The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)- Renee Ahdieh Page 0,1

is yours?”

The stranger studied her brother for a moment.

“Khalid.”

“Why do you want a shovel, Khalid?” her brother demanded again.

“I’d like to help you repair your home.”

“Why?”

“Because when we help one another, we are able to accomplish things faster.”

Kamyar nodded slowly, then canted his head to one side. “But this isn’t your home. Why should you care?”

“Because Rey is my home. And Rey is your home. If you could help me when I needed help, would you not wish to do so?”

“Yes,” Kamyar said without hesitation. “I would.”

“Then it’s settled.” The stranger stood. “Will you share your shovel with me, Kamyar?”

For the rest of the afternoon, the trio worked to clear the floor of charred wood and waterlogged debris. The girl never gave the stranger her name and refused to call him anything but sahib, but Kamyar treated him like a long-lost friend with a common enemy. When the stranger gave them water and lavash bread to eat, the girl dipped her head and touched her fingertips to her brow in thanks.

A flush rose in her cheeks when the almost-beautiful stranger returned the gesture, without a word.

Soon, the day began bruising into night, and Kamyar wedged himself into a corner, his chin drooping to his chest, and his eyes slowly falling shut.

The stranger finished arranging the last of the salvageable pieces of wood by the door, and shook the dirt from his rida’ before pulling the hood of his cloak back over his head.

“Thank you,” the girl murmured, knowing that was the least she should do.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. Then the stranger reached into his cloak and produced a small pouch cinched shut by a leather cord.

“Please. Take it.”

“No, sahib.” She shook her head. “I cannot take your money. We’ve already taken enough of your generosity.”

“It isn’t much. I’d like for you to take it.” His eyes, which had appeared tired at the outset, now looked beyond exhausted. “Please.”

There was something about his face in that moment, hidden as it was in the play of shadows, in the lingering motes of ash and dust . . .

Something about it that signified a deeper suffering than the girl could ever hope to fathom.

She took the small pouch from his hand.

“Thank you,” he whispered. As though he were the one in need.

“Shiva,” she said. “My name is Shiva.”

Disbelief flared on his features for an instant. Then the sharp planes of his face smoothed.

“Of course it is.” He bowed low, with a hand to his brow.

Despite her confusion, she managed to respond in kind, her fingers brushing her forehead. When she looked up again, he had turned the corner.

And disappeared into the wending darkness of night.

THE WATER LIES

IT WAS ONLY A RING.

Yet it signified so much to her.

Much to lose. Much to fight for.

Shahrzad lifted her hand into a stream of light. The ring of muted gold flashed twice, as if to remind her of its mate, far across the Sea of Sand.

Khalid.

Her thoughts drifted to the marble palace in Rey. To Khalid. She hoped he was with Jalal or with his uncle, the shahrban.

She hoped he was not alone. Adrift. Wondering . . .

Why am I not with him?

Her lips pressed tight.

Because the last time I was in Rey, thousands of innocent people perished.

And Shahrzad could not return until she’d found a way to protect her people. Her love. A way to end Khalid’s terrible curse.

Outside her tent, a goat began to bleat with merry abandon.

Her temper mounting, Shahrzad flung off her makeshift blanket and reached for the dagger beside her bedroll. An empty threat, but she knew she should at least fight for a semblance of control.

As if to mock her, the shrill sounds beyond her tent grew more incessant.

Is that a . . . bell?

The little beast outside had a bell around its neck! And now the clanging and the bleating all but ensured the impossibility of sleep.

Shahrzad sat up, gripping the jeweled hilt of her dagger—

Then, with an exasperated cry, she fell back against the itchy wool of her bedroll.

It’s not as though I’m managing to sleep as it is.

Not when she was so far from home. So far from where her heart longed to be.

She swallowed the sudden lump that formed in her throat. Her thumb brushed against the ring with two crossed swords—the ring Khalid had placed on her right hand a mere fortnight ago.

Enough. Nothing will be accomplished from such nonsense.

Again she sat up, her eyes scanning her new surroundings.

Irsa’s bedroll was neatly stashed