Reaching an intersection, Chance indicates for us to stop. “See that flickering light over there?” he whispers.
On the opposite side of the street, people are standing around a fire, their shadows cast wide against the walls.
“Trackers,” he whispers.
The hair on my body rises at hearing the word. A weird numbness spreads over my tongue and through my throat. All I can see of them are their menacing shadows.
“There’s no other way?” The panic is back in Ethan’s voice, and this time I feel it in more than just my stomach. My body is tense to the point where my muscles tremble and ache.
“The subway track is two buildings down. Just two. We can sprint.”
I want to tell Chance I’m not fast at all, but my jaws are clenched shut with fear.
I only realize how tightly I’m squeezing my fingers into a ball at my sides when Chance reaches for me and takes hold of my right hand. He pulls me to the front, so I’m next to him, and when he weaves his fingers with mine, my heartbeat speeds up, and my mouth grows dryer.
I glance down at our joined hands and take in the size difference. Chance’s hand practically dwarfs mine, and instead of it making me feel vulnerable, it fills me with a sense of security and strength.
It’s because he’s the strongest man you know and all that stands between you and certain death.
When I look up at his face, I see his features are drawn in a dark frown, his eyes locked on the trackers across the street.
“We have the upper hand. They don’t know we’re here. Let your fear drive you. If you fall behind, I won’t stop for you.” His words are clipped, filling me with dread.
I can only swallow hard because I’m too scared to do anything else.
Chance reaches behind him, then my eyes widen, and my eyebrows dart up as he pulls a gun from behind his back.
I’ve never seen one up close.
The metal weapon looks threatening in Chance’s grip, and I struggle to tear my eyes away from it.
“On the count of three, we run. One,” I feel his voice vibrating deep in my chest. “Two.” My eyes zoom in on Chance, and I notice that he doesn’t let go of my hand. “Three!”
I thrust myself forward as if I’m launching myself off a rooftop.
I manage to keep up with Chance until something blasts into the side of us in the street. It sends shards of concrete up. When I shriek, Chance wraps his fingers tighter around mine and yanks me forward.
I thought I was scared before, but when there’s another blast somewhere behind me, terror explodes in my chest, closing it right up and making it next to impossible to take a deep breathe.
In class, they told us to control our breathing. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Whoever thought that one up never had to run for their lives.
I can only manage to gasp, pant, and wheeze.
As we run past the first building, I realize the trackers must’ve spotted us. With the third blast nearby, the dreadful realization strikes – they’re shooting at us.
I know very little about guns, only what I’ve learned in first aid and what damage they can do to the human body.
Chance lets go of my hand. “Keep running!” Then he points the gun at the trackers and pulls the trigger.
I hear the crack echo, and there’s another blast slightly to the left of me. Shards of concrete splinter everywhere, and one hits my leg. I shriek and urge my legs to move faster.
Please, don’t let me die.
Suddenly, Chance yanks me to the right, and the ground disappears beneath my feet. My whole body goes rigid and cold as I start to fall, but then strong arms scoop me up off my feet.
I grab Chance’s broad shoulders and hold on for dear life. From the extremely close proximity of our bodies, embarrassment surges hot through my veins.
I press my face into his shirt to catch my breath and fight the tears of shame. There’s also a sharp sense of disappointment that he has to carry me. I’m not supposed to be a liability.
When it counted most, I didn’t get to prove myself. Chance has to carry me.
We reach the bottom of the stairs, and Chance sets me down but still keeps one arm around my waist.
“Just follow my lead and don’t say a word,” he warns right before he bangs a fist twice on a solid metal door.
He pulls me closer to his side until I’m almost squashed against his muscled frame. My whole body goes rigid as I stand in his embrace. He leans down, and his nearness should be intimidating, but it’s not.
“Put your arm around me, or we’re not going to pull this off.”