Chapter 9

Don’t ever do that again, Kai!” Faye shouted as she tucked a blanket around Lorcan.

“Don’t do what? Hit him in the head or stick my neck out to rescue you… again?”

“Both. I am not your responsibility, and he is not our enemy.”

Kai looked her in the eye. He was so tall he almost had to bend over when he talked to her. He had tied back his long raven hair, revealing large shoulders that bore many battle scars. But behind his warrior facade, she knew there was a gentle soul.

“Faye, I’m your guard. Protecting you will always be my responsibility. But whether Lorcan is an adversary here is up to him, not us.”

“You can’t make decisions about things you don’t know,” she said.

“Then tell him.”

She shook her head.

“You can’t, or you won’t? Faye, he blew your cover and almost cost you your life.”

“Everyone dies sometime…”

“You’re not just anyone. You’re our only hope. And if you lose your faith, our generation will go awry.”

“I’m tired, Kai. It’s been so many years.”

He touched her face gently. “Please don’t say that. I’ll do whatever it takes to bring you back to where you belong.”

“I don’t belong anywhere, or with anyone. I don’t even have a real home.”

He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. She could feel his body vibrating with emotions, emotions she didn’t think a warrior like him would possess. Then he released her suddenly and stepped back.

“I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that.”

She sighed. “So now I don’t even have a friend?”

He shook his head. “We’re not friends. We’re not equals. And you are not a commoner. You never will be. I need you to remember that. It was reckless for you to use the antidote in the middle of the city to save Lorcan. I know he holds the key to many important things. But you weren’t saving him for the greater good.”

“What do you think I saved him for then? Why do you think I slaved in the hospital, even when there was barely a chance he would recover from the explosion?”

“You know what I mean, Faye. I don’t read minds. I can’t manipulate them the way you do. But I do understand feelings.”

She jabbed a finger into his chest. “Is that so? Prove to me you understand what it feels like to have my family locked up in the Heating Ducts.” She strode out of the room.

He followed her, saying, “I’m working on it. We’ll get them out.”

“Yeah, when? After they’ve rotted? After they’ve become nothing but burned flesh and bones at the bottom of the dungeon of this ruined society? You know what? Now that my cover has been blown, the sharks will arrive soon. I’m going to organize a rescue. We get out now…or never.”

“Faye, it’s too rushed—”

“You don’t have to do this, Kai. It’s not your war. You’ve said it before—you’re my guard, and we’re not equal. That means you don’t have to give your life for my family.”

She pushed open the door to the back alley. Their transport awaited. The rusty box shuddered to life as she approached. Ordinary mer-citizens would have to use a key to turn the ignition. But she was no ordinary mer-creature. The energy projecting from her could start any machine of this primitive scale without her even touching it.

“Faye, please think about this. We need a plan.”

“I have it figured out.”

“You don’t. Your judgment is clouded—”

She wagged her finger at him. “One more mention of my feelings for Lorcan, and I will never speak to you again.”

He backed away. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”

Seeing the pain in his eyes, she calmed down a bit. “I have a responsibility to my people. So yes, I will be careful. Will you?”

He nodded and let go of the handle of the vehicle’s door. From the rearview mirror, she saw him standing there, looking out for her. He had always been there for her and her family, through all the ups and downs.

He had been a constant in her life.

She couldn’t imagine what it would be like if he hadn’t pulled her out of the burning ruins and fled with her to this town. She promised herself to keep that in mind and knew she would be forever in his debt.

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