Defy Me

Page 37

Once I’m on the other side of the door, Nazeera pulls her invisibility over me. I don’t make it far before I take a sharp breath, slumping against the wall.

“Shit,” she says. “Did you get shot?”

“Obviously,” I bite out, trying to keep my breathing even.

“Dammit, Warner, what the hell is wrong with you? We have to get back to the plane in the next fifteen minutes, or they’re going to leave without us.”

“What? Why would—”

“Because I told them to. We have to get Ella out of here no matter what. I can’t have them waiting around for us and risk getting killed in the process.”

“Your sympathy is truly heartwarming. Thank you.”

She sighs. “Where did you get shot?”

“In my leg.”

“Can you walk?”

“I should be able to in just a minute.”

I hear her hesitate. “What does that mean?”

“If I manage to live long enough, maybe I’ll tell you.”

She’s unamused. “Can you really start running in just a minute?”

“Oh, now it’s running? A moment ago you were asking if I could walk.”

“Running would be better.”

I offer her a bitter laugh. It’s hard from this distance, but I’ve been drawing on my father’s new ability, harnessing it as best I can from where I am. I feel the wound healing, slowly regenerating nerves and veins and even a bit of bone, but it’s taking longer than I’d like.

“How long is the flight back?” I say. “I can’t remember.”

“We’ve got the jet, so it should only take about eight hours.”

I nod, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t think I can survive eight hours with an open wound.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I don’t give a shit. I’m giving you two more minutes before I carry you out of here myself.”

I grunt in response, focusing all of my energy on drawing up the healing powers into my body. I’ve never tried to do something like this while wounded, and I didn’t realize how demanding it was, both emotionally and physically. I feel drained. My head is throbbing, my jaw aching from the intense pressure I’ve used to bite back the pain, and my leg feels like it’s on fire. There’s nothing pleasant about the healing process. I have to imagine that my father is on the move—probably searching for me with Ibrahim—because harnessing his power is harder than any of the others I’ve tried to take.

“We’re leaving in thirty seconds,” Nazeera says, a warning in her voice.

I grit my teeth.



“Did you just swear?” Nazeera says, stunned.

“I’m in an extraordinary amount of pain.”

“All right, that’s it, we’re out of time.”

And before I manage to get a word in, she picks me up, off the ground.

And we’re in the air.

Juliette Ella

Kenji and I have been staring at each other in nervous silence for the last minute. I spent the first ten minutes telling him a little about Emmaline, which was its own stressful distraction, and then Kenji helped me wash the blood off my hands and face with the few supplies we have on board. Now we’re both staring into the silence, our combined terror filling the plane.

It’s a nice plane, I think. I’m not sure. I haven’t actually had the presence of mind to look around. Or to ask him who, exactly, among us even knows how to fly a plane. But none of that will matter, of course, if Nazeera and Warner don’t get back here soon.

It won’t matter because I won’t be leaving without him.

And my thoughts must be easy to read, because suddenly Kenji frowns. “Listen,” he says, “I’m just as worried about them as you are. I don’t want to leave Nazeera behind and I sure as hell don’t want to imagine anything bad happening to her while she’s out there, but we have to get you out of here.”


“We don’t have a choice, J,” he says, cutting me off. “We have to get you out of here whether you like it or not. The Reestablishment is up to some shady shit, and you’re right in the center of it. We have to keep you safe. Right now, keeping you safe is my entire mission.”

I drop my face in my hands, and then, just as quickly, look up again. “This is all my fault, you know? I could’ve prevented this.”

“What are you talking about?”

I look him straight in the eye. “I should’ve done more research on The Reestablishment. I should’ve read up on its history—and my history within it. I should’ve learned more about the supreme commanders. I should’ve been better prepared. Hell, I should’ve demanded we search the water for Anderson’s dead body instead of just assuming he’d sunk with the ship.” I shake my head, hard. “I wasn’t ready to be supreme commander, Kenji. You knew it; Castle knew it. I put everyone’s lives in danger.”

“Hey,” he says sharply, “I never said you weren’t—”

“Only Warner ever tried to convince me I was good enough, but I don’t think I ever really believed it.”

“J, listen to me. I never said you weren’t—”

“And now he’s gone. Warner is gone. Everyone from Omega Point might be dead. Everything we built . . . everything we worked toward—” I feel myself break, snap open from the inside. “I can’t lose him, Kenji.” My voice is shaking. My hands are shaking. “I can’t— You don’t know— You don’t—”

Kenji looks at me with actual pain in his eyes. “Stop it, J. You’re breaking my heart. I can’t hear this.”

And I realize, as I swallow back the lump in my throat, how much I’d needed to have this conversation. These feelings had been building inside of me for weeks, and I’d desperately needed someone to talk to.

I needed my friend.

“I thought I’d been through some hard things,” I say, my eyes now filling with tears. “I thought I’d lived through my share of awful experiences. But this— I honestly think these have been the worst days of my life.”

Kenji’s eyes are deep. Serious. “You want to tell me about it?”

I shake my head, wiping furiously at my cheeks. “I don’t think I’ll be able to talk about any of it until I know Warner is okay.”

“I’m so sorry, J. I really am.”

I sniff, hard. “You know my name is Ella, right?”

“Right,” he says, his eyebrows pulling together. “Yeah. Ella. That’s wild.”

“I like it,” I say. “I like it better than Juliette.”

“I don’t know. I think both names are nice.”

“Yeah,” I say, turning away. “But Juliette was the name Anderson picked out for me.”

“And Ella is the name you were born with,” Kenji says, shooting me a look. “I get it.”


“Listen,” he says with a sigh. “I know this has been a rough couple of weeks for you. I heard about the memory thing. I heard about lots of things. And I can’t pretend to imagine I have any idea what you must be going through right now. But you can’t blame yourself for any of this. It’s not your fault. None of it is your fault. You’ve been a pawn at the center of this conspiracy your entire life. The last month wasn’t going to change that, okay? You have to be kinder to yourself. You’ve already been through so much.”

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