I fell asleep in Milo’s arms that night. If somebody’s car alarm hadn’t woken us both up around midnight, we may not have woken up at all. It was the latest Milo had ever stayed with me. He claimed it was worry about Seekers that made him linger even after we woke up, but it was the first night he hugged me before he left. Every night after that, he stayed late and wrapped me up in his baggy sweatshirt-clothed arms every time he came or left. Every hug eased a little more of my doubts about him, and I didn’t resist.
This morning is no exception. Celia stands by Milo’s car as he greets me with a hug. It’s shorter than usual and he shoves his hands in his pockets as soon as he pulls back. His quick glance over at Celia explains his brisk greeting.
“Celia, Libby. Libby, Celia,” Milo says.
Celia finally steps away from the car and approaches me. “Hi, Libby. It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Celia,” I say. “Are you ready for some serious shopping?”
She grins just like Milo. “Always.”
“Great, ‘cause I really need some help today. I’ve never actually bought a dress before. My mom always just picked them out for me,” I say.
“Wow, Milo,” Celia says, looking at her brother, “you weren’t joking about her.”
Milo nods and slings one arm around her shoulder. “I wouldn’t lie to you about something as serious as shopping, Celia. I know it’s practically your entire life.”
She punches him lightly in the gut. “It’s only about sixty percent of my life. The other forty percent belongs to boys.”
“It better not.”
“Whatever. Are you gonna get outta here, or what? Libby and I have work to do.”
More at ease after his playful banter with Celia, Milo comes back to my side. His hand lightly presses against the small of my back. He leans close to me, and asks, “Are you sure you don’t want me to tag along? This one can be a bit of a terror when it comes to dresses and shoes.”
“I thought you didn’t do dress shopping,” I say.
“Only under extreme circumstances. This may qualify.” His mouth is so tantalizingly close to my skin. It’s heartbreaking not to have him move an inch or two closer and press his lips against my temple. I’m tempted to just close the distance myself.
Celia is too quick, though.
“Go, Milo. Go play your video games, or crawl around in your Jeep. Go do whatever it is nerds like you do and let us girls shop.”
“Jeep?” I ask, turning to face Milo. “You’re not going rock crawling without me are you?” I am instantly jealous that he would even consider leaving me behind. Out in the hills is the only place I get to see the real Milo. Out there he laughs and jokes, no sign whatsoever of the shuffling nobody he pretends to be at school. I don’t want to miss that.
Smiling at the slight whine in my voice, Milo grabs my pouting chin. “No, I’m not taking the Jeep out without you. I’m going to play a little Call of Duty with some friends from back home, and maybe do some research.”
I don’t even have to ask what he’s going to research. Seekers. It’s what we’ve spent all week doing. Without any luck whatsoever. The internet and library didn’t hold a single clue. The Guardians are too careful for that. I know who I could have called. He would have known the answers, I’m sure. Lance’s dad lets him in on what secrets and suspicions he can because he is so sure his son will follow in his footsteps. I wanted to call Lance, but I didn’t. Even bringing up the option pissed Milo off.
YOU ARE READING
For Libby Sparks, turning sixteen means only one thing…death. Guardian rule demands she attend the ritualistic Inquest that will unveil her talents and secure her place in society. But that isn’t all that will be revealed in Libby’s case. The more t...