Prologue: part 3

Nica woke with a jolt. She was suddenly alert, intently listening for whatever had woken her. Years of habit sent her slipping off of her pallet, seeking the source of the hushed anger.

She found the dancers in the hallway. Ali and Suma were tucked against an alcove that held a statue of Cretia, deity of love. Ironic, given that the lovers seemed embroiled in a bitter argument. Even from her distant stance, she could see that neither one was listening to what the other said before spitting out their next dagger.

All it would take was a few soft words. A distraction would allow them to breathe… An outside force could even unify them…

She turned, heading down the opposite hallway. It wasn’t her place. Either the pair would get past this hurdle in their relationship, or they wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be the first time that lovers in a nest had become distanced from one another.

Besides, she didn’t want to have Ariella come down on her for interfering in her nest again. The first few clashes with the falcon over such instances had cured her of treating this nest as if it were her own.

Not that she’d done her own nest much good. She wondered if Marie and Lena were sleeping alright… They were both so prone to nightmares, and with Jax…

She knew Kain would take care of them, keeping an eye on them, on everyone. She also knew he would undoubtedly be furious with her for leaving him in charge for so long, but… She just couldn’t.

She slipped through the ancient stone halls of the temple that housed Ariella’s nest, body moving on its own as her thoughts chased themselves in useless circles. Only in movement could she breathe again, shaping her emotions into manageable leaps and twirls and arcs, bleeding her pain and passions away into the motions.

Nica slipped into an empty practice room, one hand running through her auburn hair, lingering on the little feathers growing throughout. The only feathers in a nest full of scales. Just like before…

Too many dead. Too many lost. How could she have possibly thought she could keep them safe? Hadn’t she learned how powerless she was with Vincent? Her cousins? To start another nest, in their remembrance… She couldn’t go back. How could she? She had let one of her own die… She had been so blinded by arrogance to think she could keep them safe. How could she pretend it was all okay?

She turned when she heard the scuff of someone’s foot against stone.

Bastian stood in the doorway, undoubtedly roused from the lack of her warm body beside him. He didn’t say a word, just held his arms out to her. She had never told him what had brought her back to Ariella’s nest after so long, nor had he asked. Like he never asked what drove her to wake in the middle of the night, or lapse into long periods of silence. Just stood there, holding out empty arms, waiting for her to come to him.

She bit back a sigh as his hands slid underneath her halter, and his mouth found the hollow of her neck. It wasn’t like he had any other form of comfort to offer. Any words he said would be hollow without context or forethought. Not that she thought he was doing this for her as much as for himself. Not for the first time, she wondered if this whole arrangement had been a mistake. Letting him woo her had been a matter of convenience and distraction. She’d known it then and his attentions hadn’t changed her motives. He hadn’t changed anything.

She pushed the thoughts away. More and more, the gestures of shallow physicality were bothering her, even as she went along with it for the diversion. He was a skilled enough lover, but there was a spark missing that was getting harder and harder to overlook. A lack of passion that pushed her heart deeper into her own chill.

Now was not the time to fight with him over it though. She would exhaust herself in his arms and pray for a sleep free from dreams.

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