“No one you need worry yourself about, sweetheart,” he says. “You won’t be bothered over here.”
“When can I go home?” I’ve somehow managed to keep my cool since waking up, but it feels like the walls are closing in now. I have to get out of here. I have to get back to Seattle.
“I told you, as soon as you’ve done what Rebel needs you to do, you’ll be able to go.”
“And when will that be? How long with that take? Hours? Days? Weeks?” My chest feels tight, gripped by the concept that I might be trapped here for so long. And even then, Cade could be lying. They could have no intention of letting me go, ever.
Cade purses his lips, shoving his right hand into his pocket. “Look. Wait for Rebel to get back. He’ll answer all your questions.”
“He said I should direct all my questions to you in his absence.”
Cade laughs, glancing back out of the door. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Turning back to look at me, he smiles. “You know why he said that?”
“Because it entertains him to screw with people every once in a while. I don’t have any answers. Only he knows when all this will be over. For you. For me. For him.”
“Sounds like a great guy.” I lean back against the bathroom door, my head thumping dully against the wood. I want to cry. I really want to breakdown and sob my heart out, but I’m proud. Before I ran into Raphael in the street, it had been years and years since I’d allowed myself to look weak like that. I cried in front of Ramona, too. I do not want to cry in front of Cade.
“He may be a total asshole sometimes and he does like to fuck with people, but he’s not who you think he is, sweetheart. You’ll realize that soon enough. Now, you gonna tell me your name or what?”
“No.” I won’t do it. Giving them a name to call me by, any name, real or false, seems like I’m giving them power over me.
Cade blows out a deep breath, giving me a look my father used to give me when I was being stubborn as a kid. “Have it your way, then. I’ll make sure I come back when Rebel gets here.”
I just stare at the ground, feeling hollow inside. I don’t know if I want Cade to come back or not. He hasn’t exactly been helpful. Not really. The advice he gave me back in that alleyway in Seattle did save me from Raphael’s unwelcome attentions, but they also landed me in the situation I find myself in now. Only time will tell if this is better or worse.
I don’t look up as Cade leaves. I slowly slide down the bathroom door, covering my face with my hands, and I dare myself not to cry. I manage it, even as I hear the door to the cabin lock behind him.
A bizarre sensation washes over me—a true how is this real? moment. I want Matt. I want to curl up in his arms and feel like everything is okay again. I look around this unfamiliar room, nothing making sense, and I’m sure I must be imagining it all. Things like this don’t happen. This is the stuff of nightmares and movies, and horror stories young women are told by their elders to keep them safe. It was sure as hell never supposed to happen to me.
FIVE YEARS AGO
“Are you fucking crazy? Get that thing outta here,” Cade hollers. The boys have found a vat of oil from somewhere, and the lid is off. I spin on them, not sure I can trust what I’m seeing with my own two eyes. We’re smack bang in the middle of fucking Kabul, perched on the roof of a barely standing building, and my men are screwing around with flammable liquids.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing with that, assholes?”
Thompson stops laughing, the smile freezing on his face when he sees the look on mine. Both he and Ramon quit attempting to drag the huge, rusted barrel toward the edge of the roof; they stand up straight, Ramon wiping the sweat out of his eyes.
“Well. We was thinking that, instead of wasting ammo on these fuckheads, we could get medieval on their asses. They used to do this in England, y’know? Back when people holed up in castles and shit. They’d pour fuel over the sides of the castles and set it on fire. Very effective.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant.”
“So you’re telling me you want to wait for the enemy to pass by underneath us? And then you want to take this barrel here,” I kick the barrel, “and you want to pour it contents over the side on top of the enemy. And you want it to be on fire at the time?”
Ramon and Thompson look at each other warily, obviously unsure what the correct answer is. “Yeeees?” Thompson says.
“And you don’t think that’s slightly fucked up. That you want to burn people alive, Thompson?”
“It’s no worse than they’d do to us, Duke.”
“But that’s the whole fucking point, isn’t it? That’s the whole reason why we’re here. These people do shit we would never do. Because we’re marines, not fucking medieval English castle owners, you fucking moron.”
The rest of the squad—Baggs, Paulie, Saunders and Cade—all burst into laughter. I throw my arms over Thompson and Ramon’s shoulders, pulling them in close. “Get rid of that fucking thing now, before we set you on fire and throw you over the side of the roof, huh?” I’m grinning as I say this, but I know how dangerous this place is. I know all too well what it can do to a man’s morals. What it could do to my morals if I’m not careful.
When I turn around, Cade is watching me with a small smile on his face. He nods at me, scrubbing his hand across his jaw. I’m seriously fucking lucky to have my best friend at my back through this, just as he’s been at my back through everything else.