We stopped just outside the city so that no one would notice us flying towards the gate. Truth be told, I was a little nervous to get out of the ship, since I had every reason to believe Killian was still angry with me. However, his face seemed neutral as he gathered our things and lowered me to the ground.
“If my suspicions are correct, Exogène officers will most likely be swarming the streets once we arrive. If we have any chance at avoiding arrest, I’m going to need your full cooperation.”
The fact that Exogène was here on Acadia was unnerving. To think that they could very well be in Nou Vil was an even scarier thought. Everything I knew about them had come from what I had heard on the news station in Jev City some years ago. They were a human space organization infamous for meddling in the affairs of foreign planets. From what Killian had said, though, they were much more than that. Frozen in tubes, is how he had described his people’s current predicament. He himself had been held captive in the same way until Exogène’s leader—Admiral-something—let him out to do gods-know-what. Even though he never said they had a military branch, I could draw my own conclusions. Knowing what we were up against, I agreed to put any of our differences aside until we reached a safe hiding spot inside the city.
We trekked through the remainder of the forest before we found ourselves in the middle of a wide open clearing, standing in front of a wall that almost touched the sky. My breath was quite literally taken away as we stared at it. How we didn’t see it while flying was a total wonder to me. Killian watched me closely, but I couldn’t bring myself to look away.
“Are you ready?” Killian asked softly.
His voice made my heart flutter, and I tore my gaze away from the monstrosity before us to look at him. Beyond those walls was the key to my past. Everything that had led up to this moment—from the picture of me and my mother, to the day I met Killian, and the unexpected visit to my childhood home. After recalling everything that I had been through within the past four weeks, I quickly decided that I was as ready as I would ever be.
I forced myself to take a deep breath as we made our way to the gate. My stomach started doing flips, and it only got worse the closer we got. The guards that stood up ahead didn’t help my case. They were dressed in all black with hardly any skin showing. In a way, their armor reminded me very much of what a Grimian would wear, and I was instantly reminded of Hyler. I bit the inside of my lip hard enough to draw blood. There was so much emotion that had built up inside me that was only just now starting to show. I managed to pull myself together before we approached the entrance.
“What do you wish to achieve in Nou Vil?” the guards said at the same time.
I glanced up at Killian and he nodded at me. Hesitantly, I faced the guards again, and said what came to mind.
“We wish to discover our future,” I said as confidently as possible.
We waited. And waited.
I jumped back as the gates opened up to release a ray of blinding light. I hadn’t realized how shaded we were from the suns on the other side of the wall until that moment. I squinted, straining against it to see what was inside. Once my eyes adjusted, I gawked at the incredible sight before me. There were buildings as tall as the sky, people dressed in fancy clothes and glittering jewels, and vehicles that I could only assume were cars. Everything was so fresh, so new. I absorbed my surrounding as we walked through the entrance, the gates, which eventually shut behind us. The one thing I noticed the most was the noise; the sights, the smells, and even the air had a different taste to it. When Hyler had found me in the middle of the street, I remembered walking for an extremely long time just to get outside the walls, but for some reason, I couldn’t remember anything beyond that—the buildings, the people, and even the Wall of Nou Vil itself.
It was such a surreal moment, stepping inside the city for the first time since I was six years old. Killian grabbed my wrist and started tugging me towards a large group of people.
“Don’t stop moving and keep your head down,” he murmured under his breath. “I’ve already spotted three Exogène patrols.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off.
“No talking now,” he said. “Act as natural as you can until we found somewhere to—”
Suddenly there were voices buzzing all around me as we submerged ourselves in the crowd. People were pushing from all around and I tripped more than a few times as I struggled to keep up. Then, I felt someone’s hand cover mine. By the size of it, I assumed it was Killian. As soon as I felt my anxiety start to weigh heavy on my chest, everyone suddenly cleared away. But we never stopped moving. At a casual pace, we weaved through small groups of people, dodging them from every direction. It was in the shadows of the buildings that we stuffed ourselves, attempting to duck out of plain sight. Once or twice, I caught a glimpse of a couple of strange, colored uniforms that no doubt belonged to Exogène. Killian was right. They really were swarming the streets.
He took a sharp right, seemingly walking straight through a wall. Then I realized that it was a small sliver of space between two buildings when he yanked me inside. We barely fit, but it was enough for us to shuffle in so that no one could see us. It was almost completely dark, but the sun reflected off the sidewalk beside us, slightly illuminating his timeless face.
“I need a moment,” he explained.
I arched a brow.
“You need a moment?”
“At this point in time, the enemy knows more about the battlefield than we do,” he said. “That in itself is the greatest disadvantage.”
“Why is that?”
“Do you not remember learning about the American Revolutionary War?”
I frowned at him and said, “The only word I understood was war.”
He sighed, “Yes, that’s right. You’re a Skelt. I forgot.”
“You couldn’t tell by the bright yellow of my eyes or the large spots on my shoulders?”
“Shut up,” he said as he shuffled to the far end.
I smiled a small smile and leaned my head back on the wall behind me, watching him rake our surroundings with his eyes. I remembered when I hated him. I mean, I still do, in some ways, but things are much different now. It probably wasn’t wise to be thinking about this, considering the current situation we were in; however, I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about it.
I shuddered visibly. Gods, what has overcome me? Have I turned into a psychopath under his will? The thought terrified me and yet excited me at the same time. Surely, spanking wasn’t his only method of punishment, though…
No! Stop it!
I bit my lip hard enough to leave a bruise.
Killian’s voice made my heart jump and I quickly got a hold of myself.
“Down the road,” he continued. “There are plenty of old, abandoned shops just waiting to be claimed.”
“The homeless probably live there,” I said.
Then I caught myself. This was Nou Vil, not Jev City. Everyone looked clean and well-fed around here—hardly any poverty at all.
“Highly unlikely,” he said, “but if there are, I’ll kindly show them the way out.”
I raised my brows at him, but he ignored me.
“Come. Follow me.”
We hid among the throng of people, jumping from group to group in order to get to our destination. The challenge was getting into one of the shops unnoticed since there were hardly any signs of life there. Surely, someone had seen us, and yet no one ever said anything. They never came to ask what we were doing. No suspicions were raised.
There were just enough holes in the roof to allow some sunlight to come through. I noted as soon as we walked in that the place smelled musky and old. The architecture reminded me of the shops in Jev City, and in some ways, it even reminded me of the auto shop that I had once called home. Killian set our bags down on the dusty floor as he gave the room a quick once-over. I eyed him curiously.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think it could be nice once we’ve settled in.”
I clenched my jaw and looked down at the ground, lowering my voice as I said, “Don’t.”
“What?” he almost spat. “I thought you wanted to find your mother.”
“I do,” I replied without hesitation. “But let’s face it. How am I ever going to find her? This city is huge.”
“So you keep looking until you’ve found something.”
“Okay, but look at the facts. It’s been thirteen years since Hyler found me. Surely, she would have gone through as much trouble to find me as I am for her.”
“She could be in prison for all you know—did you ever think about that?”
I gnawed on the inside of my cheek. “Why do you care, anyway?”
I froze, and the whole room went still as we stared at each other in silence. His eyes softened as he gazed at me, and that was when it came to me.
“You really do care,” I whispered.
Killian’s body relaxed at the sound of my words. I swallowed the congealed lump in my throat. Now was the time to do something—or so my body I thought—but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe, but slowly, eventually, I willed myself to do something. I blinked a few times, gradually thawing out like ice under the suns. Then, I started walking towards him, which spurred him into motion. I ended up in the security of his long arms, and suddenly I was being ravished by him with kisses. They were different from the others we had shared. They were comfortable. Clean. Meaningful. And to think I had been the one to deny him for so long when he had been telling the truth this whole time.
“Killian,” I whispered against his mouth.
“Stop talking,” he said as he tangled his fingers in my hair.
I felt him lift me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he carried me across the room. Something cold and hard touched my back as he gently laid me down on top of it. My dress tumbled down my legs as he pressed his hips firmly to my own. I sighed, caressing the back of his head as he moved down my neck to my chest. Then, just before he got to my breast, he stopped. My eyes snapped open and I looked down at him.
“What are you doing?” I said quickly. “I’m ready—you’re ready—so what’s wrong?”
He looked up at me.
“I just didn’t think you would give up so easily.”
All arousal was lost. I pushed him away and stood from the table I had been laying on.
“Why do you always have to ruin it?” I nearly shouted.
I heard him chuckle behind me.
“No,” I said, whirling around to punch him in the chest. “Why do you always do that?”
“First of all, you should blame yourself for making me a fan of foreplay,” he said with a dark grin. “Secondly, I don’t believe you deserve to lose your innocence in an abandoned building.”
“And to think you could have had me.”
“So unclean and worn down,” he continued.
“You have no right to complain now—”
“In addition, we are being hunted as we speak—”
“You were the one who ruined it—”
“Got to keep my mind clear and my senses sharp—”
“Are you even listening to me?”
“Every word,” he said, smiling broadly.
I shook my head at him and laughed.
“You’re a fucking psychopath,” I said.
“You’re just now finding that out?”
I grinned and crossed my arms. Playful Killian, I see…
“Well, then, Captain,” I said. “What’s our plan of action?”