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“Something’s been wrong for a while,” I say, exasperated. “I can’t even talk to y—”

“Yeah, ever since we dragged this asshole back to Omega Point,” Adam says. He turns to glare at Kenji. “It was your idea—”

“Hey, don’t pull me into your bullshit, okay?” Kenji counters. “Don’t blame me for your issues.”

“We were fine until she started spending so much goddamn time with him—,” Adam begins to say.

“She spent just as much time with him while we were still on base, genius—”

“Stop,” I say. “Please understand: Warner is here to help us. He wants to take down The Reestablishment and kill the supreme just like we do—he’s not our enemy anymore—”

“He’s going to help us?” Adam asks, eyes wide, feigning surprise. “Oh, you mean just like he helped us the last time he said he was going to fight on our side? Right before he broke out of Omega Point and bailed?” Adam laughs out loud, disbelieving. “I can’t believe you’re falling for all of his bullshit—”

“This isn’t some kind of trick, Adam—I’m not stupid—”

“Are you sure?”

“What?” I can’t believe he just insulted me.

“I asked you if you were sure,” he snaps. “Because you’re acting pretty damn stupid right now, so I don’t know if I can trust your judgment anymore.”

“What is wrong with you—”

“What’s wrong with you?” he shouts back, eyes blazing. “You don’t do this. You don’t act like this,” he says. “You’re like a completely different person—”

“Me?” I demand, my voice rising. I’ve been trying so hard to control my temper but I just don’t think I can anymore. He says he wants to have this conversation in front of everyone?

Fine.

We’ll have this conversation in front of everyone.

“If I’ve changed,” I say to him, “then so have you. Because the Adam I remember is kind and gentle and he’d never insult me like this. I know things have been rough for you lately, and I’m trying to understand, to be patient, to give you space—but these last few weeks have been rough on all of us. We’re all going through a hard time but we don’t put each other down. We don’t hurt each other. But you can’t even be nice to Kenji,” I tell him. “You used to be friends with Kenji, remember? Now every time he so much as cracks a joke you look at him like you want to kill him, and I don’t know why—”

“You’re going to defend everyone in this room except for me, aren’t you?” Adam says. “You love Kenji so much, you spend all your goddamn time with Kenji—”

“He’s my friend!”

“I’m your boyfriend!”

“No,” I tell him. “You’re not.”

Adam is shaking, fists clenched. “I can’t even believe you right now.”

“We broke up, Adam.” My voice is steady. “We broke up a month ago.”

“Right,” Adam says. “We broke up because you said you loved me. Because you said you didn’t want to hurt me.”

“I don’t,” I tell him. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’ve never wanted to hurt you.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing right now?” he shouts.

“I don’t know how to talk to you,” I tell him, shaking my head. “I don’t understand—”

“No—you don’t understand anything,” he snaps. “You don’t understand me, you don’t understand yourself, and you don’t understand that you’re acting like a stupid child who’s allowed herself to be brainwashed by a psychopath.”

Time seems to stand still.

Everything I want to say and everything I’ve wished to say begins to take shape, falling to the floor and scrambling upright. Paragraphs and paragraphs begin building walls around me, blocking and justifying as they find ways to fit together, linking and weaving and leaving no room for escape. And every single space between every unspoken word clambers up and into my open mouth, down my throat and into my chest, filling me with so much emptiness I think I might just float away.

I’m breathing.

So hard.

A throat clears.

“Yes, right, I’m really sorry to interrupt,” Warner says, stepping forward. “But Juliette, I need to get going. Are you sure you want to stay here?”

I freeze.

“GET OUT,” Adam shouts. “Get the hell out of my house, you piece of shit. And don’t come back here.”

“Well,” Warner says, cocking his head at me. “Never mind. It looks like you don’t really have a choice.” He holds out his hand. “Shall we?”

“You’re not taking her anywhere.” Adam turns on him. “She’s not leaving with you, and she’s not partnering up with you. Now get lost.”

“Adam. STOP.” My voice is angrier than I mean it to be, but I can’t help it anymore. “I don’t need your permission. I’m not going to live like this. I’m not hiding anymore. You don’t have to come with me—you don’t even have to understand,” I tell him. “But if you loved me, you wouldn’t stand in my way.”

Warner is smiling.

Adam notices.

“Is there something you want to say?” Adam turns on him.

“God, no,” Warner says. “Juliette doesn’t require my assistance. And you might not have realized it yet, but it’s obvious to everyone else that you’ve lost this fight, Kent.”

Adam snaps.

He charges forward, fist pulled back and ready to swing, and it all happens so quickly I only have time to gasp before I hear a sharp crack.

Adam’s fist is frozen only inches from Warner’s face. It’s caught in Warner’s hand.

Adam is shocked into silence, his whole body shaking from the unspent energy. Warner leans into his brother’s face, whispers, “You really don’t want to fight me, you idiot,” and hurls Adam’s fist back with so much force that Adam flies backward, catching himself just before hitting the floor.

Adam is up. Bolting across the room. Angrier.

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