These Broken Stars Page 9

No. Oh, hell no.

A pair of blue eyes meet mine, flashing shock—then outrage—before she’s shoving me away with all her strength, staggering back against the walkway railing.

I unclench my jaw with an effort. “Good evening, Miss LaRoux.” Drop dead, my tone says.

In spite of everything—the screaming of the crowd, the jostle of bodies, the blaring of the ship’s alarms—I take a moment to savor the shock and dismay on the faces of Miss LaRoux and her companions as they register my sudden reappearance. I’m not expecting the surge of people that comes flooding from a side passage.

They knock me off balance, but the crowd is so dense that I don’t fall. As if I’m caught in a violent river current, it takes me a moment to get my feet onto the solid floor again. I catch a glimpse of Miss LaRoux’s friends as they’re swept down the corridor. One of them is trying to battle the crowd, make her way back toward me, shouting Miss LaRoux’s name and slamming into people right and left. I realize she’s had training—not just another pretty face. A bodyguard? But even she can’t make any headway. The others are already almost out of sight.

I see one of them scream—mouth open, sound drowned out—in the same instant I realize Miss LaRoux’s not with them. I shove my way through to the railing, trying to catch a glimpse of that brilliant red hair.

This panicked crowd is enough to trample the unprepared. With a wall on one side and the balcony railing on the other, they’re channeled wilder and faster every moment, like beasts in a canyon. I see people lifted off their feet, slammed against the wall. She’s not here. I’m about to stop fighting the crowd and follow the current when a cry pierces the chaos.

I shove my way toward the sound. I’m in time to see a flash of green dress and red hair and white face vanish over the railing, as some frantic man twice her size goes barreling down the walkway.

I’m moving before I have time to think. I swing out over the railing, shifting my grip so I can angle my momentum toward the floor below mine, and jump after her.

“So you knew which escape pod was yours?”


“Did she?”

“Know which was mine?”

“Know her own, Major. Please cooperate.”

“I suppose she did. I don’t know.”

“But neither of you ended up where you were supposed to be.”

“Some of the passengers didn’t handle the evacuation well.”



PAIN LANCES THROUGH MY SHOULDERS, and I taste blood as I bite the edge of my tongue—but I’m not falling anymore. I’ve hit another railing, the bar catching me under my arms. I have no breath, no strength. The crowd surges past, paying no attention. Spots dance before my eyes as I try to force my lungs to work before my grip gives out.

I can’t have fallen more than a floor or two, or surely I wouldn’t have been able to catch myself without jerking my shoulders out of their sockets. Below me stretches a drop that will shatter my body beyond any surgeon’s ability to repair it.

A ragged cry tears out of me as my lungs finally expand and contract, but nobody hears. The people around me are a blur of color and sound, the smell of sweat and fear, the feel of hips and elbows connecting with my face and arms. They’re too terrified to even dodge the girl clinging for her life to the railing—much less help me. “Swann!” I scream, trying to make my eyes focus on anything long enough to recognize faces, but it’s all moving too quickly.

And then a voice snarls at them to keep back. Not Swann. A male voice.

Strong hands wrap around my arms, pulling me from the railing back onto the catwalk. Someone hurries me down the walkway, moving with the flow, his body between mine and the screaming people scrambling for safety. My feet don’t even touch the ground.

He jerks me into a side corridor free of traffic and sets me on my feet. All I can see are brown eyes staring into mine, stern, urgent. With an effort I recognize him.

“Major,” I gasp.

“Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

My shoulders are shattered. My tongue is bleeding. I can’t breathe. I gasp for air, fighting the surge of nausea that threatens to overcome me. “I’m okay.”

Major Merendsen leans me against the wall like a sack of laundry and goes to the mouth of the corridor, where the crowd whizzes by in a blur. As we watch, a man in an evening coat goes down, pushed by someone behind him; in an instant he’s gone, before the major can even reach for him.

This isn’t a crowd—it’s a riot. And a deadly one. Swann might be able to take care of herself in this chaos, but—“Anna!” I cry out abruptly, lurching away from the wall. I lunge for the crowd. I only know I need to find them.

The major grabs my arm with an iron grip. I beat at his hand, but he pulls me away and swings me around before letting me go, sending me staggering backward, heels skidding. “Are you insane?” he gasps.

“I have to find them.” I raise a hand to my lips, wiping away the hint of blood from my tongue. I recognize where we are now—a maintenance corridor, one of the many that thread through the private areas of the ship. “They’re out there—I need to make sure they’re—”

Major Merendsen blocks the way between me and the torrent of people rushing for the lifeboats. The ship lurches again, the floor buckling and heaving beneath us, throwing us both against the wall. The sirens start up, and we have to raise our voices to make ourselves heard over the urgent wailing.

“There’s nothing you can do for them,” he says, when he’s regained his balance. “They’re two decks up and half a klick away by now. Can you walk?”

I inhale sharply through my nose. “Yes.”

“Then let’s move. Stay between me and the railing. I’ll try to keep them from flattening you, but you have to keep your feet under you.”

He turns toward the crowd, squaring his shoulders.

“Wait!” I stagger forward and grab his arm. “Not that way.”

He sucks in an irritated breath, but he stops. “We have to get to an escape pod. Much more of this shaking and she’ll tear herself apart.”

I’m still struggling to breathe, and it takes me a moment to get enough air to reply. “I know this ship,” I gasp. “There are pods for the crew nearby.”

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