The Brightest Night (Origin 3) - Page 144

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The surprise in his voice was so genuine, it tugged at my heart. “Of course. I didn’t know if you had enough food or water. Is that why you came back?”

“No. I was … I mean, I was hoping you had something that could help, like, disinfect the skin.”

“Like rubbing alcohol or peroxide?” I knew we had both in the bathroom. When Nate nodded, concern replaced the relief. “Is someone hurt?”

“No.” His nose scrunched. “I mean, not really. Not seriously. We have bandages and stuff, but nothing to, you know, clean the skin? And I don’t know much, but I know that cuts and stuff need to be cleaned with something. That’s what my mom used to do when I was hurt.”

“What happened to your mom?” I asked, half expecting I wouldn’t get an answer.

“She’s dead. I didn’t know my father.” He shrugged. “He’s probably dead, too.”

“Did she die in the invasion?”

Rubbing a hand over his chest, he shook his head. “She died a few years before that. We—I mean I was in a group home when the invasion hit. Several of us were, and when people started dying or leaving, we were kind of just there.”

Understanding crept over me. “You mean, you were left there by whoever was running the group home?”

“Yeah, but it really wasn’t any different from someone being there.” Nate gave another nonchalant shrug while anger rushed through me so fiercely, I felt the Source pulse in response. “We all pretty much took care of ourselves.”

“That doesn’t make it okay. No one should be left behind,” I told him, wrangling in my emotions before he saw that I wasn’t exactly human.

“Yeah, well, people were left behind before it all went to shit,” he responded. “People who lived on the streets? They were already left behind.”

He was right, and I told him that. “I know this is hard to believe, but no one in this community is left behind. Everyone is taken care of, and every one chips in one way or another.”

Nate said nothing as he rubbed at his chest.

“Let me grab you some peroxide or something.” I started toward the archway but stopped. “Don’t go anywhere. Please. I’ll be right back.”

He nodded.

I stared at him a moment, almost wishing I could freeze him in place, but that wouldn’t help gain his trust, so I hurried to the bathroom. It was somewhere between finding an old backpack and shoving the bottles of rubbing alcohol and peroxide in it, along with cotton balls and a bottle of pain reliever, when I decided I was going to make him take me to the rest of the kids. I knew it could be dangerous even though there didn’t sound like there were any adults with them, and I also knew Luc would be furious when he found out, but based on how Nate looked now, he couldn’t survive much longer like this. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to convince him, but if there were others, I may have more luck with them. I also needed to know exactly how many kids were out there, fending for themselves, and just how hurt this other one was. I also reasoned it would be a good idea to see exactly how Nate was getting in and out of the city without being seen. I could defend myself, and helping Nate was far more useful than sitting here missing Luc and Zoe and everyone else.

Finding a tube of antibacterial cream, I tossed it in the bag. I had no idea if it was expired or not, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Nate was waiting where I’d left him, his gaze glued to the archway. I thought I saw relief on his face when I walked back in.

“I got some stuff in here that I think will help.” I placed the backpack on the island, leaving it open so he could peer inside. “But here’s the deal.” I waited until his gaze lifted to mine. “I know you’re probably going to argue with me, but if you want this stuff to help your friend, then I’m coming with you.”

His mouth opened.

“I trust you, Nate. Obviously, since I just let you into my house, and I hope you can try to trust me. I haven’t told any of the community leaders here about you.” That wasn’t a lie. “And I am more than willing to help you, but I need to see who’s hurt. You say it’s not bad. I have no way of knowing that, and not knowing that is going to get to me. So, that’s the deal. I’ll even throw in some canned food and bread. Take it or leave it.”

I felt incredibly adultlike in that moment, even though Nate couldn’t have been more than four or so years younger than I was, but I sort of wanted to pat myself on the back.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Origin Romance