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“I’m leaving,” Adam is saying. “I’m leaving, and when I come back, I want her gone.”

Don’t cry, I keep saying to myself.

Don’t cry.

This isn’t real.

“You and me,” Adam is saying to me now, his voice so rough, so angry, “we’re done. We’re finished,” he snaps. “I never want to see you again. Not anywhere in this world, and definitely not in my own goddamn house.” He stares at me, chest heaving. “So get the hell out. Get out before I get back.”

He stalks across the room. Grabs a coat. Yanks the door open.

The walls shake as he slams it shut.

TWENTY-EIGHT

I’m standing in the middle of the room, staring at nothing.

I’m suddenly freezing. My hands, I think, are shaking. Or maybe it’s my bones. Maybe my bones are shaking. I move mechanically, so slowly, my mind still fuzzy. I’m vaguely aware that someone might be saying something to me, but I’m too focused on getting my coat because I’m so cold. It’s so cold in here. I really need my jacket. And maybe my gloves. I can’t stop shivering.

I pull my coat on. Shove my hands into the pockets. I feel like someone might be talking to me but I can’t hear anything through the weird haze muting my senses. I clench my fists and my fingers fumble against a piece of plastic.

The pager. I’d almost forgotten.

I pull it out of my pocket. It’s a tiny little thing; a thin, black rectangle with a button set flush against the length of it. I press it without thinking. I press it over and over and over again, because the action calms me. Soothes me, somehow. Click click. I like the repetitive motion. Click. Click click. I don’t know what else to do.

Click.

Hands land on my shoulders.

I turn around. Castle is standing just behind me, his eyes heavy with concern. “You’re not going to leave,” he says to me. “We’ll work things out. It’ll be all right.”

“No.” My tongue is dust. My teeth have crumbled away. “I have to go.”

I can’t stop pressing the button on this pager.

Click.

Click click.

“Come sit down,” Castle is saying to me. “Adam is upset, but he’ll be okay. I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said.”

“I’m pretty sure he did,” Ian says.

Castle shoots him a sharp look.

“You can’t leave,” says Winston. “I thought we were going to kick some ass together. You promised.”

“Yeah,” Lily pipes up, trying to sound upbeat. But her eyes are wary, pulled together in fear or concern and I realize she’s terrified for me.

Not of me.

For me.

It’s the strangest sensation.

Click click click.

Click click.

“If you go,” she’s saying, trying to smile, “we’ll have to live like this forever. And I don’t want to live with a bunch of smelly guys for the rest of my life.”

Click.

Click click.

“Don’t go,” James says. He looks so sad. So serious. “I’m sorry Adam was mean to you. But I don’t want you to die,” he says. “And I don’t wish you were dead. I swear I don’t.”

James. Sweet James. His eyes break my heart.

“I can’t stay.” My voice sounds strange to me. Broken. “He really meant what he said—”

“We’ll be a sad, sorry lot if you leave.” Brendan cuts me off. “And I have to agree with Lily. I don’t want to live like this for much longer.”

“But how—”

The front door flies open.

“JULIETTE—Juliette—”

I spin around.

Warner is standing there, face flushed, chest rising and falling, staring at me like I might be a ghost. He strides across the room before I have a chance to say a word and cups my face in his hands, his eyes searching me. “Are you okay?” he’s saying. “God—are you okay? What happened? Are you all right?”

He’s here.

He’s here and all I want to do is fall apart but I don’t.

I won’t.

“Thank you,” I manage to say to him. “Thank you for coming—”

He wraps me up in his arms, not caring about the eight sets of eyes watching us. He just holds me, one arm tight around my waist, the other held to the back of my head. My face is buried in his chest and the warmth of him is so familiar to me now. Oddly comforting. He runs his hand up and down my back, tilts his head toward mine. “What’s wrong, love?” he whispers. “What happened? Please tell me—”

I blink.

“Do you want me to take you back?”

I don’t answer.

I don’t know what I want or need to do anymore. Everyone is telling me to stay, but this isn’t their home. This is Adam’s home, and it’s so clear he hates me now. But I also don’t want to leave my friends. I don’t want to leave Kenji.

“Do you want me to leave?” Warner asks.

“No,” I say too quickly. “No.”

Warner leans back, just a little. “Tell me what you want,” he says desperately. “Tell me what to do,” he says, “and I’ll do it.”

“This is, by far, the craziest shit I have ever seen,” Kenji says. “I really never would’ve believed it. Not in a million years.”

“It’s like a soap opera.” Ian nods. “But with worse acting.”

“I think it’s kind of sweet,” Winston says.

I jerk back, half spinning around. Everyone is staring at us. Winston is the only one smiling.

“What’s going on?” Warner asks them. “Why does she look like she’s about to cry?”

No one answers.

“Where’s Kent?” Warner asks, eyes narrowing as he reads their faces. “What did he do to her?”

“He’s out,” Lily says. “He left a little bit ago.”

Warner’s eyes darken as he processes the information. He turns to me. “Please tell me you don’t want to stay here anymore.”

I drop my head into my hands. “Everyone wants to help—to fight—except for Adam. But they can’t leave. And I don’t want to leave them behind.”

Warner sighs. Closes his eyes. “Then stay,” he says gently. “If that’s what you want. Stay here. I can always meet you.”

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