“Juliette.” One sharp word. His green eyes so intense.
I glance at his trembling hands; he clenches them into fists.
“Go,” he says quietly. “I don’t want you to be here right now.”
“Then why did you bring me back with you?” I ask, angry. “If you don’t even want to see me—”
“Why don’t you understand?” He looks up at me and his eyes are so full of pain and devastation it actually takes my breath away.
My hands are shaking. “Understand what—?”
“I love you.”
His voice. His back. His knees. His face.
He has to hold on to the side of his desk. He can’t meet my eyes. “I love you,” he says, his words harsh and soft all at once. “I love you and it isn’t enough. I thought it would be enough and I was wrong. I thought I could fight for you and I was wrong. Because I can’t. I can’t even face you anymore—”
“Tell me it isn’t true,” he says. “Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I’m blind. Tell me you love me.”
My heart won’t stop screaming as it breaks in half.
I can’t lie to him.
“I don’t—I don’t know how to understand what I feel,” I try to explain.
“Please,” he whispers. “Please just go—”
“Aaron, please understand—I thought I knew what love was before and I was wrong—I don’t want to make that mistake again—”
“Please”—he’s begging now—“for the love of God, Juliette, I have lost my dignity—”
“Okay.” I nod. “Okay. I’m sorry. Okay.”
I back away.
I turn around.
And I don’t look back.
“I have to leave in seven minutes.”
Warner and I are both fully dressed, talking to each other like perfect acquaintances; like last night never happened. Delalieu brought us breakfast and we ate quietly in separate rooms. No talk of him or me or us or what might’ve been or what might be.
There is no us.
There’s the absence of Adam, and there’s fighting against The Reestablishment. That’s it.
I get it now.
“I’d bring you with me,” he’s saying, “but I think it’ll be hard to disguise you on this trip. If you want, you can wait in the training rooms—I’ll bring the group of them straight there. You can say hello as soon as they arrive.” He finally looks at me. “Is that okay?”
“Very good,” he says. “I’ll show you how to get there.”
He leads me back into his office, and into one of the far corners by the couch. There’s an exit in here I didn’t see last night. Warner hits a button on the wall. The doors slide open.
It’s an elevator.
We walk in and he hits the button for the ground floor. The doors close and we start moving.
I glance up at him. “I never knew you had an elevator in your room.”
“I needed private access to my training facilities.”
“You keep saying that,” I tell him. “Training facilities. What’s a training facility?”
The elevator stops.
The doors slide open.
He holds them open for me. “This.”
I’ve never seen so many machines in my life.
Running machines and leg machines and machines that work your arms, your shoulders, your abdominals. There are even machines that look like bikes. I don’t know what any of them are called. I know one of these things is a bench press. I also know what dumbbells look like, and there are racks and racks of those, in all different sizes. Weights, I think. Free weights. There are also bars attached to the ceiling in some places, but I can’t imagine what those are for. There are tons of things around this room, actually, that look entirely foreign to me.
And each wall is used for something different.
One wall seems to be made of stone. Or rock. There are little grooves in it that are accented by what look like pieces of plastic in different colors. Another wall is covered in guns. Hundreds of guns resting on pegs that keep them in place. They’re pristine. Gleaming as if they’ve just been cleaned. There’s a door in that same wall; I wonder where it goes. The third wall is covered in the same black, spongelike material that covers the floors. It looks like it might be soft and springy. And the final wall is the one we’ve just walked through. It houses the elevator, and one other door, and nothing else.
The dimensions are enormous. This space is at least two or three times the size of Warner’s bedroom, his closet, and his office put together. It doesn’t seem possible that all of this is for one person.
“This is amazing,” I say, turning to face him. “You use all of this?”
He nods. “I’m usually in here at least two or three times a day,” he says. “I got off track when I was injured,” he says, “but in general, yes.” He steps forward, touches the spongy black wall. “This has been my life for as long as I’ve known it. Training,” he says. “I’ve been training forever. And this is where we’re going to start with you, too.”
“But I don’t need to train,” I tell him. “Not like this.”
He tries to meet my eyes and can’t.
“I have to go,” he says. “If you get bored in here, take the elevator back up. This elevator can only access two levels, so you can’t get lost.” He buttons his blazer. “I’ll return as soon as I can.”
I expect him to leave, but he doesn’t. “You’ll still be here,” he finally says, “when I return.”
It’s not exactly a question.
I nod anyway.
“It doesn’t seem possible,” he says, so quietly, “that you’re not trying to run away.”
I say nothing.
He exhales a hard breath. Pivots on one heel. And leaves.
I’m sitting on one of the benches, toying with five-pound dumbbells, when I hear his voice.
“Holy shit,” he’s saying. “This place is legit.”
I jump up, nearly dropping the weights on my foot. Kenji and Winston and Castle and Brendan and Ian and Alia and Lily are all walking through the extra door in the gun wall.
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