Chapter no 43

Shatter Me

I’m an old creaky staircase when I wake up.

Someone has scrubbed me clean. My skin is like satin. My eyelashes are soft, my hair is smooth, brushed out of its knots; it gleams in the artificial light, a chocolate river lapping the pale shore of my skin, soft waves cascading around my collarbone. My joints ache; my eyes burn from an insatiable exhaustion. My body is naked under a heavy sheet. I’ve never felt so pristine.

I’m too tired to be bothered by it.

My sleepy eyes take inventory of the space I’m in, but there’s not much to consider. I’m lying in bed. There are 4 walls. 1 door. A small table beside me. A glass of water on the table. Fluorescent lights humming above me. Everything is white.

Everything I’ve ever known is changing.

I reach for the glass of water and the door opens. I pull the sheet up as high as it will go.

“How are you feeling?”

A tall man is wearing plastic glasses. Black frames. A simple sweater.

Pressed pants. His sandy-blond hair falls into his eyes.

He’s holding a clipboard. “Who are you?”

He grabs a chair I hadn’t noticed was sitting in the corner. Pushes it forward. Sits down beside my bed. “Do you feel dizzy? Disoriented?”

“Where’s Adam?”

He’s holding his pen to a sheet of paper. Writing something down. “Do you spell your last name with two rs? Or just one?”

“What did you do with James? Where’s Kenji?”

He stops. Looks up. He can’t be more than 30. He has a crooked nose. A day of scruff. “Can I at least make sure you’re doing all right? Then I’ll answer your questions.

I promise. Just let me get through the basic protocol here.” I blink.

How do I feel. I don’t know.

Did I have any dreams. I don’t think so. Do I know where I am. No.

Do I think I’m safe. I don’t know.

Do I remember what happened. Yes. How old am I. 17.

What color are my eyes. I don’t know.

“You don’t know?” He puts down his pen. Takes off his glasses. “You can remember exactly what happened yesterday, but you don’t know the color of your own eyes?”

“I think they’re green. Or blue. I’m not sure. Why does it matter?”

“I want to be sure you can recognize yourself. That you haven’t lost sight of your person.”

“I’ve never really known my eye color, though. I’ve only looked in the mirror once in the last three years.”

The stranger stares at me, his eyes crinkled in concern. I finally have to look away.

“How did you touch me?” I ask. “I’m sorry?”

“My body. My skin. I’m so . . . clean.”

“Oh.” He bites his thumb. Marks something on his papers. “Right. Well, you were covered in blood and filth when you came in, and you had some minor cuts and bruises. We didn’t want to risk infection. Sorry for the personal intrusion—but we can’t allow anyone to bring that kind of bacteria in here. We had to do a superficial detox.”

“That’s fine—I understand,” I hurry on. “But how?” “Excuse me?”

“How did you touch me?” Surely he must know. How could he not

know? God I hope he knows.

“Oh—” He nods, distracted by the words he’s scribbling on his clipboard. Squints at the page. “Latex.”


“Latex.” He glances up for a second. Sees my confusion. “Gloves?” “Right.” Of course. Gloves. Even Warner used gloves until he figured

it out.

Until he figured it out. Until he figured it out. Until he figured it out.

I replay the moment over and over and over in my mind. The split second I took too long to jump from the window. The moment of hesitation that changed everything. The instant I lost all control. All power. Any point of dominance. He’s never going to stop until he finds me and it’s my own fault.

I need to know if he’s dead.

I have to force myself to be still. I have to force myself not to shake, shudder, or vomit. I need to change the subject. “Where are my clothes?” I toy with the perfect white sheet hiding my bones.

“They’ve been destroyed for the same reasons you needed to be sanitized.” He picks up his glasses. Slips them on. “We have a special suit for you. I think it’ll make your life a lot easier.”

“A special suit?” I look up. Part my lips in surprise. “Yes. We’ll get to that part a bit later.” He pauses.

Smiles. There’s a dimple in his chin. “You’re not going to attack me like you did Kenji, are you?”

“I attacked Kenji?” I cringe.

“Just a little bit.” He shrugs. “At least now we know he’s not immune to your touch.”

“I touched him?” I sit up straight and nearly forget to pull my sheet up with me. I’m burning from head to toe, blushing through my mind, clutching at the sheet like a lifeline.

“I’m so sorry—”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate the apology.” Blondie is studying his notes religiously, suddenly fascinated by his own handwriting. “But it’s all right. We’ve been expecting some destructive tendencies. You’ve been having one hell of a week.”

“Are you a psychologist?”

“Sort of.” He brushes the hair away from his forehead. “Sort of?”

He laughs. Pauses. Rolls the pen between his fingers. “Yes. For all intents and purposes, I am a psychologist. Sometimes.”

“What is that supposed to mean . . . ?”

He parts his lips. Presses them shut. Seems to consider answering me but examines me instead. He stares for so long I feel my face go hot. He

starts scribbling furiously.

“What am I doing here?” I ask him. “Recovering.”

“How long have I been here?”

“You’ve been asleep for almost fourteen hours. We gave you a pretty powerful sedative.” Looks at his watch. “You seem to be doing well.” Hesitates. “You look very well, actually. Stunning, really.”

I have a handful of scrambled words in my mouth. A blush flushing up my face. “Where’s Adam?”

He takes a deep breath. Underlines something on his papers. His lips twitch into a smile.

“Where is he?”

“Recovering.” He finally looks up. “He’s okay?”

Nods. “He’s okay.”

I stare at him. “What does that mean?” 2 knocks at the door.

The bespectacled stranger doesn’t move. He rereads his notes. “Come in,” he calls.

Kenji walks inside, a little hesitant at first. He peeks at me, his eyes cautious. I never thought I’d be so happy to see him. But while it’s a relief to see a face I recognize, my stomach immediately twists into a knot of guilt, knocking me over from the inside. I wonder how badly I must’ve hurt him. He steps forward.

My guilt disappears.

I look more closely and realize he’s perfectly unharmed. His leg is working fine. His face is back to normal. His eyes are no longer puffy, his forehead is repaired, smooth, untouched. He was right.

He does have a spectacular face.

A defiant jawline. Perfect eyebrows. Eyes as pitch-black as his hair.

Sleek. Strong. A bit dangerous. “Hey, beautiful.”

“I’m sorry I almost killed you,” I blurt out.

“Oh.” He startles. Shoves his hands into his pockets. “Well. Glad we got that out of the way.” I notice he’s wearing a destroyed T-shirt. Dark

jeans. I haven’t seen anyone wear jeans in such a long time. Army uniforms, cotton basics, and fancy dresses are all I’ve known lately.

I can’t really look at him. “I panicked,” I try to explain. I clasp and unclasp my fingers.

“I figured.” He cocks an eyebrow. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

I nod. “You look better.”

He cracks a grin. Stretches. Leans against the wall, arms crossed at his chest, legs crossed at the ankles. “This must be difficult for you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Looking at my face. Realizing I was right. Realizing you made the wrong decision.” He shrugs. “I understand. I’m not a proud man, you know. I’d be willing to forgive you.”

I gape at him, unsure whether to laugh or throw something. “Don’t make me touch you.”

He shakes his head. “It’s incredible how someone can look so right and feel so wrong. Kent is a lucky bastard.”

“I’m sorry—” Psychologist-man stands up. “Are you two finished here?” He looks to Kenji. “I thought you had a purpose.” Kenji pushes off the wall. Straightens his back. “Right. Yeah. Castle wants to meet her.”

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