Boundless Page 74

But Christian’s not here.

I turn a slow circle, looking for him, my eyes lingering on every empty space, every shadow, hoping to find him, but he’s not here.

He’s not coming.

For a minute I think my fear is going to eat me up.

“Caw,” says the crow impatiently.

It’s midnight.

I have to go. With or without him.

I face the stretch of pavement that will take me across the tracks. One step at a time, my heart going like a rabbit’s, my breath coming in shallow gasps, I cross the tracks.

On the other side Samjeeza unfolds himself into a man. He looks pleased with himself, excited, the fox-in-the-henhouse kind of excited, a wicked gleam in his eye. My skin prickles at the sight of him.

“A fine night for a journey.” He glances around. “I told you to bring a friend.”

“Do you have any friends who’d go to hell for you?” I ask, trying to keep my bottom lip from trembling.

His gaze is piercing. “No.”

He has no friends. He has no anyone.

He tsks his tongue like he’s disappointed in me. “This will not work without someone to ground you.”

“You could ground me,” I say, lifting my chin.

The corner of his mouth turns up. He leans forward, not touching me but close enough to envelop me in the cocoon of sorrow that’s always enclosing him. It is a deep, gut-wrenching agony, like everything beautiful and light in this world has slowly withered and died, crumbled to ash in my hands. I can’t breathe, can’t think.

How did Mom ever manage to get close to this creature? But then, she didn’t have the way with feelings I have. She couldn’t know how black and bone-chillingly cold he truly is inside, how shattered.

“Is this what you want to be bound to?” he asks in a rumbling voice.

I step back and gasp when I’m able to get my breath again, like he’s been choking me.

“No.” I shudder.

“I didn’t think so,” he says. “Ah, well.” He looks down the tracks, where in the distance I can hear the very faint whistle of an approaching train. “It’s probably for the best,” he says.

I’m going to miss my chance.

“Wait!”

I turn to see Christian hurrying across the tracks, wearing his black fleece jacket and gray jeans, his eyes wide, his voice ragged as he calls, “I’m here!”

My breath leaves me in a rush. I can’t help but smile. He reaches me and we hug, clutching at each other’s arms for a minute, murmuring “I’m sorry” and “I’m so glad you’re here” and “I couldn’t miss it” and “You don’t have to do this” back and forth between us, sometimes out loud, sometimes in our heads.

Samjeeza clears his throat, and we step back from each other and turn to him. He cocks his head at Christian.

“Who is this?” he asks. “I’ve seen him hanging around you like some lovesick puppy. Is he one of the Nephilim?”

Christian inhales sharply. He’s never seen Samjeeza before, never been this close to a Black Wing. I wonder for a moment if he wasn’t wrong about seeing Asael. Asael and Samjeeza look enough alike that maybe he confused the two. It’s possible. This could still be his vision, I think.

“He’s a friend,” I manage, grabbing Christian’s hand. Immediately I feel stronger, more balanced, more focused. We can do this. “You said I needed a friend, and here he is. So now you can take us to Angela.”

“Forgetting something, are we?” Samjeeza says. “Your payment?”

What payment? Christian demands in my head. Clara, what payment? What did you promise him?

“I didn’t forget.”

The train is approaching, a dull red light at its head, advancing down the tracks. I’ll have to make this fast.

“I have a story,” I tell him. “But I’ll show you.”

With my free hand I reach up and touch Samjeeza’s cheek, which is smooth and cool, inhuman. His sorrow floods me, making Christian gasp as it reverberates through me and into him, but I surge against it, squeeze Christian’s hand tighter, and focus on today, the hour with my mother on the top of Buzzards Roost. I pour it all into Sam’s shocked and open mind: her voice telling the story, the wind blowing her long auburn hair, the way she felt as she told it, the warm soft clasp of her hand holding mine, and finally, the words.

I lied.

I loved him.

Samjeeza flinches. It is more than he expected. I feel him start to tremble under my hand. I step back and let him go.

We wait to see what he will do. The train’s approaching the station. It’s different from the northbound one; this one is smudged with dirt or soot or something black and nasty so that I can’t read the words on the sides. The windows are crowded with black shapes. Gray people, I realize. On their way to the underworld.

Sam’s eyes are closed, his body absolutely still, like I’ve turned him into stone.

“Sam …,” I prompt. “We should go.”

His eyes open. His eyebrows push together, the space between them wrinkling like he’s in pain. He regards Christian and me like he doesn’t know what to do with us anymore. Like he’s having second thoughts.

“Are you absolutely certain that you want to do this?” he asks, his voice hoarse. “Once you board this particular locomotive, there’s no turning back.”

“Why do we have to take a train?” Christian asks impulsively. “Can’t you take us there, the way you did with Clara and her mother before?”

Samjeeza seems to gain back a bit of his equilibrium. “For me to expend energy in that way would call attention to what I’m doing, and the trail could be followed. No, you must go like all the common damned of this world, into the depths by ferry, or carriage, or train.”

“All right,” Christian says tightly. “Train it is, then.”

Are you sure? I ask him silently, looking into his eyes.

I’ll go where you go, he answers.

I turn back to Sam. “We’re ready.”

He nods.

“Listen to me carefully. I will take you to your friend, where I have arranged for her to be at the given time, and you must convince her to go with you.”

“Convince her?” Christian interjects again. “Won’t she be eager to get out of there?”

Samjeeza ignores him, focuses on me. “Speak to no one else but the girl.”

What, does he think I’ll stop to chat with the first person I stumble across? “No problem.”

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