Home > Champion (Legend #3)(3)

Champion (Legend #3)(3)
Marie Lu

She leans over and presses her lips against my ear. “Excuse me,” she shouts over the noise. “My girlfriends want to know if you’re Day.”

I’ve been recognized already? I shrink instinctively away and shake my head so the others can see. “You got the wrong guy,” I reply with a wry grin. “But thanks for the compliment.”

The girl’s face is almost entirely covered in shadows, but even so, I can tell she’s blushing furiously. Her friends burst out laughing. None of them look like they believe my denial. “Want to dance?” the girl asks. She glances over her shoulder toward the flashing blue and gold lights, then back at me. This must be something her friends dared her to do too.

As I’m trying to think up some sort of polite refusal, I take in the girl’s appearance. The club’s too dark for me to get a good look at her, and all I see are glimpses of neon highlights on her skin and long ponytail, her glossy lips curved into a smile, her body lean and smooth in a short dress and military boots. My refusal fades on my tongue. Something about her reminds me of June. In the eight months since June first became a Princeps-Elect, I haven’t felt excited about many girls—but now, with this shadowy doppelgänger beckoning me onto the dance floor, I let myself feel hopeful again.

“Yeah, why not?” I say.

The girl breaks into a wide smile. When I get up from the booth and take her hand, her friends all let out a gasp of surprise, followed by a loud cheer. The girl leads me through them, and before I know it, we’ve pushed our way into the crowds and carved out a tiny space right in the middle of the action.

I press myself against her, she runs a hand along the back of my neck, and we let the pounding beat carry us away. She’s cute, I admit to myself, blinded in this sea of lights and limbs. The song changes, then changes again. I have no idea how long we’re lost like this, but when she leans forward and brushes her lips over my own, I close my eyes and let her. I even feel a shiver run down my spine. She kisses me twice, her mouth soft and liquid, her tongue tasting of vodka and fruit. I flatten one hand against the small of the girl’s back and pull her closer, until her body’s solidly against mine. Her kisses grow more urgent. She is June, I tell myself, choosing to indulge in the fantasy. With my eyes closed, my mind still hazy from my cigarette’s hallucinogens, I can believe it for a moment—I can picture her kissing me here, taking every last breath from my lungs. The girl probably senses the change in my movements, my sudden hunger and desire, because she grins against my lips. She is June. It is June’s dark hair that brushes against my face, June’s long lashes that touch my cheeks, June’s arm wrapped around my neck, June’s body sliding against mine. A soft moan escapes me.

“Come on,” she whispers. Mischief laces her words. “Let’s go get some air.”

How long has it been? I don’t want to leave, because it means I’ll have to open my eyes and June will be gone, replaced with this girl that I don’t know. But she pulls on my hand and I’m forced to look around. June is nowhere to be seen, of course. The club’s lights flash and I’m momentarily blinded. She guides me through the throngs of dancers, down the club’s dark hallway, and out an unmarked back door. We step into a quiet back alley. A few weak spotlights shine down along the path, giving everything an eerie, greenish glow.

She pushes me against the wall and drowns me in another kiss. Her skin is moist, and I feel her goose bumps rise beneath my touch. I kiss her back, and a small laugh of surprise escapes her when I flip us around and pin her against the wall.

She’s June, I tell myself on repeat. My lips work greedily along her neck, tasting smoke and perfume.

Faint static sizzles in my earpiece, the sound of rain and frying eggs. I try to ignore the incoming call, even as a man’s voice fills my ears. Talk about a buzzkill. “Mr. Wing,” he says.

I don’t answer it. Go away. I’m busy.

A few seconds later, the voice starts up again. “Mr. Wing, this is Captain David Guzman of Denver City Patrol Fourteen. I know you’re there.”

Oh, this guy. This poor captain’s always the one tasked with trying to get hold of me.

I sigh and break away from the girl. “Sorry,” I say breathlessly. I give her an apologetic frown and gesture at my ear. “Give me a minute?”

She smiles and smoothes down her dress. “I’ll be inside,” she replies. “Look for me.” Then she steps through the door and back into the club.

I turn my mike on and start slowly pacing up and down the alley. “What do you want?” I say in an annoyed whisper.

The captain sighs over the earpiece and launches into his message. “Mr. Wing, your presence is requested in Denver tomorrow night, on Independence Day, at the Capitol Tower’s ballroom. As always, you are free to turn down the request—as you usually do,” he mutters under his breath. “However, this banquet is an exceptional meeting of great importance. Should you choose to attend, we’ll have a private jet waiting for you in the morning.”

An exceptional meeting of great importance? Ever heard so many fancy words in one sentence? I roll my eyes. Every month or so, I get an invitation to some goddy capital event, like a ball for all the high-ranking war generals or the celebration they held when Anden finally ended the Trials. But the only reason they want me to go to these things is so they can show me off and remind the people, “Look, just in case you forgot, Day is on our side!” Don’t push your luck, Anden.

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