Welcome, and join us as we count down the final 10 days before Beyond Ruin by revisiting some of our favorite Mad, Dylan, Scarlet & Jade moments from the past six books! We’ll be posting an image each day on social media, but here on the blog we’ll be doing a longer excerpt and maybe even a few notes about the scene. 🙂 And today is…
Mad Stuck in the Darkness
Ohhhh, my. This scene was a big one when it comes to Mad and his mysterious past. (And that past is a big part of what he has to overcome in Beyond Ruin.)
Though the highlight of this scene is definitely wondering what the fuck went down with his grandfather and his mother, the end emphasizes something important. Even though we often jokingly refer to Mad as a prince-in-exile (in the books and while chatting about him), his exile is self-imposed and highly voluntary. Mad chooses the O’Kanes because of what they represent–for him, never having to survive alone in the darkness again.
* * *
Mad hated the dark.
He hated the silence of it, the emptiness. It wasn’t natural. Outside, under the night sky, the world gave him a hundred subtle sources of sound and endless pinpricks of light. God had never intended for man to have to survive alone in the darkness.
He hadn’t meant for man to survive underground, either. Mad could feel the weight of the earth pushing in around him, and not just because a few chunks of building had landed on him in the aftermath of the explosion.
Lucky. He’d been so, so lucky. The floor had crumbled and carried him down, but he’d managed to roll before the ceiling followed it. Trapped in claustrophobic darkness was still better than crushed to death, even with a body bruised and his head throbbing with the kind of pain that would have Doc in a panic.
If he ever saw Doc again.
If he ever saw anyone again.
He couldn’t think in the dark. He couldn’t breathe in it, either. That was the only sound left, the dim, faraway rasp of air flooding his lungs and rushing out, and it was probably his imagination that it felt thinner every time his lungs expanded.
“It’s all right, mi hijo. We’re going to get out of here.”
No, no they weren’t. But she sounded so confident every time she said it, because Adriana Rios had grown up as the daughter of the prophet, Sector One’s adored, benevolent princess, and she refused to believe in a world where love didn’t conquer all.
“Here.” Something brushed the backs of his fingers, a phantom touch that crawled over his skin. “Squeeze my hand. Can you do that for Mommy?”
His hand would be larger than hers now. God, it almost had been then. He hadn’t been thirteen years old in decades, but he’d never forget the shame of clutching at her hand like a little boy when he was old enough to be a man. Maybe if he’d been a better one, she would have walked out of that cramped cellar with him.
But he could feel her now. Hear her. Maybe that meant his time had run out. The first explosion must have been a misfire, but the next ones wouldn’t be. There’d be no time to dig Mad out, and Bren or Jas or someone would do their fucking duty and drag Dallas to safety before it blew. The end was rushing toward Mad, and his mother had come to take him home.
The next rough voice dispelled that perversely comforting thought. “You treat him like a child, Adriana.”
“I don’t want you,” Mad whispered, and he didn’t care that he was talking to empty air. Sound filled the silence, whether it was the rasp of his own voice or the murmuring of ghosts.
But not this ghost. Not him.
Rubble crunched under boots, and Mad felt hot breath on his face. “Live or die,” his grandfather whispered. “It isn’t in human hands. Your fate is God’s to decide.”
God hadn’t thrown Mad and his mother into a dark room. God hadn’t held a gun to Mad’s head, grinding it so hard against his temple he still had the scar, swearing to Adriana that he’d kill her son if she didn’t convince him to slice off her finger.
Her fate had rested in the prophet’s hands. In human hands.
Mad’s fate rested in human hands, too—but not in his grandfather’s. Not this time.
Rolling over meant a moment of dizziness, but Mad forced himself to his knees, and then his feet. Panic made his heart pound. Pain made his head swim. The bomb had to blow, any minute now, any second—
The blueprints Noah had flashed at him floated through his head. They’d considered coming in through the tunnels, at first, before discarding the plan as too complicated. But they were there, a way out, if he could just move his feet—
—if Dallas remembered the tunnels—
—if someone got there in time to open the doors—
“I’m not a Rios,” he told the ghosts, ignoring the insanity of talking to them at all. The first step nearly sent him sprawling, but he found the wall and oriented himself, struggling to remember the path he had to take. Away from the explosion, away from the wreckage.
Toward his brothers.
He wasn’t a Rios. Wasn’t even a Maddox, though that was the name he’d taken as his own. He took step after staggering step because he knew Bren wouldn’t have dragged Dallas away. Dallas wouldn’t have let him.
Mad had faith. The door would open.
“You can do this.” His mother’s voice—calm, level. No hint of the terror she’d tried so damn hard to hide from her little boy.
The door would open.
He wiped sweat from his forehead, only to realize it was too sticky, too warm. Blood, and he could taste it on his lips when he wet them. Every step hurt. It would be easier to lie down and close his eyes.
But the door would open.
He reached the far side of the basement and slammed into it, sagged against it, pressing his forehead to the cool steel. If he had a light, if his head hadn’t been swimming, he could have tried to pry the panel off this side, struggled to figure out some way to force it open.
All he could do now was believe. Put his faith in O’Kane hands.
Empty space opened up in front of him. Light flared, hurting his eyes, but he was already falling, not toward the light but away from it, dizzy and weightless—
Strong arms caught him, and Bren’s familiar voice rumbled, “Fucking hell.”
The light swung back, illuminating Dallas’s face as the man dragged him down the tunnel, his growled words chasing Mad into a different kind of darkness. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
* * *
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