I exhale. Close my eyes as I say, “His mom died today.”
“What?” Kenji asks, stunned. “What—h-how? His mom was in there?”
“She’d been sick for a long time,” I say, the words rushing out of me. “Anderson kept her locked in that house and he abandoned her. He left her to die. Warner had been trying to help her, and he didn’t know how. She couldn’t be touched, just like I can’t touch anyone, and the pain of it was killing her every day.” I’m losing control now, unable to keep my feelings contained any longer. “Warner never wanted to use me as a weapon,” I say to him. “He made that up so he had a story to tell his father. He found me by accident. Because he was trying to find a solution. To help her. All these years.”
Kenji takes a sharp breath. “I had no idea,” he says. “I didn’t even know he was close to his mom.”
“You don’t know him at all,” I say, not caring how desperate I sound. “You think you do but you really don’t.” I feel raw, like I’ve been sanded down to the bone.
He says nothing.
“Let’s go,” I say. “I need some time to breathe. To think.”
“Yeah,” he says. He exhales. “Yeah, sure. Of course.”
I turn to go.
“J,” he says, stopping me, his hand still on my arm.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I didn’t know.”
I blink fast against the burning in my eyes. Swallow back the emotion building in my throat. “It’s okay, Kenji. You were never supposed to.”
I finally manage to pull myself together long enough to head back to the training rooms. It’s getting late, but I don’t anticipate seeing Warner down here tonight. I think he’ll want the time alone.
I’m making myself scarce on purpose.
I’ve had enough.
I came so close to killing Anderson once, and I’ll make sure I have that chance again. But this time, I’ll follow through.
I wasn’t ready last time. I wouldn’t have known what to do even if I’d killed him then. I would’ve handed control over to Castle and I would’ve watched quietly as someone else tried to fix our world again. But I see now that Castle was wrong for this job. He’s too tender. Too anxious to please everyone.
I, on the other hand, am left with no concerns at all.
I will be unapologetic. I will live with no regrets. I will reach into the earth and rip out the injustice and I will crush it in my bare hands. I want Anderson to fear me and I want him to beg for mercy and I want to say no, not for you. Never for you.
And I don’t care if that’s not nice enough.
I get to my feet.
Adam is standing across the room, talking to Winston and Ian. Everyone falls silent as I approach. And if Adam is thinking or feeling anything at all about me, he doesn’t show it.
“You have to tell him,” I say.
“What?” Adam startles.
“You have to tell him the truth,” I say. “And if you don’t, I will.”
All at once Adam’s eyes are a frozen ocean, cold and closed off. “Don’t push me, Juliette. Don’t say stupid things you’re going to regret.”
“You have no right to keep this from him. He has no one in this world, and he deserves to know.”
“This is none of your business,” Adam says. He’s towering over me, his fists clenched. “Stay out of it. Don’t force me to do something I don’t want to do.”
“Are you actually threatening me?” I ask. “Are you insane?”
“Maybe you’ve forgotten,” he says, “that I’m the only one in this room who can shut you off. But I haven’t. You have no power against me.”
“Of course I have power against you,” I tell him. “My touch was killing you when we were together—”
“Yeah, well, things have changed a lot since then.” He grabs my hand, yanking so hard I nearly fall forward. I try to pull away and I can’t.
He’s too strong.
“Adam, let go of me—”
“Can you feel that?” he asks, eyes a crazy, stormy shade of blue.
“What?” I ask. “Feel what?”
“Exactly,” he says. “There’s nothing there. You’re empty. No power, no fire, no superstrength. Just a girl who can’t throw a punch to save her life. And I’m perfectly fine. Unharmed.”
I swallow hard and meet his cold gaze. “So you’ve done it, then?” I ask. “You managed to control it?”
“Of course I did,” he says angrily. “And you couldn’t wait—even though I told you I could do it—you couldn’t wait even though I told you I was training so we could be together—”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.” I’m staring at my hand in his, his refusal to let go. “We would’ve ended up in the same place sooner or later.”
“That’s not true—this is proof!” he says, holding up my hand. “We could’ve made it work—”
“We’re too different now. We want different things. And this?” I say, nodding at our hands. “All this managed to prove is that you are extremely good at turning me off.”
Adam’s jaw clenches.
“Now let go of my hand.”
“Hey—can we please refrain from putting on a shitshow tonight?” Kenji’s voice booms from across the room. He’s heading toward us. Pissed.
“Stay out of this,” Adam snaps at him.
“It’s called consideration. There are other people living in this room, jackass,” Kenji says once he’s close enough. He grabs Adam’s arm. “So knock it off.”
Adam breaks away angrily. “Don’t touch me.”
Kenji shoots him a sharp look. “Let go of her.”
“You know what?” Adam says, his anger taking over. “You’re so obsessed with her—jumping to her defense all the time, getting involved in our conversations all the time—you like her so much? Fine. You can have her.”
Time freezes all around us.
The stage is set:
Adam and his wild eyes, his rage and his red face.
Kenji standing next to him, annoyed, slightly confused.
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