Brody and Capri moved through the halls together, armed with the rifles he’d taken from his incapacitated escorts. His chest felt tight. He didn’t want the responsibility of her. He couldn’t handle it. Another person relying on him, trusting in him, not understanding that he would fail—because he always failed.
The only person he could keep alive was himself, even when he didn’t want to.
But he hadn’t been able to abandon her. He’d had to try keeping her alive. He kept thinking if he could just get her to a safe place and wash his hands of her, he’d feel better.
So far, no place had been safe.
The kitchen was a madhouse. Cooks and kitchen workers rushed around to finish the feast that would follow the memorial. He and Capri slipped into the side hall and through to the warehouse. By now, someone would have discovered the bodies of the dead and drugged guards. They had to get as far away as they could as fast as they could.
This time, they were playing by his rules. He shot a guard in the warehouse and felt Capri flinch beside him. It was confirmation enough that she hadn’t been able to kill Marianne, and a part of him was relieved. She deserved better than a life that was tainted with blood, like his. The guard at the gates received a quieter death, out of necessity. He left the rifles with the body and exchanged them for a revolver.
A thick crowd of people had gathered outside of the palace. Residents of Mars and others, from more distant places, wanted to show their respect for those who were killed. They wouldn’t be allowed into the main event, so the crowd would remain. It might provide them with cover, or they might draw too much attention by moving in the opposite direction of its flow.
They stayed on the edge and kept their heads down. It was a strange sort of ambience—quiet, despite the number of people. There were murmurs and quiet singing, feet shuffling. The mourners were waiting for the service inside the palace to end. Ekon had agreed to give a speech.
Suddenly, there was a commotion at the front doors. Brody’s head snapped up, eyes sharp as he assessed the threat. But it had nothing to do with them. Someone was trying to get past the guards, maybe a distraught family member who wasn’t satisfied with saying goodbye through the palace walls.
Capri kept a vice grip on his hand; her fingers were small and cold in his large, calloused palm. He wasn’t sure she could have released him if she’d tried.
Finally, they made it to the street and the camouflaging shadows of the buildings. The place was nearly deserted. They could both relax now, knowing the guards would look first to Gypsy Lass, which was docked by the palace. The guards wouldn’t be searching the street. Not yet.
But Capri didn’t relax. She stopped suddenly, releasing his hand after all. She doubled over, shaking, arms wrapped tightly around her heaving ribs. Now that they’d found a fragment of safety, the panic she must have been holding back crashed into her full force.
He clenched and unclenched his fists, fingers itching to comfort her the way they usually did to pull a trigger. But he resisted. He had to. It was self-preservation.
“We can’t do this now,” he said. “We gotta keep movin’.”
She nodded and forced her body upright, fighting for control. She tried and failed to hold back tears—but she still didn’t break completely. She couldn’t stop shaking, shock or something. He wasn’t sure she could walk. He just had to stop the shaking. That’s all it was.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and slipped the other into the slit of her skirt. He held her tight against him, hand on her thigh, skin on skin, grounding them both. Without hesitation, she buried her face in his chest and held onto his shirt. The only sounds were her soft gasps and his own ragged breathing.
It felt too good, holding her like this. Her erratic heartbeat slowed to match his. No one had fit into his arms this way since Jill.
The flash of memory, of the last time they’d held one another close, was enough to make him break the hold. He let go as if he’d been burned.
There was a flash of hurt in her hazel eyes, but her mouth formed a thin line of acceptance. She was together enough now to keep going. Anger, guilt, wanting—and stronger feelings he couldn’t bring himself to think about swirled within Brody, and he tightened his outward defenses.
“Let’s go,” he said, turning on his heel and leading on through the shadows.
They’d gone about a block when a tram stopped beside them. Brody put a hand on his gun. Capri stayed behind him, but she didn’t seem to have the capacity left for fear. She just stood slightly out of the way, eyeing the vehicle warily.
It was empty except for the driver, whose face was shielded by a hat. He lifted his head, and Brody relaxed.
“Shots,” Leroy greeted. “You look like shit.”
Annoyance flared. “Fuck off,” he told the mechanic.
Capri had already taken a seat behind the mechanic. He slid in beside her, and Leroy drove them back to the tiny ship. Brody drew his gun as they approached the guard booth, but there was no one inside.
“It’ll look like the tram driver did it,” Leroy said, voice disturbingly chipper for someone who had just killed one man and framed another.
Brody glanced at Capri, but she was looking the other way, shoulders slumped, still shivering even though she couldn’t be cold on the climate-controlled satellite. He looked away again.
They stepped down from the tram. Leroy held out a hand to help Capri, and Brody walked ahead, pausing at the fold-down stairs to see why she wasn’t behind him. She was with Leroy. The mechanic whispered something in her ear, and then he pulled her into his arms. She slumped against him, shoulders shaking as she clutched the back of his jacket and cried into his shoulder.
Brody clenched his jaw, anger and jealousy flaring as he watched her in the arms of a man he couldn’t stand. She didn’t belong there. The mechanic had no idea was she’d been through, who she was, what she was capable of.
But he was there for her when Brody wasn’t, and he knew enough about human nature to know sometimes that was all it took.
He watched them until Capri pulled away and wiped her eyes, and Leroy went back to the tram to take it wherever it needed to go.
She turned towards the camper, and he went inside.