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Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)(5)
Author: Maya Banks

God, would she be unable to walk after all? Had she broken them both, and was she in too much shock to feel the breaks? The only pain she could identify was in her knee.

Again, she wiggled her toes and feet, seeking reassurance that she hadn’t imagined being able to do so moments earlier. She paid closer attention this time, leaning in an uncomfortable, awkward pose as she concentrated fiercely on whether she felt pain or weakness.

Then the thought occurred to her that the reason she wasn’t feeling pain or weakness could be that she couldn’t feel her legs at all. As soon as the panicked thought blazed through her mind, she shoved it impatiently aside. Irrational, hysterical thoughts had no place here. If she’d been paralyzed she wouldn’t be able to move her feet or know that she was capable of moving them, and she wouldn’t feel the throbbing pain in her knee.

Her fears at a more manageable level, Honor braced herself and stared determinedly at the mound covering her lower half. She was absurdly pleased, and excitement coursed through her veins when she felt the soft whisper of night air over the toes of her left foot. She wiggled again, paying more attention, realizing that they were poking out of the rubble.

A shudder overtook her. Thank God the militants hadn’t gotten close enough to her to see the end of her foot protruding. They would have uncovered her to see if she was dead like the others. Upon finding her alive? She slammed her mind shut, refusing to continue down that thought path. They hadn’t found her. They wouldn’t find her. So there was no need to torment herself with what could have been. She was more focused on what would never be.

Her lips thinning, pressing together in a vow not to allow a single sound past them, she turned her body with more resolve this time instead of the experimental twisting she’d done at first. A grimace shook the line of her lips and she ground her teeth together, her jaw aching from the pressure.

Determination was alive inside her. It took over. Became her. In that moment, failure to make her escape wasn’t even a remote possibility. A pained hiss exploded from her open mouth, her breaths hard as she exerted more pressure, straining rigidly to rotate her hips and legs.

Fire blew down the back side of her legs as they scraped at the jagged edges of rock, metal, wood and glass. Her stomach jolted and squeezed inwardly as if seeking to rid itself of any content when her injured knee banged into an immovable object. She saw stars, and tears burned the edges of her eyelids. It only made her angrier. Her fury grew until she shook with it.

“Why won’t you help me?” she raged, her gaze casting upward before shame fell over her much as the building had. “Sorry,” she muttered, closing her eyes. “But I could really use your help right now. An angel would be nice if you’re too busy to see to it personally.”

She huffed in another breath, found the center of calm that was nestled in the rage boiling through her veins. Yelling at God wasn’t going to get her anywhere. And as the old saying went, God helped those who helped themselves, and right now she wasn’t doing anything remotely helpful. Whining, wishing she’d died and constantly battling tears weren’t the hallmark of someone worthy of the gift of life. And yet, here she lay. So close to freedom while the others also lay close by, their souls already gone from this world.

She had a purpose. She thought it again. It bolstered her spirits and eased some of the fear eating away at her insides. Maybe everything up to now had merely been preparation for her true purpose instead of her having already found her purpose and serving it. She wasn’t going to find out if she didn’t get her ass out of here before the sun rose.

Turning off all the raging emotion building like a volcano about to erupt and refusing to acknowledge pain or the current limitations on her body, Honor attempted to turn again. This time she didn’t stop when the hideous scrape seared her legs or when her knee, so tender and swollen, screamed its protest of her movements. She refused to stop until finally both heels were planted on the floor, her feet and toes directed upward.

Her knee throbbed angrily, stretched by the new position and her leg lying flat and unbent. Hastily, she pushed herself upward until she leaned forward, palms planted amid the debris surrounding her.

Though her eyes had grown accustomed to having no light, it was impossible to see anything with detail with the entire area blanketed in suffocating darkness. Tentatively she reached down, feeling her way along her legs, her fingers lightly brushing over the obstacles that lay between her and freedom.

She swore when she encountered the heavy beam that she now remembered falling on her in the explosion. It had been what banged her knee up before she’d wound up facedown on the floor, the weight of half the building bearing down on her back. When the world had come crashing down on her, she’d fallen to her back but had instinctively rolled over, trying to protect herself in any way she could.

For a moment, she paused and dug her fingers sharply into her temples, pressing and rubbing in tight circles, digging in and applying firm pressure in hopes that she could make at least the dull drum in her head go away and clear the residue of murky fog that had stubbornly clung to her ever since she’d regained consciousness.

It was sheer will that had kept her from simply acquiescing and fading and giving in to the threat of darkness in her mind, the thought that if she just let go, then the pain and fear, everything would simply go . . . away. But the reminder that when or even if she awakened, she would face a nightmare worse than death, that she would be thrust into the very bowels of hell and once again lament the fact that she’d survived, kept her sharply focused on her task.

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