“Well, then.” I pretend to slip past him, and he snags me. “I like your new uniform. It makes you look taller.”

“Does it?” After he realizes I am teasing, he asks, “Why are you down here?”

“I was hoping the prince’s advisor would follow me so I could be alone with him.”

“Does he know about this scheme?”

“He’s about to.” I arch my chin, our lips close. My lighthearted mood evaporates. I cannot kiss him without first expressing my thoughts. “I like it here, Deven. I enjoy teaching the wards and trainees. My students are so talented at their drawings, and Basma is starting to get fevers. Brac wants to plan for her Razing before it affects her health. And Jala is still little. I want to be here when she says her first word. I miss the mountains. I do. But I want to stay in Vanhi.”

Deven strokes my hair. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

“When I was in the Void, do you know what kept me from giving up? Thinking of you.” Deven hugs me close, clutching the small of my back. “I don’t care where we are, Kali. Only that we’re together.”

His immediate agreement leaves me hesitant to accept. This is his dream too. I do not want to take it from him. “You won’t be upset if we don’t move to the mountains?”

“The lower Alpanas would be peaceful, maybe too peaceful. I’d miss my mother and Chitt, Natesa and Yatin. I’d even miss Brac . . . some days. If we stay, I could continue to train with Gemi. I doubt Ashwin would leave me as an advisor. I think he may promote me to serve as his Trembler Virtue Guard.” A bit of excitement resides in Deven’s tone. “In this role, I could really do some good. I could work with the Brotherhood and Sisterhood to teach the truth about bhutas.” Deven leans his head against mine. “We can visit the mountains on occasion for quiet, but this is home.”

He sounds a tad disappointed that our long-held dream is going away.

“Why don’t we have both? Within the year, Chaser will be large enough to fly. It’s only a day’s flight from here to the lower Alpanas. When Chaser is older, we can travel back and forth.”

“Spend fall in the mountains and the other seasons here.”

“Or summer north,” I say. “It would be nice to escape the heat.”

Deven squeezes me against him. “Would you leave Jala?”

“Once we build a hut, we can have visitors. Pons and Indah would like the lower mountains. The sky is so clear.”

Deven chuckles. “You cannot invite them before Natesa and Yatin. Natesa would banish you from the inn for life.”

“We can invite all our friends and family.” I rest my head against his shoulder, the dream in my mind expanding to include more than I thought possible. Siva winds through my legs, rubbing against me, her fire crackling contentedly. “Did we just dream up a new heart’s wish?”

“I don’t think so.” Deven’s voice resonates through me, rich and full. “I think we finally found the real one.”


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