Nameless(Broken City, #1)

By: Jessica Sorensen

Confusion sets in. Why are they taking the cuffs off? No one has taken them off in years.

“Now I’m going to take the ones off your wrists.” Ryder waits a moment before gently placing a hand on my arm.

I wrench back, the metal cuffs cutting into my skin.

“Sorry.” He hastily lifts his hand off me. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m not sure if you can understand me, but I have to get these cuffs off so we can get you out of here before the wardens figure out we’re not really visitors.”

He’s not really a visitor? Then what is he? I’m not sure, which means I should be scared, and I am, yet when he reaches for me again, I hold perfectly still. My heartbeat is deafeningly loud inside my eardrums as I watch him move.

Instead of placing a hand on my arm again, he sets his fingers on the outside of the cuff. Using the tip of the cylinder, he breaks the magnetic current. The cuffs slip from my wrists and hit the ground with a loud clank.

A strange sensation overcomes me as I stare at my bare arms and ankles. Am I really free? Is this really happening?

“Do you think you can stand up?” Ryder asks me, sitting back on his heels.

I remain unmoving, scarcely breathing, as I wait for something to happen: for him to hit me, tell me to take this pill, drink this, do that, put needles in my arms. Then he’ll set his hands on my chest and steal something from inside me. But all he does is patiently wait for me to answer.

“I don’t …” My voice cracks. “I haven’t …” Frustration builds inside me when the right words won’t leave my lips. I give up and start to rise to my feet.

My knees knock together as my legs wobble, and I buckle right back down to the floor.

Ryder frowns then glances at Blaise. “Someone’s going to have to carry her out.” He sweeps his fingers through his blond hair, making the strands go askew. “Are you going to be okay getting us out of here without me being your back up?”

“If we get out of here before the system reboots, I won’t need backup. But you can’t carry her all the way out.” Blaise’s gaze flicks to me before settling back on Ryder. “You’re the one who has to get scanned. The codes were set up for you.”

Ryder stuffs the cylinder into his jacket pocket. “You can hold her while I get scanned.”

Blaise grinds his teeth, tossing a reluctant look in my direction.

The corner of Ryder’s mouth twitches. “Don’t look so afraid, Blaise. She’s just a girl.”

“I’m not afraid of her.” His voice shoots up an octave, and he shakes his head at himself. “Let’s just get her out of here before the systems come back on. We’ll worry about backup if and when we need it.”

Ryder nods before twisting back toward me. “I’m going to carry you out of here. If I don’t, there’s a good chance the wardens might show up before we get out. I know you’re scared, but I promise we won’t hurt you.”

Fear strangles me as he reaches for me. I start to cower back, but the look in his eyes makes me pause. I don’t see any anger inside them, no desire to harm me, just pain and worry. I don’t fully understand it, but I manage to stay where I am and let him scoop me up in his arms.

“See? Not so bad.” A faint smile touches his lips as he straightens his legs and stands up. “Now we just need to get out of here, and then this’ll all be over.”

The nearness of him terrifies me as his arms wrap underneath me, causing my body to shake uncontrollably. But how carefully he holds me makes it seem okay to stay put, to trust him in a way I’ve never trusted anyone before.

Still, I’m terrified. I concentrate on breathing. Breathing, that’s easy.

Ryder follows Blaise out of the cell, pressing me against him until my cheek rests against his chest.

Air in. Air out. Air in. Air out. Breathe, Allura. Just breathe.

“Wait, I think there was one more cell down here, wasn’t there?” Ryder asks Blaise as we exit the cell.

“We don’t have time for another rescue mission. The orders were to get her out. That’s it. We need to go now.” Blaise sounds agitated. “The systems could turn on at any second, and then this whole place is going to be swarming with wardens.”

My muscles convulse, and I clutch the front of Ryder’s shirt. If the wardens catch them, Blaise and Ryder will probably be tortured and killed. I’ve seen them kill each other over less. And I’ll be left to be punished over and over again.

“It’ll only take a minute to get into the cell. Just run and check,” Ryder pleads. “I won’t be able to live with myself if there’s a possibility we left one behind.”

“Fine,” Blaise grumbles then hurries off somewhere.

While we wait for him to return, Ryder rocks me back and forth, humming under his breath. I find the movement comforting enough that I dare lift my head up to peer around.

I haven’t stepped foot outside of the cells in forever. I forgot what was out here. I used to imagine a better place on the other side of the steel door. It’s not. In fact, it might be worse.

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