“Did Perry send a message for me?” Liv asked.
Roar shook his head. “We had to leave quickly, so he didn’t have a chance. Even then, I’m not sure he would have sent word. ”
“Why?” Liv said. “Has he lost his tongue?”
“He blames himself for what happened to Vale, Liv. ”
She scowled. “I know what Vale did. I know who my brother was. How hard is it to send a message?”
“That’s a good question,” Roar said. “How hard is it to send a message? Perry hasn’t heard from you in a year. Maybe he’s afraid he’s lost you. Maybe he thinks you don’t care about him anymore. Do you, Liv?”
Liv and Roar stared at each other, unblinking. Obviously, this was no longer about Perry. Aria felt like she and Sable had disappeared from the room.
“Of course I love him,” Liv said. “He’s my brother. I’d do anything for him. ”
“Touching, Liv. ” Roar pushed back from the table. “I’m sure Perry will be happy to hear that. ” His steps were silent as he left.
Alone with Liv and Sable, Aria suddenly felt like an intruder. The wind had blown out the candles at their end of the table. In the weaker light, Liv’s dress looked cold, like red clay. Everything looked gray and cold.
“I’ll have your brother brought here,” Sable said, reaching for Liv’s hand. “We can hold the wedding until then. Tell me what you want, and I’ll do it. ”
Liv smiled at him, a quick, shaky flash. “I’m sorry … I’m not hungry,” she said, and left the room.
Aria waited for Sable to go after her. He didn’t. He plucked a fig from his plate and ate it, watching her as he chewed.
“I know why Roar is here,” he said. “Why are you?”
His words were casual, but the look in his eyes was penetrating. Aria glanced at the door, gauging the distance, instinct telling her to leave now.
Sable’s hand shot out and clasped her wrist. With her free hand, Aria snatched a knife from the table. She held it facing down, ready for the strike she’d make at his neck. A killing strike. There would only be one shot against someone like him. But that wouldn’t help her. She needed him to talk.
Sable smiled and gave a slight shake of his head. His eyes were pale as glass at the center, and ringed with dark blue. “You don’t need that. I won’t hurt you unless you give me reason to. ”
He slid his hand up her arm, pushing up her sleeve. His thumb ran over her skin, slow and firm, as he studied the ruined half Marking. Chills shot down her spine at the cold feel of his touch.
Sable stared deep into her eyes. “You’re a puzzle, aren’t you?”
Aria’s breath was caught in her throat. Sounds sharpened. The flap of the drapes, and the rush of the Snake River. The approaching footsteps in the hall. Was he seeing her hearing ability? Her life in Reverie and in the Realms, and everything else that she hid?
A guard with stringy blond hair entered. “The storm’s holding on path to Ranger’s Edge. ”
Sable paid him no attention. “What do you want from me?” he said, his voice low and menacing.
She couldn’t lie. She couldn’t. “The Still Blue. ”
Sable’s grip loosened. He let out a slow exhale and sat back. “And here I thought you so unique,” he said simply. Then he rose from his chair and left.
Aria couldn’t move for long minutes afterward. She hadn’t felt repulsed at being touched in months, since she’d first been cast out of Reverie. Pain woke in her arm. His grasp had been tighter than she’d realized. She set the knife down at last, returning it to its place beside the empty plate, fingers aching from gripping it.
Now what? Sable was suspicious of her. He’d pry until he learned the truth about who she was. Her life was in danger. Her mission was in danger. She drew a breath and stood. She wouldn’t let herself fail.
Aria passed the guards at the door, making her way back to her room. She noted the guards at posts and roaming the halls. Moving unseen would be difficult, but not impossible. She froze when she heard Sable’s voice. He sounded close, but she couldn’t tell for certain. Sounds bounced in strange ways along the meandering corridors. Heart thundering, she listened to him ordering the outskirts of Rim evacuated. Maybe the storm would spur him to discuss the Still Blue tonight.
Later, she told herself. She’d sneak out and learn what she could.
She wasn’t surprised to find someone waiting when she stepped into her room.
She’d expected Roar, but it was Liv.