Chap. Two

     Blaise too moved in close. Stoic, he crossed his arms over his chest. “Yeah well, it’s not over yet,” he said coldly. “If you think the President will take this attack silently, you’re wrong.” His gaze turned to Eden, his expression cool and impassive, impossible to read. “He’ll be coming for you, Voss. For you and for the rest of us.” His eyes flickered between Micah and Eden before he finally sighed. “Eden. Can I talk to you? Alone?”

     Eden stilled as a chill raced down his body at the thought of being alone with Blaise. Once this man had been his best friend, someone he felt he could trust. Now, he wasn’t so sure. Blinking, he nodded. Beside him, Micah tensed. 

     “You’ll have to leave your attack dog alone for a bit,” Blaise glanced at Micah with a wicked little smirk. 

     Eden fought back a wave of annoyance. “Blaise…” he warned.

     Blaise raised his hands in the air in a gesture of mock surrender. “Easy, easy. I meant no offense. I was just playing.” He grinned mischievously as he pulled away, clearly expecting Eden to follow. And Eden couldn’t help the leap in his heart to see the playfulness he had once known and loved in Blaise. He turned to Micah and nodded before following Blaise outside, into the Tartarus alleyway. 

     “What is it?” Eden attempted to keep his tone level, to keep his mind from leaping unnecessarily. 

     For the first time in a long time, there seemed to be no malice laced in the soft lines of Blaise’s face. “I just…” He sighed, running a hand through his fluffy golden-brown locks. “I wanted to say that I’m sorry.”

     Eden caught his breath, unsure of what to say. He remained silent as Blaise continued. 

     “I know that the last time we talked, I said some things that weren’t very kind. I made insinuations. I acted like an ass. So I wanted to say, I’m sorry. And I know it doesn’t make up for what I said, for how I acted. But Eden, when they took you, when they made you fight in the Games, I realized what I had to lose. I was terrified, Eden. I thought they would kill you. That I’d lose my best friend.” 

     Warmth flooded Eden’s chest. He approached and wrapped an arm around Blaise’s shoulders, pulling him in for an embrace. Hearing Blaise’s laughter was something he had sorely missed. “You idiot,” Blaise said with a smile, pushing back on Eden’s sternum. “Get off me.” 

      But nothing could damper the joy now racing through Eden’s heart. Even as he pulled away, his face was stretched in a ridiculous grin. It felt good to laugh with Blaise, to feel the warmth of this friendship he’d been so afraid he’d lost. “I’m glad you finally came around,” he said, laughing. “I missed your snide commentary.”

     Blaise smirked, leaning back against the wall of the warehouse. “Yeah, well. The commentary didn’t stop just because you weren’t around to hear it.” They both grinned at that, and all at once, Eden felt like a child again, playing soldier with Blaise in the woods. Co-conspirators and best friends. The two of them against the world. But Blaise stiffened beside him, crossing arms over his chest. Eden could sense his discomfort before he next spoke. 

     “Things are different now, Eden. On the surface. Among the EPs.”

     “Different?”

      Blaise nodded. “They’re almost suspicious of us. Like they’re trying to make us prove ourselves. And the interrogations in the outer limits of Olympia. It’s gotten hostile.”

     “Hostile?” Eden searched Blaise’s face. 

     “Torture. Extreme methods. Burning entire villages to prove a point, to teach a lesson.” Eden could see the remnants of horror on Blaise’s face. Eyes that had seen too much looked back at him in a pained expression. “Tovar has appointed me to his personal armed guard.”

     Eden stilled. “Does your father know?”

     Blaise nodded. “He thinks it’s a good thing. I can be an insider for the Resistance. Keep a close watch on Tovar.”

     “And what do you think?”

     Blaise seemed to ponder that for a moment. “I think…Tovar suspects Da. He’s trying to keep me close so he can have something to hold over him.” 

     Eden didn’t disagree. Tovar’s words the day of the banquet rushed back to him with startling clarity. 

     Dr. Ephraim Harker treads a dangerous path and should his son not be wary, he will be pulled along behind his father. Whether from a cart or from a noose makes no matter to me. But I would see it done should I find them false.

     A shock of realization tore through him. “Blaise, are you in contact with the President’s household? With his…fiance?” The word caught on Eden’s tongue. Dafne. 

     Blaise studied him for a long moment. “I guard his home almost daily. But I hardly see Lady Flannery.”

Copyright © 2020 – All rights reserved by Hellie Heat

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