“I do,” Perry said, resting his arms on the table. “Kirra’s brought food and fighters, but she hasn’t stopped the Aether. And we have to be ready. For all I know, she could pack up and leave tomorrow. ”
Instantly, he regretted his words. The game of dice halted, and an awkward silence fell over the group. He sounded paranoid, like he thought everyone ran off.
He was relieved when Cinder called down from the loft, breaking the silence. “I don’t like Kirra either. ”
“Because she patched up the roof?”
Cinder peered over the edge, holding on to his hat to keep it from falling. “No. I just don’t. ”
Perry had figured as much. Cinder knew Scires could scent the Aether on him. But with its sting always in the air now, he had nothing to worry about in Kirra.
Twig rolled his eyes and rattled the dice in the cup. “The kid doesn’t like anyone. ”
Gren jabbed him with an elbow. “That’s not true. He likes Willow—don’t you, Cinder? And you’re one to talk, frog kisser. ”
When the house was filled with sounds of six men—and one boy—croaking at the top of their lungs, Marron closed the ledger. Before he left, he leaned toward Perry and said, “Leaders need to see clearly in darkness, Peregrine. You already do that. ”
An hour later, Perry rose from the table and stretched his back. The house was quiet, but outside, the wind had picked up. He heard its low whistle and saw the embers in the hearth glowing, struggling to rekindle.
Looking up to the loft, he searched in vain for the sliver of light that had always been there. Cinder’s foot hung over the edge, twitching in sleep. Perry climbed over Hayden and Straggler, opened the door to Vale’s room, and stepped inside.
It was cooler and darker in there. With the floor in the other room packed, it made no sense to leave this one unused, but he couldn’t do it. He’d never been able to bear being within those walls. His mother had died there, and Mila, too. The room brought only one good memory to mind.
He lay down on the bed, letting out a slow breath, and stared at the wooden beams of the ceiling. He’d gotten used to fighting against the pull, but now he didn’t. Now he let himself remember the way Aria had felt in his arms just before the Marking Ceremony, smiling as she asked if he ever missed anything.
His answer hadn’t changed. The truth was that no matter how hard he tried not to, he did miss her. Always.
Liv smoothed her hands over the ivory silk of her wedding dress. “What do you think?” she asked. Her hair hung in tangled golden waves around her shoulders, and her eyes were puffy with sleep. “Is it all right?”
They were in Liv’s room, a large chamber with a balcony like last night’s dining room, just a few doors down along the same corridor. A fire crackled in a huge stone hearth to one side, and thick fur rugs covered the wooden floorboards.
Aria sat on the plush bed, watching a stout woman pin the hem of Liv’s dress. She was tired and wished she and Liv had fallen asleep here, instead of on her bed. A crisp morning breeze drifted in from outside, carrying the scent of smoke—a reminder of last night’s storm.
“Much better than all right,” Aria answered. The simple lines of the dress complemented Liv’s long, muscular figure and enhanced her natural beauty. She looked stunning. And nervous. Since she’d put the dress on half an hour earlier, Liv hadn’t stopped drumming her fingers against her legs.
“Hold still or I’ll prick you. ” The seamstress spoke with pins pressed between her lips, her voice muffled and irritated.
“That’s not much of a threat, Rena. You’ve pricked me ten times already. ”
“’Cause you’re wriggly as a fish. Hold still!”
Liv rolled her eyes. “I’m tossing you into the river once you’re finished. ”
Rena huffed. “I may toss myself in well before then, dear. ”
Liv was joking, but she looked paler by the second. Aria couldn’t blame her. She was getting married in two days, bound forever to someone she didn’t love. To Sable.
Aria glanced toward the door, her stomach knotted with anxiety. Roar still hadn’t reappeared since he’d left dinner last night.
The sound of voices out in the hall thrummed through the thick wood. She was learning her way around the twisting corridors. Sable’s chamber was nearby. Now that he knew she was after the Still Blue, it would be harder than ever for her to break away and search for information, but she would try later.
“What you said last night about the rebellious bird?” Liv said suddenly. “I agree with you. ”
Aria sat up. “You do?”