Sitting in the great room with Arland's hand in mine—not Perth's—still unsettles me. No matter how much acceptance we've received, I cannot push those weeks of pretending to be in love with someone else out of my head. When Arland and I are around others, I find myself glancing away, making faces, tensing up—all the things I was supposed to do before he and Brit disappeared. Back at Watchers Hall, before meeting Dufaigh—or any other Ground Dweller aside from Perth—I didn't have an issue with affection. Actions that never bothered me before, scare me now.
No matter how united the Draíochtans appear, no matter how much magic or confidence I have, I still worry I will lose Arland at any moment, that one of the tragic deaths I've seen him suffer so many times will come true.
He squeezes my fingers between his. "You said you would have fun, but your thoughts are a constant stream into mine, Kate. I know you are concerned about the visions"—Arland clears his throat—"about my death. We took note of them all, where we were, what attacked us, and the words you and Dughbal exchanged. We are prepared, and even if we cannot prevent what you have seen, we must live and enjoy our lives while there is still time." He stands, offering me his arm. "Will you dance with me?"
There's a farewell party going on around us. The tables and chairs have been pushed closer to the walls, opening up the great room for dancers. Arland and I have sat in the back left corner all evening, away from everyone I'm supposed to be enjoying our last night here with, away from the music, the eyes, the forced happiness.
Pre-war celebrations are disturbing. Everyone in here knows we may fail and that some of us may die, yet our people smile.
"They are here to honor life, Kate. Now, are you going to honor ours and dance with me?"
I get up, then hook my arm through his. He sweeps me through the crowd, which parts as we approach, leading me to the center of the room. The music is fast, the atmosphere energized. Candles burn in wrought-iron chandeliers over our heads, in sconces lining the walls, in jars on every table. The sweet scent of jasmine mixed with the warm scent of bread and chicken fills the air.
Arland holds up his hand and waits for me to mirror his action. I glance around, take in all the smiling faces, see the children beaming with wide eyes, watch the Leaders dancing with their partners, notice my mother and sister laughing at a nearby table, then press my palm to his. Arland and I lock eyes and skip in a circle. I switch hands, spinning around to my next partner without taking my gaze from Arland. We trade partners six more times, dancing by Cadman, Saidear, Deverell, Leader Murchadha, Ula, Vanora, and so many others, touching hands with each of them as we pass. Drums reverberate in my chest. Our boots resound with muffled echoes off the mixed stone and earth floor. Laughter, combined with hypnotic melodies of the flutes and lyres, sets my soul at ease. Dancing with my husband, with our friends and former enemies, makes me smile.
Returning to where we began, Arland grins as our fingers meet. "Having fun yet?"
"Yes," I say, breathing heavily from the dance, ready to go around again, but the music stops, and people spread out like ants in the earth, returning to their seats.

Giveaway time...