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“Being a guard is a lot less interesting than being on the common force…” Buddy mused.

“Don’t say it.” Cal warned him.

“…Especially without Tris,” he muttered under his breath.

She didn’t reprimand him but she did sigh. Buddy had at least waited until they were out of earshot before making his complaint, so there wouldn’t be any repercussions, but his words still felt… treasonous. Overnight, someone she trusted and respected, the future leader of this world, had become a fugitive. The guards who hadn’t personally known Tristan condemned him publicly, as was their job, but Cal had noticed a sense of unease among a few in the barracks. She wasn’t the only one with misgivings, she was sure of it.

As a couple of courtiers strode by, she made an effort to stand a little straighter. Usually guards were paired up for duties so that one of them could go for help if need be, but so many had been dispatched in the hunt for the former prince that the captains were having to botch shifts where they could. Familiars of guards were often now enlisted as adequate partners instead of pairing up with another guard, so Cal had Buddy with her instead of another fairy. The guards were also being encouraged to sign up for additional shifts. She’d initially added her name to the list in the hopes that having plenty of work would distract her from her own uncertainty, but it only made her confusion stronger. Was she doing the right thing? What even was the right thing to do when you were given a story you couldn’t quite swallow but had no viable alternative?

She was about an hour into duty when the distraction she was hoping for came strolling her way – literally. And what a damn fine distraction it was too. The unfamiliar gentleman had a confident gait and a really lovely smile which just made her want to smile back. He had pale skin and dark hair, like Flynn, but his eyes – as he neared – were even more spectacular. When Cal had first arrived on Shaman, she’d been struck by Flynn’s bright blue eyes, since no such iris colour existed on Xara. This man’s eyes were sort of purply-black from a distance, but as he neared she realised it was actually three colours rolled into one: silvery-white, metallic violet and oily black.

‘Didn’t think he was your type?’ Buddy muttered in her head. Cal started.

‘I – what?’

‘Cal, you were totally checking that guy out.’

‘I wasn’t! Shh, he’s coming over.’

‘I’m not even talking out loud!’

She patted Buddy’s neck to quieten his telepathy and smiled at the stranger.

CALDERA



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