Forsaken, p.1Part #2 of Broken City series by Jessica Sorensen
(Broken City, #2)
By Jessica Sorensen
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Copyright (c) 2016 by Jessica Sorensen
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Table of Contents:
About the Author
I've been out of the channels for almost a week now, and I'm discovering more about myself than I ever thought was possible: my likes, dislikes, preferences, and phobias. For instance, take heights. I utterly loathe them. Well, not necessarily heights so much as the idea of how easily I could plunge to my death from a high enough distance.
"Come on, Allura. You can do this," Ryder calls up to me from the trail below.
He made it to the bottom of the cliff several minutes ago, and I was supposed to follow. But halfway down, I panicked, and now I'm clinging on to an uneven ledge, too terrified to move.
"You only have about a hundred feet to go," Ryder adds, trying to be encouraging.
"A hundred feet?" My fingernails claw into the gritty cliff as I hang on for dear life.
Don't look down, Allura. Don't look down.
My gaze flicks up to Blaise and Reece, who are watching me from the top of the cliff. The sun blares down from the bleeding red sky, highlighting the concern on their faces.
See, even they think you're going to fall.
"Sweetheart, you're not going to fall." Ryder softly tugs on the rope cinched through the harness around my waist. "See? We've got you."
I draw in a breath before gradually sliding my foot down, but I make the mistake of letting my gaze drop to Ryder standing on the trail below and the seemingly endless drop off just behind him. My skin and fingernails scrape against the rock as I wrench my foot up and grip the ledge. A violent gust of wind blows up, and rocks tumble from the cliff and crash to the ground. I press my forehead against the cliff, shutting my eyes in shame.
"I'm sorry. I-I don't think I can do it." I feel so weak and useless. Just a handful of days ago, they risked their lives to rescue me from the channels and then saved me from a Tracker and from Maxx and Lucille, and here I am, unable to climb down a cliff for them.
You can do it. You can do it.
No! No! I can't.
The dry air nips against my sweaty forehead and cheeks; blood trickles from the open wounds on the pads of my fingers; and my limbs grow tired as the sun scorches down on me. Dehydration sets in. If I don't get down soon, I'll pass out.
"Allura, open your eyes," Blaise says, sounding close.
I open my eyes and suck in a breath. He's dangling to the side of me without a harness or rope, his fingers are gripping a small lip in the cliff, and his boots are planted firmly against the side.
"W-what are you doing?" I sputter. "Y-you don't have on a rope. You're going to fall."
"I'll be fine," he insists. "Let's just get you down."
"I don't think I can do it, Blaise. I'm so sorry."
"Yes, you can. And I'm going to help you. You have to trust me, though."
Trust him? Do I?
I take in his intense eyes, his blond hair shaved on one side, the metal barbells ornamenting his lips and brows, and the intricate tattoos on his neck. When I first met Blaise, I was afraid of him. His rugged looks and hard expression reminded me too much of some of the visitors who had passed through my cell. He's also insanely strong and may have killed Maxx and Lucille for hurting me. Yet, despite all of this, I trust him. He has never done anything to hurt me, only protected me.
"Here's what I need you to do." He keeps his attention fastened on me. "Let go of the rock with your right hand and wrap your arm around the back of my neck. When you get a good grip, bring your leg around and climb onto my back."
"But you're not wearing a rope. What happens if we fall?"
"You'll still be wearing the rope, so you'll be fine. That's all that matters."
"No, it isn't. I don't want you to get hurt or ..." I dare a glimpse below. "If you fall, you'll die."
"It's not that far," he replies nonchalantly. "I'll probably break a few bones, if that."
I gulp, glancing down again. "You'd splatter apart like a dropped watermelon."
His head cocks to the side, his forehead creasing. "That's a really graphic image you just painted. I didn't think you could be that morbid."
"I think it's the height. It's messing with my head." I drop my forehead against the coarse rock. "I've been picturing myself splattering against the ground the entire time I've been stuck here."
"Then let's get you down," he says. "Come on, climb on my back."
I elevate my head to look at him. "You promise you won't fall? Even with the extra weight on your back?"
"You weigh practically nothing." He gives a long sigh. "But yeah, I promise I won't fall."
I weigh my options: climb down by myself, stay here until I die, or let Blaise help me.
Blaise tries to remain as patient as possible while I deliberate, but I can tell he's struggling not to just reach out and grab me.
Finally, I manage to pry a hand away from the cliff, but I instantly teeter backward. Anxiety slams through my veins as I throw my chest forward while reaching out and wrapping my arm around Blaise. I don't allow enough time to get psyched out, slinging my leg around him.
Once I've steadied myself, I lean my weight to the side and shift all the way onto his back, looping my arms around his shoulders and my legs around his hips.
"Good?" he asks, his voice strained.
"I think so." I press my forehead against the back of his neck. "Are you?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Despite his words, tension currents off him.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?"
I carefully wiggle around, trying to support more of my own weight. "Do I need to move? Am I too--"
"You're fine, Allura. Just hang on. I'm going to get us down."
I nod and tighten my hold. His chest puffs against my interlocked hands as he lowers his foot, keeping his body close to the cliff. He slips his other foot down, and then his fingers mimic the movements. Over and over again, he descends, scaling toward the bottom. He moves so flawlessly, so effortlessly I feel silly for not being able to get down by myself.
"It's not your fault," Blaise says as we near the bottom. "You're afraid of heights. I'm not."
How did he know what I was thinking? Can he read minds?
"We're almost there." He drags his hand downward, his fingertips leaving imprints in the rocks. "Ready?" Without warning, he throws his weight back.
For a horrifying instant, I think we're going to die, but we're only airborne for half a heartbeat before Blaise's feet touch the ground.
His fingers fold around my knees, securing me in place. "You good?"
My heart pounds so forcefully he can probably feel it against his back. "I-I think so." I calm my breathing before hopping off his back. "I'm so sorry you had to do that." My legs wobble as I step back, sweeping strands of my long, tangled brown hair out of my eyes.
He rubs his hand over the shaved side of his head. "I had to climb down it, anyway."
I undo the buckles on the harness and remove it from my waist. "Still, thank you. I never would've gotten down without your help."
He shrugs, taking the harness from me. "It's not a big deal," he replies, not looking me in the eye.
His reaction fascinates me more than it should. I can't help it. Blaise has gotten nervous around me before, and I want to understand why. How can someone so rough and intense be afraid of me?
When he catches me watching him, he clears his throat. "You're okay, though, right?"
I nod then look away, wiping my damp palms off on the sides of my cargo pants. The open scrapes burn, and I flip my hands over, inspecting the injuries.
Blaise tracks my gaze, and then his mouth plummets. He reaches for my hands, but wrenches back as Ryder steps between us.
"Aw, poor baby." Ryder cups his hand underneath mine and examines the wounds. "How badly does it hurt?"
"Not too badly." I shiver as Ryder traces a finger around a particularly deep abrasion. "Some sting, but just a little."
He sucks in a breath at the sight of a torn off fingernail. "I think you're downplaying the pain." He draws off the hood of his oversized green jacket. "I tore off a fingernail before. It fucking hurt almost as badly as when I broke a finger."
"I've torn a few off before, too." My hands quiver as I recollect when a visitor used a gripping device to pry my fingernails off my hand. The pain sucked the breath out of me, and I nearly passed out. "This doesn't hurt as badly." I instantly regret what I said as sadness fills Ryder's eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"Of course you should've." He brushes strands of his blond hair out of his eyes. "I want you to say whatever you're feeling whenever you're feeling it. You don't have to hold back with us."
"But what I said made you sad. And I don't like doing that ... to anyone."
"I'm not sad. I'm heartbroken over what you had to go through. But I never want you to feel like you can't talk to me about what happened. I want you to tell me everything whenever you're ready, okay?" He waits for me to nod then turns to Blaise. "Did you bring any bandages? I forgot to pack some."
"Of course you did," Blaise grumbles. "I put some in everyone's bag." He leans over to retrieve a tattered backpack from the ground. "I don't know why you can't remember to pack shit. You're lucky I'm on top of stuff, or we'd be fucking screwed all the time." He shoves the bag at Ryder, and then his eyes fall to the scrapes on my palm. "Make sure to clean those thoroughly. I don't want her getting an infection." He tears his gaze off my hand then steps toward the bottom of the cliff.
"I think he likes you," Ryder remarks after Blaise is out of earshot. "If it were mine or Reece's hands, he'd tell us to deal with it and not waste the bandages."
"Maybe we shouldn't wrap my hands then. I don't want to waste anything." I start to pull my hands away, but Ryder intensifies his grip.
"No way. We're taking care of these. I'll feel like an asshole if I don't. And Blaise would kick my ass." He lets go of my hand then hitches the backpack over his shoulder. "Once he cares about someone, there's no going back. He's an all-in or nothing kind of guy, so now he's going to protect you at all costs, even if it means going against his crazy, control issues, like his need to stretch our supplies."
I steal a glance over at Blaise. He's clutching the rope, making sure Reece doesn't fall down the cliff. There's no way Blaise likes me more than Ryder and Reece. He barely knows me. And if he really knew me, he'd despise me.
"I'm sure he likes you guys just as much as me, if not more." I look back at Ryder. "Even if he does yell at you for using the bandages."
"Maybe." Ryder searches my eyes then sighs heavily. "Come on. Let's get you all fixed up."
Carefully holding one of my hands, he guides me down the dirt trail. When we reach a cluster of rocks, he releases my hand and drops the bag to the ground.
"Sit down so I can play doctor." He flashes me a mischievous grin then starts rummaging through the bag.
I lower myself onto a rock perfectly shaped for sitting and rest my hands on my lap. "I really am fine if you want to ..." I trail off as I flip over my hands.
Every single wound has healed, and my fingernails have grown back to a normal length. The only sign I was ever injured are the remnants of dry blood on my palms and fingers. I healed quickly back when I hit my head on the shelf and when I dislocated my shoulder. At first, I thought it might be that my injuries weren't as severe as Blaise thought, but then Mable tested my blood and discovered my blood is similar to that of the Grims.
I quickly ball up my hands. "You know what? I really don't think we should waste the bandages."
"Would you knock it off?" he asks in a playful tone. "We're fixing your hands up, and that's that."
My breaths quicken as I try to figure a way out of this. I don't want to be a liar, but if Ryder sees my hands, he'll know something's wrong with me.
"I-I think I might be allergic to bandages," I sputter.
He glances up from the bag with his brows knit. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Thankfully, my voice comes out even. "I just remembered one of the wardens saying something about the adhesive on bandages messing up my skin. I think it gave me hives and blisters." It's not entirely a lie. It happened because the bandages were left on for too long. When the wardens finally tore them off, layers of my skin came off, too.
He meticulously studies me, and it takes a lot of effort not to squirm.
"No, that's not it." He kneels down in front of me and places his hands on top of my thighs. "You don't need to be scared. Whatever it is, you can tell me."
I stare at his hands, unsure of what to say. I'm a terrible liar. I don't know if that's always a bad trait to have, but right now, it definitely is.
"I just don't want to bandage my hands," is all I can think to say.
He hooks a finger underneath my chin and tilts my head up. "If you don't want to, then I won't make you, just like I won't force you to tell me the truth. I hope you change your mind, though."
His kind, warm eyes draw me in, and I nearly break down and confess everything Mable told me. But then Blaise hollers that he needs Ryder's help with the ropes, and the moment shatters.
Ryder pushes to his feet. "I'll be right back." He starts to walk off, but then pauses. "If you change your mind, the bandages are in my bag."
I nod, and then he runs off toward Blaise and Reece. I keep my eyes on him until I'm certain he's distracted, and then I dig around in my backpack for the fingerless gloves I brought with me from the East City Post. I find them stuffed at the bottom underneath the blankets, clothes, food, and bottles of water and quickly slip them on. Then I contemplate what to tell Ryder if he mentions the absence of wounds on my hands. But not a single legitimate excuse comes to mind.
I stay on the rock while Reece, Ryder, and Blaise pack up the climbing gear. When my stomach grumbles in hunger, I grab a bottle of water and a snack out of the bag.
I'm just tearing into a piece of beef jerky when a scream echoes from somewhere along the cliffs. The noise triggers an unexpected flashback of m
The images fizzle when I hear the sound of thundering footsteps.
I look over at the cliff and see Reece, Ryder, and Blaise sprinting up the trail toward me with their guns out.
"Allura, pack up your stuff," Ryder shouts. "We have to go!"
I barely have time to shove the jerky and water into my bag before they reach me.
"We need to go. Now." Ryder reiterates, out of breath. He grabs his backpack then snatches my wrist and lifts me to my feet.
"Where do you think it came from?" Reece pants, his gaze skimming the cliffs.
Blaise checks the ammo in his gun. "My guess is from a lower trail."
"Let's hope that's it." Reece wipes sweat from his brow. "If they're down below us, it's going to take them longer to get up here."
Blaise glances at the gaping hole in the ground to the side of us. "Up or down, they're going to get to us quickly if they know we're here."
"Then let's go." Ryder starts down the trail, towing me with him.
"Would you wait a damn minute?" Reece snaps. "We need a plan before we just go running off."
Ryder slows down. "The plan's to get the hell away from here. We can't let them find us, especially Allura."
"Yeah, I know," Reece says. "But running off and hoping they don't track us isn't the best way to do this. We need to be cautious and careful, make sure our tracks are covered."
I open my mouth to ask what's going on, but another scream cuts me off.
"Shit," Blaise curses, aiming the gun everywhere his gaze roams. "They're fucking closer than I thought."
"Who's they?" I ask. "Is it another Tracker?"
"No." Blaise's eyes are crammed with worry. "It's the Forsaken, and that scream is their hunting call."
Terror surges through me. Hunting call? We're being hunted? I've been hunted before. Now I'm being hunted again.
I don't have time dwell on my worried thoughts, because another scream rings across the desert and snaps me back to reality.
"Shit, we need to move. Now." Blaise circles the area, clasping the handle of the gun. He glances up, down, left, right, and then his gaze fastens on Reece. "What's our next move?"
Ryder looks at Reece with the same expectant look as Blaise. Blaise once told me they didn't have a boss, but Reece seems like the one in charge, whether intentionally or not.
Forsaken by Jessica Sorensen / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes