Home > Caraval (Caraval #1)(11)

Caraval (Caraval #1)(11)
Author: Stephanie Garber

“I think we just need to worry about making it to the island. And by ‘we,’ I mean you.” Julian unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a row of brown muscles that made it clear he’d have no problems in the water.

Then without another word, he dove into the ocean.

He didn’t look back. His strong arms cut through the icy current with ease, while arctic water rose around Scarlett until the bottom half of her dress floated about her calves. She attempted to row, but only succeeded in sinking the boat deeper.

She had no choice but to jump.

The air rushed out of her lungs, something cold and unbreathable taking its place. All she could see was the color white. Everything was white. Even the tones of the water had shifted from swirls of pink and turquoise to frightening shades of icy white. Scarlett bobbed her head to the surface, gasping for air that seared as it went down.

She tried to push against the current with the same ease as Julian, but he’d been right. The corset binding her chest was too tight; the heavy fabric around her legs kept tangling. She frantically kicked, but it did no good. The more Scarlett fought, the more the ocean battled back. She could barely keep above the surface. A wave of cold splashed over her head, dragging her all the way down. So cold and heavy. Her lungs burned as she battled to reach the surface again. This must have been how Felipe felt when her father drowned him. You deserve this, said a part of her. Like hands, the water pressed her down

down

down. …

“I thought you could swim.” Julian wrenched Scarlett up until her head broke the surface of the water.

“Breathe. Slowly,” he coaxed. “Don’t try to take in too much at once.”

The air still burned, but Scarlett managed the words: “You left me.”

“Because I thought you could swim.”

“It’s my dress—” Scarlett broke off as she felt it dragging her down once more.

Julian took a sharp breath. “You think you can stay afloat for a minute without my help?”

He brandished a knife with his free hand, and before Scarlett could agree or protest, he darted under the water.

Scarlett felt as if forever went by before she felt the pressure of Julian’s arm wrapping around her waist. Then, the tip of his knife pressed against her breasts. Scarlett’s breath caught as the sailor cut away her corset, drawing a decisive line down her stomach to the center of her hips. The arm around her waist tightened, and so did something in Scarlett’s chest. She’d never been in such a position with a boy. She tried not to think about what Julian was seeing or feeling as he finished slicing the heavy dress and pulled it off her body, leaving only her wet chemise clinging to her skin.

Julian gasped as he resurfaced, splashing Scarlett’s face with water.

“Can you swim now?” His words were more labored than before.

“Can you?” Scarlett asked hoarsely, her ability to speak strained as well. It felt as if something very intimate had just happened, or maybe it was intense only for her. She imagined the sailor had seen lots of girls in various states of undress.

“We’re wasting our energy with talk.” Julian started swimming, this time staying close to her side, though she couldn’t tell if it was because he worried about her safety, or if he was weak from helping her.

Scarlett could still feel the ocean working to drag her under, but without her heavy gown, she could fight it. She neared Sueños’s gleaming white shore at the same time as Julian. Up close the sand looked fluffier. Fluffier, and now that she thought about it, much more like snow. More than she’d ever seen on Trisda. Resting clouds of magical white, a cold carpet stretched across the entire shore.

All eerily untouched.

“Don’t give up on me now.” Julian grabbed Scarlett’s hand, tugging her toward the perfect tufts of white. “Come on, we need to keep moving.”

“Wait—” Scarlett scanned the crisp snow a second time. Again it reminded her of a frosted cake. The kind she’d seen in bakery windows, perfect and smooth, without so much as a Tella-size footprint in the snow.

“Where’s my sister?”

The island’s gauzy clouds had sailed into a position covering the sun and casting the coastline in a haze of gray-blue shadows. No longer white, the untouched snow at Scarlett’s feet winked up at her with periwinkle sparkles, as if it were in on some private joke.

“Where’s Tella?” Scarlett repeated.

“I must have dropped her off on a different part of the beach.” Julian reached for Scarlett’s hand again, but she pulled away. “We need to keep moving or we’re both going to freeze. Once we warm up, we can find your sister.”

“But what if she’s freezing too? Dona—tella!” Scarlett yelled between chattering teeth. The snow beneath her toes and the wet fabric clinging to her icy skin left her colder than she had been the night her father made her sleep outside after he discovered Tella had kissed her first boy. Still, Scarlett was not going to leave without finding her sister. “Donatella!”

“You’re wasting your breath.” Dripping wet and shirtless, Julian looked more dangerous than usual as he glared at Scarlett. “When I dropped your sister off, she was dry. She had on a coat and gloves. Wherever she is, she’s not going to freeze, but we will if we stay here. We should head for whatever’s between those trees.”

Past where the beach’s mantle of snow met lines of thick green trees, a spire of sunset-orange smoke twisted into the sky. Scarlett could have sworn it hadn’t been there a minute ago. She didn’t even remember seeing the trees. Different from the bony shrubs on Trisda, all of these trunks looked like thick braids, twisted together and covered in snowy blue-and-green moss.

   
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