heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 33

The little adrenaline Capri had managed to muster abandoned her, and her knees gave out with the first jolt of takeoff. Brody lifted her easily into his arms, and she gasped as the movement jarred her injury.

She still had the diamonds clutched tightly in her hand. Colin kept his eyes on hers.

“We owe you one,” he said, gratitude in his voice.

Capri’s heart swelled. He took the bag from her and found a rag to stanch the blood.

“Find the kit and take it to the lounge,” he ordered Leroy.

“It’s in my room,” Brody told him roughly before carrying Capri to the lounge.

He laid her on the couch closest to the door. She wondered vaguely how many times the cozy space had been used as an impromptu infirmary. They seemed to have a standard procedure.

The captain replaced his hand with hers, telling her to press down as hard as she could. There was blood everywhere. Her blood. She felt dazed. How much had Agatha lost before she died? Capri clutched her arm, and the pressure seemed to ease the pain. Leroy arrived a few seconds later with the medical kit. Everyone was hurrying to get her patched up, but no one seemed to be panicking. That was good.

The captain took out a syringe and stuck it in her arm.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“We haven’t run medical supplies in a while,” the captain said. “That’s the best I can do for you.”

“’Cause you gotta stitch me up,” she murmured, thinking she understood.

The captain motioned for Brody to take his place by Capri while he continued speaking to her. “We’ve gotta do a little more than that. The bullet’s still in there. Shots has the most experience. He’ll handle it. You’ll be okay.”

Capri nodded, trying to feed off of the captain’s confidence, but she only felt fear. Brody pried her fingers away from her arm, and she gasped as the pain, and with it the blood, surged through her torn flesh. She glanced at his face; his eyes were dark and angry. A vein pulsed in his thick neck. She couldn’t look away from it. Then she caught sight of something red in her peripheral. It was her hand, covered in blood, so much that it trickled down her arm.

Brody caught her wrist and moved it out of her line of sight.

“Don’t look,” he ordered in a low voice.

Capri obeyed, in too much of a daze to resist. Brody pulled the rag away from her arm to inspect the damage. Colin leaned against the doorframe of the lounge. Leroy took a seat on the other couch.

“I got blood on you,” she mumbled apologetically.

Brody’s nostrils flared, but he ignored her and turned to his captain. “I gotta do some diggin’.”

Colin pulled a switchblade out of his pocket and tossed it to his gunman-turned-medic. Brody sloshed it around in disinfectant before wiping fresh blood from her arm and examining the angle of the wound.

“Digging?” she asked, shying away.

Brody set his jaw and looked into her eyes. “I gotta get it out. We don’t have anesthesia,” he told her bluntly.

Her first instinct was to resist, the same way she had when she was five years old, new to Mars, and had been taken to the infirmary for a round of vaccinations. She’d been scared, she’d missed home, and she’d known it would hurt. She’d screamed and cried and tried to run—but in the end the deed was done, and she was better for it.

She thought it would probably be more dignified now to just accept the inevitable. But she couldn’t keep the fear from her face, the tremble from her voice.

“Oh,” she said, but the sound was so soft he was probably the only one who heard it.

Brody’s eyes narrowed slightly, like he was fighting his own internal battle, one she couldn’t understand because he wouldn’t let her.

A pair of strong hands, leaner than Brody’s, grasped her arm. Colin held her in place. Brody looked down, there was a moment of suspense, and then the knife cut into her wound. She jerked away.

“Hold still,” Colin told her sharply, struggling to keep her arm steady. “You’ll make it worse.”

Every time Brody moved the blade inside of her, it felt like the bullet was tearing through her skin all over again. She twisted and pressed her face into the faux leather cushion of the sofa back.

“Found it,” Brody muttered.

Capri bit down on the fabric to keep from screaming as he used tweezers and the tip of the knife to half-cut, half-slide the object through the entry wound. Then it was over. She panted into the fabric, trying to regain a fraction of composure before turning back to them. Colin held the bloody rag against her arm while Brody threaded a needle. He looked at her as he knotted the end of the thread but didn’t say a word. She didn’t know what he was thinking. All of his muscles were tense.

“You got it from here?” Colin asked.

He nodded without looking away from her, and the captain and the mechanic exited, presumably to figure out their next course of action and divvy up the money. Brody kept a firm hold on her arm, but the prick and pull of the needle and thread felt like nothing after her previous surgery. Little pinpricks ain’t nothin’. He’d been right about that.

When he’d finished, he wrapped gauze tightly around her arm and continued sitting beside her, motionless, staring at her injury. To anyone else, it would look as if he was double-checking his work, but Capri could see the sheen of sweat on his brow, hear his heavy breathing. Had he been injured, too? Had his old wound reopened?

“Brody?” she murmured, reaching out to touch his hair with her fingertips.

His gaze snapped to hers, and she was surprised by the anger there. His body was controlled, but those dark brown orbs were wild. She let her hand fall.

“What the hell were you thinkin’?” he managed through clenched teeth.

Capri hugged herself with her good arm, protecting herself as best she could from his quiet wrath. She felt indignant. Here, at least, she could do what she wanted. She shouldn’t have to explain herself.

“Just didn’t want you to die, I guess.”

“You don’t worry about me,” he told her in a low voice, still struggling to maintain control. “I’ll get what’s comin’ to me eventually. You don’t need to get yourself in the way of it.”

Capri studied him, still trying to unravel his mystery. He was like a storm, flashes of lightning and thunder, pain and anger. He swirled around aimlessly, searching for a calm space. It was clear to her now that he’d decided he would only find relief once that storm had fizzled out.

“I’ll remember for next time,” she promised flippantly.

Brody stood and slammed the palm of his massive hand into the back of the chair, flipping it. It slid across the floor. “There ain’t gonna be a next time!”

When he looked at her, his fear and panic were clear. He was reliving some nightmare, too. The only difference was he knew all of hers and she knew none of his.

She struggled to sit up, but dizziness assaulted her, and she couldn’t quite get there. “Who’s ‘they?’” she asked, pouncing on his moment of weakness. “You said ‘they’ cursed you.”

He stared at her. “None of your goddamn business,” he said.

Then he turned on his heel and left. She dropped back onto the sofa. With him went his energy, tumultuous as it was, the energy she’d been feeding off of. The pounding pain was gone, too, leaving a tolerable ache in its place. The only sound was the white noise of the ship sailing through space, and it began to lull her.

She knew there wouldn’t be a next time, and it broke her heart a little. She hadn’t wanted to join the fight, she hadn’t wanted to get shot, but she’d felt like part of a team again. She’d gotten the diamonds. She and Leroy would be okay. She still couldn’t be sure about where she and Brody stood, but his outburst made it clear that he hadn’t meant a word he’d said to her before.

He might not want to care about her, but he did.

She had to go back to Mars. She still had Marianne to deal with. But she would miss this freedom, the freedom to speak and do as she pleased.

She closed her eyes for a moment, fighting against the fog in her mind, but she lost the battle, and she slept.

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