“You think so?” Sable asked. He firmed his grip on the weapon, readying to fire.
“No!” Aria thrust the satchel out over the wall. “If you want the Smarteye back, swear you won’t hurt him. Swear in front of your men you won’t, or I’ll drop it. ”
“If you do that, Dweller, I will kill you both. ”
Liv surged forward, sword swinging. Sable adjusted his aim and fired. The bolt left the crossbow. Liv flew backward and fell.
Her body struck the stones with a sickening thud, like a heavy sack of grain heaved to the ground. Then she lay still.
The real was broken. It had a glitch, like the Realms. Liv wasn’t moving. She lay just a pace away from Aria’s feet. From Roar’s. Her long blond hair spilling over her chest. Through the golden strands, Aria saw the bolt that had struck her, blood seeping up, spreading deep red over her ivory shirt.
She heard Roar exhale. A singular sound. A sigh like a last breath.
Then she saw what would happen next.
Roar would attack Sable, no matter that it wouldn’t bring Liv back. No matter that half a dozen armed men stood beside their Blood Lord. Roar would try to kill Sable. But he would be the one killed, if she didn’t do something now.
She lunged. Wrapping Roar in her arms, she flung herself back, pulling them over the balcony wall. Then they were weightless and falling, falling, falling through the darkness.
Forget about her,” Kirra whispered, staring up at him. “She’s gone. ”
Her scent flowed into Perry’s nose. A brittle autumn scent. Leaves that crumbled into jagged pieces. The wrong scent, but he felt his fists unfold. His fingers spread on the small of Kirra’s back. On flesh that didn’t feel the way he wanted. Did she feel his fingers shaking?
“Perry …,” Kirra whispered, her scent warming. She licked her lips and stared up at him, her eyes glinting. “I didn’t expect this either. ”
A fierce hunger rolled through him. Heartache that pounded inside his chest like the breaking waves. “Yes, you did. ”
She shook her head. “It’s not why I came here. We could be good together,” she said. Then her hands were on him. Fast, cold hands running over his chest. Skimming his stomach. She moved closer, pressing her body to his, and leaned up to kiss him.
“Don’t talk, Perry. ”
He took her wrists and drew her hands away. “No. ”
She settled onto her heels and stared at his chest. They stayed that way, not moving. Not speaking. Her temper lit like fire, crimson, searing. Then he scented her resolve, her control, as it cooled and cooled, icing over.
Perry heard a bark along the beach trail. He’d forgotten about Flea. He’d forgotten about the storm roiling above them. He’d forgotten, for a second, how it felt to be left behind.
Strangely, he felt calm now. It didn’t matter if Aria was hundreds of miles away, or whether she’d hurt him, or said good-bye, or anything else. Nothing would change the way he felt. Not ignoring his thoughts of her, or being with Kirra. The moment Aria had taken his hand on the roof at Marron’s, she’d changed everything. No matter what happened, she’d always be the one.
“I’m sorry, Kirra,” he said. “I shouldn’t have come here. ”
Kirra lifted her shoulders. “I’ll survive. ” She turned to go, but stopped herself. She looked back, smiling. “But you should know that I always get what I’m after. ”
Aria had flown before, in the Realms. It was a glorious thing, soaring with no weight and no care. Flying felt like becoming the wind. This was nothing like that. It was an ugly, grasping, panicking thing. As the Snake River blurred closer, her only thought—her every thought—was hold on to Roar.
The water slammed into her, hard as stone, and then everything happened at once. Every bone in her body jarred. Roar tore out of her grip, and darkness swallowed her, driving every thought from her mind. She didn’t know if she was still there—still alive—until she saw the wavering light of the Aether calling her to the surface.
Her limbs unlocked, and she kicked, pushing through the water. Cold pierced into her muscles and her eyes. She was too heavy, too slow. Her clothes filled, dragging her down, and she felt the strap of her satchel looped around her waist. Aria grasped it and swam, every stroke thick, like cutting through mud. She broke the surface and sucked in a breath.