They aren't followed. Eli doesn't think too hard on why, just hurtles with Zoe as fast as they can down the mountain.
It doesn't last long. Zoe is good at many things, but running isn't one of them. Eli pulls her along but eventually she topples to her knees in the dirt, leant forward and gasping. "I- I can't-" she keeps starting, but she's breathing too hard to finish. Eli just helps her to sit down on a nearby rock and strains his ears to listen for pursuit. Either there isn't any, or Brooklyn and Fargo are much stealthier than they look. Eli's betting it's the former.
"It's okay," he says. "We're okay. We can stop here."
It takes Zoe a really long time to start breathing normally again. Eli thinks she might actually be having some sort of attack, her breath is coming so hard and raspy, her skin like dragonfire beneath his hands. He has nothing to help her through it, so instead he just sits, and tries to say soothing things. If anyone comes across them, Eli will just yell at them until they go get medical help. He figures no ones going to be too suspicious of a girl who's struggling for air.
It takes a long time, but eventually Zoe's breath returns to something like normal. Which is about when she starts sobbing in huge, big, noisy gulps. Eli lets her cry it out against his chest, his arms around her shoulders while her little feather earring tickles his throat. He feels strangely numb, considering everything that's just happened. Like he's accidentally poured all his panic and fear into Zoe, maybe, and now she's experiencing it for the both of them.
"It'll be all right," he tells her again. They haven't gone far enough that they wouldn't have been found, were someone truly looking.
"Th-thank you," Zoe mutters between her sobs. "Thank you f-for . . . for not running."
"Hate to be ungrateful, Zee, but we did run pretty hard there."
Zoe shakes her head. "For not . . . running away," she says, voice almost imperceptibly small. "You could've. I can't . . . I'm not fast. I know that. You could've . . . could've waited for me to catch up."
"Naw, I couldn't've," Eli says, because it's true. Zoe's his friend. He would never leave her behind.
"Everyone else does," Zoe says. "They always . . . they run away and I'm left behind. Slowey Zoe, always playing catch-up."
"Zee, if I had to I would've turned into a dragon and flown you outta there myself."
Zoe laughs, the sound thick and wet. "My hero." She sits up straight, sighing and wiping snot and tears from her face with the sleeve of her coat. She makes a kind of huffing, half-scream sort of sound at nothing in particular, shaking her body all over as if trying to dislodge something from her skin.
Eli thinks he knows how she feels.
After a while, she says, "I took the book."
"I know." Eli felt it in her coat earlier.
"I stole evidence," she says. "From a crime scene."
"You took something from an abandoned bunker in the forest." Eli tries to think of what his father would say, the careful way he'd phrase it. "Maybe next week some time, after you've copied what you need, you'll realize it might be evidence. Then you can hand it in to the cops."
"Will that work?"
Eli shrugs. "You're a minor and your dad's loaded. You'd be surprised how much that gets you." For girls like Zoe, anyway. For himself . . . Eli isn't so sure.
"They weren't cops, anyway," he says out loud, maybe to reassure himself as much as Zoe. "They were working for Yvonne Lacroix."
Zoe nods. "This is . . . this is getting heavy, Ee," she says. "There were hearts. Human hearts. In jars."
YOU ARE READING
The Dragon of Rosemont HighTeen Fiction
Four months ago, the death of his parents sent Elias Drake from New York City to the small town of Rosemont. Living with his workaholic aunt and trying to fit into a new school is no small task, especially not when a string of murders turns out to h...