Her first thought when she woke up was that she hated him. Her mouth was sticky and thick, stubbornly informing her that she had slept through too many warm hours of daylight. The floor wobbled, and mixed with the wet feel of the air against her skin, she knew she was on the river before she sorted through the sound of the water whispering under the wood beneath her. Lia opened her eyes slowly, blinking against the light that shot through the hatch a few feet to her right. Her head hurt – just blinking to let her eyes adjust felt as if she were tapping her skull with a brick – and she hated him.
The least he could have done was drug her, so she could throw up and be done with it rather than sit around through a day waiting to see if he’d done her skull any real damage. She already knew the strength behind his right hook. He didn’t need to keep proving it to her.
Lia crawled through the narrow space below deck and shut her eyes against the direct sunlight before she pushed herself upright. She swayed on her feet, but braced her ribs in the corner of the hatch and folded her elbows over the edge.
Raes was steering the boat with a pole in his usual way, his back toward her as he scanned the river ahead. Trees leaned over the water from either side and large rocks tumbled out from the left side to spin the water between them. Lia glanced backward, hoping to see at least one of the city’s towers, but they had left it far behind. The water muttered and the breeze hissed in the trees, but all her familiar thunkings and clankings and grumblings had disappeared into something that felt very like silence.
“So,” she said, to break it cleanly in two. “This is how you win arguments?”
Raes glanced over his shoulder, surprised, though he covered it quickly. Turning back to the water, he gave the riverbed a good shove with the pole and shook his head a little.
“No?” Lia asked. “This sure doesn’t feel like I won.”
Raes didn’t say anything. He looked over at the trees, idly marking something in their shadows, and nudged the boat again.
“Where are we going?” Lia asked.
Raes didn’t look at her, and took a long time to decide simply to shrug. “Where do you want to go?” he murmured.
“Hey,” Lia said. “You did the abducting. Don’t let me get in the way of your plans.”
“I saved your life,” Raes said.
“And what gave you that right?” Lia asked. Her tone was low, every word laid out slowly to make sure he didn’t miss a single one. It didn’t feel sharp coming off her tongue, didn’t carry any slick ice chill, or even hold like stone between them. It was just heavy, and it dragged him around to face her.
She waited, perfectly still. He stared, seeming to run through half a dozen breaths trying to fit them comfortably inside of his chest, and rejecting each one.
“Of course,” he muttered to himself. He blinked at her, then looked down. “I don’t know why I thought you would ever thank me.”
Lia pressed her teeth together to swallow. Her throat had felt so smooth the last time she spoke, but it was tightening now. She hated the broken slack in his expression. Another moment and she remembered she hated him.
“Turn this boat around,” she whispered.
“No,” Raes said, without hesitation, as he whipped back toward her. The pole clacked against the edge of the boat, the end rising at a sharp angle as his hands dropped to his side. “If you stay in the city, you are going to die.”
“Maybe,” Lia said. “And maybe that’s better than running.”
Raes shook his head to throw her last statement aside without a thought. “A prince has ordered your entirely family’s heads if they don’t leave. He has an army, a treasury, and a mind that will insure that it happens. You think you’re going to see it coming, but you’re not. You’re just not going to wake up one morning.”
“Oh, I see it now,” Lia said. She rolled her eyes – rolled her whole head really and it felt like she had thrown it back against a rock – and smiled too broadly. “I didn’t win the argument. You didn’t win the argument. We just postponed it so we could take it outside.” She pushed herself up onto the deck, just so she could stop looking up at him. The angle was starting to grate. “You’re trying to take me away from every one I’ve ever known. You want me to run from everyone who might be able to hide me.”
“If you would just leave the city, you wouldn’t need to hide,” he nearly shouted. It didn’t even echo out here, and she almost laughed.
Lia shook her head at him. “If you believe that, then you’re very young.”
Raes – four years older and six inches taller Raes – looked down at her and didn’t have a word to trade her in response.
“Take us to the bank,” she told him, and nodded to left side of the river.
“No,” he told her.
“Take us to the bank,” Lia repeated, her voice firm now. “While I still trust you.”
He stretched his mouth in a laugh, tilted his head back, but no sound came out. “If you trusted me, we would have left weeks ago.”
“If I didn’t trust you, we wouldn’t have argued at all,” she corrected him. “You think I can’t put an end to an argument as quickly as you can?”
He glanced at her, at her hands, and hesitated.
“Take us to the bank,” Lia ordered. “And we’ll do this the way it should have been done. Neither of us goes another inch – forward or back – except under our own choice.”
Raes held her eye and she counted the moments while he did nothing – one, two, three, four… – and then turned away so she wouldn’t see his expression twist. He shook his head, but turned the boat toward the left bank on two hard pushes.
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” he told her.
“Maybe,” she said. But he still had time to convince her.