Steel Lily ARC

Steel Lily ARC by Megan Curd

Book: Steel Lily ARC by Megan Curd Read Free Book Online
Authors: Megan Curd
to step foot in the Academy, and I’m anxious to see how you fit in.”
    I felt Alice stiffen as though the words were physical blows.
    “Not to say you aren’t gifted, my lady,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I’ve been informed you’re quite skilled with sewing, and I’ll be sure you’re accommodated thusly. I’ll also put you in a few of Avery’s courses to see how you do, if you’d like.”
    Alice’s smile returned, albeit a cautious one. “I’d like that, yes.”
    “Then it’s decided!” Mr. Riggs said with more enthusiasm than the situation warranted. He relinquished his grip and patted our backs as he turned us. “Very well then, if you two don’t mind, I’d like a word with Mr. Pierce before you three depart.”
    I looked at Jaxon, whose face was a mask of indifference. He was perusing a book, his left leg over one of the velvet-covered arms of the cherry wood chair he occupied. While his eyes were fixed on the pages, they were unmoving and his lips were taut. He swung his leg off the arm and snapped the book shut with one hand, tossing it onto the table beside the chair. The book tumbled and clattered to the floor, where pages fell away from the battered spine.
    A page fluttered away, the bold text at the top reading IS THE WAR REALLY OVER? Riggs followed the page to its resting point, then turned his gaze back to Jaxon.
    A smile that looked more like a grimace covered Jaxon’s otherwise inscrutable features. “Of course, Mr. Riggs.”
    Alice and I walked out of the library and Mr. Riggs shut the doors behind us. The shadows of the two men danced against the firelight. Their voices were muffled.
    “What do you suppose they’re talking about?” Alice wondered aloud as she picked dried dirt from her dress. A small mound of dirt began to settle on the carpet when she twisted her hips to free the caked mire from her clothing.
    Just then, the men’s voices rose. Riggs’s thundering baritone made me jump. “I don’t care what your excuse is; don’t let it happen again, or there will be severe consequences! Nothing is free in this life, and you of all people should know that.”
    “I didn’t recall asking for anything from you, or anyone else!” Jaxon retorted.
    The sound of books thudding to the floor sounded through the door, and Mr. Rigg’s voice was clear. “Mr. Pierce, you simply breathing has taxed me more than you’ll ever know. Now get out.”
    Jaxon’s figure began to grow as he stalked toward us.
    “That wasn’t a good meeting,” Alice whimpered, no longer distracted by her disheveled dress.
    Suddenly I felt a sliver of concern for the boy who wore his arrogance like a badge of honor. I also had more than a healthy dose of fear for the man who only moments before had given me the closest thing to a fatherly hug I’d ever received.

    Jaxon emerged from the library, his expression stony. He extended his elbows to accommodate our arms and stalked forward mechanically.
    Halfway down the lengthy corridor, Alice couldn’t handle the silence. “Ugly can be wrapped deceitfully in the throws of beauty,” she said, as though she couldn’t get it out fast enough. She inhaled and whispered the rest. “And it’s hard to tell the difference when one isn’t used to seeing it.”
    That was my Alice. Sage-like and wise beyond her years.
    “I don’t want to talk about it,” Jaxon said firmly, “and if you try to make me feel better again, I will leave you in the atrium to fend for yourself.”
    Alice fell silent. Her eyes dropped to the floor, then turned to find me in the corner of her vision. I shook my head. There was no way I could make heads or tales of this place, and Alice wasn’t much of a navigational mastermind herself. We didn’t need to make Jaxon mad and wind up sleeping beside the fountain until morning.
    We crossed the main floor to the other side. The magnificence hadn’t diminished, but after hearing Jaxon and Mr. Riggs, the shimmer and shine of

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