Bleeding Heart: Chapter 2

Most of the next day was spent going over safety procedures and the role and history of RIFTs in the Marine Corps. Larkins didn’t have the patience to stand up in front the entire flight and talk for several hours, so she sat on the edge of the desk she and Evison shared in the classroom and let him do the talking, only interrupting when she felt he missed something, made a mistake, or when he spent too much time answering someone’s questions. The trainees seemed to take the information in fairly well but Larkins had learned after the last time that was no indicator of how well they would do in the future. She already had lower expectations for them than she had held for the last class.

The first few days of training would mostly be spent on classroom work and the hands-on training didn’t start until later, but their exercise and fitness training started in the evening of that first day. After dinner, Larkins and Evison led their flight to one of the gym rooms, which was in the same building as the barracks, and began putting them through basic exercises. Larkins wasn’t surprised when what had happened with the previous flight immediately began repeating itself. The trainees were slow and weak, and Evison wasn’t pushing them hard enough, so she took it on herself to walk among them, goading them on with a mix of the most colorful curses and insults she could come up with. The whole time her mind was preoccupied with the sole thought that she had a lot of hard work in front of her if she was going to make even one of them fit for graduating.

“Come on, Beyer, move that skinny ass!” she yelled, standing over the young woman, who wasn’t doing her crunches fast enough. She turned to check on one of the other trainees who was lying behind her and glared at the young man. “Herschel, hands go over your chest for crunches, not behind your head, you idiot. You’re going to regret it if I have to show you the right way.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” Herschel replied as he moved his hands to the correct position and Larkins moved on.

When they went into their final round of push-ups, Larkins watched each one of them closely. This was where the weakest ones would start to falter and show themselves as the ones who needed to be either pushed harder or eventually failed out. To her surprise, most of them seemed to be doing fairly well. Then her gaze settled on Ferro, the brunette she had yelled at the day before. The teenager was obviously having a hard time keeping up with everyone else in the group, and Larkins strode over to stand next to her. “Faster! Come on, little girl, move it! How the fuck did your weak ass make it through the physicals in basic?! Maybe keeping you here is a waste of time and I should just fail you out now! Is that what you want, Private?! Is that what you fucking want?!”

She saw two clear droplets fall from Ferro’s eyes and splatter on the matted floor beneath, but she couldn’t allow herself to feel pity as the young woman continued her push-ups. When Larkins was satisfied, she put her boot on Ferro’s back and pushed hard, pressing Ferro flat against the floor as she said harshly, “Pitiful. Not bad enough to fail yet, but it’ll happen if you don’t pull yourself together. Get up, Private, and get in that fucking line this instant. And no tears, you whiny piece of shit.”

She ignored Ferro’s barely-contained sobs as the rest of the trainees formed up, but Evison gave her a look. “Are you seriously starting this already? This is their first day, and this kind of performance is to be expected. Of all people you should know how much of a step up it is to go from boot camp physicals to this.”

“You’re right, I do know,” Larkins said coldly. “And as far as I’m concerned that’s all the more reason why we need to push them as hard as we possibly can or they’ll never pass. They can either measure up or we break them. It’s on them whether they’re going to be Marines or failures, and you and I have a responsibility to push them until we figure out which ones are which. But you wouldn’t care about that, would you? You’d rather take everyone on a nice hike through the woods to have a picnic and then sing songs around a fucking campfire, wouldn’t you?” Larkins glared at Evison accusingly. “Why don’t you join the fucking Boy Scouts and leave me here to do my job the right way?”

She stormed off without giving him a chance to respond, leaving the group behind as she slammed the door open and walked out into the hall, heading for the barracks wing of the building.

When she made it back to her room, Larkins dropped into the chair at her desk, rubbing at her face with her hands and letting out a long groan of frustration and exhaustion. Why can’t he just let me do my job? He used to do the same damn thing I did, so why doesn’t he understand? How is he so blind?

She knew Evison’s history far better than he knew hers. He had been in one of the RIFTs assigned to the 3rd Regiment until a flak hit to his dropship tore off his right pinky finger and part of his hand with it. It was a minor injury compared to some of the things Larkins had heard of and seen, but serious enough that he could never be allowed to fly in combat again. She had very little sympathy for him and didn’t think he should even be in the Marines if he wasn’t combat-capable. He’s a fucking cripple just like every other RIFT instructor. I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to take fucked up troops and make them instructors.

But then what did that make her? Larkins almost choked on her own breath at the thought. Evison was forced to become an instructor because he was injured. So had most other RIFT instructors. But she hadn’t been injured, or at least not physically. Her heart and head were another matter completely. Without even realizing it, she asked out loud, her voice hesitant, “Does… does that make me a cripple too? Or worse?”

Worse, probably. Evison hadn’t been to blame for what happened to his hand. She was responsible for the poor decisions that led to her being stuck here instead of out flying among the stars. She could tell herself anything she wanted to try to convince herself it was Sloan’s fault, or Mathis’ fault, but ultimately she knew there was no one else to blame for her current situation other than herself.

The sound of the flight returning and beginning to disperse to their rooms slowly pulled Larkins from her angry reflection and she got up and went out into the hallway, looking around. Evison was at the far end of the hall talking with one of the trainees, Obando, and the other members of the flight were either already in their rooms getting ready for their showers or on the way there. Larkins began to walk down towards Evison, checking each open door along the hall to make sure its occupant was inside, but she stopped when she looked up into Ferro’s room and saw the teenager sitting on the edge of her bed hugging a folded uniform jacket to herself and staring blankly at the wall. Larkins couldn’t tell, but it looked like she was still crying. “Private Ferro!” she snapped, getting her attention. When Ferro turned to look at her, recoiling slightly when she saw who was addressing her, Larkins pointed irritably at the ground in front of herself. “Get down here.”

She could see Ferro shaking as she set the jacket on her bed and climbed down the ladder. As soon as the young woman’s feet touched the floor, Larkins grabbed her by the collar and began marching towards her room, dragging Ferro after her. The moment they were inside, Larkins slammed her door and glared at Ferro’s frightened expression. “I want an answer from you, Private, and it had better be a fucking good one. What the absolute fuck did I just witness from you in the gym tonight?”

“Ma’am?” Ferro whispered, trembling with fright, which only made Larkins angrier. Clenching her fists and trying to contain her rage, she said slowly, “That just might have been the single most pathetic display of physical abilities I’ve ever seen from a RIFT trainee, including back when I was in training. What special type of stupidity do you have that made you ever think you’d actually make it as a RIFT member when you’re that fucking weak?”

“I-I-I…” Ferro stammered helplessly, an expression of confusion on her face.

Larkins leaned in close to her, growling, “I’m not going to fail you just yet, Private. You’re going to stay here for a while, and one of two things is going to happen. Either you’re going to shape up and toughen up, or I’m going to break you and send you crying home to mommy and daddy. But either way you’re going to learn respect for what we do here.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ferro bit her lip hard as the tears streamed down her face, and she sniffled loudly.

“Don’t give me that fucking pouty lip, Private!” Larkins snapped angrily, suddenly feeling a sense of déjà vu as if she had heard the words somewhere else a long time ago. Where? “Just get the fuck out of my office. If you’re going to be a whiny fucking crybaby, do it on your own time! Out!”

Ferro spun on her heel and dashed for the door, sobbing loudly as she slammed it behind herself on the way out. Larkins sat down hard on the edge of her bed and let out a loud, exasperated groan as she felt the anger leave her. There was a tiny voice whispering inside her that maybe she had been too hard on Ferro. It was her first day, after all.

“Shut the fuck up,” she snapped at herself out loud. “She’s no different from any of the others. You don’t give out free passes to someone just because it’s their first day at something, and you never have. You didn’t with the last flight and you didn’t with Mathis, so why-”

Oh, fuck. Mathis. That was who Ferro reminded her of. She had that exact same overly-friendly attitude at first, and then underneath she broke down easily when pushed hard, just like Mathis had. This was bad. This was really bad. She really wasn’t sure she could train someone like Mathis, or at least not well enough to pass. She had barely been able to work with Mathis even after the rookie had graduated. How was she supposed to deal with training someone with the same personality?

“I can’t fail her just for reminding me of someone I didn’t get along with,” she muttered, consciously trying to strangle the idea out of existence. “It’s not fair to her. If she fails, it’s going to be for legitimate reasons.”

Larkins wasn’t too worried about that. Ferro would probably be one of the first ones to go. It wouldn’t take long for her to miss the bar for expected performance or screw something up, and then Larkins would be justified in kicking her out. But until then Ferro would get the same chance as everyone else; she just needed to be pushed harder until she proved what she was worth. Maybe she could still turn herself around.

“I can’t let her get to me just because of who she reminds me of,” she whispered, although she knew that wasn’t going to be as easy as she would like.

The next few days only seemed to confirm Larkins’ worries about the new flight, and she could only resist the temptation to relieve the frustration their ineptness and lack of discipline caused for so long. On the morning of the fifth day, Larkins woke with a splitting headache that felt like her brain was being slammed back and forth inside her skull, but she only had a second to process that pain before she realized that what little was left in her stomach wasn’t going to stay there for long. She rolled out of bed and staggered to the bathroom, reaching the toilet just in time. After her stomach finally settled and she was able to clean up and get dressed, Larkins sighed heavily as she pulled her boots on. “I hate this fucking job.”

She hated not being able to fly combat missions anymore. The most flying she had done in the last year and a half was the previous group’s live flight training and final flight exams. She hated waking up every morning knowing she had to spend the day with people who were hardly more than kids and didn’t understand a thing about what being a RIFT member was all about. She hated having to constantly explain little details of things she felt should be perfectly obvious to anyone with normal intelligence. More than anything else, she hated the feeling of being trapped in her own life. When she had passed training for herself, she had thought that would be it and she would never have to look at the inside of a training barracks or classroom again. She had earned the right to be something more. Now she had been sent back to exactly the same place that she had been ten years ago.

“Ten years,” she muttered bitterly to herself as she finished tying her laces and stood up. Was she really thirty years old? She didn’t want to believe it, but it was true. Her birthday had been three months ago and she had barely noticed it. The last birthday she had really acknowledged in any way was her nineteenth; the last one before she joined the Marines. Even that had been a quiet day. With no friends to spend the day with, she had gone out on her own and come home to find her family waiting for her with a cake. She had never seen the point of celebrating birthdays and even if she had, there was no opportunity for that during her time in the Marines. First there was training, and then Sloan. By the time she had the opportunity the year before, she had no interest at all in acknowledging it. It was just another day for her.

Larkins stepped out into the hallway, wincing at the bright lights illuminating the metal-walled corridor. Most of the flight was already lined up and waiting for the last few members so they could head to breakfast, and Evison was standing at the head of the line. Larkins silently took her place at the back. Her hands shook slightly as they marched out of the hallway, and she cursed herself silently and tried to hide the hangover-induced tremors as well as she could. She needed food, and then after breakfast she’d pick up an electrolyte drink to rehydrate on the way to the classroom. That would make her feel better, even if only for a little while.

September, 2170

The days and weeks slowly blurred together for Larkins. She didn’t want to admit it, but spending an increasing number of evenings in a drunken stupor or passed out wasn’t helping. She did her best during the days, but as soon as the trainees were back in their rooms and on free time for the evening, she could let herself go if she wanted. She wasn’t worried about any of them wanting to come in to ask questions or bother her. They were too afraid of her, so they would go to Evison instead. And if anyone did knock on her door she would just ignore them. She also didn’t need to worry about anyone hearing her from outside because the barracks were surprisingly well-constructed to the point that few sounds made it outside a room once the door was shut. That was part of the reason why the trainees had to keep their room doors open when they had someone else in their room with them. As long as there was no one directly outside in the hallway, her drunken rambling and rants to herself would go unnoticed.

She wasn’t sure what to make of the trainees in the current flight. Their skills and intelligence seemed to be spread over a wider range than the previous flight; some were doing reasonably well and some weren’t. Larkins watched them closely, especially Ferro. To her surprise, the young woman struggled and clawed her way along, just barely doing enough to get by. Her performance was far from impressive, but Larkins had to admit she liked Ferro’s determination. She couldn’t tell if it was genuine determination, simply an unwillingness to give up or fail, or maybe even an outright fear of failing, but Ferro seemed to actually be trying. Larkins hoped she would be able to pull herself together and do better, but if not, she would feel no shame or guilt about cutting the teenager out of training.

She was more concerned about some of the other flight members, particularly Grover, Harvey, and Kirchner. Grover was in decent physical shape, but her classwork was less than stellar. Although Larkins couldn’t stop herself from berating the young woman for her stupidity every time Grover turned in a poorly-done assignment or didn’t score well on a test, she knew that the private had a roughly average intelligence level. But that wasn’t good enough when RIFT members had to be better than average. They had to be stronger, faster, and smarter. Grover was none of those. She was simply average, which by Larkins’ training standards meant weak, slow, and stupid. Harvey suffered from the same issues, although he was a bit smarter than Grover, and Kirchner was in good physical shape and seemed reasonably intelligent, but Larkins was beginning to suspect he was more affected by heights than he let on. If he had issues with vertigo, that meant he could have problems with the simulated drop tests. He would never pass if that was the case. They weren’t the only ones who were a cause for concern, but Larkins considered the three of them to be the most likely to fail. Those worries were confirmed by the end of September, when she and Evison looked over the results of the flight’s most recent physical and classroom evaluations. Kirchner had done alright, but Grover and Harvey had both fallen short of the requirements for passing both.

Larkins tried to force herself to remain emotionless as she and Evison lined up the flight members and made the announcement that the two privates were being removed from training, but she could only hold back for so long when Evison began stammering and hesitating. She understood that he didn’t like having to fail anyone, but to her it was better to get it over with and not drag out their suffering and disappointment. She broke in and spoke over Evison, telling the two privates that they had failed. She felt a twinge of sympathy when Grover broke down crying, but she quickly strangled it out. There was no point in feeling pain for someone she couldn’t help. It would only drag her down. She looked over the remaining trainees, feeling satisfied. Grover’s and Harvey’s failures were unfortunate but expected. Not everyone had what it took to be a RIFT member and she wasn’t going to feel ashamed for doing her job and weeding out the ones who couldn’t make the grade.

Larkins was able to convince herself of that for the next few days, until the day before the flight’s first simulator training. She started thinking back to her own experience in training and the first time she had gone into the simulators. The first drop had felt like her insides were being ripped out, but she hadn’t passed out or vomited like some of her classmates had. But she hadn’t handled it well either. Her observing instructor told her afterwards that her performance had been average. That word had marked most of her early training. She was average at classwork, average in physical fitness, and average at everything. She had changed and fit into the role better and better as training went on or she never would have graduated, but thinking back to that time made her realize that she hadn’t been much different from Grover or Harvey in the beginning.

The recognition of the fact that she hadn’t been much different from two failures made an uncomfortable tension settle in Larkins’ stomach, and it stayed there for the whole day. She barely touched her food at lunch and dinner, and she was plagued by an aching need for the numbness only one kind of painkiller could give her. Evening couldn’t come fast enough, and neither did the effects of the vodka when she started drinking it. She had grown more and more accustomed to drinking straight vodka and downed several shots in rapid succession.

It wasn’t until her vision began to get blurry and she had trouble sitting up straight in her chair that it dimly registered what a bad idea this was tonight. “Don’t do this, Skye,” she mumbled to herself. “You need to be awake tomorrow. Big day for everyone.” Then she laughed loudly. “When the fuck have I ever listened to myself trying to tell myself not to get drunk? Fucking never. Damn it, not fair that Sloan was such a bitch but she figured that out about me. Just can’t say ‘no’.”

She leaned forward unsteadily and picked up the bottle off her desk to pour another shot, but her hands shook so badly that she missed the glass and ended up spilling on the table. “Motherfucker!” she spat, picking up the glass and hurling it at the wall in a sudden outburst of rage. It shattered against the metal surface and as the fragments and slivers of broken glass fell to the floor, something about it struck Larkins as unbelievably funny and she found herself roaring with laughter as she stared at the pieces glinting on the floor. “Uhhhh, oops,” she slurred when she stopped laughing. “Didn’t mean to do that.”

She looked back down at the pool of vodka on her desk and lowered her head in a vain attempt to lap it up. When her drunken brain finally processed the futility of the effort, she straightened up again as best she could, almost falling out of her chair in the process. That set her off into a fit of hysterical giggling and she clutched weakly at the bottle, lifting it to her lips to drink from it. Her good humor disappeared the moment she realized it was empty and she threw it at the wall like the shot glass. It exploded with a loud pop and crash and showered her with glass fragments, but she was too drunk to care. “Guess that was last call for me,” she mumbled, pushing on the desk to try to get herself to stand up. “Bedtime.”

She managed to stand, but when she turned to take a step towards her bed, she felt like her head didn’t stop turning when her body did. She swayed awkwardly, making a pathetic attempt to compensate for the dizziness, but correcting a movement she hadn’t made in the first place caused her to lose her balance completely and she barely had time to realize the ground was suddenly rushing up towards her before she felt a sharp blow to her skull and everything went black.

The pain Larkins felt when she woke up was more intense than she had ever felt before. She whimpered softly, covering her eyes as the light from the window fell on her. “Oww,” she sobbed weakly, putting her hands up to touch her head and gasping in pain as she touched a large bump on the right side of the top of her head. “What the fuck did I do to myself last night?”

It took several minutes before she was conscious enough to sit up. Her stomach clenched agonizingly and she wrapped both arms around her abdomen, hugging herself and trying not to scream in pain. She squeezed her eyes shut, whimpering, “Stop! Please!”

When the pain subsided enough for her to open her eyes again, she found herself staring at the side of her bed, and she realized that she must have fallen and hit her head on the frame the night before. “I need a doctor,” she moaned, lifting her hands to hold her head gently. She knew she needed medical attention and a proper check-up after a blow to the head, but it was too risky. There would be questions about how and where it happened and she was in no shape to tell a convincing lie.

“Ahh!” she wailed as she tried to get up and sit on her bed and a new wave of pain struck her, almost making her lose control of her stomach. She should pull herself together enough to go talk to Evison and make some excuse to beg off for the day. “I can’t do this,” she said, trying to breathe deeply and stay calm. “There’s no way I can fucking do this today.”

But then she thought of the trainees waiting for their first drop tests. Today was a big day for them, and she couldn’t let them down. They were counting on her being there and it wasn’t fair to hold them back or slow them down because of her own problems. The blame would rest solely on her shoulders if one of them failed training because of her mistakes, and she didn’t think she could handle that.

“You motherfuckers had better appreciate this,” she groaned as she forced herself to her feet, even though she knew they wouldn’t. They would never know what she put herself through when she was alone. They probably all hated her for how hard she was on them. There was no way they understood why she treated them the way she did. But that didn’t give her any excuses. She still had a duty to do and she was going to fulfill it no matter what the cost was.

She slowly got dressed, choked down several painkiller tablets, and put her sunglasses on before leaving her room to join the trainees, who were all already lined up and waiting.

“What took you so long?” Evison asked as she walked past, but she ignored him and took her position at the end of the line, where she could keep an eye on everyone. She hoped the patrol cap she had put on would hide the lump on her head until the swelling went down.

The painkillers took their time beginning to work, and Larkins was in pain throughout the entirety of breakfast and well into the preparation for the simulator tests. The pain continued even after lunch, making it difficult for her to move or focus her attention on anything. It was a relief when the first pairs of trainees were set up in the simulators, and Larkins stood watching from outside, still wishing for the pain to go away.

She was closest to the simulator that Privates Spunkmeyer and Falsson were in, so when Spunkmeyer opened the door and staggered down the stairs to sit down on one of the benches, Larkins walked over to him quickly, seeing the nausea in his face. He hunched over, gagging loudly, and Larkins sharply ordered, “Sit up and take a deep breath, rat turd.” She couldn’t stop herself from using the nickname she had come up with on finding he was from New York District. Normally she used nicknames to embarrass trainees and keep them in their place so they didn’t get overconfident, but with most of them it also became habit to refer to them by their nickname more frequently. She added sternly, “Don’t even think about puking on this floor.”

Spunkmeyer breathed deeply, looking as if he was relaxing slightly. Then Larkins saw a faint smile hovering on his lips, and she sucked in a breath as she realized what he was doing. He was trying to comfort himself by thinking of something better. That was no good. That wouldn’t help him out in the field. It wasn’t that simple. She yanked off her sunglasses, intending to look him in the eyes, but immediately regretted it when the room’s bright lights burned into her vision, sending a rod of pain straight through to the back of her head. She forced herself not to show it and demanded, “What the fuck are you thinking about?”

“N-Nothing,” Spunkmeyer stammered.

“You’re thinking about something good. I can see it in your face. What is it? Tell me before I shake the shit outta you.” She took a step closer as her anger grew. This was getting worse and worse. He wasn’t being honest with her.

“Leave him alone, Larkins,” Evison called. She whirled around to confront him for coddling one of the trainees yet again, but he ignored her open mouth and asked Spunkmeyer, “You feeling better, Spunkmeyer?”

“A-A little.”

“Come over here, then.”

Spunkmeyer got up and walked over towards Evison quickly, leaving Larkins standing behind him, the momentum of her anger crashing to a sudden halt as she realized what the other corporal had just done. “Let it go,” she whispered, trying to convince herself there was nothing she could do.

She managed to calm down as they put the next set of trainees in the simulators and was ready to pretend the whole thing had never happened by the time their drop finished. After the third set dropped, Larkins noticed that Latney and Gravis didn’t come out of their simulator at the end. She climbed the stairs to the simulator and opened the door, looking into the dimly-lit space. Latney was slumped over in his seat and Gravis was talking gently to him. Larkins saw something wet on the floor next to Latney’s seat and recoiled in disgust when she realized the private had vomited on the floor. “Damn it, Latney!” she swore irritably. “For fuck’s sake, you couldn’t have waited until you were outside the simulator to do that?”

Gravis’ head shot up and he looked like he was about to say something, but Larkins silenced him with a glare before he could say anything that would get himself into trouble. “Get him out of here,” she ordered. “I’ve got to go get someone to clean up this mess.”

She left the simulator and went in search of one of the custodian synthetics to clean out the simulator, shaking her head. This wasn’t a good first day for a lot of the trainees.

Evison ended up sending several of the trainees back to the barracks early because they had gotten sick from the drops, but Larkins didn’t have it in her to complain. Her head was still aching and even though her hair was beginning to feel sweaty, she didn’t dare take off her cap in case someone noticed the lump on her head. Eventually she grabbed an electrolyte drink from a vending machine out in the hallway and sipped on that in between setting up the different pairs of trainees for their drops. They all went through several times, and Larkins wasn’t particularly disgusted or impressed by the results. None of them did exceptionally well, but there were no obvious failures.

Unfortunately, it was inevitable that the pattern would break itself, and it happened on the last drop of the day. Privates Ferro and Sydell were in the simulator for their final drop, and Larkins stood waiting for them to emerge at the end. After several seconds passed she went up into the simulator expecting to find one of them had thrown up like Latney had. Instead she found Ferro sitting limply in her seat, her head hanging forward and her eyes closed. Sydell was hissing, “Wake up, Ferro! Wake up, damn it!”

Sydell jumped slightly when Larkins entered. “Ma’am! Uh, Ferro, uh, passed out. She won’t wake up.”

“Fuck,” Larkins growled, taking Ferro’s wrist to check her pulse. It was probably just a normal black-out, but she didn’t want to take the risk that it was something more serious. Ferro’s pulse was steady and regular, and Larkins lifted her hand to slap the trainee across the face. “Wake the fuck up, Private!”

There was no reaction from Ferro. “Unbelievable,” Larkins muttered, unscrewing the cap from her drink.

“Ma’am-oh!” Sydell exclaimed in surprise as Larkins threw the contents of the bottle in Ferro’s face, and the private jerked sharply in her chair, coming awake with a spluttering gasp. “What happened?”

“What happened?!” Larkins snarled at her. “What happened?! I’ll tell you what the fuck happened, Private! You fainted!”

“Oh, no,” Ferro groaned, reaching down to unbuckle herself.

“‘Oh, no’ is right,” Larkins repeated mockingly, hardly able to believe what had happened. She had seen trainees black out before but had never witnessed one simply faint in a simulator. “Get up and get the fuck out of this simulator, Private, and be glad I’m not dragging your ass down to the main gate and tossing you out this instant. I’ve never seen a rook faint like this before. Get in line with everyone else and not a word out of your mouth.”

Ferro got up and fled the simulator, her boots clattering on the stairs outside. Larkins looked around to see where Sydell was, and realized that she had already left the simulator. Stepping outside, she saw the young woman already waiting in line with the others. She frowned in disapproval. Sydell should have stayed behind to help Ferro if she needed it. That was part of the point for assigning training partners. Not just to make the experience more realistic, but so that each trainee had someone watching out for them and backing them up. Sydell had left Ferro behind without seeming to think twice. That was something Larkins would need to keep an eye on. She couldn’t pass someone who only thought of themselves.

Chapter 1……………………………………………………………………………………………Chapter 3

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