Matheus hit the ground first. The air exploded out of his lungs; he felt like a popped balloon. The force of the impact knocked Quin out of his arms, but Matheus still took the brunt of the damage. He lay still for a second, listening to Apollonia shout orders, too dazed to remember how to move. His bones vibrated from the shock of sudden deceleration; his flesh felt as though he’d bathed in Novocain. Then the ache set in. Matheus groaned. He’d definitely broken his spleen this time.
Rolling onto his side, Matheus pushed himself upright. His legs wavered, but held steady. Behind him, he heard a door burst open and the crash of heavy footsteps. Matheus didn’t stop to look. He scooped up Quin in a fireman’s hold, knees dipping before Matheus gave them a stern talking to. Staggering and weaving, Matheus ran toward the copse of trees behind Apollonia’s house. Quin’s head bounced against Matheus’ back, accompanied by high-pitched whimpers.