Never Fade Page 100

“I’m League, and so are Vida and Jude.” I knew Chubs well enough to know exactly why he hadn’t let that piece of information slip. “He didn’t tell you because he knew that you’d want to split. But he and I have a deal.”

“I—I don’t get it,” Liam managed to squeeze out. He was backing away again, running a hand over his face. “A deal?”

I’d already driven the knife into his chest. Twisting it now would finish things forever.

Don’t, a small voice whispered. Not again.

He stared at me, waiting, shaking from the cold or anger, I couldn’t tell. I came toward him, and he let me. Liam was breathing harder now, a wheezing, wet whistle, as I reached for the bottom hem of his brother’s jacket and ripped the stitches Cole had hastily sewn in place.

The flash drive was a simple black rectangle, stamped with Leda Corp’s golden swan. It was warm from having lived so close to his body for the past few hours—days, maybe.

Liam stumbled back, his every thought crashing over his face. “What the hell is that?”

“Your brother,” I said. “He sent us to find you. You took his jacket instead of yours when you ran in Philly. And you took this with you.”

“What is that?” he repeated, trying to reach for it. I closed my fist and shoved the damn thing in my pocket before I was tempted to do something stupid. All of this for a tiny piece of cheap plastic.

“It’s classified intel,” I told him, forcing my feet forward, up the path. “From the Op your brother was running.”

I half hoped he wouldn’t come after me. That he’d stay down there, and I could go back and walk through the camp, through whatever woods we were in, and just disappear. But nothing in my life was ever going to be that easy. Instead, he pushed past me on the trail, taking those first few steps like he was staggering out of knee-deep water, unsteady and coughing up the fluid trapped in his lungs. Instinctively, I put a hand out to steady him, but he ripped his arm away and kept pressing forward, calling Chubs’s name.

He must have already been out looking for us. We met him on the path, just as it curved into the campsite. The kid was a mess of sleepy eyes and rumpled clothes; his brain must not have fully warmed up yet, because he hadn’t thought to put on a coat or shoes despite the frigid temperature.

“What?” he cried, looking between us. “What’s going on?”

“I can’t even believe you,” Liam rasped. “What the hell kind of game are you playing here?”

Chubs blinked. “What are you…?”

“I know everything!” Liam stalked over to him, still breathing hard from the climb back up the trail. “How long were you planning on keeping this from me? The League. Really? Jesus—you’re supposed to be the smart one! You made a deal with them?”

“Oh.” Chubs rubbed a hand over the tufts of his dark hair and blew out a long, exasperated sigh. I had about three seconds to deflect Liam’s anger back on me before Chubs said something he’d really regret.

“Yes, that!” Liam charged up into the campsite, stalking over to the smothered fire. He wouldn’t let me get close enough to so much as share his breathing space.

“Will you please listen to me?” I asked. “It was all my idea—all of it. Your brother sent us to find the flash drive, and in the process we found your friend. We agreed that if we helped him find you, we wouldn’t turn any information about you over to the League. And we’d help you get to California to find Zu.”

At first I assumed the wide-eyed look Chubs flashed my way was because he’d been shocked at my ability to turn out one lie after another. But some part of me must have known, even as I said it, that I’d picked the wrong nail to hammer home.

“And you know that how?” Liam demanded. “And you know her how, exactly?”

I swallowed, wrapping my arms around my center, my mind spinning through excuses, each one worse than the next.

“Answer me!”

I flinched. “I just…have heard stories—from Chubs, I mean.”

Liam spun toward Chubs, his face burning with anger and disbelief. “What else did you tell her?”

“Nothing! Lee, you have to calm down—please, sit down. Listen.”

“I can’t believe you! Don’t you realize they have ways of tracking her down? Do you want them to take her in? Zu—we promised that we’d—I thought—”

“He didn’t tell me anything about her, other than you were traveling together for a while,” I said calmly. Liam had been protective of all of us in different ways, but Zu had been a special case.

“Stay out of this, Green!” He was still wholly focused on Chubs. “What else did you tell her? What else did she get out of you?”

I jerked back, one single word throwing me off balance.

“What did you just call her?” Chubs interrupted. Of course he had caught it, too.

“What? I’m not allowed to use her name now?” he demanded. The look on his face was ripe with derision. “What do you want me to call you? What clever codename did the League think up for you? Pumpkin? Tiger? Tangerine?”

“You called me Green,” I said.

“No I didn’t,” he said. “Why the hell would I call you that? I know what you are.”

“You did,” Chubs insisted. “You called her Green. You really don’t remember?”

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