Talon and Clara woke as the Hover put down on the beach. Perry had an explanation ready as to why they’d needed to leave the compound, but seeing the huge smiles on their faces, he decided he’d explain later.
“Tell me I didn’t just land in front of a cave,” Soren said.
Aria stirred in Perry’s arms. Slowly she unfolded her legs and rose from his lap. “We can get rid of him any time. ”
“I wish you weren’t joking,” Perry said. He already missed the feeling of her weight against him.
Soren pushed the steering console away and stood. “That’s some kind of gratitude for saving your lives. You’re both welcome, by the way. ”
Aria smiled. She held her hand out to help Perry up, her injured arm tucked against her side. “Who said I was joking?”
Perry rose and followed her into the main cabin, ignoring the gasps of the Dwellers huddled there. Resting his hand on Talon’s shoulder, he stood beside Aria as she pressed a control by the door. The hatch opened with a rush of air that carried the sound of the waves, lowering to the sand.
In the morning light, he saw the Tides stream out of the cave, filling in along the beach. They gaped at the ship, caught between disbelief and panic. Behind him, dozens of Dwellers stared at the world outside, their fear palpable, strong enough to scent even with his smoke-blunted nose.
Perry spotted Marron and Reef. Bear and Molly. His gaze moved past the brothers—Hyde, Hayden, and Strag. Past Willow and Brooke. In search of Roar and Twig. Regret hit him as he realized that neither of them was there. He had to find them—and Cinder—but first he and Aria had to settle the Dwellers into their temporary home.
Flea trotted to the bottom of the ramp, whining at the sight of Talon and wagging his tail. Wagging his entire body. Talon looked up, his green eyes shining with eagerness. “Can I go?”
“Sure,” Perry said, and watched him run down the ramp with Clara.
Talon didn’t get far before Flea jumped on him, knocking him to the sand. Clara shot past them and jumped into Brooke’s arms. The tribe rushed forward, surrounding them, until Perry lost sight of them both.
He looked at Aria beside him. There were still so many problems to solve, but they had brought Talon and Clara home, and rescued who they could from Reverie. It was a good beginning.
They would need to form a new tribe now, and find the Still Blue.
Perry held out his hand, remembering his approach to the Tides with her weeks ago. Their awkward silence and the distance they’d put between them. They’d taken their greatest strength and hidden it like a weakness.
“Should we try this again?” he asked.
Aria smiled. “The right way,” she said, and wove her fingers through his. “Together. ”