The Guard

Page 18

I reached out to touch her, but then pulled back. I looked into her sleeping face and spoke.

“I—I came to tell you I’m sorry. About today, I mean.” I sucked in a deep breath. “I should have run for you. I should have protected you. I didn’t, and you could have died.”

Her lips pursed and unpursed as she dreamed.

“Honestly, I’m sorry for a lot more than that,” I admitted. “I’m sorry I got mad in the tree house. I’m sorry I ever said to send in the stupid form. It’s just that I have this idea . . .” I swallowed. “I have this idea that maybe you were the only one I could make everything right for.

“I couldn’t save my dad. I couldn’t protect Jemmy. I can barely keep my family afloat, and I just thought that maybe I could give you a shot at a life that would be better than the one that I would have been able to give you. And I convinced myself that was the right way to love you.”

I watched her, wishing I had the nerve to confess this while she could argue back with me and tell me how wrong I’d been.

“I don’t know if I can undo it, Mer. I don’t know if we’ll ever be the same as we used to be. But I won’t stop trying. You’re it for me,” I said with a shrug. “You’re the only thing I’ve ever wanted to fight for.”

There was so much more to say, but I heard the door to the hospital wing open. Even in the dark, Maxon’s suit was impossible to miss. I started walking away, head down, trying to look like I was just on a round.

He didn’t acknowledge me, barely even noticed me as he moved to America’s bed. I watched him pull up a chair and settle in beside her.

I couldn’t help but be jealous. From that first day in her brother’s apartment—from the very moment I knew how I felt about America—I’d been forced to love her from afar. But Maxon could sit beside her, touch her hand, and the gap between their castes didn’t matter.

I paused by the door, watching. While the Selection had frayed the line between America and me, Maxon himself was a sharp edge, capable of cutting the string entirely if he got too close. But I couldn’t get a clear idea of just how near America was letting him.

All I could do was wait and give America the time she seemed to need. Really, we all needed it.

Time was the only thing that would settle this.

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