Boone looked away to the blacked-out window next to him. As he felt the car make a wide turn, and sunk into the bucket seat from acceleration to a fast speed, he knew they were getting on the Northway.
“I was hoping you’d yell back,” he heard himself say.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
After a moment, he felt a soft touch on his arm and glanced over at her. “What.”
“If I can’t take care of myself, how can I take care of a young.” Boone blinked. “What?”
Helania retracted her hand and tucked it into her thigh. “I don’t want to go get checked out at the clinic because I don’t want to find out I’m pregnant. And I don’t want to be pregnant because I’m terrified of being responsible for a young.”
Opening his mouth to say something, he shut himself up as she started talking in a rush.
“I don’t have the skills necessary to cultivate friendships. I get scared to go out by myself to the supermarket. I live in terror of the humans upstairs lighting the building on fire during the day and me not knowing what to do to avoid the sunlight. I haven’t slept well for eight months because the truth is, I hate living alone. And I worry all the time about the fact that there’s no one for me to call if I need something.” She shook her head and looked down at her hands. “That is not the kind of parent a young needs.
That is not the kind of person who is strong enough to be a mahmen.”
Helania’s eyes swung back to his own. “And you’re right. I am in a ridiculous mood. Maybe it’s the hormones still working their way out of my system, but even if that’s a part of it, the needing stuff doesn’t change the reality I’m in. I mean, God, I still don’t know who killed my sister—all I have on that front is that whoever it was might have done it to another female. I am just . . . I’ve fucking had it, Boone, with everything—including myself. This is supposed to be the era of girl power, but you know what? I’m the opposite of a strong, resilient female, and I hate it. I hate it and I cannot get away from that reality because everywhere I go, there I am.”
Boone blinked again. Then he cleared his throat. “I think you give yourself a helluva lot less credit than you deserve. There aren’t many people, male or female, who would go to Pyre every night and do what you’ve been doing.”
“I wasn’t in time to save that other female’s life.”
“But you didn’t get yourself killed in the process, either. And you brought the Brothers into it. You went where you had to go.”
“It’s not enough,” she said, her voice cracking. “I couldn’t save that female. I couldn’t save Isobel.”
Reaching out, he brushed a tear from her cheek and wanted to pull her into his arms. “You’re doing what you can. You’re helping with the investigation.”
“I’m going back there. To the club. You need to know that.”
Boone inclined his head. “I know. I never thought you wouldn’t.”
“Even if I’m pregnant.”
As his gut twisted in a knot, he refused to let his fear show—or allow the wave of protective aggression he felt to get any airtime. He was all too familiar with what it was like to live under the overhang of someone who thought they knew better than you did when it came to your own damn life. He was not going to share that wealth with Helania just because he was a male and physically stronger than her.
“As long as it’s medically safe,” he said, “I wouldn’t try to stop you.”
“You mean that?”
“Yes, I do.” He leaned in toward her and wished he could take her hand. But he did not want to crowd her. “That’s how much I trust you. That’s how much I believe in you. You are braver than you realize and stronger than you know, and I support you.”
As he spoke the words, he realized they were the dead honest truth. And sometimes, to have faith in yourself, you had to have someone light that path for you. He’d learned that from the Brothers. From his fellow trainees.
“I thought you were going to want to me to stay home,” she whispered.
“And then you would fail your sister, right?”
Her eyes shimmered with tears. “I’m already having so much trouble with living with guilt. Adding to what I’m carrying right now by giving up on finding Isobel’s killer? I can’t fathom it.”
“Makes sense to me.” Boone shook his head as he considered his own past. “Look, I’ve seen what the glymera turns females into. I’ve lived in that nightmare. I wouldn’t want someone lording over me—why would I think you’d want that? As I said, provided it’s medically safe, I have no right to turn you into a piece of furniture just because you’re pregnant—nor would I want to.”
The softening started in her eyes, the hostile, separating light dimming. Then her features relaxed, followed by her shoulders and the arms she’d crossed over her chest.
“Thank you,” she said.
“I’m just speaking the truth as I know it.” He so wanted to pull her into his arms, but stayed where he was. “And I request only one thing.”
“Next time, just ask me what I think instead of dub my opinion in with what you hope isn’t true. I promise, I will always be honest, and maybe you won’t like some of my positions on things, but at least we’ll be arguing over real differences instead of hypothetical ones.”
Helania took a deep breath. “Do you remember when you took me to Remi’s?”
“That was like, three nights ago,” he said with a short laugh. “So yes, I do. Although even if it were three years prior, I can assure you I would remember every second of being with you.”
Helania flushed, and the color was lovely on her face.
“When I told you I’m not good at this”—she motioned between them—“I really was being truthful. I can’t relate well to people.”
Boone shrugged. “Is anyone good at it, though? Especially if attraction’s involved.”
“I don’t know. Craeg and Paradise seemed totally in lockstep.”
“Oh, my God, see, you’re catching them now. They had a huge amount of conflict in the beginning.”
“Yup. And hey, you could ask them about it, but they probably wouldn’t get the story right. True love, when it clicks, is the great eraser. All the conflict and work to get a relationship up off the ground just disappears when people hit smooth sailing.” Boone shrugged again. “But what do I know.”
Falling quiet, he let his head ease back on the rest and closed his eyes. He was nowhere close to drifting off, but maybe she’d figure he was sleeping—
Helania’s hand snuck into his own.
And the instant she made the contact, he looked over at her. She, too, had laid her head back, and her breathing was even and slow. But she wasn’t asleep, either.
He knew this because as he squeezed her palm . . . she moved her head over in his direction and then leaned against the outside of his shoulder.
“Helania?” he said softly.
“Just so you know, you don’t have to be good at relationships with me. Be yourself. I’ll be myself, and as long as we keep talking? We should be okay.”
Her lids opened, her lashes raising up to reveal a light in her eyes that he had never seen before. “I would really like us to do that.”
“Talk some more?” he murmured as he brushed a stray hair out of her face.
“Be okay,” she said softly. “I would really like us . . . to be okay.”
Helania dozed as they traveled, going in and out of a light sleep. It was a relief to have no dreams. She was frightened of what might come out of her subconscious. But at least she felt as though the air had been cleared to some degree with Boone.
When a series of stops and goes began, she sat up from where she’d leaned against him.
“Are we getting close?’ she said.
Boone shifted around in his seat. “Yes.”
Helania cracked her neck and stretched her arms. “So this is where you go for training.”
“Yes, it is. The facility is pretty hardcore. They have everything.”
“Well, it is the Brotherhood’s.”
She was aware that they were chitchatting, avoiding a relapse into any emotional depths. Still, she felt a lot better after having spoken her worst fear out loud, and she marveled at how much vocalizing it to someone who she knew cared about her helped.
And now she was able to reconnect with Boone so much better. Especially given that she knew he wasn’t going to stop her down at Pyre.
Provided the doctors didn’t have a big opinion about things. Dearest Virgin Scribe . . . what if she were pregnant?
“Thank you,” she said, “for letting me get all that out.”
As he looked over at her, she drank in the handsome planes of his face . . . and wondered how they would appear on a little boy with her coloring and his body type.
“I will always make time for you.”
Putting her hand on her belly under her parka, she thought . . . well, that statement was kind of an I-love-you, wasn’t it.
The Mercedes bumped to a stop and stayed in place, the engine sounds cutting off sharply. And then the butler with the hangdog face and the California-sunshine smile opened her door.
“Mistress, we have arrived!” As if it were a miracle and a music concert and a sporting event all rolled up into one. “Welcome!”
As she got out, she smiled back at him. “Thank you so much.” He bowed deeply and then frowned as Boone scooted across the seat and unfurled his huge shoulders and towering height out of the back.
“I would have come around to your side, sire.”
“Oh, I know. Thank you, Fritz, for bringing us here.”
There was a moment of consternation as if the doggen were still stuck on the door-open fail. But then he snapped back into the happy.