“Nevaeh. We need to talk.”
At the sound of Cole’s voice, Nevaeh froze where she was, in the middle of throwing out scissors to Holden’s rock in round ninety million of their running tournament. Holden and Nevaeh had started retreating into their shared bedroom together after lunch, since it made Oz happy to see them “building intimacy.” And more important, Oz’s creepy puppets didn’t come around as much when his wards looked like they were being obedient. Good thing Oz couldn’t see into their not-so-obedient hearts.
Holden stared hard over Nevaeh’s shoulder, and reluctantly, she turned to see their visitor.
Cole stood in the doorway, gray-skinned and haggard. He had a pleading puppy-dog look in his eyes, and Nevaeh wished she could read his mind and know what he was going through. Well, she could guess anyway. He must be here to apologize for being such a grouch ever since they’d gotten to Sanctuary, not to mention laying hands on her. Not a moment too soon, either; Nevaeh was about ready to give up on him, even though she hated the idea of giving up on people.
Holden stood up and did that thing men do to each other sometimes, bristling and tensing his muscles to look bigger and meaner. “Maybe Nevaeh doesn’t want to talk to you.”
It was risky for him to act this way, even with Oz listening and ready to punish them all for any perceived conflict. She melted a little more at Holden’s willingness to step up for her, even if she knew he’d do it for any friend, not just her. She rested her fingers on his arm. “It’s okay,” she said. “I’ll hear what Cole has to say for himself. Give us a few minutes, all right?”
Holden looked into Nevaeh’s eyes, searching, like he wasn’t sure she really meant it. “I’ll be close by if you need me,” he said. He bumped shoulders with Cole on his way out the door, “on accident.” Oh, boys.
Nevaeh turned her attention back to Cole. “You have something to say to me?” She was a little cool, but not downright frosty. If he was ready to extend an olive branch, then she’d hear him out. Just so long as he was sincere. But she didn’t owe him anything, not after he’d become violent with her like that.
Cole sat on the bed beside her and rested his head in his palms. “I want to be straight with you,” he said.
Nevaeh made a noncommittal listening noise.
“The thing is, back in Arcadia, I . . . I found something. And I never told anyone about it.”
Nevaeh frowned. This wasn’t starting off much like the kind of apology she’d been hoping for. “Found what?”
“Remember the day we discovered the museum together? There was a computer there, and it read my DNA or something. It searched up some old news archives, or . . . I don’t even know what.”
Cole paused here, staring at nothing, his face twisted up with grief. Just when Nevaeh wondered if he’d finished talking, he started up again. “It showed me my family and what happened to them. How they lived and how they died, all a thousand years ago. It hit me pretty hard, so . . .”
Nevaeh hadn’t thought much about her parents before; she was too focused on surviving the here and now. But Cole’s confession made her remember that everything that was going to happen to her parents had already happened, and she might never learn a thing about it.
She found a new pocket of grief she hadn’t known was there. She was the one who had died, but she’d lost them at the same time. And mourners always wanted to know why, how, to make sense of it all. As if death ever made sense.
Nevaeh jerked to her feet and backed away from Cole. “How could you keep this a secret?” she snapped. “Maybe all of us could have found out what happened to the people we love.”
“I’m telling you now,” Cole growled.
New questions kept popping into Nevaeh’s head. Had her mom and dad come together in grief after she was gone, or been driven apart? Had they had long, happy lives without her? Did they replace her with more children after she was gone?
But there was no going back to Arcadia to find out. Arcadia was dead, and her grounds were crawling with caretakers. Even if the museum were still working, there was no way for Nevaeh to slip in and ask what had happened to her own parents.
An unaccustomed fury flared in her, hot and bright like a new star. “I used to think you were a good person, Cole. I used to think you cared about other people, that you were responsible. But you’re just a selfish creep.”
Cole was turning a deep red—purple, even. His face set into lines of rage, the same mask of feeling he’d been wearing ever since they’d come to this place. This badly named “Sanctuary,” where the only...