“You smell so good,” he mumbled, kissing my neck again.
“No, I don’t,” I said, trying to move away in embarrassment. “I smell like death.”
“You’re crazy,” he said with a chuckle, holding me tighter. “You’re not dead. You don’t smell like death.”
“I was dead a long time.”
“And now you’re not. Hence the alive smell.” He lifted his head and pressed his lips to mine.
I meant to push him away with more force, but my body didn’t actually want him to go anywhere. His lips left mine only by about an inch.
“We shouldn’t stay here too long,” I said.
“Why not? It’s so cozy. The fresh night air, mixed with the perfume of rotting trash. It’s beautiful.”
“They’ll be—” I stopped as I heard the sounds of footsteps approaching.
“No visual,” I heard an officer say. “Nine dead, couldn’t have been long ago.”
Callum looked at me in surprise at the number and I focused on the ground, afraid of seeing disgust in his eyes.
“Get ready to run,” I whispered in his ear.
“Check in there,” an officer yelled.
Footsteps crunched on gravel in our direction and I held my breath, afraid to move even an inch. The lid to the trash bin banged open, hitting the side of the schoolhouse above our heads. Trash rustled as the officer dug around inside.
“All clear,” he yelled. The footsteps faded, the yells from the other officers disappearing in the distance.
Callum grinned, bouncing me in his arms until I cracked a smile. “Why am I not surprised you picked a good hiding spot?”
“We got lucky,” I said, unhooking my helmet and setting it on the ground.
“I wouldn’t look too hard for us, if I were them. Not if they know it’s you they’re up against.”
“I . . . um . . . those nine guards . . .” I cleared my throat. I wanted to ask if he was horrified that I’d killed all those humans, but he didn’t look horrified. I didn’t want to bring it to his attention that perhaps I was a monster, and not someone he should be kissing.
“I know,” he said quietly. “You had to save us.”
I gave him a relieved smile, letting out a slow breath. Maybe, if I’d tried harder, I could have just injured a few. I decided not to point that out to him.
“I want to do something while we’re in Austin,” he said, giving me his big eyes. “I want to go see my family.”
I immediately shook my head. “No. That’s not a good idea.”
“But we have to go anyway, right? To get Adina?”
“I just want to see them. Tell them I’m okay.”
“They won’t . . .” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t tell him they wouldn’t want to see him. That they would consider their son dead, and this boy only an illusion who looked similar.
“They’ll want to see me,” he said in response to my unspoken words. “I know HARC says we can’t have contact with our families, but they don’t know my parents. And my brother, David . . .” He rubbed his hand over his short, dark hair. “We were actually sort of close. I think he’d want to see me.”
I didn’t know his parents, either, but I could guess their reaction if a monster who looked like their son showed up on their doorstep.
“How old is your brother?” I asked.
“He didn’t get sick when you did?”
He shook his head. “No, he was fine when I died.”
A thirteen-year-old would probably be more accepting of a Reboot than an adult, given that it could still happen to him at any time. Still, with his parents there I didn’t see that going well. “I don’t think you should go.”
“I have to,” he said, pushing an escaped strand of hair behind my ear. “And I’d prefer it if you came with me.”
I sighed. He’d go whether I came or not.
“You know I’d probably get killed in under an hour without you,” he said.
“With the way things are going, I’d be shocked if we even make it out of Rosa.”
“You just took down nine officers by yourself. I think we’ll be fine.” He inched back against the wall, wrapping his arm tightly around my waist when I started to scoot away. “Are we going to try to leave Rosa tonight?”
“I think tomorrow night will be better, don’t you? They’re all on high alert and they’ll be expecting us to try to break out now.”
He nodded in agreement. “We should stay here awhile. They probably won’t check this area again.”
“Hopefully,” I said, sliding off his lap and settling next to him. He slid his hand into mine and leaned over to press a soft kiss onto my cheek. I shifted a little closer, until his warm arm rubbed against mine, and lowered my gaze to hide the goofy smile spreading across my face.
The soft voice made me stir, and I winced at the pain that shot through my neck. I was leaning against something, my cheek pressed against a lovely warm and solid object, and I forced my eyelids open.
My head was on Callum’s shoulder. I’d fallen asleep. I took in a surprised breath and jerked into a sitting position, swinging around to see if we were safe. The streets were deserted, bright with early morning light.
“I thought you might want to move before everyone starts getting up,” Callum said, a smile tugging at the edge of his mouth.
“I fell asleep?” I asked stupidly.
“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t believe I’d passed out. For hours. Anyone could have snuck up on us.
“It’s okay,” Callum said, stretching. “I stayed awake and kept watch. Plus you look all cute and nonlethal when you sleep.”
A blush crept up my cheeks and he leaned forward to kiss me, making me blush more deeply.
“Um, yes,” I said when he pulled away. “We should probably move before the streets get too crowded.” I wasn’t sure of the best place to hide, but we did need to get to the other side of town, closer to the fence at the city line.
“Should we try to get me some clothes?” Callum asked as he reached for his helmet and strapped it on. “I don’t really mind being in my underwear and shorty shorts, but this might attract unwanted attention.”