‘He’s the Christkind,’ said Mrs Hanowitz, who had followed them back into the shop even though they weren’t officially open and was looking openly at the boy’s untouched gingerbread.
And she had no idea what the answer was. What she was clear on? Paradise, blooded daughter of Abalone, First Adviser to Wrath, the Blind King, was not the kind of person who was going to sit next to some stranger who didn’t want her around and wasn’t asking to be saved while there was even a possibility she could go one more foot, one more yard, one more mile in this challenge.She glanced down at Craeg. Like her, his clothes were ruined by blood, sweat, and dirt, his hair stiff from having dried without being brushed, his body a limp rag of bad angles.
Take care, she said as she struggled to get up.He didn’t reply. Maybe he had finally passed out? Or perhaps he was simply relieved she was going. Either way … not her concern.When she went to move her right leg forward, she found that everything about her corporeal form—from her neck to her spine to her calves and all the joints and straightaways in between—was one hot mess of pain. But she got her foot in front of herself. And she did it again. And again. And …
She had no idea what made her keep going. She didn’t care about winning. She wasn’t doing it to prove anyone was wrong or that females mattered. She wasn’t even aware of having any conscious thoughts.Paradise just kept on walking … because that was what she did.
Sometime later, all she could feel was burning: in her legs and her feet … in her gut and her lungs … down her throat—God, her throat was on fire … in her skull … on her face.
Fire all around her, in her, through her, as if her veins had lit gasoline in them and her muscles were charring from the inside out.I can stand here, Peyton said. Let me hold you up.
You have to conserve your strength. This is just beginning.He sounded so reasonable, like maybe the shock of the water had sobered him up. And then his hands were smooth on her waist as he turned her around so she was facing away from him.
I’ve got you, he whispered.His arm locked around her, and the feel of his strong body behind her made her tense up. When all he did was breathe like he was in recovery, too, she began to relax a little, even though she couldn’t see anything and her legs kept brushing up against his.