Never Fade Page 122

I didn’t give the others the chance to give their opinions. I didn’t want any of them to talk me out of it, not when there were twenty other kids in California about to be sent off to their deaths and we had no time. No time. My eyes slid over to Jude, slumped against the wall, his fingers gripping the compass, his face such a perfect portrait of grief I had to fight to keep from mirroring it.

Instead, I let the anger flood through me again. I whipped the gun across Clancy’s face and caught him by the collar of the shirt. This is the only way, I told myself as I hauled him onto his feet. His nose was bleeding, and he looked like he couldn’t quite believe it.

“Let’s go,” I hissed. “You’re buying us the hours we need.”

“Is someone going to notice this is missing?”

I glanced back at Chubs as we scaled the stairs into the small charter jet. “Probably.”

A part of me had wanted to laugh—really, truly laugh—when Clancy had finally admitted there was an airport in the city and that it was how he had come in to meet us. From the look of it, the airport had been converted to cater exclusively to private planes, though there was a single large cargo plane taxiing out onto one of the runways. I’d felt a small jolt of panic at the sight, thinking our ride was about to take off without us.

But, no, of course not. Why would Clancy travel like a commoner when he could manipulate and compel anyone into giving him anything?

The jet was ridiculously beautiful. At the sight of the plush carpet and enormous beige leather seats, I did sigh, just that little bit. Each side of the private jet was lined with bright oval windows and warm, cozy lights. The paneling along the back wall and sides of the aircraft was that glossy, expensive-looking faux wood. From what I could see, there was a fully stocked drink station between the two bathrooms in the back, past the eight enormous, plush leather seats.

“Who’d you steal this from?” I asked as I shoved Clancy inside, my gun digging into the small of his back.

“Does it matter?” Clancy grunted, dropping into the nearest seat. He held up his bound hands, nodding to the plastic zip tie Chubs had been oh so happy to supply. “Can you cut this off now?”

“Is he okay to fly?” I asked, jerking my thumb in the pilot’s direction. Most people could barely remember their own name when I was in their heads, let alone operate delicate machinery.

Clancy folded his arms over his chest. “Every time he looks at us, he sees six adults on a business trip, all of whom have paid him handsomely for his services in arranging the flight details. You’re welcome.”

Liam caught my eye as he followed the others in. “When do we get to dump him?”

It was the first time he’d spoken to me since we’d left the restaurant. I hadn’t even been able to look him in the eye before now, afraid of the disappointment I knew would be there. Liam would have fought me on this if I had let him, just like I would have fought for him and Chubs to stay in Colorado, far away from the upcoming fight.

But I think we both knew they were losing battles.

“Mid-flight?” Chubs asked, his voice brimming with hope. “Over a desert?”

Vida slid into the seat to the right of mine before Liam could. “We’re not dumping him yet, are we, boo?”

She knew exactly what I was thinking. This was what the League had taught us to do when we located a valuable asset: you brought him in, bled him for intel, and then traded him for something better. I shook my head, trying not to smile at the alarm that flashed in his dark eyes. “No, we’re not.”

The look he gave me in return made my skin feel tight around my bones. But what could he do? Nothing that I couldn’t do right back to him five times over.

I could tell Chubs wanted to ask exactly what we meant by that, but the pilot’s voice interrupted, telling us he had finished his final checks and was ready for takeoff.

I didn’t relax my grip on the gun until we were up in the air, sailing high above the jagged peaks of the Rockies. For all the grumbling he’d done about how much more likely it was for this kind of jet to crash than a normal passenger plane, Chubs passed out in his seat five minutes after the plane was in the air. I glanced over my shoulder, watching as he began to slowly drift too far to the right, only to startle awake for an instant and catch himself. The others had laid their seats out flat or curled up on them, using the blankets we’d found in one of the storage compartments.

Clancy unbuckled his seat belt, pushing onto his feet.

“Going somewhere?” I asked.

“To use the bathroom in the back,” he snapped. “Why, do you need to come in and watch?”

No, but I followed him to the back regardless, shooting him a meaningful look as he slammed the door and locked it.

I leaned back against the shelves of drinks and service ware in the back. My eyes drifted from Liam to Vida to Chubs and then, finally, to Jude sitting nearby. He’d been so quiet up until then, I’d just assumed he’d fallen asleep like the others.

“Hi,” I whispered.

He had been staring out the window to the unending stretch of land below, and he stayed that way, even when I touched his shoulder. Jude, who hated silence, whose past slithered up to him like a shadow along glass, did not say a single word.

I sat down on his chair’s armrest, glancing across the way to make sure both Liam and Chubs were still asleep. I had known Worried Jude and Terrified Jude and Ecstatic Jude, but never this shade of him.

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