“Roar!” she screeched, scanning the water. The river looked calm on the surface, but the current was brutally strong.
Filling her lungs, she went under, searching desperately for him. She couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her, but she spotted him floating close by, his back to her.
He wasn’t swimming.
Panic exploded inside of her. She’d thrown him over the balcony.
If she’d killed him—
If he was gone—
She reached him, grasped under his arms, and towed him up. They surfaced, but now she had to kick harder. His weight was immense, and he was limp in her arms, a dead weight pulling her down.
“Roar!” she gasped, struggling to keep him above water. The cold was beyond anythi
ng she’d ever experienced, stabbing like a thousand needles into her muscles. “Roar, help me!” She swallowed water, and started coughing. They were still sinking. Still falling together.
She couldn’t talk. Aria reached up, fumbling, finding the bare skin at his neck. Roar, please. I can’t do this without you!
He jolted like he’d woken from a nightmare, wrenching out of her arms.
Aria surfaced and retched river water, fighting to catch a breath.
Roar swam away from her. She had to be losing her mind. He’d never leave her. Then she saw a dark shape floating toward them on the current. For an irrational second, she thought Sable had come after them, until her eyes focused and she saw the fallen log. Roar latched onto it.
“Aria!” He reached for her and pulled her in.
Aria grabbed hold, broken branches jabbing into her numbed hands. She couldn’t stop shaking, shaking from her core. They passed beneath the bridge and raced past homes along shore, everything dark and still in the dead of night.
“Too cold,” she said. “We have to get out. ” Her jaw was trembling so much her words were unrecognizable.
They kicked toward shore together, but she didn’t know how they made it. She could barely feel her legs anymore. When their feet thudded against the gravelly riverbed, they released the driftwood. Roar’s arm came around her, and they waded on, clinging to each other, reality returning with every step.
She hadn’t looked at Roar’s face yet. She was afraid of what she’d see.
As they trudged out of the river and onto land, she suddenly weighed a thousand pounds. Somehow, she and Roar hobbled up the shore, carrying each other, stumbling arm in arm. They passed between two houses and crossed a field, plunging into the woods beyond.
Aria didn’t know where they were heading. She couldn’t keep a straight line. She was beyond thinking, and her steps were weaving.
“Walking can’t cold anymore. ” It was her voice but slurred, and she didn’t think she’d made sense. Then she was on her side in the tall grass. She couldn’t remember falling over. She drew into a ball, trying to stop the pain that stabbed into her muscles, her heart.
Roar appeared above her. There for an instant, then he was gone, and all she saw was Aether, flowing in currents above her.
Aria wanted to go after him. She didn’t want to be alone, and all she felt was aloneness. She needed a place with falcon carvings on the sill. She needed a place to belong.
When she opened her eyes, spindly tree branches swayed above her, and the first light of dawn colored the sky. Her head was resting on Roar’s chest. A thick, coarse blanket covered them, warm and smelling of horse.
She sat up, every muscle in her body aching, quivering with weakness. Her hair was still damp from the river. They were in the fold of a small gully. Roar must have moved her while she was asleep. Or unconscious. A fire smoldered nearby. Their jackets and boots were set out to dry.
Roar slept with a soft smile on his lips. His skin was a shade too pale. She memorized the way he looked. Aria wasn’t sure when she’d see him smile again.
He was beautiful, and it wasn’t fair.