Chapter Nine

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They stumbled out into the evening breeze. The sun had just sunk beneath the horizon and a few escapee rays of light still lingered against the sky as if someone had painted orange and red streaks across a black canvas. Rachel pulled her coat more tightly around her body, pushing her turtle neck over her mouth and nose like she used to do when she was little.

"You stole liquor from the pantry?" Rachel asked disbelievingly and even a little impressed. Petra guarded that pantry as if it held the soul of her first born child, or something, so if Simone had somehow gotten by her, it had been no easy feat.

They made the walk from the dining room towards a ramp that led onto a ship that not many people frequented at night—the one that held the aircrafts. No one would bother them there, at least not until the guard did his patrol at midnight. Still, that gave them just enough time to get drunk out of their senses.

"Well it's been kind of boring around here lately. Might as well have fun now before things get all serious with war and crap. Oh shoot!"

Rachel raised her eyebrows while Simone patted her body. "I forgot my purse. Wait here!" Simone smacked a kiss against Rachel's exposed cheek, leaving a line of condensation that felt like it immediately froze against her skin.

She dashed back the way they'd come, leaving Rachel standing on the ramp, her hands stuffed into her coat pockets. Maybe drinking out in the open air wasn't such a good idea. It was freezing and she'd never been much of a drinker to begin with. But then again, maybe liquor was just what she needed to finally unwind a little.

Black waves churned below her, water so impossibly cold that she could feel its chill crawl its way into the soles of her shoes and up into her feet.

There was a small clang behind her and she jumped. Turning, she surveyed the deck behind her but there was no movement or any sign of life—nothing at all expect the aircrafts sitting still as if they were sleeping metal giants.

She turned back towards the ship they'd just left. She could hear the faint clink of silverware and a rushing sound that was the product of several voices merging together.

Maybe she should get off the ramp and wait for Simone where the floor was more stable and where she didn't run the risk of falling overboard if someone startled her. Her boots clanged against the metal, causing a bird to fly out of its hiding place with an angry string of squawks. Her shoulders relaxed a little. It was just a bird. There was no Nicolas and no poachers out here, mercifully. She could relax. She should relax.

What was taking Simone so long to come back with the liquor anyway? Rachel was really looking forward to getting drunk enough to forget all her troubles and the sooner she could do it the better.

Something cold suddenly slipped over her lips, cutting off her air supply and for one panicked moment she could've sworn it was Nicolas, coming to take her back and imprison her.

She struggled against the hand at her mouth as another quickly wound around waist, pulling her away despite her efforts to free herself. The floor was slick with ocean mist and her boots couldn't produce enough friction to slow down her attacker.

Her muffled cries were drowned out by the rush of the ocean-there was no hope of anyone hearing her, not out here and the night patrol wasn't due for another few hours. This left her with only one choice: to fight back with everything she had in her. Whoever this was, he wasn't taking her without a fight.

Rachel gained enough balance to jab her attacker in the ribs. He grunted, one arm loosening around her waist, enough that she was able to pull forward and slam her skull into his face with a sickening crack.

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