Never Fade Page 121

My stomach turned over. I tried to say something, anything, but the picture of Nico—small, scared Nico—strapped down to one of the Infirmary’s beds was too much for my mind to take. I couldn’t process anything else.

“Even before East River,” Clancy said, folding his hands on the table in front of him, “I realized the only kids who would ever truly understand what I was trying to do were those who had been there with me. I thought they could be useful. But by the time I traced them to Leda Corp, Nicolas was the only survivor whose brain hadn’t been completely destroyed.”

“And all you had to do was wait until the League broke him out to make him useful,” I said, disgusted. “Were you planning on convincing him to break away and meet you at East River before that plan imploded?”

“I didn’t wait for anyone. Who do you think slipped the intel to the League about what they were doing in that lab? Who do you think suggested a way for them to get the kids out? I had to be patient, of course, and wait until they had him back in California before contacting him. And no—it was never the plan to bring him to East River, Ruby. He was more useful to me there, collecting every piece of intel about the League I asked for.”

“No,” Jude said, dragging his hands back through his hair. “No, he wouldn’t…”

“You’ve all misjudged him. Underestimated him. No one has ever suspected him, no matter how much digging I had him do.” Clancy‘s eyes were on the gun as he continued. “He’s the one who told me that the League is moving forward with strapping the bombs to those kids. That’s why he hacked the Chatter link for me. So we could meet. So I could do him this favor.”

“He told you about the flash drive,” I said. “That’s really why you’re here, right?”

His eyebrows rose, lips parting just that tiny bit. The eager glint was back in his eyes. “Flash drive? And what would be on this flash drive? Something I’d like?”

“You—” The word choked off. Clancy was looking at us all, like he was trying to pick which mind to invade. Which one would give him easiest access to the truth. I forced his attention back to me with the gun.

“He said you were looking for Stewart because he was in danger. My role was only to get you here, to tell you about what happened. But there’s something else involved?”

“Talk,” I said, “tell me everything and maybe—maybe—you live.”

Clancy sighed, his reluctance deflating his excitement about the potential gold he’d stumbled across. “Two days ago several agents revolted, killing Alban and seizing control of the organization. Everyone who stood against them was either locked up or killed.” He glanced at Liam, a smile tucked in the corner of his lips.

Cole. Cate. All of the instructors. Even Alban’s weathered face, his yellowing smile, flashed through my mind.

Once the initial shock wore off, Liam began shaking—I put my hand on his arm to steady him. But it was Vida I should have been worried about. She threw her fist in the direction of Clancy’s smug face. Chubs barely caught her around the waist, and the strength it took to wheel her back around sent them both crumpling to the floor. She was howling—actually howling—as she struggled and kicked him, trying to untangle herself from his wiry arms.

Liam had met the news about his brother with shock and Vida had been swallowed up by her own fiery anger. But Jude…he was crumbling into the kind of deep grief that was marked only by silent tears.

“What’s their plan?” I demanded. “The specifics.”

“They’re moving them out of LA by six tomorrow morning.” Shock sent me back a step, and the space between us flooded with a palpable terror. I felt it licking at my skin, leaving behind a sheen of icy perspiration. So soon. I tried to calculate the drive in my mind, find the extra hours in the day we’d need to make it there in time. “The other kids have no idea what’s going on, according to Nico. It seems that your beloved Cate was only able to warn him before they took her, too.”

And somehow—somehow that was the worst part, the hardest thing to hear.

“Took her where?” Vida demanded. “Tell me, you goddamn bastard, or I’ll rip your—”

“Why six tomorrow?” Chubs asked, still struggling to pin Vida’s arms.

“Because it’s Christmas Day,” Clancy said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The pathetic attempt my father is launching at a peace summit? Why wouldn’t they want to steal some of that spotlight? Undermine everything the Federal Coalition might be forced to agree to?”

No, no, no, no, I begged, like that could somehow change the situation. Like that tiny prayer could destroy the dread crawling through every part of me.

“Good luck getting back,” Clancy said, malice dripping from every word. “Do you know how long it took me to find a plane and a source of gas to get out here? Days. Almost a full week of looking, and then another day to find a pilot. Even if you could drive the distance in six hours, you’d still have to make it through the blockades my father and the Federal Coalition set up on each side of the California border without getting picked up. That’s going to go down smoothly, huh? Knowing that you could have saved those kids, if only you’d had just a few more hours.”

I was so sure my hatred of Clancy had a natural end and that I’d hit it one day—a point I could reach not when I forgave him but when I accepted what had happened and moved on. But it didn’t work that way; I saw it now. The feeling was like smoke, changing its scent and shape with the months and years that passed. I would never be rid of it. It would only grow, and grow, and grow until one day it finally smothered me.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies