The Rising Page 51

“I know, but it sounds crazy. I started suspecting her after she was captured. Sam said some things and when I saw Nicole in the camp . . . Things happened that I didn’t tell you about. I had to be sure. Then, at the house there, she admitted it. Everyone knows. There isn’t any question. Nicole killed Serena.”


I took a deep breath. “Because she was jealous that things came so easily to Serena. Nicole worked so hard on her grades and her singing and her swimming, and Serena did better than her without working at all. I know that sounds like a crazy reason to kill someone, but she’s . . . well, she is crazy.”

“Did she do this?” he asked, touching the side of my neck.

I reached up to feel a faint scratch there. I hadn’t noticed it before. I don’t think anyone had.

“We . . . had a fight,” I said.

“She attacked you.” He stopped my protest. “I wouldn’t blame you for going after her when she admitted to drowning Serena, but that’s not like you. She attacked you. She tried to kill you.” His hand tightened on my knee, mouth tightening, too. “Again.”

“She’s not stable. She—”

“I know. And I should care. Legally insane, that’s what the verdict would be, and someone who plans to be a lawyer should understand that. But I don’t care. She killed Serena. Her friend. Probably her best friend. After she tried to drown you, she mourned Serena with you and she pretended to be your friend. Then she tried to drown you again, crossing the channel. I don’t care how crazy she is. I don’t care if they fix her.” His grip on my knee tightened even more. “She had better never, ever come near you again, or . . .”

I must have winced as pain shot through my knee. He looked down and yanked his hand away, then swallowed, flexing his hand.

“I wouldn’t hurt her,” he said finally. “Not if I didn’t need to. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to. I don’t care what that makes me. I just—”

I put my arms around his neck and buried my face against his shoulder. “I know.”

When the others came back, I told them about Antone. That was tough. How to explain that the guy we’d been running from had helped us escape? That he wanted to help us solve our problem?

I focused on the role he’d played in our escape and how he’d championed us against the Nasts, to help Daniel and the others understand why I came to see him—however reluctantly—as an ally.

I kept glancing over at Ash. He sat so far back that if he didn’t have skin-walker hearing, I’d have thought he was ignoring the conversation. But he wasn’t. I knew that.

I wondered what he was thinking. What he was feeling. Abandoned by our mother. Sent away by the couple who’d taken him in. Repeatedly rejected by foster families. After that, you’d want to flip a middle finger to the world and say, “I don’t need anyone.” But he’d still feel the longing, the bitterness at missing out on what should be a normal part of any kid’s life—family. Then he discovers he has a father who seems to want him—really want him. Only he’s playing for the bad guys, and even if he was on our side, could Ash ever trust anyone again? Wasn’t it better—safer—not to?

When I finished, everyone went quiet. Then Daniel said, “Antone wants you to go back, doesn’t he? Voluntarily.”

I looked over at him.

Daniel continued, “I know he wasn’t going to let you just walk away. If he cares about you—which he seems to—he knows we can’t make a go of it out here. We could find our parents, but that only endangers them. You seem resigned to letting him have Kenjii, which tells me it’s temporary. As does the fact that Rafe doesn’t seem too anxious about Annie.”

“Believe me, I didn’t leave her behind by choice,” Rafe said. “She figured out we were going to try escaping and . . . and they’re helping her. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. I’m not sure I would have chosen to leave if . . .” A sidelong glance at me.

“It’s okay,” I murmured. “You didn’t have any choice, either.”

I knew what he was saying—that given the option, he might have stayed behind with Annie. Did that sting? Choosing his sister over me? No. I knew where his priorities lay.

“The point is that you’re okay leaving her there for now,” Daniel said. “She needs their help. Corey needs it, too. Maybe we’re all going to have side effects—serious ones.” There must have been a look on my face, because he glanced at me sharply. “Maya? Are you—?”

Ash came out of the shadows, cutting him off. “Go back? Did I hear that right?”

“Not go back,” I said. “Negotiate a settlement.”

“With a Cabal? Are you all crazy?”

“That’s what I thought,” Hayley said. “When you break it down, though, Daniel’s right—it’s our only real choice.”

I played the recording. Silence followed. Ash broke it.

“You get what he’s doing here, don’t you, Maya? He’s using you to bring in these other subjects. You turn them in, like some kind of bounty hunter.” He met my gaze, his eyes shuttered. “I can’t believe you’d do that.”

“She’s not,” Hayley said. “Did you even listen to the tape? Calvin is telling us exactly where the Genesis subjects are because the St. Clouds already know.”

“So he’s ‘Calvin’ now?”

She met his glare with one of her own. “That’s his name, isn’t it?”

“Hayley’s right,” Daniel said, his voice taking on his calming tone. “By talking to them, we’ll be warning them. Then we’d try to persuade them to join us in going back and negotiating.”

“With the wrong Cabal,” Ash said. “The St. Clouds sold you guys to the Nasts. The St. Clouds have your parents. The St. Clouds own these Genesis kids, and the St. Clouds are the ones who know where they are.”

“You heard the tape,” I said. “Antone says the St. Clouds don’t want our parents—they’re just stuck with them. They can’t exactly fob them off on the Nasts. As for the Genesis kids, their medical team is gone. Died in a fire at the lab. All except one doctor, who’s with the kids now—an aunt. The St. Clouds don’t really want them back. For the right price, they’d let the Nasts take the Genesis kids and our parents off their hands.”

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