Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)(8)

“Yes, sir, I understand, sir,” Delalieu says, looking newly terrified, “it’s just—as you know—it’s the way of the supreme families, sir. A time-honored tradition. A refusal on my part would’ve been interpreted as an open act of hostility—and Madam Supreme has instructed me to be diplomatic for as long as possible so I thought, I—I thought—Oh, I’m very sorry, sir—”

“She doesn’t know who she’s dealing with,” I say sharply. “There is no diplomacy with these people. Our new supreme commander might have no way of knowing this, but you,” I say, more upset than angry now, “you should’ve known better. War would’ve been worth avoiding this.”

I don’t look up to see his face when he says, his voice trembling, “I’m deeply, deeply sorry, sir.”

A time-honored tradition, indeed.

The right to come and go was a practice long ago agreed upon. The supreme families were always welcome in each other’s lands at any time, no invitations necessary. While the movement was young and the children were young, our families held fast. And now those families—and their children—rule the world.

This was my life for a very long time. On Tuesday, a playdate in Europe; on Friday, a dinner party in South America. Our parents insane, all of them.

The only friends I ever knew had families even crazier than mine. I have no wish to see any of them ever again.

And yet—

Good God, I have to warn Juliette.

“As to the, as to the matter of the, of the civilians”—Delalieu is prattling on—“I’ve been communicating with Castle, per, per your request, sir, on how best to proceed with their transition out of the, out of the compounds—”

But the rest of our morning meeting passes by in a blur.

When I finally manage to loose myself from Delalieu’s shadow, I head straight back to my own quarters. Juliette is usually here this time of day, and I’m hoping to catch her, to warn her before it’s too late.

Too soon, I’m intercepted.

“Oh, um, hey—”

I look up, distracted, and quickly stop in place. My eyes widen, just a little.

“Kent,” I say quietly.

One swift appraisal is all I need to know that he’s not okay. In fact, he looks terrible. Thinner than ever; dark circles under his eyes. Thoroughly worn-out.

I wonder whether I look just the same to him.

“I was wondering,” he says, and looks away, his face pinched. He clears his throat. “I was, uh”—he clears his throat again—“I was wondering if we could talk.”

I feel my chest tighten. I stare at him a moment, cataloging his tense shoulders, his unkempt hair, his deeply bitten fingernails. He sees me staring and quickly shoves his hands into his pockets. He can hardly meet my eyes.

“Talk,” I manage to say.

He nods.

I exhale quietly, slowly. We haven’t spoken a word to each other since I first found out we were brothers, nearly three weeks ago. I thought the emotional implosion of the evening had ended as well anyone could’ve hoped, but so much has happened since that night. We haven’t had a chance to rip open that wound again. “Talk,” I say again. “Of course.”

He swallows hard. Stares at the ground. “Cool.”

And I’m suddenly compelled to ask a question that unsettles both of us: “Are you all right?”

He looks up, stunned. His blue eyes are round and red-rimmed, bloodshot. His Adam’s apple bobs in his throat. “I don’t know who else to talk to about this,” he whispers. “I don’t know anyone else who would even understand—”

And I do. All at once.

I understand.

When his eyes go abruptly glassy with emotion; when his shoulders tremble even as he tries to hold himself still—

I feel my own bones rattle.

“Of course,” I say, surprising myself. “Come with me.”


It’s another cold day today, all silver ruins and snow-covered decay. I wake up every morning hoping for even a slant of sunlight, but the bite in the air remains unforgiving as it sinks hungry teeth into our flesh. We’ve finally left the worst of winter behind, but even these early weeks of March feel inhumanly frosty. I pull my coat up around my neck and huddle into it.

Kenji and I are on what has become our daily walk around the forgotten stretches of Sector 45. It’s been both strange and liberating to be able to walk so freely in the fresh air. Strange, because I can’t leave the base without a small troop for protection, and liberating because it’s the first time I’ve been able to acquaint myself with the land. I’d never had a chance to walk calmly through these compounds; I had no way of seeing, firsthand, exactly what’d happened to this world. And now, to be able to roam freely, unquestioned— Well, sort of.

I glance over my shoulder at the six soldiers shadowing our every move, machine guns held tightly against their chests as they march. No one really knows what to do about me yet; Anderson had a very different system in place as supreme commander—he never showed his face to anyone except those he was about to kill, and never traveled anywhere without his Supreme Guard. But I don’t have rules about either and, until I decide exactly how I want to rule, this is my new situation: I’m to be babysat from the moment I step outside.

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