Roar and Liv, the exclusive new prequel novella to Under the Never Sky, publishes today. Beautiful, captivating and everything you'd expect from the amazing Veronica Rossi, this is a story we're seriously excited to share.
So excited, in fact, that we're giving you a little sneak preview – just in case you hadn't made your mind up whether to buy it!
Roar and Liv, Chapter One
I make my move when the tribe is asleep. Footsteps light, I skim across the dirt clearing, the chirp of crickets the only sound in the calm spring night. When I reach Perry’s house, I climb onto the window ledge and stretch up, grasping the rusted f lashing that borders the roof.
One. Two. Three.
Swinging my legs out and up, I f lip myself onto the roof. My landing is almost silent—just the brush of my knees on the stone tiles as I ease my weight down and the slosh of the
jug of Luster that’s tied to my belt. People say I’m quiet as a cat. If they could hear as well as me, they’d know that cats are actually pretty loud.
Standing, I dust off my pants and scan the shadowed homes that circle the clearing. I hear a distant snore. The quiet creak of a door somewhere. Otherwise, nothing. I head for the warm thread of light that seeps through a hole in the roof. It comes from a small gap where a tile
cracked a few years ago during an Aether storm. I tread lightly and avoid the noisy spots. Perry and Liv are asleep in the house, but I’m not skulking up because of them. It wouldn’t matter if they heard me coming, but their brother, Vale, is inside as well—home only hours ago from his trip to the north—and I won’t chance waking him.
Kneeling by the sliver in the tiles, I bend down and peer through it, blinking as my eyes adjust to the light . . . and see a falcon with its wings spread wide. The tattoo on Perry’s back. He’s sprawled on his stomach in the loft, which is right below me. I try to look for Liv, knowing that if Perry is here, she’s curled up in front of the hearth, but I have a poor angle.
There’s only one way to see her tonight. I bring my mouth to the hole and raise my voice just enough. “Perry! Wake up!” He doesn’t move, so I try a little louder. “Wake up, you oaf!”
Perry rolls onto his back and starts to snore.
There’s a saying that warns people against waking sleeping giants. I should listen to it, but I want to see Liv too badly. I pull the jug of Luster from my belt and unstop the cork, muff ling the pop with my hands. It’s a shame to waste it, but I don’t see any other way—and this could be entertaining. I bring the jug to the gap and pour the Luster through it. I hear a solid thump as the roof shakes beneath my feet.
The warm light from inside disappears as three fingers poke through the hole. Scrabbling, wrathy fingers full of murderous
intent. After a moment, they’re replaced by a green eye that’s shiny like a cat’s—really like a cat’s.
Perry mutters a few curses and then asks, “What’s wrong with you?” His voice is muff led, but I hear him perfectly.
“Get Liv and meet me on the northern trail,” I say. The cat eye moves left and right as Perry shakes his head.
“No. Beach trail. Someone poured Luster on me and I have to wash it off.”
“Right. Beach trail in five minutes. Don’t take too long.” Only one finger appears this time. The obscene gesture makes me grin.
I recork the Luster and climb down. There’s one more thing to take care of before I meet Perry and Liv. I cross the clearing again, guided by the light of the Aether, the rugged cottages of the Tide compound spreading around me.
At Brooke’s house, I rap softly on the door. She eases it open a few moments later and smiles. “The cave?” she whispers.
Brooke is Liv’s closest friend, and for the past year she and Perry have been together. Half that time Perry has been trying to end it. Perry will probably be streaked at me for bringing her along, but so what? I like things the way they are.
I nod and lift the bottle of Luster. “You coming?” I ask, though I already know she is. Brooke is always up for anything when Perry is involved.
“I’ll get my bow.” She disappears into the house. I look around the compound as I wait. When it’s quiet this way, it’s easy to remember the night I came here with my grandmother twelve years ago. I was barely seven then. Gram and I walked up out of the darkness on a spring night just like this. We’d been traveling for weeks and the soles on my shoes had worn through. Gram knocked on the first door we came to, and when Perry’s father answered, I thought he was the biggest man I’d ever seen. He invited us inside and had bread and fennel soup brought to us. Three kids watched us from the loft above as we ate, but it was the girl I couldn’t take my eyes off.
The next day Gram and I were given a room behind Bear and Molly’s house, which was really a storage shed with wooden walls that made clicking sounds as they expanded during the rainy months. My gaze moves to their house now. Gram is gone and the walls stopped clicking a few years ago, but I still sleep there.
Brooke returns with a bow and quiver over her shoulder and we make our way out of the compound without a word. Where we’re going, the northern cave, is an hour away. It’s still part of the Tides’ territory, but there’s always a risk when you travel that far away—especially at night—of being attacked by the dispersed. The danger is part of the fun. As we approach the beach trail, I spot two tall figures with pale hair up ahead and frown. It ruff les me a bit, not being able to tell apart my best friend from my girlfriend from this distance. But then one of the figures dashes across the sandy trail and jumps into my arms and I’m reasonably sure it’s Liv and not Perry.
“Can’t you be away from me even a few hours?” Liv whispers in my ear. I pull her closer. The way she feels against me makes my heart stop. “Of course not.”
“Me either.” She plants a kiss on my cheek and darts away before I can kiss her back, leaving me smiling at the darkness. We walk the beach trail, winding our way to the ocean. When we reach the water, Perry launches himself into the dark waves as Liv, Brooke, and I wait along the shore.
I drop my arm over Liv’s shoulders. “He’s overreacting, isn’t he? I didn’t spill that much on him.”
Liv taps the bridge of her nose. “It was enough,” she says, and I understand. Like Liv, Perry is a Scire and has a sense of smell as strong as my hearing. It wasn’t being wet or sticky that was bothering him, it was the sweet scent of the Luster.
When he’s done swimming, we pick up the northern trail, which will take us all the way to the cave. The Aether does a slow dance above us, f lowing in veils that give enough light to keep us from stumbling in the darkness. Even so, Perry takes the lead because of his night vision. Because Perry is out in front, Brooke is out in front.
“Well?” I ask Liv as we settle into a comfortable pace. Her long blond hair shines in the darkness, and the line of her nose is painted in blue Aether light. “How was he?”
He is Vale, Liv and Perry’s older brother. He’s also the bastard who leads the Tides as Blood Lord and who has never approved of my relationship with Liv. “He’s fine,” Liv replies. “He was tired from the trip. I could tell he was anxious to get home.” Vale arrived earlier, after supper. For the past month, he’s been away negotiating with a northern Blood Lord, Sable of the Horns. The Tides’ food situation is getting desperate. Aether storms for the last winters have been brutally strong, torching stretches of farmland, so our crop yields have dropped lower than ever. Vale told us that when he returned from seeing Sable, he’d have solutions. He promised us we wouldn’t go hungry.
“He was in good spirits, seeing Mila and Talon,” Liv continues. Vale’s wife and son are both ill. It’s been hard for Perry and Liv, and I can’t imagine how that must make Vale feel. I try not to think about it. I’d rather not waste my sympathy on him. Liv kicks a stone. I hear it skitter over the dirt trail. “I think he was relieved to see they’re doing well. I mean . . . as well as can be expected. He spent most of the night telling Talon about his travels through Ranger’s Edge. He said it was the hardest journey he’s ever taken. That he didn’t know what cold was until this past month.”
I nod. The Edge is known for its harsh winds and icy slopes. “Anything else?” I ask. Like everyone, I want to know what solutions Vale has come up with. Liv is quiet for so long that I begin to wonder if she heard me. Finally she looks over and says, “He asked me to go hunting with him in the morning.”
My knees lock up. “He did?”
Liv turns when she realizes I’ve stopped. She nods. “Perry was there too, but Vale was clear. He only wants me to go with him.”
“Yeah,” Liv says. “Huh.”
As we resume our walk, I can’t stop thinking that this request—command?—is strange. Vale seldom hunts; he’s usually too busy attending to his duties as Blood Lord. When he does hunt, he rarely includes Perry or Liv. My guess is that he doesn’t like competition and wants to be the only Scire.
There’s little warmth between the siblings now, but it wasn’t always this way. When their father was still Blood Lord, they were close. We all knew what happened to Perry in their house when Jodan drank, and I think the terror of those nights kept the three of them bonded. I can still remember Liv and Vale sitting on either side of Perry in the cookhouse, pressed against him like a human shield after he’d taken a beating. But when Vale became Blood Lord after Jodan died, things changed. Vale keeps Liv and Perry at a distance now. The day he put the Blood Lord chain around his neck, he became their lord first and their brother second. Liv’s voice pulls me from my thoughts. “What do you think he wants?”
“Maybe he just wants to hunt,” I say, but we both know that can’t be true. Vale always has hidden motives.
After an hour, the trail brings us to a bluff overlooking a small cove. Perry and Brooke have already climbed down to the beach. I see the f lash of sparks below—a blade striking flint. Perry is at work starting a bonfire. Liv and I descend the slope, a climb we’ve done a hundred
times. When I hear her foot slide on the loose dirt behind me, I offer her my hand. “Here, love.”
“Well, I’m not. I’m scared. Take my hand?”
She humors me—I never fall—but I get what I want: her hand in mine. An excuse to feel a bit of her strength as we make our way down the hill. And a window into her thoughts.
We climb a little farther down before I hear her.
Still scared, or are you better now?
Her voice is clear in my mind. As clear as if she’d spoken into my ear. I don’t know any other Auds who can hear people through contact. Like Perry’s night vision, my Sense came in a different shade than is usual. “Terrified,” I answer. “I may need you to hold me later.” Liv pulls her hand free and shoves me softly. “Then move faster.” By the time our feet find the sand, Perry has the fire burning well. He sits before the dancing f lames with Brooke nestled against him. Her hand is resting on his thigh. His arm is around her waist. Probably, they’re not splitting up tonight.
When Perry isn’t around, Brooke asks Liv and me why he doesn’t like her more. “Why am I always the one chasing him?” she says, and gestures to herself. “What more can he possibly want?” Self-confidence is not a problem for Brooke. Perry’s never going to be the one chasing her, but that’s not how I answer. I tell her that he just needs time and that she should keep trying to seduce him. I’m a good friend to Perry like that. I sit on the opposite side of the fire and Liv sits between my legs, leaning back against my chest. We’ve perfected this position. I love the way her long legs look stretched out in front of me. The top of her head is only inches from my lips.
I press a kiss there, and then take a drink from the jug of Luster. It goes down like liquid coals, spreading heat through my stomach and out to the rest of me. I pass the jug to Liv, and sit back on my hands. Brooke and Liv talk about something Talon said earlier, a puppy crush he has on Willow, who at thirteen is nearly double his age of seven. Perry smiles, as he always does when talk turns to his nephew. I suck the taste of spiced honey from my lips, my focus shifting to the sound of their voices as the Luster wraps me in a mellow fog. I draw a deep breath, feeling Liv’s weight against my chest, smelling salt and water and fire in the air.
After a little while, I hear what I’ve been waiting for. Husky and pure, Liv’s laugh is the best sound in the world. I close my eyes and savor it.
This is what I wanted tonight. Time away from the tribe with Liv and Perry, and even with Brooke. With no responsibilities and nothing to do except be. It hasn’t turned out the way I expected, though. I have everything I need right here, but I can’t shake the anxious feeling in my gut.
Why does Vale want to talk to Liv alone? And why so soon after his return from the north? Some time later, Perry stands. “Let’s leave these two alone,” he says as he pulls Brooke to her feet.
Right. I’m sure that’s exactly what’s motivating him. They head off together into the darkness, toward the cave just up the beach. Definitely not splitting up tonight.
When they’re gone, Liv turns in my arms. “I guess we’re alone,” she says, giving me an innocent look that’s anything but.
“Mm hmm. I guess we are.” I slide my hand beneath her chin and bring my lips to hers. Her skin is warm and she tastes like Luster. Somehow there is a bit of sand in our kiss. With Liv, there is always something unexpected, but not the way she makes me feel. That never changes. One kiss and I’m hungry—starved for more of her—but she surprises me
by drawing away. Leaning back, she studies me through narrowed eyes.
“What is it, Livy?” My hand is wrapped around her hip. I slide it to her back so I can think clearly. Somewhat clearly. So I have a chance at holding a coherent thought in my head.
In the firelight Liv’s long lashes look like gold threads. Her gaze shifts from my left eye to the right and back, like she’s searching for the one that will open to my soul. The truth is either one will.
“I shouldn’t have said anything earlier,” she says.
I shake my head. “No. Of course you should have.” As a Scire, Liv can scent my temper. She reads my moods, no matter what I do. I can’t protect her from my worry. “Don’t ever keep things from me. You always know how I feel, and I want the same. No secrets . . . all right?” Liv nods. She stares into the darkness, her eyebrows drawn in thought. “Do you think it’s about us?” she asks after a moment.
I shrug. “You’re part of me, Olivia. Anything that involves you is always about us.” Liv’s mouth curves into a smile. She brushes her thumb over my bottom lip. Maybe the sand came from me? I don’t know, and the way she’s staring at me, it’s all I can do to keep my breathing even.
“I like it when you call me love,” she says.
“What? I’ve never called you that.” Lie. I do it all the time. “Oh, you mean earlier? I said Liv. You just have terrible hearing.”
She jabs me in the ribs.
“What was that?” Liv says. “I couldn’t hear you.” She digs her fingers into my side again. “You asked for it now.” I twist away, pulling her with me, and the battle begins. We roll over each other, tumbling, wrestling, tangling in the sand until my hands find her hands and my lips find her lips and then we slow. We slow and slow and slow until we move together as one.