Chapter no 16

Ignite Me (Shatter Me Book 3)

“Who?” I ask, my heart constricting. “Who survived? How?”

Kenji lets out a long breath, running both hands through his hair as he focuses on a point behind me. “You just want a list?” he asks. “Or do you want to know how it all happened?”

“I want to know everything.”

He nods. Looks down, stomps on a clump of snow. He takes my hand again, and we start walking, two invisible kids in the middle of nowhere.

“I guess,” Kenji finally says, “that on some level we have you to thank for us still being alive. Because if we’d never gone to find you, we probably would’ve died on the battlefield with everyone else.”

He hesitates.

“Adam and I noticed you were missing pretty quickly, but by the time we fought our way back to the front, we were too late. We were still maybe twenty feet out, and could only see them hauling you into the tank.” He shakes his head. “We couldn’t just run after you,” he says. “We were trying not to get shot at.”

His voice gets deeper, more somber as he tells the story.

“So we decided we’d go an alternate route—avoiding all the main roads

—to try and follow you back to base, because that’s where we thought you were headed. But just as we got there, we ran into Castle, Lily, Ian, and Alia, who were on their way out. They’d managed to complete their own mission successfully; they broke into Sector 45 and stole Winston and Brendan back. Those two were half dead when Castle found them,” Kenji says quietly.

He takes a sharp breath.

“And then Castle told us what they’d heard while they were on base— that the troops were mobilizing for an air assault on Omega Point. They were going to drop bombs on the entire area, hoping that if they hit it with enough firepower, everything underground would just collapse in on itself.

There’d be no escape for anyone inside, and everything we’d built would be destroyed.”

I feel him tense beside me.

We stop moving for just a moment before I feel Kenji tug on my hand. I duck into the cold and wind, steeling myself against the weather and his words.

“Apparently they’d tortured the location out of our people on the battlefield,” he says. “Just before killing them.” He shakes his head. “We knew we didn’t have much time, but we were still close enough to base that I managed to commandeer one of the army tanks. We loaded up and headed straight for Point, hoping to get everyone out in time. But I think, deep down,” he says, “we knew it wasn’t going to work. The planes were overhead. Already on their way.”

He laughs, suddenly, but the action seems to cause him pain.

“And by some freak miracle of insanity, we intercepted James almost a mile out. He’d managed to sneak out, and was on his way toward the battlefield. The poor kid had pissed the whole front of his pants he was so scared, but he said he was tired of being left behind. Said he wanted to fight with his brother.” Kenji’s voice is strained.

“And the craziest shit,” he says, “is that if James had stayed at Point like we told him to, where we thought he’d be safe, he would’ve died with everyone else.” Kenji laughs a little. “And that was it. There was nothing we could do. We just had to stand there, watching as they dropped bombs on thirty years of work, killed everyone too young or too old to fight back, and then massacred the rest of our team on the field.” He clenches his hand around mine. “I come back here every day,” he says. “Hoping someone will show up. Hoping to find something to take back.” He stops then, voice tight with emotion. “And here you are. This shit doesn’t even seem real.”

I squeeze his fingers—gently, this time—and huddle closer to him. “We’re going to be okay, Kenji. I promise. We’ll stick together. We’ll get through this.”

Kenji tugs his hand out of mine only to slip it around my shoulder, pulling me tight against his side. His voice is soft when he speaks. “What happened to you, princess? You seem different.”

“Bad different?”

“Good different,” he says. “Like you finally put your big-girl pants on.” I laugh out loud.

“I’m serious,” he says.

“Well.” I pause. “Sometimes different is better, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Kenji says. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He hesitates. “So … are you going to tell me what happened? Because last I saw you, you were being shoved into the backseat of an army tank, and this morning you show up all freshly showered and shiny-white-sneakered and you’re walking around with Warner,” he says, releasing my shoulder and taking my hand again. “And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that shit doesn’t make any sense.”

I take a deep, steadying breath. It’s strange not being able to see Kenji right now; it feels as if I’m making these confessions to the wind. “Anderson shot me,” I tell him.

Kenji stills beside me. I can hear him breathing hard. “What?

I nod, even though he can’t see me. “I wasn’t taken back to base. The soldiers delivered me to Anderson; he was waiting in one of the houses on unregulated turf. I think he wanted privacy,” I tell Kenji, carefully omitting any information about Warner’s mom. Those secrets are too private, and not mine to share. “Anderson wanted revenge,” I say instead, “for what I did to his legs. He was crippled; when I saw him he was using a cane. But before I could figure out what was happening, he pulled out a gun and shot me. Right in the chest.”

“Holy shit,” Kenji breathes.

“I remember it so well.” I hesitate. “Dying. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t scream because my lungs were torn apart or full of blood. I don’t know. I just had to lie there, trying to breathe, hoping to drop dead as quickly as possible. And the whole time,” I say, “the whole time I kept thinking about how I’d spent my entire life being a coward, and how it got me nowhere. And I knew that if I had the chance to do it all again, I’d do it differently. I promised myself I’d finally stop being afraid.”

“Yeah, that’s all super heartwarming,” Kenji says, “but how in the hell did you survive a shot to the chest?” he demands. “You should be dead right now.”

“Oh.” I clear my throat a little. “Yeah, um, Warner saved my life.” “Shut the hell up.”

I try not to laugh. “I’m serious,” I say, taking a minute to explain how the girls were there and how Warner used their power to save me. How

Anderson left me to die and how Warner took me back to base with him, hid me, and helped me recover. “And by the way,” I say to Kenji, “Sonya and Sara are almost definitely still alive. Anderson took them back to the capital with him; he wants to force them to serve as his own personal healers. He’s probably gotten them to fix his legs by now.”

“Okay, you know what”—Kenji stops walking, grabs my shoulders

—“you need to just back up, okay, because you are dumping way too much information on me all at once, and I need you to start from the beginning, and I need you to tell me everything,” he says, his voice rising in pitch. “What the hell is going on? The girls are still alive? And what do you mean, Warner transferred their power to you? How the hell is that possible?”

So I tell him.

I finally tell him the things I’ve always wanted to confess. I tell him the truth about Warner’s ability and the truth about how Kenji was injured outside the dining hall that night. I tell him how Warner had no idea what he was capable of, and how I let him practice with me in the tunnel while everyone was in the medical wing. How together we broke through the floor.

“Holy shit,” Kenji whispers. “So that asshole tried to kill me.” “Not on purpose,” I point out.

Kenji mutters something crude under his breath.

And though I mention nothing about Warner’s unexpected visit to my room later that night, I do tell Kenji how Warner escaped, and how Anderson was waiting for Warner to show up before shooting me. Because Anderson knew how Warner felt about me, I tell Kenji, and wanted to punish him for it.

“Wait.” Kenji cuts me off. “What do you mean, he knew how Warner felt about you? We all knew how Warner felt about you. He wanted to use you as a weapon,” Kenji says. “That shouldn’t have been a revelation. I thought his dad was happy about that.”

I go stiff.

I forgot this part was still a secret. That I’d never revealed the truth about my connection to Warner. Because while Adam might’ve suspected that Warner had more than a professional interest in me, I’d never told anyone about my intimate moments with Warner. Or any of the things he’s said to me.

I swallow, hard.

“Juliette,” Kenji says, a warning in his voice. “You can’t hold this shit back anymore. You have to tell me what’s going on.”

I feel myself sway. “Juliette—”

“He’s in love with me,” I whisper. I’ve never admitted that out loud before, not even to myself. I think I hoped I could ignore it. Hide it. Make it go away so Adam would never find out.


I take a deep breath. I suddenly feel exhausted. “Please tell me you’re joking,” Kenji says.

I shake my head, forgetting he can’t see me. “Wow.”

“Kenji, I—”

“This is soooo weird. Because I always thought Warner was crazy, you know?” Kenji laughs. “But now, I mean, now there’s no doubt.”

My eyes fly wide open, shocking me into laughter. I push his invisible shoulder, hard.

Kenji laughs again, half amused, half reeling from disbelief. He takes a deep breath. “So, okay, wait, so, how do you know he’s in love with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, like—what, he took you out on a date or something? Bought you chocolates and wrote you some really shitty poetry? Warner doesn’t exactly seem like the affectionate type, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh.” I bite the inside of my cheek. “No, it was nothing like that.” “Then?”

“He just … told me.”

Kenji stops walking so abruptly I nearly fall over. “No he didn’t.” I don’t know how to respond to that.

“He actually said those words? To your face? Like, directly to your face?”


“So—so—so wait, so he tells you he loves you … and you said?

What?” Kenji demands, dumbfounded. “‘Thank you’?”

“No.” I stifle a cringe, remembering all too well that I actually shot Warner for it the first time. “I mean I didn’t—I mean—I don’t know, Kenji, it’s all really weird for me right now. I still haven’t found a way to deal with it.” My voice drops to a whisper. “Warner is really … intense,” I say, and

I’m overcome by a flood of memories, my emotions colliding into one jumble of insanity.

His kisses on my body. My pants on the floor. His desperate confessions unhinging my joints.

I squeeze my eyes shut, feeling too hot, too unsteady, everything all too suddenly.

“That’s definitely one way of putting it,” Kenji mutters, snapping me out of my reverie. I hear him sigh. “So Warner still has no idea that he and Kent are brothers?”

“No,” I say, immediately sobered. Brothers.

Brothers who hate each other. Brothers who want to kill each other. And I’m caught in the middle. Good God, what has happened to my life.

“And both of these guys can touch you?”

“Yes? But—well, no, not really.” I try to explain. “Adam … can’t really touch me. I mean, he can, sort of … ?” I trail off. “It’s complicated. He has to actively work and train to counteract my energy with his own. But with Warner—” I shake my head, staring down at my invisible feet as I walk. “Warner can touch me with no consequences. It doesn’t do anything to him. He just absorbs it.”

“Damn,” Kenji says after a moment. “Damn damn damn. This shit is bananas.”

“I know.”

“So—okay—you’re telling me that Warner saved your life? That he actually begged the girls to help him heal you? And that he then hid you in his own room, and took care of you? Fed you and gave you clothes and shit and let you sleep in his bed?”


“Yeah. Okay. I have a really hard time believing that.”

“I know,” I say again, this time blowing out an exasperated breath. “But he’s really not what you guys think. I know he seems kind of crazy, but he’s actually really—”

“Whoa, wait—are you defending him?” Kenji’s voice is laced with shock. “We are talking about the same dude who locked you up and tried to make you his military slave, right?”

I’m shaking my head, wishing I could try to explain everything Warner’s told me without sounding like a naive, gullible idiot. “It’s not—” I

sigh. “He didn’t actually want to use me like that—,” I try to say.

Kenji barks out a laugh. “Holy shit,” he says. “You actually believe him, don’t you? You’re buying into all the bullshit he’s fed you—”

“You don’t know him, Kenji, that’s not fair—”

“Oh my God,” he breathes, laughing again. “You are seriously going to try and tell me that I don’t know the man who led me into battle? He was my goddamn commander,” Kenji says to me. “I know exactly who he is—” “I’m not trying to argue with you, okay? I don’t expect you to


“This is hilarious,” Kenji says, wheezing through another laugh. “You really don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?”

“Ohhh, man,” he says suddenly. “Kent is going to be pissed,” he says, dragging out the word in glee. He actually giggles.

“Wait—what? What does Adam have to do with this?”

“You do realize you haven’t asked me a single question about him, right?” A pause. “I mean, I just told you the whole saga of all the shit that happened to us and you were just like, Oh, okay, cool story, bro, thanks for sharing. You didn’t freak out or ask if Adam was injured. You didn’t ask me what happened to him or even how he’s coping right now, especially seeing as how he thinks you’re dead and everything.”

I feel sick all of a sudden. Stopped in my tracks. Mortified and guilty guilty guilty.

“And now you’re standing here, defending Warner,” Kenji is saying. “The same guy who tried to kill Adam, and you’re acting like he’s your friend or someshit. Like he’s just some normal dude who’s a little misunderstood. Like every single other person on the planet got it wrong, and probably because we’re all just a bunch of judgmental, jealous assholes who hate him for having such a pretty, pretty face.”

Shame singes my skin.

“I’m not an idiot, Kenji. I have reasons for the things I say.”

“Yeah, and maybe I’m just saying that you have no idea what you’re saying.”


“Don’t whatever me—” “Whatever,” I say again.

“Oh my God,” Kenji says to no one in particular. “I think this girl wants to get her ass kicked.”

“You couldn’t kick my ass if I had ten of them.” Kenji laughs out loud. “Is that a challenge?” “It’s a warning,” I say to him.

“Ohhhhhh, so you’re threatening me now? Little crybaby knows how to make threats now?”

“Shut up, Kenji.”

Shut up, Kenji,” he repeats in a whiny voice, mocking me.

“How much farther do we have to go?” I ask too loudly, irritated and trying to change the subject.

“We’re almost there,” he shoots back, his words clipped. Neither one of us speaks for a few minutes.


“So … why did you walk all this way?” I ask. “Didn’t you say you had a tank?”

“Yeah,” Kenji says with a sigh, our argument momentarily forgotten. “We have two, actually. Kent said he stole one when you guys first escaped; it’s still sitting in his garage.”

Of course.

How could I forget?

“But I like walking,” Kenji continues. “I don’t have to worry about anyone seeing me, and I always hope that maybe if I’m on foot, I’ll be able to notice things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I’m still hoping,” he says, his voice tight again, “that we’ll find more of our own hidden out here somewhere.”

I squeeze Kenji’s hand again, clinging closer to him. “Me too,” I whisper.

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