Rising to her feet, she glanced back down at him once more before seeking sanctuary in a nearby warehouse. He watched her go, his heart in his throat.
She’d mentioned his mother. God, he wished he could let the ghost of Fern Veyhl rest.
As he gazed into the flames, he remembered their days in the sun of Elysian. The days when his mother had been the only thing that mattered to him. As a boy, he’d worshipped the ground she walked on. His father had died before he’d ever gotten a chance to know him. But his mother had been a rock, a steady presence in his life. And she’s loved him. Of that, he’d never doubted.
She’d loved him and she’d loved Micah as well. He remembered the day she’d told him that she was pregnant. And how angry he’d been. At the time, he’d wondered why he hadn’t been enough for her. They’d been so happy. And perhaps it was out of selfishness or out of pride or even out of stubbornness that he’d enlisted in the Agoge Academy.
His mother had needed him and he’d left her alone with a newborn and no one to look after her. It was a decision he’d come to regret. One that would haunt him for the remainder of his days.
With his ass in the dirt and his head in the past, Booker sighed heavily, rolling up the sleeve of his left arm. With the fingernails of his thumb and forefinger, he pinched the bright blue vein that crept along his forearm, just beneath the skin. He relished the sharp pain, closing his eyes, wishing, wishing, wishing it was the pain of a hit slipping beneath his skin, wishing it was the languorous, syrupy feeling of slipping away into a rose gold haze.
But try as he might, he was stone cold sober with nothing but his memories to keep him company, and no way to drown them out. He could still see them, as clear as day. The faces of the people he had killed. The people he had tortured. Before the Fracturing, the raids in the outer regions had been merciless. And he’d done what he’d been told. Until the day it had become too much. Booker would remember that day until the day he died.
He could see the faces of the children in his mind. The families torn apart. God he wished he had a hit to make them go away. But they remained like beacons in the recesses of his brain, taunting him, tormenting him, reminding him of what he’d done.
No, there was nothing left of his mother in him. Not after that. Not anymore. Delta had been wrong. Whatever she’d thought she’d seen, it was only a ghost. The ghost of Fern Veyhl that refused to die. She’d haunt him forever—as long as he lived. As long as he had a mission in keeping his brother safe.
Because as he’d failed his mother, he’d also failed Micah. Too many times to count.
But he wouldn’t fail him again. Not while he had life left.
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