And that was where I stayed until dark.
I’d moved outside as it grew gloomier, hunched beneath gray clouds, and done my best to use tools I wasn’t familiar with. Carefully unscrewing the casing of my PLB, looking at wires that made no sense, and fiddling with computer chips that looked complicated—blindly hoping I had enough dumb luck to somehow repair the piece of technology and send an invisible signal bouncing into space for help.
Once I’d poked and prodded my PLB, I turned my unskilled attention to my cell phone. The screen was past salvageable, so I worked on removing the rest of the glass. None of the touch functions worked without the pressure-sensitive glass, and the side buttons merely turned the device on with a soft chime but none of the features needed to call home appeared.
Not that there’s reception out here anyway.
The phone was pointless, but my PLB still held a minuscule amount of hope.
Once it was too dark to see any longer, I grabbed an eggplant, two courgettes, and a small head of frilly lettuce before heading into the kitchen to prepare a lackluster dinner. The other ingredients I’d picked earlier went into the ancient fridge.
I needed something warm.
Something that felt like a meal and could give comfort.
It didn’t take long to grill the veggies, grateful that the old oven still worked. My mouth watered to taste something cooked. The last hot food I’d had were the french fries Kas had made for me in the basement.
The lights over the island suddenly flickered as I plated the charred eggplant and courgettes onto a bed of lettuce, blacking out completely as I turned off the oven.
Holding my breath, I glanced around the pitch-black kitchen. Had Kas done that? Had he freed his ankle and was currently stalking me? About to pounce out of the shadows and kill me?
“Kas?” I inched toward the knife block, doing my best to keep my heart calm. “If that’s you, can you turn the lights back on?”
No footsteps. No reply.
My pulse continued to climb as I pulled a knife free, adding an additional weapon to the one already hidden in my leggings pocket. Stepping through the darkness, I fumbled for the light-switch against the wall.
On, off, on, off.
It’s probably the solar power.
In my exploration of this place, I’d found a bank of panels in a field behind the house. Angled for the sun, clean from dust and debris, they looked well maintained and efficient.
But no matter how efficient they were, they couldn’t create power if they had no UV, and the past few days had been gloomy and gray. Sun had barely made an appearance this morning—definitely not enough to charge whatever batteries ran this place.
Oh well, at least there’d been enough power to cook with. Lighting wasn’t necessary to eat with, and besides, I was so exhausted, I’d probably crash right after dinner anyway.
As long as Kas is restrained and I’m safe, of course.
My heart kicked. Would he hate me for staying away so long today or, in some part of his fractured mind, did he understand how hard this was for me?
Rubbing my temples, I tried to massage away my constant headache. My stomach rumbled, reminding me it wouldn’t just be me who was hungry.
Time to check on your patient, Gem.
Sighing heavily, I did my best to gather my courage and picked up the two plates. Every time I stepped into the library, I didn’t know if I’d find a monster or a miserable man who made me throb in so many indecent ways.
I was terrified of him.
Terrified of my reaction to him.
Bracing my spine, I marched through the darkness to find him.
THE THING ABOUT SINS I hadn’t understood was...they couldn’t be washed away with soap and water. They couldn’t be scrubbed until they vanished or bleached until the scent of despair went away.
They were there until death or until the mind broke completely.
Sitting on my haunches, I looked down at my blistered hands.
It’d been five days since I’d said goodbye.
Five days since I’d freed my family and murdered a shit ton of evil in this place.
I fell to my ass in the middle of the clean hallway, cursing the crush of memories. The unbearable slicing down my chest.
They’d wanted to stay.
I’d forbidden it.
Once Storymaker was dead, and my family had packed their bags, I’d escorted them to the cave. I’d bound the hands of the chef and his scullery maid, trusting them to keep their mouths shut in the real world.
I’d offered them two choices. Live or die. Forget what happened here—swallow their own pain, or tell people. One option meant they could go home; the other meant they’d have to stay with me.
They’d been kind to us. They’d snuck us food when we’d been starved and gave us medicine when we’d been beaten. They weren’t like our master, and I had no desire to kill them.