Never Fade Page 106

I’m not sure why it was easier to tell Vida this, or why I wanted to, when I hadn’t been able to speak a word of it to Chubs. Maybe it was because I knew she already had such a low opinion of me that it didn’t matter either way if it made her hate me that much more.

“I went too far,” I said. “With Knox, the kids at that warehouse—with Rob.”

“How?” she asked. “You mean the fact that you don’t have to touch people to use your brain voodoo?”

“It’s complicated,” I mumbled. “It won’t make sense to you.”

“Why? Because you think I’m stupid?” Vida kicked at my foot. “Give me an answer, straight, and if my little-bitty brain has questions, I can ask them.”

“That’s not—” I stopped myself. I needed to stop fighting with her over every damn thing. “It’s just…you’re okay with your abilities, right? Okay as you can be, I mean,” I corrected, seeing her sharp look. “But I hate what I can do. I hate it every day, every minute. And it’s better now that I have a grip on it, but before…” Every minute had been a waking nightmare. I had lived life second to second, holding my breath, waiting for the inevitable slip that would ruin everything again. “It’s not right, okay? I know it isn’t. I don’t like how it feels to compel people to do things, especially when I know it’s the opposite of what they would normally do. I don’t like seeing their memories or their thoughts or the things they wanted to keep to themselves.”

Vida didn’t break her gaze for an instant. “I’m not seeing the problem…?”

“I just…got in too deep,” I said. “I could feel myself digging deeper and deeper, but it didn’t matter to me. I was in control. I could get anyone to do anything I wanted. I got to punish the people who hurt me, and you, and Liam—and I still wanted more. Once I didn’t have to touch a person to use him or her, it was like taking away that last roadblock.”

She sighed. “Not that it’ll make you feel any better, but that Knox kid got what he deserved in the end.”

“It wasn’t just him,” I said. “I was in Mason’s head—and I thought, I really thought about turning him on Knox. That was my first instinct, not helping him. And then, with Rob…”

Vida didn’t react as I laid out exactly what had happened in the car—what I had done to him—in vivid detail. I confessed it all to her, the words flooding out, releasing the knot that had been tightening in the pit of my stomach since it happened.

“I don’t want to be him, Vida,” I heard myself saying. “I don’t want to use my abilities unless I have to—but then how do I stop myself?”

“Is that why you were screaming at us to leave you?” she asked. “Which, by the way, screw you. You think I’m that big of an ass**le?”

“What if I can’t stop,” I said, “and something happens to you? Or Jude, or Nico, or Cate, or Chubs, or…”

Liam. The thought turned my stomach over.

I was surprised by the quiet that followed. Vida drew her hands into her lap, fixing her gaze on them as she went to work picking at her bloody cuticles.

“That other Orange,” she said after a while. “He was a grade-A freak.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “he was. He was never shy about taking whatever he wanted from whomever he wanted.”

“Gave me the f**kin’ creeps,” she muttered. “Wormed into my head and whispered all of this disgusting shit. Tried to get me to…do things.”

“I know, he—” I started to say. My mouth finally caught up with my brain. “Hold on—what?”

“That kid. Martin,” she squeezed out. “I wanted to tell Cate, but he never let me get close enough to her.”

I don’t know what it was that rose up inside of me then—surprise, maybe, that I had never once pictured Martin positioned at the center of my team, talking with Nico, battling Vida at every turn, teasing Jude. The tiniest flash of jealousy that he had had them, even if it had only been for a few weeks. Horror, mostly, that Cate had subjected them to that monster.

I still had nightmares about riding in that car with him, feeling the first brush of his influence spike through my blood. He had played with me, batting at me with his claws, and I hadn’t been able to do one damn thing about it.

“I just figured that you would be the same way.” Her dark eyes found mine. “But you’re okay…I guess.”

I let out a humorless laugh. “Thanks…I guess.”

“The president’s kid was like that, though?” she asked. “Man, what the hell?”

“It does something to you,” I said. “The thing that scares me is that some part of me understands where they’re coming from. They took everything from us, you know? Why shouldn’t we be able to take it back if we have the power to?”

“Are you shitting me?” Vida said. “The fact that you can even ask these questions means you haven’t fallen to their level and you probably never will. I get it—I mean, I understand why you’re afraid. I do. But you’re missing the key difference between you and those two.”


“You are not alone,” she said. “You aren’t, even if it feels that way sometimes. You have people who are in your corner, who care about you like crazy. Not because you forced them to feel that way, but because they want to. Can you honestly tell me those other two shitheads have that? Do you think they would have been half as bad if there had been people there to step in and tell them when to stop?”

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