Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)(10)

“I’ll go on the mission,” Aria said. “I already planned to. And you’re right. I am hurt. But I’m not afraid to admit it.”

Then she was gone, taking all the air and light in the cavern with her.


HarperCollins Publishers




Aria returned to the Dweller cavern.

Work would help her sort through her anger and confusion. It would help her forget the sound of Perry and Roar shouting at each other. Maybe, if she busied herself enough, she’d even get the words You vanished on me, Aria out of her head.

Molly moved amid the sickly bundles that stretched back into the darkness. Some of the Dwellers seemed to be stirring now, and a few of the Tides were helping Molly tend to them. Blond hair in the distance caught her attention. She spotted Brooke carrying a jug of water from one person to another.

Aria knelt by Molly. “What’s she doing here?”

Molly drew a blanket over a young girl. “Ah,” she said, looking up and seeing Brooke. “You two didn’t get off to a good start, did you?”

“No . . . but only one of us is responsible for that.”

Molly pursed her lips. “She knows she treated you poorly, and she’s grateful to you for bringing Clara back. This is her way of showing it.”

Brooke must have felt their attention because she looked over, her blue eyes moving from Aria to Molly. Aria saw no apology in them. No gratitude.

“Interesting way of showing it.”

“She is trying,” Molly said. “And she’s a good girl. She’s just had a tough stretch.”

Aria shook her head. Weren’t they all having a tough stretch?

She settled to work, delivering water and medicines to the Dwellers who had stirred. She knew every one of them, but some better than others. Briefly she spoke with a friend of her mother’s, aching for Lumina, and then checked on Rune, Jupiter, and Caleb. Her friends were still barely conscious, but just being near them felt good, nourishing a part of her that had been dormant for months.

Gradually, Perry and Roar faded from her thoughts. Even the pain in her arm did. She immersed herself in work until she heard a pair of familiar voices.

“Can I get some water?” Soren asked. He was sitting up and looked healthy enough to get his own water, but the meeting earlier had drained the color from his face.

Brooke knelt and shoved the jug at him.

“Thanks,” Soren said. He took a slow drink, his gaze never leaving Brooke. Then he grinned and handed the water back. “You know, you’re really pretty for a Savage.”

“Two days ago you vomited all over my sleeve, Dweller. That wasn’t pretty.” Brooke stood, moving to the next patient.

Aria fought back a laugh. She remembered that Brooke and Liv had been close friends. How was Brooke coping? Grief simmered right on the surface with Roar. On his face, in his voice. Where was it in Brooke?

For that matter, what about Perry?

She sighed, looking around her. Would she really contribute to the mission tomorrow with her arm the way it was? Did the Dwellers need her to be here for them? The real source of her apprehension, she knew, was Perry.

How were they supposed to get past the hurt she’d caused him when he wouldn’t even discuss it?

The ring of a bell echoed into the cavern.

“Supper,” Molly said.

It didn’t feel like suppertime. Without the sun, it could’ve been morning or noon or midnight. Aria let out another slow breath, rolling back her shoulders. She’d been helping for a few hours.

After Brooke and a few others left, Molly came over. “Not hungry?”

Aria shook her head. “I don’t want anything.” She wasn’t ready to see Perry or Roar again. She’d grown tired. Her arm ached. Her heart ached.

“I’ll have something sent over for you.” Molly patted her shoulder and left.

When Aria went to check on Caleb again, she found him waking. He blinked at her in confusion. His red hair, a few shades deeper than Paisley’s, was matted down with sweat. Fever had left his lips chapped and his eyes glazed.

He took a slow, artist’s perusal of her face. “I thought you’d be happier to see me.”

She knelt beside him. “I am, Caleb. I’m really happy to see you.”

“You look sad.”

“I was a minute ago, but now I’m not. How could I be, now that you’re with me?”

He smiled softly, and then his gaze drifted around the cavern. “This isn’t a Realm, is it?”

She shook her head. “No. It’s not.”

“I didn’t think so. Who would want to come to a Realm like this?”

She sat, resting her hands on her lap. A knot of pain throbbed deep inside her right bicep. “They wouldn’t . . . but it’s all we have.”

Caleb’s gaze came back to her. “I’m sore everywhere. Even my teeth hurt.”

“Do you want something? I can get you medicine or—”

“No . . . just stay.” He gave her a shaky smile. “Seeing you is good. It’s making me feel better. You’ve changed, Aria.”

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