Roar and Liv / Page 2

Page 2


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I sit on the opposite side of the fire and Liv sits between my legs, leaning back against my chest. We’ve perfected this position. I love the way her long legs look stretched out in front of me. The top of her head is only inches from my lips. I press a kiss there, and then take a drink from the jug of Luster. It goes down like liquid coals, spreading heat through my stomach and out to the rest of me. I pass the jug to Liv, and sit back on my hands.

Brooke and Liv talk about something Talon said earlier, a puppy crush he has on Willow, who at thirteen is nearly double his age of seven. Perry smiles, as he always does when talk turns to his nephew. I suck the taste of spiced honey from my lips, my focus shifting to the sound of their voices as the Luster wraps me in a mellow fog. I draw a deep breath, feeling Liv’s weight against my chest, smelling salt and water and fire in the air. After a little while, I hear what I’ve been waiting for. Husky and pure, Liv’s laugh is the best sound in the world. I close my eyes and savor it.

This is what I wanted tonight. Time away from the tribe with Liv and Perry, and even with Brooke. With no responsibilities and nothing to do except be. It hasn’t turned out the way I expected, though. I have everything I need right here, but I can’t shake the anxious feeling in my gut. Why does Vale want to talk to Liv alone? And why so soon after his return from the north?

Some time later, Perry stands. “Let’s leave these two alone,” he says as he pulls Brooke to her feet.

Right. I’m sure that’s exactly what’s motivating him. They head off together into the darkness, toward the cave just up the beach. Definitely not splitting up tonight.

When they’re gone, Liv turns in my arms. “I guess we’re alone,” she says, giving me an innocent look that’s anything but.

“Mm hmm. I guess we are.” I slide my hand beneath her chin and bring my lips to hers. Her skin is warm and she tastes like Luster. Somehow there is a bit of sand in our kiss. With Liv, there is always something unexpected, but not the way she makes me feel. That never changes. One kiss and I’m hungry—starved for more of her—but she surprises me by drawing away. Leaning back, she studies me through narrowed eyes.

“What is it, Livy?” My hand is wrapped around her hip. I slide it to her back so I can think clearly. Somewhat clearly. So I have a chance at holding a coherent thought in my head.

In the firelight Liv’s long lashes look like gold threads. Her gaze shifts from my left eye to the right and back, like she’s searching for the one that will open to my soul. The truth is either one will.

“I shouldn’t have said anything earlier,” she says.

I shake my head. “No. Of course you should have.” As a Scire, Liv can scent my temper. She reads my moods, no matter what I do. I can’t protect her from my worry. “Don’t ever keep things from me. You always know how I feel, and I want the same. No secrets . . . all right?”

Liv nods. She stares into the darkness, her eyebrows drawn in thought. “Do you think it’s about us?” she asks after a moment.

“Yes.”

“You do?”

I shrug. “You’re part of me, Olivia. Anything that involves you is always about us.”

Liv’s mouth curves into a smile. She brushes her thumb over my bottom lip. Maybe the sand came from me? I don’t know, and the way she’s staring at me, it’s all I can do to keep my breathing even.

“I like it when you call me love,” she says.

“What? I’ve never called you that.” Lie. I do it all the time. “Oh, you mean earlier? I said Liv. You just have terrible hearing.”

She jabs me in the ribs.

“Ouch!”

“What was that?” Liv says. “I couldn’t hear you.” She digs her fingers into my side again.

“You asked for it now.” I twist away, pulling her with me, and the battle begins. We roll over each other, tumbling, wrestling, tangling in the sand until my hands find her hands and my lips find her lips and then we slow. We slow and slow and slow until we move together as one.

2

What do you think they’re talking about?” I ask as I circle back to Perry.

We’re on sentry duty on the eastern post. Our lookout spot is under the shade of an oak tree at the top of a knoll. The warm spring morning has given way to a hot afternoon. I’ve created a small track of trampled grass around the tree, where Perry sits. My gaze moves to the woodland to the south. Liv and Vale are out there somewhere.

Perry plucks a blade of grass from his mouth. “You know that’s the twentieth time you’ve asked me that.”

“I didn’t know that. Should I stop?”

“Not if you’re trying to drive me mad.” Perry puts the blade of grass between his teeth and gives me a wide grin. “You’re close.”

“It would help if you said something besides I don’t know. Give me something, Per. Anything at all.” I point to the ground. “What do you think they’re saying this very second?”

“This very second?”

“Yes. Right now.”

Perry’s gaze moves across the green hills to the south. “I think it’s the second before one of them says something. Maybe they’re taking a moment to think. Maybe they’re breathing—I hope they’re doing that.”

I lift my hands. “Never mind.” I go back to pacing circles around the oak tree until my thoughts overflow again. “But maybe he isn’t going to do what we all think he’s going to do.”

I frown, noticing that Perry has a feather in his mouth now. I’m about to ask why so many things are suddenly ending up in his mouth when I see that he’s replacing damaged fletching on his arrows. He plucks the feather from his lips and threads it onto the wooden shaft.

“I’m going to need more than that, Roar. Who isn’t doing what we all think?”

“Your brother,” I say. “People have been wondering what kind of deal he made with the Horns. Bear and Molly think he’s selling off part of the territory in exchange for food. And I’ve even heard a few rumors that he went to pledge the Tides to Sable, but they’re just guesses.” I take a step closer to him. “What if Vale’s plan is something completely different? Something no one’s even thought of?”

Perry brings the arrow to eye level and inspects the goose feather he’s just slotted into place. “It’s possible. He was vague about his plans before he left.”

“That’s right,” I say. “And it would be just like him to do something surprising. Something underhanded.”

Perry cuts a dark glance my way. “That’s not what I said.”

“But it has crossed your mind. He’s devious, Perry. And he’s a hypocrite, too. He marries Mila, a Seer, but he has a problem with Liv and me being together because I’m not a Scire? How can he do that? It should be our choice, not his. Traditions are for the faint of heart. Are you going to refuse to be with anyone who isn’t a Scire?”

Perry sweeps the leftover feathers into his leather satchel. “I’m going to forget you said those things about my brother,” he says without looking at me, “and I won’t waste my time talking about something that’s years away from happening to me, if at all.”

I have no idea what kind of answer that is. “Do you mean you would refuse?”

Perry looks up, his eyes darting past me to the slope below. He jumps to his feet and yanks his bow across his shoulder. I see what he’s spotted. Our replacements, Collins and Wylan, are walking up the hill. Our sentry shift is over.

“Let’s move. Vale and Liv should be back by now,” Perry says, his words clipped. He rushes down the hill, bow in hand, his feet tearing down the grassy slope.

It’s only now, in this very second, that I realize he’s anxious, too.

As Perry and I approach the eastern entrance to the compound, I hear a sound that turns my blood to ice.

Liv is yelling.

I sprint across the clearing to her house, leaving Perry behind, and barrel through the door past Mila, who is leading Talon outside. Vale’s broad form fills up the small common room. His dark hair is pulled back by a leather strap, enhancing the sharp lines of his profile. With his coloring and muscled build, and especially with the heavy links of the Blood Lord chain around his neck, he looks just like his father.

Liv stands by the hearth. As far away from Vale as she can be. She turns to me, her blond hair whipping out. She’s out of breath and her eyes flash with rage. I have never seen her this furious. It stops me dead in my tracks.

Vale sees me and purses his lips. “Leave,” he says, pointing to the door. “This has nothing to do with you.”

“How can you say that?” Liv yells. Her voice is hoarse from screaming. “You know it does!”

“For the last time, Olivia, I will not tolerate that tone of voice.”

“You’re not my father, Vale!”

“But I am your lord. Lower your voice or you’ll be sorry.”

I don’t understand what’s happening. Usually Vale and Perry are the ones at the point of going to blows. Usually Liv is trying to stop them.

“You want to tell me how to talk now? Well, you can’t anymore! You gave me away. You lost that right when you sold me!”

“What?” It’s only one word, but my voice breaks on it.

Liv turns to me. “He wants me to marry into the Horns. He sold me to them! Tell him, Vale! Tell him what you did.”

“I don’t want you to do this, Olivia. I need you to.”

Sounds splinter like a mirror breaking. Vale is still talking, but I don’t hear him any longer. I hear Liv’s words in fragments.

Marry

Horns

Sold me

My hands are shaking. I squeeze them into fists. My mind isn’t working fast enough. I can’t believe what I’ve just heard. It makes no sense. I’m yelling before I’ve caught up with my thoughts. “No! You can’t do this!”

“Get him out of here,” Vale commands Perry, who stands at the threshold.

The timbre in his voice—impatient, irritated, like I’m a nuisance, a stray dog that has wandered in—snaps my control.

I lunge for Vale, swinging.

I’m quicker than anyone in the Tides, but he’s ready for me and turns away. My fist barely grazes his mouth. Vale answers my punch with a blow to the back of my head, catching me behind my right ear. My vision goes black. I pitch forward and my elbows crash against the floorboards. Vale’s foot—it must be his foot—slams into my back, sending me onto my chest.

My right ear rings, the sound disorienting, consuming me. I blink hard. A sideways room appears but it’s blurred and rocking and won’t stay still. I hear Perry curse behind me. My teeth slam together as he wrenches me upright, and then yanks me toward the door. The room won’t stop tilting; Vale’s blow has thrown off my balance. I stumble after Perry, struggling to keep my feet beneath me. We squeeze through the doorway, our shoulders jamming together, and burst out into the open.


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