Chapter 11

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I turn around quickly, scurrying a few feet away from him, trying to hide the bulge of my bag. If he sees the stuff inside it, there isn't much chance I'll make it out of here alive.

"The snow!" I exclaim. "What have you done with the snow?"

He's gone back to expressionless mode now. His eyes are hard and unblinking, staring right at me as though trying to pin me down.

"Amelia," he says again, his voice gentle. "Amelia, come back inside."

I take a step backwards, towards the steps leading outside. I feel like saying something witty and impressive but nothing comes to mind.

"Amelia," he says again. "I can explain."

I look at those brown eyes. They look like melting chocolate. I immediately scold myself for thinking such things because it only reminds me of when Mum used to make chocolate mousse. We'd melt the chocolate over the stove and then when the other wasn't looking, take a quick taste and relish the rich sauce.

I fight the memory. There is no way Joshua is going to win this battle. I need to stay strong. I need to stay strong for my family. I'm the torch. I'm blinking the Morse code they need to read.

"No," I say.

As soon as the words leave my mouth, he darts forward, grabbing my arm and yanking me back inside. I try and pull away but his tenacious grip only tightens further. The door slams shut behind us.

"You left the fridge door open," he hisses through gritted teeth. "Come on, Amelia. I know you have it."

When I don't reply, he spins me round and tears the bag off my back. I reach for it but he holds it high in the air, too far from my reach.

Joshua's eyes flicker to the corridor. "Kitchen, please."

I feel like bolting for it, but his hand is still gripping my arm like a claw. His nails are digging into my skin but I hold in the cry building up inside of me.

So, I reluctantly walk to the kitchen, him behind me all the way in case I feel like escaping. I can practically feel his hot breath down my neck.

Joshua signals for me to sit down and I hesitantly do, watching as he plops the bag down by the door and joins me, brown hair sticking up in all directions. That's when I realise he must have just woken up and I feel a slight pang of sympathy for him but then it's gone as soon as it came.

"Amelia," he says and I think I catch a hint of slight disapproval in his voice. I bite the inside of my cheek at the sound of it. "Amelia, I trusted you."

I can't say anything in reply because the words are lodged in my throat. They are stuck in such a way that even coughing doesn't make them come out. He barely knows me. How does he trust me?

So, instead, I say, "Explain."

He looks at me intently and eventually I have to look away. When I flicker my eyes back again, his gaze seems amused now, as though I'm some sort of hilarious clown or something. There's nothing I can do to stop feeling nervous under his stare; it's like he's stripping me down and I have no control over it.

"Explain," I say again to hide my nervousness.

He nods curtly. "Okay. So, there isn't any snow. I'm sorry—"

"So you lied!" I suddenly blurt out, unable to stop myself. "You lied that you found me in the snow!"

All at once, he looks uncomfortable. I can tell that by the way his eyes crinkle and he way he fidgets with his hands.

"Not exactly," he says eventually. "I found you in the snow but I brought you to where there was no snow. You see? There's no snow anymore. I just said it to make sure you wouldn't escape."

"What made you think I would escape?"

He nods over to the rucksack in the corner. "That."

I grind my teeth together but I know throwing a fit won't get me anywhere. If he wants to play at this trusting game, then we will. And I'll lay my cards carefully on the deck.

So I go for the pleading tactic.

"I'm sorry," I say quietly. "I'm sorry for trying to escape. It's just—"

"Your family," he cuts in. "I know. Why else would you steal food from my fridge?"

"Please!" Almost-begging is the only option I have left, or so he thinks. "Please help! If I don't help them they're not going to make it through the storm alive!"

He examines my face for a while, as though scared to say something. "But we're quite far away..."

I glance over to the window, act faltering. "Where are we?"

"My house," he deadpans.

The frustration I tried to hide shines through the gap. "I know, but where? Anywhere near London?" I coax my voice to sound hopeful at that last part. The quicker I get out of here, the quicker I can get to Mum and Maisie.

He smiles. "Yes. Just outside it."

That makes my shoulders sink in relief. At least I'm not on the other side of the world, or on another planet. But, in my own house or not, I think I deserve an explanation.

"Why?" I ask him, trying not to sound accusative. "You live outside and suddenly you're in London, picking up almost-dead girls from the snow? What? Do you love Big Ben too much or something?"

That last bit just slipped out.

His mouth twitches but then it subdues. "I already told you. I was in London visiting a friend. He cancelled—must have been stuck in. There wasn't much snow at the time, though. I saw you covered in ice and decided to bring you back home because you looked terrible," he frowns, searching my face. "Sounds reasonable enough, don't you think? Or do I need to tell you exactly what I ate for breakfast that morning and what toothpaste I used?"

"Okay, that's pretty reasonable. Sorry," I reply. Now the thing that's been biting me since I came here surges in my brain, strong and powerful. "But please!"

He frowns. "Please what?"

"Please let me at least have a little bit of food from your fridge to take back home?"

He grabs the edge of the table, tense. "Who said you were going anywhere?"

"Look." My voice is strangled but also snappy and angry. "My family are going to die if they don't get any food or if I'm not there to support them so, please! I need something to bring back."

I see his face soften. "Okay," he says, "but only on one condition, though."

I stop halfway through my victorious smile. "What?"

"You let me come with you."

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