Chapter Twenty-Four

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Mace finally woke up late that night. I was half-asleep at his side. Even though I was certain Mace wasn't a target, it didn't hurt to keep watch. Asten, Jadyn, January, Kyan, and I had been taking turns at his side throughout the night.

And it so happened that his eyes fluttered open around halfway through my shift. My head was drooping down, with my chin resting on my neck. The only thing keeping me awake was the low temperature of the room.

But all my fatigue disappeared when I heard his soft groan. My head perked up I stared at his unnaturally pale face as his bright eyes slowly opened.

"Hey," I muttered, not sure wat else to say. I was still worried we hadn't completely gotten the poison out, and he'd end up dying. But he seemed very alive, which was a relief.

He gently pushed himself up into a sitting position. "What happened?" he asked weakly, looking like he had just resurrected. The bags under his eyes were even more noticeable because of how pale his skin had become. His freckles also stood out, like stars scattered across the solar system.

"You were poisoned...we think somebody was trying to poison me, but you got in their way..." I looked down at my hands. I wasn't sure why someone would want me dead, but I still felt like it was my fault that Mace had been put in harm's way. If he'd died, I wouldn't have been able to deal with that guilt.

He didn't reply for a moment and I wondered what he was thinking. "Well, I'm still alive," he whispered. I was surprised to see a smile on his lips. How he could smile after all that he'd been through was shocking.

I sighed in relief, and leaned back in my chair. Nobody was going to die today. At least I hoped nobody would.

"Thank you...," he added quietly. "I was awake enough to know that you saved my thank you. I owe you one. Especially after what I said..." The end of his sentence became softer as he closed his eyes again in fatigue. I hadn't thought he had been awake through everything, or at least conscious enough to know what was going on.

I was about to reply, but he seemed asleep already. His chest rose and fell steadily as I stared on for a few minutes. Everyone was going to be okay. Mace was okay.

And now all we had to do was move forward.

I stood up and began walking towards the door of the room, knowing it would probably be a good idea to tell Kyan. He would want to be updated on what was happening to Mace. And in all honesty, I was almost positive January would be with him and I knew how much she must have been worrying.

The air in the hallway was colder than that of the room. It smelled like rubber, and I could feel the hard surface of the ground beneath my boots as I exited the room. It had to be almost midnight, and everyone was asleep.

The door to the room down the hall squeaked loudly as I pushed it open. I winced. I didn't want to accidentally wake anyone up.

Rather than finding everyone asleep like I'd been expecting, there was a small group of people standing in the corner of the room. As I neared them, I recognized it as Asten, Kyan, January, and a couple others. They were quiet enough so that nobody sleeping would wake up and hear, but loud enough that I heard fragments of conversation.

"...Go soon...we can't wait much longer. It's better to keep moving a lot," January's voice rang slightly above the rest.

"Says the one co-in charge of a society that literally spends its entire existence in one place?" came a questioned response.

"This is different."

"Whatever, this doesn't matter. We need to focus at the task at hand and-"

"I didn't know eavesdropping was your type." The voice came directly in my ear and I jumped, unable to stop myself from doing so. The sound was deep and familiar and I almost banged my head against the boy's as I turned to look at who was standing behind me. I was met with a smirking, gray-eyed face and I nearly punched him in surprise. "You should work on your reflexes."

I quickly turned back around, crossing my arms over my chest in annoyance. He had been right next to the rest of them what seemed like seconds ago. I didn't understand how he could've come up right behind me that fast, but he had. "You should work on smirking more." I'd meant it to come out as an insult, but as I ran the words over in my mind I realized how awkward it sounded.

"Well, that's not something I need to worry about." He took a step forward so he was directly next to me. As I glanced sideways at him, I remembered something he'd insinuated a while back. He did still have something to worry about. Didn't he say something about his brother having been kidnapped by a gang? It hadn't seemed like he'd been making it up. But then why hadn't he really mentioned it again?

A chill ran down my spine as I realized that maybe there was more to him than he was letting off. I moved closer into the circle forcing them to notice me. As I looked around, I was glad to see that I knew almost everyone there. Jadyn, Kyan, January, even Axel. And of course, Asten, who was still standing behind me.

"'s actually good that you came here," January started, with a serious expression.

"Yeah...I actually came to tell you all that Mace woke up. He's sleeping now...," I replied, nearly forgetting to even mention it. The one girl in the group who I hadn't met before looked at me with veiled suspicion. It seemed to be that way with everyone in the Snow Society. I hadn't exactly gained their trust yet, but maybe soon I would.

"Good...well we were just discussing the other thing we need to worry about: getting to New York. Didn't you say that's where you came from?" she asked.

I nodded my head. I was surprised any of them had remembered that. Who had I even told that to? "Yeah...We just have to keep going north and we'll likely reach it."

"We should go tonight," Asten suggested, locking eyes with everyone in the group. "Better now than never."

"As in right now?" January asked, seeming more than a bit surprised at his suggestion. "Without Mace?"

"Yes. It's better that way. He's still a bit hurt, and it might be a good idea to go quickly. Like you said, we can't stay in one place for long. So why don't we get going?" He seemed completely confident in this idea that even I was doubting. Right now seemed a bit excessive. We'd only just gotten to the place and already we'd gone through a lot. The only upside was getting away from whoever wanted to hurt me.

"How long would it even take?" Kyan asked, putting the question that had been on everyone's minds into the open. The only person who really knew that answer was me.

I wasn't even sure. I knew that our best plan was to keep going north until we reached a sign welcoming us to New York. But the question was about how to get there, but how long.

The trip would be long. It wouldn't be as bad as six months, since my goal coming from my house was just to stay safe, not necessarily to go south. Even so, it would have to be a couple weeks at the least.

I had a decent guess. "Probably if we go straight north for the entire time we could get there in two to three weeks...," I said, imagining a map of the United States in my head. I couldn't remember exactly how far I'd travelled, but my prediction felt about right.

Silence fell upon the group, as they realized the distance. That was sixteen days of trudging through freezing weather with little to no food, water, or a decent place to sleep. Of course, if we had the trucks, it would make our lives easier, but I wasn't sure if we could take them.

January stared at the ground for a moment before speaking. "We should go." She looked defeated, like she didn't want to say it, but knew it was true.

"Just us." Asten looked already prepared to leave. He seemed eager. "Too many people is too large a risk. Mace obviously can't come because of his condition. But the seven of us can go: Calestia, Jadyn, Axel, Kyan, January, Gracie, and me." I glanced again towards the unfamiliar girl who had seemed suspicious of me earlier with her dark red hair, even darker eyes, and skin nearly as pale as the snow itself.

"Just us," January repeated, as she reached down and grabbed her coat from next to her. She slid it on and I knew that this was happening, that we were going to leave together, for thirty-two days on a dangerous trip where anything could happen.

It was time to go home.

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