Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Page 39

  “Am I going to die?” I whisper.

  Her brows pull together. “Of course not, silly. Do you really think I could kill my own sister?”

  Good question. “Then what’s in the syringe?” I ask.

  “Painkillers and antivenin. You were poisoned, and until the poison is completely out of your system, you’re gonna hurt. It’ll help you sleep, too. ”

  She inserts the needle into a tube leading from an IV bag to my good arm, but before she can inject, I blurt, “Wait! I don’t want to sleep yet. Not until I see Bowen. ”

  Lis removes the full syringe from the tube and pulls a small chip from her nurse-gown pocket. “Please inform Dreyden Bowen that he is needed in lab room fourteen,” she says. “He’ll be here any minute, I’m sure. I still can’t believe Duncan Bowen’s brother is the one who saved you. ” Her face twists with distaste and then darkens with anger.

  “Why?” I ask.

  She meets my eyes. “Duncan helps run the pits, collecting the bodies after the fights. He’s the one who matched you and Jonah against each other, even though he knew you were brother and sister. ”

  “No! Does Bowen know?”

  Lis shrugs and her jaw tightens.

  As if the mention of his name has called him, Bowen strides into the room, followed by Dr. Grayson. Bowen’s face is golden tan again, his lips rosy red and smiling. He stops beside my bed and stares down at me like it’s the first time he’s ever seen me. I blink and catch my lip in my teeth, unsure of what to say, unsure if I can talk at all, with my entire body flooded with emotion.

  “Fotard,” he whispers. Without another word, he climbs onto my bed and gently lifts my head onto his chest, wrapping me in his warm, strong arms. “It took you long enough to wake up. ” He kisses my forehead.

  “How long?” I ask, breathing him in. He smells like soap and clean clothes and shaving cream. I settle more deeply against his chest.

  “Four days!” He says it like it’s been a year. “And your brother-in-law won’t let me sleep in here, so I can only be here during the day. ”

  “My who?” I ask.

  “Brother-in-law,” Lis says, standing with her arms wrapped around Dr. Grayson’s waist. “I got married, Fo. ” She grins.

  I stare at him and remember being buried by laundry. “Why did you put me on the wrong side of the wall to fend for myself?” I say.

  Dr. Grayson steps to the side of my bed and peers deep into my eyes. “Believe me when I say that what I did was safer than keeping you here. ”

  “Why?” Bowen and I ask in unison.

  “A year ago, I found a cure for the virus. But there was a problem. Every child I cured, who woke up from the coma, died within a day. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. So I woke a child and stayed awake at his bedside for forty-eight hours. He survived. Until I left his bedside, at which point he went into cardiac arrest. Someone was murdering the healed children. Someone who didn’t want them to be cured. It took me three months to discover who was behind the murders. ”

  “Who?” I ask, though I have a suspicion.

  “Jacoby Soneschen. ”

  “The governor? Why wouldn’t he want them cured?” Bowen asks. “Think of all of the lives it would save! It would mean putting an end to the wall, an end to the rules. An end to …” He sits up and his face slowly hardens, taut with anger. “If a cure was discovered, and it was publicized, the wall would come down. And that would mean an end to Soneschen’s power. ”

  Dr. Grayson nods. “That, and something else. He’s been bleeding beasts. Somehow he figured out about the healing properties they carry. Their blood is sort of like a fountain of youth, increasing health and strength. He’s been drinking it to make himself stronger and healthier, and feeding it to the Inner Guard to make them—and ultimately himself—more powerful. The irony is, he didn’t know that the beasts still carry the health benefits after they’ve been cured. ”

  “So,” I say, “the night you put me in the laundry is the night you hid me on the other side of the wall. ”

  “Where else was I going to hide you?” He reaches out and ruffles my hair. “The governor has eyes and ears everywhere, even outside the wall. If I kept you on this side of the wall, you wouldn’t have lived to see a sunrise, so Lis and I got you out. We were going to try to get you to Wyoming, beyond the governor’s reach, and then start a movement to distribute the cure to the rest of the country, but Lis and I were imprisoned minutes after we got someone to smuggle you to the other side of the wall. We couldn’t come for you. ”

  I look at Lis. “You were in prison?” I ask.

  She nods. “But only for a few days. When the governor couldn’t find you, he let us out and had us watched day and night. He probably figured we’d lead him to you. ” Lis clears her throat and gives the doctor a look.

  “That’s enough talking,” he says. “You need to rest, Fiona. You have a concussion, broken pinky, broken hand, seventy-eight stitches, and severe bruising. In addition to blood poisoning. Beast blood or not, you’ve got a lot of healing to do. ”

  I try to wiggle my bandaged hand, and pain zings in my bones, all the way to my elbow. “Will I ever play the piano again?” I whisper.

  Lis frowns and sighs. “Oh, Fiona, honey. I don’t know. We’ll do our best to get your fingers back to normal. ”

  “Can I have a sec with Fiona?” Bowen asks. Lis nods and watches us with a small, satisfied smile. “Alone?” he clarifies.

  Lis looks at Dr. Grayson before tugging him toward the door.

  “Three minutes,” the doctor says over his shoulder, sounding just like a … doctor. “We don’t want to tax her strength. ” He glares at Bowen as Lis pulls him out the door. The door shuts with a quiet click.

  Bowen presses his lips against my temple and I think he’s kissing it, until his lips start moving against my skin.

  “I want to apologize for my brother,” he says, his breath warm on my face. “And wanted to let you know he’s sitting in prison with Soneschen. ”

  “I’m sorry,” I whisper, heartbroken that Bowen’s only surviving family member is locked up, leaving him completely alone.

  “You’re sorry? He would have killed you. He’s where he deserves to be. ”

  “But he’s your only family,” I say.

  He’s quiet for a minute before answering. “No. You’re my family now, Fiona. ”

  Tears flood my eyes and spill down my cheeks.

  “Tears? For me?” he asks, his voice a hungry whisper. I turn and look into his eyes. They’re ravenous, almost like a beast’s, and they devour mine. He puts his warm hand against my face. “I love you,” he whispers. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get to tell you that again. ”

  “I love you, too,” I say, clinging to him like he might disappear.

  And then his lips are on mine and my body seems to meld precisely into his. Cautiously, so I don’t bump any of my injuries, I slip my good hand behind his neck. Inside his mouth, pressed to his palate, I taste something slick and smooth. I’m curious what it is, but not curious enough to stop kissing him in order to ask. I tighten my hand in his hair and kiss him deeper.

  It feels like mere seconds have passed when a door opens, feet walk quietly into the room, and someone clears her throat.

  “Time to go,” Lis says.

  Bowen pulls his mouth from mine and scowls at her. “She’s helping me heal, though,” he says.

  Lis grins at Bowen. “Nice try, buddy. It’s been ten minutes! I talked the doctor into giving you extra time already! I don’t think he’ll approve if you kill her because you can’t control your hormones. ”

  He sighs and looks into my eyes.

  “What’s in your mouth?” I ask.

  He opens his mouth wide, tilting his head up so I have a good view. Pressed to its roof is a small silver chip that catches the light.

  “What is that?”

&nb
sp; “A little something I stole from the pit commentator,” he says with a gleam of mischief in his green eyes. “I have a present for you. And you,” he adds, looking at Lis again. “Don’t medicate Fo yet. Turn the television on in fifteen minutes. ” He kisses me once more, fast and gentle, and then he climbs from the bed and strides out of the room.

  Lis raises one eyebrow and gives me a look that makes me duck my head under the covers and giggle. Very thirteen-year-old. But I don’t care.

  Chapter 38

  Fifteen minutes later, Lis brings a small flat screen into my room and sets it in my lap. She hovers behind the head of my bed, watching with me. The words Being Broadcast Live scroll endlessly across the bottom of the screen.

  The television shows the walled city just before sunset, from the high view of a helicopter—green fields, houses, buildings, people. In the distance, a man is standing on the wall, arms raised, voice booming above the throb of the helicopter. It circles closer to the man, and the camera focuses on his face.

  My heart starts pounding as I stare at the screen, mesmerized.

  “… a cure!” Bowen shouts. The setting sun glows orange on his skin, frames him with light and hope and salvation. “I repeat! We have found a cure for the beasts, and for the Fecs,” he yells, voice as loud and strong as thunder, thanks to the chip he stole from the commentator.

  The helicopter crosses the boundary of the wall. In the distance loom Mile High Stadium and the Pepsi Center. The camera dips and bobs and focuses on the dead, dusty world just outside the wall—buildings with broken windows, trash-strewn streets, cracked pavement. And, surprisingly, people. They are creeping out of buildings, climbing up from sewer grates, skulking on rooftops, leaning out of windows, and they all have their faces turned up toward Bowen.

  “I repeat,” Bowen calls, “we have found a cure! There is hope. There is an end! A new beginning!”
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