For an hour, we stood in our corner and we sipped on our drinks, holding them loosely. We slid our fingers down the ice-cold glasses, brushing away the sweat that collected on the smooth sides, and whispered our plan. The two-man band was strumming their guitars, hedged into the opposite corner by their microphones and wires and knee-high speakers.
Watching them, we were sure they couldn’t know our favorite song. We elbowed each other, passing the dare down the table, waiting for someone to have the guts to ask.
Brance moved toward the door Ineli was tucked behind, and she pulled it open to meet him. She didn’t take her eyes off Aithan until Brance was just beside her, then she looked up as her older brother touched her shoulder.
“Go on,” he said. He nodded back toward the other man. “Decide if you can have him wandering around behind you for a hundred days at a time. If you don’t like him, I’ll just tell Father directly that I think he’s a good man, and you’ll never have to see him again.” Brance winked. Nudging her forward, he traded places with her in the doorway and swung the door shut between them.
Ineli looked blankly at the heavy wood in front of her nose. Then she turned to face Aithan. Behind her, Brance strode across the inner room, shut a second door, passed into his bedroom, and out of range of their voices.
Ineli adjusted the blanket settled across her arm, saw him catch the movement but not question it. He simply saw it, noted it, and quietly met her eyes again.
She folded her hands in front of her. “How old are you?” she asked.
Ineli might have held him there for a while longer, and it might have fallen into a staring contest that she would have won, but there was a soft knock on the door.
Brance straightened and looked at it. A soft knock meant it was either a person who was holding hard to the idea that his rank deserved their respect, or just someone who did not often call on his door. He tilted his head, considering it, then looked back to Ineli.
“Do you want to spend the day with me?” he whispered.
Ineli nodded quick.
He bobbed his head over one shoulder, ordering her into the next room. “Better get hidden then,” he said. “Just in case it’s someone come looking for you.”
Ineli smiled. Grabbing up her blanket, she ran on her toes, tucking herself into the next room. She pushed the door shut with both hands, and stopped when there was just a crack left big enough for her to catch a glimpse of who it was.
She didn’t have the time.
It was a strange thought to have arrive at the back of her mind and stampede to the forefront, when she was standing on a lurching deck, watching water surge through cracked wood. Somewhere on the horizon, lightning was tearing jagged stripes in the sky, so far away, she couldn’t hear the thunder that shadowed it. She imagined there was rain somewhere too, but all she felt was the wind dragging its nail over the ship and carving the water to ice-white points.
She hadn’t seen the rocks either, but they must have been there too. She had felt the ship burst against them, crack like glass, tear like paper, then stumble forward.
Her watch mates were running. She knew there had been a command, but she couldn’t sort it out of the jumbled thoughts in her mind.
Danneel looked down at the knife in her hands and the long, thin blade made her stomach twist. She could feel Caled watching her from behind his desk, watching her hands shake as she tried to measure the thing in her hands. Her fingers slid on the blade. It was sharp enough to cut her without effort. She didn’t think she would even feel the metal, just warm blood. Her stomach tightened again.
“I can’t,” she said. It wasn’t even a whisper. She wasn’t sure he would hear her, but he shifted in his seat so quickly, she knew he had.
“Are you scared?” he asked.
She clenched her jaw, wanting more than anything to clean the quakes out of her skin. “Yes,” she said. The word hissed in the air. “What if he wakes up?”
Caled leaned back. Looking up, Danneel expected him to say something. His silence stung, and he just shook his head.
“Heydi!” he called.