Chapter Twenty-Three

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Ryn’s hands start to shake. He makes a strangled noise that sounds like ‘no’. His knife clatters onto the floor, and his hands tug at his hair.

My brain takes in the evidence and searches desperately for a different conclusion. Perhaps it isn’t her blood. Or if it is, perhaps she’s wounded and not dead. But that’s a whole lot more blood than a small child can afford to lose, and coupled with the fact that I can no longer sense her . . . Well, I’m struggling to come to any conclusion other than the one Ryn has clearly arrived at. He picks up the jersey from the bed and presses it to his face. His shoulders begin to shake.

I saw my father cry once, after we received the news that Reed had died. There was something terrifying about his tears. I had only ever known him as strong and fearless, and it scared me to realize that some things existed that could break him.

That’s what it’s like to see Ryn cry. It’s wrong. He’s supposed to be the mean guy. The guy who’s easy to hate. The guy I casually throw insults at because I know nothing I say or do can penetrate the armor he’s built up around himself. Witnessing his heartbreak just doesn’t feel right.

He stumbles around to the other side of the bed and slides down with his back against it. His shoulders continue to shake as he buries his face in his hands. I squeeze my eyelids shut over the tears threatening to form. Part of me wants to leave Ryn alone with his grief, but another part of me feels a sudden and unexpected urge to comfort him. I want to say something, but for the life of me I can’t think what. What could I possibly say that will make this any better?

I quietly close the door behind me before walking toward him. I go slowly, as though approaching a dangerous animal. I touch his shoulder, expecting him to throw me off and begin yelling at me. Tell me this is all my fault somehow. But he doesn’t move. I sit down on the floor beside him—a challenging task, given the size of my skirt—and slide my arm around his shoulders. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. To my great surprise, he leans into me, burying his face in my neck as the shuddering of his shoulders continues. I tense for a moment, then relax and put my other arm around him.

*

Around about the time one of my legs starts falling asleep, Ryn pulls away from me, as though suddenly realizing exactly who it is he’s leaning against. He tilts his head back against the bed. I wait for him to say something, but he remains silent. Has he fallen asleep? I can’t tell if his eyes are closed without looking at him, and I don’t want to look at him because I feel awkward enough as it is without adding eye contact into the mix.

So I wait. And while I wait, my thoughts find their way back to Nate. Nate, Zell and Scarlett. Nate knows Zell, and Nate knows Scarlett. But now it appears Zell and Scarlett also know each other. Perhaps the ‘boss’ Scarlett referred to was Zell, and he was the one watching Nate. Or it could just be that Scarlett is the date Nate brought along to the ball tonight. The thought makes me want to break something.

Ryn’s breathing has settled into a steady rhythm, suggesting he’s fallen asleep. I shake my head. Did it not cross his mind that perhaps we should get out of here first and then take a nap? I idly twist Calla’s bracelet around my arm and wonder how long I should wait before I wake him up. I need to get him out of here quickly so he can’t do something insane like publicly confront Zell about Calla’s death. Which leads me to another thought: Why did Zell kidnap Ryn’s little sister in the first place? Was it even Zell? Maybe he doesn’t know what’s going on underneath his own—

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