“Finish the roof. I’ll show you the cave tomorrow. ” He turned to go.
She touched his arm, rooting him in place. A shot of adrenaline pulsed through his body. “Perry, it’ll be easier if we can find a way to get along. ”
“We are getting along,” he said, and walked away.
At supper, Kirra’s group was as rowdy as the previous night. The two men who had fixed the hole in Perry’s roof, Lark and Forest, came from the deep south, like Kirra did. They carried on loudly, telling jokes and stories back and forth in a battle of wits. By the time supper ended, they had the Tides cheering for more.
Kirra fit right in with the Tides. Perry watched her laughing with Gren and Twig, and then later with Brooke. She even spent time talking with Old Will, turning his face red beneath his white beard.
Perry wasn’t surprised by how quickly she gained the Tides’ acceptance. He understood how relieved they were to have her there and wished he felt the same way, but everything she said and did made him feel like a target.
Bear came over when the cookhouse had almost emptied, sitting across from Perry and wringing his huge hands. “Can we talk, Peregrine?”
Perry straightened his back at the formal tone in his voice. “Of course. What’s going on?”
Bear sighed and wove his fingers together. “Some of us have been talking, and we don’t want to move to the cave. There’s no reason for it now. We’ve got food—enough to get us on our feet again—and Kirra’s people to help defend us. It’s all we need. ”
Perry’s stomach churned. Bear had questioned his decisions before, but this felt different. This felt like something more. He cleared his throat. “I’m not changing my plan. I swore an oath to do what’s right for the tribe. That’s what I’m doing. ”
“I understand,” Bear said. “I don’t want to go against you. None of us do. ” He stood, his thick eyebrows knotted together. “I’m sorry, Perry. I wanted you to know. ”
Later, at his house, Perry sat around the table with Marron and Reef as the rest of the Six played dice. They were in high spirits from another night of music and entertainment, their hunger sated for the second day in a row.
Perry listened absently as they passed around a bottle of Luster, joking with one another. The conversation with Bear had left him uneasy. As much as Wylan’s departure had hurt, watching Bear turn against him would be worse. He liked Bear. Respected him. It was much harder failing someone he cared about.
Perry shifted the chain around his neck. Suddenly, loyalty felt like such a fragile thing. He’d never thought he would need to earn it day in and day out. Though he didn’t forgive his brother for what he’d done, Perry was beginning to understand the pressure that had forced Vale to sell off Talon and Clara. He’d sacrificed a few for the good of the whole. Perry tried to imagine trading Willow to the Dwellers for solutions to his problems. Just the thought made him sick.
“Snake eyes again. Damn dice,” Straggler said. He lifted the cup to reveal two ones on the table.
Hyde smirked. “Strag, I didn’t think it was possible to be as unlucky as you are. ”
“He’s so unlucky it’s almost lucky,” Gren said. “It’s like he has reverse luck. ”
“He’s reverse good-looking, too,” said Hyde.
“I’m going to reverse punch you,” Strag said to his brother.
“That was reverse smart, man. It means you’re going to punch yourself. ”
Beside Perry, Marron smiled softly as he made notes in Vale’s ledger. He was designing portable furnaces that would provide both heat and light for the cave. It was just one of the things he had thought of that impressed Perry.
Reef sat back in his chair with his arms crossed, eyes heavy. Ignoring the game, Perry told him what Bear had said.
Reef scratched his head, pushing back his braids. “It’s because of Kirra,” he said. “She’s changed things around here. ”
It wasn’t just because of Kirra, Perry thought. It was because of Liv. By marrying Sable, she’d given the Tides a chance. He wondered if she knew how much they’d needed it. He felt a sharp pang in his chest, missing his sister. Grateful for her. Sorry for the sacrifice she’d had to make. Liv had a new life now. A new home. When would he see her again? He shook the thoughts from his mind.
“So you agree with Bear?” he asked Reef. “You think we should stay here?”
“I agree with Bear, but I follow you. ” Reef tipped his chin at the others around the table. “We all do. ”
Perry’s stomach dropped. He had their support, but it was based on fealty. On a promise they’d made to him months ago on bended knee. They followed blindly, without seeing any wisdom in his thinking, and that didn’t feel right either.
“I agree with you,” Marron said quietly. “For what it’s worth. ”
Perry nodded in thanks. It was worth a lot just then.
“What about you, Per?” Straggler asked. “You still think we should move?”