The Drafter Page 124

Radiation marker? Mistrusting it, she hesitated as Bill encouraged her to take it. It could be anything: drugs to knock her out, poison to kill her. She could wake up in Allen’s bed tomorrow having forgotten everything and she’d never know.

“You just happened to have one in your pocket?” she questioned.

He shrugged, not a wisp of guilt. “After your little walkabout this morning, I deemed it was time to take it out of research. You really cut that tracker out yourself?” he asked, laughing, and she hunched in embarrassment.

“It’s not funny,” she said, and after a last chuckle, his mirth ended.

“Take it.”

His tone was flat, demanding. She hesitated, not sure how much he knew or suspected. But realizing it was going to end up in her one way or another, Peri slipped the capsule into her mouth and swallowed.

Immediately Bill’s mood lightened. Smiling, he got to his feet, hand extended to help her rise. Her slim fingers looked tiny as they fitted into his, reminding her of him in the gym breaking boards and bringing down men. My God, his hands are huge.

“You’re my best drafter, kiddo,” Bill said, and she jumped when his arm landed heavily across her shoulders and turned her to the door. “That comes with responsibility. We’re not letting you out of our theoretical sight for even an instant.”

Great, she thought, stomach rolling. If she threw up, would he make her take another? “So do I get a new anchor?”

“No,” he said, and she drew him to a halt before they could leave. “I’ll talk to Allen,” he said in a fatherly tone. “Tell him to step it up. You worked well together before. I know you will again. He needs to find closure, too. He trusts you. Let go and trust him.”

Like that was going to happen. “Bill …,” she warned, and he put his hands in the air as if in surrender.

“Okay, okay,” he finally relented. “I’ll talk to Sandy and see what we can do. I’ve got someone in mind, so don’t mention this to Allen—just in case we can swing it. Deal?”

Eyeing him, she backed up from the door. “Deal,” she echoed him as her heart pounded in her ears.

“I’m proud of you,” he said softly as he opened the door. “You’ve come a long way.”

As in a long way in becoming his tool. “I only want to be my best.”

“You are already that,” Bill said as he ushered her into the living room.

CHAPTER

THIRTY-FIVE

Silas’s friend’s seats at Comerica Park were in the sun, and whereas it was usually too hot, today Silas felt good, the early-spring air still holding the morning’s chill. Two hot dogs and bottled waters sat waiting beside him. He’d asked Peri to meet him here, and the thrum of anticipation running through his background thoughts ebbed andflowed with the noise of the crowd as the Tigers tried to bring the inning to a close.

The memory of sitting in these exact seats with Peri was an ache, but that wasn’t why he had wanted to meet her here. The crowd itself gave them a measure of protection. The multitude of doors couldn’t be locked. Even the park’s security that Opti itself would have to contend with helped. But if he was honest, he had wanted to meet her here because Peri loved the game, and he was hoping memories she couldn’t recall might help cushion his bad news.

Silas pulled his cap lower, hunching deeper into the hard seat. The chip she’d brought him wasn’t the list. He was out of options, mistrusted by the alliance and an enemy of Opti. He was here to tell her to run and never stop.

Brow furrowed, Silas ran a hand over his freshly shaven chin before resettling his sunglasses in a nervous twitch. His eyes roved over the stands thick with orange and blue, the noisy throng excited at the fresh beginning April always brought. Pulled by a familiar silhouette, Silas’s gaze darted to one of the entrances.

God almighty, she looks good. It was a relief not to see her in those gaudy clothes that Allen must have picked out, more herself in her usual black slacks and a white blouse cut to show off her long neck. The sophistication was a little much for the stands, but the Detroit Tigers hat and sunglasses toned it down, and no one gave her more than a second glance.

His brow eased at a feeling of pride. No longer was she the deadly but anchor-dependent doll that Opti had made of her. Her fiery independence was reasserting itself through the cracks of Opti conditioning and lies—as long as he could keep them from scrubbing her again.

The crowd’s noise swelled as she met his eyes. Unmoving on the stairs, she hesitated as if listening to something only she could hear, then scanned the stands for something only she could see. Please don’t run, he thought as he stood, trying to convince her he only wanted to help. He took his glasses off, pleading with his eyes. Breath held, he waited … and finally she decided, head down and expression unreadable as she made her way up the final stairs.

Peri stopped at the head of the row. “Nice seats,” she said, and an anxious need to do something filled Silas.

“They belong to a friend,” he said as he picked up the box of hot dogs and edged down to give her his chair so she wouldn’t have to slide past him. Behind them, a man complained about not being able to see, his tirade cutting off when Peri took her glasses off to stare at him.

“You look great,” Silas said, and her expression shifted to one of surprise.

“I went shopping again. This time on Bill’s tab and with a vengeance.” Peri sat down, and Silas felt a knot ease. “I’m going to give everything in my closet to Goodwill. You look …”

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