Deliverance Page 52

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“I don’t think I’m doing okay,” I say as sweat beads along my upper lip and my pulse roars in my ears.

“Of course you’re not doing okay, Rachel. You’ve endured trauma after trauma with very little time to deal with any of it. You can’t go back to the person you were before all of this started. Too many scars inside. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be okay. That doesn’t mean you won’t be happy.”

I consider opening my mouth to tell him I wasn’t talking about my emotions, but my teeth are chattering now, and it’s all I can do to clamp my jaw shut tight and ride it out.

Apparently taking my silence as doubt, he bumps his knee against mine and says, “Take me, for example. When your dad gave his life for mine, I was devastated. He was a good man, who’d done good things, and he had a daughter depending on him. I was a trained killer who’d managed to get myself and my sister cast out of our village. I promised myself I’d do something to be worthy of that sacrifice. That I’d do what Jared couldn’t do because of me. I promised I’d protect you. I’ll be honest with you—it wasn’t an enjoyable task at first.”

He takes another bite, and I hunch my shoulders, curling in on myself as my body throbs and aches. He wraps a warm hand around my shoulder.

“No, don’t take it like that. I just meant that at first it was a duty. You were Jared’s daughter, therefore whatever happened, I would do my best to make sure you were safe. But somewhere along the way, I started wanting to keep you safe. Not because of Jared, but because you’re my friend. More than a friend, actually. It’s like I gained another sister. And now I’m part of something much bigger than paying a debt to your dad. I’m part of something that matters. And that makes me happy, Rachel. For the first time in . . . well, in longer than I can remember, I’m happy.”

He waves the apple under my nose and says, “Want some?”

I lean over and vomit onto the stairs.

He sits frozen for a second, his hand still wrapped around my shoulder, and then says, “I’ll take that as a no.”

“Told you I’m not okay,” I mumble. My voice sounds far away, and I can’t seem to get warm.

“Oh.” Gently, he wraps his arms around me and lifts me up. “So here I am, talking about healing and happiness, and you just meant you thought you might puke.”

My head falls against his shoulder, and he leans his cheek against my forehead and then swears. “You’re burning up. You need help. Where’s the medical bay?”

“Need a knife.” My lips feel clumsy as I try to form the words.

His voice is urgent. “Rachel, where is the medical bay? I haven’t been outside this room since I boarded the ship. I don’t know my way around. You have to tell me.”

“Got food. Water. Need knife.” I try to make him understand that we have to be ready to escape once we make port, have to have our supplies in hand, but my thoughts feel like half-formed wisps floating in and out of my head like ribbons of fog.

“I’ll get you a weapon. I’ll take care of the food. But you have to tell me where to take you to get you the help you need.”

“Left,” I say. Or I think I say it. I’m not exactly sure if I opened my mouth or not.

He pushes open the door and eases out onto the deck. My skin feels stretched too thin, there’s a furnace in my brain, and the ache in my arm refuses to relent. I consider sinking into the comfort of sleep as Quinn moves slowly toward the next doorway, but a thudding sound behind us jerks me into awareness again.

Trackers. On the stairs. They’ll see us. They’ll see Quinn.

“Put me down and go.” My words run together, and for a moment, he keeps moving. “Put me down. They’ll help me.”

The boots are coming closer. Quinn has seconds to drop me and sprint back to the storage room. Bending swiftly, he lays me on the cold, hard deck and whispers, “If you need me, yell my name. I’ll be there.”

Then he’s gone, and the boots are shaking the deck, and my head fills with tiny white sparks of pain.

“She’s here!” a mustached man yells over his shoulder as he crouches beside me, a torch in his hand. More boots slap the deck, and then Ian and Samuel are crouched down beside me, too.

My vision blurs, and I have to blink several times to bring Ian into focus as he leans over me.

“The watchman went to check on you, and couldn’t find you. Trying to sabotage the boat?” he asks.

My tongue feels too thick to allow me to swallow, much less talk. I cough and reach for my bandaged arm to scratch at the swollen, itchy skin.

“She’s sick.” Samuel places his hand on my forehead. I want to tell him to stop touching me. To leave me alone. But the fire eating away at my brain has taken my words as well. “She’s burning up. Unwrap her arm. Gently, Ian.”

Rough fingers tug at the bandage, and someone gasps.

“Well, that’s ugly,” Ian says.

“That’s infected. If we don’t treat that, she’s going to lose the arm,” the blond man says.

“So let her lose the arm. She likes the idea of sacrificing herself.” Ian’s voice is flat.

“Those streaks of infection are in her blood, and it’s moving up her arm and toward her heart,” Samuel says. “If we don’t stop it, she won’t just lose her arm. She’ll die.”

I want to tell them I’m not going to die. Not here. Not before Ian, James Rowan, and the Commander pay for their crimes. I open my mouth to say so, but my ears are buzzing, and a strange heaviness is pushing me down, pulling me under a blanket of darkness that promises me relief from the pain.

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