Deliverance Page 32

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Even though I know I need to remain a prisoner if I want to save Logan, I smile fiercely. Quinn is here. Anyone else would’ve aimed for the heart.

“Run!” Samuel yells.

He scoops me up and races for the wagon while Heidi struggles to pull the spear from her leg. Ian drops low and runs up the slope, moving from left to right and back again in an attempt to make aiming a spear at him much more difficult.

It works. Another spear streaks through the air, missing Ian’s back by a fraction. Seconds later, Ian vaults over the top of the rise and disappears.

Samuel reaches the wagon, and I expect him to dump me inside and then move toward the driver’s bench. I’m sure Quinn expects it, too. The only reason Samuel doesn’t have a crippled leg right now is because he’s holding me, and Quinn won’t risk injuring me with his spear.

Instead of putting me into the back of the wagon, though, Samuel races for the driver’s bench. He pushes me onto the seat and leaps in behind me. Shoving me to the floor, he throws his body on top of mine. By making it impossible to hit him without also hitting me, he’s just saved his own life.

Of course, Quinn wouldn’t actually try to kill him. Still, being left behind in the Wasteland with a crippling leg injury is nearly a death sentence in and of itself. Heidi will be lucky to last the night. Wild animals will smell the blood that soaks her clothing and come to finish her off.

I pull my legs toward my chest, and struggle to raise my head above the driver’s bench so I can see what’s going on.

“Be still!” Samuel barks at me. He slaps the reins against the donkeys, and the wagon lurches into motion. I wait to feel the wheels strain to carry their load uphill, but instead, they curve to the right.

“What are you doing?” I ask. Not that I want him to hurry toward the boat and cut me off from Quinn permanently, but Samuel just wants to do his job and live to see another day. Getting me onto the water and avoiding the painful consequences for failing his leader should be his top priority.

“I don’t leave people behind,” he says, gritting his teeth with exertion while he hauls on the reins and keeps his head below the wagon bench.

I don’t either. The thought that maybe Samuel and I have more in common than I gave him credit for makes me uncomfortable.

“Heidi!” Samuel twists himself off my upper body and leans toward the ground, his arm outstretched.

Digging my left elbow into the wagon floor, I lift myself up and strain to see the southern tree line. I start to shake as I pull against Samuel’s weight on my legs. Quinn is out there, somewhere. Close enough to throw a spear and hit his mark.

There’s a blur of movement in the cypress trees. A flash of brown leather pants. A flutter of dark hair. I smile even as tears gather in my eyes, turning the landscape into a puddle of silver and green.

Quinn came for me. I’m not alone. For this one moment, I’m not alone. It will have to be enough, because I can’t turn back now. I’m getting on that boat. I’m going into Rowansmark. And I’m going to bring them all down, because I promised myself that I wouldn’t lose anyone else.

“Scoot down,” Samuel says to me seconds before he heaves Heidi onto the floor beside us. Samuel lifts his weight off my legs briefly, and I tuck them toward my chest, wedging myself tightly between the bench and the front of the wagon.

My eyes are still on the southern tree line. Still watching Quinn move amid the bright-green leaves and the scarves of white moss draping the tree limbs. I’ve made my decision to not try to escape the wagon, but I still want to see his face, to feel connected to someone who cares about me before I go into Rowansmark alone.

A thread of defiance blazes through me, at once familiar and strange. I’ve spent so many weeks lost in a fog of depression and inner silence that I hardly know what to do with the bold spark of rebellion that I used to take for granted.

I’m not the same girl I was when I stood at Baalboden’s gate beside Oliver, hoping my father would come home in time. I’ve seen things that will haunt me forever. I’ve done things I can’t undo. And the lessons I’ve learned are carved deep into my soul.

I’m not going into Rowansmark as a mindless, rage-fueled weapon. I’m choosing to infiltrate the enemy’s city and right a wrong because I’m a warrior, and that’s what warriors do.

The wagon shudders as it goes uphill, and the wheels slow as the donkeys labor to pull the weight. I lift my eyes to the tree line again and catch a tiny flash of movement in a huge cypress only fifteen yards from the road. The lacy strips of moss sway gently, and a shadow slips along a thick, twisted branch, barely rustling the leaves as it passes.

“Tallyho!” someone shouts to the west of us.

“The boat’s docked,” Samuel says. “Keep pressure on that leg, Heidi. We’re almost there.”

He slaps the reins against the donkeys’ backs, but they don’t move any faster as we crest the top of the rise. I push my left hand against the wagon floor and raise my head to see what lies in front of us.

The road coasts downhill for thirty yards, flattens out for another five, and then ends abruptly at the edge of a long wooden dock a few yards wider than the road. The dock is made of thick planks and rests on pillars as wide as the cypress trunks that hug the edge of the river. At the end of the dock, a huge white boat is tied to a pillar, ramp lowered for us to enter. There are two decks that wrap all the way around the ship. The lower deck has doors every five yards that lead into the ship’s interior. The upper deck is lined with trackers, each carrying a crossbow aimed straight at me.

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