Liv shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. It won’t change anything. He knew the minute you showed up. ”
Aria leaned toward them. “Let’s go,” she said, just as Sable’s guards burst through the door.
Aria and Roar were stripped of their knives and hauled back through the city streets. Seeing them treated like captives, Liv yelled and flew into a fury that fell just short of drawing her half-sword, but the guards didn’t relent. Sable’s orders, they told her.
Aria exchanged a worried look with Roar as they approached Sable’s looming fortress. Liv had said that Sable knew the truth of her feelings for Roar. She hadn’t seemed concerned. Their marriage was arranged; it had never been about love. But a hard pit of worry settled in Aria’s stomach.
They were taken past the great hall—now empty and silent—and through the winding corridors to the dining room with the bramble centerpiece and the rust-colored drapes. Sable sat at the table, talking with a man Aria recognized. He was bedraggled, spoons and trinkets hanging from his clothes. His teeth were few and crooked.
He looked vaguely familiar, like a figure she’d seen in a dream—or a nightmare. Then she remembered. She’d caught a glimpse of him during her Marking Ceremony. He was the gossip who’d been there the night she’d been poisoned.
A single thought blared inside her mind.
This man knew she was a Dweller.
When he saw them, Sable pushed back his chair and stood. He looked briefly at Liv and Roar, his expression even, almost disinterested, before turning to focus on her.
“Sorry to spoil your fun this afternoon, Aria,” he said as he walked toward her, “but Shade here has just shared some interesting facts about you. It seems I was right. You are unique. ”
Her heart slammed against her ribs as he stopped in front of her. She couldn’t look away from his piercing blue eyes. When he spoke again, the cutting tone in his voice sent a chill up her spine. “Did you come here to steal what I know, Dweller?”
She saw only one possible move. One chance. She had to take it.
“No,” she said. “I’m here to offer you a deal. ”
I hate this,” Kirra said.
Perry watched Kirra brush sand off her hands as he took a drink from his water skin. “You hate sand? I’ve never heard anyone say that. ”
“You think it’s ridiculous. ”
He shook his head. “No. More like impossible … like hating trees. ”
Kirra smiled. “I’m indifferent toward trees. ”
Along the dunes, their horses tugged at the sea grass.
They’d spent most of the day with Marron, assigning Kirra’s people to different tasks. Then Perry had shown Kirra his northern borders—he could use her people’s help on watch as well. Now they’d stopped for a quick rest along the coast before returning to the compound.
They needed to get back soon—a storm was building from the north—but he wanted just a few more minutes of not being Blood Lord.
Kirra had been easier to be around that morning. And with plenty of work to be done, she had a point about them getting along. He’d decided to give her a chance.
She leaned back on her elbows. “Where I come from, we have lakes. They’re quieter. Cleaner. And it’s easier to scent without all the salt in the air. ”
It was the opposite for him. He preferred the way scents carried on moist ocean air. But then, that was what he’d always known. “Why did you leave?”
“We were forced out by another tribe when I was young. I grew up in the borderlands until we were brought in by the Horns. Sable’s been good to me. I’m his favorite for missions like this. I don’t complain. I’d rather be on the move than stuck in Rim. ” She smiled. “Enough about me. ” Her gaze fell to his hand. “I’ve been wondering how you got those scars. ”
Perry flexed his fingers. “Burned it last year. ”
“Looks like it was bad. ”
“It was. ” He didn’t want to talk about his hand. Cinder had torched it. Aria had bandaged it. Neither were things he wanted to share with Kirra. Quiet stretched out between them. Perry looked across the ocean, to where the Aether flashed deep on the horizon. Storms were constant now, out at sea.