Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)(8)

I stare blankly ahead, fingers flexing against the mattress.

“Now tell me,” he says, “what happened to your arm? Delalieu seemed as clueless as the others.”

I say nothing.

“Too ashamed to admit you were shot by one of your own soldiers, then?”

I close my eyes.

“And what about the girl?” he asks. “How did she escape? Ran off with one of your men, didn’t she?”

I grip the bedsheet so hard my fist starts shaking.

“Tell me,” he says, leaning into my ear. “How would you deal with a traitor like that? Are you going to go visit his family, too? Make nice with his wife?”

And I don’t mean to say it out loud, but I can’t stop myself in time. “I’m going to kill him.”

He laughs out loud so suddenly it’s almost a howl. He claps a hand on my head and musses my hair with the same fingers he just closed around my throat. “Much better,” he says. “So much better. Now get up. We have work to do.”

And I think yes, I wouldn’t mind doing the kind of work that would remove Adam Kent from this world.

A traitor like him does not deserve to live.


I’m in the shower for so long I actually lose track of time.

This has never happened before.

Everything is off, unbalanced. I’m second-guessing my decisions, doubting everything I thought I didn’t believe in, and for the first time in my life, I am genuinely, bone-achingly tired.

My father is here.

We are sleeping under the same godforsaken roof; a thing I’d hoped never to experience again. But he’s here, staying on base in his own private quarters until he feels confident enough to leave. Which means he’ll be fixing our problems by wreaking havoc on Sector 45. Which means I will be reduced to becoming his puppet and messenger, because my father never shows his face to anyone except those he’s about to kill.

He is the supreme commander of The Reestablishment, and prefers to dictate anonymously. He travels everywhere with the same select group of soldiers, communicates only through his men, and only in extremely rare circumstances does he ever leave the capital.

News of his arrival at Sector 45 has probably spread around base by now, and has likely terrified my soldiers. Because his presence, real or imagined, has only ever signified one thing: torture.

It’s been so long since I’ve felt like a coward.

But this, this is bliss. This protracted moment—this illusion—of strength. Being out of bed and able to bathe: it’s a small victory. The medics wrapped my injured arm in some kind of impermeable plastic for the shower, and I’m finally well enough to stand on my own. My nausea has settled, the dizziness is gone. I should finally be able to think clearly, and yet, my choices still seem so muddled.

I’ve forced myself not to think about her, but I’m beginning to realize I’m still not strong enough; not just yet, and especially not while I’m still actively searching for her. It’s become a physical impossibility.

Today, I need to go back to her room.

I need to search her things for any clues that might help me find her. Kent’s and Kishimoto’s bunks and lockers have already been cleared out; nothing incriminating was found. But I’d ordered my men to leave her room—Juliette’s room—exactly as it was. No one but myself is allowed to reenter that space. Not until I’ve had the first look.

And this, according to my father, is my first task.

“That’ll be all, Delalieu. I’ll let you know if I require assistance.”

He’s been following me around even more than usual lately. Apparently he came to check on me when I didn’t show for the assembly I’d called two days ago, and had the pleasure of finding me completely delirious and half out of my mind. He’s somehow managed to lay the blame for all this on himself.

If he were anyone else, I would’ve had him demoted.

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. And please forgive me—I never meant to cause additional problems—”

“You are in no danger from me, Lieutenant.”

“I’m so sorry, sir,” he whispers. His shoulders fall. His head bows.

His apologies are making me uncomfortable. “Have the troops reassemble at thirteen hundred hours. I still need to address them about these recent developments.”

“Yes, sir,” he says. He nods once, without looking up.

“You are dismissed.”

“Sir.” He drops his salute and disappears.

I’m left alone in front of her door.

Funny, how accustomed I’d become to visiting her here; how it gave me a strange sense of comfort to know that she and I were living in the same building. Her presence on base changed everything for me; the weeks she spent here became the first I ever enjoyed living in these quarters. I looked forward to her temper. Her tantrums. Her ridiculous arguments. I wanted her to yell at me; I would’ve congratulated her had she ever slapped me in the face. I was always pushing her, toying with her emotions. I wanted to meet the real girl trapped behind the fear. I wanted her to finally break free of her own carefully constructed restraints.

Because while she might be able to feign timidity within the confines of isolation, out here—amid chaos, destruction—I knew she’d become something entirely different. I was just waiting. Every day, patiently waiting for her to understand the breadth of her own potential; never realizing I’d entrusted her to the one soldier who might take her away from me.

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