Chapter no 9

Shatter Me

I’m not sure I’m hearing him correctly.

“You have something I want.” Warner is still staring at me. “I don’t understand,” I tell him.

He takes a deep breath and stands up to pace the length of the room.

Adam has not yet been dismissed. “You are kind of a pet project of mine.” Warner smiles to himself. “I’ve studied your records for a very long time.”

I can’t handle his pompous, self-satisfied strut. I want to break the grin off his face.

Warner stops walking. “I want you on my team.” “What?” A broken whisper of surprise.

“We’re in the middle of a war,” he says a little impatiently. “Maybe you can put the pieces together.”

“I don’t—”

“I know your secret, Juliette. I know why you’re in here. Your entire life is documented in hospital records, complaints to authorities, messy lawsuits, public demands to have you locked up.” His pause gives me enough time to choke on the horror caught in my throat. “I’d been considering it for a long time, but I wanted to make sure you weren’t actually psychotic. Isolation wasn’t exactly a good indicator, though you did fend for yourself quite well.” He offers me a smile that says I should be grateful for his praise. “I sent Adam to stay with you as a final precaution. I wanted to make sure you weren’t volatile, that you were capable of basic human interaction and communication. I must say I’m quite pleased with the results.”

Someone is ripping my skin off.

“Adam, it seems, played his part a little too excellently. He is a fine soldier. One of the best, in fact.” Warner spares him a glance before smiling at me. “But don’t worry, he doesn’t know what you’re capable of. Not yet, anyway.”

I claw at the panic, I swallow the agony, I beg myself not to look in his direction but I fail I fail I fail. Adam meets my eyes in the same split

second I meet his but he looks away so quickly I’m not sure if I imagined it.

I am a monster.

“I’m not as cruel as you think,” Warner continues, a musical lilt in his voice. “If you’re so fond of his company I can make this”—he gestures between myself and Adam— “a permanent assignment.”

“No,” I breathe.

Warner curves his lips into a careless grin. “Oh yes. But be careful, pretty girl. If you do something . . . bad . . . he’ll have to shoot you.”

There are wire cutters carving holes in my heart. Adam doesn’t react to anything Warner says.

He is doing a job.

I am a number, a mission, an easily replaceable object; I am not even a memory in his mind.

I am nothing.

I didn’t expect his betrayal to bury me so deep.

“If you accept my offer,” Warner interrupts my thoughts, “you will live like I do. You will be one of us, and not one of them. Your life will change forever.”

“And if I do not accept?” I ask, catching my voice before it cracks in fear.

Warner looks genuinely disappointed. His hands are clasped together in dismay. “You don’t really have a choice. If you stand by my side you will be rewarded.” He presses his lips together. “But if you choose to disobey? Well . . . I think you look rather lovely with all your body parts intact, don’t you?”

I’m breathing so hard my frame is shaking. “You want me to torture people for you?”

His face breaks into a brilliant smile. “That would be wonderful.” The world is bleeding.

I don’t have time to form a response before he turns to Adam. “Show her what she’s missing, would you?”

Adam answers a beat too late. “Sir?”

“That is an order, soldier.” Warner’s eyes are trained on me, his lips twitching with suppressed amusement. “I’d like to break this one. She’s a little too feisty for her own good.”

“You can’t touch me,” I spit through clenched teeth.

“Wrong,” he singsongs. He tosses Adam a pair of black gloves. “You’re going to need these,” he says with a conspiratorial whisper.

“You’re a monster.” My voice is too even, my body filled with a sudden rage. “Why don’t you just kill me?”

“That, my dear, would be a waste.” He steps forward and I realize his hands are carefully sheathed in white leather gloves. He tips my chin up with one finger. “Besides, it’d be a shame to lose such a pretty face.”

I try to snap my neck away from him but the same steel-toed boot slams into my spine and Warner catches my face in his grip. I suppress a scream. “Don’t struggle, love. You’ll only make things more difficult for yourself.”

“I hope you rot in hell.”

Warner flexes his jaw. He holds up a hand to stop someone from shooting me, kicking me in the spleen, cracking my skull open, I have no idea. “You’re a fighter for the wrong team.” He stands up straight. “But we can change that. Adam,” he calls. “Don’t let her out of your sight. She’s your charge now.”

“Yes, sir.”

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