“I’m not yours to want.” I’m breathing too hard. I’m anxious to get out of here. I’m angry he won’t stop talking but as much as I’d love to break his face, he’s no good to us unconscious.
“You could love me, you know.” He’s smiling a strange sort of smile. “We would be unstoppable. We would change the world. I could make you happy,” he says to me.
Adam looks like he might snap Warner’s neck. His face is so taut, so tense, so angry. I’ve never seen him like this before. “You have nothing to offer her, you sick bastard.”
Warner presses his eyes shut for one second. “Juliette. Don’t be hasty. Don’t make a rash decision. Stay with me. I’ll be patient with you. I’ll give you time to adjust. I’ll take care of you—”
“You’re insane.” My hands are shaking but I hold the gun up to his face again. I need to get him out of my head. I need to remember what he’s done to me. “You want me to be a monster for you—”
“I want you to live up to your potential!”
“Let me go,” I say quietly. “I don’t want to be your creature. I don’t want to hurt people.”
“The world has already hurt you,” he counters. “The world put you here. You’re here because of them! You think if you leave they’re going to accept you? You think you can run away and live a normal life? No one will care for you. No one will come near you—you’ll be an outcast like you’ve always been! Nothing has changed! You belong with me!”
“She belongs with me.” Adam’s voice could cut through steel.
Warner flinches. For the first time he seems to be understanding what I thought was obvious. His eyes are wide, horrified, unbelieving, staring at me with a new kind of anguish. “No.” A short, crazed laugh. “Juliette. Please. Please. Don’t tell me he’s filled your head with romantic notions. Please don’t tell me you fell for his false proclamations—”
Adam slams his knee into Warner’s spine. Warner falls to the floor with a muffled crack and a sharp intake of breath. Adam has thoroughly overpowered him. I feel like I should be cheering.
But I’m too anxious. I’m too suspended in disbelief. I’m too insecure to be confident in my own decisions. I need to pull myself together.
“I love you,” he says to me, his eyes just as earnest as I remember them, his words just as urgent as they should be. “Don’t let him confuse you—”
“You love her?” Warner practically spits. “You don’t even—”
“Adam.” The room shifts in and out of focus. I’m staring at the window. I glance back at him.
His eyes touch his eyebrows. “You want to jump out?”
“But we’re fifteen stories up—”
“What choice do we have if he won’t cooperate?” I look at Warner. Cock my head. “There is no Code Seven, is there?”
Warner’s lips twitch. He says nothing.
“Why would you do that?” I ask him. “Why would you pull a false alarm?”
“Why don’t you ask the soldier you’re so suddenly fond of?” Warner snaps, disgusted. “Why don’t you ask yourself why you’re trusting your life to someone who can’t even differentiate between a real and an imaginary threat?”
Adam swears under his breath.
I lock eyes with him and he tosses me his gun.
He shakes his head. Swears again. Clenches and unclenches his fist. “It was just a drill.”
Warner actually laughs.
Adam glances at the door, the clock, my face. “We don’t have much time.”
I’m holding Warner’s gun in my left hand and Adam’s gun in my right and pointing them both at Warner’s forehead, doing my best to ignore the eyes he’s drilling in my direction. Adam uses his free hand to dig in his pockets for something. He pulls out a pair of plastic zip ties and kicks Warner onto his back just before binding his limbs together. Warner’s boots and gloves have been discarded on the floor. Adam keeps one boot pressed on his stomach.
“A million alarms are going to go off the minute we jump through that window,” he tells me. “We’ll have to run, so we can’t risk breaking our legs. We can’t jump.”
“So what do we do?”
He runs a hand through his hair and bites down on his bottom lip and for one delirious moment all I want to do is taste him. I force myself back into focus.
“I have rope,” he says. “We’ll have to climb down. And fast.”
He sets to work pulling out a coil of cord attached to a small clawlike anchor. I’d asked him a million times what on earth he would need it for, why he would pack it in his escape bag. He told me a person could never have too much rope. Now, I almost want to laugh.
He turns to me. “I’m going to go down first so I can catch you on the other side—”
Warner laughs loud, too loud. “You can’t catch her, you fool.” He squirms in his plastic shackles. “She’s wearing next to nothing. She’ll kill you and kill herself from the fall!”
My eyes dart between Warner and Adam. I don’t have time to entertain Warner’s charades any longer. I make a hasty decision. “Do it. I’ll be right behind you.”
Warner looks crazed, confused. “What are you doing?”
I ignore him.
I ignore him.
I ignore him.
“Juliette!” His voice is tighter, higher, laced with anger and terror and denial and betrayal. Realization is a new piece in his puzzled mind. “He can touch you?”
Adam is wrapping his fist in the bedsheet.
“Goddamn it, Juliette, answer me!” Warner is writhing on the floor, unhinged in a way I never thought possible. He looks wild, his eyes disbelieving, horrified. “Has he touched you?”
I can’t understand why the walls are suddenly on the ceiling. Everything is stumbling sideways.
Adam breaks through the glass with one swift crack, one solid punch, and instantly the entire room is ringing with the sound of hysteria like no alarm I’ve heard before. The room is rumbling under my feet, footsteps are thundering down the halls, and I know we’re about one minute from being discovered.
Adam throws the cord through the window and slings his pack over his back. “Throw me your bag!” he shouts and I can barely hear him. I toss my duffel and he catches it right before slipping through the window. I run to join him.
Warner tries to grab my leg.
His failed attempt nearly trips me but I manage to stumble my way to the window without losing much time. I glance back at the door and feel my heart racing through my bones. The sound of soldiers running and yelling is getting louder, closer, clearer by the second.
“Hurry!” Adam is calling to me.
Warner swipes for my leg again and I gasp so loud I almost hear it through the sirens shattering my eardrums. I won’t look at him. I won’t look at him. I won’t look at him.
I swing one leg through the window and latch on to the cord. My bare legs are going to make this an excruciating ordeal. Both legs are through. My hands are in place. Adam is calling to me from below, and I don’t know how far down he is. Warner is screaming my name and I look up despite my best efforts.
His eyes are two shots of green punched through a pane of glass. Cutting through me.
I take a deep breath and hope I won’t die.
I take a deep breath and inch my way down the rope.
I take a deep breath and hope Warner doesn’t realize what just happened.
I hope he doesn’t know he just touched my leg.
And nothing happened.
The cord is chafing my legs into a fiery mass so painful I’m surprised there’s no smoke. I bite back the pain because I have no choice. The mass hysteria of the building is bulldozing my senses, raining down danger all around us. Adam is shouting to me from below, telling me to jump, promising he’ll catch me. I’m too ashamed to admit I’m afraid of the fall.
I never have a chance to make my own decision.
Soldiers are already pouring into what used to be my room, shouting and confused, probably shocked to find Warner in such a feeble position. It was really too easy to overpower him. It worries me.
It makes me think we did something wrong.
A few soldiers pop their heads out of the shattered window and I’m frantic to shimmy down the rope but they’re already moving to unlatch the anchor. I prepare myself for the nauseating sensation of free fall only to realize they’re not trying to drop me. They’re trying to reel me back inside.
Warner must be telling them what to do.
I glance down at Adam below me and finally give in to his calls. I squeeze my eyes shut and let go.
And fall right into his open arms.
We collapse onto the ground, but the breath is knocked out of us for only a moment. Adam grabs my hand and then we’re running.
There’s nothing but empty, barren space stretching out ahead of us. Broken asphalt, uneven pavement, dirt roads, naked trees, dying plants, a yellowed city abandoned to the elements drowning in dead leaves that crunch under our feet. The civilian compounds are short and squat, grouped together in no particular order, and Adam makes sure to stay as far away from them as possible. The loudspeakers are already working against us. The sound of a young, smoothly mechanical female voice drowns out the sirens.
“Curfew is now in effect. Everyone return to their homes immediately. There are rebels on the loose. They are armed and ready to fire. Curfew is now in effect. Everyone return to their homes immediately. There are rebels on the loose. They are armed and ready to fi—”
My sides are cramping, my skin is tight, my throat dry, desperate for water. I don’t know how far we’ve run. All I know is the sound of boots pounding the pavement, the screech of tires peeling out of underground storage units, alarms wailing in our wake.
I look back to see people screaming and running for shelter, ducking away from the soldiers rushing through their homes, pounding down doors to see if we’ve found refuge somewhere inside. Adam pulls me away from civilization and heads toward the abandoned streets of an earlier decade: old shops and restaurants, narrow side streets and abandoned playgrounds. The unregulated land of our past lives has been strictly off-limits. It’s forbidden territory. Everything closed down. Everything broken, rusted shut, lifeless. No one is allowed to trespass here. Not even soldiers.
And we’re charging through these streets, trying to stay out of sight.
The sun is slipping through the sky and tripping toward the edge of the earth. Night will be coming quickly, and I have no idea where we are. I never expected so much to happen so quickly and I never expected it all to happen on the same day. I just have to hope to survive but I haven’t the faintest idea where we might be headed. It never occurred to me to ask Adam where we might go.