Tomorrow is the 30th of January. It seems to have taken forever to get here, but here we are. It is release day tomorrow, too. I’ve given you guys a free peek at the first chapter and the second chapter, but here is the third and final chapter you can sneak a look at for free.
Right now. Online. Go ahead!
But, of course, I must again remind you that Delivering Hope is a much better read if you’ve read both Breaking Cadence and Forgiving Zander already. And if you haven’t then you should check out my release event on Facebook or my release event on Goodreads to help shave a little bit of expense off that first book in the trilogy.
But today will be the last day that you’ll be able to use it!
READ YESTERDAY’S FREE CHAPTER, A LONG & WINDING ROAD, FIRST!
Cold water splashed my face. I kept my eyes closed and breathed in. Droplets tripped back into the shallow pool. Did I really want Zander to protect me? I’d had less thoughts of decontamination with him by my side, but was that because I felt safe with him or because Maurice was finally dead?
Another long shaky breath and then I looked into the pool, seeing my reflection for the first time in a while. I’d washed off the dirt from my cheeks, the cool water soothing to the raging fires that burned within. The ripples in the pool dissipated to nothing. My fingertips moved to brush the loose hair from my eye and then paused.
The silvery scar was still there, still obvious in its diagonal slice. My innards quailed. That had been the last visible mark he’d inflicted on me, right before they’d set me free. His meaty fist had grasped the nape of my neck and growled for me to hold still, sick delight painting his face as he brought the burning wire up to my features.
And I did. I held still. I probably would have done anything he’d said then.
Anything if it meant just slightly less pain.
Because that was all I’d been able to feel any more and I’d wanted to feel absolutely nothing at all. It had taken a long time for that numbness to wash off, but even now it wasn’t totally gone. Mental scar tissue I would have to deal with forever. But I could deal with it. I was stronger than Maurice had ever been.
Yet… I wished I had my eyepatch back.
It must have gotten lost somewhere along the way. Perhaps it was back at the lighthouse. I brushed the excess water from my face and sat back on my heels, staring ahead but seeing nothing. Footsteps sounded over the broken ground. Tall grasses swished and swayed. A shadow fell over me, but I could see Zander’s pained reflection in the pool.
“You can’t just take off like that, Cady.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, remembering the look on his face and knowing that I would have succumbed to him again. I would have kissed him back and more. And I couldn’t keep doing that. It was ridiculous to keep making love to him when he was only going to betray me. And then there was the baby to think of…
Minutes had passed as my thoughts drifted. Zander moved forward in the silence, crouching down beside me so that we were both perched on the craggy rocks at the edge of the pool. The high grasses almost obscured us.
I felt his shoulder brush mine. “I’m sorry…” The words petered out into the silence. He cleared his throat and tried again. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for everything, but I don’t want to risk getting you hurt again.”
“What a fantastic change of heart,” I muttered, dully. “You were all ready to put a bullet through my brain before and now you’re bending over backwards to keep me breathing.” I snorted. Something Alex had said rippled in my head. “What makes me so fucking special?”
“It’s like some cosmic fucking joke. I mean, why the hell is my life such a mess?”
Zander looked at me, startled and confused. His lips parted as if he wanted to speak but no words came out. He just blinked. Only, I couldn’t stop the things coming out of my mouth. It was as if a kind of tidal wave had finally been unleashed.
“What did I do to deserve all this? Why am I being punished?”
“Cady, what are you talking about?” His tongue finally unstuck from the roof of his mouth. “You’re a walking, talking cure for a disease that damn near eradicated the human race. How is that punishment?”
I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. Everything inside had welled up, spilling out before him as it never had before. Rage and embarrassment and shame clawed on the inside of my ribs. “Don’t you see? Because of that my life is a mess. Nobody wants me for me. They want my blood. They want what I can do. That’s not special. That’s a curse.”
“No, Zander,” I cut. “I have been used. I have been taken apart and destroyed. And then put back together again for amusement. The things…” I heaved a breath. “The things that Maurice did to me. And of course it all healed except this,” I hissed, gesturing to my scar. “And after, my parents… Alex… Do you know what I had to deal with? The way they looked at me?”
“No… But what does this have to do with–?”
“Because if you’d never tested me, courted me… If we’d never…”
If we’d never made love that first time. If we hadn’t been so stupid to disobey the rules. If he hadn’t found the cure in my blood and decided that I had to be the one, that he had to get to me…
Disgust tore across his face in an animal snarl. “You really think that would have stopped Maurice?” A soft humourless laugh scraped his lips. “I used to see the repulsive way he looked at you. You think he wouldn’t have found another excuse?”
I shook my head. My throat stuck. “But that’s still the reason.” I swallowed, fighting the hot tears that started to fall. “This cure is still the reason why anyone I have ever loved is dead or has betrayed me.”
I turned my face away, but I could see him in the ripples of the pool. His mouth opened as if to speak and then he closed it, the gentle sway of his Adam’s apple alleviating the pressure in his throat.
He paused, as if unsure whether to continue.
I stared into middle distance. It was the safest place to focus my attention. “You were going to kill me because of this thing. Every moment we’ve ever spent together… Everything we’ve done has been a lie. You’ve only ever done it for the cure that you want so desperately.”
Zander’s jaw flexed, his muscles tensing. Words ground between his teeth. “These past few days… Hasn’t this journey so far meant anything to you? Don’t you see that I’ve changed? That I’m trying to make this up to you?”
I turned to him, tears glittering in my lower lashes. “All I see is that same scared, stupid kid who ran off and left me to Maurice. You always betray me.”
He opened his mouth, ready to try to defend himself. That was when the sound of feet cut through the woods. Zander pulled me lower into the grasses, watching between the tall stalks. Radios crackled and the marching ceased. Soldiers were gathered beyond the blur of swaying flowers, the purple tones adorning the tips of longer grass stems.
Their leader answered the radio call, too far away for us to interpret. I could feel the pulse in Zander’s palm as his hand covered mine. The skin that touched was still covered in crisscrossed scabs from a skylight escape that I’d thought would lead us to my brother. We’d been through so much together.
Zander was tensed, crouching, and staring straight ahead with all the trappings of a wild animal. I turned my gaze back to the group. They were carrying some kind of huge branch between two of them. Frowning, I edged up a little bit to get a better view.
Zander’s hand tugged my arm back down, but not before I’d realised what they were really transporting. A boy no older than seven was trussed to the log, his hands bound around one end and his feet attached to the other. Tears spilled down his dark cheeks, displacing mud and dust that had gathered on his face, but he made no noise through the gag that filled his mouth.
“Stay here,” Zander murmured. “I’m going to follow them.”
I caught his arm before he moved off. His eyes lit upon my face, deadly serious. “Why? I thought you knew where we were headed?”
“I do. But that kid–”
“Is nothing to do with us.”
A scowl lit his face like thunder and lightning. “What happened to you? You used to want to rescue people in trouble.”
Nobody rescued me.
I glanced at the boy. He didn’t struggle, seemingly resigned to his fate. He just swung there from the tree branch as the gathered men ignored him. Part of me did want to help him, but that would put saving Alex at risk. I swallowed, slipping my gaze back to Zander’s wide eyes.
“If you help him then Xanthia will know how close we are. According to you, creating a cure will save far more than just one person.”
Hesitation flickered over Zander’s face. He glanced back at the captive, guilt obvious on his features. Manipulation slid from the tip of my tongue as I played the perfect devil’s advocate.
“I thought you were all about the greater good.”
His jaw clenched and he turned his face away from the scene. “Fine.”
“Fine,” I breathed.
Come right back here tomorrow for release details of where you’ll be able to find the new book! And don’t forget to join the event on:
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