Throat burning, Jesse kissed her hair and inhaled the honey scent of her shampoo. He’d known she cared for him—she would never have let him claim her if she didn’t—but he hadn’t known how much. There had been nights when he watched her sleep, wondering if he’d ever find a way into that big heart that was encased in an iron cage. It was probably natural that someone who felt things so deeply would protect that heart so it didn’t go through life constantly bruised. He’d hoped she’d trust him to be a person who wouldn’t abuse that trust and purposely wound her. But he had hurt her, and now he needed to fix it.
I forced the image of her staring at him, exactly as she had the moment before he pulled the trigger. The car swerved to the left, to the right, as Rob swore. I focused on the boy now, bringing him to the front of both of our minds.This wasn’t enough, not for him. Murderer, killer, animal—someone who took sick pleasure in the hunt but got even more out of the actual gutting. I’d seen his face that night, when he killed those kids. A satisfied smirk, tinged with a hunger I hadn’t understood until now. More.
What would he have done to Jude if I’d let him? Would he have shot him like the others? Slit his throat? Suffocated him with his huge hands until, finally, he’d see that he’d smothered the last spark of his life?I made the girl reach for him, and he saw it happen all over again, just like I had. The way her right eye socket had cracked as the bullet tore through it. A spray of blood came up to splatter his face and the windshield, and the hallucination was so strong, so deliciously powerful, that the car swerved and I heard the windshield wipers turn on.Stop it! he shouted. Goddammit, stop it!
I pictured the girl reaching over, running a hand along his arm, and because his mind told him he felt her, he did. The car jerked wildly to the left again as he tried to get away from her. More.He’d killed those kids, but it wasn’t even just that. First, he’d broken them out of their camp. He’d given them the hope of freedom, of seeing their families again one day. He’d taken their dreams and crushed them.
I know what you’re doing! he snarled. I know it’s you!
A thrill of satisfaction sang through me with his first ragged gasp. I sent the boy crawling out of the backseat, over the armrest, wrapping his arms around Rob’s neck. He smeared blood down the front of the man’s shirt, and he nuzzled into it. Rob needed to feel the warm pulse of it, a sticky, burning fluid that would never wash out of the fabric, never mind off his skin. The boy and girl began to sob, wail, thrash—I poured every last ounce of my fury and fear and devastation into it.No! he cried. Not until you tell me where the heck we’re going! Barton’s probably been searching for us all night!
The highway was lined on either side by hills and pockets of dense trees, but we were still far too exposed. Every time a passing freight truck bathed us in white headlights, I had to steel myself all over again.Do you have your panic button? I asked. Jude—look at me. Do you still have it?
Why? he asked, patting around his pants pockets. I think so. But—His thick brows were drawn together, the tip of his long nose red and running with cold. He used his free arm to swipe it against his coat. Ruby, what’s going on? Please, just talk to me!