Something rustles ahead.
“What was that?” Pratt whispers.
“Get down,” I put myself in front of her, peeking past the tree. But there’s nothing. It’s just quiet. Still. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe we imagined it. But then the rustling starts again. “Stay here.”
“Reid…” Sampson starts but I’m already jetting past the first wall, keeping my back to Ellae’s ivy covered stone.
Of course Pratt’s behind me in an instant. She never can stay put. If it’s a Vermix out for a midnight stroll, I’ll take care of it. Sampson taught me that much. I may not understand where my original trainings came from, but at least I’ve got the knowledge he gave me. If it’s just one Dofinike it shouldn’t be an issue. Two or three and we might have a problem. I wish Pratt would get back. It makes me uneasy having her so close to something that could be dangerous.
I throw her a look but pause when the rustling sounds again. I place a finger over my mouth and she nods as I quietly peek past. And again, she’s peeking past with me. At first it’s nothing…
But then a girl steps out.
Large brown eyes look around, taking in Ellae with a deep sense wonder. She’s not scared, not surprised, just…confused. Curious. And those eyes… God those eyes are beautiful. Hypnotizing. I want them to look at me. As if she heard me, she turns, scanning the walls of Ellae that Pratt and I are hiding behind. I think my heart stops. Her face… her face is like her eyes—powerful. Enchanting. Determined. It’s framed by long brown curls that run the length of her shoulders and down her gray baseball tee. Those curls look soft. Probably smell good too. Suddenly I have an urge to touch them, to run my fingers through them, to hold her face to mine—
“It’s a girl,” Pratt is surprised, jarring me from thoughts I had no business thinking. I don’t know her. She’s just an Arival—albeit, a brave one—but just a new face here. That’s all. Still, Pratt is right to be surprised.
And frankly, so am I.
For a while, a few people tried escaping out here. Most were guys—future Rogues by the time I got to them. Others weren’t so lucky. A girl might’ve ventured out every so often, but they would never get this far. They would usually stop or decide to turn back pretty much after entering the jungle. I don’t blame them. It’s such a death trap out here; you really need to know your way around it if you’re going to survive. But this girl… she’s made it all the way out here on her own. And she doesn’t even look fazed. Just curious. Like she’s trying to piece it all together already. Like it’s just another hurdle.
“Reid…” Pratt whispers, biting her lip as she looks at me. “What do we do?”
Sampson is hiding behind the wall a foot across from us. I look at him, keeping my words to a whisper. “We can’t let her keep going.”
He nods, contemplating something and after a long moment, he decides. “We’ll have to take her back. But I don’t want her seeing our faces,” he glances to us. “It’s best she passes out and wakes up in the Castle.”
I look back but she’s gone. I’m about to jump out and search for her until I find the edge of her body peeking past one of the walls. She’s crouched—hiding most likely—and I feel like a shit for doing this. With a nod to Sampson, we both jet out. She’s probably going to make a break for it, but I block her main escape while he comes around the back. He’ll pinch her neck and put her out before she even realizes what’s happening. It’s for the best. If we let her go, she’ll only end up dead.
Sampson is right behind her. If she runs before he can put her out, I’ll block her. She’s trapped and she doesn’t even know it. A pang of guilt stirs inside me but it’s for the best. All Sampson needs to do is—
She’s here, in my face, her eyes on mine.
A million thoughts race through her expression, stopping my chest. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I’m lost in those eyes which suddenly dull, her lids closing. She falls in Sampson’s arms before she reaches the ground. I’m not sure what to do… what to think. All I can do is look at her. And resist the urge to touch her.
“Oh Reid…” Pratt races over to us, crouching next to me. She gazes down at the girl, “she’s pretty…”
“She’s out,” Sampson says, looking between us, “and only for a short time. We need to get her back to the Castle before she awakes.”
“I can take her,” I offer, the words out of my mouth before I realize I’ve said them. Both Sampson and Pratt look at me. I know what she’s going to say. She’s going to make something out of this. But really, I’m just helping out Sampson. He’s probably tired. Plus, I’ve been slacking tonight. He’s been getting most of the food…I…I should do this. Help him out. That’s all.
“Here,” I take her from Sampson’s arms.
She’s warm. And she does smell good. Shit. I need to take her back and stay the hell away from her. Except she’s right up Jace’s alley. Double shit. I’ll tell him this one—only this one—is off limits. He doesn’t need to tap every new ass that comes through. It’s getting ridiculous, really. Taking his role as Recruitment RC to bang every chick. Some of the other Rogues are getting pissed. I need to talk to him about it. Soon.
I look down at the girl in my arms. Her face hangs back, her mouth slightly parted. Inviting. My focus shifts over her body. I gulp. She’s tall, thin… soft. I haven’t really touched a girl since Ansley, since she… no. Fuck her. She wants Walker. She can have him. I don’t need distraction anyway. I have enough to do, even with Tucker as Rogue Leader now. He’s doing well, but damnit if he doesn’t come to me five times a day looking for help. I have no problem with it, but sometimes I just wish so many people didn’t rely on me. What if it all falls through? I can’t save them. Shit, we’re still trapped here. The most I can do is make it somewhat easier. Save them from the Vermix and the Kings by working for me—or I guess Tucker now.
My focus drops to the girl again. Will she get involved in the Market? What am I thinking? I’m Rox. I have more of a say than anyone—on the Rogues side at least. I can command none of the Scouts to approach her… but then she might get recruited by the Kings. How can I avoid her and not let her get involved with them? She’ll need to eat. Maybe I can have Able—
“She’s really pretty, Reid.”
She is. Which means Jace won’t hesitate long. After I drop her off in the Castle, I’ll head to his room and let him know she’s off limits. Just this one. Of course he’ll make a big deal of it, but I don’t care. I can’t swallow the idea of him going after her too. She’s different than the other girls. She made it all the way out here, to Ellae. No one’s ever done that alone before. Ever. Not even me.
“Who is she?” my voice is gravelly, rough.
“Her name is Fallon,” Sampson says. “Clarence brought her only a short while ago. She…” he glances at the girl in my arms, “…she is special.”
“Obviously,” Pratt laughs. “She made it all the way out here by herself. I like her already.”
“We have to stay away from her,” I say.
“Why?” Pratt is frowning. I hate that frown. Makes me want to give in. And hell if I don’t want to. But it’s not smart. Not this time.
“If she finds out who we are, she’ll try to come back here. Probably get herself killed next time…” I say quickly. But that’s not all. I like the way she feels in my arms too much. I like the way she smells and her mouth and her body…
Images flash of her naked beneath me.
“But Reid…” Pratt tries again.
“I’m sorry,” I shake my head, trying to keep my body cool, forcing myself not to think of the only thing filling my brain. She’d probably feel good under me. Warm. My heart speeds up. Images flash of her arching, of calling my name as I move inside her. Of her gripping my sheets and her legs wrapped around my hips…
“You okay?” Pratt asks.
I nod. I’m going to have to stay away from her. I need to focus and with these images already floating around my head, she’s a huge distraction. And I can’t allow anything to keep me from helping Tucker with the Rogues. Ansley already ruined my focus. Those first few weeks, I wouldn’t even talk to Tucker. I can’t do that again. It’s not fair. Going forward, I’m focused on the Rogues only. No more girls. Even this one. I’ll tell Jace to leave her alone and then I’ll do the same.
Taking a deep breath, I focus on the trees ahead. “Let’s just get back.”