They pulled into the darkened back lot of the strip motel, and Fate’s stomach turned as she imagined what they might find. Would Matthieu be hurt, or worse? Would Eli be dead? What if they found nothing at all? She couldn’t stand the thought of Matthieu wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city with his mind held hostage by torturous memories.
She breathed a momentary sigh of relief when she caught sight of him, illuminated by the dull glow of the Jeep’s headlights. He was standing with one shoulder propped against a useless light post—its bulbs having long since burned out and never been replaced.
Her heart sank when she took in his posture, his demeanor. Something was wrong. He’d curled in on himself as she’d seen him do after coming out of one of his dreams. His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his fatigues and his shoulders slumped forward. His head was bowed so low that his chin rested on his chest, and the only movement she could see was the too rapid rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.
“Well, at least he’s breathing,” she muttered, turning off the car. Looking at Étienne, she made a split second decision. “You need to stay here. After that last incident, I can’t be sure he won’t go after you.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. What if he hurts you?”
“He won’t.” Without waiting for an answer, she hopped out of the Jeep and shut the door. She couldn’t miss the sound of the locks engaging behind her. She approached Matthieu with caution, knowing he wouldn’t hurt her, but if he didn’t know who she was, all bets were off—and Fate didn’t have a death wish.
As she came closer, she noted his sickly pallor. He was pale, in contrast to his usual toasted complexion, and his skin was slick with perspiration. From this close, she could see his muscles contracting at intervals as he was periodically wracked with convulsions.
His eyes were lowered and shaded by thick black lashes, so she couldn’t see if they were normal or…not. He didn’t seem to register her presence as she approached. Fate noted with relief that his sidearm was in place at his hip, and he didn’t seem to have any blood on him. She did find it odd that his dog tags were hanging out and proud, fully visible to anyone—the only time she’d ever seen them out was the day she’d tried to touch them.
“Matthieu?” She spoke in a quiet voice so as not to startle him, but he gave no indication that he’d heard her at all.
She placed both hands on either side of his face, but almost snatched them back at the feel of his skin, so clammy and cold. Summoning her resolve, she forced him to raise his head, but his eyes remained downcast.
“Hey, come back to me,” she said, stroking his shivering skin. “Matthieu,” she repeated with more force, giving his scarred cheek a light smack. While this at least got him to meet her eyes, his face was still expressionless and there was no spark of recognition. She was relieved to see that his eyes were dark brown, however dull and unfocused.
“Do you know who I am?” she asked, and hesitantly touched his face. Finally, he began to blink and a frown line appeared between his brows.
“Fate?” he asked, before having to swallow to clear some of the grittiness from his voice. He turned his head and squinted at Étienne, who was sitting in the jeep. He looked back at Fate, confused. “What—? He was supposed to have gotten you out of here.”
“He did. I came back. I wasn’t going to leave you.”
Heaving a shuddering sigh, he leaned his forehead against hers and gripped the back of her neck. “I’m so confused,” he admitted, which scared her more than anything. “Are we—“
“We’re in Savannah.”
She felt rather than saw him nod against her forehead. “Good…We need to get out of here—out of goddamn Georgia. Time to call Jeremiah.”
Fate closed her eyes and breathed a deep sigh of relief as she clutched his shirt. “Thank God. Matthieu, what happened to Eli?”
She leaned back to look in his eyes, just in time to catch the shutters being drawn. He was planning to stonewall her again. “Gone.”