Elide didn’t speak to Lorcan for three days.
She wouldn’t have spoken to him for another three, maybe for three damn months, if necessity hadn’t required them to break their hateful silence.
Her cycle had come. And through whatever steady, healthy diet she’d been consuming this past month, it had gone from an inconsistent trickle to the deluge she’d awoken to this morning.
She’d hurtled from the narrow bed in the cabin to the small privy on board, rifled through every drawer and box she could find, but … clearly, a woman had never spent any time on this infernal boat. She resorted to ripping up the embroidered tablecloth for liners, and by the time she’d cleaned herself up, Lorcan was awake and already steering the boat.
She said flatly to him, “I need supplies.” “You still reek of blood.”
“I suspect I will reek of blood for several more days, and it will get worse before it gets better, so I need supplies. Now.”
He turned from his usual spot near the prow, sniffing once. Her face was burning, her stomach a knotted mess of cramping. “I’ll stop at the next town.”
“When will that be?” The map was of no use to her. “By nightfall.”
They’d sailed right through every town or outpost along the river, surviving on the fish Lorcan had caught. She’d been so annoyed at her own helplessness that after the first day, she’d started copying his movements— and had earned herself a fat trout in the process. She’d made him kill it and gut it and cook it, but … she’d at least caught the thing.
Elide said, “Fine.”
Lorcan said, “Fine.”
She aimed for the cabin to find some other fabrics to tide her over, but Lorcan said, “You barely bled the last time.”
The last thing she wanted to do was have this conversation. “Perhaps my body finally felt safe enough to be normal.”
Because even with him murdering that man, lying, and then spitting the truth about Aelin in her face … Lorcan would go up against any threat without a second thought. Perhaps for his own survival, but he’d promised her protection. She was able to sleep through the night because he lay on the floor between her and the door.
“So … there’s nothing wrong, then.” He didn’t bother to look at her as he said it.
But she cocked her head, studying the hard muscles of his back. Even while refusing to speak to him, she’d watched him—and made excuses to watch as he went through his exercises each day, usually shirtless.
“No, there’s nothing wrong,” she said. At least, she hoped. But Finnula, her nursemaid, had always clicked her tongue and said her cycles were spotty—too light and irregular. For this one to have come precisely a month later … She didn’t feel like wondering about it.
Lorcan said, “Good. It’d delay us if it were otherwise.”
She rolled her eyes at his back, not at all surprised by the answer, and limped into the cabin.
He’d needed to stop anyway, Lorcan told himself as he watched Elide barter with an innkeeper in town for the supplies she needed.
She’d wrapped her dark hair in a discarded red kerchief she must have scrounged up on that pitiful little barge, and even used a nasally accent while she spoke to the woman, her entire countenance a far cry from the graceful, quiet woman he’d spent three days ignoring.
Which had been fine. He’d used these three days to sort out his plans for Aelin Galathynius, how he’d return the favor she’d dealt him.
The inn seemed safe enough, so Lorcan left Elide to her bartering— turned out, she wanted new clothes, too—and wandered the ramshackle
streets of the backwater town in search of supplies.
The streets were abuzz with river traders and fisherfolk mooring for the night. Lorcan managed to intimidate his way into buying a crate of apples, dried venison, and some oats for half their usual price. Just to get him away, the merchant along the crumbling quay threw in a few pears—for the lovely lady, he’d said.
Lorcan, arms full of his wares, was almost to the barge when the words echoed in his head, an off-kilter pealing.
He hadn’t taken Elide past that section of the quay. Hadn’t spied the man while he’d been docking, or when they’d left. Rumor could account for it, but this was a river town: strangers were always coming and going, and paid for their anonymity.
He hurried back to the barge. Fog had rippled in from the river, clouding the town and the opposite bank. By the time he dumped the crate and wares onto the boat, not even bothering to tie them down, the streets had emptied.
His magic stirred. He scanned the fog, the splotches of gold where candles shone in windows. Not right, not right, not right, his magic whispered.
Where was she?
Hurry, he willed her, counting the blocks they’d taken to the inn. She should have been back by now.
The fog pressed in. Squeaking sounded at his boots.
Lorcan snarled at the cobblestones as rats streamed past—toward the water. They flung themselves into the river, crawling and clawing over one another.
Something wasn’t coming—something was here.
The innkeeper insisted she try on the clothes before she bought them. She bundled them in Elide’s arms and pointed her toward a room in the back of the inn.
Men stared at her—too eagerly—as she passed and strode down a narrow hall. Typical of Lorcan to leave her while he sought whatever he needed.
Elide shoved into the room, finding it black and chilled. She twisted, scanning for a candle and flint.
The door snapped shut, sealing her in.
Elide lunged for the handle as that little voice whispered, Run run run run run run.
She slammed into something muscled, bony, and leathery. It reeked of spoiled meat and old blood.
A candle sparked to life across the room. Revealing a wooden table, an empty hearth, sealed windows, and …
Vernon. Sitting on the other side of the table, smiling at her like a cat.
Strong hands tipped in claws clamped on her shoulders, nails cutting through her leathers. The ilken held her firmly as her uncle drawled, “What an adventure you’ve had, Elide.”