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“But how . . .” Dazedly, I shook my head, then one key question sprang to mind. “How would you know that? How could you possibly know that? Even if it were true?”

“Well . . .” Finn watched me for a moment as I struggled to let everything sink in. “You’re Trylle. It’s what we do.”

“Trylle? Is that like your last name or something?” I asked.

“No.” Finn smiled. “Trylle is the name of our ‘tribe,’ if you will.” He rubbed the side of his temple. “This is hard to explain. We are, um, trolls.”

“You’re telling me that I’m a troll?” I raised one eyebrow, and finally decided that he must be insane.

Nothing about me resembled a pink-haired doll with a jewel in its stomach or a creepy little monster that lived under a bridge. Admittedly, I was kind of short, but Finn was at least six feet tall.

“You’re thinking of trolls the way they’ve been misrepresented, obviously,” Finn hurried to explain. “That’s why we prefer Trylle. You don’t get any of that silly ‘Billy Goats Gruff’ imagery. But now I have you staring at me like I have totally lost my mind.”

“You have lost your mind.” I trembled in shock and fear, not knowing what to think. I should’ve thrown him out of my room, but then again, I never should’ve let him in.

“Okay. Think about it, Wendy.” Finn moved on to trying to reason with me, as if his idea had real merit. “You’ve never really fit in anywhere. You have a quick temper. You’re very intelligent and a picky eater. You hate shoes. Your hair, while lovely, is hard to control. You have dark brown eyes, dark brown hair.”

“What does the color of my eyes have to do with anything?” I retorted. “Or any of those things—”

“Earth tones. Our eyes and hair are always earth tones,” Finn answered. “And oftentimes our skin has almost a greenish hue to it.”

“I’m not green!” I looked at my skin anyway, just to be sure, but there was nothing green about it.

“It’s very faint, when people do have it,” Finn said. “But no, you don’t. Not really. Sometimes it gets more predominant after you’ve been living around other Trylle for a while.”

“I am not a troll,” I insisted fiercely. “That doesn’t even make any sense. It doesn’t . . . So I’m angry and different. Most teenagers feel that way. It doesn’t mean anything.” I combed through my hair, as if to prove it wasn’t that wild. My fingers got caught in it, proving his point rather than mine, and I sighed. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“I’m not just guessing here, Wendy,” Finn informed me with a wry smile. “I know who you are. I know you’re Trylle. That’s why I came looking for you.”

“You were looking for me?” My jaw dropped. “That’s why you stare at me all the time in school. You’re stalking me!”

“I’m not stalking.” Finn raised a hand defensively. “I’m a tracker. It’s my job. I find the changelings and bring them back.”

Of all the major things that were wrong with this situation, the thing that bothered me most was when he said it was his job. There hadn’t ever been any attraction between us. He had just been doing his job, and that meant following me.

He was stalking me, and I was only upset about it because he was doing it because he had to, not because he wanted to.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” Finn admitted. “I’m sorry. We usually wait until you’re older. But if you’re already using persuasion, then I think you need to head back to the compound. You’re developing early.”

“I’m what?” I just stared up at him.

“Developing. The psychokinesis,” Finn said as if it should be obvious. “Trylle have varying degrees of ability. Yours are clearly more advanced.”

“They have abilities?” I swallowed. “Do you have abilities?” Something new occurred to me, twisting my insides. “Can you read my mind?”

“No, I can’t read minds.”

“Are you lying?”

“I won’t lie to you,” Finn promised.

If he hadn’t been so attractive standing in front of me in my bedroom, it would’ve been easier to ignore him. And if I hadn’t felt this ludicrous connection with him, I would’ve thrown him out right away.

As it was, it was hard to look into his eyes and not believe him. But after everything he had been saying, I couldn’t believe him. If I believed him, that meant my mother was right. That I was evil and a monster. I had spent my whole life trying to prove her wrong, trying to be good and do the right things, and I wouldn’t let this be true.

“I can’t believe you.”

“Wendy.” Finn sounded exasperated. “You know I’m not lying.”

“I do.” I nodded. “Not intentionally anyway. But after what I went through with my mother, I’m not ready to let another crazy person into my life. So you have to go.”

“Wendy!” His expression was one of complete disbelief.

“Did you really expect any other reaction from me?” I stood up, keeping my arms crossed firmly in front of me, and I tried to look as confident as I possibly could. “Did you think you could treat me like shit at a dance, then sneak into my room in the middle of the night and tell me that I’m a troll with magical powers, and I’d just be like, yeah, that sounds right?

“And what did you even hope to accomplish with this?” I asked him directly. “What were you trying to get me to do?”

“You’re supposed to come with me back to the compound,” Finn said, defeated.

“And you thought I would just follow you right out?” I smirked to hide the fact that I was really tempted to do that. Even if he was insane.

“They usually do,” Finn replied in a way that completely unnerved me.

Really, that answer was what completely lost me. I might have been willing to follow his delusions because I liked him more than I should, but when he made it sound like there had been lots of other girls willing to do the same thing before me, it really turned me off. Crazy, I could deal with. Slutty, not so much.

“You need to go,” I told him firmly.

“You need to think about this. This is obviously different for you than it is for everyone else, and I understand that. So I’ll give you time to think about it.” He turned and opened the window. “But there is a place where you belong. There is a place where you have family. So just think about it.”

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