My first instinct was to panic, but when I thought about it a little bit more I was overcome with a certain sense of relief. Knowing that I would see my grandma soon made me feel safe, which was sort of a foreign concept these days. Tesla Stark was one tough cookie, and I’d love to see Wiseacre try anything with her around.
I decided to grab my sneakers and go for a soothing run since Colorado’s weather was being so sweet to me when I decided on impulse to swing past Camille’s dressing room. What the heck would I even say to her? Hey Camille, I’m pretty sure you’ve joined the dark side, is it true they have cookies? I could have kicked myself for being so stupid.
My main issue with this whole thing was that Stinger’s transformation had been so pronounced. It didn’t make any freaking sense for the Admiral to miss out on a chance at making a dramatic show of what he had done to Camille. He would want to display to the world his masterpiece. But then again, are there really any rules to the games that mad men play?
I reached her dressing room, raised my hand to knock and paused. I wasn’t sure whether or not I could face her. Plucking up all of my courage I raised my hand again, but it was just then that I heard muffled voices from behind the door.
Without shame I pressed my ear to her door and tried to get a good listen to the conversation inside. I was trying to decipher the bits and pieces I could make out about someone named Luna when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
It took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to scream and instead whirled around to face the intruder with a raised fist. “Stinger!” I hissed and threw a punch aimed for his face.
“Easy, sweetheart, you don’t want to break your hand,” he said, easily brushing aside my attack. “I just want to talk to Camille for a second.”
“Oh, you want to talk to Camille? Of course you couldn’t possibly have anything to say to me even though you broke my ribs, you jerk! Now stand still and let me hit you!”
Stinger gaped at me obliviously, and then a look of pain stole over his features. I forced myself to ignore it and instead pressed my ear to Camille’s door again just in time to hear the mystery visitor excuse themselves.
“Oh shoot, we’ve got to dash!” I grabbed Stinger by the arm and booked it down the hallway. When I heard the door open I threw myself against the wall and pulled Stinger close so that we would look like two people sharing a tender moment as opposed to eavesdroppers.
“You’re shaking, Nix,” said Stinger, his voice sounding strange. I looked up, startled, to see that he wasn’t even looking at me. His face was locked in a faraway gaze that was starting to freak me out. It was odd enough that he hadn’t called me by any of his skirt chasing nicknames, or dropped a lame joke.
Then he looked down at me, his eyes still retaining the pain from before.
“I didn’t want to…I mean when I did what I did it was like watching someone else. I should have been screaming on the inside but my body did what the Admiral told it to. Breaking your ribs was all I could do to keep myself from killing you and I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant you got to live.”
It wasn’t fair of me to champion Camille and cut out Stinger, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that Camille had yet to lay a hand on me. Still, Stinger was a friend and I found myself cursing Sebastian Wiseacre one more time.
I took advantage of Stinger’s rare moment of vulnerability and hugged him around his middle, burying my face in his shirt that smelled a lot like gunpowder. “You don’t understand how badly I want to trust you. But I can’t and you know that. I can’t trust Camille right now either, but I promise I’m going to figure out how to save you both.”
Before he could return the hug I let go of him and went to get my sneakers. I was going to need a massive adrenaline rush in order to handle whatever the rest of the day had to throw at me.