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Using his abilities during the fight had focused Tove. His entire personality shone through, and he took control of the situation with ease. I had a feeling that for the first time I was seeing the real Tove, and not the kid trapped behind the noise of his powers.

In a sense, we worked in opposite ways. I projected intensely, which was why my persuasion was strong, whereas Tove received everything. He could pick up on my emotions and thoughts whether he wanted to or not. But I imagined that he sensed other people too, and his mind had to be a fog of everyone’s emotions.

Finn went with me to my room, just in case it wasn’t completely safe. Before we even reached the stairs, Finn had taken my hand in his. Most of the way I was silent, but when we got close to my door I felt like I had to say something.

“So . . . are you and Tove like pals or something?” I was teasing, but I was curious. I had never really seen them even speak before, but there seemed to be a kind of familiarity between them.

“I’m a tracker,” Finn answered. “I tracked Tove. He’s a good kid.” He looked over at me, smiling a little. “I told him to keep an eye on you.”

“If you were so worried about me, why didn’t you stay in the palace?” I asked more sharply than I meant to.

Finn shook his head. “Let’s not talk about that now.” We had stopped in front of my bedroom door, and there was a playful glimmer in his dark eyes.

“What should we talk about, then?” I looked up at him.

“How beautiful you look in that dress.” Finn looked me over appreciatively, and he put his hands on my sides.

I laughed, and then he was pushing me against the door. His body was so tight against me I could barely breathe, and his mouth searched for mine. He kissed me in the same frantic way he had before, and I loved it.

I wrapped my arms around him and pushed myself against him eagerly. He reached around me, opening the door, and we tumbled into my room. He caught me before I actually fell, then lifted me easily into his arms and carried me.

Gently, he tossed me onto the bed, and then lowered himself on top of me. His stubble tickled my neck and shoulders as he covered me in kisses.

Sitting back, he peeled off his jacket and hoodie, and I expected him to take off his T-shirt, but he stopped, looking down at me. His black hair was slightly disheveled, but his expression was completely foreign to me. He just stared at me, making my skin redden with shame.


“You’re just so perfect,” Finn said, but he sounded distressed about it.

“Oh, I am not.” I blushed and laughed. “You know I’m not.”

“You can’t see what I see.” He leaned over me again, his face right above mine but not kissing me. After a minute’s hesitation, he kissed my forehead and my cheeks, and then, very tenderly, kissed my lips. “I just don’t want to disturb you.”

“How are you going to disturb me?”

“Mmm.” A smile played on his lips and then he sat up, climbing off me. “You should go change into pajamas. That dress can’t be comfortable.”

“What do I need pajamas for?” I sat up. I tried to sound flirty, but I knew there was a panicked edge to my voice. As soon as we’d come in here, I thought things were going to go much further than pajamas would allow.

“I’ll stay with you tonight,” Finn tried to reassure me. “But nothing more can happen except for sleep.”


“I’m here.” Finn looked at me intently. “Isn’t that enough?”

I nodded and carefully climbed off of the bed. I stood in front of him so he could unzip my dress, enjoying the way his hands lingered on my skin. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I would be happy for anything I could have with him.

I went into the bathroom and changed into my pajamas, then came back and climbed into bed. He continued sitting on the edge for a minute, then, almost reluctantly, he came over to me. I curled up in his arms, burying my head in his chest, and he held me tightly to him.

Nothing had ever felt better than being with him like that, and I tried to stay awake so I could relish every minute, but eventually my body gave in and I passed out.

In the morning, I woke up to Elora coming in my room for the first time ever. She was wearing pants, something I had never seen her in. I was still curled up in Finn’s arms, and she didn’t seem surprised or offended by that.

“I trust you slept well.” Elora looked around the room, but not in a nervous way. She had just never been here before. “And I trust that Finn was a gentleman.”

“He always is.” I yawned.

He had started pulling away from me and getting out of the bed. I furrowed my brow but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t that shocking that she’d be upset that we were together, so I didn’t think much of it when Finn started to gather up his jacket and sweatshirt.

“Thank you for protecting my daughter,” Elora said without looking at him.

Finn paused at the doorway to look back at me, his dark eyes conflicted. He nodded, then turned and walked out of my room, shutting the door behind him.

“Well, you took that much better than I thought you would,” I admitted, sitting up.

“He’s not coming back.”

“What?” I stared at the door in dismay.

“He saved your life, so I gave him last night to say good-bye to you,” Elora explained. “I will be transferring him out of here as soon as possible.”

“You mean he knew?” I gaped at her.

“Yes. I made the agreement with him last night,” Elora said. He had known and hadn’t let me in on it, and hadn’t tried to steal me away.

“But . . . he saved my life!” I insisted, feeling a terrifying pain growing in my chest. It screamed that I couldn’t possibly survive without Finn. “He should be here to protect me!”

“He is emotionally compromised and unsuitable for the job,” Elora explained flatly. “Not only that, if he stayed around, you would be banished from Förening. He doesn’t want that, and neither do I.” She sighed.

“I shouldn’t have even given him last night, but . . . I don’t want to know what you did with him. Don’t tell me. Don’t tell anyone. Is that clear?”

“Nothing happened.” I shook my head. “But I want him back. He’ll protect me better than anyone!”

“Let me put it to you this way: he will do anything to keep you alive, Princess.” Elora looked at me evenly. “That means he would die to save you, without hesitation. Do you really want that? Do you really want him to die because of you?”

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