The Book of Ivy / Page 28

Page 28


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“Is it safe to drink the water?”

“Do you have a choice?”

Mark shrugs at that, biting off a huge hunk of bread. He speaks with his mouth full. “Will you be back?”

“Don’t count on it,” Bishop says. He reaches a hand out lightning fast and pins Mark’s fingers against the fence where they’re hooked through the metal. “Leave her alone,” he says, voice quiet. I have to strain to make out his words. “Don’t take her food. Don’t touch her.” He twists his hand and Mark cries out, the bread falling from his free hand.

“Okay,” he whines. “Okay! Let go!”

Bishop removes his hand and backs away from the fence, not taking his eyes off Mark. He finally turns and looks at the girl one last time before heading in my direction. I shift my body to the side of the tree, hoping he’ll pass right by without noticing I’m there. I press my spine into the tree and close my eyes, willing him not to see me.

I hear his footsteps approaching and a hand closes around my arm like a manacle, dragging me forward, away from the fence and into the woods. I gasp and stumble after Bishop, who doesn’t say a word, just keeps hauling me along.

“You’re hurting me,” I say to his back, keeping my voice low. It seems important that Mark not know I’m here. I never want him to look at me or even think about me again.

Bishop lets go instantly, but when he turns to face me, his usually placid eyes blaze, his jaw muscle bunched like a fist. “What are you doing here?” he demands. I’ve never seen him truly angry before. It’s almost a relief to know he’s capable of it, that he isn’t always in perfect control of his own emotions.

I massage my arm. “I followed you.”

“Yeah, I got that part,” he says. “I figured it out about a block from the house.”

So much for my stealth. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Bishop takes a step closer to me. “I wanted to see how far you’d come.”

“Well,” I say, tipping my head up to meet his eyes. I ignore my heartbeat in my throat. “I came all the way.”

Bishop blows out a breath and, with it, the anger appears to leave him, dissipating on his exhale. “It’s dangerous out here, Ivy.”

Now it’s my turn to set my jaw. “You’re out here. Besides, it’s not like they can get back over.” From where we stand, I can still see a glimpse of razor wire along the top of the fence.

“That’s not what I meant.” He runs a hand through his hair. “It’s against the law to help them.”

“Then why are you doing it?” I demand. “That guy out there”—I hook my thumb toward the fence—“he was the one I met the other day. The one who raped a little girl.” Bishop winces at my words but doesn’t shift his gaze. “You said you didn’t have any sympathy for him. So what are you doing?” My voice drops. “Do you know the girl?”

Bishop shakes his head. “No, I don’t know her. She was put out last time. She’s given up.” He holds out his hands like he’s searching the air for the right words, then lets them fall back to his sides. “This isn’t sympathy. It’s basic humanity. I just…” He scrubs at his face with one hand. “I want to give them a chance, I guess. The ones who deserve it, at least.”

“How can you tell the difference?”

Bishop gives me a rueful little smile. “I can’t.”

I stare at him. His father imposes the sentence, without even the guts to watch it carried out. And my father’s no better, not really, although it pains me to admit it. He rails against the president’s policies, but never once has he bothered to come out here and hand out water or comfort. Of all the people I know, on both sides of the equation, only Bishop has the heart and the will to do that. Only he is strong enough to show a little mercy.

I know Callie is right. Liking him, feeling anything for him, is the most dangerous act of all. Worse than being found out or making a mistake. But even as I know I cannot like this boy, I know it is too late.

I already do.

“I’ll help you,” I find myself saying. “From now on.” I take a step closer, bridging the space between us. I hesitate, torn between what I want and what is wise. I reach out and take his hand. Something sharp and electric sizzles up my arm when our skin meets, a bittersweet ache. “We can do it together.” Even Callie can’t argue if she discovers what I’m doing, not when putting people out is one of the things my father stands against. She doesn’t need to know family loyalty is not why I’m doing it.

I expect him to argue, but he only nods, his green eyes on mine. They look darker out here, surrounded by woods, as if their color was stolen from the very trees above us. He doesn’t let go of my hand as we begin the long walk home.

“Dylan and Meredith invited us to dinner.” Bishop sets a sack of food from the market on the table where I’m finishing a late morning bowl of oatmeal, enjoying a lazy Saturday.

“When?” The reluctance in my voice matches his.

“Tonight. Dylan cornered me on my way in.” Bishop sighs. “I didn’t feel like I could say no.”

“Because he’d take it out on her.” I put down my spoon, no longer hungry.

“Yeah,” Bishop says with another sigh. He slides into the chair opposite me. “They invited the couple two doors down, too. I know the husband, Jason, from school. We’re the same age. He’s a nice guy. Haven’t met his wife, though.”

“Well, this ought to be fun,” I say with fake brightness.

Bishop gives me an exaggerated wink. “Don’t say I never show you a good time.”

I snort out a laugh, my eyes finding his across the table. He leans forward and snags one of the strawberries from my oatmeal. I thump the back of his hand with my spoon and he grins around the mouthful of fruit. He looks relaxed, slouching back in his chair, his dark hair ruffled from his fingers, a trace of stubble on his cheeks. I’m staring, but I can’t figure out a way to stop.

“Are you happy, Ivy?” he asks, surprising me.

In my whole life, I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that question. I take the time to really consider my answer, give it the weight it deserves. I know what I’m supposed to say. I know what I’m not supposed to feel. And the truth lies somewhere in between. “I’m a work in progress,” I tell him finally. “But I’m getting there.”

Bishop smiles, slow and easy, and warmth spills into my blood, heating me from the inside out.

I smile back and duck my head to hide my flushed cheeks.

Meredith is setting the picnic table in the backyard when we come through the gate. She smiles at us, hurrying over to take the bowl of fruit salad from my hands. “We’re so glad you could come,” she says.

“Thanks for inviting us,” I say.

She points us toward the table and a collection of lawn chairs. “Make yourselves comfortable. I’ll get you something to drink.”

Bishop sits down in one of the lawn chairs, and I perch on the picnic table bench. Meredith returns with two glasses of lemonade and Dylan, who is carrying a platter of meat.

“Hello, there,” he says, all smiles. “How does steak sound?”


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