These Broken Stars Page 40

“Lilac, please. Just kill me.” I let her hear a little of the impatience in my voice, which I’m usually so careful about. But it’s the middle of the night. I was finally warm. I really want to sleep. “What is it?”

She tries to calm herself, but I can still see the urgency in her eyes—she’s hoping I’ll listen if she hides away the crazy. “We have to get out of here.” Her breath catches as she says it, as though she’s surprised to hear herself speak those words. “It’s not safe.”

“No kidding,” I say, hauling the blanket up underneath my chin. “And trust me, the first rescue ship I see, we’re on it. But for now, we’re as safe as we can be in here. We’ll freeze out there. You don’t screw around with blizzards.”

She hauls back the blankets and grabs my wrist, throwing her weight into the effort. I can feel the tremors racking her body. Not just a dream, then—this was one of her visions. She’s clearly beyond reason.

“Believe me,” she says, teeth gritted with effort. I don’t let her shift me, and without my cooperation, neither of us moves. “Tarver, I know. But we have to go, we have to go right now. Please, it’s not safe in here, something’s going to happen.”

“Something’s going to happen if we go out there,” I say, pulling my wrist back, which jerks her closer. “We’re going to start slurring our words and shaking, then we’re going to stop shaking, then we’re going to go mad and start pulling off our clothes, stumbling around, laughing. Then we’ll collapse, and that’s the merciful part, because that way we won’t feel it when we freeze to death. For once, please just make things easy for me and lie down, all right?”

This is the thing I’ve been afraid of. This is why I made her promise not to go running after one of those voices she hears. That’s how I could lose her.

“Please!” There’s an edge to her voice, hoarse and desperate—whatever’s scared her so much, she believes in it completely. “I don’t know how, but I swear to you, I know.” She closes her eyes for a moment, gathering calm, gathering steel. I know that look. When she opens her eyes again, her voice shakes with passion. “I know you lied to me back there, and I don’t care. I’ve trusted you with my life every second, Tarver. Can’t you trust me for one second? Just once?”

My heart’s breaking, and I reach out for her hands, but she snatches them back. “It’s not about trust,” I tell her. “I don’t know what’s happening, I can’t see what you see. But there’s a difference between making some educated guesses about who died in that pod and thinking you can see the future. Lilac, if we leave in the middle of this blizzard, we risk dying from exposure. It’s insane. We’re not going out there, if I have to hold you down myself. Give yourself a few moments to calm down, and you’ll see I’m right.”

“We don’t have a few moments!” Lilac is breathing hard, agitated. “You’re wrong. It’s all about trust. You just don’t believe me.”

I don’t know what to say, and I’m still searching for words when she snaps into action. She scrambles to her feet, grabbing my pack and wheeling around to dash for the mouth of the cave.

I can hear myself roaring in pure frustration. The blankets seem to come to life, wrapping around me and tangling my arms for vital seconds before I rip my way clear. I pound after her, leaving behind the blankets and the fire, the warmth and safety of the cave.

The cold hits me like a wall, cutting in through my open jacket. I’m thanking whoever’s listening that we slept fully dressed. No light from the strange moon makes it through the clouds and the snow swirling through the air. For long, terrifying seconds I can’t see her at all, the darkness leaching the color out of everything. Then there’s movement—she’s stumbling away from the cave, scrambling over rocks and dragging herself to her feet again—and I hurl myself after her, breath rasping, boots crunching on the snow.

I’ve been moving so slowly and carefully for days that for an instant it almost feels good to stretch my legs. I vault over a boulder and throw myself after her, driven by my fear that she’ll disappear into the night, or fall, or I’ll lose her in any countless number of ways. I’m not gentle when I catch her—I grab her upper arm and slam on the brakes, so she’s pulled up short and jerked into my arms, to hold her still and keep her from escaping again.

She doesn’t struggle, and my heart pounds as the two of us stand there, panting, the snow quickly coating our heads and shoulders.

Then a sound starts to rise above the howling of the wind, and the muffling blanket of the snow, and the harsh rasp of our breath. It’s a deep rumbling, starting as a whisper and then building to drown out everything else as the ground trembles beneath our feet. I’m forced to let go of her to catch my balance, but she doesn’t move away. She looks past me toward the cave, and when I follow her line of sight, I see the faint glow of our fire wink out of existence as the roof of our campsite collapses in an avalanche of rock.

We both stand for a few moments, still panting, still staring.

It’s nothing but a pile of rubble and snow.

Our bed and blankets are buried beneath it all, as we would have been too, if we’d been inside. I know this, but somehow I’m disconnected from the knowledge. I know that our cozy shelter is somewhere under the debris, but I can’t imagine that it’s really true.

Or how she knew to run.

When I turn to walk away, she comes without a word. We can’t move far in the dark, but we find a place to wedge ourselves between two rocks and build up some of the snow to shelter us from the wind. It creates a poor shelter, but lacking any alternative, we huddle down together. We sit on the pack and wrap our arms around each other, and I don’t think either of us sleeps a wink in the few hours until dawn.

The sky’s only starting to lighten when the snow stops. My arms and legs have long since gone through the agony of losing circulation, and they’re out the other side into numbness. The feeling comes flooding back in bolts of fiery pain as I instruct my body to move.

She follows my example as I stretch, exhausted but uncomplaining. She must hurt as much as I do, but I note with a twinge of admiration that it doesn’t show up in more than a tightening of her jaw, a careful slowness to her movements. Once we’re both able to take a step without stumbling, we turn away from the cave.

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