“I don't care where I come from or who you are. I can make you happy, and you make me happy. We could have a happily ever after.”
“Right then, it didn't matter what his reasons were. All I knew that I was sick of him breaking my heart.”
“What I told you before is still true. I want to know that when you're with me, it's because you want to be, not because you have to be.”
“Oh yeah. That's why. Like a fairy tale. I was marrying the Prince. I just happened to be in love with the pauper.”
“Tove had blown the doors open with his abilities, and he stood on the other side of them, looking astonishigly bad ass.”
“And I'm stuck in it with no way out. I love you, and I can't stop, and you don't even care!”
“I don’t know. After the downstairs, I assumed something creepier and dirtier.” I
shrugged. “You didn’t have electricity down there.”
“It’s for dramatic effect.” Loki gestured widely. “It’s a dungeon.”
“And I have two eyes. I’ve seen that little melodrama play out between you and that other tracker. Fish? Flounder? What’s his name?”
“He stepped into my room with one graceful move, as if entering through bedroom windows was nothing out of the ordinary.”
“He might as well have been telling me to build a damn rocketship. I had no idea what to do.”
“Will you… I mean, do you want to get married?” Tove asked. “To me?”
“I, um…” I didn’t know what to say.
“If you don’t want to, nothing has to change between us,” Tove said hurriedly. “I asked because it sounds like a good idea to me.”
“Yeah,” I said, and I didn’t know what I would say until it was coming out of mouth. “I mean, yes. I do. I will. I would… I’ll marry you.”
“Yeah?” Tove smiled hopefully, and I nodded.
“Yes.” I swallowed hard and tried to smile back.
“Good.” He exhaled and looked back down the hall. “This is good, right?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I said, and I did mean that.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I sorta feel like throwing up now, though.”
“As a rule, I don't enjoy being tossed into closets and having the door shut on my face, but I knew he was protecting me.”
“I looked at him like he was an idiot, but he didn’t notice. Or maybe he got it so often, he thought that was how people looked at him.”
“I knew your father. I hated him."
"That surprises me your Majesty." Loki smiled broadly at her. "My father was a stone-cold jerk. That sounds like your taste exactly.”
“What do you know of love or marriage?" I asked. "You were all set to marry a woman ten years older than you before the King stole her away."
"I wouldn't have married her anyway," Loki shrugged. "Not if I didn't love her."
"Now you've got integrity?" I scoffed. "You kidnapped me, and your father was a traitor."
"I've never said a nice word about my father," Loki said quickly. "And I've never done anything bad to you."
"You still kidnapped me!" I said dubiously.
"Did I?" Loki cocked his head. "Because I remember Kyra kidnapping you,and me preventing her from pummeling you to death. Then,when you were coughing up blood, I sent for the Queen to help you. When you escaped,I didn't stop you. And since I came here,I've done nothing to you. I've even been good because you told me to be. So what terrible crimes have I committed against you, Princess?"
"I-I-" I stammered. "I never said you did anything terrible."
"Then why don't you trust me, Wendy?"
He'd never called me by my name before, and the underlying affection underneath it startled me. Even his eyes, which still held their usual veil of playfulness, had something deeper brewing underneath. When he wasn't trying so hard to be devilishly handsome, he actually was.
The growing connection I felt with him unnerved me, but I didn't want him to see that. More than that,it didn't matter what feelings I might be having for him.He was leaving today, and I would probably never see him again.
"I do trust you," I admitted. "I do trust you.I just don't know why I do,and I don't know why you've been helping me."
"You want the truth?" He smiled at me, and there was something sincere and sweet underlying. "You piqued my curiosity."
"You risked your life for me because you were curious?" I asked doubtfully.
"As soon as you came to,your only conern was for helping your friends, and you never stopped," Loki said. "You were kind. And I haven't seen that much kindness in my life.”
“As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear him breathing, and that definitely helped me relax.”
“You married Elora?”
“Yes, briefly.” Oren emphasized how fleeting it had been. “We were wed because we thought it would be a good way to combine our respective kingdoms. Vittra and Trylle have had their disagreements over the years, and we wanted to create peace. Unfortunately, your mother is the most impossible, irrational, horrible woman on the planet.” He smiled at me. “Well, you know. You’ve met her.”
“You've come to say good-bye,I take it?" He arched an eyebrow. "You'll miss me terribly,I know,but if you want to avoid all that,you can always come with me."
"That's quite all right,thank you."
"Really?" Loki wrinkled his nose. "You can't actually be excited about the upcoming nuptials."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, tensing up.
"I heard you're engaged to that stodgy Markis." Loki waved his hand vaguely and stood up. "Which I think is ridiculous. He's boring and bland and you don't love him at all."
"How do you know about that?" I stood up straighter, preparing to defend myself.
"The guards around here are horrible gossips, and I hear everything." He grinned and sauntered toward me. "And I have two eyes. I've seen that little melodrama play out between you and that other tracker. Fish? Flounder? What's his name?"
"Finn," I said pointedly.
"Yes,him." Loki rested his shoulder against the door. "Can I give you a piece of advice?"
"By all means.I'd love to hear advice from a prisoner."
"Excellent." Loki leaned forward, as close to me as he could before he'd be racked with pain from attempting to leave the room. "Don't marry someone you don't love.”
“A Queen is many things, but alone is never one of them.” She
held the brush, poised right above the canvas as if she meant to paint,
but she didn’t. “I don’t need love or a man to complete me, and
someday, you’ll find that’s true for yourself. Suitors will come and go,
but you will remain.”
“I heard you're campaigning on my behalf." He walked over to me. "That wouldn't be because you'd miss me too much if I were gone,would it?"
"Don't be absurd," I scoffed. "I don't condone murder, even for people like you."
"People like me,huh?" He cocked an eyebrow. "You mean devilishly handsome, debonair young men who come to sweep rebellious princesses of their feet?"
"You came to kidnap me, not sweep me off my feet," I said,but he waved his hand at the idea.
“If im lucky, i will never have to see you again. Because if i do, that means we are at war, and id have to hurt you”
“I can make you happy, and you make me happy. we could have a happily ever after.”
“You expect me to believe that you're being held against your will?" I raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You're roaming around the castle freely."
"As are you." He turned away from me then. "Not all prisons have bars. You should know that better than anyone, Princess.”
“I thought for once that acting decent ought to be rewarded. That's why I let you go, and that's why I didn't bring you back to the King."
"If it's so horrible there,why don't you stay with us?" I asked without thinking.
"No." He shook his head and lowered his eyes. "Tempting though the offer may be, your people wouldn't allow it, and my people...well,let's just say they wouldn't react well if I didn't come home. And wether I like or not, it is my home."
"I know that feeling all too well." I sighed. Though Forening was starting to feel more like home, I wasn't sure that it ever would completely.
"See?I told you,Princess." Loki's smile returned more easily. "You and I aren't all that different."
"You say that like it means something."
"No,not really. You're leaving today, going home to my enemies." I let out a deep breath, feeling an ache inside my chest. "If I'm lucky,I'll never see you again. Because if I do,that means we're at war,and I'd have to hurt you."
"Oh,Wendy,that's perhaps the saddest thing I've ever heard," Loki said, and he looked like he meant it. "But life doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Don't you ever see the silver lining?"
"Not today." I shook my head. I heard garrett summon me from down the hall, which meant that lunch was over and the meetings were about to start up. "I have to get back.I'll see you when we make the exchange with the Vittra Queen."
"Good luck." Loki nodded.
I turned to walk away, and I hadn't made it very far when I heard Loki calling after me.
"Wendy!" Loki leaned out into the hall, so far it made him grimace with pain. "If you're right and the next time we see each other is when our kingdoms are at war, you and I never will be. I'll never fight you.That I can promise you.”
“What would happen if I tried to escape?" I asked.
I didn't see anyone else. If I outran Loki, I could probably get away. Not that I knew where to go, and I still wouldn't be able to free Matt and Rhys.
"I would stop you," he replied simply.
"The same way Kyra did at my house?" A pain flared up in my ribs, as if reminding me of the damage she'd caused/
"No." Something dark flickered across his face for a second. He quickly erased it and smiled at me. "I would simply take you in my arms and hold you there until you swooned."
"It sounds romantic when you say it that way." I wrinkled my nose, remembering how he'd made me pass out by staring into my eyes. It hadn't been painful, but it hadn't exactly been pleasant either.
"It is when I envision it.”
“Aurora is right,” Willa said, sounding sad to be agreeing with her.”
“I hate that you do this to me. I hate how crazy you make me. I hate you! - Wendy”
“Don’t.” I walked up to him. “If it ever comes down to a
situation between me and you, save yourself. I’m not worth dying
“None of us are,” I said, looking at him seriously. “Not the
Queen or any of the Markis or Marksinna. That’s a direct order from
the Princess, and you have to follow it. Save yourself.”
“I don’t understand.” Duncan’s whole face scrunched in
confusion. “But… if it’s as you wish, Princess.”
“It is. Thank you,” I smiled at him and walked into the palace.”
“Not all prisons have bars. You should know that better than anyone, Princess.”
“Rebecca Byers, the comm officer on duty, could have been bred from a shark and a hatchet. Black eyes, sharp features, lips so thin they might as well not have existed. The story on board was that she’d taken the job to escape prosecution for killing an ex-husband. Holden liked her.”
“Fate lies down the path for those strong enough to walk it.”
“The difference between stupid and intelligent people -- and this is true whether or not they are well-educated -- is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambigous or even contradictory situations -- in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”
“The heart is never wrong, honey. It’s just stupidly hopeful like the rest of us.”
“We get no credit for being sane, do we? I get no credit. Even from me. From myself. I hold it together and hold it together and I make it another day, another year, and there’s no reward. Nothing great about me being normal. About not being crazy.” He frowned. “Then you have one bad day, and you worry for yourself, you know? It only takes one.”
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