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Nameless, Page 11

Jessica Sorensen


  "She deserves to know," Reece snaps. "Keeping her in the dark isn't going to make it any easier."

  Blaise jumps to his feet and paces the length of the room. "How would you know? You've never been in this kind of situation." He kicks a bucket across the room. "You don't know anything--how hard it is to be told a bunch of shit that could change your life and not necessarily for the better."

  "We've all been through stuff." Reece jumps to his feet and blocks Blaise's path. "And you know it's better to hear bad news sooner rather later. If anything, it'll give her some time to prepare."

  "For my death." I don't know why I say it. The words just slip out.

  They look at me with pity.

  "We don't know that for sure," Ryder stresses, carrying my gaze. "You could be different. The wardens, they said you were better than quercu. That has to mean something."

  I stare down at the plate. "I don't know what that is."

  "It's an herb or a drug, depending on how you want to look at it," Reece explains. "It's really rare, mainly because wardens overused it and it's basically extinct now."

  "They destroyed it like they destroy everything else," Blaise grumbles, kicking a crate in frustration.

  Reece sighs, shaking his head. "But anyway, any of The Grim prefer to feed off quercu because it's more powerful than feeding off humans. But they don't get to do it often because it's so rare. The fact that they said you were a lot like quercu means you might be stronger than a typical Nameless."

  "But why?" I set the fork down and drape an arm across my stomach. "What's different about me?"

  "I have no idea." Reece sinks down onto a crate and runs his fingers through his hair. "I've never heard of anything like this before."

  "Rae might know something," Ryder says. "She can do a physical on Allura when we get there. Maybe she'll find something different."

  "I don't think Allura should have to get a physical done unless she wants to." Like a magnet, Blaise snares my gaze.

  I take a shaky breath and tear my attention from him, turning to Reece. "Who's Rae?"

  "The doctor at the station." Reece gives my knee a gentle pat. "Don't worry. She's nice. And if anyone can help us, she can."

  I cross my arms, curling into myself. I'm afraid of what the doctor will discover about me: that I'm different, that I'm dying. What if my end is right around the corner, and I get there before I ever have a chance to really live?

  Chapter Eleven

  The Docks

  After the conversation about my possibly limited lifespan, Reece decides to shift topics and focus on finding out if Lex is down here. Even though Blaise said no one has a boss, when Reece gives instructions, they all obey. The final plan--Reece and Blaise will go search East City Post and see what they can find out while Ryder stays in the room with me.

  "Make sure she gets some rest," Reece warns, putting a gun into his holster.

  Reece salutes him, grinning. "Yes, boss."

  Reece looks unconvinced. "Just make sure she doesn't leave the room. No going out on little adventures. Now's not the time to flirt."

  Ryder rolls his eyes, resting back on his hands. "You're such a buzz kill."

  Reece shoots him a stern look as he slips a grey hoodie on, covering up the holster. "I mean it, Ryder. No messing around. This is important, especially if Maxx and Lucille know she's a Nameless."

  The mischievous glimmer in Ryder's eyes fades. "All right, I'll behave." He lowers his voice, muttering, "No trust at all."

  "Because everything's always a joke to you," Blaise says, lingering by the door.

  "Not the important stuff." Ryder stretches out his legs. "Look, I get how important this is, so just get going. If Lex is down here, you need to get him detained ASAP."

  Blaise mutters something under his breath then jerks the door open and storms out.

  "Be good," Reece warns Ryder before rushing after Blaise, shutting the door behind him.

  Ryder immediately springs to his feet and locks up. Then he twists around and leans against the door with a guarded look on his face. "So, now what do we do?"

  I shrug through a yawn. "I don't know."

  "Aw, sweetheart, you're tired. You should've said something." He crosses the room to the shelves, digs around until he finds a thick blanket and pillow, and then comes up beside me. "Scooch over."

  I do what he says and move out of the way. He picks up the empty plates and discards them on the crate before spreading the blanket he collected over the one already on the floor. Then he pulls back the top blanket, lies down on his side, and pats the spot in front of him.

  "Come lay down by me."

  I warily eye the spot. He wants me to lie down by him? I can't remember a time when I slept in a room with someone else, let alone lay by someone on a blanket.

  "You know what, maybe I should lie down somewhere else," he says, pushing up on his elbow.

  "No, you're fine." I close the space between us and lower myself down to the floor on my good side. "It's just been ... well, forever since I've lain on a blanket."

  "What did you sleep on?" he asks, tucking a pillow under me.

  I bask in the feeling of the softness under my head. "The floor mostly. Sometimes, visitors would use me for experiments, and they'd bring in these padded bed things that had wheels. The surface was cold, but it was more comfortable than the floor."

  "What kind of experiments did they do?" he asks. He must catch a glimpse of the horror on my face because he promptly adds, "You know what? You don't need to answer me. You've been through enough for one day."

  "No, it's okay ... Mostly, they just stuck needles in me and took my blood. Sometimes, they'd monitor my heart. That was never too bad. I mean, the needles hurt, but I got used to it ..." I trail off as a lump wedges in my throat. "There were a couple of times, though, that they ... that they tried to hurt me ... really badly ... and did ..." I inhale sharply through my nose, fighting back the tears.

  He props himself up on his elbow and cups my cheek. "It's okay. We don't need to talk about this. I never should've brought it up." When I continue to struggle not to cry, he pulls me against his chest. "Allura, please calm down. I hate seeing you cry."

  I grip fistfuls of his shirt, battling back the tears, but a few manage to escape. "I-I'm sorry. I don't know why I can't stop."

  "Shhhh ..." He smoothes his hand over the back of my head. "There's nothing wrong with crying. It just breaks my heart thinking about what you went through."

  I press my cheek to his chest as tears stream down my face and soak his shirt. I want to stop crying, but now that I've started, I can't seem to stop. All the fear, desperation, and hopelessness I bottled up comes pouring out of me in violent, shoulder-heaving waves.

  I don't know how long I sob into Ryder's shirt before my eyes finally start to dry. Minutes? Hours? However long, Ryder holds me in his arms the entire time.

  "Better?" he asks when I move back.

  I sniffle. "A little bit." I dry my cheeks with my hand. "I'm sorry I did that." Now that I stopped crying, I feel embarrassed for doing it. "I should be stronger."

  "Hey," he angles his head down as he tilts my chin up, and our gazes collide. "Crying doesn't make you weak. In fact, it makes you strong. Some people refuse to deal with how they're feeling, and when you bottle shit up like that, it can wear on a person."

  I nod like I understand, but the reality is that I don't understand a lot of stuff.

  "I just wish I didn't feel so ... overwhelmed."

  "It'll get easier. I promise." He grazes his knuckles across my cheek as he deliberates something. "When I first was brought to the station, I felt the same way. I was seven years old, and I spent most of my life living at the docks. Being on land like that, it took a lot of getting used to."

  "What are the docks?"

  "They're these wooden platforms built on mostly lakes, although I've heard rumors that there's some hidden out on the ocean. They're small and crammed with a lot of people. It's supposed
to be a safe place--watchers don't patrol on water too frequently."

  "It seems like there's a lot of different places out here, with a lot of different people. Like strays, and now the docks... Blaise told me about the Forsaken."

  "There is," he nods, agreeing. "And while I'm not exactly sure why, most of the legends say it happened when The Grim showed up. Everyone just sort of scattered and took refuge anywhere they could. Each group and place took on a different way of life to try to survive. Some were more successful than others. From what I heard, burials were the best, most peaceful, and well hidden places, but they don't exist anymore. At least, that's what people say."

  "What about the docks?" I ask. "What was it like there?"

  "Not great." He sighs with a miserable expression on his face. "The only way off the docks is by boat, and hardly anyone is allowed to leave unless they're older and volunteer to go and collect food. It felt more like a prison than anything."

  "Then how'd you get off?"

  "One day, I decided I was tired of being trapped, so I jumped into the water and swam until I reached the shore. It took forever, and I almost drowned a couple of times."

  "That's really brave," I tell him. "I don't think I could've done it."

  "I think you could've," he disagrees. "I saw your eyes the second you decided to let me take those cuffs off you."

  "Saw what?"

  "Courage. You'd be surprised how many people give up, just bow down and don't try to fight back. You were ready to fight the second I took those cuffs off you. You knew how much danger you were going to be in, yet you faced it head on. And then the thing with the Tracker." He grins proudly. "You didn't even scream. Most people nearly shit their pants the first time they see a Tracker."

  "I wanted to scream," I admit. "I was really scared."

  "Being scared isn't bad. It's how you face the fear."

  "How did you face the fear when you jumped into the water?"

  "It was hard." He rests a hand on my hip. "When I was in the water and the waves were coming in, I thought about giving up. I didn't have a family, so it would've been pretty easy."

  "But you didn't."

  "No, I didn't. I fought my way to shore and lived there for about three months, surviving on fish and water until a group from the station stumbled across me. To this day, I can't stand the sight of fish."

  "I've never eaten fish before." I wiggle around, trying to get comfortable as exhaustion creeps up on me. "Is it gross?"

  "After eating it for three months straight, it is." He draws soft, soothing circles on my hip with his fingertip. "But you know what? I think you should try it. You should be able to eat and drink and do whatever you want."

  Because I'm dying? I don't say it aloud, because I don't want to dampen his mood. Instead, I ask, "What's Leviter Station look like?"

  "I can't wait to show it to you. It's so amazing, Allura." Excitement buzzes off him. "The technology is fucking amazing, and the building has a digital screen around to make it always look vacant. If you go up to the roof, you get a clear view of the night sky. And the people there are nice."

  I tuck my hand under my cheek as my eyelids grow heavy. "Nicer than Mable and Zaire?"

  He cocks a brow. "You met Zaire?"

  I nod, yawning. "He gave me a cupcake. It was really good." I yawn again, my eyelids closing. "Ryder, why do you think ...?" I lose my train of thought as sleepiness overcomes me. I fight the urge to go to sleep, scared that I'll doze off and never wake up.

  "Shhh ..." Ryder whispers. "Go to sleep. I won't let anything happen to you."

  I swear I feel his lips brush my cheek before I surrender to exhaustion.

  Chapter Twelve

  Dreaming

  Luminous silver and purple stars cut the midnight sky like shattered glass. The moon gleams vibrantly in the center, begging to be seen. A lazy breeze nips at my cheeks and sends goose bumps sprouting across my skin. I shiver, but I don't look away from the sky, transfixed by the beauty.

  "It's been so long," I whisper with my chin angled up. "I forgot how pretty you looked."

  "Talking to the sky again, Allura?"

  I startle, whirling around and nearly toppling off the deck. Standing behind me is a guy wearing a dark suit jacket over a vest and tie along with a wool hat. He looks around my age, tall, with an air of confidence about him. He's smiling, but something seems off about him ... or familiar.

  He rocks back on his heels, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "My ma sent me down here to get you. It's getting late, and it's time for supper."

  "Um ..." I start to back away from him.

  He rolls his eyes and snags ahold of my hand. "Come on. She'll be upset if we don't make it home soon." He tows me along with him, trotting down the stairs and hurrying down a vacant dirt road lined with gas lamps and two-story, brick buildings.

  I try to keep up with him, but I keep tripping over the bottom of the ridiculously long and puffy, grey and black polka dot dress I'm wearing. The high collar makes my neck itchy, and the cinched waist is so tight I can scarcely breathe.

  "Where are we going?" I ask, out of breath.

  "I already told you," he says from over his shoulder.

  "To your house?" I ask, and he nods.

  I gather the dress in my free hand and glance around the abandoned street. While this place doesn't resemble the world with the bleeding red sky, the peaceful tranquility carries familiarity.

  "Where are we exactly?" And who are you? I want to tack on, but I don't.

  He slows down and strolls to the side of me with a spring in his walk. "You're a strange girl, Allura. Sometimes, I don't understand your humor." He smiles warmly at me. "I like you, though."

  "I ..." I have no idea how to respond.

  How does he know me, yet I can't place him? The answer is on the tip of my tongue, like a nearly forgotten memory just out of grasp.

  His brows furrow. "Are you feeling all right tonight? You seem ... a little distant."

  I press my hand to my forehead. "I'm fine. I just have a headache."

  He lets go of my hand with concern in his eyes. "Can you walk?"

  I nod. "I'm fine. I promise." But I'm not fine. I have no idea where I am or who this guy is.

  He seems torn as he starts down the road again, gently pulling me along with him. We walk down the street silently, holding hands. He keeps giving me sideways glances and smiles, like the sight of me makes him happy. I want to be happy, too, and enjoy this time-warped place, but I'm too terrified I'll never figure out where I am.

  "What time is it?" There isn't a single car or person in sight. Is it that late?

  The guy doesn't answer, his hand falling from mine. A disconcerting chill creeps up my spine, and I tear my attention off the buildings then instantly slam to a stop.

  He's gone, vanished into thin air.

  "Hello," I call out as I turn in a circle.

  He has to be close by. Maybe he stepped into one of the stores, although none of them look open. Dammit! I don't even know his name, but he knew mine. It feels like I might know his, though, if I dig deeper into my mind--

  A crash comes from behind me, and I nearly trip over my dress as I spin around. In the middle of the street not too far away from me, I can make out the outline of what looks like a person lying in the street. They aren't moving or making any noise. Worried it might be the guy, I rush forward to help him.

  "Are you okay?" I ask as I reach him. "I didn't know where ..." I gasp, slapping my hand over my mouth.

  His eyes are open, his limbs slack, and blood drips out of an open wound on his throat.

  "No. No. No. No." I back away, tears stinging my eyes.

  "Such a sad, pathetic race the humans are. How easily they break." A broad figure emerges from an alleyway nestled between two buildings. "I've been looking all over for you." His deep voice slides over me like thick oil.

  Every bone in my body begs me to run, so I take off, running down the street.
r />   "You're only making this worse!" the stranger yells. "Just come back and surrender, and this will all be over!"

  Sweat beads my skin as I sprint past the buildings and stores, unsure where to go. Every place looks closed and locked up.

  "Help!" I shout as I run.

  Laughter hits my back. "Allura." His voice sounds alarmingly close. "You can't keep outrunning me."

  Footsteps hammer against the dirt as the stranger closes in on me. Between the uncomfortable shoes and the too long dress, gaining speed is impossible.

  In a desperate decision, I make a sharp left and sprint up the front stairs of a building. The doorknob easily twists, and I rush inside, slamming the door behind me. I search for a hiding place as I trip farther into the store.

  There's a door at the back and a counter along the far left wall that looks like the one Zaire was behind. But I don't think this place is like the post. The building is dated and quiet, like the rest of the world isn't so scary.

  But it is! Even here, I'm being chased and hunted.

  I stumble around tables and chairs and dash behind the counter. A low shelf runs along the floor, leaving just enough space for a person to slip underneath. I lie flat on my back and scoot underneath the shelf, tucking in as much of my dress as I can.

  "I know you came in here," he says as the door creaks opens. "You're only making this hard on yourself."

  I smash my lips together and hold perfectly still.

  "Allura," he singsongs. "When are you going to give up? You've been running forever. Aren't you tired?"

  I don't know what he's talking about, why he thinks I've been running from him for forever. I don't even know who he is.

  "I know you think this is unfair, but you should consider it an honor." His boots appear right in front of my face.

  Terror slashes through me as I inch farther under the shelf and cover my mouth with my hand. Somehow, I know, if he finds me, he'll hurt me. Oh, God, please don't let him see me.

  "What you are ... Most would kill for the power you have." He walks back and forth in front of the shelf, as if taunting me. "You know I'm going to find you. I've done it before." He stops in front of me again.

  I don't move, don't breathe.

  "Allura, Allura, the girl who's cursed," he sings. "Just surrender to what you are, and all your pain will go away."