Chapter 23

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Sugar cubes and salt water. I can still taste it on my lips from last night. Even now, sitting with Finnick on the comfy sofas on the fourth floor, waiting for the scores of our private sessions to appear, I can taste it. Finnick acted as if nothing happened - which I can't tell if that's good or bad. The kiss...was so fleeting and beautiful but we're tributes. Love can't happen. Who says it's love, anyway? I won't let myself become attached to anyone, this is the Games. It doesn't work like that. Although I wouldn't skip a beat sacrificing myself for Finnick, Katniss or Peeta. Maybe even Johanna - she's been a breath of fresh air since I first met her.

The sound of Caesar Flickerman disrupts my thoughts and Finnick's hand grasps my knee for comfort. The scores flash on screen, going through each district. The scores are fairly predictable, high for Cashmere, Gloss, Brutus and Enobaria. Finnick and I both score an 11, both higher than the scores we got for our first games.

''Are they trying to make us targets?'' I ask, frustrated as I run my hand through my tangled hair.

Finnick's hand tightens briefly before releasing the pressure. ''We'll be okay.''

My breath catches in my throat as Peeta appears with a bold 12 written underneath his name. And then Katniss appears, a matching 12 under her name.

''Well, they made history,'' Finnick jokes.

I glare at him. ''Don't joke about this, Finnick. It's serious. They must have majorly annoyed the Gamemakers. Oh, this is bad,''

''It seems the Capitol are trying to pick off a few of us. You and I, included.'' he comments, furrowing his brow.

I stand up. ''I'm going to see Haymitch.''

He simply nods as I walk away, slipping on some shoes as I reach the elevator, promptly pressing the top floor button. Our scores are not coincidental. The Capitol really want the other tributes to come after us. But why? I can understand Katniss and Peeta - especially if they annoyed the Gamemakers in their private sessions - but what do Finnick and I have to do with anything? Snow has something against me and I have no idea why.

When I step onto the twelfth floor, Haymitch is sat alone at the dining table, taking a long drink from his glass, the amber liquid disappearing rapidly. I join him, pulling out the chair opposite and looking at him.

''Interesting scores, huh?'' he grumbles, draining his whiskey before setting the glass down, reaching for the nearly empty bottle and refilling it.

''What happened?''

''Well, our sweetheart baker decided to paint Rue dead with all the flowers around her.''

''What?'' I breathe. It's worse than I expected. Peeta painted a symbol of the rebellion, naturally ruffling the feathers of the Gamemakers.

''Yeah,'' he shakes his head. ''And then his girlfriend hung a dummy with Seneca Crane's name on it.''

My mouth drops open. ''Seneca Crane? But...why?''

''Snow had him killed after the last Games. Can't have a Gamemaker who makes mistakes now, can we?''

I rest my elbows on the table and put my head in my hands. ''I'm so confused. Why won't the Capitol just kill us?''

He shrugs. ''Appearances, I guess. If three of the most loved Victors are killed, the people of the Capitol aren't going to be very happy with the Capitol. Neither are the rest of the districts, so you can imagine the rioting. Bombs, strikes, murders. Panem will be a nation of destruction and the Capitol is to blame. No...no what they'll do is get you all in an arena, killing each other off and glamourize it for the Capitol. Make it look like you're fighting to survive instead of it being carefully planned out murder. Snow does not intend for either of you three to live in these Games, Anna.'' he downs his glass sadly.

I sigh heavily. ''But why me?''

''Anna - you remember now, right?'' I nod once. ''Your parents worked for the Capitol. Up close and personal with Snow. What Snow didn't know is that they were working against him.''

''...What does that mean?'' I bite my lip, confused and conflicted. ''They were double agents?''

''Bingo. And Snow can't have double agents with information walking around Panem freely, can he? So-''

''-So he killed them.'' I finish in a choked breath, my eyes beginning to swim with tears. ''My parents fought for what was right and he killed them.''

''They were good people, Anna. Always helped those who needed it. It was a shame to hear about their deaths. But no one was told of the little daughter they left behind. Only the people who knew you in District 4 knew you'd gone. Probably thought you were dead, too.''

''Snow murdered them. And now he wants me dead?''

He nods. I run.

Finnick catches me as I race towards my room.

''No! Let me go!'' I scream out angrily, throwing wild hits trying to get him to let go of me but he ignores me and wraps his arms around me tightly. I break and start sobbing on his shoulder. ''He killed them, Finnick...he killed them for helping people.''

He leads me into my room and sets me down on the bed, his arms still wrapped around me comfortingly. ''I know. And I promise you that he'll get what was coming to him. He's killed so many innocent, Vivianna...and I...I can't let that happen. But we can find a way to solve it. I tell you, one day he's going to wish he'd never been born.''

I simply nod and move closer to his chest, tired and exhausted. The last thing I remember before drifting off is a light kiss placed on my nose, the scent of salt water and sugar cubes enveloping me wholly.   


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