Inquest Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

Demands

Milo is waiting for us when we reach the motel. Sitting on the hood of his Corolla with his arms crossed over his chest, his stance perks up when we pull into the parking lot. He’s on his feet and at my door before I shift into park. As he pulls my door open I have to keep myself from simply collapsing into his arms. Instead I hop down daintily and wait for him to offer me a place against his chest. I don’t have to wait very long.

It feels so good to press my body against his after the day I’ve had. Warm, strong, gentle, he holds me tightly, one of his hands drifting up to wind into the hair at the nape of my neck. I pull against him even tighter. Only the sound of Celia folding the seat down to get to our bags in the back reminds me of her presence. Apparently it reminds Milo too. He pulls back slowly, but lets his hands slide down to my hips instead of dropping away completely. Our eyes hold each other and I’m positive he can see my chest pulsing in and out more quickly than it should. Maybe I should care about that, but I just don’t. The corner of his mouth twitches and starts to turn up.

“I’m thrilled to see you two getting all gooey over each other,” Celia says loudly, “but would someone mind opening the door so I can put this stuff down?”

I can’t respond right away. Milo pulls back and snatches the keys from my hand. He wanders over to help his sister as if I’m forgotten. I watch him unlock the door for Celia before I can move away from the car. He waits for me at the door, giving me a little shove into the dim room.

“So, do I get to see the dress?” Milo asks.

Celia and I answer at the same time. “No.”

“Fine,” he drawls. “Did you two have fun? There weren’t any problems, were there?”

We both hesitate. “It was fine,” I say on top of Celia saying, “No, uh, no problems at all.”

It sounds like she’s trying to avoid answering questions about Milo again. And if I recognize that, Milo won’t miss it either. We look at each other and I see the apology in her eyes.

“What happened?” Milo demands.

Neither of us answers.

“What happened?” he asks, his voice growing louder. He knows I can hold out the longest, so he turns to his sister. “Celia?”

The poor girl looks like she’s about to burst. She tries so hard to keep secrets, but it obviously just isn’t her strongest point. Even though I wanted very badly to know what she wouldn’t tell me about Milo today, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the reason she broke a promise to her brother. I don’t want to be the reason she breaks a promise now, either.

I sit down on the bed, drawing Milo’s attention away from Celia. He looks at me expectantly. “Well?”

“Guardians came after me in the parking lot when we were leaving.”

It looks like he’s moving in slow motion. His hands clench. His jaw clamps down, making the veins in his neck bulge. Furious red spreads through his skin, shocking me with its intensity. It’s the most reaction I’ve ever seen out of him.

“President Howe told them to leave you alone. Were they Lazaro’s men?” Milo asks through his teeth.

I shake my head. “I can’t say for sure, but it seems likely. I didn’t exactly stop to ask them where their allegiances lie.”

He growls angrily. “Tell me what happened.”

“As soon as we came out of the mall they started closing in on me.” My voice is surprisingly calm. It’s really just more of what I’ve been dealing with my whole life, I guess.

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