Deliverance Page 104

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When we reach the ground, Frankie takes me off Logan’s back so that Logan can drop down from the last branch. My cloak slips from my shoulders and falls to my feet. I lean against Frankie’s big chest for a moment, then Nola steps forward and gently lifts the back of my bloodstained tunic, and Frankie swears viciously.

“Who did this? Ian? I’ll tear him apart limb from limb.”

“Not Ian.” I cringe as Nola’s fingers skim over my healing wounds. “James Rowan. This was my pain atonement for not taking the device back to them when I first found it. And I think he added extra lashes because I wasn’t properly respectful to him and insisted on calling him a murderer.”

“That’s my girl,” Logan murmurs, but there’s a distance in his voice that wasn’t there before he saw my back. A coldness that makes me shrivel a little bit inside. I knew my back would be horribly scarred, but I’d convinced myself Logan wouldn’t care.

Now I’m not so sure. His eyes darken when he looks at me, and when I catch his gaze, he looks away.

“This needs cleaning. I’m going to look for plants to use,” Nola says.

“I’ll help.” Smithson gives me a tiny smile and then follows Nola into the woods.

“Where’s Quinn?” The words burst from Willow as if she’d been trying hard to hold them back for as long as possible. I realize that her restraint—her choice to help me down the tree and to hold her tongue until Nola had checked out my wounds—isn’t like the Willow I first met.

“He’s inside Rowansmark.” I realize my mistake as Adam wraps a protective arm around Willow while her face blanches. “Not in the dungeon! He wasn’t caught or whipped or anything. He’s fine. In fact, he’s become quite the revolutionary.” Quickly, I tell them about how Quinn confronted Ian and pretended to die so that he could give me a knife, how he followed me onto the boat, and then how he’s waged a campaign of fire against Rowansmark’s important military buildings.

Willow’s brows rise. “My brother is burning down buildings?”

“Apparently.”

She blinks and then shakes her head. “Wonders never cease. Well, we have to go back into the city and get him. How did you escape?”

“I climbed out through the sewer system.”

“Perfect. We’ll go back through tomorrow.” Willow nods as if it’s settled, and I cut my eyes toward Logan, but he’s staring toward Rowansmark.

Frankie looks between me and Logan, and then says, “Willow, you and Adam go find us something to eat. I’ll set up camp somewhere down there.” He gestures toward the south and starts walking.

Willow frowns at Logan, who is still staring at Rowansmark as if he’s forgotten we’re with him, and opens her mouth as if to say something, but Adam hooks his arm through hers and pulls her away before she can speak.

I wait for a moment, hoping Logan will look at me. Speak to me. But he stands motionless, shoulders stiff, watching the city.

“We might as well just say it so that it isn’t awkward.” My voice sounds calm, but hurt throbs beneath my breastbone as he slowly turns to look at me.

“I’m not sure I want to talk about it.” His voice is quiet, and he won’t hold my gaze.

A spark of anger flames to life inside of me, and I move toward him, wincing as my back protests. “Well, it isn’t going to go away, so I don’t see how ignoring it does any good.”

A muscle in his jaw clenches, and he lifts his gaze to mine. Misery is etched in his eyes, and he looks away again. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this.”

I cross my arms over my chest. It hurts, but I manage. “You could just come right out and say, ‘Wow, Rachel, between your back and your arm, you’re really scarred, and I don’t find you pretty anymore.’”

His gaze whips up to mine and stays there. “Excuse me?”

I bite my lip to keep it from trembling. “I saw the difference in you. You were so happy to see me until you saw my scars, and then you got all distant, and I get it. It looks bad. But you know what? I earned those. Every one of them. I’m not the same girl you fell in love with back in Baalboden. I’ve got scars inside and out, and a lot of it isn’t pretty. If you can’t handle that without suddenly being unable to look me in the eye—”

He takes two strides forward, grips my upper arms, and pulls me against him. Hard. A dangerous light gleams in his eyes as he bends his neck and kisses me. Something in me relaxes.

When he pulls back, he says, “Do you really think your scars make you less beautiful to me?”

“Well . . . yes.”

“When I see those scars, I see courage. The kind of courage most people only dream of having. I see proof that the girl I love is fierce and strong and unshakable when it really matters. Your scars are beautiful because they’re part of you, Rachel.”

Before he can kiss me again, I ask, “So then what happened?”

His expression becomes distant again, and I smack his shoulder lightly. “Stop doing that. Stop going inside your head and shutting me out. Just tell me.”

He takes a deep breath and meets my eyes. “Ever since I learned who Ian was—who I was—I feel like who I am and where I come from contributed to the awful things that have happened.” He lets go of me. “Like your scars. If Ian hadn’t wanted to hurt me, you wouldn’t have been burned or whipped. I’m not saying I’m responsible. I’m saying I know that who I am is wrapped up in everything you’ve lost. Your dad, Oliver, our city, Sylph . . . I don’t know if you can look at me without being reminded of that. And if you can’t, then—”

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