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Chapter 31

A little past four o’clock in the morning, with the moon inching it’s way over the horizon, we came to a stop in a large square. We were somewhere near downtown, surrounded by tall buildings and a large fountain placed in the center. It was as big as two cars stacked on top of each other with intricate designs carved throughout each tier. Though, the sad thing was, half of it was blown away, lying crumpled in the street, like a broken toy.

Wounded soldiers and people seemed to be laying everywhere, some still ready to fight when the time came, and others being treated by medics. The people who were unharmed were standing with the rest of their squads, waiting out the small period of rest they had. The whole place smell of smoke and blood, intermixing and causing my nose to burn.

Cruz dismissed his small squad and led me onward through the crowd. People were just waiting for their next orders, helping others bring the wounded back from the line, and some were quickly eating power bars and drinking anything with caffeine written on the label.

“I think I see him over there,” Cruz said, trying to glance over the mass of people. I, on the other hand, wasn’t even close to being tall enough to be able to see over anyone But I was relieved to find out that West was here, and not lost somewhere with a fatal wound. It made my heart unwind just a bit more with the news. Cruz gazed back down at me and opened his mouth to say something but stopped, then said something unrelated. “What happened to your hand?” He made a grab for my wrist but I pulled it away.

“It’s fine,” I said quickly.

He straightened his back. “It’s fine, huh?”


“Would it be fine if you get blood poisoning, spend the next few couple of days in agony . . . and then die?” He raised an eyebrow.

I tightened my mouth and held out my hand towards him. He had a twinge of a smile as he took it. My hand felt small in his big hands, but he handled it gently. He turned it over and unwrapped the reddened cloth and just threw it aside as a piece a trash.


“I’ll get you a new one,” he interrupted. I didn’t watch as he examined my wound, but that didn’t take away the pain I felt as he barely touched it. My whole hand felt on fire, like the air seeping into my skin was molten lava. I looked back as Cruz started wrapping a clean cloth around it. I clenched my teeth together when he tightened the knot.

“It’s relatively clean right now, but as soon as this is all over you’re going to get that sewn up.”

“Yes, sir.”

He playfully glared at me then pushed through the crowd again in search for West. As soon as he caught sight of us, he quickly closed the distance and inclosed me into a hug. I felt him kiss my hair as I inhaled his smell again. We relished our short time together, somehow knowing it wouldn’t last long. Never long enough.

West pulled back, taking in my face and condition, a frown spreading across his face when he saw my wrapped hand.

“You always seem to get into trouble when I’m not around,” he said.

When I didn’t smile at his teasing, he knew something was bothering me. What was strange, was that my eyes were still as dry as ever; the situation I was in right now would normally have tears coming from them, but I supposed I was just to angry for that. Tears were for sadness, and this wasn’t something to be sad about, it was something to be furious about. And I was. I stood before him and couldn’t hide that I was tense and ready to shoot someone again. Even though I hated it every time I did, I was eager for it.

“Tell me,” West urged softly.

I was about to open my mouth—ready to spill the truth—when I realized I couldn’t. Because West wouldn’t hesitate in turning himself over for Ethan. He wouldn’t think twice about it, and it wasn’t something I would let him do.

“It’s nothing,” I said. “Really.”

“You sure?”

He knew I was lying.

“Yeah,” I said. “Have heard anything about the hospital?”

He shook his head. “They said most everyone got out in time, but I went to check on Seth, but he wasn’t there. Neither was Ethan.” But he added, “I’m sure they’re fine.”

But before I could act surprised about Ethan not being there, we were interrupted.

“West!” Someone called from behind him and he half turned, acknowledging them.

I told him, “Just go, they need you.”

“Don’t go anywhere, okay?”

I only nodded, not ready to lie to him. As soon as he left, I quickly turned to Cruz but my face must have given me away because he suddenly took my arm and led me back through the crowd.

“Cruz, we need to get out of here. It was a mistake coming here and he cannot know about Dersa. He’ll turn himself over without thought, and you know we can’t let him do that.”

“I agree. What do you have in mind?”

I shook my head. “I’m not sure, but we have to get out of here before he realizes something is wrong.”

“Over here.” He switched direction, heading towards the parked Hummers that were still in working condition, and motioned me to climb in. Before I shut the door, I heard my name being called from over the crowd of people. It hurt me to leave him and not answer his call, but I had to do this. I shut my door and tried not to make it obvious as I wiped a tear away from my eye. I hadn’t cried in so long and I wasn’t surprised when that single tear escaped. The hardest thing I had to do tonight was turn my back on West. The last thing I wanted to do was leave him, without even a warning. I hoped he would forgive me for it. I wasn’t sure what I would do if he didn’t.

We were driving away within seconds, but it was slow going until we were out of the massive square. There were just too many people to be speeding among them.

“Could you pull over somewhere up here? I need to see if anyone has seen Seth.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Cruz pulled up beside another Hummer and cut the engine. We both climbed out and this time he let me lead the way. I asked every person we came across but nobody knew anything. They were clueless of who I was trying to describe. After another person had stepped around me, not knowing anything about Seth, a man leaning against a building spoke up.

“Does this guy you’re looking for have a ponytail?” His voice was weak, but I was still able to hear him over everyone around us. I came closer and he tried to sit up a bit more, pressing his hand to his stomach where blood was flowing freely.

“Do you want me to find you a doctor?” I asked carefully.

“Already saw one,” he said. “There’s nothing they can do at the moment, so I either die or I don’t, but either way, I’m staying here until those people out there leave us alone. Now, are you going to answer my question or not?”

I was taken back by his acceptance of what might happen to him, but I also respected his want to keep fighting until the end.

“Yes, he does.”

“Well, then, I saw him but he was in awfully bad shape when I did.”

“He was shot in the chest about a day ago.”

He nodded his head. “That would explain it, then.”

“Did you see where he was headed by any chance?”

“North, across the line. And he seemed to be very determined to get where he was going.”

I turned to Cruz. “He’s going to try to find Ethan.”

“He won’t get too far with that wound of his.”

“No, he won’t.” I faced the man again. “How long ago was this?”

“Probably about an hour.”

An hour was a long time for him to cover ground, but he probably didn’t have a vehicle to help him. “All right. Thank you, you’ve been a great help,” I answered.

“It’s been my pleasure.” He just smiled and gave me a single nod.

We walked back to the Hummer and climbed in, heading north before West had a chance to find us. After about five minutes the streets were empty and our headlights were alone on the road

Just as we had done, our enemy had also assembled their forces.

“So . . . do you have a plan?” Cruz asked, glancing over towards me quickly.

“To be honest, no.”

“Eh, we don’t need one,” he answered, waving his hand. “I never have one and I’m doing just fine.”

“Just fine, huh?”

“Well,” he shrugged, “of a sort.”

I smiled and turned my attention back onto the road. We were getting closer to where they would be waiting and we would have to pull over soon. Cruz cut the lights finally and pulled into an alley, hiding our vehicle within the shadows.

“The sun will be up soon,” he murmured, coming up beside me. I looked to the sky and it was just beginning to lighten in the east. “Don’t worry.” He slapped me on the back so hard I almost fell forward. “It’ll be fine.” He smiled wide, bringing out his dimples.

I tried to gave him a slap on his back in return, but it didn’t even seem to shake him. “Let’s get going then!” I said, putting on an enthusiastic smile.

We walked silently down the alley with our footsteps softly echoing off the walls. Butterflies were fluttering around in my stomach as we walked closer towards the unknown. But not long had past when the sounds of battle came rushing back through the empty streets. We exchanged glances but never said a word, already knowing everything had started up again.

Cruz held up his hand, motioning me to stop, and we stood there rock-still in the middle of the dim street. The sky to the east was slowing turning grey, and stretching its light farther across the open space by each passing minute. I strained my ears to pick up on what Cruz was listening for, but over the sounds of muffled gun shots and mortars, it was difficult.

I stared at my feet and concentrated on the wind and small sounds it was carrying. A small tinkering of a rolling can down the street, a rustling of loose paper in the slight breeze, and then there was something else. There was someone just around the corner, their heavy breathing giving their position away.

I had almost no doubt about who it was.

Cruz gave me a nod and we stepped around the corner, our guns ready just in case.

“Hi, Reese.” Seth gave a halfhearted smile as he leaned against the stone building, his chest wheezing every time it fell. His face was bruised and cut, not to mention his chest bleeding again, looking beyond terrible. His legs were practically trembling as he tried to keep himself upright.

“Seth, what are you doing here?”

“You already know the answer that,” he answered, staring at the ground.

“You don’t need to do this, you’ll kill yourself if you go on any farther.”

He turned around suddenly and I almost wanted to take a step back. I’ve never seen Seth remotely angry before.

“Do not tell me what I can and cannot do, Reese,” he said tightly. “You know how I feel right now, it’s the same feeling thats going inside of you. I know it is.” He leaned away from the wall and forced himself to stand. “Ethan is as much of a little brother to me as he is to you.” He shook his head, his voice becoming weaker. “I need to do this.”

I knew it was true—Seth had always been so protective of him, and I couldn’t stop him. I wouldn’t stop him. How could I? If someone else would try to stop me from going after Ethan, they would probably be laying in the street right now.

“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to tell you what you’re capable of. It just hurts me to see you like this.” And it did. I hated it.

He put on a weak smile. “I’ll be fine.”

Cruz walked up beside me. “It’ll be light soon, so we should probably do this.”

“Yeah.” I let out a deep sigh. “I think I have an idea, I’m not sure it will work, but it’s all I got.”

Cruz cocked his gun and put on a grin. “Let’s get to it then.”

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