I was barely listening, too busy staring up at the towering walls of water. So much power . . .
Aric and I were in his Range Rover, leaving our horses behind. We needed speed to reach Finn as quickly as possible.
Once we’d driven a few miles, Aric said, “And to bring you? Sheer lunacy. I truly can’t deny you anything.”
“Well, obviously you can—since you’re not wearing your helmet.” I held it at the ready in my lap.
He’d only grudgingly agreed to wear the rest of his armor. “As fast as I’ve become, I won’t need protection from the Tower or the Archangel.”
And the Emperor? Part of me clamored to face him, to get my revenge at last. Part of me knew we weren’t ready. “Yet bringing me is lunacy?” I glared at Aric. “I thought I was a powerful goddess who didn’t need any hand-holding.” He’d told Jack as much.
“Your powers are being . . . recalcitrant at present. In any case, there’s no need for you to go with me.”
Lark had wanted to come along as well, but Aric had drawn the line: “If the Magician is plotting, Fauna, I won’t have you there trying to save him from me.”
So she’d directed Finn to a rest area that we could map to.
As Aric and I had loaded up the car—with the two bug-out bags I’d insisted on bringing and tanks of extra fuel—Lark had packed food because Finn hadn’t eaten in ages.
Just before I’d hopped in the truck, she’d handed me her music player for the ride, muttering under her breath, “Finn isn’t plotting.”
“I believe that. Aric’s just being careful.”
“Eves, please look out for my guy.”
She’d leaned in to whisper, “Am I killing Finn to want him here?”
I hadn’t been sure if she’d meant that Aric might ultimately murder the Magician—or that Circe might.
I’d wondered if I should warn Lark that something big was on its way into our lives. Tick-tock. I’d decided against it, since Finn was already in jeopardy. “He’s starving, Lark. He won’t last long out in the Ash.” Outside of our spaceship. “I’m going to do everything I can to bring him back to you.”
Now I told Aric, “Even if there’s no need for me to come, I don’t want us to separate. When we waited for Circe to part the river earlier, I think you wondered for a second if she was going to let us out. What if you left by yourself, but she refused to let you back in? How would I get to you?”
“Yes, I did wonder. Because she is an Arcana.” He increased his speed, flying down an abandoned highway, weaving around Flash-fried cars and eighteen-wheelers. “Say the Magician is innocent of conspiring with the other two. And say we’re able to extract him cleanly and bring him to our home. We’ll be feeding and sheltering another player who can turn on us.”
“Finn would never do that.”
“Yet you expect Circe to turn on me?”
“And what about convergence?” he demanded. “More Arcana bring more Arcana.”
“When I first got here, there were four of us. This is just one extra. In any case, do you really want to be the card that keeps Lark and Finn apart? What if karma paid you back in the same way?”
His voice a growl, he said, “The thought has occurred. That’s one reason I’m making this trip.”
My lips curled at his surly demeanor.
“What are you grinning about, wife?”
I shrugged, all nonchalant. “I like your truck.”
“Good. Apparently, it’s half yours.”
For a hundred miles or so, we listened to Lark’s playlist, lost in our own thoughts. Slowly I became aware that Aric was sliding me looks and drumming his fingers on the steering wheel—not in time to the music.
I turned down the volume. “Spit it out, Reaper.”
“I think I know why you’re struggling with your powers.”
I raised my brows.
“You need to grieve.”
“And how should I go about that?” Release the tourniquet and bleed out? What would be left of me?
He opened his mouth to say something. Closed it. Another try: “My nightmare is losing you. I’ve told you more than once that I can’t imagine life without you. But I realized that you might have said the same to Deveaux. And now you’re living the life you couldn’t imagine. The nightmare came true for you.”
I balled my fists in my coat pockets. Twist, tighten, constrict. Once I’d gotten my emotions under control, I said, “Life with you is hardly a nightmare, Aric.” Our existence was a good one; I should be happy. “You’re the perfect husband.”
“When we get back, you’re going to talk to me about Deveaux. You’re going to tell me about the red ribbon and why the snow makes you sad.”
I swallowed. “You . . . you expect a lot from me sometimes. Do you really want to see me cry over another man?”
“I want to be there for you through anything. Sievā, you can’t keep stifling this.”
I shook my head. “I would never want to hurt you.”
“Before the last two months, seeing you grieve for him might have hurt. But now I know you love me. I feel it. And I know you loved Jack.” He offered his hand on the armrest. “So that proves your heart is big enough for two.”
I drew my left hand from my pocket and laced my fingers through his. He’d proved something to me as well. I met his gaze. “I’ve never loved you more than I do right at this moment.”