We made better pace today. ” Aria wrung her hair out, scooting closer to the fire. Spring had come in force, with days of steady rain. They’d left the Tides three days ago, and her strength had finally returned. “Don’t you think we made up some ground?”
Roar lay against his satchel, his legs crossed at the ankle, his foot tapping to a beat she couldn’t hear. “We did. ”
“Good fire, too. We got lucky to find dry wood. ”
Roar looked over, raising an eyebrow. She realized she’d been staring not at him, but through him.
“You know what’s worse than mute Aria? Small-talking Aria. ”
She picked up a stick and jabbed at the fire. “I’m just sparing you. ”
They had traveled in near silence most of the day, despite Roar’s attempts at conversation. He wanted to discuss their plan for when they reached the Horns. How would they discover information about the Still Blue? How would they negotiate for Liv’s return? But Aria hadn’t wanted to discuss anything. She’d needed to stay focused on moving forward. On pushing harder when she felt the urge to turn back. And speaking might get her speaking.
She worried about Talon. She missed Perry. There was nothing she could do about either except race to the Horns. Now, feeling a little guilty over her silence, she was trying—lamely, it was true—to make up for it.
Roar frowned. “You’re sparing me?”
“Yes, sparing you. All I’ve got right now is anxious nonsense. I’m exhausted, but I can barely sit still. And I feel like we should keep going. ”
“We can travel through the night,” he said.
“No. We need to rest. See? I’m not making any sense. ”
Roar watched her for a moment. Then he looked up at the tree branches above them, his expression growing thoughtful. “Have I ever told you about the first time Perry tried Luster?”
“No,” she said. She’d heard stories about Perry, Roar, and Liv all winter, but she’d never heard this one.
“We were on the beach, the three of us. And you know how Luster is, how it sweeps you up. Anyway, Perry got a little carried away. He decided to strip down to nothing and go for a swim. This was right in the middle of the day, by the way. ”
Aria smiled. “He did not. ”
“He did. While he was out whooping in the waves, Liv took his clothes and decided it was a good time to get all the girls in the tribe to come down to the beach. ”
Aria laughed. “Roar, she’s worse than you are!”
“You mean better. ”
“I’m scared to see you two together. So what did Perry do?”
“He swam down the coast, and we didn’t see him until the following morning. ” Roar scratched his chin, smiling. “He told us he snuck into the compound during the night wearing seaweed. ”
“You mean he wore a … a seaweed skirt?” Aria laughed. “I would give anything to have seen that. ”
Roar shuddered. “I’m glad I didn’t. ”
“I can’t believe you never told me that story before. ”
“I was saving it for the right moment. ”
She smiled. “Thanks, Roar. ” The story had pulled her from her worries for a little while, but they returned too quickly.
Gingerly, she pulled up her sleeve. The skin around the Marking was still red and scabbed, but the swelling had gone down. In some places it looked like ink had been smudged inside her skin. It was a mess.
She reached out and rested her hand on Roar’s forearm. For some reason, this seemed easier. Maybe it took less courage to just let herself think than to speak her worries aloud.