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He’s been dead for hundreds of years by the time you’re born.

They weren’t supposed to have ever met. Maybe that’s why she wanted it so badly—it was impossible, and both of them were too stubborn to let themselves be told what they could and couldn’t have.

Right now, she didn’t care.

Right now, he didn’t care.

Etta wasn’t sure who reached for the other, only that she was kissing him again until her lungs burned and her body ached for him to be closer. Her back collided with the wet stone of the gate, and she imagined she could taste the storm in him, the battering winds of desperation and frustration that met and matched her own, blow for blow.

His lips softened against hers as his hands slid from the nape of her neck to brace his weight against the wall, trapping her against it. She felt Nicholas give in to the slow exploration of her. The tenderness of his touch made her hands curl in his wet shirt. The world dissolved around her, as if she’d stepped through another passage.


She pulled him closer, trying to will the world away. Nicholas made a small, hungry noise in his throat.


Sliding her hands around his waist, her fingers went searching for the warm bare skin beneath his shirt.


“Etta,” he was murmuring, turning her name into a secret, “Etta…we…the passage…”

There’s no time.

“I know,” she managed to say against his lips, “I…”

Etta didn’t have the strength to push him away, to end it, the way they both knew they had to. Even now, the knowledge only filled her with more desperation, made her unbearably feverish beneath her skin. She gripped him tighter, refusing to let go.

No time for this.

This had to stop the same way it had begun. Together. She felt him slow; the lazy, drugging quality of his kisses faded to a ghost of a touch.

No time for us.

She let out a shaky breath and turned her face away. Nicholas leaned down and rested his head against one of his hands, trying to catch his breath.

After a while he said, his voice hollow, “Rather proved my earlier point, didn’t I? We need—we need to go, before Ironwood sends a traveler after us. If he hasn’t already.”

Etta kept her gaze on the wet stones, the winding rivulets of water slipping between them, and nodded. Why this? The thought seared through her. Why him? Why?

“Do you know where we’re meant to go?” he asked quietly. He lifted a hand to touch her face but let it fall away, as if thinking better of it.

“It’s…I think we’re looking for the Elephant Terrace,” she said when she’d found her voice. “That’s what my mom’s painting was of—a view of it from slightly above. I don’t know where it is inside, though.”

“That’s all right, we have a way of quickly finding it. I imagine we’re close enough for it to catch the resonance.” Nicholas reached into the bag and blew into the harmonica. The call of the passage echoed back twofold, volleying through the empty stones around them. Etta strained her ears, picking through the layers of its call, until she could orient herself in the direction it was coming from. There was something about it, though, a hum she didn’t recognize.

Her whole body tensed. “Does it sound different to you?”

“It sounds as atrocious as it always does.” Nicholas shifted the bag back onto his shoulder. “Shall we?”

She shook off her concern and followed him through the abandoned city. A part of her wondered how long it had taken the jungle to erase most of the evidence of human life—Etta wished she could remember the exact reason why both Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat had been abandoned, but she thought it had something to do with war, and the ever-shifting tide of power that eventually brought down even the greatest of civilizations. Without the resonance the passage had bounced back to them, she wasn’t sure she would have been able to find it at all. While her mom had shown her maps of the city, pointing out where she’d done her dig—if there had even been a dig in her past at all, Etta thought—the pathways were nearly so overgrown, the stone and remnants of wooden structures in such disrepair, she just barely recognized the Bayon when they passed it.

“That’s the Bayon,” Etta explained, catching Nicholas’s appreciative look at the massive structure. “My mom said that there are over two hundred faces on it, if you look—some people believe many of them are of the king who built the city. Jayavarman the Seventh.”

“I suppose that’s one way to ensure you’ll be remembered,” he said. “He’s a rather handsome devil. How do you think I’d look on one of these temples?”

Etta laughed. “How would I look?”

“I couldn’t bear the thought of even your face here, left alone, for only the jungle to admire.” He shook his head. “Never. I’d never allow it. The only thing is to hire an artist to turn you into a figurehead for a ship, so some part of you will always be venturing out to sea where you belong.”

Etta was so stunned by this earnest speech, she lost all capacity for speech herself. He seemed to notice, and ducked his head in scowling embarrassment.

“All right,” she said. “But only on the condition that you give me some kind of a sword. Maybe even an eye patch? Use your best discretion on what will be more terrifying for your future prey.”

“Aye,” Nicholas agreed, exaggerating and deepening his accent, “the very sight of you will strike fear in the hearts of all men.”