Promised Page 31

“No,” she said. “But look at you. Did you really fall from a water pipe?”

His was looking past her now, his eyes skimming the room. A soft curse passed his lips. “It’s night already. Have you seen Pyrho or Jack? Is Angie safe?”

Gaia glanced over her shoulder, and then kept her voice low. “Angie left the Enclave with Mace’s family, and Pyrho’s outside the wall, too. I haven’t seen Jack since yesterday morning.”

Leon nodded slightly. “What time is it?”

“Eleven, why?” she said, glancing at her locket watch.

He frowned at her. “Eleven exactly? You’re sure? An explosion is coming in about ten minutes, and when it does, promise me you’ll leave in the commotion.”

“I’m not leaving you here in an explosion,” she said. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“This will be a minor one still, but it will cause a distraction. You can escape.”

“What have you done?”

Leon gave a tight, grim smile. “A series of explosions has already started by now, and they’re set to get worse. The only way to stop them is for the Protectorat to negotiate with us.”

“He can’t negotiate with us if you’re in a coma,” she said.

“So tell him to let me go. That can be one of your conditions.”

“I’m getting you out of here myself,” she said.

He nodded conspicuously at his bindings. “Is that right? You’re doing a good job of it so far. What are you even doing here?” he asked. “You’re supposed to be outside the wall.”

“So are you, remember?” Gaia said. “Things have gotten really complicated.”

She reached for the binding on his wrist to untie it.

Sephie left her desk and started over. “I can’t have you doing that. Mabrother?” she added, summoning the nurse.

The lights went out and the room was doused in darkness.

Gaia momentarily froze, blinded, then reached into her boot for her dagger and spun to put herself between the bed and Sephie. As Gaia’s eyes adjusted, she saw a faint, eerie glow through the windows, but it barely penetrated the room. In the distance, she could hear a commotion of voices, and then there was a bumping noise by the desk.

“What’s going on?” Sephie asked. A tapping noise suggested she was trying the keyboard of the computer. “Mabrother Iris?”

“Cut me loose,” Leon said quietly. “Gaia. Now.”

Gaia was peering toward Sephie, trying to make out where the doctor was. The shadows near the desk were impenetrable. Gaia took a step forward, squinting, and caught a whisper of movement. A pounding weight slammed down on Gaia’s shoulder. She rolled instinctively into the blow, ducking her head to dive into her attacker’s solid masculine body and shove him off balance. As he fell, she spun around with her dagger, anticipating a second assailant, and her blade caught flesh. Gaia’s leg was jerked out from beneath her, but she took Sephie down with her as she fell. Sephie hit the floor hard with a wordless grunt, and Gaia redirected yet again, swiftly slashing out toward Mabrother Stoltz.

Warm liquid sprayed across her hand, and a gurgling came in the darkness. Gaia gave the dagger a savage twist, shoved him off, and closed again on Sephie. The older woman flailed beneath her, but Gaia grabbed her hair and slammed her head against the carpet. The woman’s body went stiff, and next began to relax, unresisting.

Gasping, Gaia pushed off from the floor and backed against the bed.

“Tell me that’s you,” Leon said.

“It’s me.”

“Did you kill them?” Leon asked.

“Maybe. I don’t know,” Gaia said listening for movement. Her dagger was slippery in her hand.

A wrenching noise came from the bed. “I can’t undo my wrist,” Leon said. “Hurry. One of them might come around.”

By touch, she cut his bindings and helped him off the bed, drawing his good arm around her shoulder. He was heavy and clumsy on his feet, and she could feel him stumbling as they hurried toward the door. She shoved it open to find the stairwell was a void of black.

“I can’t see a thing,” she said.

“I have the rail,” he said. “I know the way.”

“But your arm’s broken.”

When she slid her foot forward, she couldn’t find an edge, and she didn’t want to catapult down the spiral stairs. He tugged her toward him, pinning her against his left side. “Trust me, Gaia. Hold on,” he said, and then she felt his torso twist as he used both hands on the railing. She gripped him around the waist and kept her other arm out before her in the air, feeling the emptiness for a wall or shadow or anything as they descended. Trying to open her eyes wider made no difference at all.

“What happened to the electricity?” she asked.

“I blew up a couple of fuse boxes,” he said. “With a timer.”

“Is all of the Bastion out?” Gaia asked.

“About a quarter of the city, everything from the Bastion up over summit park.”

“A couple of fuse boxes did that much?” Gaia asked.

“They were at a power station. They’ll be able to get it up again pretty soon once they find the damage. It was just to give them an idea what we can do. Ouch!”

“What did you hit?”

“My toe. Come on.”

A moment later, they were down another flight, and hinges squeaked when Leon pushed open a door. Cooler air touched her face as he pulled her into a long corridor with windows arching in the wall to her left. They let in only the faintest light, but it was enough to orient her, and she drew Leon’s arm over her shoulder again. He was panting heavily, and she could tell the dregs of the narcotic still lingered in his veins.

A flicker of candlelight showed around the corner ahead.

“Someone’s coming!” she said.

“I see. Quick, over here.” He pulled her into a small bay that bulged off the hallway, and shoved open a window. He started to climb out.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Gaia said.

“It’s not much of a jump,” he said. “Hang by your hands as low as you can go. I’ll catch you.”

“You only have one good arm!”

She peeked her head back into the hall. The candlelight was coming closer, fast, and a man shouted.

“Hurry!” Leon called.

She stuck her head out and found him already below, waiting with his one good hand up. Like that’ll do much good, she thought, and scrambled out the window backward, lowering herself down as far as she could with her belly against the masonry. She pushed off the wall and fell toppling onto Leon. He crumpled to the ground, and her elbow jammed into the earth.

“Good?” he asked, hauling her up.

“Never better,” she said, cringing with pain, and rolled onto pavement. They’d made it to street level.

He was already leading her away again, moving lightly, and she noticed that he was barefoot. When she turned back for a look at the Bastion, it was entirely dark. Guests, musicians, and servants from the party were swarming in the streets while emergency personnel pushed through. She had no idea where Peter and the others might be. The surrounding houses were lightless, too, but Leon was faintly visible in his white clothes.

He was still panting, and at the end of the street, farther from the chaos, he stopped to brace himself against a building.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve got a wicked headache.”

“Let me see your arm,” she said, tugging at his sleeve. He tilted his head back against the wall. He’d ripped his IV out of his arm, she saw, and there was blood running from the vein inside his elbow.

“You’re ruining your pretty clothes,” she said. She instinctively searched her pockets and came up with the Protectorat’s handkerchief. She folded it quickly and pressed the soft material against his lesion. “It’s a little wound,” she said. “Hold this here until it stops bleeding.” Then she realized his other splinted arm prevented him from holding his own elbow. “Never mind, I’ve got it,” she said, and gently squeezed the nook of his arm.

He put his broken arm awkwardly around her, and she leaned up for a kiss.

“You came for me,” he said.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t think.”

She instinctively hugged him closer.

“What did you expect?”

“We can’t stay here.” he said. “I have a way out. Come on, this way.”

“How? Not the tunnels, please.”

“I had a day here before I was caught. Enough time to set up a couple escape hatches. You’ll see.”

Before long, they were sneaking between the rows of the vineyard and using a ladder to scale the western wall, far from any tower or rampart. They hauled the ladder over and used it down the other side of the wall, to the steep, scabby hillside that dropped into the darkness of the wasteland.

They’d arrived again, back outside the wall.

Chapter 18


GAIA WOKE BESIDE LEON, with her head on his left shoulder and his splinted right arm resting lightly on top of her. As she shifted, his eyes opened, very near, and he smiled.

“Will it always be this hard to get you alone?” he asked slowly.

She curled her fingers into the white fabric of his shirt. “You are such a mess. How’s your headache?”

“A little better. You look very nice with sand in your hair, by the way.”

As she rolled upward on her elbow, her necklace slid sideways around her neck. His left sleeve was dirty with dried blood, but his IV hole had scabbed over. His stitches looked all right, too, she decided. Sunlight was coming over the edge of the ravine where they’d taken shelter, but half a kilometer to the east, up the ridge, the western wall of the Enclave was still a band of brown shadow. Without rising, Leon reached to pull a bit of something from her hair, sliding it down a long lock.

Dried blood still stained her hand, and she wondered if she’d really killed in the darkness the night before.

“I think I killed Sephie and Mabrother Stoltz, that nurse,” she said. Another thought occurred to her. “I didn’t throw up after.”

“You didn’t have time to throw up.”

“But I should feel worse,” she said.

“I don’t see that you had a choice. They attacked you in the dark.”

She licked her tongue around her teeth, trying to work up some saliva in her dry mouth. “I’m not sure I like what’s happening to me.”

He watched her, waiting, his blue eyes steady. She was afraid he’d say something more about how it wasn’t her fault. She’d trained to be able to defend herself, to fight if she had to. But this was the first time she’d had to do it so decisively. At the time, she hadn’t even questioned it.

But now, she didn’t like thinking of the noise Sephie’s head had made banging on the carpet. she cringed.

“It’s confusing,” she said.

“I know.” Leon ran a finger down her arm, to her red bracelet. “Would you do it again? The same thing if it happened?”

Slowly, she nodded. “I guess I would.”

She studied his features: the faintly arching eyebrows, the straight nose, the set of his mouth and jawline. He had a way of watching her with his intense eyes that reached straight to the depths of her, bringing the truth there without a word.

“There’s something else bothering you, too. Isn’t there?” he said.

She nodded. “The Protectorat wants me to donate my ovaries to the Vessel Institute. In exchange, he’ll build a waterworks system for everyone outside the wall. Mabrother Rhodeski’s backing the plan.”

Leon sat up. “Say that again?”

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