“You feel all right?” I asked Callum.
He nodded. “Okay. Still . . .” He held out his hand to show me how badly it was shaking.
“You should eat some meat,” Addie said. “It helps. Especially with the whole ‘wanting to eat humans’ thing. It, like, tricks your system for a while or something.”
“We’ll get you some as soon as we get to the rebels,” I said, taking another glance around before I plopped down on the grass. Callum sat beside me and laced his shaky fingers through mine. I wanted to climb in his lap and squeeze him until I’d convinced him—and myself—that everything was fine. I resisted, since Addie would probably not appreciate it.
She was still standing, reading the note from her father again. “Why’d he send you?” she asked, not looking up.
“Because I wanted a way out and made a deal.”
“He helped you if you helped me,” she said.
“You could have broken the deal. Just taken off.”
“We don’t get the location of the reservation until I bring you to the rebels.”
She bit down on her lip and sighed. “They don’t trust us at all.”
“Leb was very good to me,” I said, guilt invading my chest as I realized the disappointment on her face was for her father. “The best officer I worked with. And he said he had other kids, so it made sense he didn’t want to risk everything.”
“I guess.” She glanced at Callum. “Did you leave because you were going crazy?”
“No, that happened after.” He let out a humorless laugh, rubbing a hand down his face. “They were going to eliminate me because I didn’t want to kill anyone.”
Addie looked away, clearly uncomfortable, and I squeezed his hand. He’d found something in the distance to stare at and I wanted desperately to change the subject.
Addie slid down onto the ground and we sat in silence for a long time, listening to the distant sound of officers and shuttles. Callum’s hand was warm in mine, but I was still trembling. I thought it was more from fear than from the wind whipping across my cheeks.
Callum’s face was turned to the ground, and I tried not to look at him, but his distraught expression was like a magnet. I found myself opening and shutting my mouth as I tried to think of something comforting to say, but there was nothing.
I’d opened my mouth for the hundredth time when Addie stood up, brushing off her pants.
“I don’t hear anything,” she said, tilting her head toward the quiet city. “Want to make a run for it?”
I nodded, offering my hand to Callum as I got to my feet. He stood and crossed his arms over his chest, letting out a big breath of air as he scanned the area in front of us. It was clear, the officers and shuttles gone.
“You all right?” I asked, lightly touching his arm.
He nodded without meeting my eyes. “I’m fine. Let’s go meet these rebels.”
THE ADDRESS LEB GAVE US FOR THE REBELS WAS PAST THE schoolhouse and in an area of town I’d known well as a child. The road curved and the houses were run-down and sad, some falling apart. It was more like Rosa in this part of the Austin slums, although many houses were painted bright, happy colors.
We half jogged, half sprinted across the town, scurrying behind buildings and trees at every noise. It was pitch-black, but the sun would start to rise any minute, and I wanted to get to the rebels before it was light out.
“That one,” I said, pointing as we approached a dirt road. I slowed to a walk as we turned down it, glancing along the row of brown houses. According to the map, it was the last house on the right.
We reached the end of the street and trudged across the patchy, brown grass to the front door. This house wasn’t painted. It was brown wood and windowless at the front and narrower than the houses on either side, but extended a bit farther in back. If the point was to not stand out, they had succeeded.
I glanced around the side of the house to see a short wooden fence. I gestured for Addie and Callum to follow. “Follow me,” I whispered, quickly darting around. We hopped the fence and landed in the dirt of a tiny backyard. I crept up to the brown door at the back of the house and softly rapped my knuckles against the wood.
I knocked again, a little harder, casting a nervous glance at Callum. Dealing with humans made me fidgety. I hated relying on them for anything, and I could see by the hope in his eyes that he expected these people would have all the answers.
“What?” a man’s voice said very quietly, from the other side of the door.
“It’s us,” I said in a low voice. “Um, Leb sent us?”
Silence followed my words, then a flurry of noise. They were whispering to one another and running around.
I dropped Callum’s hand and reached to finger the gun at my hip. I wouldn’t draw a weapon yet. I’d give them a chance.
It took at least a minute, but the door finally swung open to reveal a bleary-eyed boy with messy, dark curls, pointing a shotgun at my head.
Giving humans a chance was a dumb idea.
I grabbed my gun, but the human quickly held out his hand for me to stop. He was trembling.
“I don’t want to use it,” he said. “We’re just cautious here. If you’d like to come inside, we’re going to need all your weapons.”
“But you get to keep yours?” Callum asked.
Callum’s easy, relaxed tone unsettled the human. I could see it in the way his eyes flicked between us, swallowing hard as he looked Callum up and down. He was much shorter than Callum—almost as short as me, actually—and he looked ridiculous pointing the gun at him. We were probably about the same age, although he could have been a bit younger.
“If you want to come inside you have to give up your weapons,” he repeated.
“Fine,” I said, holding my gun out. I didn’t need it anyway. With the way the guy was shaking, I could take his gun, break his neck, and dance on the body in two seconds flat.
I smiled as I handed it over.
“Anything else?” he asked, lowering the shotgun. He looked pointedly at Addie.
“I got nothing,” she said, holding up her hands.
I slipped the knife out of my pocket and gave him that as well. He took it, glancing over his shoulder. He shifted from foot to foot, obviously unsure of what to do next.
A man appeared behind him. He was much taller than the boy, and he gripped at the edge of the door with a massive hand. He also looked like he’d just woken up, and he ran a hand through his gray-streaked hair as he squinted at us.