The Rising Page 40

I could see over the wall. Not much, but enough to catch a glimpse of our surroundings. We were on a mountainside, high enough that I could see distant treetops and roofs of other houses. The surge of happiness didn’t last long, though. While it was wonderful seeing trees, it only reminded me that I was stuck in a walled compound, unable to get to them, touch them, climb them. I could barely even smell them through the overwhelming stink of new construction.

“Yeah, it’s not much,” Rafe said. “Just enough of a peek to make us feel like we’re doing something we shouldn’t. Can’t get a real sense of the place.”

Of our surroundings, he meant. Where we were and how we could escape it.

I stood there, on tiptoe, staring out, wondering where Daniel was, how he was, how I’d get to him.

“Worrying about Daniel?” There was something in Rafe’s tone that made me look over sharply.

“Of course you are,” he said quickly. “Dumb question, huh?” He tried for a smile, but didn’t quite find it and settled for lowering himself to the beam again, breaking eye contact.

He’s jealous.

Please no. Not Rafe.

I’ve been dealing with jealous boyfriends since I first started dating. A lot of guys don’t like their girlfriend having a male best friend. Considering I’d only dated summer boys—and dated casually at that—it wasn’t usually a big problem. A couple times, though, I’d gotten an ultimatum by the second or third date—“You want to go out with me? You stop hanging out with him.” The answer was always simple. “You don’t want me hanging out with him? I don’t go out with you.” No exceptions.

With Rafe, though, I’d never gotten any flack over Daniel. He seemed to accept my friendship for what it was. Now I remembered his expression when Sam accused me of fooling around with Daniel.

I looked at him, sitting on the beam, gazing around as if the blank walls were fascinating. Don’t do this, Rafe. Please, please, please don’t do this.

Kenjii moved closer, whining softly.

Rafe looked up. “You want to talk about it?”

My throat seized. Finally I forced out, “Talk about what?”

“Daniel. You’re worried and I don’t blame you. Maybe if we hash it out, you’ll feel better.”

I exhaled and slid down to sit, straddling the beam, facing him. “Thanks, but I think talking will only make it worse. I’d rather be distracted.”

“Ah.” A flicker of a smile. “Like maybe . . .” He waved at the hoops. “A little one-on-one?”

“Exactly.” I slid closer. “Just not with a basketball.”

He inched back, hands going up as he struggled not to grin. “Hold on. I object to being used like that, you know.”


“I do. It’s . . .”

He met my gaze and his sentence trailed off. I thought about kissing him, about what it felt like, the feel of him, the smell of him. Usually, that was all it took. But now, that quickening pulse took a moment longer. It did come, though, when I concentrated. I looked over and saw the answering spark in his eyes, the amber glowing, pupils dilating.

“You were saying?” I murmured.

He crossed the short space between us so fast I didn’t even notice him moving, and then he was there. When we kissed, I waited for those doubts to vanish, for that feeling to return. It was there, but different. I was too distracted. I had to stop worrying about—

The roof door crashed open.

“Good God,” Sam said as she hobbled out. “Is that all you two do? No wonder she’s still with you, Rafe. You’re too busy making out to actually have a conversation so she can see what an idiot you are.”

Rafe stiffened. I squeezed his leg and looked over my shoulder.

“I’ve been sent to invite you to join us for dinner.” Sam hooked her thumb back toward the door and I saw a guard there. “He’s been sent to hustle your asses if you don’t move them.”

We jumped off the bar.


THEY LOCKED ME IN my room that night. Locked all of us in. For our own good, until they could move Nicole to a secured area. Really, it seemed like more of an excuse to keep us all in our rooms. With Hayley, Sam, and Rafe, they’d had three kids who wouldn’t trust one another to guard the bathroom door. They sure as hell weren’t going to plan an escape together. But now I was here, and Rafe and I were already whispering in corners. Time for a lockdown.

I think they added an extra layer of security in my bedtime hot chocolate. Sleeping pills. Otherwise there was no way I would have zonked out so fast.

My dreams came in fits and starts, as if they were being stifled by the pills. I’ll admit I was glad of that. What I saw was enough—images of Daniel being struck by a car, then Ash running into traffic while being pursued, then me chasing them, trying to warn them, but falling ever farther behind, unable to hear them, smell them, see them, my muscles seizing, reflexes slowing.

Then some cosmic force hit the rewind button, and I was in the lake with Serena again, seeing her pulled under the water, being pulled under myself. I tried to fight my way to her, but I couldn’t see her, couldn’t hear her, couldn’t breathe. I was drowning. Really drowning. I couldn’t get up. Couldn’t get free. The water was everywhere, blocking my nose, my mouth, the smell of chemical lemon, the taste of cotton—

Lemon? Cotton?

My sleeping brain was alert enough to know neither of those scents fit the scenario and started pulling me up from sleep. But it was like pushing up through the water. Something held me down and the more I struggled, the more I choked and sputtered. I kicked and punched until my fist made contact and I heard a gasp. The water receded just enough for me to catch half a breath. It was enough. I pushed through the thick, sticky water of sleep and surfaced.

My eyes opened to darkness. Something was pressed against my face—lemon-scented fabric, the smell and the cotton filling my mouth and blocking my nose and covering my eyes.

A pillow. There’s a pillow over my face.

I tried to claw the pillow away, but someone was on my chest, holding me down. I clawed at my attacker instead, convulsing and bucking and kicking. I grabbed fabric. Dug my nails into flesh beneath. Heard another gasp. The pillow loosened just enough for a breath. When it clamped down again, I stopped blindly flailing. I wedged my hands between my chest and my attacker, pulled up my knees and heaved.

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