Promised Page 37

With increasing fear, Gaia turned again toward the square. More gunshots sounded on the far side, near the prison. Chaos reigned, and though people were running in all directions and dozens were trying to help the injured, the crowd never seemed to diminish.

“Leon!” she called. “Where are you?”

“Over here!” called a young voice. “Mlass Gaia! He’s here!”

She peered to her left, under the arches of the arcade, where Angie was waving madly.

Gaia sprinted forward, weaving through the hurrying people. She stepped around the corpse of man with his head shot open. A guard was trying to staunch a woman’s bloody arm wound. Another round of rifle shots ripped around her, and she flew under the archway.

Beside the library wall, Leon lay crumpled in a heap, with Angie pressing both of her small hands against his chest.

Chapter 22

life first

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO do!” Angie said.

“Let me see,” Gaia said, shoving nearer.

Leon’s dark shirt was covered in blood, so much that she couldn’t tell for certain where it was coming from. Angie was holding a saturated bandana to Leon’s chest, just below his left shoulder, and when Gaia lifted it to take a quick look, more blood surfaced out of a deep hole. Gaia covered it again, pressing firmly.

“Get Myrna!” she said to Angie.

Angie staggered to her feet, her eyes tormented. “I don’t know where she is!”

“I said, get Myrna,” Gaia said in hard tones. The girl recoiled, and Gaia switched to pleading. “You can find her if anyone can. She was ready for this moment. Run and find her as fast as you can!”

Angie took a terrified look toward Leon and fled.

Leon turned his face weakly, and Gaia pressed the bandana back onto his chest wound. He must be injured in other places, too, she thought, fighting back panic. The splint on his broken arm was gone. When she slid back his shirt from his torso, she found another bleeding bullet wound on his lower right side.

“Gaia,” Leon said softly. “Just tell me I got the Protectorat.”

“I don’t even know,” she said, her throat tightening.

She tried bunching the shirt against his lower side to apply more pressure there.

“I guess you’ll end up with Peter now,” Leon said.

“Stop it,” she said.

Leon winced. She looked around to see who was near to help and what else she might use as to stop the bleeding. The sandstone pavers were cool beneath her legs, and out of the direct sunlight, the air had a dusty, dim quality that gave a darker tinge to the blood. The only other people under the arcade of the library were wounded, too.

She bit her teeth into the shoulder of her sleeve and ripped the fabric off to ball it up and pack it against his side.

“Are you okay?” Leon asked.

“Of course,” she said.

“Don’t try to lie. I saw Iris shock you. And they did the surgery,” Leon said. “That’s what you meant about being gutted, isn’t it?”

She couldn’t bear the concern in his eyes, as if her problems mattered when he might be dying.

“I’m all right, though,” she said. “I survived it.”

“I want you to adopt someday,” he said. “Hear me? That’s what I want.”

“Don’t say that.”

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.

“Leon, don’t,” she said, leaning near. “I’m not having this. You’re not saying good-bye.”

“The best.” He smiled, and his eyelids lowered halfway.

She kept the pressure on his wounds the best she could, but she could feel him fading.

“Don’t do this to me, Leon,” she pleaded.

He didn’t reply. Behind her, the noises of battle had diminished to scuffles and cries, but no more gunshots. She glanced briefly through the arch of the arcade to where people were rushing past, paying no attention to the two of them huddled there. She could feel each of his breaths under her hands. Just stop bleeding so much.

She wanted Myrna badly, but it occurred to her that even if Angie found her, it could be too late.

She refolded the patch of sleeve and pressed it to his side wound again. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered helplessly.

“Get married, raise kids, and grow old,” he said.

“Don’t try to make me laugh. I’m only doing all of that with you.”

He winced again, and then looked up at her, frowning. “Gaia?”

“I’m here,” she said.

His eyes closed.

For a moment she couldn’t move. She’d seen this before, with her mother, with the Matrarc. It wasn’t going to happen now. It couldn’t.

“Sephie!” she screamed. She took a desperate look at Leon and stood, lurching toward the sunlight beyond the archway. “Sephie! Where are you?”

She started toward the Bastion, instinctively holding a hand to her abdomen as she ran. Most of the terrace had cleared. A dozen disarmed guards were lined up against one wall, contained there by some of the turncoat guards. Other armed rebels surrounded a collection of white-clad people at the top of the terrace stairs. As Gaia hurried nearer, she found Sephie treating the Protectorat, who was sitting on the steps. He gripped his leg with a bloody hand.

Gaia grabbed the handles of Sephie’s doctor kit. “Come with me,” she demanded. “Leon’s dying. I need you.”

“You knifed me last night,” Sephie reminded her.

“So? You took my ovaries,” Gaia said impatiently. With all her might, she dragged Sephie to her feet. “You have to come with me. Now!”

“Don’t you dare go,” the Protectorat said.

“Come!” Gaia insisted. Sephie spared a last glance toward the Protectorat, and then she joined Gaia. They hurried diagonally across the square. Even in her terror for Leon, Gaia grasped the significance of Sephie’s defection: the Protectorat had lost his power, utterly.

Gaia sped toward the arch of the arcade and flew up the two steps into the shadows. “Leon?” she asked.

He didn’t respond, but he was breathing still. She pressed the bandages over his wounds again, and he didn’t move. Sephie came up behind her, panting.

“He’s been shot twice,” Gaia said.

“I know. I saw it happen,” Sephie said. “He attacked his father and his father shot him point blank in the chest. That’s when your rebel guards were able to move in, but Leon went down. I thought he must be dead already.”

Sephie knelt beside her and set a hand under Leon’s jaw. Then Sephie lifted Leon’s eyelid, and Gaia saw his pupil contract.

“I don’t know what you think I can do for him,” Sephie said quietly.

Gaia was already rifling through the doctor’s bag. “Don’t tell me you don’t have a—” She pulled up a syringe and a length of IV tube. Then she scrambled for Leon’s arm, ripping his left sleeve with one savage pull. The skin in the nook of his elbow from where he’d been hooked up to an IV the day before had already healed with a faint scab over the vein. “We need to give him a transfusion,” Gaia said.

“I don’t have any fluids here. Besides, it wouldn’t—” Sephie began.

“My blood,” Gaia said. “Myrna said I was a universal donor. So give him my blood.”

For an instant, Sephie frowned at his arm, motionless in thought, but then she took the syringe and quickly rigged the needle to a short length of IV line. She glanced over to Gaia.

“There, sit there,” Sephie said, pointing with her chin toward where Gaia could be beside Leon with her back against the wall. “I have to do you first. I can’t get a bubble in the line.”

“Just hurry,” Gaia said, taking her place. She exposed her right arm to Sephie.

Leon’s complexion was a mottled gray, and Gaia was afraid any moment he’d quit breathing.

“Make a fist,” Sephie said curtly.

Gaia did so, while Sephie lined up the needle along Gaia’s arm. Then she slid it under her skin into the vein.

“Hold it,” Sephie said. “Here.”

Gaia pressed the needle against her arm to keep it steady. Her blood ran down the line, a dark color in the translucent tube, like a freestanding vein all its own. Sephie took another syringe out of her kit, detached the hypodermic needle and fit it to the end of the IV tube. Gaia watched the blood make it down to the needle and begin to come out the end. Sephie doubled over the IV line, pinching it to stop the blood flow. Then she leaned near, clamped the line between her lips to have both her hands free, and lined up the bloody end of the needle on Leon’s arm. She let the line fall from her lips so that Gaia’s blood began flowing down the line again just as she stuck the needle under Leon’s skin. They were perfectly connected, with Gaia’s blood feeding into his veins.

Gaia said nothing. She tipped her head back against the wall as Sephie took clean bandages out of her kit, folded them rapidly into fat pads, and replaced the blood-saturated ones from Leon’s wounds. Gaia watched closely as Sephie turned Leon’s body, and added another thick bandage to a long, oozing gash on his back.

“If he can stop bleeding and stabilize,” Sephie said, “I can go in later for the bullets.”

“Go in for them now.”

“It wouldn’t help,” Sephie said. “Disturbing him now would make it worse. See if he’ll stabilize, and then I can try.”

Gaia watched Leon’s face, waiting for some flicker, some sign that he was coming around. She touched her right hand to his arm, afraid to move any more than that in case she dislodged the IV line.

“I’m so glad I didn’t kill you, Masister,” Gaia said to Sephie.

“So am I.”

Sephie worked more with the bandages, securing them, and then she straightened backward and shifted on her knees.

“You’re not leaving us,” Gaia said.

“Do you really want me to stay when others need help, too?” Sephie said. “They need me, and they have a much better chance than he has. I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything more for him now anyway.”

Gaia didn’t want to be reasonable. She wanted Sephie to stay.

Sephie put a hand on her arm. “Don’t let the transfusion go for more than five minutes or you won’t have enough blood yourself.”

“I don’t care about me,” Gaia said.

“Prepare yourself, Gaia. Are you listening? He’s essentially gone already, and I didn’t hook you up for a love-sick suicide,” Sephie said. “Five minutes. No more. Check your little locket watch.”

Sephie pulled the locket watch free of Gaia’s neckline for her and pushed the tiny catch. She propped it in a wrinkle in the fabric of Gaia’s dress where she could see it. Life first. The inscription gleamed inside the cover, and Gaia checked the time: 12:55. She felt a light tingling behind her ears, and leaned her head back against the wall again.

“Thank you,” she said to Sephie.

Sephie hauled herself to her feet. “Are we even?”

“I’m in your debt forever,” Gaia said, looking up at her.

Sephie met her gaze with a regretful, doubtful smile. A voice called out for a doctor. Sephie picked up her bag and was gone.

Gazing down at Leon, Gaia struggled to accept that at least he looked peaceful. His lips were slightly parted, and his hair was messed over his forehead, covering the stitches there. They’d beat his face. The curving line of his cheek was pale against the background of shadow. She ached with a lost, lonely sorrow.

“You impossible idiot,” she said. Why did you have to go for your father?

But she knew why. He’d had to watch Gaia be tortured, and that, to Leon, must have been unforgivable.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies