Home > Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)(6)

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)(6)
Marissa Meyer

“Surveillance was one of Sybil’s specialties.”

“Nevertheless, the queen could have killed you yesterday. You need to be careful.”

“I know, Princess. I have no interest in returning to that throne room as anything other than a loyal guard.”

A rumble overhead caught Winter’s attention. Through the dome, the lights of a dozen spaceships were fading as they streaked across the star-scattered sky. Heading toward Earth.

“Soldiers,” Jacin muttered. She couldn’t tell if he meant it as a statement or a question. “How’s the war effort?”

“No one tells me anything. But Her Majesty seems pleased with our victories … though still furious about the missing emperor, and the canceled wedding.”

“Not canceled. Just delayed.”

“Try telling her that.”

He grunted.

Winter leaned forward on her elbows, cupping her chin. “Did the cyborg really have a device like you said? One that can keep people from being manipulated?”

A light sparked in his eyes, as if she’d reminded him of something important, but when he tried to lean toward her, his binds held him back. He grimaced and cursed beneath his breath.

Winter scooted closer to him, making up the distance herself.

“That’s not all,” he said. “Supposedly, this device can keep Lunars from using their gift in the first place.”

“Yes, you mentioned that in the throne room.”

His gaze burrowed into her. “And it will protect their minds. She said it keeps them from…”

Going crazy.

He didn’t have to say it out loud, not when his face held so much hope, like he’d solved the world’s greatest problem. His meaning hung between them.

Such a device could heal her.

Winter’s fingers curled up and settled under her chin. “You said there weren’t any more of them.”

“No. But if we could find the patents for the invention … to even know it’s possible…”

“The queen will do anything to keep more from being made.”

His expression darkened. “I know, but I had to offer something. If only Sybil hadn’t arrested me in the first place, ungrateful witch.” Winter smiled, and when Jacin caught the look, his irritation melted away. “Doesn’t matter. Now that I know it’s possible, I’ll find a way to do it.”

“The visions are never so bad when you’re around. They’ll be better now that you’re back.”

His jaw tensed. “I’m sorry I left. I regretted it as soon as I realized what I’d done. It happened so fast, and then I couldn’t come back for you. I’d just … abandoned you up here. With her. With them.”

“You didn’t abandon me. You were taken hostage. You didn’t have a choice.”

He looked away.

She straightened. “You weren’t manipulated?”

“Not the whole time,” he whispered, like a confession. “I chose to side with them, when Sybil and I boarded their ship.” Guilt washed over his face, and it was such an odd expression on him Winter wasn’t sure she was interpreting it right. “Then I betrayed them.” He thumped his head against the sundial, harder than necessary. “I’m such an idiot. You should hate me.”

“You may be an idiot, but I assure you, you’re quite a lovable one.”

He shook his head. “You’re the only person in the galaxy who would ever call me lovable.”

“I’m the only person in the galaxy crazy enough to believe it. Now tell me what you’ve done that is worth hating you for.”

He swallowed, hard. “That cyborg Her Majesty is searching for?”

“Linh Cinder.”

“Yeah. Well, I thought she was just some crazy girl on a suicide mission, right? I figured she was going to get us all killed with these delusions of kidnapping the emperor and overthrowing the queen … to listen to her talk, anyone would have thought that. So I figured, I’d rather take a chance and come back to you, if I could. Let her throw her own life away.”

“But Linh Cinder did kidnap the emperor. And she got away.”

“I know.” He shifted his attention back to Winter. “Sybil took one of her friends hostage, some girl named Scarlet. Don’t suppose you know—”

Winter beamed. “Oh, yes. The queen gave her to me as a pet, and she’s being kept in the menagerie. I like her a great deal.” Her brow creased. “Although I can’t tell if she’s decided to like me or not.”

He flinched at a sudden unknown pain and spent a moment re-situating himself. “Can you get her a message for me?”

“Of course.”

“You have to be careful. I won’t tell you if you can’t be discreet—for your own sake.”

“I can be discreet.”

Jacin looked skeptical.

“I can. I will be as secretive as a spy. As secretive as you.” Winter scooted a bit closer.

His voice fell, as if he were no longer certain those cameras didn’t come with audio. “Tell her they’re coming for her.”

Winter stared. “Coming for … coming here?”

He nodded, a subtle dip of his head. “And I think they might actually have a chance.”

Frowning, Winter reached forward and tucked the strands of Jacin’s sweat- and dirt-stained hair behind his ears. He tensed at the touch, but didn’t pull away. “Jacin Clay, you’re speaking in riddles.”

“Linh Cinder.” His voice became hardly more than a breath and she tilted closer yet to hear him. A curl of her hair fell against his shoulder. He licked his lips. “She’s Selene.”

Every muscle in her body tightened. She pulled back. “If Her Majesty heard you say—”

“I won’t tell anyone else. But I had to tell you.” His eyes crinkled at the corners, full of sympathy. “I know you loved her.”

Her heart thumped. “My Selene?”

“Yes. But … I’m sorry, Princess. I don’t think she remembers you.”

Winter blinked, letting the daydream fill her up for one hazy moment. Selene, alive. Her cousin, her friend? Alive.

She scrunched her shoulders against her neck, casting the hope away. “No. She’s dead. I was there, Jacin. I saw the aftermath of the fire.”

“You didn’t see her.”

“They found—”

“Charred flesh. I know.”

“A pile of girl-shaped ashes.”

“They were just ashes. Look, I didn’t believe it either, but I do now.” One corner of his mouth tilted up, into something like pride. “She’s our lost princess. And she’s coming home.”

A throat cleared behind Winter and her skeleton nearly leaped from her skin. She swiveled her torso around, falling onto her elbow.

Her personal guard was standing beside the dais, scowling.

“Ah!” Heart fluttering with a thousand startled birds, Winter broke into a relieved smile. “Did you catch the monster?”

There was no return smile, not even a flush of his cheeks, which was the normal reaction when she let loose that particular look. Instead, his right eyebrow began to twitch.

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