She’d never leave him, she promised herself, but right now Aislinn was sick to death of him. Not him, she corrected herself. Never him…well. Sometimes him. But not him, not now. She was, however, sick of Africa.
It was hot. People kept shooting beautiful wild animals, making her cry. There was a lot of desert. The British consulate and tourists and other expatriates were all bores, with no sense of a soul. The piece Byron was slaving over was going to be beautiful, she knew. She could feel it, resonating inside of both of them, delving down deep into the mysteries of this Dark Continent. But since he insisted on writing it back in their rooms in a brown house on a brown street in a brown city where the sun never seemed to stop beating down and trying to burn itself through her skin, she found herself languishing.
The market had held an allure for the first few months, but now it seemed too loud, too clamoring. Smells that had once intoxicated her now seemed to linger, pressed down into her skin and she ached for a cleansing, cooling rain with the scent of ozone filling the air and eliminating the stink of too many humans living too close together. If he’d take her back to the jungle, back to the villages, or even to the savannah, she thought, if he’d just do that, she could survive, pulling at the strings of nature and wrapping them around herself like a protective barrier. Here there was only desert, sand upon sand upon sand and it got into everything, no matter how hard the servants scrubbed. Most days, all she wanted to cry.
The calendar told her Yule was fast approaching, but there was nothing like that here. Some of them celebrated the Christ child’s birth, and the exiles tried to keep their customs, but greenery and candles were too incongruous under the harsh sun to do more than make the ache inside her grow.
Perching herself on the window sill, Aislinn stared out across the desert city and fought back the urge to cry, trying to keep it from him, how unhappy she was here. The spirits were strange, unfriendly, and even stepping through the Veil brought no relief here, as the world there was as terrifying as this one was soul-leeching to her forest grown heart.
Warm, too warm, everything was too warm, hands closed over her shoulders and she looked up, startled into smiling green eyes. His lips brushed over hers and then he tugged her out of the window.
“Pack your things.”
She felt a flutter of hope that they were going back to the jungle. “How much of it?”
“All of it,” Byron told her, with a soft, secret smile.
“Why?” Though she was already moving. Anything to get out of this city. “Where are we going?”
He paused, falling quiet, until she looked back at him, ready to repeat the question. He grinned then.