Scarlet Page 28


She saw his chest rise with a slow, tense breath.

“And now you tell me that you left them around the same time my grandmother was kidnapped.”

He rubbed absently at the tattoo, still saying nothing. Scarlet waited, blood beginning to simmer, until he dared to look at her. The portscreen cast a wash of bluish white light at their feet, but it did little to illuminate him. In the dark, she could see only the vaguest outline of his cheekbones and jaw, his hair like a clump of pine needles sticking out from his scalp.

“You told me that you had no idea why they would take my grandmother. But that was a lie, wasn’t it?”

“Scarlet—”

“So what was true? Did you really leave them or is this all some story to get me to—” Gasping, she stumbled back. Her thoughts turned, a cascade of doubts and questions rushing through them. “Am I the mission that Ran was talking about? The one that was supposedly canceled?”

“No—”

“And after my dad warned me about this! He said one of you would come for me and there you were, and I even knew you were one of them. I knew I couldn’t trust you and still I let myself believe—”

“Scarlet, stop.”

She wrapped her fist around her hood’s cords, tightening them against her throat. Her heart was pulsating now, blood running hot beneath her skin.

She heard Wolf inhale, saw his hands spread out in the beam of the portscreen. “You’re right, I lied to you about not knowing why they took your grandmother. But you aren’t the mission that Ran was talking about.”

She tilted the port upward, shining it into his face. Wolf flinched, but didn’t look away.

“But it has something to do with my grandmother.”

“It has everything to do with your grandmother.”

She bit down hard on her lower lip, trying to still the tide of rage rising inside her.

“I’m sorry. I knew that if I told you, you wouldn’t trust me. I know I should have anyway, but … I couldn’t.”

The hand holding her port began to shake. “Tell me everything.”

There was a long pause.

A sickeningly long pause.

“You’re going to despise me,” he murmured. His chest sank in, trying to make himself small again, like he had in the alleyway, in the headlights of her ship.

Scarlet pressed her hands so hard onto her hips, her bones began to ache.

“Ran and I were both in the pack sent to retrieve your grandmother.”

Scarlet’s stomach curdled. The pack sent to retrieve her.

“I wasn’t with them when she was taken,” he added quickly. “As soon as we arrived in Rieux, I saw my chance to escape. I knew I could disappear there without the grid of the city to find me. So I took it. That was the morning she was taken.” He crossed his arms, like he was protecting himself from her hatred. “I could have stopped them. I was stronger than all of them—I could have kept it from happening. I could have warned her, or you. But I didn’t. I just ran.”

Scarlet’s eyes started to burn. Inhaling sharply, she turned her back on him, tilting her head up toward the black sky to keep the sudden tears in without having to swipe at them. She waited until she was sure she could speak before pivoting back toward him. “That’s when you started going to the fights?”

“And the tavern,” he said with a nod.

“And then what? You felt guilty, so you thought you’d follow me around for a while, maybe help out on the farm, like that would make up for it?”

He winced. “Of course not. I knew that getting mixed up with you would be suicide, that eventually they would find me if I didn’t leave Rieux, but I … but you…” He seemed frustrated with the words that wouldn’t come. “I couldn’t just leave.”

Scarlet heard the crunch of plastic and forced her grip to loosen on the portscreen. “Why did they take her? What do they want with her?”

He opened his mouth, but was silent.

Scarlet raised both eyebrows. Her pulse was thundering. “Well?”

“They’re trying to find Princess Selene.”

The ringing in her ears made her think for a moment she hadn’t heard him correctly. “They’re trying to find who?”

“The Lunar Princess Selene.”

She drew back. It occurred to her that maybe Wolf was playing some kind of cruel joke, but his expression was too serious, too horrified. “What?”

He started to sway uncomfortably from foot to foot. “They’ve been searching for the princess for years, and they believe your grandmother has information on her whereabouts.”

Scarlet squinted at him, baffled, sure she misunderstood. Sure he must be mistaken. But Wolf’s attention held her, penetrating and sure.

“Why would my grandmother—” She shook her head. “The Lunar princess is dead!”

“There’s evidence that she survived the fire, and that someone rescued her and brought her to Earth,” said Wolf. “And, Scarlet…”

“What?”

“Are you sure your grandma doesn’t know anything?”

Her jaw hung for so long her tongue turned dry and sticky in her mouth. “She’s a farmer! She’s lived in France her whole life. How would she know anything?”

“She was in the military before she was a farmer. She traveled then.”

“That was over twenty years ago. How long has the princess been missing? Ten, fifteen years? That doesn’t even make sense.”

“You can’t discount it.”

“Sure I can!”

“What if she does know something?”

She frowned, but her disbelief faded upon seeing Wolf’s growing desperation.

“Scarlet,” he said, “Ran said that the assignment had been called off—he could only have meant the search for the princess. I can’t imagine why, after so many years … but if it’s true, then it may mean they have no more use of your grandmother.”

A pang in her stomach. “So they would let her go?”

Wrinkles formed around Wolf’s lips, and a weight dropped onto Scarlet’s chest. He didn’t need to speak for her to see his answer.

No. No, they would not let her go.

She sucked in a dizzying breath, dropping her attention to the streaks of moonlight on the tracks below.

“If I’d known … if I’d met you before … I want to help you, Scarlet. I want to try and make this better, but they want information that I don’t have. The best thing for your grandmother is to be useful. Even if they have stopped looking for Selene, there may still be something she knows, or something in her past, anything that would make her valuable to them. That’s why, if there’s anything you know, any information you have … It’s the best chance you have of saving her. You can barter for her. Give them the information they want.”

Her frustration nearly enveloped her. “I don’t know what they want.”

“Think. Has there ever been anything suspicious? Anything your grandma has said or done that struck you as peculiar?”

“She does peculiar things all the time.”

“That’s related to Lunars? Or the princess?”

“No, she’s…” She paused. “I mean, she’s always been more sympathetic to them than most people. She’s not quick to judge.”

“What else?”

“Nothing. Nothing else. She has nothing to do with the Lunars.”

“There’s evidence that that’s not true.”

“What evidence? What are you talking about?”

Wolf scratched at his hair. “She must have told you that she’s been to Luna.”

Scarlet pressed her palms against her eyelids, sucking in a shaky breath. “You’re insane. Why would my grandmother have ever gone to Luna?”

“She was part of the only diplomatic mission to be sent from Earth to Luna in the last fifty years. She was the pilot that brought the Earthen officials. The visit lasted almost two weeks, so she must have had some interaction with Lunars.…” He frowned. “She never told you any of this?”

“No! No, she never told me any of this! When was this?”

Wolf looked away, and she could see his hesitation.

“Wolf. When was this?”

He gulped. “Forty years ago,” he said, his tone going quiet again. “Nine months before your father was born.”

Twenty-Three

The world spun. Scarlet searched Wolf’s face for a joke that never came. “My father.”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I thought she must have told you … something about this.”

“But … how do you know all this?”

“It all ties back to the princess. Evidence suggests she was taken off Luna by a man named Logan Tanner, a doctor.” He searched her for some recognition, but the name meant nothing to Scarlet. Wolf continued, “The only Earthens Dr. Tanner would have had contact with prior to taking the princess were those who had been on the same mission as your grandmother. People who knew him suspected that Dr. Tanner had had a liaison with Michelle Benoit during her stay. Those theories became more plausible when we learned that Michelle had given birth to a son, with no record of the father, nine months later.”

Unable to stay standing, Scarlet sank to the ground. If Wolf was telling the truth … if these theories were correct … then her grandfather was Lunar.

A flurry of thoughts passed before her. Clues she’d never known she was collecting settled into place. Why her grandma was so sympathetic to Lunars. Why she never talked about Scarlet’s grandfather. Why she had insisted that neither Scarlet nor her father be born in a hospital—the mandatory blood tests would have shown their ancestry.

How could she have kept it secret for so long?

It occurred to her with a jolt that it was always her grandmother’s intention to keep it a secret. She had never meant to tell Scarlet the truth to begin with.

Something so big. Something so important. And her grandma had kept it from her.

“We don’t keep secrets,” she whispered to herself, head sinking as tears started to well in her eyes again. “We don’t keep secrets from each other.”

“I’m sorry,” said Wolf, kneeling before her. “I thought for sure you would have known about this.”

“I didn’t.” She rubbed the tears away. Why wouldn’t her grandmother have told her about this Logan Tanner? Was it to protect her from the distrust and prejudice that could come from being part Lunar, or was there something else? An even more unlikely secret she’d been protecting …

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