Hands came around my face. Stellan. “Breathe,” he said, and placed one of the hands on my stomach. “Breathe into my hand.”
I did. I sat up. Another bullet ricocheted into the clearing from below, and we all ducked. “Go,” I said through clenched teeth, and dragged myself into the low tunnel.
Each time I jostled my arm, it was like the bullet was hitting me again. Stellan scooped me into his arms the second the tunnel was tall enough to stand in. Elodie tied her soaking wet jacket tight around my shoulder, and then we were all running, down tunnels, out through the pile of broken bricks, stopping at the bottom, where the last rays of the late-afternoon light poured in.
“Let me go first,” Jack said. “We’ll leave through the museum—avoid those guards out back in case they’re Lydia’s.”
I made Stellan set me down and tried to concentrate on the plan.
“Shoot through the lock . . . ” I heard, and then Jack was going up the stairs, yelling something, and then we were all running, Elodie mumbling into her phone to Mariam, me trying not to trip over my own feet, dizzy. I knew vaguely I hadn’t lost that much blood. I was going into shock. I forced my focus ahead.
Jack shot through the lock on the back door of the museum and kicked it open, and then we were running straight through the same exhibits we’d seen earlier. There was still a metal gate pulled down over the front door, and Jack shot out the padlock on that one, too. Elodie hauled it up, and we all ran to the open door of Mariam’s cab. Jack pushed us all inside, and through my haze, I saw armed guards rounding the corner.
“Jack,” I called. Stellan turned just in time to grab his arm and haul him into the van. They both flopped across me, just ahead of a gunshot that pinged the car where Jack had been.
“Go!” Elodie screamed. It wouldn’t be that easy. Mariam wouldn’t know how to drive like this was a getaway car. She’d probably be too shocked to do anything. I was about to yell at Elodie to get in the driver’s seat herself when the cab took off. Elodie heaved the sliding door to the van closed, and yelled, “Lose them. Hide us.”
We screeched around a corner, and then another. I caught glimpses of Mariam’s furrowed brows as she watched for pursuers in the rearview mirror, but she wove quickly and expertly through the tiny streets until we were on a freeway, wedged between a bus and a truck piled high with scraps of wood, with at least six other vans that looked just like ours.
Elodie, crouched by the door, put her head in her hands and then looked up at us. I was draped across Stellan’s lap, blood soaking through Elodie’s jacket on my shoulder. Jack had pulled himself partly off of us, but he and Stellan were holding on to each other. Elodie threw herself at us, landing on top of the pile in a four-person embrace, her face buried in my neck while mine was smushed into Stellan’s, and I didn’t even know whose hands I was clinging to, but I was clinging hard.
• • •
“It’s just a deep graze, but it needs stitches,” Elodie said a few minutes later, when we’d all calmed down enough to think. She was examining my shoulder. “One of us can do the stitches, but we need supplies . . . Mariam, do you know anyone who works at a doctor’s office?”
Mariam’s eyes were huge in the rearview mirror, but she was still driving. “My friend’s brother cleans the floors at an office of a . . . a doctor for the skin?”
“A dermatologist. Perfect. The office will be closed—can he get us in? We’ll pay him a lot of money, and I promise he won’t get in trouble.”
After making a short phone call, Mariam steered us off the freeway.
We huddled into a small, dim exam room at the dermatologist’s office. Elodie injected my shoulder with a numbing solution, and then left Jack to clean it and stitch it up while she and Stellan went outside to talk to a certainly traumatized Mariam and probably to have a long-overdue conversation themselves. As much as we’d been at each other’s throats since Jerusalem, the past couple hours had begun to knit the four of us back together.
I stared up at the dark wall, decorated with curling posters showing the stages of skin cancer. Jack closed the door, crossed the room to where I sat on the exam table in a circle of light, and pulled me into a careful but bruisingly tight hug. I hugged him back with one arm, burying my face in his shoulder. “Are you okay?” I murmured.
He pulled away. “Am I okay? You’re the one who’s been shot.”
“I know, but you—” He’d just killed someone he’d been charged with protecting his whole life. He seemed strangely calm. It probably hadn’t sunk in yet.
I glanced down at where his hands were still resting on my waist. He did, too. He cleared his throat and let go of me, picking up the needle he’d already prepared for my shoulder. I felt a tug as he put in the first stitch, and looked down at my shoulder, watching him loop it through my skin and tie it off. I never thought I’d be able to watch something like that without it bothering me. I never thought I’d be comfortable with a lot of the things I did now.
“Avery,” Jack said quietly, “he’s alive.”
It took me a second to realize he was talking about Fitz. The feeling of something good happening wasn’t one I was used to anymore. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around it, especially since being happy about anything felt wrong when so much was still grim. Fitz was alive, but he’d been being tortured. I’d just seen my half brother killed. My mom was still dead. The juxtaposition of emotions was enough to make my head spin. “Yeah.”
“We can get him out.”
“I know. We thought for so long—”
Jack nodded and threaded the needle again. “It’s like . . . suddenly I don’t even care that he’s Order.” He paused, and I could see him judging my reaction. I just sat quietly and let him go on. “I still don’t like that he’s lied to us, the same as with Elodie. But . . . I thought I’d gotten him killed. I thought I’d gotten Oliver Saxon killed. I’d forgotten how it was not to feel so terribly guilty about those things.”
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