Rebel Grey

Rebel Grey, a Dystopian Teen Fantasy, Chapter Six

Chapter Six

Back at the compound on the edge of town…

Petra avoided the kids skating, dancing and playing together in the common room when she arrived at the compound. Her heart thumped in her chest. She rushed to her room with a breathless urgency that took her by surprise. She gasped in relief when she saw him, as though she had expected hunters, outlaws, or Marshals to have beaten her there.

Grey shot to his feet to meet her in the middle of the room. “Petra. Where have you been?”

“Out.” She paused to look at him. He looked better than he had since she’d brought him there. He had showered, and he smelled like citrus and cedar. His dark hair shone. Key must have lent him some clothes. He wore a fresh tee-shirt and jeans that looked slightly too big for him. “I met with some of my contacts in the city to find out if anyone saw or heard anything the night you were attacked.”

Did you find out anything?”

No. No one saw anything. Not that they were willing to admit, anyway.”

Grey sighed. He reached for her abruptly and wrapped her into a hug. “I was worried about you. I didn’t know where you’d gone. Key didn’t tell me anything.” He laid his cheek against her hair. His voice was low and dark. “I think there’s more to what happened to me that night than we thought. I don’t think it was random at all. Whoever it was came after me for a reason.”

She leaned back to meet his troubled gaze. “Yeah. I know.”

His brow furrowed, and she was uncomfortably certain he was going to ask her what she meant. What he said instead startled her. “Who’s Shaw?”

She blinked. “What?”

“He came in while you were out.”

Petra stared at him. “He came in here? In my room?”

“He said he is a friend of yours.”

She scowled. “He isn’t a friend. He saw you?”

“Yeah.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. He just told me his name. When he saw you weren’t here, he left.”

A shiver of icy trepidation raced down her spine.

“Is there something I should know?”

His tone was wry. For a moment, she thought he was teasing her, but he looked completely serious. She stared at him for several startled seconds before she replied. “What? Shaw? Are you kidding?” He didn’t smile. “God, no. He’s just…he just wants into the cool kids club.”

Grey didn’t smile at this. His frown deepened. “I think he wants more than that.”

“Are you actually jealous?”

“Yes.”

Petra shook her head. “Now is not the time for this. We have to tell someone he saw you.” She spun away to pace restlessly in front of him. “We have to get you out of here as soon as we can. We need to move you before someone realizes you’re here.”

“What? Like who? Do you know something I don’t, Petra? Why won’t you tell me?”

“I don’t—I don’t know anything. I just know someone wanted to hurt you in that alley, and we can’t take the chance they’ll find out you’re here. We have to get you to a safe place. If the person who attacked you comes looking for you, we’re putting everyone in danger.” She paused to look at him. “We have to get you out before someone else gets hurt.”

“Okay. You think that might happen?”

She pushed her hands through her long, pale blonde hair. “I’m sorry. I should never have brought you here. It was stupid.”

He blinked at in utter bemusement. “Petra, what are you talking about?”

Petra stepped forward and pressed her lips abruptly against his. He caught her around the waist, but she pressed her palms to his chest to push him just as abruptly away. If she started now, she might not stop, and she might do something even stupider than bringing him here—like confessing everything. “Lux will be here soon to take us to the safe house.”

“Lux?”

“She’s in charge of security for the compound. She’s been preparing a safe place to go.”

“But–“

“I’ll explain everything when there is time, okay? And I hope…” She peered up into his stormy grey eyes. “I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Petra–”

She ignored him. She was already fumbling out her cell phone to summon the inner circle to Key’s room. She paused and turned back to look at him from the gate. Her expression was troubled. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Petra, what–”

She slipped out the curtain and yanked the gate down before he could finish. He heard the padlock click into place. He sighed in frustration. No, he wasn’t going anywhere.

The inner circle converged upon Key’s room the same moment she arrived. Key was waiting for them. “What’s up, Petra? Did you learn something?”

She looked around at them grimly. They didn’t seem to like her expression. They glanced at each other uneasily. “Yes. A little, but that’s not important right now. Shaw knows.”

“What?” Jesse demanded.

“He went into my room while I was out. He saw Dante. He knows he’s here.”

“Damn it,” Key cursed, pushing his hands through his dark hair.

“That nosy, entitled little bastard,” Rip muttered. “I knew he couldn’t be trusted.”

“Yeah,” Petra said darkly. “And if that wasn’t enough, I talked to Tripp. Scarlet hasn’t announced that the prince is missing, but he has people out all over the city investigating. Word is getting around. The bounty hunters found out, and they’re trying to beat out the King’s people to find him and bring him.”

“There’s a price on him?” Key asked, frowning.

“No. Not officially. Scarlet doesn’t want anyone to know he’s gone off in case he’s gone rogue or is shacked up on a bender somewhere. He doesn’t want the city to think he can’t control his son. But the people who need to know do, and we can bet they’ll do just about anything to get him back.”

“Nothing has changed,” Beth said firmly. “We knew this was going to happen. We need to move him as soon as we can and take it from there.” Her pretty, sweet face looked pinched and tense.

“We’re doing that as soon as Lux gets here. She’s secured the safe house, and she’s on her way back now.”

“Nothing’s changed but now someone else knows. Someone we can’t be sure won’t use the information to hurt us,” Ellis said. His young, smooth face was expressionless, but his pale eyes were narrowed thoughtfully. “What do you think he’s going to do now that he knows?”

Petra shook her head. “I don’t know. He’s been lurking around trying to talk to me. I don’t know what he’s after, but if he decides to blackmail us, he could do some serious damage.”

“Where is he?” Beth asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t look for him. I came right here to tell you what happened.”

“We need to find him,” Key said. “We need to find out what he knows and what he plans to do about it. He could be dangerous, or he could just want to use the information to get something from us. We’ll just have to give it to him. If he wants into the inner circle, we let him in. We have to give into whatever demands he has. At least until we have the situation under control.”

Petra scowled, but she didn’t argue with this. Key was right. Whatever Shaw wanted, they would have to give it to him. She didn’t like to think about what that would mean for her if Beth was right about what he really wanted from Petra. Would she have to pretend she wasn’t completely disgusted by him? Would she have to…She shuddered and turned back to the others. They needed to find him first. “Okay, let’s spread out and find him. Whoever finds him first, bring him here and text the others.”

No one argued. “Petra, you stay with Grey,” Key ordered. “We have to keep him contained until this is under control. We can’t risk someone else finding out about him before we’re ready to move him. We’ll call you if we find Shaw.”

Petra sighed, but she nodded. “Yeah. Okay.” She followed the others out of the room. She wanted to join them in the search for Shaw, but Key was right. She needed to stay with Grey. She had to be prepared for the moment he realized there was a really good reason he might want to escape. She had to be prepared to do whatever it took to hold onto him. He could regain his memories at any moment. And when the dam broke, she had no way of knowing how he would react.

That wasn’t entirely true. She did know how he would react. She only hoped that when he did finally remember who he was….well, she didn’t hold out a lot of hope that he would actually forgive her. She didn’t think he would decide the feelings he’d been experiencing since he’d lost his memory were real.

She didn’t think he was going to be able to look past kidnapping, lying and manipulating. When he remembered, Grey would be gone. Everything he felt and everything he thought he was would be gone with him. She’d better get used to it now.

When she slipped back into her room, Grey was on the computer. He didn’t glance up as he heard the gate rattle up to admit her. He stared at the screen with narrow eyes. He’d been pushing his hands through his hair. She could tell because it was even more mussed in the back. “Grey?”

He lifted his head to look up at her with grey eyes. He wasn’t seeing her. His gaze was far away, in some other time and place. “I think I remember something.”

She frowned slightly. “What is it?”

Grey shot to his feet. He paced briskly in front of her, absently ruffling the back of his hair even more. “I was drunk. It’s fuzzy, but I was talking to someone. I remember. I threatened him.

“What? You were threatening someone? Are you sure?”

It’s pretty blurry. I remember seeing a man I knew talking to someone in an alley. I don’t know what they were doing or talking about, but it must have been something they shouldn’t be. I didn’t talk to them, but I remember seeing the man later somewhere else.” He scrunched up his face with the effort to remember, but he finally shook his head in frustration. “I don’t know where we were. It was dark. I can’t make it out. I said I would turn him in if he didn’t give me what I wanted.”

What did you want?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know if he gave anything to me.” He looked extremely troubled by this. She suspected he was beginning to doubt himself. He was afraid of who he had been. With good reason.

Petra stared at him narrowly for several long seconds. “You don’t have any idea at all who the man was?”

“No. No, I can’t even see his face. I don’t even know what I thought he was doing. It’s like it’s just spinning around. I was so drunk. I probably couldn’t even see straight.” He frowned. “I think I was drunk a lot.”

Her pulse leapt. If Dante was blackmailing someone, perhaps it wasn’t his father who’d ordered the attack, after all. It would make the trade considerably more straight-forward, but it wouldn’t help them much in figuring out they were actually up against if he couldn’t remember anything else. It could have been anyone he’d spoken to that night. Dante’s reputation for cruelty and terrorism was wide-spread and well-known. It might have been a civilian, a Marshal, a hunter—even a Noble. It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d fingered one of his father’s men for treason. There were probably dozens of people out there who had good reason to want him dead.

“Maybe the person I threatened is the one who attacked me.”

“I was thinking the same thing. Do you remember anything at all about him?”

He shook his head. “No. Not really. It’s all a blur. I might recognize his face if I saw him, but…I can’t make it out. I don’t know if it was the same person as I saw the night I was attacked.” He sighed deeply and dropped his head. When he looked back up at her, his expression was grim. “Petra, what kind of man am I?”

She sighed. “Grey…whatever you were…I don’t know if you’re that person now.”

“How can that be true? The things I remember…I don’t think I’m a very good person.” He stared at her. “Is that why you wouldn’t be with me?”

She blinked in surprise. “No. No, I…”

“I don’t feel like that same person. I feel like me.” Grey frowned. “But I don’t even know who that is.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “If I was so bad before, can I be good now?”

She sat down beside him. “I don’t know, Grey. I don’t really know about stuff like that, but I believe you can. Maybe you can at least try.”

He rose to pace in front of her. “I will. I will try. I don’t want to go back to those memories. I don’t want to be the sort of person who would threaten or blackmail someone and doesn’t even know why.”

“We can worry about this later. I need to get you out of here right now.”

He turned to her with an air of resolve. “Okay. Yes. I don’t want to put anyone else in danger.”

Petra rose and pulled her cell phone from her pocket. “Lux should be here any second to take us to the safe house. Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out.”

He strode toward her with an intensity in his eyes that made her stomach flip.

Suddenly, a scream echoed through the hallway outside. Grey and Petra spun toward the sound. “What is that?.”

“Grey, stay here.”

“No. I’m going with you–“

She ignored him and spun around to scoop up her laptop. She shoved it hastily into her satchel and turned back toward the door.

The gate clattered violently as Key burst into the room. He looked more frightened than Petra had ever seen him. “We have to get to the safe house now. We’re under attack.” For a moment, they just stared at him in shock. “Go!” he growled.

“They’re searching for him, aren’t they?” The color drained from Petra’s face. She looked at Grey.

“Yes. Just go! Get him out of here! It’s your only chance.”

“Key! What is happening down there?”

“You have to go. Lux is back. She’s ready to take you.”

“We have to get the others out first, Key!”

“We can take care of it. You two need to go.”

“No!” Grey snapped. “We can’t just leave while the others are in trouble. If they are after me, I have to do something to help.”

Key glared at him. “There isn’t anything you can do. If you go down there, you will just make it worse. You need to leave.”

“Where’s Lux?” Petra demanded.

“She just came in. She’s in the damn thick of things, as usual, but she’s ready to take you where you need to go.” He called after her as she raced toward the door. “Keep your head down. Stay off the main floor if you can.”

Petra cursed and grabbed Grey’s hand. There was no one in the older kid’s hall, but as soon as they stepped out of the room, they could hear the screaming and shouting from the main floor. Petra’s stomach sank, but there was no time to worry about what she’d brought upon them. They had to find Lux and get Grey out of the compound before anyone recognized him.

Petra led him up to the top floor where they could look down upon the common room without being seen. She wished she hadn’t. The scene there was horrifying. A pack of bounty hunters raged through the compound, picking up the scattering kids or knocking them down as they stormed past, throwing open doors and gates and trampling the kids’ toys and belongings underfoot. The man leading the of the hunters was tall and thin. He wore a long, black coat that covered him from neck to foot.

He didn’t look like a hunter. He didn’t look like a Noble. He certainly wasn’t a Marshal. She paused and stared at him. She didn’t recognize him, but his expression was so cold, so determined, he sent a chill down her spine. As she watched the chaos below, the screaming kids and the vicious bounty hunters, she saw the leader pick up a small boy with spiky orange hair by the collar.

His voice carried with eerie clarity. “Where is the prince?”

The boy looked terrified. He shook his head wildly. The man tossed him aside as though he were nothing more than a rag doll. The boy didn’t move. Petra didn’t even the boy’s name. She thought he might have been a new kid, only just joined the lost kids in the old mall. Her heart hitched.

She tugged on Grey’s hand. “We have to go! We have to find Lux. Come on!”

He didn’t move. He was frozen in horror. “Prince?”

“Grey, we have to go!”

“We have to help them! If they want me, I should just let them take me. It’s got to be better than letting this happen–“

“No! Grey, come on–“

He shook off her hand and started toward the stairs. She chased after him. He didn’t make it to the main floor. Lux rushed up the stairs to meet them. She seized Grey’s arm and dragged him with her toward Petra. Grey looked startled, but he didn’t fight her.

“Lux!” Petra exclaimed in relief.

Lux didn’t stop to chat. “Come on! Shaw must have told the hunters. We have to get him out of here now.”

Grey frowned as they dragged him toward the tunnels. “This is about me. They’re looking for me. The prince? What does that mean?”

Lux and Petra ignored him. “We’ll explain when we get to the safe house,” Petra promised. She glanced back down at the chaos below. She stopped dead in her tracks.

Key had stepped forward to meet the leader of the hunters. He was a good fighter, but he was no match for the thinner, taller man. Petra hesitated, her pulse leaping in fear. Key needed help–

“Petra!” Lux shouted.

She shook her head. “Key. He’s–“

“Petra, come on!”

Grey looked between the two girls. “Petra, you can’t go down there. If these people are looking for me, I should just go to them! I can stop this all.”

“No!” Lux snapped. “Just come on.”

“These could be the people who attacked you,” Petra told him. “They might kill you if they find you. Or they will take you to King Scarlet.”

Grey scowled and glanced down into the chaos. Then he stopped dead, as though something had struck him. He lifted his hand to point at the leader, who still sparred with Key below them. “Him. I think I recognize him. I think he is the one who attacked me that night.”

“All the more reason to get out of here! Grey, please.”

Finally, he listened. They raced through the halls toward the tunnel in the back of the compound. The hunters hadn’t found the alternate entrance, and the escapees broke out into the night air without a fight.

“Beth and the others will get the kids out,” Lux told them as they burst out of the burnt out part of the mall and crept along the side of the building toward the outlands.

Petra nodded and gripped Grey’s hand almost painfully as they followed Lux away from the no-man’s land around the mall. She was taking them further into the outlands. Petra’s heart raced, but they didn’t stop. They avoided the clusters of outlaws and vagrants that lingered in the streets, throwing Molotov cocktails into abandoned buildings or gathering around trash can fires under crumbling awnings.

The safe house was an abandoned warehouse in the outlands, about a mile from the compound. It was on a dark, quiet street. It was boarded up and covered in graffiti. It looked as though no one had dared enter since the war. Lux had made sure of that. She had been using it as training grounds for the compound’s security force for years.

It wasn’t as glamorous as the old mall, but it was comfortable enough. There was a small office upstairs, but the rest of the place was one large room with high ceilings and concrete walls. Cots and mattresses spread along the walls in neat little rows. There was a large supply of food stacked along one side of the room. The place even had running showers in the back. The stalls were makeshift, just curtains around facets that jutted out of the wall, as though they hadn’t originally been there when the warehouse was built; Lux must have had them put in.

Petra dropped her laptop on one of the mattresses. Grey stood in the center of the room. He didn’t move. His eyes raged and stormed. He looked angry and helpless, but there was something else, too. He looked as though something was happening behind those eyes that made Petra’s insides churn uncomfortably.

“We’ll be safe here. At least for now,” Lux said grimly. “Until we can figure all this out.”

Petra swiped a single, traitorous tear from her cheek. “Key?”

Lux shook her head. “I don’t know, Petra.” She sighed. “I have to get back and help guide the others here. You’ll be safe.”

The door burst open, and a few of Lux’s security people ushered in a cluster of the kids from the compound. Some of them had bruises on their cheeks or their arms and legs. Others just looked scared and confused. They huddled together on the cots and mattresses, but they didn’t talk much.

Petra felt her stomach sink into her knees. This was her fault. All of it.

Lux looked around at the kids. When she turned back to Petra, her expression was thunderous. “Get him upstairs to the office. We need to keep him hidden. They don’t need to see him. We don’t want anyone to know he’s here.” She scowled. “We don’t need another Shaw, especially after all this.”

Grey shook his head violently. “This is all about me. What’s going on, Petra?” He frowned and stepped toward her. He didn’t sound angry. He sounded hurt. “It’s time you tell me what this is all about. You’ve been lying to me. I know you have. I want to know the truth.”

She stared at him for several seconds. Her heart leapt uncomfortably into her throat. Finally, she nodded and spun toward the stairs that lead up to the private office. She didn’t turn to ensure he was following her. She could feel him behind her, and he felt different than he used to. He felt cold and tense. It chilled her. Dante was there, right below the surface. It wouldn’t be long before Grey realized it, too. He might already know.

Dust danced on the air in the office. An old, metal and black desk sat alone along one wall. A rickety chair sat on broken wheels behind it. The room had an air of neglect. If it had been used before the war, no one had bothered to tend to it since. Petra ignored it. She pulled the door closed with a finality that sent a chill up her spine. She didn’t want to look at Grey. She wasn’t sure what she would see there. When she finally did, he was staring at her. He looked different. His eyes were cold and serious.

“The prince. Prince Dante.” She couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling. He just looked like an ice statue. He looked like the real Dante now more than ever. “Those hunters were looking for me, but they were asking for the prince. I’m him, aren’t I? I’m Dante.”

She stared at him. Her chest ached peculiarly. If she told him now, it was over, but she couldn’t keep lying to him. It was over. He already knew. She could see his life rushing back into his brain like a computer downloading information. She could almost see the pieces of memory passing across his eyes like a data stream. It was already coming back to him. Everything was falling apart.

“You told me I was Grey, but I’m not, am I? I’m Prince Dante. I’m King Scarlet’s son.”

She dropped her head. Her long, pale blonde hair fell over her face. She took a deep, hitching breath. It was all over. “Yes.”

“I don’t understand, Petra! Why would you do this? Why didn’t you just tell me the truth?”

“I couldn’t. You were in danger…there were people after you.”

“And they found me! All of this…it’s all my fault.”

“No.” She stepped toward him. He took a sharp step away from her. His eyes were chilling. She froze. “It’s my fault, Grey.”

“That isn’t my name! Was anything you told me true? I know I don’t live with you in the compound. I live in the King’s mansion…I remember now. Now that I know, it’s coming back. Did I even know you? Why did you lie to me? Tell me the truth, Petra! Why did you do this?”

She stared at him. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know how to explain without admitting the truth, without destroying everything between them. She didn’t get to try. The door burst open with a clatter. They spun to face the inner circle. They looked distressed, but mostly they were furious. Key wasn’t with them.

“Most of the kids are here and safe,” Beth said in a low voice. Her eyes glinted in a way that worried Petra.

She was afraid, but she asked anyway. “Key?”

Beth shook her head slowly. She turned her face from Petra, but not before Petra saw a single tear streak down her pale cheek. “He’s here. He made it out. But he’s in bad shape. I’m not sure he’s going to make it.”

Petra’s breath hissed out. “I want to see him.”

“No!” Beth’s anger took Petra by surprise. “You’ve done enough.”

Jesse lifted a hand to point at Grey. “You brought him here. You brought this on us, Petra.”

The color drained from Petra’s face. She stared plaintively around at her closest friends. None of them defended her. None of them said a word. She didn’t blame them. Jesse was right. She dropped her head in her hands. “I know.” She glanced at Grey. He was staring at her as though he wasn’t sure whether to give into his anger or pity her for her friends’ admonishment. She didn’t need his pity. She didn’t need anyone’s pity. She lifted her chin in defiance. “I was just trying to save our family and friends!”

“This was not the way!” Lux growled.

“What is the way, then? Has anyone else come up with anything better? Anything at all? There was nothing else we could have done!”

“He has to go. We have to get him out of here,” Jesse said, pacing tensely across the floor. “We should turn him in. If they have him back, they’ll leave us alone. They’ll forget about us. We can go back to how it was.”

“Don’t be stupid. Shaw already told them we have him. They know it was us who took him,” Ellis said reasonably. He peered at Grey with a thoughtful expression. “But if he told them we saved him from the attack. If he stands up for us–“

Grey scowled. He seemed to have understood a little too well. “You kidnapped me? Why? Did you intend to ransom me?” When they all stared silently back at him, he glared. “I’m not going to help you!”

“Then we will all die,” Beth said in a low voice.

“We can kill him now,” Lux put in suddenly. “We could give Scarlet his body. Say we found him dead in the outlands after an outlaw attack. They might believe it.”

Petra stepped in front of Grey. “No! No one’s going to do anything to him. It wouldn’t do any good anyway! It would never work!”

“You lied to me, Petra.” She turned to face the prince. He didn’t look angry now. He just looked hurt. “You made me think I was one of you. That we were friends. All along you were lying. I trusted you!”

It was true. It was all true. But she had done it for a reason. She met his gaze. “I did what I had to do. Your father is evil. He’s taken our families and our friends and locked them up for nothing! He will do anything to keep his power! Do you even know who attacked you? Do you know who he is and who sent him? How come your father didn’t announce that you were missing? He might have been the one who ordered it. We might have saved your life taking you away from there.”

Grey looked troubled. He might have been thinking the same thing. He spun away from her with a frustrated sigh and pushed his hands through his dark hair. “I can’t trust you. I can’t trust anyone. I’m better off on my own.”

“You can’t go out there, Grey. It isn’t safe.”

He turned back to her. “What do you care? You don’t care about me. You don’t even know me.” He swept his hand toward the others. “None of you do. You only care about what I can do for you.”

There was a terrible, heartbroken look in his eyes. Petra’s chest ached.

Lux stepped forward and seized Petra’s arm. “Let him go, Petra. It’s safer for all of us if he’s gone. This has gone too far. We can’t force him to stay.” She turned to give Grey a dangerous look. “We didn’t hold you against your will. We took you in and we helped you. We protected you.”

He scowled. “I’m not going to tell on you.”

“But Shaw–” Jesse began.

Lux’s head snapped to him. “Shaw doesn’t know anything. He didn’t know what we were planning. He wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone. Just let him go.”

You think it will matter what they know for sure?” Jesse hissed. “If Scarlet gets it into his head we kidnapped his son, we’re all dead.”

I’m not going to let that happen,” Grey said firmly. “I won’t tell anyone where I’ve been. But I can’t be here anymore. I have to go. I need to remember who I am and what happened to me.”

He started toward the door. Petra stepped forward and caught his arm. “Grey–“

He turned to glare at her. “That isn’t my name, is it? You made it up. I’m Dante.”

“Yes.” When he tried to pull his arm away, she tightened her fingers on his wrist. “Dante, please stay and think about this. Try to remember before you go. You need to know what you’re getting into, at least! This is the only place you are safe.”

Dante shrugged her off. He didn’t turn back to look at her again. He strode out the door with an awful finality that felt like a kick in Petra’s stomach.

Beth caught Petra’s arm. Petra glanced at her. Her eyes blurred with tears. “It’s better this way,” Beth said softly. “You have to let him go. It all went wrong. We have to cut our losses before we make it any worse. He made his choice. He’s on his own.”

Petra took a hitching breath. “I want to see Key.”

Beth looked as though she didn’t want to take her, but she finally nodded. “I’ll take you to him.”

Key looked terrible. He lay in the midst of the injured in a small cot that was almost too small for him. He wasn’t dead, but his face was purple with bruises. Eloise, a short, curvy girl with short, curly black hair, was mopping the blood gently from his face. His chest rose and fell as though even breathing was painful. Petra suspected his ribs were cracked or broken. She didn’t know why the cold, vicious leader of the hunters had left him alive.

She didn’t know why they’d left anyone alive. Perhaps the bounty hunters hadn’t wanted the blood of so many innocent children on their hands. It was on their hands, though. Some of the kids were badly hurt, but everyone had made it out alive. This, at least, was a relief.

Eloise glanced up at Petra with a cold expression. Did she know it had been Petra’s fault? “He’s going to be okay, but it’s going to hurt,” Eloise said. “We weren’t able to bring anything with us from the mall, so we don’t have any pain meds.”

Petra sighed. “I’ll get some.” She sat down beside Key and laid a hand gently on his forehead. He didn’t even stir. She took a hitching breath and swiped a tear from her cheek. She couldn’t look up into Beth’s eyes. She knew even her best friend blamed her for all of this, and Beth had every right to.

Lux strode into the main room. She paused to look around at the devastation. Those who had not been badly injured tended to the others. The room filled with the sound of quiet sobbing. The littler kids complained bitterly about leaving their things at the mall, but they did not realize how lucky they were to be away from it.

Petra glanced up at Lux as she paused beside Key’s cot. Lux’s dark eyes glinted angrily, but she didn’t loose her frustration on Petra. Instead, she knelt down next to them. “He going to be okay?”

Petra nodded. “I think so. He’s just beat up. I need to go into town and get some meds for everyone.” She hung her head. “This is all my fault, Lux. I thought I could save us, but I just hurt everyone.”

Lux considered this. She laid a hand on Petra’s shoulder. “You made a mistake. But everyone is going to make it. Get it together. We need all hands to make this right again. We’re safe for now.”

Petra sighed. “What are we going to do, Lux?”

“Nothing. We wait until it all calms down.” She rose abruptly. “I’m going into town, too. I’ll see what I can find out about the fallout from all of this. I’ll see if I can find that little bastard Shaw and figure out who he told. Maybe it’ll tell us who is behind the attack. I’ll get some supplies while I’m out.”

Petra was surprised. “You’re still going to try to find out what happened to Dante?”

“I want to know. I want to know who was responsible for this. That guy who was leading the pack wasn’t a hunter, but I don’t think he was one of the King’s men, either. I want to know who he is.”

Petra thought about this. “Dante said he was the one who attacked him in the alley the night I found him. I don’t think he knows who he is. Someone must have hired him. He thought he might have been blackmailing someone. It could have something to do with it.”

“I intend to find out who is behind it. Maybe if I can find Shaw, it’ll tell us something.” She stared narrowly at Petra for a long moment. “I know you cared about him, Petra. I can tell.”

She looked away. “I didn’t even know him.”

Lux laid a hand on her shoulder. It was oddly soothing. The anger drained from her dark eyes. “Maybe you did. I can see it’s important to you. Are you just going to let him go out there alone and get killed? Someone is still after him. Those hunters might have been looking for a payout, but the leader…there was something about him. I think if he finds Dante, he’ll finish the job. Maybe if we can help figure out who’s after him, if we can help him, maybe he’ll help us.”

“I did it all wrong. If I hadn’t lied from the beginning…this would have gone a lot differently.”

“Yes. You did do it wrong, Petra. But it’s too late now to think about that. Now we have to work with what we have.”

Petra considered this a long moment. She looked down at Key. His lip was swollen, and bruises stood out garishly blue on his tanned face. She squeezed his hand. “We’ll fix this,” she whispered. “I promise, Key. We’re going to figure out who did this to you. This isn’t over.”

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