Deliverance Page 95

“Forgive. Ian? Forgive you? All gone. All.” Marcus’s voice is gentle. “Forgive all, Ian.”

A sudden flash of anger burns through me as I pull the dagger from its sheath and get to my feet. Why does Ian get the happy ending? Why is his father alive and ready to offer absolute forgiveness, while mine is dead, and I’m left alone to deal with the things I’ve done? I want to rail against the unfairness of it. I want to be the one lying on the floor, crying over my guilt and my grief, and hearing my father say that it’s okay.

“I don’t deserve forgiveness,” Ian says, his face pressed to the floor like he can’t bear to look into his father’s eyes.

“No, you don’t.” My voice is brittle, and I hold the dagger steady in my left hand while I back away from Ian.

He lifts his face and looks at me. Where moments ago there had been nothing but dull purpose to fill the emptiness in his gaze, regret and anguish now war with hope in his eyes. I look away.

“Forgive? Forgive,” Marcus says, as if forgiveness is that simple.

I look back at Ian, who stares at me in silence, his expression haunted. I’m struck by the fact that the guilt and horror I see on his face are similar to what lived inside my silence until Quinn helped me unlock it. Similar, but not the same. I made choices that hurt others, but I didn’t knowingly hurt them. I didn’t set out with the intention to take hundreds of lives.

My unshakable quest for vengeance never cost others what Ian’s has cost me. Does that make me better than him?

“I thought he was dead,” Ian whispers.

I take another step toward the open cell door. Outside, a trumpet blows, and the earthshaking sound of hundreds of soldiers marching in unison fills the air. I can’t get out of the mansion unseen when three separate armies all seem to be running drills on the grounds at the same time. I don’t even know if I can get out of the dungeon unseen. Who knows how many staff members and guards are lurking in the house?

“Your father is a good man. I’ve spent days listening to him ramble on about his family. That’s all that matters to him. That’s all that ever drove anything he did.” I tuck the dagger behind me, but Ian doesn’t seem to notice. “What drove you, Ian?”

“Rachel . . .” Ian looks lost as I back away.

“Ian. Mine? Forgive all. Ian?” Marcus pushes his fingers through the crack as far as they can go, and Ian slowly reaches out and lays his hand over his father’s fingers.

“My dad is dead. For real.” My voice shakes a little. “I know what that’s like. It was bad, and I wasn’t the one who killed him. But I found out about his death right after seeing the Commander murder Oliver, my grandfather, because the Commander was sure that if he broke me, I’d do what he wanted. So I know, Ian.” I back up a little more and bump into the open cell door. “I know loss and anger and the desperate need to avenge yourself against those who wronged you because you think that will somehow make it easier to get through another day.”

“I thought he was dead. I thought . . .”

“Okay, Ian. Rachel? Okay?” Marcus sounds worried.

I force myself to let the anger drain out of my voice. “We’re okay, Marcus. We’re just talking. Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay, Logan? Mine? Logan?”

I meet Ian’s eyes and say, “Not yet. But he will be. Won’t he, Ian?”

Ian stares at me and then at the crack in the wall where Marcus is babbling, “Inverse. Summoners? Below! Ian inverse? Transmitter wave? Below? Ian!”

“I don’t understand. . . .” Ian looks from me to his father and back again. “I don’t understand what he’s saying.”

I grip the dagger so hard, the handle bites into my palm. “You have to understand. You have to figure it out. Marcus said you knew how to destroy the summoners.”

“He doesn’t seem to be saying much of anything at all,” Ian says quietly.

“He says enough.” I step into the open doorway. “You just have to learn how to decode it.”

“Decode?” Ian stares at his father as if trying to figure out where things have gone wrong inside Marcus’s mind.

“That’s all that’s left of him now. James Rowan saw to that, and to a lesser extent, so did you, though Marcus doesn’t blame you. You were just being a loyal citizen, after all. Isn’t that the line Rowan fed you? Restoring honor by helping to destroy your father?”

Ian remains silent, but I find I still have plenty to say.

“Whatever his mind was before he was nearly whipped to death and tossed into the dungeon for months with nothing but the ghosts of his family to keep him company, it’s gone. The scientific genius, the grand inventor, the man who could occupy one of the highest positions in Rowansmark’s government, is gone. But you’re lucky, Ian, because the best of your father remains. He has nothing left but love and devotion for his sons. If you listen carefully, you’ll learn to figure out the things he can’t quite say, but you don’t have to listen carefully to hear that he loves you and forgives you. If you don’t protect that, if you don’t get him out of here and become worthy of the gift he’s given you, then you are spitting his love back at his feet.”

“How can he forgive me after all I’ve done?” Ian’s voice is rough and pleading. Marcus’s fingers tighten around his son’s, and he croons softly through the wall.

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