“I don’t like your way. You’re late reporting in. You’re wasting time with some Outsider. I want that information, Aria. Get me coordinates. A direction. A map. Anything. ”
As he spoke, she noticed the shiftiness in his small eyes and the red flush creeping up his collar. In all their meetings over the winter, he’d never been this nervous and combative. Something had him worried.
“I want to see Talon,” she said.
“Not until you get me what I need. ”
“No,” she said. “I need to see him—”
Everything stopped. The cherry blossoms froze, suspending in midair around her. The sound of the wind vanished, and a sudden dead silence fell over the Realm. After an instant, the petals rose up in reverse, then seemed to catch and flitter down again, normally, floating to the ground as sounds returned.
Aria saw the shocked look on Hess’s face. “What was that?” she asked. “What just happened?”
“Come back in three days,” he snapped. “Don’t be late, and you’d better be on your way north by then. ” He fractioned out, disappearing.
“Hess!” she yelled.
“Aria, what’s wrong?”
Roar’s voice. She shifted her focus. His eyebrows were drawn with concern.
“I’m all right,” she said, quickly running through the commands in her mind to take off the Eye. Aria gripped it in her hand, rage blurring her vision.
Roar moved closer. “What happened?” he asked.
She shook her head. She wasn’t entirely sure herself. Something had gone wrong. She’d never seen a Realm freeze before. Had Hess done that on purpose to scare her? But he’d been nervous too. What was he hiding? Why the sudden urgency that she go to the Horns?
“Aria,” Roar prompted. “Talk to me. ”
“Hess knows I’m here. And he wants me to head north right away,” she said, choosing her words carefully, making no mention of Talon. “He doesn’t care that the pass is frozen. ”
“He’s a bastard, Hess. ” Roar’s gaze moved beyond her, up the beach. “But I’ve got good news for you. Here comes your chance to break the glass. ”
Perry walked down the beach toward Aria, aware of his every step. They’d only have a few minutes together at best, and he couldn’t reach her fast enough.
He met Roar halfway. “Keep an ear out?” Perry asked.
“Of course,” Roar said, cuffing him on the shoulder as he walked past.
Aria stood as he reached her. She pulled her dark hair over one shoulder. “Are you sure this is all right?” she asked, looking past him.
“For a little while,” he said. “Roar’s listening. Reef’s farther in on the trail. ” It felt wrong to have men guarding him from his own tribe, but he was desperate to be alone with her.
“Did you find Cinder?”
He shook his head. “Not yet. I will, though. ” He wanted to reach for her, but he scented her temper. She was nervous about something. He had an idea what that was. “Twig—he’s an Aud—he told me what happened in the cookhouse. What people were saying. ”
“It’s nothing, Perry. Only gossip. ”
“Give them a week,” he said. “It’ll get easier. ”
She looked away and didn’t answer.
Perry ran a hand over his jaw, not sure why it felt like they were still pretending around each other. “Aria, what’s going on?” he asked.