Never Fade Page 113

My skin felt tight and hot over my face with the effort it took not to burst into tears.

“—a damn idiot!” Liam was shouting. “Because I feel like a goddamn fool!”

“He knows?” Vida asked. “You told him?”

“No…I think he remembers. I think I undid it. Or I never really did it. I don’t know. He won’t talk to me. He’s never going to talk to me ever again.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Jude offered. “He’s probably just overwhelmed. It seems like…”

“Like what?” Vida asked.

“That some part of him remembered you. He got so upset when we found you, and he thought you were going to die, remember?”

“Why was he acting like such an ass, then?” Vida asked.

“Think about it—he knew that Roo was League, but he treated her differently than he treated us, right? Maybe being around you made him feel confused—his brain was telling him one thing, but his instincts were telling him another?”

That was the way Liam had explained it; Jude had been perceptive enough to pick up on something I never would have imagined possible. With my parents and Sam…they had been cold after I’d erased their memories—sealed their memories, or whatever it was I was actually doing. I had been so young then, I’d just assumed that some part of them recognized what I was, and they hated me for it.

Maybe I wasn’t completely wrong, then. If I had taken their memories of me but none of the feelings they had, was it the same for them as it was for Liam? They were scared and just confused by what they felt? My mom hadn’t exactly been stable then—she had panic attacks if I was even a second late coming home from school. Maybe she saw me that morning, and it was too much for her. And Dad, calm, reliable Dad—he could have been worried about what she would do, and that’s why he didn’t have me come back inside.

Maybe I could fix them, too. The voice was small, but it was there, tugging at my ear.

“It doesn’t change what Lee feels now, though,” I said. Or how my parents would feel to find out what their daughter really was.

I let the others lead me back to the car and slid into the backseat. They had packed up the tent and cleared the campsite before they’d come to get us, not only because they were worried, but because Vida had finally been able to send her message to Cate.

And she’d gotten one in reply.

Instead of taking one of the front seats, Vida slid in next to me. Jude was starting to climb in after her when she pushed him back out with her foot and said, “Will you go get Grannie and tell him to hurry his ass up?”

Jude started to protest, but Vida was already shutting the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, feeling much more alert seeing the Chatter in her hand. “What did she say?”

“I don’t know… Something feels off,” Vida said. “Read it yourself.”

The Chatter’s blue-white light flooded the backseat as I scrolled up through the latest conversation.


Vida had written back:


The response was instant:


I knew you lost a person’s voice through short, abrupt messages. And that was the whole point of the Chatter: to relay information or media as quickly as possible. “Ditch Target” seemed especially terse, though. Not only that, but why would Cate—or Cole—risk leaving HQ and drawing attention to their plan?


Below that was a street address.

“Do you think something happened?” Vida pressed. “Why the hell would she risk leaving HQ when it could blow the whole Op?”

“Maybe she thinks we won’t be able to cross the California border without her help?” It was a weak explanation but a plausible one. “Vida, did she give the Chatter to you directly? Like, physically handed it to you?”

“Yeah,” Vida said. “Nico set up the link between them himself.” I watched her dark eyes go wide as she finally came upon the same horrible possibility I had. “You think someone took the Chatter from her? That something happened to her? Or Cole has it?”

“I think it’s possible someone broke into our link between our Chatters,” I said, my voice sounding much calmer than I felt. “And they’ve been intercepting all of our messages back and forth.”

“No way,” Vida said. “The whole point is that you can’t hack the line. Is there any way to test?”

Maybe—one. I clenched my jaw, typing out each word carefully, deliberately.


The seconds dragged on and the screen dimmed from inactivity, but I didn’t shut it off and Vida didn’t pull away until it flashed back to full glow. The vibration seemed to race up the length of my bone, sending a wave of goose bumps after it.


It was another ten minutes before the boys appeared at the entrance of the convenience store, each with something different in his arms. Chubs was all but nuzzling a package of toilet paper, Jude was balancing five different jumbo bags of chips, and Liam was struggling not to drop his ten soda bottles.

“Breathe, boo,” Vida said, “play it cool. We just gotta get to Colorado.”

And lie the whole way there, I thought, leaning my forehead against the door. It hadn’t been much of a decision at all. If it wasn’t Cate or Cole waiting for us, it meant something had happened to them—either their plan with the flash drive had been discovered, or someone found out they knew exactly where we were, and they were doing nothing to bring us back in. So many possible suspects flashed through my mind: Alban, his advisers, Jarvin, all of his friends. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it all came down to the flash drive, couldn’t shake the thoughts of how someone like Jarvin would use the intel for his own agenda, rather than to help us. And the worst of it was, we wouldn’t know if it was safe to bring ourselves and the flash drive back to HQ unless we confirmed it first with whoever was waiting in Colorado.

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