Never Fade Page 135

I met his gaze dead-on, trying not to roll my eyes as he winked. He knew he had me.

And so did Liam.

He shoved away from the wall, but he let me catch him by the jacket as he passed. His shoulders shook with each deep, ragged breath he drew in. After days of regaining his strength and coloring, Liam was back to looking a step away from collapsing. His skin was ashy and his eyes burning as he stared at me.

“Tell me you’re leaving with us today,” Liam whispered. “Chubs and me. I know you’re too smart to buy all that bullshit. I know you.”

He saw the answer in my face. His hands captured my wrists and pushed them away.

Just before Liam reached the door, he turned back and said, his voice hoarse, “Then I have nothing left to say to you.”

Cole disappeared after his speech, muttering something about “going to check on it,” without giving another word of explanation to what or who “it” was. I had half the mind to follow him and make sure it wasn’t Clancy Gray, but I’m not sure I could have stood up from the table if I had tried. The five of us—Jude, Vida, Chubs, Nico, and I—had claimed one of the circular tables near a TV, mostly, I think, to stay out of the way of the agents who were trying to “retire” the building and strip anything and everything they might need from it.

An hour had passed. More than enough time for Jude to ask, “Is Cate back yet?” and me to start worrying about Liam. It felt like the longer I sat there, though, the heavier my limbs became, until I was mimicking Nico across the table and resting my head on my arms, easing that weight off my shoulders.

“She said it’d take a while,” Vida said, checking the time on her old Chatter again. “There’re seventy of us. That’s a lot of wheels to round up.”

“We’re coming to you live from the Texas State Capitol building, where President Gray and representatives from the Federal Coalition will start the Unity Summit in less than fifteen minutes now—”

Jude reached over to turn the volume up. He’d been the picture of calm all morning; there hadn’t been so much as a whimper of how hungry or tired he was. Of our sad group, he was the only one who was actually paying attention to the screen. Nico had retreated so far in on himself, he was basically comatose. Chubs kept glancing between the watch on his wrist and the door.

The news coverage of the Christmas Day peace summit had started fifteen minutes before at nine o’clock Texas time. There were mostly crowd shots, and of that only a very small section. When the cameraman had accidentally panned over a group of protesters and their signs, all of which were being kept as far from the building as possible, the feed had been cut.

Cole slid into the space between Jude and me, nearly knocking the kid off the bench. “Hey, Gem, need to borrow you for a sec.”

I turned and buried my face deeper into my arms. “Can it wait?”

“It is awake and very angry, and I would appreciate some guidance on how to approach, seeing as you are the only one who might be able to tell me if he’s trying to melt my brain.”

“People know what he really is?” Chubs asked, surprised. “You told them?”

“Alban already knew,” Cole said. “He saw Clancy influencing one of his Secret Service agents during one of his press tour stops after he got out of camp.”

I sat up at that.

If Alban already knew what Clancy was and what he could do, Lillian Gray’s first note could be taken a whole different way. I need to get out of his reach if I’m going to save him. Lillian might have realized, even before President Gray had, that her son was using his abilities to influence the people around him.

The timeline was coming together for me, finally. Alban would have seen Clancy do this just before he left to join the League—he removed himself from, as Lillian called it, Clancy’s “reach.” If she had tried asking her husband or any one of his advisers for help disappearing, Clancy would have had access to that information. It really had been a plan of desperation.

“Then why the hell didn’t he do anything with that?” came Liam’s voice behind us. The lines in his face deepened with his frown. “That could have blown the whole camp charade apart.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “And he was going to prove it how? The kid was a ghost. We tried to put feelers out to see if he’d come willingly, but he never bit.”

“Because he doesn’t need you,” Nico said, his voice hoarse. “He doesn’t need any of us. He takes care of himself.”

I opened my mouth to explain my theory, but Liam cut me off.

“Shouldn’t you be helping the others clean the place out?” he asked pointedly. He stared at the place where Cole’s hand was on my shoulder.

It was insane to see them standing side by side like this, wearing almost identical expressions of anger on almost identical faces.

“Feel free to leave any time, Lee,” Cole said, dismissing him with a wave. “No one’s keeping you here. I told you how to find Mom and Harry, so go on. Run back and hide. I wish I could be there when you explain to them how you almost managed to f**k over an entire group of kids because you’re too idiotic to pay attention to what you’re doing and where you’re going. After you tell them about what happened when you tried to break out of your camp, of course.”

I heard Vida swear under her breath, slamming a hand down on Chubs’s arm to keep him from trying to jump in. There was no one there to check me.

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