Sunlight

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Chapter 14

I found out what was wrong that night.

I woke with a start, my heart already beating fast. I could hear West and Malcolm arguing in the kitchen, Carrie trying to calm them. I hated being unable to walk.

But before I could try to get out of bed, I heard someone coming down the hall, fast. West cracked open my door, thinking I was still asleep. He was wearing his hoodie and a pair of jeans, his shoes on, like he had just come back from a walk.

When he saw that I was already awake, he shut the door and came over to sat on the edge of my bed, right next to me. I breathed in his smell of fresh air and warmth, filling my lungs of his familiarity. His eyes seemed to glow in the faint light. He didn’t look at me; the first clue to something wrong.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Reese—” his breathing seemed to falter. “I have to go.”

The words echoed around in my head like an empty cave. One big, black cave. The very place I didn’t want to go back to. Back to where I started before I had met West. My eyes were frozen on his face as his eyes finally came up to mine.

They were like blue ice again; too strong for their own good.

“Why? What’s going on?” I whispered. I was holding back my tears but I wasn’t sure how long I had until they came out; me wanting them to or not. I couldn’t believe that he was really leaving.

West never took his eyes off mine while he spoke. “They getting closer,” he said. “They never stopped searching for us, like you said, and Dersa must’ve known we couldn’t have gone far with your knee the way it is. He’s a tracker, Reese. He can track a wolf in a snow storm if he needed to. He’s going to find us here, and I can’t let that happen. I need to lead them away.”

“But they could catch you. It’s too dangerous Please.”

He tried to smile. “You underestimate me.”

“West—”

West put his hand on the side of my face, cutting me off. His fingers were smooth and warm on my skin, sending my heart crazy. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, they were as sad as I’d ever seen them.

“I’m doing this, Reese, I have to. He won’t stop until he finds me, and if he can’t find me, then he’ll come after you. And until he’s dead, I won’t be able to sleep.” He slowly shook his head. “I haven’t slept. I just want us to be together, and we can’t until they stop hunting us. This is the only way.”

I couldn’t hold my tears any longer. They rolled down my cheeks silently and down my neck, tracing my skin.

“When will you come back?” I whispered again. My voice seemed unable to come out any stronger.

He dropped his hand from my face, leaving it cold. “As soon as he’s dead.”

“But what if they catch you? It’s too much of a risk.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I need to do this. So, I’m going to ask something of you.” My heart hammered even more. “If I’m not back by the time you’re able to travel again, I want to you go on without me.”

More tears came and I started to shake, but I couldn’t stop. It was like the beginning all over again. When I realized I had to leave the house alone, without Ethan and Mom and Dad. And now West was doing the same thing. Except, this hurt more. Much more.

“You know I can’t do that, West.”

“Reese, please.” His eyes were so pleading that I almost broke down more than I already was. “Look . . . when your able to walk again, and Carrie lets you know when you can travel again, wait no more then three days. Then I want you to promise me you will leave. You have to find Ethan. I know he’s important to you, and I’ll catch up to you after you’ve left. I just don’t know how long this will take.”

“You mean, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

West didn’t answer.

I didn’t know what else to say. I knew I couldn’t convince him to stay, even though I wanted nothing more than for him to stay with me. I bottled up my emotions for the moment, knowing that they would erupt later, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to look into his face as long as I could—until I couldn’t anymore—just trying to memorize it.

“You’ll be back?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said it instantly, but I had a hard time believing him.

“You promise?” I didn’t whisper this time. I wanted to make sure he meant it. I needed to hear his words so I would never forget them.

West didn’t say anything at first, he just stared at me for the longest moment. Then, instead of saying something, he slowly leaned in closer until his face was inches from mine.

Then he did something I would never forget.

West pressed his lips softly against mine. They were like the softest velvet, warm and wet; the smoothest thing to ever touch my lips. My heart rate spiked rapidly and heat rose in my cheeks. My fingers itched to grab onto his hair and keep him there forever, but I was frozen in place, feeling everything and not knowing how to react.

He held his lips there for a moment longer before pulling away to look into my eyes again.

A single tear rolled down his face, over his cheekbone. “I promise.”

It was him who whispered this time.

He gave me his crooked smile and I returned it, even if it was half heartedly. Then he was gone, just like the shadow he had come in with.

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