Taryn’s heart leaped in her chest. She wasn’t crazy. Or at least not alone in her insanity. The air between them was thick. She could feel him trying to pry the answer out of her with his large, colorless eyes. She took a split second to gather herself and gave him a confused look.
“What are you talking about?” she asked innocently.
His pale face blushed pink with anger and his eyes narrowed to slits.
“The music. I know you hear it too. It told me you did,” he said evenly.
“Wow. Guess the rumors are true. You have lost it,” she said in what she hoped was a casual tone.
“I haven’t-! You’re lying.”
“No. I’m not. And I don’t have all day to waste talking to a madman. If you’ll excuse me?” she asked, mimicking his early formality.
She strode out of the room with her heart in her throat. He knew. And, unfortunately, the music was speaking to him. And, even worse, it had mentioned her. Behind her, Pearce called out, but she ignored him and walked confidently to the control room. She felt like if she so much as stumbled, she’d be dragged back and forced to face Beckham’s coolly simmering rage. With shaking fingers, she entered her access code to the control room.
“Didn’t expect to see you back so soon, Tar.” Captain Aaron said, still facing the vastness of space.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” Taryn said.
Something in her tone alarmed Captain Aaron. He turned his chair around to face her. When his eyes met hers, there was a brief moment of shock. Behind him, Taryn could see her pale, scared reflection in the huge windows.
“What is it?” he asked.
Taryn took a deep breath and told him everything.
Pearce called after Taryn as she left, but she didn’t turn back. He didn’t particularly want to speak with her, but he didn’t think she should be leaving so soon. He watched her go, resentment towards her from this morning still bubbling inside him. If Beckham was going to be pissed at her, let him.
Nearby, Ellis laughed her tinkling laugh. The sound of it soothed his bruises and his anger in equal measure. She was beautiful. She was all he ever saw and all he had ever wanted. But it didn’t matter. Beckham had taken a marked interest in her and there was a rumor he was going to be king when they landed. He would need a queen. Everyone said so.
“Hey, Ellis,” Pearce called, trying to strike up a conversation.
“Oh. Hi, Pearce,” she replied calmly.
“So. You tired of the…whole space…thing yet?” he asked trying to sound calm and failing.
“No. It’s still…I don’t know. Amazing, I guess. Wish we could see more of though. The windows are so small,” she replied graciously.
“Well, I know how to sneak into the-”
With a jerk of his head, Richmond signaled that Beckham was ready to resume holding court.
“See you around, Pearce,” Ellis said as she slipped inside.
“Yeah. Bye,” he replied.
Pearce slumped against the wall as the others filed inside. If he were braver, he’d file in with them and stand up to Beckham for a change, but he knew better. And besides, if Beckham did take over once they landed, there was always a chance he’d be rewarded for loyal service or something.
His daydreams of a job working for their probable new king and Ellis finally paying attention to him were interrupted by Richmond’s grabbing his collar and shoving inside. The man was a giant, over a head taller than Pearce and twice as strong. He had the unique ability to be perfectly understood without uttering a word.
Pearce made his way through the crowd to Beckham. There was a dangerousness in Beckham that he had not seen before. He looked like a shark circling a raft of shipwreck survivors.
“Yes?” Pearce asked.
“Keep an eye on Taryn. Report anything unusual you see to me. You are to be her new shadow, Pearce.” Beckham said, his normally lazy, rich voice shot through with anger.
With a brief nod and without another word, Pearce made his way back through the crowd. If Beckham wanted him to keep an eye on Taryn, he’d keep an eye on Taryn.
“Ellis,” he heard Beckham call.
Despite his best efforts, he turned back. Beckham was gesturing for Ellis and Cassidy, her faithful best friend, to sit next to him. They did, Ellis practically on top of him, Cassidy a bit further away. With a stab of jealousy, he saw the two girls started chatting happily to Beckham as he smiled his polite smile. Fighting the rather insane urge to go punch Beckham in the face, he turned and made his way through the sterile hallways of the spaceship.
After knocking on Taryn’s door for long enough to know she wasn’t there, he decided to check the control room. She had been in a hurry to see the captain this morning, after all. Plus, he could remember her being close with the captain in the beginning, before Beckham took control and everything was shiny and new and exciting.
When he reached the control room, he could see her and the captain deep in conversation. He buzzed to be let in. They both looked at him and Taryn seemed to visibly flinch. The doors slid open with a whisper and he stepped inside to be met with a slightly frantic Taryn.
“Pearce. Hi. Look, I’m sorry I didn’t go with you. I actually should have. Beckham’s thing was way more important,” she said quickly.
“It’s fine.” Pearce replied softly.
“Okay. Good. So…what do you want?” Taryn asked.