Scarlet Page 42


He flinched again, but didn’t release her. Didn’t even look at her.

“You traitor! You bastard! Let go of me!”

She’d lifted her knee for another backward kick when he obeyed, releasing her. She collapsed forward with a yelp.

Scarlet scurried away, clenching her jaw. Her knees throbbed and she had to use the wall to pull herself back to standing. She swung around to face him. Her stomach roiled and she was sure she would be sick with loathing and disgust and fury.

“What?” she yelled. “What do you want?”

Wolf scrubbed the spit from his chin with his wrist. “I had to see you.”

“Why? So you could gloat over what a fool you made me out to be? How easy it was to convince me that you—” A shudder ripped through her. “I can’t believe I let you touch me.” She squirmed, wiping her hands down her arms to dispel the memory. “Go away! Just leave me alone!”

Wolf didn’t move, and didn’t speak again for a long time. Spinning away, Scarlet crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the wall, shaking.

“I lied to you about a lot of things,” he finally said.

She snorted.

“But I meant every apology.”

She scowled, seeing bright spots on the wall.

“I never wanted to lie to you, or frighten you, or … and I tried, in the train…”

“Don’t you dare.” She faced him again, digging her nails into her arms to keep from lashing out and making an idiot of herself again. “Don’t you even think about bringing that up, or trying to justify what you did to me. What your people have done to my grandmother!”

“Scarlet—” He took a step toward her but she threw her hands up and backed away until her calves collided with the mattress.

“Don’t come near me. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to listen to you. I would rather die than ever be touched by you again.”

She saw a gulp straining against his throat. Hurt flashed across his face but it only served to make her angrier.

Wolf cast a glance toward the door and Scarlet followed the look, noting that her usual guard was waiting outside, watching them as if they were a popular drama on the netscreens. Her stomach twisted.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Scarlet,” Wolf said, turning back to her. His voice had lost the edge of regret and was all business and cruelty again. “Because I didn’t come to apologize. I came for something else.”

She straightened. “I don’t care what you—”

He was at her in a single stride, his hands buried in her hair, pressing her against the wall. His mouth stifled her surprised cry, and then an angry scream. She tried to shove him off her but she’d have had no more luck against the iron bars on the door.

Her eyes went wide as she felt his tongue and in a flash of rebellion she thought to bite him, but then there was something else. Something small and flat and hard being pressed into her mouth. Every muscle went taut.

Wolf pulled away. His grip softened, cradling her head. His scars were a blur in her vision. She couldn’t find her breath.

And then he murmured, so quiet she could barely catch the words even as they steamed against her lips. “Wait until morning,” he said. “The world won’t be safe tonight.”

Wolf focused on his own fingers as they took a red curl between them. He flinched, as if touching her pained him.

Indignation returning, Scarlet swiped him away and darted beneath his arm. She fled to the corner of the room and crouched down on the bed. Covering her mouth with one hand, she smashed the other against the wall for balance.

She waited, her entire body aflame, until Wolf slinked out of the room. The bars opened and shut.

Outside, the guard snickered. “I suppose we all have our thing,” he said, and then their footsteps padded down the corridor.

Slumping against the wall, Scarlet spit the foreign object into her palm.

A small ID chip winked up at her.

BOOK

Four

“The better to eat you with, my dear.”

Thirty-Five

“She’s going to be fine, you know.”

Cinder jumped, startled from a reverie. Thorne was piloting the small podship into Rieux, France, and Cinder was somewhat amazed they hadn’t crashed and died yet.

“Who’s going to be fine?”

“That Émilie girl. You shouldn’t feel bad about knocking her out with your Lunar mind-trick thing. She’ll probably be extra refreshed when she wakes up.”

Cinder screwed up her mouth. Her thoughts had been so preoccupied with finding a power cell and making it back to Iko before anyone else showed up on the farm that she’d hardly thought of the blonde girl they’d left behind. Oddly enough, once she’d made the decision to glamour the girl into trusting them, all the doubt and guilt she’d felt about it had faded away. It had seemed so natural, so easy, so clearly the right thing to do.

The ease of it frightened her more than the lack of guilt. If it was so natural for her, after only a few days of practicing her new gift, how could she ever survive against a thaumaturge? Or the queen herself?

“I just hope we’re long gone before she wakes up,” she muttered. Returning her focus to the window, Cinder redid her ponytail in the ghost reflection. She could vaguely make out her brown eyes and plain features. She tilted her head, wondering what she looked like with her glamour. She would never know, of course. Mirrors couldn’t be fooled by glamours. But Thorne had sure seemed impressed, and Kai …

You’re even more painful to look at than she is.

His words made her whole body feel heavy.

The town came into focus beneath them and Thorne made a too-fast descent. Jolting, Cinder grabbed for the harness around her waist.

Thorne straightened the ship and coughed. “There was a gust of wind.”

“Sure there was.” She let her head fall against the rest.

“You’re extra gloomy today,” Thorne said, nicking her chin. “Cheer up. We may not have found Michelle Benoit, but now we know for sure that she housed the princess. This is good. This is progress.”

“We found a ransacked house and were identified by the first civilian who spotted us.”

“Yeah, because we’re famous.” He sang the word with a certain measure of pride. When Cinder rolled her eyes, he nudged her in the arm. “Oh, come on, it could be worse.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him and his grin broadened.

“At least we have each other.” He held out his arms, like he would have given her a huge hug if they hadn’t been strapped into their seats. The nose of the ship tipped to the right and he quickly grasped the controls again, leveling it out just in time to dodge a flock of pigeons.

Cinder covered a laugh with her metal hand.

It wasn’t until Thorne had landed, crookedly, on a cobblestoned side street that Cinder began to realize what a bad idea this was. But they didn’t have a choice—they needed a new power cell if they wanted to get the Rampion back into space.

“People are going to see us,” she said, glancing around as she emerged from the podship. The street was empty, serenely overshadowed by centuries-old stone buildings and silver-leafed maples. But the tranquility did nothing to quell her nerves.

“And you are going to pull your very handy brainwashing magic on all of them and they won’t even know they’re seeing us. Well, I mean, I guess they’ll still see us, they just won’t recognize us. Or, hey, can you make us invisible? Because that would come in handy.”

Cinder stuffed her hands into her pockets. “I don’t know if I’m ready to trick a whole town. Besides, I don’t like doing it. It makes me feel … evil.”

She knew if her internal lie detector could see her, it would have recognized a lie. It felt all too right, and maybe that’s what felt so horrendously wrong about it.

Blue eyes twinkling, Thorne hooked his thumbs behind his belt. He looked slightly ridiculous in his fancy leather jacket in this quaint rural town, and yet he had the swagger of a man who belonged there. Who belonged anywhere he wished to. “You might be a crazy Lunar, but you’re not evil. As long as you’re using your glamour to help people, and more important, to help me, then there’s nothing to feel guilty about.” He stopped to check his hair in the dirty window of a shoe store while Cinder gawked after him.

“I hope that wasn’t your idea of a pep talk.”

Smirking, he jerked his head toward the next store. “Here we are,” he said, pushing open a creaking wooden door.

The hollow sound of digital bells greeted them, meshed with the smell of engine grease and burnt rubber. Cinder sucked in the scent of home. Mechanics. Machinery. This is where she belonged.

Though the shop had seemed prettily charming from outside, with its stone facade and aged wooden windowsills, she could see now that it was enormous, stretching back the length of the town block. Near the front, towering metal shelves held replacement parts for androids and screens. Toward the back, Cinder could make out parts for the bigger machines: hovers and tractors and ships.

“Perfect,” she muttered, heading toward the back wall.

They passed a young, acne-faced clerk sitting behind a worktable, and though Cinder instantly called up her glamour, disguising her and Thorne as the first thing that came to mind—dirty, grungy farmhands—she doubted the ploy was necessary. The boy didn’t even bother with a polite nod, his attention fixed on a portscreen that emanated the upbeat tune of a game app.

Cinder rounded the aisle of power converters and spotted a boulder of a man leaning against an engine lift, the only other customer in the store. His attention was focused on picking at his nails instead of browsing the shelves, and when he met Cinder’s gaze it was with a taunting smirk.

Shoving her metal hand into her pocket, Cinder found the vibrations of his thoughts in the air and twisted them away. You are not interested in us.

But his smile only widened, sending a chill down her back.

When he turned away a moment later, Cinder crept into the aisle, her attention divided between maintaining the glamour and scouring the mishmashed parts until she found the power cell they’d come for. She snatched it off the shelf, gasping at its weight, and hurried back toward the front.

Thorne exhaled as soon as they were out of the stranger’s sight. “He scared me.”

Cinder nodded. “You should go start the podship, in case we need to make a quick getaway.” She dropped the power cell onto the clerk’s desk with a thunk.

The clerk didn’t bother to look up, one hand still playing the game single-thumbed while the other held the scanner out to Cinder. The red laser flickered across the counter.

Prev page Next page