Deliverance Page 80

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“Stop.” He pulls his hand away from mine and stands.

“On the first night of our trip from Lankenshire, I went to sleep beside you at the campfire once Heidi took over the watch. How then did I end up in the wagon with a bruise on my face?” I ask.

“You decided to sleep in the wagon.” He takes a step toward the door.

“And I just happened to punch myself in the face first?”

He stops.

“I got up and sneaked away from camp while you were sleeping—”

“Heidi had the watch. She’d never allow you to get more than five steps.”

“Heidi and Ian were busy talking on our first night of camp. She left her post so that they could talk without being overheard. Since part of their conversation included how fast they could get away with killing me once your back was turned, I’m pretty sure the person they were trying to keep their conversation from was you.”

He frowns. “And you just happened to overhear them?”

“Of course not. I told you, I sneaked away from camp. I had every intention of trying to escape through the Wasteland, but I figured anything Ian and Heidi didn’t want you to overhear was important enough to risk getting close enough to listen. Ian caught me and punched me in the face, but not before I was able to eavesdrop for a few minutes.”

“You could be lying.” He watches me carefully.

“I could, but what would be the point?”

“Because you think you can somehow convince me to help you escape before James is ready to let you go.”

I shake my head. “Don’t you get it? No one is letting me go. Ian was convinced that James had given him permission to kill me once I was no longer needed as bait. Heidi agreed with him. They also discussed the fact that Ian and his father had recently finished inventing tech that could wipe out Logan and anyone with him before Logan ever has a chance to set foot inside Rowansmark and return the controller.”

Samuel’s eyes narrow, but he says nothing.

I lean forward, ignoring the way the movement pulls at the scabs forming across my back. “You’re an honorable man, Samuel. I don’t know how you convinced yourself it was okay to stand by while Ian hurt so many people, but you did. It hurt you to see Ian break. It hurt you to see the cost of something that started nineteen years ago when James Rowan and the Commander got in a contest to see which of them could be the most powerful man in the land.”

“You don’t know anything about how I feel.” He’s working hard to wear his distant, cold expression again, but there are cracks of doubt at the edges now.

“I know you’re more than a man who simply does his duty. You have a conscience. If you didn’t, Ian and Heidi wouldn’t have had to hide from you the fact that I was dead as soon as they captured me. You wouldn’t have protected me to keep Ian from destroying more of himself. You wouldn’t have taken the whip tonight to spare both Ian and me and then treated my wounds.”

He doesn’t say anything, but the doubts are growing in his eyes.

“You try hard to be a man of honor. Tell me, where is the honor in keeping me alive as bait and then killing me? In promising Logan that if he returns the controller, I’ll be returned to him alive, only to already have a plan in place that will kill him before he can make right something he didn’t start in the first place? Examine the facts, Samuel, and then look me in the eye and explain to me how any of that is honorable.”

“Why keep you as bait if he already has tech that can destroy Logan?” Samuel asks, his tone impatient.

“You tell me. You know your leader. Is he the kind of man who likes to have contingency plans in case something goes wrong?”

His lips sink into a thin, hard line, and he turns on his heel and leaves the cell, closing the door and fastening the chain behind him. I listen to his footsteps stalk across the dungeon floor and then pound the stairs that lead back up to the main level of the mansion.

Maybe he’ll think about what I said. Maybe he’ll start asking the right questions. And maybe the next time it matters, he’ll choose doing the right thing over doing his duty.

Or maybe he won’t, and it’s going to be just Quinn and me against the entire might of Rowansmark as we fight to disable the tech before Logan arrives.

Of course, for it to be Quinn and me against Rowansmark, I have to get out of this cell.

I sit on the edge of the bunk, my hands gripping my knees, while I concentrate on breathing past the pain in my back. Even with Samuel’s first aid, the pain is a constant, vicious ache that spreads from the top of my scalp to the backs of my knees. I can’t escape this dungeon if I can’t even bear to draw a full breath. And staying locked up at the questionable mercy of James Rowan isn’t part of the plan.

I have to get up. I have to move. I have to be ready to fight when I get the chance.

The sound of Samuel’s footsteps is long gone when I finally convince myself to get off the bunk. I whimper as I slowly clamber to my feet, bent at the waist because straightening my back feels impossible. Carefully, I take a step forward and suck in a breath as the flayed muscles along my spine send hot spikes of pain throughout my body. I set my jaw, take another step, and nearly stumble when my legs start shaking.

Nausea roils through me, and I gag, but that only makes the pain worse. I take another shuffling step and grasp blindly for the wall beside the bunk as my knees give out. My fingernails scrape along the flimsy, wooden-crate wall that separates me from the locked cell beside mine, but I can’t keep myself on my feet. I scream as my knees hit the stone floor, sending another wave of agony through me, and then rest my forehead on the ground and try hard not to cry.

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