Roar and Liv / Page 5

Page 5


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“Hey.” I tip her chin up so I can look into her eyes. “It’s going to be all right.”

“How could I ever leave you?” she says.

I swallow and shake my head. I can’t hear those words. “You won’t have to. We’ll figure it out, I promise. I won’t let anything happen to us.”

As I speak, Liv slides her hands under the hem of my shirt, pressing her fingers into my back. Her lips brush my jaw, gentle but insistent, and it’s impossible for me to talk anymore. I pull her against me, not so gentle. More insistent.

We end up on the sand trying to forget the past hours with kisses and whispered words. It doesn’t work. People say only Scires can render, but it’s not true. I feel her sadness and her fear. Whatever Liv feels, I feel.

I hold her and watch her drift asleep in my arms. I watch her for a long time afterward.

Then I force my eyes closed, and still her face is there.

This girl. She’s all I see.

5

The sound of giggling pulls me from a dream—nightmare?—of Liv in the middle of the clearing, wearing a long white dress.

“They’re waking up, Uncle Perry.”

I peer up and see Perry standing above me. “About time,” he says.

Liv is pressed to my side, her head resting in the hollow of my shoulder. My arm is around her, but it’s completely numb. I doubt we moved an inch the entire night.

Talon has a metal pail and a shovel and he’s busy burying Liv’s legs in the sand. Judging by the weight I feel over mine, he’s already gotten to me.

Liv stirs. She peels away from me and sits up. “What happened to me? My legs are gone!” she shrieks. She wiggles her toes and acts surprised when they pop out of the sand. “Who did this?”

Talon and Perry point at each other at the same time.

“How dare you!” Liv says, glaring at Talon. She jumps up and dashes after him, yelling over her shoulder, “I’ve got the little one!”

I lay my head back and stare up at the Aether, listening to Talon’s happy shrieks. Since he got sick, everyone makes an extra effort to get laughs out of him.

“You’re not going to chase me?” Perry says.

I shake my head. “No. No, I’m not.” The cut on my thumb stings and my neck is stiff. I’m not sure if it’s from two nights of sleeping on the beach or the punch I took from Vale. Probably both. “How do I look?”

“The part of you that I can see? Like death.”

“That sounds about right.” I sit up, stretching my arms to get my blood moving again.

“I talked to my brother,” Perry says.

I freeze. My brother. Perry only calls Vale that when something is wrong. This won’t be good. I unearth my legs and force myself to stand. Strangely, now that the weight of sand is gone, I miss it. “What did your brother say?”

Liv is far—out of hearing range for her—but she looks at us. She tells Talon to get a fishing line in the water and that Perry will join him soon.

“He’s not going to change his mind,” Perry says, when she comes over. “He said that he has to make this decision as Blood Lord. That it’s not an easy one, but he has no choice.” Perry crosses his arms and stares at Liv for a few moments. “He, uh . . . he wants you to leave tomorrow, Liv.”

Suddenly I can’t get enough air into my lungs. One day. I have one day left with her? Liv has gone pale beside me.

“Is that it?” I hear myself say.

Perry shakes his head. “He agreed to let you and me take her to the Horns. It’s a two-week journey. . . . I know it’s not much, but even that took some convincing.” Perry rubs the back of his neck and gives me a strange smile. “He also wanted me to tell you, specifically, that you’re a deceitful bastard and that he’ll have you hunted and killed if you interfere with his orders.”

Perry’s eyes flick to Talon, who’s calling for him by the water. “I’m going to go,” he says. “But you should both know that I don’t want to hear a word about what you’re thinking or planning, if you’re doing either of those.” He leaves before we can respond.

The message is clear. Vale has set the rules. Whatever Liv and I do from now on will be in defiance of his orders. If Perry learns we’re planning something, he won’t be able to lie about it to Vale. He’d be punished for helping us. Again.

Liv looks at me. We need to talk, but I realize we can’t do it here. I’m not the only Aud in the tribe, and if Vale is really concerned about us defying him, then he’s most likely having us watched. Our plans will have to be made far away from the compound.

I can tell Liv is thinking the same thing. Not now. Not here. But there is something I can say.

“I think you should be my friend,” I tell her. “All right?”

She smiles, and I know she’s remembering. “All right.”

In light of the fact that I can’t stop daydreaming of all the ways I’d like to slit Vale’s throat—and that he can scent my intentions through my temper—I decide it’s best to spend the day away from the compound.

Perry and I head to the southern woods to hunt as Liv stays behind to say her good-byes and pack. It’s nothing I want to see her do, anyway. It shouldn’t be happening. She shouldn’t be leaving, but that part can’t be changed. My focus now is to get her away from Vale’s control . . . and then?

I don’t know.

We could rush into a marriage, but Vale, Blood Lord of the Tides, is known all over this region. People in the neighboring tribes would suspect his sister’s hasty wedding, especially if it’s carried out away from Tide land. Most likely, Liv and I would be tied up and hauled right back to Vale. To marry, we’d need to go far, weeks away, where no one would recognize either one of us.

I’ve done my share of immoral things, but stealing a girl from her guardian and claiming her as mine is a lot to take in. Running off feels too close to what I saw my mother do plenty of times when I was younger. I never wanted to do the same. Where Liv is concerned I’ve tried to do things the right way. There’s no possibility of that anymore.

The more I think about running off and marrying her, the more my head starts to spin. I’ve never seen a decent example of a husband. What I’ve seen are men who shine like silver at first, then tarnish and eventually disappear. Is marriage something that has to be taught, or can you learn it by ear?

I wonder if Liv is thinking about the same things. She never had a mother—does that make her want to avoid marriage? Does she even want to be a wife? We’re both nineteen—old enough—but we’ve never once talked about getting married. I realize I’ve been thinking the words marriage and wife so much that they’re starting to sound strange in my head.

On the game trail up ahead of me, Perry slows. It’s drizzling—just like he told me it would last night. I watch as he sets up and takes aim at a deer, drawing the bowstring back to his jaw and holding it. He looses it, and the arrow sails wide. The deer startles and springs away.

“That was terrible,” I say. I can count the number of times I’ve seen him miss a shot like that on one finger. It just proves that nothing feels normal anymore. “You missed by almost a foot.”

Perry turns to me. “Whose fault do you think that is?”

If the tone of his voice wasn’t enough of a clue, the grim set of his mouth is. “Mine?”

He shakes his head. “Your nerves are getting on my nerves,” he says, before he leaves to retrieve his arrow.

I mutter an apology as I watch him go. I know just how to calm myself down. As we pick up the deer’s scent trail again, I go back to daydreaming about drawing my blade across Vale’s throat.

6

That night, Vale has a lamb slaughtered for supper. Because it’s Vale, I question this decision, wondering if he intended it to carry deeper significance.

While he has kindly granted me permission to escort the girl I love to her forced marriage, Vale makes sure I’m excluded from the high table in the cookhouse. I take my meal to a table by the door while Liv and her family feast together at the opposite end of the hall.

Liv sits with Talon and Mila, smiling as she talks to them. I can tell she’s keeping up a cheerful front for their sake. Around me as well, people pretend to be cheerful, chattering about Liv’s marriage. It’ll be great for the Tides, they say. An alliance to one of the most powerful Blood Lords alive and more food to get us through the winter. Everyone is happy. Everyone is cheerful, cheerful, cheerful.

“You know what’s unfair?” Brooke says beside me.

I push my plate away and stare at the mug next to it. Even Luster has no appeal tonight. “Life?”

Though there are hundreds of people between us, I feel Vale’s attention on me and look up. He’s enjoying my misery. Nearby Perry rips into a haunch with his teeth while Wylan, the fool, talks his ear off. It’s unwise to come between Perry and food.

“This.” Brooke yanks up her sleeve, showing me the jagged Seer marking around her bicep. “Just because we aren’t Scires, we don’t even get a chance?”

She’s talking about what’s happening to Liv, I know, but she’s thinking about Perry.

“We don’t choose the Sense we’re born with,” Brooke continues. “I didn’t decide to be a Seer any more than you decided to be an Aud.” She grabs my wrist, startling me. Her hissing continues in my mind.

Vale didn’t marry a Scire. It’s like he makes the rules only for the rest of us. And what’s the point of keeping the Scire line strong, anyway? Why is smelling everything all the time so damn wonderful?

I said these very words to Perry just yesterday, but I don’t want to talk about this now. I’m tired of problems. And I won’t give Vale the satisfaction of seeing me suffer.

I lean into Brooke’s shoulder and sniff. “You smell pretty good.”

Brooke yanks her hand away from mine and shrugs me off. “Tell that to your best friend.”

“Sure,” I say. “I’ll tell him.” I won’t. It wouldn’t make any difference, and he knows how she smells better than I do anyway.

Brooke looks at me, her blue eyes piercing and clear as glass. “It’s a shame you’re not a Seer, Roar. Everything would be so much easier if we liked each other.”

“I do like you.”

“Yeah.” She sighs and turns her attention back to Perry. “I meant more than like.”

I know what she meant, but Brooke and I are never, in this eternity, going to be more than friends. If that’s even what we are now. I tip my head to the side—it works for Perry—and take a slow look at her curves. “I could more than like you.”

The stress must be getting to me because I’m messing with Brooke. She has a dark streak that I’m not equipped to handle like Perry, who scents her moods a mile away. I continue despite myself.

“If you’re looking for something that’s purely physical, I’m definitely interested. We’d have to get Perry’s and Liv’s approv—hey!” I fold over my ribs, where she elbowed me.


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