An older, kindly-looking gentleman smiles at me from the corner of the room. His thin brown hair and twitchy mustache look vaguely familiar to me, as if I’ve seen him on base before. I notice he’s standing next to a breakfast cart. “It’s a pleasure to officially meet you, Miss Ferrars,” he says. His voice is a little shaky, but not at all intimidating. His eyes are unexpectedly sincere. “The coffee really is quite good,” he says. “I have it every day. Though I always have m-mine with—”
“Cream and sugar,” Warner says with a wry smile, his eyes laughing as if at some private joke. “Yes. Though I’m afraid the sugar is a bit too much for me. I find I prefer the bitterness.” He glances at me again. “The choice is yours.”
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Breakfast,” Warner says, his eyes revealing nothing. “I thought you might be hungry.”
“It’s okay that he’s here?” I whisper, knowing full well that Delalieu can hear me. “That he knows I’m here?”
Warner nods. Offers me no other explanation.
“Okay,” I tell him. “I’ll try the coffee.”
I crawl across the bed to reach for the mug, and Warner’s eyes follow my movements, traveling from my face to the shape of my body to the rumpled pillows and sheets beneath my hands and knees. When he finally meets my eyes he looks away too quickly, handing me the mug only to put an entire room between us.
“So how much does Delalieu know?” I ask, glancing at the older gentleman.
“What do you mean?” Warner raises an eyebrow.
“Well, does he know that I’m leaving?” I raise an eyebrow, too. Warner stares. “You promised you’d get me off base,” I say to him, “and I’m hoping Delalieu is here to help you with that. Though if it’s too much trouble, I’m always happy to take the window.” I cock my head. “It worked out well the last time.”
Warner narrows his eyes at me, his lips a thin line. He’s still glaring when he nods at the breakfast cart beside him. “This is how we’re getting you out of here today.”
I choke on my first sip of coffee. “What?”
“It’s the easiest, most efficient solution,” Warner says. “You’re small and lightweight, you can easily fold yourself into a tight space, and the cloth panels will keep you hidden from sight. I’m often working in my room,” he says. “Delalieu brings me my breakfast trays from time to time. No one will suspect anything unusual.”
I look at Delalieu for some kind of confirmation.
He nods eagerly.
“How did you get me here in the first place?” I ask. “Why can’t we just do the same thing?”
Warner studies one of the breakfast plates. “I’m afraid that option is no longer available to us.”
“What do you mean?” My body seizes with a sudden anxiety. “How did you get me in here?”
“You weren’t exactly conscious,” he says. “We had to be a little more . . . creative.”
The old man looks up at the sound of my voice, clearly surprised to be addressed so directly. “Yes, miss?”
“How did you get me into the building?”
Delalieu glances at Warner, whose gaze is now firmly fixed on the wall. Delalieu looks at me, offers me an apologetic smile. “We—well, we carted you in,” he says.
“Sir,” Delalieu says suddenly, his eyes imploring Warner for direction.
“We brought you in,” Warner says, stifling a sigh, “in a body bag.”
My limbs go stiff with fear. “You what?”
“You were unconscious, love. We didn’t have many options. I couldn’t very well carry you onto base in my arms.” He shoots me a look. “There were many casualties from the battle,” he says. “On both sides. A body bag was easily overlooked.”
I’m gaping at him.
“Don’t worry.” He smiles. “I cut some holes in it for you.”
“You’re so thoughtful,” I snap.
“It was thoughtful,” I hear Delalieu say. I look at him to find he’s watching me in shock, appalled by my behavior. “Our commander was saving your life.”
I stare into my coffee cup, heat coloring my cheeks. My conversations with Warner have never had an audience before. I wonder what our interactions must look like to an outside observer.
“It’s all right, Lieutenant,” Warner says. “She tends to get angry when she’s terrified. It’s little more than a defense mechanism. The idea of being folded into such a small space has likely triggered her claustrophobic tendencies.”
I look up suddenly.
Warner is staring directly at me, his eyes deep with an unspoken understanding.
I keep forgetting that Warner is able to sense emotions, that he can always tell what I’m really feeling. And he knows me well enough to be able to put everything into context.
I’m utterly transparent to him.
And somehow—right now, at least—I’m grateful for it.
“Of course, sir,” Delalieu says. “My apologies.”
“Feel free to shower and change,” Warner says to me. “I left some clothes for you in the bathroom—no dresses,” he says, fighting a smile. “We’ll wait here. Delalieu and I have a few things to discuss.”
I nod, untangling myself from the bedsheets and stumbling to my feet. I tug on the hem of my T-shirt, self-conscious all of a sudden, feeling rumpled and disheveled in front of these two military men.
I stare at them for a moment.
Warner gestures to the bathroom door.
I take the coffee with me as I go, wondering all the while who Delalieu is and why Warner seems to trust him. I thought he said all of his soldiers wanted him dead.
I wish I could listen in on their conversation, but they’re both careful to say nothing until the bathroom door shuts behind me.
I take a quick shower, careful not to let the water touch my hair. I already washed it last night, and the temperature feels brisk this morning; if we’re headed out, I don’t want to risk catching a cold. It’s difficult, though, to avoid the temptation of a long shower—and hot water—in Warner’s bathroom.