Liv nodded. “There’s no taming it. . . . Do you think I’m too late?”
Too late to tell Roar she loved him? Aria almost let out a laugh of pure happiness. “No. I don’t think you could ever be too late. ” For the next ten minutes, as the seamstress finished, she fidgeted as much as Liv, fighting to keep the smile from her lips. When Rena left and they were finally alone, she jumped off the bed and rushed to Liv’s side. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. He’s the only thing I’ve always been sure about. Help me get this thing off. I have to find him. ” In seconds she changed out of the dress into worn brown pants, leather boots, and a white long-sleeved shirt. She twisted her hair behind her back, and pulled the leather holster with her half-sword across her shoulder.
They checked Roar’s bedroom and then Aria’s, finding both empty. Discreetly, Liv asked a few guards about Roar. No one had seen him.
“Where do you think he is?” Aria asked as Liv led her through the corridors.
Liv smiled. “I have some ideas. ”
Aria’s ears tuned to the voices around her as they stepped outside and took to the shadowed city streets. She could gather information while they searched for Roar.
People took notice of Liv as they walked, reco
gnizing her, nodding in greeting. Her height made her hard to miss. In a few days, she’d be a powerful woman—a leader, alongside Sable—and they admired her for it. Aria wondered how that would feel. Would she ever stand beside Perry, strong in her own right and accepted for who she was?
Everyone seemed to be speaking of last night’s storm. The southern fields of Rim still burned, and everyone wondered what action Sable would take. Aria asked herself the same questions. If his land was burning—if he was suffering under the Aether like everyone else—why hadn’t he left yet for the Still Blue? Why was he waiting?
“How big is the Horns tribe?” she asked Liv as they wove through a crowded market.
“Thousands in the city and more in the outer reaches. He has colonies, too. He likes to have the best and the most of everything. That’s why he doesn’t like Dwellers. ” She looked at Aria, her shoulders rising in a small apologetic shrug. “He can’t buy your medicines or weapons, and he hates that. He despises anything that he can’t have. ”
That made more sense than Wylan’s theory about a centuries-old grudge.
Aria’s mind whirred as she followed Liv. How would Sable move his entire tribe of thousands to the Still Blue? Not just people, but the provisions they’d need, while staying nimble enough to avoid Aether storms? She couldn’t figure out how he’d manage it. Maybe that was why he hadn’t done it yet.
Liv stopped in front of a slanted door with peeling red paint. The din of conversation drifted to Aria’s ears. “If Roar’s anywhere, he’s here. ”
As they stepped inside, Aria took in the long tables packed with men and women. The honey-sweet smell of Luster hung in the musty air. “A bar. ” She shook her head, but had to admit it was a good place to start. The first time she’d met Roar, he’d had a bottle of Luster in his hand. She’d seen the same thing many times since.
Roar wasn’t there, but they found him just two stops later. He sat at a table in a dark corner, alone. When he saw them, he winced and dropped his head.
He was still slouching as Aria walked up, his hands in fists on the table.
She sat down across from him. “You made me worry,” she said, striving for levity. “I hate worrying. ”
He peered up at her with bloodshot eyes and flashed a quick, tired smile. “Sorry. ” Then he glared at Liv, who’d taken a seat beside him. “Aren’t you supposed to be getting married?”
Liv could barely keep the smile from her lips. She reached over and rested her hand on top of Roar’s. He jolted, drawing away, but she held him in a tight grip.
Seconds passed. Roar went from staring at her hand to staring into her eyes, his face transforming from lost to found. From broken to whole.
Aria felt her throat tighten, and she couldn’t look at him anymore. Across the dimly lit bar, a man with sallow skin met her eyes, his gaze holding for a moment too long.
“Liv,” she warned quietly. They were being watched.
Liv drew her hand away, but Roar didn’t move. His eyes glossed with tears. He was holding his breath. Holding on to the last of his self-control.
“You almost killed me,” he whispered hoarsely. “I hate you, Liv. I hate you. ”
It was such a lie. It was as far from the truth as words could be. Here, among Sable’s people, it was all he could say.
“I know,” Liv said.
A sour-faced older woman by the bar cut her eyes at Aria. Suddenly everyone seemed to be watching and listening. “We have to get out of here,” she whispered.
“Liv, you need to leave,” Roar said quietly. “Right now. It’s too much of a risk for you to stay. He’ll know how you feel. ”