These Broken Stars Page 63

“Don’t be silly,” I say, trying out my best, most capable smile. I can’t let him see how desperately I need him to believe me. How much I need him to not get hurt if something goes wrong. “I did this all the time when I was a kid, my father never knew.”

He’s still frowning, something lurking in his expression—fear? I can’t make it out. “I know how to take a hit,” he says. “How to drop and protect myself in an explosion.”

“But I won’t need to do that, because I know what I’m doing. I’m not trying to be a hero or anything. I’ll be perfectly safe. If something did go wrong, if something happened to you, I’d last a grand total of ten seconds out here by myself. But if something happened to me, you’d be just fine.”

He’s gazing at me like I’ve just offered to stab him in the gut. I can almost see him fighting with himself. But I’m right, and if nothing else he’ll have to see my conviction. I can see his fevered face in my mind’s eye, and my throat constricts just remembering how close I was to losing him. I can’t let that happen again.

“It’s a simple risk-reward analysis,” I murmur. “You taught me that.”

Tarver lifts one hand to touch my face, tracing the curve of my cheek. “Lilac, if something happened to you,” he murmurs, “I would be anything but fine.”

I reach up to take his hand, curling my fingers through his.

“Lilac, are you sure?”

I squeeze his hand, looking up at him, letting him see the confidence, the easy knowledge. I can do this. I will him to see it, with every fiber of my being. I can’t let him light the fuse. I can’t watch him put himself in danger again.


His gaze searches mine for a few moments as I hold my breath. Then he ducks his head to kiss my forehead, and turns to lead the way back to the cave.

There aren’t many things my old life prepared me for. Not many skills developed in the world of society, of balls and dresses and intrigue, apply out here in the wild, with this man I would’ve never known but for this strange twist of fate.

But at least I’m still a good liar.

“You were found not far from the structure. Can you clarify what happened to it?”

“I was trying to get inside. Whoever left it last was inconsiderate enough to lock the doors, so we had to get creative.”

“And was Miss LaRoux involved in this act of vandalism?”

“Vandalism? We were trying to survive.”

“Shall I repeat the question?”

“Of course she wasn’t.”

“And yet you say you were together the entire time.”

“Miss LaRoux isn’t the kind of girl to get her hands dirty. She waited in the woods, out of harm’s way.”



“I WONDER IF THE KITCHEN’S STILL WORKING. Just think, real food could be on the other side of that door.” She wants to distract me that night, keep us from revisiting the conversation about the fuse. I’ve considered telling her that if she wants to distract me, all she has to do is take her shirt off.

“I hope so.” My head hurts with misgivings. I know it’s smarter to let her light it. She’s done it before. If she’s hurt, I can help her better. She’s less likely to be hurt.

And still.

“A bed too, no more sleeping on the ground.”

I squeeze her. “You do keep ending up back at the bed. You have a preoccupation, Miss LaRoux.”

“Any objections?” She’s arch, smug, running a hand up my arm. If I were wearing a shirt, she’d be tugging on my sleeve, summoning me for a kiss as though she can’t bear to be apart any longer. She’s noticed she can make me forget my words halfway through a sentence.

“Objections? Hell, no.” I’m so tempted to let her have her way, to just give in to her attempts to distract me. She can make my mind shut down faster than anyone I’ve ever met. But I’m still not sure. “Maybe we just leave the building,” I suggest quietly. “Let it stay as it is. Do we really need to get inside this badly?”

Her hand stops, and she pulls back far enough to look at me. “Are you serious?”

“I’m not an idiot, Lilac.” I trace her cheekbone with my fingertips, watching the color spring to her fair skin at my touch. “I know how dangerous this is.”

“It’s our only chance at being rescued. There has to be communications equipment inside, something we can use to send a distress signal.”

Maybe being rescued isn’t my top priority anymore. The words are there, just not the courage to say them. Instead, I pull her closer, tightening my arm around her waist. “I hope so. We don’t even know why this place was abandoned. Something to do with the whispers, I suppose, but what exactly?”

“Secrets upon secrets,” Lilac murmurs. Before I can ask what she means, she draws in one of those slow, careful breaths that mean she’s organizing her thoughts before she speaks. “You said there were rumors about the military experimenting with mind control and telepathy. Maybe corporations are too. What if that’s what this is?”

It’s a little disconcerting that Lilac thinks best in bed. My brain pretty much flatlines under the same circumstances. “You think they discovered these beings, and then hid this place from the rest of the galaxy so they could study them.”

“I don’t know what’s on this planet, Tarver, but whatever—whoever—it is, they can do things. See into our hearts, change our dreams, make us think things. They can create objects out of thin air. Who knows what else they can do? I know that any corporation, or the military for that matter, would stop at nothing for power like that.”

I’m trying to ignore the sick feeling in my stomach, but I know she’s right. There aren’t many corporations with the resources to terraform planets that are known for their compassion and moral fiber.

“Whatever’s going on,” Lilac continues, “the whispers led us here. The answers are inside that building. We’ll find out tomorrow.”

I find a grin. “Tomorrow,” I echo, giving her a squeeze.

She curls against me, tucking herself perfectly along my side. “What will we do, if we’re rescued? After we’ve finished eating and drinking and smiling for the cameras?”

Prev Next