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First to go. Is that why she hasn’t visited me? Why she didn’t step in when Maela punished me? Did a new Loricel do this to Enora?
‘When am I scheduled?’
‘Friday,’ she says. ‘It is quite painless.’
‘I’m sure it is,’ I say automatically.
The door to my quarters opens, and Jost appears with a silver tray.
‘Enora,’ he calls, ‘will you be dining with Adelice?’
‘No, I’m expected in the dining hall,’ she tells him. ‘I was leaving.’
She nods once at me, then exits. I’m still staring after her when Jost sets down the tray and clears his throat. Snapping to it, I freeze the time, creating a bubble around us, then turn to face him.
‘Am I imagining it or is something different about Enora?’ he asks, his eyebrows knitted in concern.
‘You’re definitely not imagining it.’ I sigh, trying to piece together the information.
Jost gestures for my hands, and we settle down on the cushions. He removes the bandages and inspects my fingertips. Even I have to admit the renewal cream has worked wonders.
‘I think you’re done with these,’ he says, tossing the bandages to the side.
‘Oh,’ I say, trying hard to hide my disappointment. If I’m healed, there’s no reason for him to keep coming to see me.
‘I thought that might be the case,’ he says. ‘So I made a special lunch.’
‘You cooked this?’ I ask in amazement.
‘No,’ he says sheepishly. ‘The food generators did most of the work, but I chose the dishes and laid them out.’
‘It’s perfect.’
I eat with my hands. I love the feeling of the foods – greasy, slick, rough, creamy. Jost laughs and shovels violet berries into my mouth. I wonder whether he still loves Rozenn. The shame of the thought creeps hot onto my cheeks, and he stops feeding me the berries.
‘Ready to get back to work?’ he asks.
‘I guess I have to now.’
‘You could stay in here,’ he says, his eyes traveling along the perimeter of the bubble.
‘And miss all the fun when Security realises why you’ve been visiting me every day?’ I tease.
‘I’d stay with you,’ he says in a quiet voice.
There are a million things I want to say to Jost at this moment, but the only thing that comes out is the question that’s been burning through my mind since he said the word revolution. ‘What are you planning?’
‘It’s not that simple,’ he says.
‘Forget it. It’s not my place to ask.’
‘I’m sorry. It’s just that . . .’ Jost pauses, struggling for the word.
‘You don’t trust me,’ I say. ‘It’s okay, you have no reason to.’
‘I trust you, Adelice. Please know that.’ He reaches over and cups my face, his palm searing my already warm cheekbone. ‘I thought I would never trust anyone again.’
‘You aren’t alone,’ I murmur, turning my head into his outstretched palm. He sighs.
‘I know,’ he says, but it’s more a confession than a realisation. ‘Ad, you aren’t the only person who knows why I’m here.’
It takes a moment for this to sink in, but when it does I whip my head up to meet his eyes. ‘How many people know?’
‘Now? Two. You and one other,’ he admits, lowering his rejected hand to rest on my leg. My nerves pulse along my thigh where he’s touching me.
‘Who?’ I ask, trying to ignore the tingle running through my lower half.
Jost shakes his head. ‘I’m sorry. That isn’t my secret to share.’
‘But you said I was the only one you trusted,’ I press.
‘I don’t trust this person,’ he says.
‘But you’re working together?’
‘No, we’re definitely not working together, but this person knows why I came to the Coventry.’ He pauses before adding, ‘It wouldn’t be a good idea for us to work together.’
‘But this person is a revolutionary?’
‘No,’ he rushes to answer.
‘But they know why you’re here? Will they inform on you?’ I feel confused by the vague turn this conversation has taken. I’m getting answers, but the kind that only lead to more questions.
‘I’m not worried they’ll tell on me.’ He looks away to signal he won’t say anything else.
I nod and try to think of a way to change the subject.
‘So where does that leave us?’
Jost pulls his hand away, and I rush to clarify. ‘I meant, what is your plan and how can I help?’
‘Sorry.’ He looks genuinely abashed for his reaction, and his hand twitches as though he wants to reach out again, but he doesn’t. ‘I don’t know.’
‘How’s that working for you?’ I ask, trying to lighten the mood.
‘The truth is I never had a plan,’ he confesses, his lip threatening to curl into a smile. ‘I came here to avenge Rozenn, and I’ve never known how I would do it. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and then you . . .’
‘Fell into your cell?’ I offer.
‘Something like that. More like you mouthed off, and I dropped you.’
I grimace at the memory and rub my tailbone. ‘By the way, I think you broke it.’
‘Oh yes, it was me who broke it and not the days you spent sitting on a cold stone floor.’