“You have no idea” is all he says.
I am breathing hard. I’m angry, ready to fight, and so is he. No one pushes my buttons more than Levi. His tone, his arrogance, the fact that, realistically, he’s a better Citadel than me, or at least a more lethal one—it all gets to me. But I need to get to the Village. I slow my heart rate down. I take a deep breath. I have to get him on my side. “You’re right. I don’t have any real idea about the Village or what you’ve gone through and that is part of the problem. I’m tired of being in the dark. I’m not scared of them. They need us.” I look at him calmly. He really is beautiful but so, so broken. “The question is, why are you so scared? What are they going to do to you? Make you a Citadel? Again?” Levi leans back in the booth, eyeing me. I don’t know what he could be thinking. Maybe he wants to slam my head into the table. Maybe he wants to kiss me. Maybe he wants to slam my head into the table because he wants to kiss me. I’ve just told him I was willing to risk God knows what to see a boy, threatened him, and emasculated him all at once. Levi hates to lose—I know, because I’m the same way. I also know he is not going to help me and I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to say anything else.
“Fine. I’ll find a way in without you.” I grab my bag and go to stand up.
“Hey.” Levi kicks my leg gently under the table.
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell Flora. She doesn’t need to know anything. I mean, look what happened when she saw you do a handstand. She invited two thugs up to her bedroom for a drunken threesome. Imagine what she would do if she knew the real truth. Our secret is safe.”
“Ryn, stop,” Levi says firmly, and I turn back in the booth to face him. “I will get you in, okay? Somehow. I’ve got a shift at the Village coming up this Sunday. What’s Prince Charming’s name?”
“Ezra Massad,” I answer with relief. I’m in shock. I cannot believe he is going to help me.
“You have to promise me you’ll be careful. Don’t tell anyone on your team and don’t get your hopes up. You can’t touch him. You can’t even think about it, not for one second. Do you think you can manage that?”
I want to tell him to screw off. Of course I can manage that. I’m not a lunatic. I don’t hurt people on purpose. He’s the sick fuck who tried to get it on with his girlfriend. I would never be so dumb. I can’t exactly say that, though, because although I can be sassy, I’m not rude like he is.
“I won’t tell anyone and there will be no touching. Promise.”
Levi lets out a long sigh. He seems resigned. He isn’t angry anymore. He looks so different when he’s not mad. Younger. Sadder. Once more I think the word broken.
“I will come to your house Saturday afternoon with a plan. Around four?” I don’t know if he’s asking or telling.
“Just text me with the details. You don’t need to come over,” I offer.
“Oh, man, you really are a kid.” Levi shakes his head and stands up. Then he leans over to whisper in my ear. I can feel the heat of his breath. His lips are so close I have to close my eyes and dig my nails into my palm.
“You think they don’t read our texts?”
CHAPTER 7 (#ulink_bf42639a-0ac4-5d25-bb96-66a1df9285f2)
The following Sunday I’m waiting high up in a tree canopy. Both my feet are planted on a thick branch and I am braced and ready to jump more than twenty feet to the ground below. This is the first part of Levi’s plan. I cannot go through the main entrance of the Village without the proper credentials. So I am here in this tree, and in exactly one minute I will avoid the electrified fence by swinging my body over it and landing in The Menagerie.
The Village is a little over ten miles northeast of Camp Bonneville. I parked my car about six miles away off a graveled utility road and hid it as best I could inside the tree line. I ran to this exact spot, which Levi gave me via a set of coordinates that I have managed to find quite easily thanks to our extensive survival-skills training … and Google. I still have no real idea of the scope of this place. The Menagerie would not have been my first choice, but Levi has assured me that this particular section I’m jumping into has nothing more than a bunch of flightless birds. I imagine they must be something close to chickens or maybe turkeys. I also imagine that my idea of harmless and Levi’s idea might not be the same thing.
When the time is exactly right, I jump down into the pen. I pop back up right away. I don’t have a gun. I was able to steal my uniform out of my locker room, but I could not gain access to a rifle. There are several coops around the pen, and sure enough, there are birds on the ground. They do look like large chickens, but their feathers are a scarlet red shot through with a few bright yellow plumes. I walk slowly. I don’t like the idea of being pecked by them. I don’t even want to touch them. I only like birds when they are plucked, gutted, and part of a meal.
I know—not very forgiving. But birds give me the creeps, and that’s that.
The good news is that I won’t be staying long, and I soon reach the inner fence. It’s electrified, and not as high, maybe ten feet. There is a regular gate that people who work here use to exit, but it requires a swipe card, which I don’t have. What I do have are leg muscles that would give the Bionic Woman an inferiority complex.
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