What’s she doing up there?” Perry asked.
He stopped in the clearing and looked to the roof of his house. Kirra’s hair caught his eye like a red flag flapping in the breeze. The sound of hammers pounding carried down to him.
He’d spent the morning at the cavern with Marron, going over plans to grade the bluff that led to the cove. If they could create a switchback path, they’d be able to bring carts and horses down the slope. It would be far better than steps, so it was worth a try, but they’d need more help.
“You don’t know about this?” Reef said, beside him.
“No. I don’t. ” Perry climbed the ladder to the roof. Kirra stood a dozen paces away, watching two of her men, Forest and Lark, rip up roof tiles. As he walked over, Perry’s anger built with every step. He felt more protective over this space than he did about his house. This was his perch.
Kirra turned to face him, smiling. She rested her hands on her hips and tipped her head to the side.
“Good morning,” she said. “I saw the crack in the ceiling last night. I thought we’d take care of it. ”
She’d spoken louder than necessary, letting her voice carry. Her men looked over, sizing him up. They’d pulled off a section of stone tiles, exposing the battens beneath. Perry knew a dozen Auds in the clearing had heard her as well. It was no mystery what the tribe would think. Everyone knew that gap was above his loft.
He drew a breath, forcing down his rage. She was changing something that didn’t need to be changed. He’d watched the Aether through that gap for as long as he could remember, but he couldn’t stop the work now. The sliver that had been a few inches wide had grown to a hole more than a foot across, exposing the inner beams. Through it, he could see the blankets in his loft below.
“Bear told me about a few other things we could take care of while we’re here,” Kirra said.
“Take a walk with me, Kirra,” he said.
“I’d love to. ” The sound of her voice—sweet as nectar—chafed at his nerves.
Perry felt the eyes of people on them as they came down the ladder and crossed the clearing together. He took the trail to the harbor, knowing he’d find it empty. It was too early in the day for the fishermen to be back.
“I thought we’d make ourselves useful,” Kirra said when they stopped.
It streaked him that she’d spoken first. “If you want work, come to me, not Bear. ”
“I tried, but I couldn’t find you. ” She lifted an eyebrow. “Does that mean you want us to stay?”
Perry had considered it all morning as he’d listened to Marron describe the work needed at the cave. He saw no reason to turn away a band of able-bodied people. If he was right about the Aether, they were on borrowed time.
“Yes,” he said. “I want you to stay. ”
Kirra’s eyes widened in surprise, but she recovered quickly. “I was expecting you to fight me a little more. I wouldn’t have minded, actually. ”
Her words were flirty, but her temper was difficult to read, an odd mixture of warm and cool. Bitter and sweet.
She laughed, tucking a stray lock of her hair behind her ear. “You make me nervous, staring at me with those eyes. ”
“They’re the only ones I have. ”
“I didn’t mean that I don’t like them. ”
“I know what you meant. ”
She shifted her weight, her scent warming. “Right,” she said, her gaze wandering to his chest and then to the chain at his neck.
to him was real—there was no hiding that—but he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was trying to bait him.
“So where do you want us to work?” she asked.