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Nameless, Page 12

Jessica Sorensen


  He turns in a circle before his boots disappear. Moments later, I hear the click of a door shutting softly. Still, I stay underneath the shelf, knowing he wouldn't just leave. He's either waiting on the other side of the counter or just outside.

  Soundless minutes tick by while I remain perfectly still. If I can just wait until daybreak, maybe someone will come in here and--

  Silver eyes appear in front of me. "Lookie, lookie what I found."

  I gasp, scrambling back. He's one of The Grim!

  He grabs a fistful of my hair and drags me out from under the shelf. An ear-splitting scream escapes my lips as I swing my arm. My knuckles collide with his face, my fingernails catching his skin and drawing blood.

  He yanks hard on my hair, throwing me around and slamming me into the wall. "I'm going to make you suffer for that!"

  I bring my fist around again and slam my knuckles across his cheekbone with surprising strength. The sickening sound of cracking bones claws at the air, but I'm not sure if my hand or his cheekbone broke. Considering the strength of The Grim, probably my hand. But when I pull back, my fingers feel remarkably fine.

  "By the time I'm finished with you, you'll be begging for mercy," he growls, cradling his face in his hand.

  I raise my fist to strike him again. Fear flashes in his eyes, and he thrusts his hand against my chest. Pain splinters through every bone in my body, my skin feeling ripped apart from the inside out.

  "This is just the start of what I'm going to do to you." He laughs darkly. "You'll pay for this forever."

  The last thing I hear is a bloodcurdling scream. Then his hand leaves my chest, and I slump to the floor, sinking into the darkness.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Fear

  My eyelids fly open, and I open my mouth to scream, but it catches in my throat when I notice the steel walls, the blanket draped over me, and the guy sleeping beside me. I breathe in relief. It was just a dream. The world, the warden, everything was just a vivid, disturbing dream.

  I wipe my hand across my sweat-drenched forehead and turn onto my side to face Ryder ... I blink, realizing the guy sleeping next to me is Blaise. Confusion sets in. I know I fell asleep next to Ryder. They must have switched places while I slept.

  I watch him sleep for a bit, listening to the sound of his soft breathing. The soothing sound reminds me that I'm no longer alone, that I escaped the channels. I'm safe, and despite how real the horrifying dream felt, it was just a dream and nothing more. I repeat that in my head a hundred times and almost convince myself it's true. Deep down, though, unsettledness stirs inside me, and I can't shake the feeling the dream was trying to tell me something.

  Sighing, I wiggle around, trying to get comfortable. I feel strangely wide-awake, like my deprived body and mind finally caught up on sleep after being starved for years. I feel good. Even my aching shoulder doesn't hurt.

  I move my arm around, testing for tenderness. No one ever mentioned how long it had to be in a sling. Maybe this kind of injury heals quickly.

  Tossing the blanket off me, I sit up, undo the knot, and slip off the sling. Then I stretch out my arm, raising and lowering it. Amazing. Not a single ounce of pain.

  "Allura, what're you doing?" Blaise sits up, rubbing his weary eyes. "You need to keep that on for at least a month."

  I massage my shoulder. "It feels fine, though. Maybe I didn't hurt it as badly as you thought."

  "No. You jacked it up really badly." He flattens his mussed blond hair with his hand before pressing a few fingers to my shoulder and applying a drop of pressure. "Does that hurt?" When I shake my head, he slides his hand down to my elbow and gradually lifts my arm. "How about that?"

  I shake my head again. "It feels normal."

  His forehead creases as he lowers my arm. "That's so strange. Usually, a dislocated shoulder takes at least a month to heal. For you, I expected the time to be longer since you're so malnourished."

  "Maybe it wasn't dislocated."

  "It was definitely dislocated. I popped it back into place."

  I think about the dream I had and then how my eyes shone red when I looked in the mirror. "Maybe there's something wrong with me. Maybe that's why the wardens said I was better than that ... What did you guys call it?"

  "Quercu." He seems to choose his next words carefully. "Even if there is something different about you, it's not bad to heal quickly." He balls up the sling and sets it beside a worn backpack. "Especially with what we have to do today."

  I frown. "What do we have to do today?"

  "Leave." He pushes to his feet and stretches his arms above his head. The grey, thermal shirt he's wearing rides up an inch, revealing his muscular stomach.

  My cheeks warm, and I hurry to look away. I don't know where these feelings are stemming from, but I feel uncomfortable, mainly because I have the most insane urge to stare at him.

  "The storm ended yesterday," Blaise says through a yawn. "Things are getting intense down here. We probably should've taken off already, but we wanted to let you get as much sleep as possible."

  Using both my hands, I get my feet under me and stand up. "How long have I been asleep?"

  "You've been in and out of it for almost four days." He collects the backpack off the floor and slings the handle over his shoulder. "You woke up a few times to get a drink and something to eat, but you were pretty out of it."

  I comb my fingers through my tangled hair. "I don't remember any of that."

  "Yeah, we kind of wondered if maybe you were sleepwalking. Your eyes were open, but you had this glazed look on your face. And a lot of the stuff you were saying didn't make any sense. You kept talking about wardens and stars and some place that you thought The Grim couldn't go." He adjusts the handle of the backpack higher onto his shoulder. "But you'd never say where the place was."

  I frown, confused. I'm fairly certain I talked about wardens and stars because of the dream, but as for a place where wardens can't go ... "I don't know why I said that."

  "You were probably dreaming." He bends over to pick up a bottle of water. "We've all dreamed about a Grim-free place before. Too bad it's just a dream, right?" He pauses, as if waiting for me to say something.

  What does he think? That I know where such a place is but am not saying anything?

  "Isn't that what those burial places were?" I ask.

  "Yeah, I guess so." He studies me carefully, like he's trying to read my thoughts.

  I fidget under his stare. "I wish they still existed. I can only imagine how wonderful a place like that would be."

  "Yeah, me, too." He rips his attention off me to take a long drink then tosses the bottle to me. "Drink up. We have a long walk ahead of us."

  I twist the cap off and down a few swallows of water. "How long will it take us?"

  "Probably about a week."

  "A week? But we can see the city from here."

  "We have to take the long way back along a fault line. Trackers won't go near it."

  "What about the city? Do they go near it?"

  "Not near the station. We send off an electromagnetic pulse every hour or so, so if one heads that way, they can't get very close." He collects another backpack from off the shelf and chucks it at me. "Load this up with a couple of blankets and an extra pair of pants and a shirt. The nights can get really cold out there."

  I grab two flannel blankets, a pair of green cargo pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a jacket, stuffing everything into the bag. "Where are Ryder and Reece--" I turn around and crash into a rock solid chest, almost every part of our bodies touching. Our legs tangle, and we start to trip over each other's feet. Blaise reaches out to stop me from falling, and his hand somehow ends up on my butt.

  Blaise shuffles back, elevating his hands in front of him. "Sorry." He clears his throat. "I was just going to take your bag from you. I didn't mean to ... for that to ... to stand that close to you."

  "It's okay." My own cheeks heat for unclear reasons. "I'm okay with carrying my bag."
<
br />   "Okay, but if you get tired, let me know." He turns on his heels, shaking his head at himself. "We should go find Reece and Ryder, let them know you're awake, and we can go."

  He strides for the door, and I hurry after him, looping my arms through the straps of the backpack.

  "Wait. What about Lex?" I ask as we reach the door. "Did you guys find any sign of him?

  "No." His tone is even, controlled, and his eyes are on the doorknob. "We don't know what you heard, Allura, but we're pretty sure it wasn't Lex."

  For some reason, I think he might be lying to me. I don't know why. Maybe so I won't get scared?

  He unlocks the door and opens it. "Come on. Let's go --"

  An electric zap cracks through the air. Seconds later, Blaise collapses to the floor, convulsing.

  I rush to help him, but Maxx steps into the room, flattens his palms to my chest, and shoves me hard. I trip back, losing my balance, and fall to the floor, hitting my head and my tailbone.

  "That was way too easy." Lucille strolls into the room, holding a Taser.

  I scramble to my feet, but Maxx shoves me right back down. "You're not going anywhere until you tell us what you are."

  I scoot back across the floor until my back bumps into the shelf. "I work at the station."

  Lucille rolls her eyes as she tucks the Taser into a leather holster secured around her thigh. "Don't play dumb with us." She nudges Blaise out of the way with the tip of her knee-high boot then ambles across the room toward me. "You're too weak and reek of fear. There's no way you could be from the station."

  I raise my chin and look her dead in the eye. "I'm not afraid of you," I lie.

  She laughs, flipping her hair off her shoulder. "Is that so?"

  I nod, but when she exchanges a malicious glance with Maxx, I gulp. They're about to do something horrible to me. I can sense it from the conniving looks on their faces and through the electrified air.

  "Well, that sucks," she tells Maxx, feigning disappointment. "I was hoping for a show."

  "Don't worry, babe; you'll get your show." Maxx turns to me, a sly grin creeping across his face. "I'm going to ask you one last time. What are you?"

  "I'm from the station," I repeat, although my voice loses confidence.

  "All right, we'll play it this way, then." He crouches down and reaches for me.

  I smack his hand away and inch to the side, calculating the distance to the door. "D-don't touch me."

  Fury flares in his eyes before he lunges at me, his fingers wrapping around my throat.

  Suddenly, I'm back in my cell, surrounded by moonstone walls, lying on the floor with a visitor on top of me. I know the image isn't real, only a memory, but fear momentarily makes me immobile. I helplessly lie there, letting Maxx choke me while Lucille yanks up the sleeve of my shirt.

  "I knew it," she says, tracing a fingertip over my number. "She's a Nameless."

  "Bet those dumbasses stole her from the channels," Maxx says, his fingers digging into my throat. "We can probably get a reward if we turn her into the watchers."

  Lucille wavers, staring at me with her arms folded. "You know it's dangerous to do that. They could end up imprisoning us."

  "Then we'll escape," he says, putting more pressure on my throat.

  "Yeah, I guess." She glances at me. "You shouldn't trust Blaise, honey. He knows better than to bring a Nameless here." She turns around. "Come on, Maxx. Let's get her out of here before he wakes up."

  Maxx's gaze cuts through me. "But I want to play with her first."

  "Oh, my God. Every time," she gripes. "Whatever. Just hurry up."

  A wicked grin curls on Maxx's lips as he leans over me. "It might be better if you pass out." With his free hand, he undoes the button of my pants.

  I try to gasp for air, but he's gripping my throat too tightly. My face is turning warm, my lungs ache for oxygen, and my eyes feel like they're bulging from the sockets. If he doesn't let go of me soon, I'm going to die.

  I think about all those years I spent wanting to die but unable to give in. Even in some of the darkest moments of my life, I remained strong.

  I'm stronger than this.

  With all the strength I have, I bring my leg up and slam my knee between his legs. He grunts, letting go of my throat and hunching over. I seize the opportunity and raise my fist to punch him in the face like I did to the warden in my dream. But he quickly composes himself and strikes me across the face. My ears pop and my head sings, but I blink through the pain, bring my boot up, and kick him in the face. He screams out in rage and tackles me to the floor. My head knocks against a sharp object, and warm blood seeps out, coating the back of my head as the room spins around me.

  "You're going to fucking pay for that," he growls in my ear, pinning my arms down against the floor and putting a knee on each side of my hips. Then his mouth comes down on mine. But before our lips connect, he flies off me, soars across the room, and collides with the wall.

  Blaise stands above me, his eyes wild and completely out of control. "Are you okay?" he asks.

  I bob my head up and down. "I-I think so."

  He nods once, his gaze skimming over me. "I'll be right back." He storms across the room to where Maxx is struggling to get to his feet.

  "No, please don't," Maxx begs, frantically glancing at Lucille, who's now lying on the floor with her Taser right beside her.

  "You worthless piece of shit! How dare you touch her!" Blaise grabs Maxx by the shirt, lifts him up until his feet aren't touching the ground, and bashes his knuckles into Maxx's face.

  The impact makes a sickening crack. Blood gushes out of Maxx's nose like an exploding can of paint, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, and his slackened body slumps to the floor.

  Blaise steps back, lowering his blood-drenched hand to his side.

  My eyes widen at the sheer brutality and force of Blaise's punch. First, he kicks a hole through the trunk, and now, he bashes a guy's face in without breaking a sweat. Just how strong is he?

  I stagger to my feet, cupping the back of my head. "Is he ...? Is he dead?"

  Blaise blinks at me dazedly, the rage in his eyes fading. "No. His nose is broken, and he probably has a concussion." He looks down at Maxx, his jaw clenching as he balls his hands into fists. "I should probably kill him, though."

  It makes me wonder how many people he has killed before. Should I be worried? Half of me is, while the other half of me feels safer because of it. If the world is even half as scary as the channels or what just happened, I'm glad to have Blaise protecting me.

  "They wanted to turn me into the watchers." My legs wobble as I step toward him. "They said ... whoa ..." I sway to the side as lightheadedness overcomes me.

  Warm arms wrap around me and stop me from falling. "Let's get you to Mable. She's the doctor here. I want to make sure you don't have a concussion." He scoops me up in his arms. "Then let's get the hell out of here before word spreads about you."

  I nod, completely agreeing.

  After getting a glimpse of what Lucille and Maxx wanted to do to me, I understand way too well that watchers, wardens, and visitors aren't the only ones who pose a threat to the Nameless. That some humans are just as evil.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Secrets

  Blaise quickly carries me up the hallway to Mable's room. He kicks the door with his boot, refusing to put me down, even though I tell him I'm okay to walk.

  Mable swings open the door. "What on earth are you banging on my door ...?" She trails off, her eyes widening at the sight of me. "What happened to her?"

  "Maxx and Lucille happened to her," Blaise grunts, shoving his way inside. "I think she's okay, but I want to make sure she doesn't have a concussion or need stitches. She hit her head pretty hard on the corner of the shelf."

  Mable curses, closing the door. "I knew those two were trouble. Ever since they took off to the city, they have all these warped ideas in their heads."

  "What kind of warped ideas?" Blaise asks,
carefully setting me down on a crate.

  "They think the watchers are handing out bounties for escaped Nameless," she replies, collecting a leather bag from off the shelf. "And maybe they are, but that doesn't mean we need to go turning any of them in. We're human, not watchers or wardens. We need to remain humane to our own kind. That's what the posts are supposed to be about."

  Wait ... Does she know I am Nameless?

  She must read the uneasiness on my face because she says, "You have that way about you, like you're terrified by everything yet curious. Anyone who's met a Nameless can probably tell you're one of them. But there's not a whole lot of people who have, so you should be okay."

  "Not after Maxx and Lucille wake up and tell everyone who will listen to them." He meticulously eyes me over. "I want you to stay here and let Mable check you over. Don't leave this room until I get back." He turns around, but then pauses. "Allura, I'm sorry I let this happen to you."

  "It's not your ..." I start, but he strides out of the room before I can finish.

  Mable sighs, locks the door, and comes over beside me, carrying the bag. "That boy can be so intense sometimes." She kneels down in front of me. "I'd hate to ever get on his bad side."

  I nod, thinking about Maxx and Lucille lying unconscious on the floor. "How long have you known him?"

  "Who, Blaise?" she asks, and I nod. "It's been a while. He was barely a teenager when I met him, so probably six or seven years ago. I met Reece and Ryder a few years earlier before Blaise showed up at the Leviter Station. They were always getting into trouble back then. Still do." She rummages around in her bag and pulls out a flashlight. "Not everyone is cut out for what they do. You have to be willing to risk your life just to save others."

  I think about how they risked their lives to save me from the channels. They were willing to die to save one person they had never met before.

  "Why do they do it?"

  "That's something you'll have to ask them. They don't talk about it a lot. It's a private part of their lives, I guess. Plus, they probably worry the wrong people might overhear them and use the information against them."

  I scrub at a dab of blood on my pants. "I guess that makes sense."

  She smiles sadly at me. "Not everyone is as bad as Maxx and Lucille, honey. I want you to understand that. But I also want you to realize that you'll probably cross paths with a lot of other people who share their beliefs. You have to be careful, have your guard up all the time." She clicks on the flashlight. "Now turn to the side so I can look at the cut on your head."