Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) - Jay Kristoff





The boy was beautiful.

Caramel-smooth skin, honeydew-sweet smile. Black curls on the right side of unruly. Strong hands and hard muscle and his eyes, O, Daughters, his eyes. Five thousand fathoms deep. Pulling you in to laugh even as he drowned you.

His lips brushed hers, warm and curling soft. They’d stood entwined on the Bridge of Whispers, a purple blush pressing against the curves of the sky. His hands had roamed her back, current tingling on her skin. The feather-light brush of his tongue against hers set her shivering, heart racing, insides aching with want.

They’d drifted apart like dancers before the music stopped, vibration still thrumming along their strings. She’d opened her eyes, found him staring back in the smoky light. A canal murmured beneath them, its sluggish flow bleeding out into the ocean. Just as she wished to. Just as she must. Praying she wouldn’t drown.

Her last nevernight in this city. A part of her didn’t want to say goodbye. But before she left, she’d wanted to know. She owed herself that, at least.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

She’d looked up into his eyes, then.

Took him by the hand.

“I’m sure,” she whispered.

The man was repugnant.

Sclerosis skin, a shallow chin lost in folds of stubbled fat. A sheen of spittle at his mouth, whiskey’s kiss scrawled across cheeks and nose, and his eyes, O, Daughters, his eyes. Blue as the sunsburned sky. Glittering like stars in the still of truedark.

His lips were on the tankard, draining the dregs as the music and laughter swelled about him. He swayed in the taverna’s heart a moment longer, then tossed a coin on the ironwood bar and stumbled into the sunslight. His eyes roamed the cobbles ahead, bleary with drink. The streets were growing crowded, and he forced his way through the crush, intent only on home and a dreamless sleep. He didn’t look up. Didn’t spy the figure crouched atop a stone gargoyle on a roof opposite, clothed in plaster white and mortar gray.

The girl watched him limp away across the Bridge of Brothers. Lifting her harlequin’s mask to drag on her cigarillo, clove-scented smoke trailing through the air. The sight of his carrion smile and rope-raw hands set her shivering, heart racing, insides aching with want.

Her last nevernight in this city. A part of her still didn’t want to say goodbye. But before she left, she’d wanted him to know. She owed him that, at least.

A shadow wearing the shape of a cat sat on the roof beside her. It was paper-flat and semitranslucent, black as death. Its tail curled around her ankle, almost possessively. Cool waters seeped out through the city’s veins and into the ocean. Just as she wished to. Just as she must. Still praying she wouldn’t drown.

“… are you sure…?” the cat who was shadows asked.

The girl watched her mark slink toward his bed.

Nodded slow.

“I’m sure,” she whispered.

The room had been small, sparse, all she could afford. But she’d set out rosejoy candles and a bouquet of water lilies on clean white sheets, corners turned down as if to invite him in, and the boy had smiled at the sugar-floss sweetness of it all.

Walking to the window, she’d stared at the grand old city of Godsgrave. At white marble and ochre brick and graceful spires kissing the sunsburned sky. To the north, the Ribs rose hundreds of feet into the ruddy heavens, tiny windows staring out from apartments carved within the ancient bone. Canals ran out from the hollow Spine, their patterns crisscrossing the city’s skin like the webs of mad spiders. Long shadows draped the crowded pavements as the light of the second sun dimmed—the first sun long since vanished—leaving their third, sullen red sibling to stand watch through the perils of nevernight.

O, if only it had been truedark.

If it were, he wouldn’t see her.

She wasn’t sure she wanted him to see her through this.

The boy padded up behind her, wreathed in fresh sweat and tobacco. Slipping his hands about her waist, fingers running like ice and flame along the divots at her hips. She breathed heavier, tingling somewhere deep and old. Lashes fluttered like butterfly wings against her cheeks as his hands traced the cusp of her navel, dancing across her ribs, up, up to cup her breasts. Goosebumps prickled on her skin as he breathed into her hair. Arching her spine, pressing back against the hardness at his crotch, one hand snagged in his unruly locks. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t speak.