Never Fade Page 114

And if it was really Cate, then fine. Pueblo, Colorado, was as good a place as any to go our separate ways from the boys. It was like Vida had said—no use clinging to them when I’d have to snip the cord eventually.

A blast of cold air hit us as they opened the trunk and dumped the supplies there. Jude crawled in beside Vida, trying to rub some feeling back into his hands. Cold air escaped from the folds of his jacket as he leaned toward the vents and pointed them all in his direction.

Chubs reclaimed the driver’s seat, glancing back like he was surprised to find it still vacant. I met Liam’s eyes just before he opened the passenger door and hauled himself in.

I had no idea what Chubs was waiting for, but we must have sat in silence for a good five minutes before Liam finally said, “Can we pretend for a few minutes that this isn’t soul-crushingly awkward, and can someone please explain to me what’s really going on?”

Chubs finally released the parking brake. “Later. I can’t safely and successfully navigate the roads if I don’t have quiet.”

“Grannie,” Vida said, “that’s pathetic, even for you. You want one of the big kids to drive?”

“I’ll do it!” Jude offered, snapping the cover of his compass shut and sitting straight up. “I had a few lessons at HQ.”

“You had one lesson,” I said, “and it ended when you side-swiped three other cars while trying to park.”

“You killed that beautiful Mercedes,” Vida said. “That beautiful, beautiful car.”

“That wasn’t my fault!”

Chubs ignored us, and we made our way back onto the highway as he proceeded at his usual careful speed. I settled in to tell the story again, the best I could, about what Cole had planned to do with the flash drive once he had it. Everything came tumbling out, from the moment they had brought Blake’s body in, the escape in Boston, meeting with Chubs, and finding him in Nashville. Liam had questions—good ones—about how Cole and Cate were going to try to use the research as leverage for turning the League onto the right course.

“Okay,” Liam muttered when I was finished, more to himself than me. “Okay… It’s just, I have one more question. If you were going to risk your neck escaping that Op and trying to find me, what was in it for you?”

Wasn’t it obvious?

“I told you. Cole said if I brought back the flash drive, Alban would give him anything he wanted. Including working on freeing the camps,” I said. “And, in the meantime, I’d be able to make sure you were safe and that Alban would have no reason to come after you and bring you back into the fold.”

When Liam finally did speak again, his voice was almost hoarse. “Not…that they would let you out of your deal? Let you go?”

He took my silence as the no it was.

“Did you even think to ask?” he whispered, the first traces of anger slipping back in. “You’re going back, just like that—like those agents aren’t dead set on killing other kids?”

“I have to finish this,” I said.

“Yeah, and who’s going to protect you?” he shot back. “You’re just going to give them the intel and hope for the best, hope that they won’t go back on their promises or kill you because they feel like it? I just want to know why. Why give it to them when there’s a chance we can use the intel to help ourselves? If what Cole says is true and they did find a cause, then don’t we deserve to have it? Make decisions about what to do with it?”

Liam was so earnest, so passionate when he said that, it was like he was blooming back into his old self. Even the color was returning to his face.

“It’s not up for discussion,” I said. “I’m sorry, but we have to be realistic. Before…before we thought we could make it on our own, that we didn’t need any help—and look how that turned out. We need help. We can still get our way, but we can’t do it by ourselves.”

“And the help you pick is the League?” he demanded.

I pressed on, ignoring that and the indignant noise Vida made. “All the tribes are scattered, and we have no way to bring them together in any kind of force that would matter—and even if we did, it’d just be bait for the PSFs to come round us up. I know, I know that you hate this, that this isn’t what you would choose, but what do you honestly expect we’d be able to do with the research? Broadcast it out all over the world? Do you have the tech for that? The resources? I’m trying to think about what’s best for the kids in those camps—”

“No,” he said coldly, “no, you’re not thinking at all.”

“It’s done, Liam,” I said. “Maybe they’ll go back on their word, but I’m not willing to go back on mine. Not when the stakes are so high. If…I won’t like it, but I’ll understand if you want to split now, instead of in Colorado. This shouldn’t be your problem at all.”

“Colorado?” Chubs and Liam said together.

“We finally got a message from Cate,” I said, holding up the Chatter. “She wants to meet in Pueblo, Colorado.”

“She does?” Jude started. “But why—”

“When were you going to tell the rest of us?” Chubs cut in.

And as angry as he might have been at his friend, Liam was all too happy to back him on this. “You just expect us to dump you off there? What happened to us staying together until we get to California?”

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