He is noticeably drunk. I’m talking wasted. His broad, muscular body weaves and lurches as he wanders around my room. His gaze briefly connects with mine, and I can see him struggling to focus his eyes. They’re hazy with intoxication. He finally stops at the foot of the bed, then spreads his arms and lets himself fall backward onto the mattress. He lands with a thump and starts to laugh.
Never mind. You don’t have to answer that. Shannon’s voice deflated.He raised a hand in the air. No, no . . . He paused. Damn, I’m boring, he finally said.
He heard a small laugh from her side of the car. Everyone has something.No . . . high school didn’t count, college . . . he studied, he worked, did the typical things kids did who were actually trying to finish school in four years. Then decided four years was too long and left after two. Nothing newsworthy. His business was clean. Really boring.Shannon shifted in her seat, waiting.
There was that time in the Bolivian jail with that little cartel situation . . . He lifted a hand from the steering wheel. But the name change and plastic surgery seem to have gotten them off my scent.Shannon’s shoulders started to shake until finally her laughter broke.
He turned into his driveway lined with palm trees and parked in front of his garage doors.
Where are we? Shannon asked.The familiar pathway to the infirmary sets me on edge. I have spent more time with Healer Baka than any other sister. I do not wish to argue, but if she uses my chronic fevers as an excuse to exclude me from being shown in the Claiming, I will oppose her.
I pass a stairwell opening, and murmurs carry up from below. The rumbles are so faint that I nearly miss them. I back up to listen, sharpening my hearing. The voices are low, lower than I have ever heard. I silence my breaths, but my pulse drums a quickening tempo. I think that these voices are the voices of men.Priestess Mita’s reprimand from yesterday pricks at me. I should return to my bedchamber and be obedient. The lower floors are forbidden to daughters. But, gods’ virtue, I want to see who is down there.
I descend into shadows, all light skittering away from the skulking darkness. I feel my way along the wall, my fingertips chafing against rough stone. Each step drops me farther into bone-drenching cold. I lose track of the number of stairs and the number of times I carefully survey for the bottom with my bare toes.The floor smooths out, and the wall I was trailing disappears. The low voice barely thrums above my thundering heart. I chase the sound down an unlit corridor toward a gaunt glow at the far end. The temple is the only shelter on this secluded mountaintop. I had not given any thought to where the benefactors lodge, but it must be here, on this level.