Coming out of Renée shop, Korin stopped. And stared. Because Ádan couldn’t possibly be there, leaned against the wall, waiting for him. Could he?

At the sight of Korin, Ádan pushed off the wall. “Nikki told me you two had a fight.”

“Is that what he said?”

“Yeah. I was a little suspicious, given the hour and the fact I haven’t seen you running around randomly picking fights with people.” In the pre-dawn darkness, Ádan was mostly shadow, but Korin could tell that, for once, Ádan wasn’t smiling. “Are you all right?”

“No,” Korin answered honestly.

Ádan nodded, like he’d expected the answer. “Come on, Sunshine. There’s a place I want to show you. Best view in the city.”

Korin let himself be led. They moved south through the sleeping city. To the river and across, then up a series of steep paths that led up the bluffs. This was the wealthy part of Triome, where the houses were more like palaces, and the streets were lined with parks and courtyards. Ádan seemed completely at ease, guiding Korin with purpose. He knew exactly where they were going.

Down a couple side streets, still climbing. Until Ádan took Korin’s arm to pull him into a little park, the entrance of which was nearly overgrown with flowering bushes and that Korin never would have seen on his own.

The bushes opened to lush grass and a marble fountain and a view of the entire city and the ocean beyond. They stood at the top of the bluffs. With Triome so far below and the thick vegetation behind, Korin and Ádan could have been alone in the world.

Ádan sat down cross-legged in the grass and leaned back against the fountain. “This park belongs to the crown. It’s one of Prince Lysander’s favorite places.”

“Should we be here?”

“It’s fine. With Lysander down south, no one’s going to bother us.”

What must it be like to be able to walk into a place like this, confident you belonged? But that was Ádan. Everywhere he went, he seemed at home. Korin had yet to see him uncomfortable or ill at ease. It was more than just confidence. Korin had seen plenty of noble-born who tromped blithely through spaces and left disaster in their wake. Ádan had a gift for slipping in and making himself just the right shape to fit anywhere.

Korin sat down next to Ádan, facing out towards the cliff and the sky lightening towards dawn.

The silence between them was comfortable and slowly, breath by breath, Korin’s tension drained away. Over the ocean, the sky grew pink, then gold. Morning approaching.

Ádan, too, was looking out over the city, rather than at Korin. Which gave Korin the courage to ask, “Why are you so nice to me?”

Ádan gave Korin a sideways look, curious and thoughtful all at once. “Shouldn’t I be?”

“According to everyone else.” Korin caught himself fidgeting with his gloves, rubbing the woven material against the scarred skin beneath. “I used to think people were just jumpy around magic. That they didn’t understand it, or were superstitious of it. That it was just ignorance. But it turns out, maybe they were right and I was wrong. I saw what the Knights could do. I saw…”

Ádan put a hand over Korin’s, stilling them. Stilling Korin. “Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with you knows you’re not like that.”

Ádan’s words were no doubt meant to be reassuring, but all they did was reopen that sinking, hollow feeling in Korin’s chest. Because what did Ádan know?

Ádan frowned, like he noticed his misstep. He squeezed Korin’s hands, then got to his feet, pulling Korin up with him. “Enough of that. Sun’s coming up, and we’ve got somewhere to be.”

“We do?”

“Yes. Something you need to do. Something that will make you feel better.”

“What’s that?” Korin asked, disappointed as Ádan released his hands.

“Someone you can heal.”


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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