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He hates me, Amber thought, her face turned to the window, watching the lights grow and recede one by one. Like her, they were alone in the dark, a single sputtering flame—engulfing black pressing close and heavy. Jack should fucking hate me. She snorted, turning back to the front. How much of this would have happened if he’d never met me?
Most, if not all—that much was certain. She had taken the files that set his feet on the path leading inexorably, one step after another, to where they were now. She had betrayed him by killing his best friend. And now she led him to his final doom.
Amber couldn’t shake the thought this was exactly what Dieter had planned from the beginning.
“Anything yet?” Sohrab called from the driver’s seat. He didn’t turn his head, but looked at her in the mirror as he spoke. His eyes crinkled at the corners, and she forced a smile. The man was a complete stranger, yet he comforted her in ways she didn’t think possible in this mess. His strength had nothing to do with his size. She could tell both the strength and humor came from a place of sadness and regret.
Daddy said it takes heat and pressure to make a diamond, she thought. Like every conversation of theirs she could remember, that one had also been less about science and more about character.
“Still too far out,” Amber said, shaking her head. “I’ll let you know.”
Sohrab’s eyes crinkled again. “Why don’t you climb up here into the front?” he said. “It will be easier for me when you have to give directions.”
Amber turned her head to look behind. Jack’s car was so far back, with at least three cars between them, she couldn’t even pick out his headlights. She sighed, and pulled herself between the two front seats like a spider through a cleft in a tree branch. With a grunt she gathered her legs beneath and slid into the seat opposite Sohrab.
He turned and smiled, eyes crinkling again, round cheeks shining. “That’s better,” he said.
Amber leaned over, using the side-view mirror to check behind again. She pulled the shoulder harness across and buckled herself into the seat. On reflex, she reached up and pulled the visor down to check herself in the mirror, then thought better of it and slapped it back into place. No point in seeing what I already know, she thought. I look like a goddamn mental patient.
“Everything will be fine, you know,” Sohrab said, staring ahead.
“We’re all going to die tonight, you know.”
“That’s the spirit!” he said, turning his smile toward her. He shrugged at the confusion on her face. “No more worries when you’re dead.”
I’ve been dead too long already, she thought. Like it or not, it was time to pull herself from the depths where she had languished since murdering Mason. The first rung on that ladder was simply admitting, at least to herself, that it wasn’t her fault. That was all Dieter. Her eyes narrowed as she peered into the night, grabbing another mental rung. Somewhere ahead, he waits. And he will pay.