Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)(9)

But now?

Everyone is gone.

I might be the only one left.

At Omega Point I was happy to let Castle lead. I didn’t know much about anything, and I was still too scared to act. Castle was already in charge and already had a plan, so I trusted that he knew best; that they knew better.

A mistake.

I’ve always known, deep down, who should be leading this resistance. I’ve felt it quietly for some time now, always too scared to bring the words to my lips. Someone who’s got nothing left to lose and everything to gain. Someone no longer afraid of anyone.

Not Castle. Not Kenji. Not Adam. Not even Warner.

It should be me.

I look closely at my outfit for the first time and realize I must be wearing more of Warner’s old clothes. I’m drowning in a faded orange T-shirt and a pair of gray sweatpants that almost falls off my hips every time I stand up straight. I take a moment to regain my equilibrium, testing my full weight on the thick, plush carpet under my bare feet. I roll the waistband of the pants a few times, just until they sit snugly at my hip bone, and then I ball up the extra material of the T-shirt and knot it at the back. I’m vaguely aware that I must look ridiculous, but fitting the clothes to my frame gives me some modicum of control and I cling to it. It makes me feel a little more awake, a little more in command of my situation. All I need now is a rubber band. My hair is too heavy; it’s begun to feel like it’s suffocating me, and I’m desperate to get it off my neck. I’m desperate to take a shower, actually.

I spin around at the sound of the door.

I’m caught in the middle of a thought, holding my hair up with both hands in a makeshift ponytail, and suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I’m not wearing any underwear.

Warner is holding a tray.

He’s staring at me, unblinking. His gaze sweeps across my face, down my neck, my arms. Stops at my waist. I follow his eyes only to realize that my movements have lifted my shirt and exposed my stomach. And I suddenly understand why he’s staring.

The memory of his kisses along my torso; his hands exploring my back, my bare legs, the backs of my thighs, his fingers hooking around the elastic band of my underwear—


I drop my hands and my hair at the same time, the brown waves falling hard and fast around my shoulders, my back, hitting my waist. My face is on fire.

Warner is suddenly transfixed by a spot directly above my head.

“I should probably cut my hair,” I say to no one in particular, not understanding why I’ve even said it. I don’t want to cut my hair. I want to lock myself in the toilet.

He doesn’t respond. He carries the tray closer to the bed and it’s not until I spot the glasses of water and the plates of food that I realize exactly how hungry I am. I can’t remember the last time I ate anything; I’ve been surviving off the energy recharge I received when my wound was healed.

“Have a seat,” he says, not meeting my eyes. He nods to the floor before folding himself onto the carpet. I sit down across from him. He pushes the tray in front of me.

“Thank you,” I say, my eyes focused on the meal. “This looks delicious.”

There’s tossed salad and fragrant, colorful rice. Diced, seasoned potatoes and a small helping of steamed vegetables. A little cup of chocolate pudding. A bowl of fresh-cut fruit. Two glasses of water.

It’s a meal I would’ve scoffed at when I first arrived.

If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve taken advantage of every opportunity Warner had given me. I would’ve eaten the food and taken the clothes. I would’ve built up my strength and paid closer attention when he showed me around base. I would’ve been looking for escape routes and excuses to tour the compounds. And then I would’ve bolted. I would’ve found a way to survive on my own. And I never would’ve dragged Adam down with me. I never would’ve gotten myself and so many others into this mess.

If only I had eaten the stupid food.

I was a scared, broken girl, fighting back the only way I knew how. It’s no wonder I failed. I wasn’t in my right mind. I was weak and terrified and blind to the idea of possibility. I had no experience with stealth or manipulation. I hardly knew how to interact with people—could barely understand the words in my own head.

It shocks me to think how much I’ve changed in these past months. I feel like a completely different person. Sharper, somehow. Hardened, absolutely. And for the first time in my life, willing to admit that I’m angry.

It’s liberating.

I look up suddenly, feeling the weight of Warner’s gaze. He’s staring at me like he’s intrigued, fascinated. “What are you thinking about?” he asks.

I stab a piece of potato with my fork. “I’m thinking I was an idiot for ever turning down a plate of hot food.”

He raises an eyebrow at me. “I can’t say I disagree.”

I shoot him a dirty look.

“You were so broken when you got here,” he says, taking a deep breath. “I was so confused. I kept waiting for you to go insane, to jump on the table at dinner and start taking swipes at my soldiers. I was sure you were going to try and kill everyone, and instead, you were stubborn and pouty, refusing to change out of your filthy clothes and complaining about eating your vegetables.”

I go pink.

“At first,” he says, laughing, “I thought you were plotting something. I thought you were pretending to be complacent just to distract me from some greater goal. I thought your anger over such petty things was a ruse,” he says, his eyes mocking me. “I figured it had to be.”

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