Chapter 24, Part 2
This is really happening, Cassie thought as she climbed up into the sleek plane waiting on the dusty runway. She was the last on – Sam, Luke, Declan, and Josh already boarded and strapped in. They were all dressed in their dusky blue uniforms, but Cassie had pulled on her leather jacket out of habit and perhaps the need for something familiar. She felt ridiculously out of place among the real soldiers toting their gear around like it was nothing.
Five other soldiers plus the pilot were going in the same plane as them. The rest would follow on the plane’s twin idling behind them on the tarmac. Cassie slid in next to Sam. He barely turned his head to give her a slight smile. She fumbled with the buckles but got strapped in.
“Thanks for coming,” she said.
“I want her back just as much as you do,” he said. He fiddled with the collar of his short sleeved jacket.
“Hey, I doubt we’ll even get out of the plane,” she whispered reassuringly as she nudged his arm. He mustered a small smile and looked down at his hands. The plane’s engine cut off any further conversation as it slid forward, picking up speed and finally going airborne. Under her jacket, the cool of the bullet cross shifted against her chest. She put a hand over the bulk of the necklace. They’d been so focused on Mariah that she hadn’t really thought about her real family. Maybe after, she’d ask Captain Santos if there was a way to track them down.
She glanced around at the others. Josh was talking with the soldiers. Declan had leaned his head back against his seat and closed his eyes. He and Josh seemed the most as ease. Luke sat uncharacteristically silent, staring at his hands much like Sam.
Cassie waiting until the engine quieted to a dull roar before reaching out with her foot to nudge Luke’s leg.
“You okay?” she asked. His gaze flickered to the soldiers before coming back to her, no doubt wondering if he’d have to help patch any of them up in the next twenty-four hours.
“Yeah. Don’t know why I’m nervous or anything,” he replied.
“You’re not the only one,” she admitted.
He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, well, I’m the only one who’s not a fighter on this plane.”
“What do you mean?”
“First of all, we’re in a military plane. Then, look at the muscles on Josh and Declan. You know they’ve been in a few fights. And you and Sam can survive anything. And then, there’s me.” Luke shrugged. “I can punch a bag, but going after a person? I’m not sure I can do that.”
“That’s not a bad thing, Luke,” Cassie said.
“Yeah, but Amelli’s guys won’t care. What am I going to do? Heal the crap out of them?”
Cassie couldn’t help a small chuckle and Luke flashed a grin.
“She’s right, you know,” the apparently not sleeping Declan spoke up. He hadn’t seemed so bulky before, but the sleeveless tunic he wore showed off the muscles in his arms, the few scars, and the Gaelic word tattooed on his shoulder. He opened his eyes. “Don’t go looking for fights, Luke. There’s not much to find there. Besides, you can help more people with your gift than I ever could.”
Cassie caught a few nods from the soldiers around as they listened to the conversation. Luke shrugged but seemed to relax a fraction.
“Thanks,” he said.
Cassie gave a small nod to Declan. Josh might have called her a leader all those long weeks ago, but she didn’t know the first thing about actually fighting, or trying to reassure people with her same fears. The sleek material of her uniform pilled between her fingers.
Luke nudged her leg in return, startling her.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked.
She smiled tightly and nodded, not quite trusting her voice to a lie.
“Man, you need to work on your poker face,” he said.
“I’ve always told her she’s a bad liar,” Sam said from her other side.
Cassie gave a short laugh and the boys smiled.
“How about this? We don’t ask each other that question until this is all over?” she said.
“Dude, fine with me,” Luke agreed.
Sam nudged her leg with his knee. Fine or not, he’d have her back.
They lapsed into silence. Cassie glanced at her watch. According to Captain Santos, it would only take them another hour to reach a small base somewhere in Arkansas. And then they’d begin the march to Amelli’s base.