Home > Taming Cross(20)

Taming Cross(20)
Author: Ella James

13

 

 

Cross

 

 

AFTER A STUNNED moment, I follow Merri out of the door, but she was in a hurry, and she’s nowhere to be seen. I start wandering the halls. I have no idea when the cartel will come for her—for us—and I don’t think I can risk finding out. I don’t want to force her to go with me, but I’ve got to figure out something.

The first thing I do is return to the waiting area to see if I can find my gun. The young girl from before is helping an older kid sign in on a clip board, and I don’t see either of the guards or the older nun…I forgot her name. I turn around in a circle, and that’s when I see it: the bottom end of the magazine, sticking out from between the leaves of a droopy, flowy plant sitting atop some filing cabinets.

Checking to be sure the girl is still helping the kid, I grab the gun, attach the magazine—just to be on the safe side—and stick it back in the belt of my pants. I hope by the time they notice it’s missing, Merri and I will already be out of here.

After maybe twenty minutes of searching, I pause in the middle of some hallway and let out a deep breath. Meredith is here. Missy King is Meredith Kinsey. I almost can’t believe it. I wonder again how she came to this fate—but does it matter? Am I still trying to ease my guilt? I pick up my pace and keep on the lookout for nuns, for anyone who can direct me to Meredith.

The building is actually four buildings: one that was apparently the old cafeteria, and was all but decimated by the bomb; another in the front that serves as the clinic; another pod serving as the sanctuary; and still another unit with the dorms. I've wandered into the church pod.

The carpeted halls are dark and smell like old Play Doh. I pass a young nun who is busy cleaning; she glances at me, then hurries by. An older nun chases a little girl who laughs ecstatically as she rushes past. I just keep moving, reminding myself that I’m doing nothing wrong. Another hall, a sharp right turn, and I see signs for the sanctuary. I peek inside, hoping to find Merri praying, but it's empty. The painted porcelain crucifix on the far wall glows under two weak lights. It kind of creeps me out. I cross through a hall at the back of the clinic, and I'm pretty sure that this will lead me to the dorms. Where I hope to find Merri.

I'm feeling more and more stressed thinking of where the cartel is right now, when like an apparition, I see a swatch of reddish hair flying down the hallway right in front of me.

I pick up my pace, and I'm about to shout Merri's name when she ducks her head, and I notice the way she's dressed: black sweatpants and a grey t-shirt, plus sneakers. And she's creeping, like she doesn’t want to be seen.

Interesting.

For a half second I hope maybe she's looking for me, but then she goes down another hallway, pushes through a door, and disappears.

By the time I finally get the nerve to follow her into the room, at least a minute has passed. It’s dark when I walk in. Then I notice movement, and I realize a window is open. A window is open, revealing a small swatch of the deep pink sky, and Merri is halfway out of it.

I don't think before acting. I close the distance between us in half a second and wrap my hand around her upper arm. “What are you doing?” I have a sick feeling in my stomach when I ask this. I've built Merri up to be innocent—the opposite of everything I'd thought about Missy King—but what if she's really some kind of drug runner or something?

Then she looks up at me, and I know I'm wrong. Her eyes are huge, her mouth a worried twist. And when she speaks, her voice is barely more than a rasp. “Are you here to take me to Jesus?”

“What? Fuck no! I already told you that I'm not.” I tighten my grip around her soft, warm arm, trying to tug her gently toward me, but her hands cling to the window frame.

“What are you doing, Meredith?”

“It's not your business!” Her eyebrows pull together, like she's worried, but then her face twists angrily. She jerks against me. “Let me go!”

“I will,” I say evenly, “but I’m coming with you.”

“No you’re not!” She jerks again, this time hard enough to throw me off, and in a heartbeat she's sailing through the window.

It takes me a second longer, because I've got to push my body through using only my right hand for balance. My booted feet hit sand about three feet below me; a dust cloud puffs around me, blocking, for a second, my view of a row of scrubby bushes and beyond that, a quiet rural road topped by a fading sunset.

Merri is moving through the bushes, sticking close to the building, hunching down low to the ground. My legs are so much longer than hers, it's not hard to catch up. Only this time, instead of grabbing her arm, I throw both arms around her back.

I whirl her around to face me, gritting my teeth as she claws my neck. “Where are you going?”

“Let go!” Her eyes are dancing. Furious.

“No! Are you going back to Cientos? That’s crazy!”

She flails against me, trying her damnedest to get away. “A lot of things are crazy!”

“You need to—”

“No,” she hisses. Her chest is heaving, her hands now locked around my forearms. “They'll kill me, here or there. Anywhere. I'm dangerous to everyone. That's why I'm doing this.”

What the fuck?

I guess I give her a look that shows her just how crazy I think she is, because she looks triumphant.

“See?” She pulls back a little, so I can see every inch of her stubborn face. “I told you to go away and forget you found me. You think you can go up against the Cientos Cartel?”

I notice movement behind her as I say, “I think I will.”

Then I see the glint of light on metal, and I realize there's a gun to Merri's head.

 

 

Merri

 

 

I KNOW SOMETHING is wrong by the look on my stubborn angel's face. In the dim light of dusk, I can see him blanch. Then I feel the gun against my head and I just let the breath seep out of me.

So this is it. This is how my life will end.

I clench my right fist against my angel's arm and pretend that I'm holding my rosary. I left it in my luggage, in the attic, along with a long letter to Sister Mary Carolina; if I were to bring the rosary anywhere near Jesus, he'd accuse me of trying to manipulate him.

I say a silent Hail Mary and pray that the Sisters here are right. That God forgives; that He's forgiven me.

For what seems like too long, none of us move. It’s quiet, so I can hear the heavy breaths of the man behind me. It's Guapo, I think—one of Cientos' lieutenants. He manages the sex business. He's tall, always wears black, and he smells like the vanilla tobacco he loves to smoke.

If Guapo has his gun to my head, there's no way I'll make it out al—

A gunshot bursts my eardrums and I wait to die. When I see my angel jump from his crouch, I just assume he's been shot.

I'm blinking, wondering dully why God would send an angel to me only to have him killed, when hands grab me. Not Guapo's, the angel's.

I don’t get a chance to orient myself before we’re running alongside the stucco wall, feet kicking up the sand nestled around the building’s base. Despite having spent my entire time here on the inside of this building, I’m pretty sure we’re moving toward the front. I didn't climb out where Father Mendez told me to, near the cafeteria wing that got burned, as it’s not Thursday evening.

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