Chapter Forty-Nine

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"Oh my God, Ray, you're okay! I really thought I'd never see you again!" Simone wrapped Rachel up in a bone-crushing hug. She smelled of vanilla, the way she'd always smelled even back at the compound. Seeing her familiar face took a huge weight off of Rachel's shoulders, momentarily allowed her to forget about Ruth and Nicolas only to focus on the relief she felt that her best friend was alive.

"How did you get here?" Rachel asked, stunned. Simone pulled back and shot her a small smile.

"Once Michael was rescued and got to the ship, he told the others about us and they came to get us. We were all hiding out in the woods after we couldn't get in contact with you—oh my God, I thought you were all dead."

Rachel took in this bit of information. "That's even more reason to apologize to Michael," Rachel said. "For everything we did to him. He's not a bad guy."

"I know," Simone nodded. "I don't know what came over me when I started hitting him. I guess I just wanted Abby to pay for tricking us and giving us a false sense of security...and he was the only thing that would hurt her...but it was wrong," She sighed.

"We've both done things we're ashamed of." An image of the poacher she'd killed flashed through her mind. She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and sat up, swung her feet over the side of the tiny, white cot, and looked out the window. "Doesn't mean we can't try to be better from now on."

The rocking of the ship had long ago made her sick, but the nausea was easier to focus on than her thoughts. Outside, the setting sun made it look like someone had taken a paint brush to the ocean and colored it with soft pinks and oranges.

"What happened to Abby?" Rachel asked.

Simone made a face while scrunching up her nose with disgust. "They've got her here. They're keeping her in a jail cell at the bottom of the ship or something like that but never mind her, what about Juan? Is he okay? I can't believe I'm saying this but I've missed that idiot."

Rachel forced out a small laugh and ran a hand through her tangled hair.

"Juan is fine, Hector checked and he was among the rescued--"

"Wait--what!? Hector's here?"

"Yeah we found him in the capital—well, actually, he found me, but— "

"Oh my God he's alive! What happened? Where was he?"

Rachel gave her the shortened version, of how Hector had rescued her from the elevator shaft along with a few other people from the ship and then saved her from Nicolas and even carried her through the city. She was careful to leave out the part about Nicolas being her father—she wasn't sure she was ready to admit that to anyone just yet.

"A guy who will carry you in his arms for miles—he's a keeper." Simone sighed dreamily. "Did you kiss? Tell me you kissed."

A blush slowly colored Rachel's cheeks. Back in the compound they'd talked about boys before plenty of times but it had mostly consisted of Simone re-telling her make-out sessions while Rachel listened silently—for it to be her turn felt a little out of place.

"Yeah, we kissed and then I professed my undying love for him and made a complete fool of myself —with tears and everything."

"Aw," She sighed. "I bet he thought it was cute; I mean you are pretty cute." Rachel gave her a small shove and grinned.

"Oh, shut up."

"Your love story sounds way cuter than mine." Simone pouted. "I'm jealous."

"What? You're seeing someone? Since when?"

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