Numbers Page 56

’’They didn\ allow me access to much. I was kept locked inside a room and drugged most of the time.’’

’’A rumor that we existed started and the human authorities sent one of their females, named Ellie, to work at Mercile. She smuggled out enough evidence to convince them we were real. They came and rescued us. None of ours ever made it to the surface until the good humans brought us out.’’ Breeze resumed walking. ’’How did you learn that we were freed and live at Homeland?’’

’’One of the cleaning staff had a little portable television. She brought it in sometimes when she was mopping the floor in my room. I saw Justice North a few times, and he mentioned Homeland was where his people lived in freedom. I knew I needed to reach here, but I didn\ know where it was. I figured humans would know what I didn\ . No one seemed concerned when I asked them where Homeland was and how to get here. A truck driver told me a little, but I didn\ want to ask too many questions after he looked at me in a way that set off alarms. I hitchhiked since I was afraid to go to the police for help. I killed a human to escape and they are human too.’’

Candi stayed at Breeze\s side until they reached a tall building. Breeze stopped. ’’This is the men\s dorm. Are you ready to see him? I don\ know how he\ll react, but he won\ run away again.’’ Her voice deepened. ’’Bet on it.’’ She turned her head. ’’Stick close, guys.’’

’’This is going to be bad,’’ Jinx rasped. ’’I can feel it.’’

’’You should have seen his face. He was enraged for some reason,’’ Torrent added. ’’I think we should go in and speak to him first.’’

Candi knew why 927 had reacted that way. She said nothing in case they changed their minds and wanted to keep her away from him. Hero. Hero. Hero. She kept replaying that name inside her head.

’’Please,’’ she whispered. ’’Take me to Hero.’’ It felt odd saying the new name aloud.

There were at least a dozen males in a large community setting, seated on couches in a wide U shape. A television revealed humans in strange uniforms running on a field with lines painted on it. The males stopped talking, stood and stared when Jinx used a card swipe to open the front doors. Breeze lifted her hand, waving at them once they entered.

’’Don\ mind us. Sit and pretend we\ e not here. Has anyone seen Hero?’’

A primate male jerked his head toward the stairs. ’’He came in about a minute ago, looking as if he wanted to tear off someone\s head. He didn\ speak, just pounded upstairs.’’

’’Where are his quarters?’’ Breeze glanced around. ’’Anyone?’’

’’I know,’’ Jinx admitted. ’’Let\s go.’’

The elevator moved at a snail\s pace to take them to the third floor. It opened and Jinx took the lead. He paused before a door halfway down a hallway. He turned, frowning at Breeze.

’’Let me go in first to test his mood.’’

Breeze advanced and placed both hands on Jinx\s chest, giving him a light shove to move him out of the way. She fisted her hand and pounded on the door. ’’Hero? It\s Breeze. Open up or I\ll kick it down.’’

’’Go away.’’ The familiar snarl came from inside.

’’I\m not kidding. I know I usually do, but not right now,’’ Breeze yelled back. ’’Do you want me to hurt my foot? I\m not wearing my work-issued boots. I might break a toe. Open up.’’

927 snarled as he jerked the door open, showing fangs. ’’I\m packing, and have to catch a helicopter that is leaving in twenty minutes for Reservation. I don\ have time to talk.’’

He tried to slam the door but Breeze moved faster, flattening her hands on the closing door and shoved. It surprised 927 as he backed up. Candi lunged forward into the room, her gaze locked on him.

He paled when he saw her and his lips pressed into a tight line. The color leached from them as if that much pressure pushed out the blood. A muscle in his jaw flexed. He was furious. She gazed into his eyes and understood how the technicians and doctors had once feared the chilling looks he could give.

She licked her lips and her body trembled. He was really alive. She noticed other things about him. He towered above her, having grown much taller since she\d last seen him. His youthful body had matured, adding a lot of muscle and bulk to his frame. He was larger than either of them had ever estimated and he looked as lethal as she knew he could be. She noticed when his hands clenched at his sides. She\d seen it before. He was fighting the urge to attack. She was the target of that rage.

’’Can we be alone?’’ She didn\ turn her head, not willing to look away from...Hero.

’’No,’’ Breeze stated firmly. ’’But ignore us. We\ll be as quiet as mice.’’

It frustrated her, but she didn\ have time to argue. The male she knew wasn\ good at holding his temper for long. She might have only seconds to calm him. She took a step closer, but his lips pulled back and he snarled, flashing fangs. It was a warning.

’’Hero!’’ Breeze growled.

’’Stay out of this, no matter what. Please,’’ Candi whispered. ’’This is between him and me.’’ She held still, trying not to approach him again. ’’It\s always been just us.’’ She directed that at him. ’’I did it to save you. They were going to kill you if I refused.’’

He tensed further, the muscles in his arms straining, indicating that he battled the urge to attack. Years might have passed, but she knew him. He\d learned more control. It hurt when she saw his rage did not lessen. It actually seemed to incense him more. She had to try though.

’’It was agree or be forced to watch you die. You know I would have done anything to protect you. Anything.’’ Tears blinded her. ’’Do you think I wanted to let that happen? You\ e all I wanted.’’ She blinked, clearing her vision. The tears slipped down her cheeks, but she didn\ wipe them away. ’’I did it to keep you alive so we could be together again.’’

’’You should have let them kill me.’’

They were angry words, snarled at her. She understood. She thought he might have felt that way. ’’We survive. It\s what we do.’’ She paused. ’’I survived to be with you. Do you think I wanted that? I wanted to die first, but that would have left you alone. If you had died, it would have left me alone. I did what I had to so we could see each other again.’’

He said nothing, but that rage burned in his gaze, the brown seeming to have disappeared, making them actually look as black as she figured his heart had turned. It broke hers into pieces. The pain that ripped through her chest was almost as bad as the day she\d been told he was dead. She\d lost him all the same. He was never going to forgive her.

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