These Broken Stars Page 62

It takes me a few seconds to see the spark of amusement in his eyes as he looks up at me. I realize he’s laughing, in his way, not at my expense but because he’s happy too. So I blurt one of the words I learned from him in his fever, and reach for the laundry bag that serves as our pillow to swing it at his head.

He catches my wrist before I come close, moving with such speed that I’m left gasping, laughing as he pulls me back down into our nest. He stops my laughter with his mouth, sending electricity crackling down my spine, like sparks resting in my belly.

Tarver tilts his head to kiss me behind my ear, teasing. I lift my chin and he makes his way down my throat, the softness of his mouth at a sharp contrast to the roughness of the stubble on his face.

Sparks, I think, something in the back of my mind stirring. The seed of an idea, the one I’ve been trying to ignore, leaps into a fully fledged plan.

“We should blow the doors off the station.”

Tarver stops mid-kiss, lifting his head and looking absolutely baffled. “We should what now?”

“The doors! They’re too thick to break open with any battering ram we could lift, but an explosion? That would do it, wouldn’t it?”

He’s blinking at me, half confused, half cranky. He doesn’t like being interrupted. “You’re being even more bewildering than usual.”

I laugh, reaching up to run my fingers through his hair. “The hovercraft, in the shed? There are fuel tanks in the back. Stack a few of those up against the door, make a fuse out of some string, and we’ve got ourselves a party.”

His expression is shifting from cranky to cautiously impressed, and I can’t help but feel a thrill of excitement that he’s impressed with me. Genuinely, without sympathy or surprise. Like equals.

“Who are you,” he says eventually, “and what have you done with my Lilac?”

My Lilac. I want to stop and revel in that, but I’m too excited by my idea. “Anna has older brothers, and when I was little we’d blow things up all the time on our tennis court. My father had to have it resurfaced so many times.” The memory causes a pang, my throat closing a little. For the loss of my cousin, for the loss of the way things were when we were children—for the loss of my own childhood.

Tarver’s eyes soften, seeing my face. “We’ll have to be careful. Clear the trees from the door, minimize the debris and the danger of a fire afterward.”

There’s an electricity in the air, a nearly tangible sense of purpose. We have a plan. I ignore the stab of pain that lances through me—now there’s a limit on our time together. A countdown clock, set to some finite amount I can’t see. Each moment is one we’ll never get together again.

“Could we use your gun to set it off?”

His lips purse, thoughtful. “The Gleidel was designed to interact with organic matter—not metallic. Meant to prevent anyone dumb enough to fire it on a ship from breaching the hull. Wouldn’t so much as scratch the tank.” He reaches out to trace his fingers along my lips.

“A fuse, then. Like we used as kids.” I close my eyes and kiss his fingers as they wander across my mouth. “I’ve never used fuel as an explosive, but the principle’s bound to be the same. A sudden impact like that should blow the doors right open, leave the rest of the station intact.”

Tarver makes a low sound in his throat, making me shiver. “Keep talking about blowing things up,” he suggests, bending his head to resume what he was doing before I interrupted him.

It takes nearly an entire day to clear the area in front of the station doors. The power tools have long since lost their charge, so we’re using rusty saws and a big pair of shears from the shed. We probably would have finished earlier, but I keep finding myself at his side without remembering the impulse to go to him. I keep demanding kisses, and he keeps dropping what he’s doing to oblige. We don’t make a very good team, distracting each other from what we’re meant to be doing. We cut down the young trees, clear away the brambles, stack four of the fuel tanks against the doors.

I look over the dents and damage on the tanks, and finger the uneven length of rope we’ve found for a fuse. Suddenly I’m not so sure this is as foolproof as I’d thought. There are so many ways it could go wrong.

As the sun slants through the trees, close to the horizon, Tarver drags the last of the fallen saplings away and then arches his back until it pops. I move toward him and he lifts his arm without looking, knowing I’ll be there. I slip beneath it, wrapping my arms around his waist.

“Do we do it now?” I rest my mouth against his chest, eyes turned up to look at him. Let him be the judge of when we start being rescued. I can’t see it objectively. I so badly want it and don’t—I’m caught so tightly between staying and going.

“Depends on what you mean by ‘it,’” he says, letting his fingers creep in against my arm under the edge of my T-shirt sleeve.

“Quit it,” I reply, though I doubt he’ll take me seriously with laughter in my voice.

“Not tonight,” he says before leaning down to kiss me. It’s a long moment before he speaks again. “We’ll wait until there’s good light, when we’re sure we’re ready. Tomorrow.”

“If people were stationed here, there could be food inside. Hot water, maybe, if there’s a generator inside. Beds too.” I grin at him. “Though I suppose not having a bed hasn’t really been a problem for us so far.”

Tarver lifts an eyebrow, shifting his weight and wrapping both arms around me. “No, but the ground does have its limitations.”

He leans down to kiss me again, his bandaged hand sliding up my side under my shirt, and that reminder of his injury—how close I came to losing him—sends a jolt through me. I can’t let him be the one to do this. We don’t know how volatile the fuel tanks are, or how fast the fuse will burn.

I let him kiss me for a while, wait until I feel him make the soft, growly noise he usually makes before he tries to remove some item of my clothing. Let him be as distracted as possible, before I try to do this. Because he’s not going to like it.

I pull my mouth away a fraction and murmur, “I’ll start testing fuses tomorrow morning. I don’t relish the idea of losing a hand lighting this thing.”

Tarver starts to lean in again, but then stops, frowning at me a little. “I don’t relish the idea of you losing a hand either. I like both of yours. I’ll do it.”

Prev Next