Never Fade Page 130

Then, he gripped my face between his palms. “You can’t tell, you hear me? No one else can know, not even Liam, especially not Lee—okay? Nod your head.”

Jesus—Liam didn’t know? No one else knew about this?

“You, me, Cate, and Alban,” Cole said, as if reading my thoughts. “That’s it. And we’re now a party of three. You tell, and it’s over for me.”

I nodded.

“…other one…” I said weakly, tilting my head toward the hall.

Cole grunted. “I don’t do the damsel-in-distress thing with dudes.”

I shot him what I hoped was a glare and not a cross-eyed look. He sighed and stood, squaring his shoulders in the way Liam always did when he was set on something. Cole disappeared for a second, ducking back out to grab Clancy. I doubted he even looked at Clancy’s face before he dumped him next to me.

“The Greens sent us the message you were here, so we decided to start the party early,” he explained. “Couldn’t wait one more day to see this handsome mug, could you?”

I coughed, trying to clear whatever was lodged in my throat.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay in here,” he snapped. “Leave this room before we give the all-clear, and I’ll skin your ass!”

When he turned for the door, it was like his confidence and control clicked back into place. His movements were smooth, assured.

I don’t know how much time passed before the sound of the firefight reached us—five minutes, ten, maybe even fifteen. Feeling was returning to my limbs in hot rushes of pins and needles, but I preferred the pain to limp uselessness. When I could, I pushed myself onto my knees and began to shove Alban’s old desk against the door. I knew it wouldn’t provide much cover or pose much of a challenge to anyone hell-bent on getting in, but it felt better than doing nothing. And, if I were being honest, it was a visual block for me, too. A reminder that I needed to wait and let Cole and the others clean out Jarvin’s infestation before I went to find the others.

They’re all right; they’re all right; you’re all right…I crawled back over to the filing cabinets, drawing my legs up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them, trying to cage in the feelings that felt too big to keep inside.

They are okay.

Clancy shifted beside me, a stray lock of dark hair falling into his eyes. As much time as we had spent together at East River, I’d never seen him sleep before—he would never, I realized, ever let someone else be around him while he was so vulnerable.

My eyes drifted over to the trash can and the papers I’d spilled out of it. I crawled over to them on my hands and knees, scooping up the flashlight Clancy had dropped. There was so much shouting happening outside of that dark room that I couldn’t understand what any one voice was saying.

I took a deep breath as the shooting eased off and the doors to the staircase slammed open and shut repeatedly. They are okay; you are okay.

I aimed the flashlight away from the door, down at the scorched pages I’d gathered into my lap. A quarter of the pages or so were unreadable—sizeable holes had burned through the photographs and pages. Aside from the smears of soot and smoke stains from the top sheets, the bottom of the stack was in much better shape. Most were charts and graphs, all in that same strange scientific language that would have tripped up even Chubs. These were medicines—medical terms. They had the same sort of complicated names as the list of medicines Chubs had given me in Nashville. Every now and then my eyes would catch a few stray words of plain English.

Subject A is free of symptoms following the procedure and routine…

Showing signs of passive behavior…

Conclusive results are pending…

But at the top of them all, printed in bold black text, were two words I did recognize: Project Snowfall.

I only stopped flipping through the pages when I reached the photographs. The one that showed the woman’s face.

It was one of the unexpected drawbacks to living almost half of your life locked away in a camp with no access to any kind of media. You got the feeling that every face you encountered on TV or in the papers was somehow familiar, but the name would slide away from you before you could grasp it. I felt it now, staring at the familiar blond woman.

The shot itself was strange—she was glancing over her shoulder but not into the camera itself. There was an unmarked brick building behind her that seemed oddly run down in comparison to the neat, classic navy dress suit she was wearing. The look on her face wasn’t afraid so much as nervous, and I wondered, for a second, if she rightfully thought someone was tailing her. The next photo was smaller, torn in a way that made me think Alban had started to rip it up, only to change his mind. In this one, she sat between the former leader of the League and a much younger President Gray.

The connection stole my breath.

Clancy, no, please, Clancy—

“Holy shit,” I whispered. The woman I’d seen in his mind…this was…

The First Lady of the United States.

I reached for the other scattered pages, gathering them back up in a pile. Out of their proper order, the documents and reports didn’t make much sense, but there were diagrams of brains with tiny, neat Xs marked over them.

I skimmed through the newspaper articles describing charity work Lillian Gray had done across the country; someone had highlighted different key phrases about her family (“a sister in Westchester, New York,” “parents retired to their farm in Virginia,” “a brother, recently deceased”) and her different school degrees, including the PhD she’d earned in neurology from Harvard. She’d also given a “touching” eulogy at the vice president’s funeral, “flanked by the smoking wreckage of the Capitol,” and had refused to comment on the president’s reluctance to immediately replace him.

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