Let the Wind Rise Page 2

I did, but I don’t feel like telling her that. So I shrug—which turns out to be a really bad idea.

Pain shoots from my shoulder to my fingertips, hot and sharp and so intense that a tiny yelp slips out before I can stop it.

Painkillers would come in really handy right now—or so I hear.

Sylphs are allergic to human medicine.

Solana rushes to my side, and I can’t help noticing that she’s changed into a pale blue dress, so short and tight it looks painted on. I’m used to the skimpy clothes she wears to keep her skin exposed to the wind, but I still have to turn away before my eyes can focus on the parts of her it doesn’t cover.

“Aren’t you going to freeze in that thing?” I mumble.

“I’m a Southerly,” she says. “My winds keep me warm.”

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but very few things do when it comes to my life these days. If it’s weird and windy, I’m learning to say “Okay then.”

Solana pulls up my left sleeve, and I cringe when I see how the bandage is bunched and twisted, with the skin swollen all around it.

“I’m sure that has more to do with the fact that my elbow was torn out of joint—twice—than it does with me tweaking it as I got dressed,” I argue.

She sighs and starts rewrapping the wound. “You still could’ve asked me for help.”

“Right, because that wouldn’t have been awkward at all.”

Nothing says “no big deal” like having my sorta ex-fiancée help me put my pants on.

Solana rolls her eyes. “I know this might be hard for you to believe, but things don’t have to be uncomfortable between us. I’m not the kind of girl who chases after a guy who doesn’t want me. I know a lost cause when I see one.”

I feel my jaw drop, and realize I must look like an idiot. But seriously, what am I supposed to say to that?

She laughs. “What? You thought I was still pining for you?”

“I . . .”

Nope, I’ve still got nothing.

But I’m looking pretty lame here, so I go for a subject change. “What exactly is pining?”

“Um, it’s like yearning, I guess?”

“And how does someone yearn?”

“I don’t know. But I’m not doing it for you.”

“Okay, I’m starting to feel insulted.”

“And here I thought you’d be relieved.”

I am, I guess.

Though I’d feel better if her left wrist didn’t still have the wide gold cuff with the letters S and V etched into the design.

Her link.

Basically the Windwalker equivalent of an engagement ring—and this one was given to her by the Gales to symbolize our betrothal. I’m tempted to ask her why she hasn’t pitched that thing in the nearest trash can but decide it’s easier to pretend it’s not there.

“So, we’re good then?” she asks, tying a careful knot at the end of the bandage. “No more weirdness?”

“Sure. No more weirdness.”

I want the words to be true, but she’s resting her hand on my skin and . . .

Her touch is too warm.

Not hot and electric, like Audra’s touch always feels. But it’s a far cry from the cold emptiness I usually get from other girls—and I swear when our eyes meet, I can tell Solana knows it.

My bond is not fading, I repeat over and over in my head, ordering the words to be true.

Audra may have broken our connection on her end, but I’m still holding on with everything I have.

“You okay?” Solana asks, pointing to my shaking hands.

I pull my sleeve down and scoot away from her. “We should probably get going. Arella’s waiting outside.”

Solana doesn’t follow me as I move toward the door, and when I glance back, she’s biting her lip.

“If you’ve changed your mind—”

“I’m coming with you,” she interrupts, tucking her long, wavy blond hair behind her ear. “It’s just . . . do you really think we can trust her?”

She tilts her head toward the window, where Arella’s watching us with narrowed eyes.

If I had my choice, I’d drag Arella back to her suffocating prison and let the Maelstrom finish draining the life out of her. She deserves that and more after betraying Audra again—not to mention the zillion other creeptastic things she’s done.

But her gift allows her to feel things on the wind that no one else can—things that will hopefully give us a better chance of sneaking into Raiden’s fortress and getting Audra and Gus out of there alive.

“We need her,” I tell Solana, reminding myself as much as her.

Solana opens her mouth, then closes it again. “I’ll get my stuff,” she says, and disappears down the hallway.

I use the time alone to take one last look around my room, making sure I’m not forgetting anything—not that there’s anything worth taking. I shove a bottle of pain pills into my pocket, since those helped me poison a Stormer in one of my previous battles. Everything else is just a bunch of video games and dirty clothes and random-crap-that-won’t-matter-in-a-wind-battle, and proves how supremely unprepared I am for this.

Even my cell phone is useless. The battery died while I was trying to text my mom answers to all her questions. So it looks like the last thing I’ll be saying to my parents—maybe ever—is:

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