The woods had never felt safe to Seyah—and safe seemed like a foreign concept these days anyway. Like something she’d never truly experience again.
But this? Jing-Wei showing up out of the rustling green trees without any memory of the rest of them and a caretaker in tow? A caretaker she called Sparky and seemed to actively like? This made every part of their wobbly new reality even shakier as far as Seyah was concerned. And Inez—lacking their history with a Jing-Wei, even if not this Jing-Wei—had already decided she wanted no part of it.
“She is a traitor,” Inez said, when no one chimed in to agree with her sentiments about punishing Jing-Wei. “You all know I’m right. So what do we do with her?”
The irony. After the split with the others, their group had made camp in a largish, deep cave known as Devil’s Hole, on the far side of Niagara Falls. Seyah had visited it with her family once, and been relieved to find Devil’s Hole still existed in pretty much the same condition as it had back then. Their stated objective was to rest up and recover . . . The unstated one to somehow get over what had happened to poor Teddy.
Any illusion of quiet and calm they’d found vanished with the appearance of this new Jing-Wei. And, given her caretaker buddy, any chance Inez would stop reliving Teddy’s death. She hadn’t been herself since Arcadia.
“I already told you.” Jing-Wei’s face tightened with frustration. “We’re no threat to you. Especially not Sparky.”
Hyrum cleared his throat. He stood in a loose clump with Alex, Amelia, and Sebastian. “She isn’t wrong. They haven’t done anything to us.”
“Tell that to my ankle,” Inez said, and punctuated it with a wince. A hand went down toward her ankle as she balanced on her other leg. Seyah moved closer to support her, and Inez shrugged her off, hopping away. Apparently she still wouldn’t accept the smallest help from anyone, Seyah included. Par for the course, of late.
May frowned. “Maybe we should go back to camp and talk.”
“You mean our camp?” Inez challenged her. “No. Freaking. Way. We are not bringing a caretaker sympathizer and a caretaker to our camp. We might as well just broadcast the location to every caretaker on the planet.”
Gabe said, “She has a point.”
Seyah watched Inez’s shoulders square, and kne w she’d dig in on this now that people were agreeing with her . . . And even though seeing Jing-Wei had initially flooded Seyah with joy, Inez wasn’t wrong about everything. They couldn’t trust her like they would have old Jing-Wei.
“Inez is right,” Seyah said, and ignored May rolling her eyes. “We need a lot more information before we reveal where we’re staying to Jing-Wei and, um, Sparky. But I agree with Hyrum. We can’t just abandon them either.” She hesitated. “Or punish them when they haven’t done anything yet.”
Inez crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you proposing then?”
Seyah’s eyes swept the forest. What was she proposing? Something that would keep them from bickering or sniping at one another . . . if such an option existed. Something that would keep everyone alive. Though she was even less sure that option existed.
“If she’s sticking around, we need answers,” Inez said. “How did you find us?” she asked, turning to Jing-Wei.
Jing-Wei’s eyes narrowed. Seyah recognized it as the old Jing-Wei’s I’m thinking expression.
Chill fingers danced up Seyah’s spine at the implication hidden in Inez’s question and the lack of immediate response. Had Jing-Wei run into the rest of their friends? She hadn’t considered that. Was that how she’d found them? And, if so, then where were they?
Before they split up, they’d set a rendezvous point on the map Arcadia had given them, a spot about an hour’s walk away from the current camp, over at Niagara Falls. Which had turned out to be Niagara Fall, singular now, one massive spill of water, unmistakably, unmissably huge. If the others made it to Sanctuary and found a welcome party, they’d return for them. Or so the plan said.
Seyah wondered every day whether they’d see their friends again . . . and whether the split had been a mistake. She suspected they all did. Well, all of them except Inez, who had been the big advocate for setting up a camp to recuperate. She’d been so angry at Holden, so grief-stricken over Teddy. She’d refused to entertain the idea that Arcadia might really be sending them somewhere good. None of that had changed.
One of the group made the trek to the designated meeting area a couple times a week to check for any sign of good news on the horizon. Nothing yet.