Roar and Liv / Page 4

Page 4


Liv steps back, satisfied at last. She looks at me and I can’t ignore how this started any longer. “What did Vale say to you, Liv?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not doing it,” she says dismissively. She strides toward me. “Have you lost your mind, Roar? How could you do that?”

“I need to know what he said.”

“Vale could’ve had you killed! Did you even consider that?”

“Olivia, tell me.”

She shoves me in the chest. “Did you even think?”

I grab her wrists, trapping her hands against me. She tugs away, but I hold her fast and stare into her eyes. I want her to tell me I’m imagining everything. That none of this is really happening. “Please, Liv . . . I need to know what he said.”

I release her hands and she takes a step back. She looks to Perry and back to me. I don’t recognize the expression on her face. “He told me he made an arrangement. All the food we need? Vale sold me for it. I’m supposed to marry Sable.” Her mouth quivers into a humorless smile and she glances at Perry again. “He fetched a good price for me. Enough food to keep the Tides fed through next winter. I guess I’m expensive.”

She tries to laugh but it’s strained and thin. Nothing like the sound I know. And then her eyes fill and she turns her back to me and everything inside of me rips and tears. Every muscle. Every bone in my body. I can’t move. I can’t move and the ringing that had just begun to fade in my ear is drowned by the roar of blood.

She’s mine. The words rage through my mind.

Liv is mine.

I must have spoken them aloud because Liv’s shoulders jolt and she darts away. I follow her and collide with Perry, who’s saying something to me. There’s a gap that feels like an hour before his words sink in.

“Let her go. Give her some time, Roar. She wants to be alone.”

I watch as she disappears into the curling fog. Liv flees when she’s unsure. Like Perry, she thinks on the run. I know this, but my stomach still twists as I watch her leave. I want her to need me right now. She doesn’t. Somehow, I both hate her and love her for it.

For what feels like a lifetime, I stare at the spot where she vanishes. Then I look at Perry. “What do I do now?” My head pounds from Vale’s punch.

Perry rubs a hand over his jaw. “Stay here,” he says. “I’ll be back.”

Pressing a hand to his stomach, he jogs back to the compound.


When Perry is gone, I look around me. The fog has moved inland and I can’t see more than a hundred paces in any direction. The surf is rougher than it was last night, the waves foaming as they pound against the beach. I picture bruises spreading across the sand and shake my head, trying to get the image to go away.

Pulling my knife from the sheath at my belt, I spin the blade around my wrist, tossing it, flipping it fast, fast, faster, concentrating on just this. On the focus I need in order to do these tricks and keep my fingers intact.

Without Perry and Liv, I feel unhinged and I shouldn’t. I should be more like my mother, who didn’t let herself care. Who moved from one man to the next with the seasons. There was always someone better, worth uprooting everything for. A new man for me to call father for a few months when, in reality, my father was nothing more than a roaming trader who was a drunk.

Rush. His name comes to me now. Mother said he was the most beautiful thing she’d ever laid eyes on, next to me. That’s what I was to her: an achievement in fine looks. A face that she could pinch and kiss and then send away.

It took all of one day for Liv to understand me better. Less than a day. The very morning after Gram and I came to the Tides, Liv and Perry tracked me down in my new home in the shed. “I think you should be our friend,” Liv said. I didn’t even know her name yet. Then, she was just the golden-haired girl from up in the loft. When I asked her why, she replied, “Because you need us.” I looked at Perry, who said, “All right,” and then I said, “All right,” and then everything was all right.

I fumble the knife and the blade slices into my finger. Cursing, I suck on my thumb, tasting copper. It’s been years since I cut myself.

“First rule of knives: they cut.”

I look up at the voice. Perry walks over, a bottle of Luster in one hand. “I thought this would help.” He gives it to me and sits. “Has she come back yet?”

Unstopping the cork, I take a drink. “No. Not yet.” I drink again, feeling the warmth of the Luster move through me. Maybe my father and I have more in common than our looks. “I can’t let this happen, Perry. We have to find another way. We have to do something.”

Perry nods. “I’ll talk to Vale.” His gaze slides over to me. “But I doubt there’s anything I can say that will change his mind.”

“You can change his mind. He’s scared of you. He knows the tribe would do well with you as Blood Lord.”

“The tribe doesn’t want me as—”

“They do.”

“There are plenty of people who doubt whether I could—”

“To hell with the doubters.”

Perry smirks at me. “Roar, if you interrupt me once more, I’ll . . .” He rubs the back of his neck and lets out a breath. “I’ll stop talking.”

“Doubters don’t mean a damn thing,” I tell him. “I doubt it’ll rain tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean I control the rain. What I think has no bearing on what is. You would make a great Blood Lord. Better than Vale. Better than your father.” I take another pull and then pass him the bottle. “The wise ask questions, Perry. The weak doubt.”

He gives me a halfhearted smile. “Where’d you hear that?”

“I just thought of it. And see? I’m right.”

We fall silent and I know it’s my doing. I’m the one who brought up his father. The bottle grows lighter as we pass it back and forth. The heat of the Luster begins to pull me back together. When Perry leans back onto his elbows, I catch him wincing from the corner of my eye. If I’d been the one to take Vale’s punches, I’d probably still be down. I’d be pissing blood for a week, no doubt.

I’m not sure how he came between me and Vale. Why he had to confront Vale on my behalf, or Liv’s, or anyone else’s in the tribe. When it matters—when it’s a tough situation—Perry always gets pulled in.

I look at my thumb, seeing a dark line where I sliced through a callus. I wonder if it’s the same thing with him. He’s been through enough—with both his father and Vale—that we think he is callused. That taking a blow is easier for him because he’s made of tougher material than the rest of us. Maybe so. Maybe he is tougher. But when a cut is deep, it’s still just flesh beneath.

“Thank you for earlier,” I say, breaking our silence. What I really want to say is I’m sorry, but those words don’t seem to want to come out.

“’Course, Ro. Anytime.” His tone is casual, but I know he means it. “I’ll talk to Vale tomorrow. You know I’ll do everything I can.”

I nod. What I know is that he has to do everything he can. Vale would never listen to me—especially not after tonight. And Liv can’t marry someone else. It can’t happen.

“We were supposed to be brothers one day, Per. Real brothers . . . family.” I don’t know what I’m saying. The Luster is speaking for me. But I can’t take the words back.

Perry looks right at me. “What do you think we are?”

I turn to the sea and stare at it. I watch the waves until the tightness in my throat loosens and I’m breathing normally again. He’s right. We are family. I’m not terrified of what I could be losing in the future. I’m scared of losing what I already have.

Beside me, I hear the slosh of the bottle as Perry takes a drink. Minutes pass before he speaks again. When he does, he’s so quiet that I know the words aren’t really meant for me.

“You’re better than a brother,” he says.

After an hour or two or four, Liv walks up. My head feels better and the ringing in my ear is gone, but my eyes don’t seem to be working because I can’t bring myself to look at her directly.

Perry climbs to his feet. “In case you’re really wondering,” he says to me, “it is going to rain tomorrow.” He taps his nose like Liv did last night. “If you ever want to know, just ask.”

He looks at Liv, watching her for a long moment. “See you at home?”

Liv nods. “See you at home.”

Perry heads south along the beach, which isn’t the way home. I wonder if he’ll spend the night on his own, thinking of all the ways he could’ve fought back against Vale. No, I don’t wonder. I’m sure that’s what he’ll do.

Liv sits next to me and takes the bottle. “You couldn’t even save a drop for me?” she says when she realizes it’s empty.

“I didn’t know if you were coming back.”

Her head whips over to me. “What?”

“I thought you were so eager to meet your future husband that you’d already left.”

“Stop, Roar.”

I don’t. “Why even waste your time with Luster? Sable is rich. He’ll give you the best. The finest wines.”

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. She’s hurting. Why am I trying to hurt her more? I make myself shut up and press my finger against the cut on my thumb until it stings. It’s such a small amount of pain. So bearable.

“This isn’t what I want, Roar,” she says. “You know that.”

Do I? I always assumed my future would be with her. I thought she wanted the same thing, but now I realize I’m not sure. I don’t know what she wants. We’ve never talked about it before. We’ve never needed to.

I look at her. “What do you want?”

Her back stiffens. “How can you ask me that?”

“Easy. I’ll do it again. What do you want, Olivia?” My voice is sharp, more demanding than I intend.

Liv springs to her feet. “I want to make my own choices! I want my life to be mine again! I want my brother to care about what I want. I want out of this situation!”

I’m up in an instant, pulling her against me. “I’m sorry, Liv. I’m sorry.” I kiss her forehead, her cheek, and her nose, and then her forehead again. There’s pressure in my lungs. She didn’t answer my question the way I wanted her to, but I’m powerless against her pain. “It’s all right. Everything’s going to be all right.”

I run my hands over her back, smoothing away the tension. Slowly she relaxes. Slowly she turns her head and rests it on my shoulder. Then I feel her fingers loop into my belt at my lower back, where she likes to hang her hands when I hold her, and I know we’re fine. I know we’re good again. The waves crash and we stand there. Her weight easing against me. Mine easing against her.

It’s a long while before she speaks.

“I’m scared, Roar,” she says. “I hate being scared.”

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