I don’t want to stay out here alone. I’m afraid of the dark.
My tongue darts out to wet my parched lips, then I suck in a deep breath of air and slowly inch closer to the boundary marker.
Right now, my fear of being alone in the dark is greater than my fear of being fried.
Ethan is right. I can’t go home.
I peek through the hole, but with the light from the force field blinding me, all I see is darkness on the other side.
Please don’t disappear on me and fry me to a crisp.
I fear my legs might shake right from under me as I put my first leg through the hole. The bright blue light stings my eyes, making them water.
It’s the brightest light I have ever seen.
When the right half of my body is through the hole, a pair of hands come out of the dark. They grab hold of my waist, and as they lift me through the hole, I let out a terrified shriek.
Almighty! I’m going to die. The deviants are going to kill me.
Just as my lips part to scream again, a hand slaps hard over my mouth, smothering me. An arm yanks me backward until I slam into a solid chest.
My eyes are wide, my heart thundering against my ribs.
Terrified, I watch Aaron and Ethan climb through the hole as if they’ve done it before. I try to shout a warning to them, but it’s muffled by the hand.
“Who the fuck is this?” A deep and edgy male voice snaps above my head.
It’s only then I feel the waves of anger pulsing from the tense body of the man holding me.
“Relax, she’s Jasper Matthias, the daughter of the engineer. I told him I’d bring her,” Ethan explains, apparently not at all surprised by the man’s presence. He doesn’t look worried that we’re in danger.
What’s going on?
“The daughter?” the voice rumbles. “You brought the fucking daughter?”
Dear Almighty, please save me. I promise I’ll try harder to be virtuous.
The man lets go of me and shoves me toward Ethan while barking, “You said only one other person, Ethan! Aaron we can use in the war. He’s been here before. But she’ll hold us back, and if she makes it to the ward, they will break her.”
I was mistaken. The voice isn’t deep and edgy but cold and heartless.
I keep my eyes down, too scared to look up. My heart is beating in my throat, making it difficult to swallow.
“We’re wasting time,” Ethan snaps.
There’s a moment's silence, then I hear a sizzling sound to my left. Everyone's eyes snap in the direction of the boundary marker, watching as the hole in the dome behind us shrinks until it’s gone.
My chance to go back is gone. I’m in the forbidden land with two men I hardly know and another complete stranger who’s angry and threatening.
I suck in deep breaths to try and clear my head, knowing I can’t afford to panic now.
“I don’t need a child to worry about. Dammit, Ethan!”
The man grabs at my shoulder, spinning me around, and in the light of the dome, I see a scar above his right eyebrow. He hasn’t shaven in a couple of days, making him look downright mean. His shirt has holes, and the black jeans look worn from years of wear. The boots on his feet are bulky and look like they can easily squash me.
He’s way taller than me, with a muscled body that could easily overpower me. Ink covers his arms and neck, the patterns giving off an aggressive vibe.
Still, he’s attractive and more manly than any male I’ve ever laid eyes on.
I shake my head to rid myself of the insane thoughts. I’m losing it. Only I could notice what someone looks like while my life hangs in the balance.
The man frowns and narrows his eyes at me. “You keep your mouth shut and do as I say, or I swear I’ll put a bullet in your head myself.”
I swallow hard as his harsh words rain down on me.
“Do you understand?” he barks at me.
I nod because there’s just no way I’ll manage to say something without squeaking.
His eyes sweep over me once more, then he shakes his head. “Take the food and first aid kits out of the bags and load them into mine.” He throws a ragged-looking bag at Ethan. “Take off your jackets and toss them.” Again, his eyes travel over the length of my body, and my cheeks flush with heat. “The clothes look too new. Dirty them with sand.”
I just nod and scramble to do as he says.
“They’re going to see right through the kid,” he mutters. “She looks way too innocent.”
Ethan glances at me and then at the man. “Jai is worth it, Chance.”
Hearing the man’s name, my eyes widen.