Three days of nothing passed by ever so slowly. Most of it consisted of looking through holes in the walls and the cracks of the murky windows, observing the patrol routes. Each day was a different route. Killian said he had figured as much, but it was worth it to study the patterns anyway. It should have been the only thing on my mind. However, my thoughts were burdened by something completely different.
I took to drawing pictures in the dust on the windowsill instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing. On days like this, I allowed my mind to wander. It seems as if that’s all I’ve ever been doing lately, mindlessly wondering about the future. Most of my wonderings ended up being daydreams. In these daydreams, I saw myself with Killian, and nothing else. That’s all it’s ever been for the past three months or so. How could I imagine anything different? Not even my own mother seemed to find her way in the picture. And I started to think...maybe some things were meant to be left alone. Maybe I was meant to separate from her that night. There was a reason I was found by Hyler and there’s a reason why I’m with Killian now. It was my own selfish wants that brought me here, I reminded myself. But I suppose it was my undying need to know the truth that kept me here.
I heard a pair of footsteps climb the stairs, and my heart skipped several beats as I scrambled to my feet. I quickly composed myself and pretended to be focused on studying the patrol routes, as I should have been doing.
“Oh, hi,” I said, pretending to be surprised. “I was just about to give you an update on—”
“No you weren’t,” Killian interrupted.
I frowned at him and said, “Why would you say that?”
“I know you haven’t been watching. Your stick figures aren’t invisible to me.”
His eyes shifted to my dust drawings. I gave them a fleeting glance and sighed, shrugging my shoulders.
“There’s no point,” I said. “It changes every time. It’s as if they know we’re watching.”
“You’re restless,” he said. “I think it’s time you started searching for your mother.”
At the mention of my mother, the old, battered picture of her weighed down on my breast. I had kept it in my bra this whole time, seeing as dresses didn’t have any pockets. Before we left Jev City, I had packed it in case I needed it for reference. Killian must have known this because he looked down at my chest, where the picture now rested. Or he was just being a pervert. At this thought, I crossed my arms and blushed.
“Yeah. I guess I could get some fresh air,” I said, avoiding his stare. “Would you come with me? I mean, do you want to come with me? It would be kinda stupid if you did, but you could if you wanted to.”
He continued to look at me with a blank expression on his face.
“Or you could stay here, since we both know you’re not an idiot—”
Slowly, he crossed the room until he was standing in front of me. I gnawed the inside of my cheek as he stared down at me while he reached for something in his coat. He took one of my hands and placed something familiar in my palm. My fingers wrapped around the handle of my dagger, the same one I had threatened to kill him with.
“I suppose I can trust you with this,” he said with a serious face, though his voice held a slightly playful tone.
“Depends,” I replied, glancing down at the reflective blade.
He smirked. “On what?”
I shrugged and said, “I guess we’ll find out when I get back.”
His aquamarine eyes dimmed.
“I’ll only be gone an hour or so,” I added, slowly hiking up the hem of my dress.
His jaw clenched as he looked down to watch me fasten the belt of the sheath to my upper thigh. Then, I slowly sheathed the dagger in its rightful place, allowing my dress to fall in place once again. Not a single moment passed by before I slipped past him and swiftly made my way downstairs and out the door. I tried not to think of the look on his face as I checked around myself to see if the streets were clear of patrol. It was cruel pulling a move like that when he had been so obviously aroused. But then he had also said I made him a fan of foreplay. As far as I was concerned, I was just giving him what he wanted. I gave the shop a quick, naughty grin over my shoulder before disappearing into the masses, knowing that Killian was watching me from the upstairs window.
All thoughts of him subsided quickly when it became a fight to make my way through the bodies of people around me. The only thing I could really do was follow the flow, shuffling just the tiniest bit to change my course. Eventually, the road opened up to the main plaza. There were bright lights and numerous shops, each with street musicians playing strange music on their doorstep. It felt like the kingdom of the gods, exactly how our elders of a long time passed once spoke of. I wandered to different places, every once in a while showing the picture to shopkeepers or random passersby, with absolutely no luck. While it was still entertaining to walk about aimlessly, I found it increasingly difficult to keep my breathing under control. It wasn’t because I had been running around. It was because I was starting to panic. Which direction had I come from? I forced myself to stop and sit down on the curb. There was no sense in getting more worked up than necessary, so I took a few deep breaths to calm myself.
You’re not alone, I told myself. Killian’s back at the shop. You’ll be fine.
Just when I started to get a hold of myself, my stomach started growling. The food from NaNa and Poppy’s hadn’t lasted very long after arriving in Nou Vil. On the second day of being in the city, we had run out completely. Surely even Killian must have been hungry. I took the opportunity to distract myself by casing one of the shops from a distance. I caught sight of a fruit stand with bizarre produce in the boxes, which piqued my interest almost immediately. Without any thought, I stood and made my way over, trying to ignore my clouded thoughts and frantic, beating heart. Enough people had gathered there, only making my job a lot easier to blend in. I never looked in the direction of the shopkeeper so as not to draw attention, and I swiped two fruits from the stand before I could have any second thoughts.
Damn. I really was getting a little rusty.
I cursed under my breath and started sprinting across the plaza toward the general direction of which I came. Whether I turned right or left would all depend on intuition, but I couldn’t afford to stop now. I didn’t know if anyone was chasing me or not, but all the voices surrounding me faded out once I focused on where I was. I guessed which turns I had to make, and, eventually, I found some memory of where I had been. I didn’t stop running until I made it inside the shop, where I was greeted by no one.
He must still be upstairs, I thought to myself. Gods, he really was dedicated to this kind of thing. I’ve been gone for at least two hours and he was still on lookout?
“Killian!” I called out, making my way up the steps. “It’s not much, but I got some food for us.”
When I reached the top, I prepared to toss the fruit to him, but he wasn’t there.
That was when I realized that not a single soul was in here except me. Had he—?
“Killian?” I called out again, my voice more frantic.
No, no, if he had left me, he would have taken his things with him. Right? I could have sworn everything was still lying on the floor downstairs when I came in.
I heard the creak before a pair of strong arms wrapped around me, holding me so tight I could barely breathe. It was a man, but this man was not Killian. I jerked and grunted and kicked, but there was no escaping. Then, two more men came around, but they never made it two steps before Killian jumped down from the rafters, plunging a knife in each one’s head. As he stalked toward me, something cold pressed against my temple.
“Don’t move any closer or I’ll shoot,” the man said close to my ear.
“Your guns are immobilizers,” Killian stated.
“Yes, but even you should know that a close-range shot to the head could cause lethal trauma.”
Killian’s mouth twitched up into a sinister smile.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “However, I would also have to assume you have it on the lowest setting, according to Exogène regulations.”
“You wanna take that chance?”
Killian’s eyes flitted to me and I gave him a pleading look. To tell the truth, I don’t know what happened next. The last thing I was conscious of was when Killian moved, inhumanly fast, and I was falling to the floor. My head felt like open space, and I didn’t even feel myself hit the ground. I’m almost positive I heard something, or rather someone, calling my name, but it didn’t sound like anyone’s voice in particular. As for my vision, well…there was no color. At least, there was no specific color I could remember. There was just nothing. Then, suddenly, there was everything, including confusion—a lot of confusion. Many questions ran through my head once I gained my vision back. Where was I? What happened? Why was I lying in this man’s arms? Who was this man? No, what was I thinking? I know who he is, but I couldn’t seem to remember his name…
“Killian,” I said groggily.
His name seemed to slip past my lips without any thought. Then, it was as if everything became much clearer.
I had been shot.
“Hush now,” he said. “Take a moment to gather your surroundings.”
I did as he said and looked around the room. The air felt much colder than before. I realized that the bodies of the Exogène men were no longer strewn across the floor. There was, however, a pool of blood from where they had been. I looked back up at Killian and blinked at him.
“I could have been killed,” I said.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” he said with a blank expression on his face.
“You took that risk.”
“Would you have done the same for me?” he shot back.
“Yes, but that’s different. I would have had no other choice.”
“And you think I did?”
I closed my eyes when talking started to make the room spin.
“You’re a lot cleverer than I am,” I continued, speaking in a lower tone. “You could have done something else.”
“There’s not much you can do in a situation like that, no matter how clever you are.”
My jaw clenched.
“I could have died, Killian.”
“But you didn’t,” he pointed out.
“But I could have. Does that mean anything to you?”
“Of course it does,” he snapped.
His tone made me open my eyes to look up at him again. His head cocked to the side and his eyes narrowed.
“How predictable,” he said. “That’s the second time I’ve saved your life and you still remain so ungrateful. How can I ever live up to your expectations?”
It was supposed to be a serious moment, and I did intend to give a serious response—I really did—but I couldn’t help but giggle. He raised a brow at me. I only laughed harder.
“Sorry,” I said, nearly choking on my laughter. “I don’t know why that was so funny.”
“You’re still laughing.”
I expected him to look angry, but instead, his mouth twitched up in a smile. He chuckled.
“Alright, then,” he said, still grinning. “Well, I suggest you get some rest. We shouldn’t take this too lightly. You’ve just been shot.”
I smirked, but winced when a sharp pain shot through my head.
“Yeah…” I said, trailing off.
He shushed me. “Sleep now. We need clear heads to plan our escape tomorrow.”
I didn’t need telling twice. Without another word, I allowed myself to drift off in a deep sleep.