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Positively beside myself, I stepped forward, reaching into the water. The drops were fat and warm as they collected on my arm and ran down to my dress. I heard Maxon laugh once before shoving me out into the downpour.

I gasped, soaked in seconds. Turning around, I grabbed his arm, and he smiled as he pretended to fight. His hair fell in strands around his eyes as we were both quickly drenched, and he was still grinning as he pulled me over to the edge of the wall.

“Look,” he said into my ear.

I turned, noticing our view for the first time. I stared in awe as the city spread out in front of me. The web of streets, the geometry of buildings, the array of colors—even dimmed in the gray hue of rain, it was breathtaking.

I found myself feeling attached to it all, as if it belonged to me somehow.

“I don’t want the rebels to take it, America,” he said over the rain, as if he was reading my mind. “I don’t know how bad the death toll is, but I can tell that my father is keeping it a secret from me. He’s afraid I’ll call off the Selection.”

“Is there a way to find out the truth?”

He debated. “I feel like, if I could get in touch with August, he’d know. I could get a letter to him, but I’m afraid of putting too much in writing. And I don’t know if I could get him into the palace.”

I considered that. “What if we could get to him?”

Maxon laughed. “How do you suggest we do that?”

I shrugged playfully. “I’ll work on it.”

He stared at me, quiet for a minute. “It’s nice to say things out loud. I’m always watching what I say. I feel like no one can hear me up here, I guess. Just you.”

“Then go ahead and say anything.”

He smirked. “Only if you will.”

“Fine,” I answered, happy to play along.

“Well, what do you want to know?”

I wiped the wet hair from my forehead, starting with something important but impersonal. “Did you really not know about the diaries?”

“No. But I’m up to speed now. Father made me read them all. If August had come two weeks ago, I would have thought he was lying about everything, but not anymore. It’s shocking, America. You only scratched the surface with what you read. I want to tell you about it, but I can’t yet.”

“I understand.”

He stared me down, determined. “How did the girls find out about you taking off my shirt?”

I looked at the ground, hesitating. “We were watching the guards work out. I said you looked as good as any of them without your shirt on. It slipped out.”

Maxon threw back his head and laughed. “I can’t be mad about that.”

I smiled. “Have you ever brought anyone else up here?”

He looked sad. “Olivia. One time, and that’s it.”

I actually remembered that, come to think of it. He’d kissed her up here, and she’d told us all about it.

“I kissed Kriss,” he blurted out, not looking at me. “Recently. For the first time. It seems only right that you should know.”

He peeked down, and I gave him a small nod. If I hadn’t seen them kiss myself, if this had been how I found out, I might have broken down. And even though I already knew, it hurt to hear him say it.

“I hate dating you this way.” I fidgeted, my dress getting heavy with water.

“I know. It’s just how it is.”

“Doesn’t make it fair.”

He laughed. “When has anything in either of our lives ever been fair?”

I gave him that. “I’m not supposed to tell you—and if you let on that you know, he’ll get worse, I’m sure—but . . . your father’s been saying things to me. He also took away the payments for my family. None of the other girls has them anymore, so I guess it looked bad anyway.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. He looked out over the city. I was temporarily distracted by the way his shirt was sticking to his chest. “I don’t think there’s a way to undo that one, America.”

“You don’t have to. I just wanted you to know it was happening. And I can handle it.”

“You’re too tough for him. He doesn’t understand you.” He reached down for my hand, and I gave it to him freely.

I tried to think of anything else I might want to know, but it mostly pertained to the other girls, and I didn’t want to bother with that. I was sure at this point I could guess close enough to the truth, and if I was wrong, I didn’t think I wanted that to ruin this.

Maxon looked down at my wrist. “Do you . . .” He looked up at me, seeming to rethink his question. “Do you want to dance?”

I nodded. “But I’m awful.”

“We’ll go slow.”

Maxon pulled me close, placing a hand on my waist. I put one hand in his and used the other to pick up my soaking dress. We swayed, barely moving. I settled my cheek on Maxon’s chest, he rested his chin on my head, and we spun to the music of the rain.

As he made his grip on me a little bit tighter, it felt like all the bad had been erased and Maxon and I were stripped to the core of our relationship. We were friends who realized they didn’t want to be without each other. We were the other’s opposite in many ways but also so very similar. I couldn’t call our relationship fate, but it did seem bigger than anything I’d known before.

I raised my face to Maxon’s, placing a hand on his cheek, pulling him down for a kiss. His lips, wet, met mine with a brush of heat. I felt both his hands wrap around my back, holding me to him as if he’d fall apart otherwise. While the rain pummeled the roof, the whole world went silent. It felt like there wasn’t enough of him, not enough skin or space or time.

After all these months of trying to reconcile what I wanted and hoped for, I realized then—in this moment Maxon created just for us—that it would never make sense. All I could do was move forward and hope that whenever we drifted, we would somehow find a way back to each other.

And we had to. Because . . . because . . .

For as long as it took to get to this moment, when it came it was fast.

I loved Maxon. For the first time, I could feel it solidly. I wasn’t keeping the feeling at a distance, holding on to Aspen and all the what-ifs that went along with him. I wasn’t walking into Maxon’s affections while keeping one foot out the door in case he let me down. I simply let it come.

I loved him.

I couldn’t pinpoint what made me so certain, but I knew it then, as surely as I knew my name or the color of the sky or any fact written in a book.

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