To the world, she is formidable.
She is the world.
“Where did they make you?”
He startles. I didn’t think he would startle. But when he turns to look at me, he seems confused.
I explain: “You are unusually beautiful.”
His eyes widen.
His lips part, press together, tremble into a curve that surprises me. Surprises him.
Warner’s eyes flash. “I want to hurt people all the time,” he says. “Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking about all the people I’d like to murder.”
“Great.” I nod, leaning back in my chair. “This is super great. All of this information we’re collecting is super helpful and useful.” I count off on my fingers: “Amelia was a psycho, Castle wants to be BFFs with Anderson, Warner has midnight fantasies about killing people, and Castle made Amelia think that Warner is a lost little bunny trying to find his way home.”
When everyone stares at me, confused, I clarify:
“Castle basically gave Amelia the idea that she could walk into a room and murder Warner! He pretty much told her that Warner was about as harmful as a dumpling.”
“You’re not even going to pretend it’s not true?” I rip open a foil container. More potatoes. “You won’t even pretend you don’t know that the entire world finds you attractive?”
“Was that a confession?”
“You wish, dickhead.”
“I find it boring,” Warner says. “Besides, if I paid attention to every single person who found me attractive I’d never have time for anything else.”
I nearly drop the potatoes.
I wait for him to crack a smile, to tell me he’s joking, and when he doesn’t, I shake my head, stunned.
“Wow,” I say. “Your humility is a fucking inspiration.”
“Me?” My eyes widen. “I’m not afraid of him. Or, I mean, whatever, I’m not the only one afraid of him. Though let’s be real,” I mutter, “anyone with two brain cells to rub together should be afraid of him.”
Castle raises an eyebrow.
“Except for you, of course,” I add hastily. “What reason would you have to be afraid of Warner? He’s such a nice guy. Loves children. Big talker. Oh, and bonus: He no longer murders people professionally. No, now murdering people is just a fulfilling hobby.”
One of the volunteers checking my wound yesterday told me that she heard someone else say that they saw Warner uproot an entire tree with only one hand.
Translation: He probably broke off a tree branch.
Someone else told me that they’d heard from a friend that some girl had seen him save a cluster of children from friendly fire.
Translation: He probably shoved a bunch of kids to the ground.
“You know, when I was very young, I wanted to be a baker.”
Surprise shoots through me, widens my eyes.
“I know,” he says, taking another swallow of the amber liquid. He almost laughs. “Not what you’d expect. But I’ve always had a fondness for cake. Few people realize this, but baking requires infinite precision and patience. It is an exacting, cruel science. I would’ve been an excellent baker.” And then: “I’m not really sure why I’m telling you this. I suppose it’s been a long time since I’ve felt I could speak openly with anyone.”
“You can tell me anything, sir.”
“Yes,” he says quietly. “I’m beginning to believe that.”
With his eyes closed, I feel safer to stare at him. I take advantage of the rare opportunity to peer closer at his tattoo, but I still can’t make sense of it. Mostly, I stare at his face, which I’ve never seen like this: Soft. Relaxed. Almost smiling. Even so, I can tell that something is troubling him.
“What?” he says without looking at me. “What is it now?”
“I was wondering, sir, if you’re okay.”
His eyes open. He tilts his head to look at me, but his gaze is inscrutable. Slowly, he turns.
He throws back the last of his drink, rests the glass on the nightstand, and sits down in a nearby armchair. “I had you cut off your own finger last night, do you remember?”
“And today you’re asking me if I’m okay.”
“Yes, sir. You seem upset, sir.”
“Hey,” I say, realizing something. “Doesn’t this feel like some kind of weird déjà vu?”
“No, no, I’m being serious. What are the odds that the three of us would be on a trip like this again? Though the last time we were all on a trip like this, we ended up being shot out of the sky, so—yeah, I don’t want to relive that. Also, J isn’t here. So. Huh.” I hesitate. “Okay, I think I’m realizing that maybe I don’t actually understand what déjà vu means.”
“It’s French,” Warner says, bored. “It literally means already seen.”
I thought I wasn’t afraid of spiders, but this is like if spiders were on crack, like if spiders were very, very large and kind of see-through and wore armor and had huge, venomous stingers on one end just primed and ready to murder you.
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