know where everything is?” I asked. He seemed to know this house very well, and having him there beside me helped calm me some.

“I stay here from time to time,” Finn replied nonchalantly.

“What? Why?” I felt a horrible pang of jealousy, terrified that he was somehow involved with Elora in a perverse fashion. He did seem to revere her more than I thought he should.

“Protection. Your mother is a very powerful woman, but she’s not all-powerful,” Finn explained vaguely. “Since I’m a tracker, I can tune in to her. I can sense danger and aid her if it’s required.”

“Is it required?” At that moment I didn’t particularly care if a band of raging marauders tried to do her in, but if there were frequent attacks on her “castle,” I thought I should know.

“I’ll help you get acclimated. Everybody knows this isn’t a perfect system. Rhys’s room is down the hall. My room, along with Elora’s, is on the other wing.”

It didn’t escape me that Finn had ignored my question entirely, but it had been a long day, so I let it pass. I definitely felt better knowing he would be around. I didn’t think I could handle it all if I was left alone in this house with that woman. While she was clearly stunning and powerful, there wasn’t any warmth to her.

I hadn’t realized that I even wanted that until now. After all the years of rejecting Maggie’s and even Matt’s attempts at bonding, I hadn’t known how much I’d crave basic human warmth once it was gone.

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