Never Fade Page 110

I gave in to that feeling. I didn’t care what it made me—weak, selfish, stupid, terrible. I remembered that tiny bit of warm peace before I had ruined him, throwing his mind into a jumble of desperate confusion. There was so much darkness to it now; the clear, bright corridors of memories had collapsed in on themselves. I fought my way through, tearing down filmy sheets of black and burned brown. I was drowning in it, in him, and it was so different, so strange, that I didn’t recognize the fact I was in his mind until it was too late.

Stop, stop, stopstopstop—

I shoved him back, breaking the physical connection between us. We both stumbled, my head screaming with pain as I crashed down onto my knees. Liam fell back onto the nearest work table, sending the hundreds of little tools and bolts stacked there tumbling to the ground in a shower of piercing noise that seemed to go on and on, echoing the final snap that whipped through me as my mind broke away from his.

Shit, I thought, gasping for breath. I felt sick, physically ill, as the world bobbed up under me. For several terrifying seconds, the burning in my mind was bad enough that I couldn’t see at all. I all but crawled, feeling for the gun I had dropped as he grabbed me. I tried to haul myself back onto my feet using one of the shelves of hubcaps, but I only succeeded in tearing it down off the wall and sending them showering down over me.

Finally, I just gave up, leaning back against the wall, drawing my knees up to my chest. The ache had trickled down the back of my neck, dripping bit by bit into the center of my chest. Shit, shit, shit. I dug the heels of my palms against my eyes, sucking in another ragged breath.


I looked up from my hands, searching for his face in the darkness.

“Ruby, you…” Liam’s voice had an edge of panic to it now as he reached for me and pulled me up toward him. I fell against him, too stunned to move as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders, buried his face in my hair. “We—That safe house—”

Oh my God.

“You did something—you—oh, God, Chubs!” Liam pulled back, trapping my face between his hands. “Chubs was shot! They took him, and they took us—we were in that room, and you—what did you do? What did you do to me? Why would I leave? Why would I leave without you?”

The blood drained from my face, from my entire body. I ran my fingers back through his hair, forcing him to look me directly in the eye. Every one of his muscles shook. “He’s okay. Liam! Chubs is okay; he’s fine. We came to find you in Nashville, remember?”

He looked over at me again, and for the first time in weeks, his eyes were sharp. Clear. He was looking at me, and I knew the exact moment he realized what I’d done to him. His hair fell into his face as he shook his head; his lips worked in silent disbelief. I couldn’t bring myself to say one thing.

This isn’t possible.

How many memories had I wiped clean now? Dozens? A hundred? And from the beginning, from that look of pure fear on my mom’s face, I knew there would be no going back. When it happened again to Sam, it only confirmed it. Slipping into her mind, trying to fix what I’d done, had only ever proven there was nothing I could do. That there wasn’t a trace of myself left to draw out to the front of her mind again.

But now—I hadn’t pushed the memories into his mind. I knew what that felt like. This was something different; it had to be. All I’d done was pull myself free before I could sink in too far and do real damage. There was no way that this was happening. No way.

He stepped back, out of my reach. Away from me.

“I can explain,” I started, my voice trembling. But he didn’t want to hear any of it. Liam turned back to the car at the center of the damp garage, scooping up a small backpack I didn’t recognize and swinging it over his shoulder. Panicked movements brought him back to the door. He needed to see it for himself, I realized, that Chubs was all right. That everything that had happened since we found him had, in truth, actually happened.

“Wait!” I called, starting after him. “Lee!”

I heard his footsteps pound against the linoleum of the front office, and his frustrated grunt as he knocked into the desk.

I heard the gunshots. The one-two punch of explosive sound that shattered a wall of glass and brought my world down with it.


I SCRAMBLED THROUGH the front waiting room, the gun swinging up in my hands as I ran. Liam had just turned the corner back into the store—I saw him on the ground, flat on his back. The glass was scattered thickly over him; on first glance, it almost looked like someone had broken a solid sheet of ice against his chest.

That was all it took. Something cool and collected slipped into place. The terror that had almost brought me down to my knees distilled into something useful, something calculating, something the Children’s League had been careful to grow and nurture.

Controlled panic.

I wanted to run straight into the store, but I knew from countless simulations how that scenario would play out. Instead, I stuck my head out just enough to see which drink coolers had been blown out. Only the very last one, the one closest to me was shattered.

The shooter was likely by the back door—he or she must have seen a flash of Liam coming around the corner and fired.

I glanced down, long enough to see his chest rise and fall. His hands rose and settled down over it as he gasped for breath. Alive.

Where was the shooter?

I swallowed the burning anger, fingers choking my gun as I searched the front wall for something reflective. There was one of those round security mirrors just behind the cash register stand, and as grimy as it was, as narrow as my vision had become, I would never have missed her. The woman was thick around the center, in her late fifties, early sixties, if I had to pinpoint it. The wiry gray hair that was only half tucked under her hat and green hunting jacket’s collar gave her away.

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