Page 45


She has no idea who I am.
‘Amie,’ I whisper, stretching out my hand, and willing her to remember.
‘Her name is Riya,’ the woman informs me, her voice full of warning. ‘She’s my daughter.’
‘Her name is Amie,’ I challenge her under my breath.
‘My name is Riya,’ Amie repeats, mimicking the woman’s warning. But there’s a sadness in her tone. Not for herself, but for me – for the crazy girl whispering desperate lies in front of her.
A warm hand touches my shoulder gently.
‘Come on,’ Jost says gruffly. ‘We need to go.’
I look at him, barely able to see him through the veil of tears I’m trying to keep from falling. He leads me back to the waiting guard. Cormac is off somewhere, saying his farewells, but I’m sure he caught my little scene. Just like I’m sure he orchestrated this whole evening.
‘Are you okay?’ Jost asks.
‘Fine. It was a mistake,’ I lie to him.
But I can tell from his face that he doesn’t buy it. ‘I have to check on Ambassador Patton. We’ll be leaving in a few minutes.’
I try to let his words reassure me, but they don’t, so I open my own door and slide into my seat to wait for Cormac to be finished with his schmoozing. I’m about to shut my eyes to escape this horrible night when Erik slides into the motocarriage next to me.
‘I have to make this quick,’ he says.
‘Sure,’ I say, the surprise distracting me for a moment.
‘Cormac’s sending me back to the hotel alone.’
‘You’re not coming with us?’ I ask, alarmed.
‘No.’ Erik looks me straight in the eyes. ‘Cormac’s a powerful man, and it’s stupid of me to advise it, but if he tries anything, knee him in the crotch.’
My eyes snap open and I have to press my lips shut to hold back laughter. ‘You got it,’ I manage, barely keeping it together. Trust Erik to make me laugh at a time like this.
‘Here.’ He presses a thin microdisk into my hand.
‘What’s this?’ I ask, carefully fingering the disk before tucking it into my handbag.
‘Pop it into the drive on your digifile and it will connect you to me,’ he says. ‘Let me know when you make it back.’
He’s staring intensely at me as he says this, and I feel my breath catch in my throat. ‘Do you really think . . .’ I begin, but I can’t finish the thought.
‘I never know what to think with Cormac,’ Erik says. ‘That’s the problem.’
Before I can stop myself my hand stretches and grabs his. He squeezes it reassuringly, then drops it, and slips back out of the motocarriage. If I go now, I could catch up with him, but I might get him in trouble. But the alternative – leaving alone with Cormac – terrifies me.
‘Ready to go?’ Cormac asks, getting into the seat next to me. Too late.
‘Of course.’ I swallow against the dread sitting raw in my throat.
‘What did Erik want?’
I hesitate for a second. ‘He wanted to go over tomorrow’s itinerary since he’s headed back to the hotel.’
Cormac regards me thoughtfully and then smiles. ‘Attention to detail. I like that. He’ll be advancing out of the Coventry in no time. I want to show you something,’ Cormac says. He avoids sitting too close, and I don’t blame him. I’m sure he knows his plan worked.
I don’t bother to say anything about what happened tonight, and neither does he. The message was clear enough without him having to spell it out for me. We only ride for a few minutes, but in the dark I can’t see much through the motocarriage’s tinted windows. When we finally stop, Cormac opens his own door and walks around to mine. The driver stays inside.
As he helps me out, I’m met by a near-black sky dotted with sparkling stars. We’ve exited only steps from the edge of a precipice. In the darkness, I can barely see the valley hundreds of feet below us. Stretching past it, lights blink and waver, marking diminutive cities scattered around the cliff.
Cormac drops my hand and steps closer to the edge. Stretching his arm over the abyss, he calls to me, ‘It’s yours for the taking, Adelice.’
I clasp my palms across my bare arms and shiver against the breeze.
Cormac sits silently in the seat diagonal from me on the ride back, and I wonder if, with all the posing and Cormac’s eager hands on my waist earlier, I jumped to the wrong conclusion when all he wanted was to show me a vista. But after tonight’s charade, I’m not sure what any of it means any more.
Between holding back tears and the crippling guilt washing over me, I can barely keep my eyes open. It’s exhausting, but as I’m drifting off, Cormac’s voice startles me awake. I snap to attention, but then I realise he isn’t speaking to me. His head is cocked to the side, so I close my eyes again and listen.
‘You’ve known about the situation in Northumbria for weeks,’ he says. ‘It shouldn’t take this long to deal with a simple taint.’
He pauses, and I wish I could hear what he’s being told. Complant convos are too one-sided.
‘I see.’
I peek through my lashes to see that he’s frowning.
‘This is getting out of hand. If we can’t find the source, we’re going to have to alter the entire Eastern Sector,’ he says, ‘and, Hannox . . .’
My heart flutters at this name, but I can’t recall where I’ve heard it.