She’d had that effect in their relationship too. He’d spend a day with her that felt like bliss in the moment, then come out on the other side unsure of where he stood. Second-guessing everything. He’d never understood if it was a conscious play on her part, or his own failing in letting this woman get so deep and tangled in his head.

He pulled off his boots just inside the front door and crept across the hardwood to the staircase. It was cold in the house, the floor cracking and popping under the weight of his footsteps.

Down the upstairs hallway to his son’s bedroom.

The door was open.

He moved to the bed.

Couldn’t have been warmer than forty-five degrees in the room.

Ben slept buried under five blankets, but Ethan pulled them up a little closer around his neck, touched the back of his hand to the boy’s cheek.

Soft and warm.

Truckloads of firewood were due to arrive any day now. Word was the town burned copious amounts of pine for heat through the winter, with each household receiving six cords. Pilcher had a small army of men making daily trips beyond the fence under heavily armed protection. Cutting trees and splitting wood for the entire town.

Ethan headed for his bedroom.

Stripped off his pants and shirt, left them in a pile in the doorway.

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The floor was freezing.

He hustled to the bed.

Crawling under the covers, he turned over onto his side and pulled Theresa in close.

She radiated heat.

He kissed the back of her neck.

Sleep seemed like a long shot. Almost impossible lately to turn down the noise in the back of his mind.

He shut his eyes.

Maybe it would come anyway.

“Ethan.”

“Hey baby,” he whispered. She rolled over, faced him. Her breath in his face a familiar, gentle heat.

“Get your feet off of mine. They’re ice.”

“Sorry. I wake you?” he asked.

“When you left. Where’d you go?”

“Work.”

“To see her?”

“I can’t—”

“Ethan.”

“What?”

“Where?”

“It doesn’t matter, Theresa. It really doesn’t—”

“I can’t keep doing this.”

“Doing what? Us?”

“This town. And us in it. You. Her. Your job.” She leaned in close, pressed her lips against his ear, whispered, “Can I keep talking like this or will they hear us?”

He hesitated.

“I’m going to do it anyway, Ethan.”

“Then just be still.”

“What?”

“Be completely still.”

“Why?”

“Will you just do it? In particular, don’t move your left leg.”

They lay still.

He could feel his wife’s heart beating against his chest.

Ethan counted to fifteen in his head, then whispered, “Speak no louder than this.”

“I used to think that if I could only be with you again, have you here with us, that I could do this. Buy into the lie.”

“And?”

“I can’t.”

“You don’t have a choice, Theresa. Do you know the danger you’re putting our family in just having this conversation?”

Her mouth pushed hard into his ear.

A chill shot down his spine.

“I want to leave this place. I’m done, Ethan. I don’t care what could happen to us. I just want out.”

“Do you care what happens to our son?” Ethan whispered.

“This isn’t a life. I don’t care if we all die.”

“Good. Because we will.”

“You know that for sure?”

“A hundred percent.”

“Because you know.”

“Yes.”

“What’s out there, Ethan?”

“We can’t have this conversation.”

“I am your wife.”

Their bodies were pushed against each other.

Her legs were cool and smooth against his skin and the heat coming off her was driving him mad. He wanted to shake her. Wanted to f**k her.

“Why the hell are you getting hard?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s out there, Ethan?”

“You really want to know.”

And then her hand was on his cock.

“Are you thinking about her?”

“No.”

“Swear to me.”

“I swear.”

She slid away, down under the covers, and took him in her mouth. Brought him right to the edge. Then she came up and pulled off her nightie. She was sitting on top of him and her breath clouding. She leaned over and kissed him. Her ni**les hard against his chest in the cold.

Theresa rolled over onto her back and pulled Ethan with her, pulled him inside.

She was loud and she sounded so beautiful.

As she started to come, she brought Ethan’s head down, her lips to his ear, his lips to hers. She moaned and said, “Tell me.”

“What?” He was breathless.

“Tell me… oooohhhhgodEthan… where we really are.”

Ethan buried his face into her ear. “We’re all that’s left, baby.” They were coming together, loud and hard, as in sync as they’d ever been. “This is the last town on earth.”

Theresa shouting yesyesyesohgoddontstop. Loud enough to cover his words.

“And we’re surrounded by monsters.”

They lay entwined and sweaty and perfectly still.

Ethan whispering into her ear.

He told her everything.

When they were. Where they were. About Pilcher. About the abbies.

Then he lay with his head propped up on one elbow, stroking her face.

Theresa stared at the ceiling.

She’d been here five years, a helluva lot longer than he had, but it had been a state of limbo. Of not really knowing. Now she did. Perhaps she had suspected before, but all uncertainty had just been burned away: aside from Ethan and Ben, she would never again see all of the people she had loved in her life before. They had been dead two millennia. And if she’d ever held out hope for leaving Wayward Pines, Ethan had just destroyed it.

There was no end date for her sentence in this place.

She was a lifer.

Ethan wondered which emotion was dominant—figured a full cocktail was flailing away inside her head: anger, despair, heartbreak, fear.

By the light of a distant streetlamp coming through the window, he watched tears form in her eyes.

Felt her hand begin to tremble in his.

13

Water Tower

Volunteer Park

Seattle, 2013