Did the deviants guarding the border kill them?
My lips start to tremble, and I try to square my shoulders. I can’t cry. I have to prove to Chance I’m just as strong as Ethan and Aaron. Besides, I didn’t even know the other crusaders all that well.
Still, I saw some of those people every day. They didn’t deserve to die like that.
With a heart that weighs a ton and more fear than I can handle, I keep walking next to Chance until the buildings grow taller as we cross a bridge. I can’t see what’s below us. There’s only a massive gaping hole.
It’s weird how Chance doesn’t look as scary after hearing those shots and knowing what happened to the others.
Wild grass has pushed its way through the concrete in some places, and as we step off the bridge, I trip over something and fall hard to my knees. I grab hold of the very thing I trip over that seems to be part of an ancient statue.
Crap, Jai. You have to do better!
As I pull myself up, I take in the full view of a woman’s concrete face. Spikes dart out around her head, forming a crown. Some have been broken off, though.
Wow. The fallen statue is enormous.
I yank my hand away from the tip of her nose and take a stumbling step backward.
“Before the wars, the statue used to represent freedom,” Chance says, his features grim. Then his eyes flash to mine. “It’s been left here to warn the virtuous that we won’t go down without a war. We’ll always fight for our freedom.”
His words make me swallow hard, and I take a last look at the fallen statue that means so much to Chance and the other deviants before I have to run to catch up to our small group.
Freedom is a word that belongs with faith and hope, words we were never allowed to say in the ecocity.
When we reach the metropolis, most of the windows are shattered or completely gone. It must’ve happened during the wars because there are no shards of glass lying around as we walk past the buildings.
I stumble over a hole in the ground where bricks are missing and quickly catch myself from falling.
We pass overturned trashcans. Old metal ones, not plastic like the virtuous use for trash.
“We have to go up. We are easy targets down here,” Chance says, but it doesn’t make sense.
Suddenly, he takes hold of a metal chain and pulls down a warped ladder that’s seen better days. The metal rattles and groans, then sways precariously.
I gape at the death trap.
Oh, hell no.
“Every second step is loose, so make sure to avoid it.”
My shoulders slump at this bit of news. Today is just not turning out to be my day.
Chance continues, “Let’s do this as quietly as possible. I’d like to get to the tracks without a bullet in my back.”
Remembering there are rebels, I scan our surroundings but see nothing from the dark alley we’re standing in.
Chance reaches for a metal step and pulls himself up with ease.
I stare, my mouth dropping open while my stomach bunches and my heart sinks to my feet. Still, I can’t help but admire Chance because I’ve never seen anyone pull themselves up with one arm before.
Gosh, he must be strong.
Chance rests his feet on the third rung, and I swallow hard as my stomach sinks to my feet.
It’s too high. There’s just no way I’ll be able to do it.
“Jai,” Chance’s voice is a low murmur, and my eyes dart back to him. He holds his right hand out to me.
Really? He’s going to help me?
He gives me an impatient look. “Today, little girl.”
Annoyance seeps into my chest from the name he calls me, but I hide the emotion from showing on my face. Moving closer, my body is tense as I wipe my hands on the back of my pants to make sure they’re dry. I don’t want to slip halfway up.
“Take hold of my wrist,” Chance orders.
Crap. I get a feeling there’s going to be a lot of touching.
My eyes land on his hand, and again I notice the scary, dark ink covering his skin.
Just do it, Jai! Before he changes his mind and leaves you here.
“I’m going to pull you up. Just put your feet next to mine.” He sounds different, calmer, and not so upset anymore.
I hesitate for another moment, then brace myself and place my hand in his. My fingers don’t even wrap halfway around his wrist, and the heat from his skin instantly sends a rush of tingles up my arm.
His fingers are filled with strength as they clamp around my wrist, making me feel as tiny as a bug. When Chance pulls me up, and the muscles in his arms strain, heat flushes through me.