12 – Meris
Zac opened the door to Jenna’s apartment, but stopped cold when he saw Meris. He frowned. “I thought you were coming alone.”
Meris furrowed her brow as she and Myranda entered the living room. “She asked me to-“
Myranda’s scream cut her off. “Wyll!”
Zac grabbed Myranda and held her back, but Meris slipped past his grasp. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing: Wyll’s body lay sprawled on the floor by the kitchen, a pool of blood turning brown in the pale blue carpet. A pink towel partially covered his face. Myranda’s screams were being muffled by Zac’s hand over her mouth and he was speaking rapidly and quietly in her ear; Meris couldn’t understand what he was saying.
She dropped to her knees next to Wyll and, with shaking hands, pulled the towel away from his face. His jade eyes were open, staring at her. A thrill of fear and grief clenched her insides. Wyll wasn’t moving. Tears began to burn down her cheeks. “What have you done?” She whipped around to face Zac. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”
Zac flinched away from her glare. Myranda had gone slack in his arms, raw, broken wails wracking her body. Instead of answering, Zac pushed Myranda into a chair and tied her hands and legs to its frame. Meris, even knowing this, at least, was part of the plan, still hesitated. “Zac -“
“Shut up, Meris.” He didn’t raise his voice or even look at her. This was not the same Zac that had helped them escape the Stell-Ore Security Compound, nearly at the cost of his own life.
That thought gave her an idea. She crossed the space between them and jabbed her fingers into the HEL-gun wound in his side. He doubled over with a short scream, then backhanded her across her face. Meris fell on her rump on the floor at his feet. “Meris!” He knelt and reached a hand toward her.
She slapped his hand away and spat in his face. “Don’t you touch me.”
He flicked his gaze toward the kitchen counter behind her. She followed his line of sight and gasped when she saw his vid-phone set up on the counter, recording everything. “What in the worlds?”
He frowned at her, then strode over to the vid-phone and stopped the recording. When he turned back to her, his rigid, aggressive posture softened, and he looked more like the Zac she knew. “Meris, please listen to me: I’m sorry I hit you. You took me by surprise and I just reacted. I’m so sorry.”
“What is happening? Tell me what you’ve done!”
He raked his hands through his hair. “Go look at him.”
“Wyll. Look at him.”
“I-” Something in his eyes stopped her protest. She turned her head to look at Wyll. Slowly, his eyes closed, then opened again. She gasped, “He’s alive?”
She looked at Myranda. There was no surprise on her face. “Wait- you knew?”
“Not the details, but, yes. My reaction had to have an element of truth to it. All that blood, Zac- you cut it way too close.” She sniffed and fixed her gaze on her brother. “Meris, make sure he’s okay. He’s probably very confused and scared right now.”
Zac dipped his head, looking down at the floor. “He hates me. And I can’t blame him. I didn’t trust him with the details of the plan. Instead I just blindsided him.”
Meris got up and shakily approached Wyll. His eyes went from Zac to her, and he attempted to turn his head. “Hey, Wyll, just stay still, okay?” She touched her fingers to his throat and felt a slow but steady pulse. She then laid a hand on his chest and felt the slight rise and fall of his breaths. She wouldn’t have seen it if she hadn’t already known he was alive. A weight lifted off her chest and she let out a breath of relief.
“Check the wound.” Myranda’s voice still trembled a little.
Meris turned her attention to the jagged knife wound he had received in a fight to the death with the man from the Pentra Colony back at the Security Compound. Only days ago, it all seemed like something from her distant past. He’d saved her life that day, more than once, and yet she had still considered him nothing more than the man who had killed Ellias. Trust and forgiveness had come later, almost too late. “It’s sealed. Looks good.” She touched his arm. “Are you okay? Blink once if yes.”
Wyll blinked slowly. “Okay. I know this is all really confusing, but please don’t hate Zac. Myranda trusts this could work.”
Wyll blinked twice. She frowned. “No? You don’t think it will work?”
His head rocked ever so slightly. A tear slipped from his right eye and disappeared into his black hair. His jaw muscle twitched. “Trust me, I know how frustrating this is, but I think it’s wearing off some.” She turned to Myranda and Zac. “He moved his head a little, but that’s it. Is there any way to speed this up for him?”
Myranda shook her head. “The drug induces a state similar to sleep paralysis. His skeletal muscles are immobilized, but not the ones that control breathing, his heart beating, or blinking and moving his eyes. It has no antidote, and how long the state lasts is different for everybody.” She asked Zac, “How long has he been down?”
“About an hour and a half.”
“He’s really fighting it, then, if he can move at all. Zac, we need to get this show on the road, before he gets up and busts out all your teeth.”
Zac nodded, his cheeks flushed. “Meris, I think maybe you should be tied up, too.”
“Berent doesn’t care about me.”
“No, but if you’re free and Myranda isn’t he’s gonna smell a trap.”
She looked at Myranda, but the Tudoryan woman merely shrugged. “You’re already on the footage.”
Meris sighed. She looked down at Wyll. “You need to stop fighting the drug, for just a little bit, okay? We have to make Berent believe you’re dead.”
He blinked once, then closed his eyes. She got up and sat on the couch, her hands held out, wrists together. Zac went to the kitchen and unplugged the coffee maker and toaster. After cutting the cords off, he came back in and began tying Meris up. “Under other circumstances, having two lovely ladies willing to let me tie them up could be fun.” Zac winked at her.
Meris couldn’t help but laugh. “In your dreams, Zac.”
He grinned broadly. “Count on it.”
“Hold that thought, sweetheart, I’ve got a phone call to make. And try to act like you hate me.”
She smiled sweetly. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”
Chapter 11 Chapter 13