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.More confirmation that neither the Commander nor James Rowan can be trusted with that sort of power.“You’d burn the rest of the Wasteland too while you’re at it,” I say.“We’ll set a trap.” Willow is already scanning the small clearing we’re in.It’s maybe ten yards wide and surrounded on all sides by enormous oaks and pines.It’s not big enough to stage a battle, and the trackers could approach us from any direction.“A trap?” The Commander is scornful.“You don’t trap Rowansmark trackers, girl.”“Maybe you don’t.But I do.” She cranes her neck to look at the branches that straddle the sky above us.“We’ve got everything we need.It’ll be simple.I’ve done this so often, I could do it in my sleep.Now, who wants to be bait?”Thirty minutes later, Nola, Jodi, and I are sitting against a large oak tree, facing west, when we hear the soft slide of a boot against the ground.We’ve collected berries and nuts in our laps as if we’re doing nothing more than having lunch, but we haven’t managed a bite in at least fifteen minutes.The tension of waiting for the trackers to arrive makes it impossible to eat.Willow is in a tree nearby, holding herself so motionless, I haven’t heard a sound since she settled in.The Commander is hidden in a thicket several yards to the north of us, his sword out in case he needs to come to our assistance.I think it’s just as likely he’d leave us to the trackers.He has the device.He believes that Connor knows how to disengage the Rowansmark beacons at Chelmingford, a fact he’s reminded me of twice in as many days.I think the only reason he hasn’t tried to either kill me or leave me behind is that he doesn’t know for sure if Connor and the rest of our group made it to Chelmingford.It would be shortsighted of him to betray me when he might still need me, and the Commander is nothing if not focused on doing whatever he must to achieve his own goals.Another slight sound drifts toward us from the west.Beside me, Jodi stiffens and stares into the trees.“Eat,” I say softly, and put a berry into my mouth even though the fear racing through me leaves a stain of bitterness across my tongue that renders the sweet fruit tasteless.Jodi blindly selects a nut and shoves it into her mouth, never taking her eyes from the western Wasteland.“Do you want more berries?” Nola asks, tilting her head so that her curtain of curly dark hair masks her face as she does her part to make it look like this is a normal meal break.Her golden skin seems pale, and there are circles under her eyes, but she’s holding herself together during the day.At night, I hear her crying, grieving the loss of her father.Jodi is always quick to go to her and offer comfort.Willow and I have left them to deal with that while we take turns standing guard.We don’t talk about it, but neither one of us is willing to let the Commander out of our sight.Especially at night.A whisper of sound seems to come from directly to our left.Jodi jerks her shoulders back and aims an expression of terrified defiance at the trees.The cold prick of a knife blade bites into my neck and a voice behind me says, “Found you.”Nola jumps, spilling berries across the ground, while Jodi leaps to her feet and scurries away from me and toward the center of the clearing.I slowly turn my head, careful not to scrape my skin against the knife, and come face-to-face with a Rowansmark tracker.Her brown hair is short, her eyes are keen, and her expression is ruthless as two more trackers step out of the trees on either side of her.Three trackers surrounding me.That leaves a fourth in the wind.“Did you really think you were going to get away from us?” the female tracker asks while the two who flank her draw their swords.I swallow audibly, and tug on the neckline of my tunic as if I’m nervous.Which I am.Because if this plan doesn’t work, I’m about to die.“You’ve really screwed things up for yourself, you know that?” she asks, her knife held expertly in her left hand while she draws her sword with her right.“How so?” I ask as Nola crawls away from me toward Jodi, who hovers in the middle of the clearing like a little bird too frightened to flee.The female tracker shakes her head, her eyes never leaving mine.“You had one chance to give up the controller without losing the people you love.One chance, and you blew it.”“I can’t help that the Commander broke me out of prison,” I say.My voice sounds hoarse, and I clear my throat while to my left, a shadow moves in the trees [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]