Chapter no 17

Ignite Me (Shatter Me Book 3)

Adam’s old place is exactly as I remember it.

Kenji and I sneak in from the underground parking garage, and scale a few flights of stairs to the upper levels. I’m suddenly so nervous I can hardly speak. I’ve had to grieve the loss of my friends twice already, and part of me feels like this can’t possibly be happening. But it must be. It has to be.

I’m going to see Adam.

I’m going to see Adam’s face. He’s going to be real.

“They blasted the door open when they were searching for us that first time,” Kenji is saying, “so the door is pretty jammed up—we’d been piling a bunch of furniture against it to keep it closed, but then it got stuck the other way, soo … yeah, it might take them a while to open it. But other than that, this little place has been good to us. Kent’s still got a ton of food in storage, and all the plumbing still works because he’d paid for almost everything through the end of the year. All in all, we got pretty lucky,” he says.

I’m nodding my head, too afraid to open my mouth. That coffee from this morning suddenly doesn’t feel very good in my stomach, and I’m jittery from head to toe.


I’m about to see Adam.

Kenji bangs on the door. “Open up,” he shouts. “It’s me.”

For a minute all I hear is the sound of heavy movement, creaky wood, screechy metal, and a series of thuds. I watch the doorframe as it shakes; someone on the other side is yanking on the door, trying to get it unjammed.

And then it opens. So slowly. I’m gripping my hands to keep myself steady.

Winston is standing at the door.

Gaping at me.

“Holy shit,” he says. He pulls his glasses off—I notice they’ve been taped together—and blinks at me. His face is bruised and battered, his bottom lip swollen, split open. His left hand is bandaged, the gauze wrapped several times around the palm of his hand.

I offer him a timid smile.

Winston grabs ahold of Kenji’s shirt and yanks him forward, eyes still focused on my face. “Am I hallucinating again?” he asks. “Because I’m going to be so pissed if I’m hallucinating again. Dammit,” he says, not waiting for Kenji to respond. “If I had any idea how much it would suck to have a concussion, I’d have shot myself in the face when I had a chance—” “You’re not hallucinating.” Kenji cuts him off with a laugh. “Now let us


Winston is still blinking at me, eyes wide as he backs away, giving us room to enter. But the minute I step over the threshold I’m thrust into another world, a whole different set of memories. This is Adam’s home. The first place I ever found sanctuary. The first place I ever felt safe.

And now it’s full of people, the space far too small to house so many large bodies. Castle and Brendan and Lily and Ian and Alia and James— they’ve all frozen midmovement, midsentence. They’re all staring at me in disbelief. And I’m just about to say something, just about to find something acceptable to say to my only group of battered, broken friends, when Adam walks out of the small room I know used to belong to James. He’s holding something in his hands, distracted, not noticing the abrupt change in the atmosphere.

But then he looks up.

His lips are parted as if to speak, and whatever he was holding hits the ground, shattering into so many sounds it startles everyone back to life.

Adam is staring at me, eyes locked on my face, his chest heaving, his face fighting so many different emotions. He looks half terrified, half hopeful. Or maybe terrified to be hopeful.

And though I realize I should probably be the first to speak, I suddenly have no idea what to say.

Kenji pulls up beside me, his face splitting into a huge smile. He slips his arm around my shoulder. Squeezes. Says, “Lookie what I found.”

Adam begins to move across the room, but it feels strange—like everything has begun to slow down, like this moment isn’t real, somehow.

There’s so much pain in his eyes.

I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

But then there he is, right in front of me, his hands searching my body as if to ensure that I’m real, that I’m still intact. He’s studying my face, my features, his fingers weaving into my hair. And then all at once he seems to accept that I’m not a ghost, not a nightmare, and he hauls me against himself so quickly I can’t help but gasp in response.

“Juliette,” he breathes.

His heart is beating hard against my ear, his arms wrapped tight around me, and I melt into his embrace, relishing the warm comfort, the familiarity of his body, his scent, his skin. My hands reach around him, slip up his back and grip him hard, and I don’t even realize silent tears have fallen down my face until he pulls back to look me in the eye. He tells me not to cry, tells me it’s okay, that everything is going to be okay and I know it’s all a lie but it still feels so good to hear.

He’s studying my face again, his hands carefully cradling the back of my head, so careful not to touch my skin. The reminder sends a sharp pain through my heart. “I can’t believe you’re really here,” he says, his voice breaking. “I can’t believe this is actually happening—”

Kenji clears his throat. “Hey—guys? Your loin passion is grossing out the little ones.”

“I’m not a little one,” James says, visibly offended. “And I don’t think it’s gross.”

Kenji spins around. “You’re not bothered by all the heavy breathing going on over here?” He makes a haphazard gesture toward us.

I jump away from Adam reflexively.

“No,” James says, crossing his arms. “Are you?” “Disgust was my general reaction, yeah.”

“I bet you wouldn’t think it was gross if it was you.” A long pause.

“You make a good point,” Kenji finally says. “Maybe you should find me a lady in this crappy sector. I’m okay with anyone between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five.” He points at James. “So how about you get on that, thanks.”

James seems to take the challenge a little too seriously. He nods several times. “Okay,” he says. “How about Alia? Or Lily?” he says, immediately pointing out the only other women in the room.

Kenji’s mouth opens and closes a few times before he says, “Yeah, no thanks, kid. These two are like my sisters.”

“So smooth,” Lily says to Kenji, and I realize it’s the first time I’ve really heard her speak. “I bet you win over all the eligible women by telling them they’re like sisters to you. I bet the ladies are just lining up to jump into bed with your punkass.”

“Rude.” Kenji crosses his arms. James is laughing.

“You see what I have to deal with?” Kenji says to him. “There’s no love for Kenji. I give and I give and I give, and I get nothing in return. I need a woman who will appreciate all of this,” he says, gesturing to the length of his body. He’s clearly overexaggerating, hoping to entertain James with his ridiculousness, and his efforts are appreciated. Kenji is probably their only chance for comedic relief in this cramped space, and it makes me wonder if that’s why he sets off on his own every day. Maybe he needs time to grieve in silence, in a place where no one expects him to be the funny one.

My heart starts and stops as I hesitate, wondering at how hard it must be for Kenji to keep it together even when he wants to fall apart. I caught a glimpse of that side of him for the first time today, and it surprised me more than it should have.

Adam squeezes my shoulder, and I turn to face him. He smiles a tender, tortured smile, his eyes heavy with pain and joy.

But of all the things I could be feeling right now, guilt hits me the hardest.

Everyone in this room is carrying such heavy burdens. Brief moments of levity puncture the general gloom shrouding this space, but as soon as the jokes subside, the grief slides back into place. And though I know I should grieve for the lives lost, I don’t know how. They were all strangers to me. I was only just beginning to develop a relationship with Sonya and Sara.

But when I look around I see that I’m alone in feeling this way. I see the lines of loss creasing my friends’ faces. I see the sadness buried in their clothes, perched atop their furrowed brows. And something in the back of my mind is nagging at me, disappointed in me, telling me I should be one of them, that I should be just as defeated as they are.

But I’m not.

I can’t be that girl anymore.

For so many years I lived in constant terror of myself. Doubt had married my fear and moved into my mind, where it built castles and ruled kingdoms and reigned over me, bowing my will to its whispers until I was little more than an acquiescing peon, too terrified to disobey, too terrified to disagree.

I had been shackled, a prisoner in my own mind. But finally, finally, I have learned to break free.

am upset for our losses. I’m horrified. But I’m also anxious and restless. Sonya and Sara are still alive, living at the mercy of Anderson. They still need our help. So I don’t know how to be sad when all I feel is an unrelenting determination to do something.

I am no longer afraid of fear, and I will not let it rule me. Fear will learn to fear me.

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