The Go-Between (The Nilaruna Cycles Book 1)

The Go-Between (The Nilaruna Cycles Book 1) by Andrea Ring Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Go-Between (The Nilaruna Cycles Book 1) by Andrea Ring Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andrea Ring
you that your
father will die before this cycle ends.”
    I nod and turn to leave, but
Shiva calls me back.
    “Kai. There is one more thing.
You must hurry. Nilaruna is planning to be married in less than a fortnight.”

III. MAJA
    Nili
stares up at me, awe and fear in her eyes.
    “What do you think?” I ask her.
    She gulps. “You’re a dragon?”
    I incline my head to her.
    “Dragons have been extinct for
two hundred cycles.”
    “A few still exist,” I say, “in
these very mountains, but they’re extremely shy. And I am not a natural dragon
— I was born a man, remember? This is the form the gods forced on me.”
    Nili climbs to her feet and
stares up at me. There is no self-consciousness about her, even though she’s
completely naked. And the view is so inspiring, I’m not about to remind her.
    She takes a few tentative steps
toward me and stretches out a hand. “May I?”
    “Please,” I say.
    She rubs her hand down the length
of my left leg. I barely feel the touch — my dragon skin is hardened
leather, callused from flight and impervious to windburn and the occasional
tree branch I snag when I’m landing. I close my eyes and fight to feel her skin
against mine.
    “You’re skin is like my scars,”
she says. “Rough and plated. It’s as if we both have built-in armor.”
    I nod.
    “You’re beautiful,” she says,
smiling up at me.
    I settle down on my haunches.
“Come. Snuggle up against me. You must be cold.”
    Nili looks down at her body and
laughs nervously. She covers herself with her hands. “Oh Maja, I’m naked! And
you’re not!”
    “Technically I am,” I say. “I
like you naked.”
    She laughs again. “You might, but
I’m a little uncomfortable.”
    I wave my hand and conjure
clothing for her. She sighs in relief.
    Then she nestles into my legs and
rests her head against my cheek. “So you want to marry me, huh?” she says.
    The thought sets me afire. I blow
out a breath, and smoke curls from my nostrils. “I would care for you, Nili. I
would protect you and love you and cherish you as the precious gift you are.”
    Nili shakes her head. “I never
thought I’d hear those words. I never thought I’d be close to a man. Half of me
longs to throw myself into your abyss and lose myself. How easy it would be!
But what about the rest?”
    “You mean Larraj?”
    “I don’t care about Larraj’s
feelings, but what of my parents? If they entered into a marriage agreement
with High Priest Sanji, what happens if I don’t fulfill it?”
    “According to the law,” I say,
“your parents would have to pay a penalty for Larraj’s time and trouble. I
don’t see how Larraj or the high priest has suffered any damages, though.
Larraj is too young to marry, so it’s not as though he’s missed out on other offers
since the agreement was made. Your father will probably have to make an
offering to the temple. That seems most reasonable.”
    Nili remains silent. I nuzzle her
cheek with mine.
    “If your parents cannot afford
the penalty, whatever it is, I will pay it.”
    “It’s not that,” she says. Then
she pulls back to look me in the eye. “Two things. One, someone is trying to
kill you, and they’re killing all your Go-Betweens, and we can’t ignore that.
They’re probably trying to get you out of the way so they can attack Indrapur.
We might be facing a war.”
    I know my duties should be
foremost in my mind, but I can’t focus on anything except the tiny creature
cuddled up next to me. “What’s the second thing?”
    “I have a duty also to my family.
If they are going to face consequences for my choices, I have to at least
prepare them. Maja, I have to go home.”
    “No! No, Nili. If you walk out of
this cave, you might never return! I won’t risk you.”
    “It’s not your choice,” Nili
says. “We know the dangers. I can keep an eye out. Most people believe that
since I am scarred, I am also simple. I can use that to my advantage.”
    “No. I’ll just keep you

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