She crossed her arms, and her temper cooled and cooled, turning to ice. Perry fought against the weight of it settling over him.
“Hess knows I’m here,” she said at last. “He’s making me leave. I need to go in a few days. ”
He remembered the name. Hess was the Dweller who’d thrown her out of the Pod. “Does he know it’s not safe to go north yet?”
“Yes,” she said. “He doesn’t care. ”
Her fear gripped him suddenly. “Did he threaten you?” Perry asked, his mind churning.
Aria shook her head, and it hit him.
“He has Talon. He’s using Talon, isn’t he?”
She nodded. “I’m sorry. This is one time I really wish I could lie to you. I didn’t want to burden you. ”
Perry fisted his hands, squeezing them until his knuckles ached. Vale had planned the kidnapping, but he still felt responsible. That wouldn’t go away until Talon was home safe. His gaze moved up the beach.
“This is where he was taken,” he said. “Right here. I watched the Dwellers kick him in the stomach and then drag him into a Hovercraft at the top of that du
Aria stepped toward him and took his hands. Her fingers were cool and soft, but her grip was firm. “Hess won’t hurt him,” she said. “He wants the Still Blue. He’ll give us Talon in exchange. ”
Perry couldn’t believe he had to buy his nephew. It was little different from what he would have to do to get Liv home, he realized. Vale had traded them both for food. Everything pointed to Perry going to the Horns. He needed the Still Blue—for his tribe, and for Talon. And he had to settle a debt with Sable for Liv not showing. Maybe then his sister would finally come home.
“It’s sooner than I thought,” he said, “but I’m going with you. We’ll leave in a few days and hope the pass is clear by then. ”
“And if it’s not?”
He shrugged. “We’d battle against the ice. It would probably take us twice as long, but we could do it. I could get us there. ”
Aria smiled at what he’d said. He didn’t know why, but it didn’t matter. She was smiling.
“All right,” she said. She wove her arms around him, turning her head to his chest. Perry brushed her hair away from her shoulder and breathed her in, letting the strength of her temper bring him back. One breath at a time, his anger faded into desire.
He traced the line of her spine with his thumb. Everything about her was graceful and strong. She drew back and met his eyes.
“This …” He was going to tell her that this was how they should’ve come together, days ago in the woods. This was what he’d thought about all winter—what he’d missed. But he couldn’t get past the way she felt, or the way she was looking at him.
“Yes,” she said. “This. ”
Perry bent and kissed her lips. She curved against him, her sigh a warm drift against his cheek, and then nothing existed beyond her mouth and her skin and the feel of her body against his. They didn’t have long. People nearby. He could barely hold the thoughts in his mind. She was everything, and he wanted more.
At Roar’s warning whistle, he froze, his lips on her neck. “Tell me you didn’t hear that. ”
“I heard it. ”
Again he heard Roar’s signal, louder this time, insistent. Perry winced and straightened, taking her hands. Her scent was wrapped around him. The last thing he wanted was to leave her.
“We’ll get your Markings done before we go. And about hiding things between us … let’s drop it. It’s killing me not being able to touch you. ”
Aria smiled up at him. “We’re leaving soon. Can we keep it up just until then?”
“You like seeing me suffer?”
She laughed softly. “The wait will be worth it, I promise. Now go. ”
He kissed her once more, then tore himself away and ran up the beach, weightless over the sand.