On the outside, Danica was hard, cold, and beautiful, like white marble – smoothed beneath the sculptor's chisel and long nights of rain. The sharp, painful deaths of her family and friends cut her, pained her, stole pieces of her that would never be returned. Long nights of muffled sobs (muffled, because tears were a shame to the living), her body's salt staining the silk cushion (she must remember to replace it before the maid noticed).

Before her court, her guards, her mother (always her mother, she must be strong, prove herself a Queen) her feathers were smooth, her face impassive, her hair styled and her clothes pressed. She judge criminals with a firm hand and no mercy, forcing herself to ignore the desperate plea in their eyes, the silent prayer on their lips, the shaking of their hands as they were led away to execution (rightly so, they had aided the Serpiente, they had helped to murder her sister).

She met calmly with the falcons, negotiating the price of that oh-so-necessary poison, without which they were sure to fail. On the outside, being in the presence of a falcon didn't make the feathers on the back of her neck stand on end, didn't make her breath hitch, didn't make her knees weak.

On the outside, she preferred the reserved Avians to the passionate Serpiente, the gentle flute to the beating drum, the smell of fruit to heady perfumes, her solitary room to the crowded dancer's nest.

On the outside, Zane was her political partner, nothing more. He didn't make her heart beat erratically, her face flush and her hands clammy. He certainly didn't make her want to melt, want to sing, want to crawl into his arms and never leave, because in his arms, she was safe.

On the outside, he meant nothing more to her than a way out of bloodshed.

On the outside, his shifting skin and glowing eyes still frightened her.

On the outside, she didn't love him.

On the outside.

The outside.