Never Fade Page 23

Cole didn’t look up from where he was sitting on the bench, a folder in his hands. I caught a glimpse of the familiar sketch of Thurmond’s electric fence as he turned the page.

“…was Caledonia a lot like this, do you think?”

Every muscle in my back tensed, forcing me to stand up straight when the sight of him was enough to make me want to sink into the ground. I flexed my hands into fists at my sides and took a deep breath.

“No,” I said. “Caledonia was smaller. They remodeled an old elementary school. But some of the details are the same.”

He nodded absently.

“Thurmond, man,” he said, dropping a finger on it. “I saw some rudimentary sketches of it a few years back, but nothing this detailed. The agents we had there didn’t get to see half of this stuff—not even Conner.”

I stayed exactly where I was by the lockers, waiting for him to leave.

“Alban passed these handy copies out at our senior staff meeting tonight,” Cole said. “Cate got up to excuse herself halfway through. Any idea why?”

I said nothing. In truth, I did have an idea. Cate had been trying to drive me off this track for months. I had to slip the folder to Alban when she wasn’t around.

“And here I thought you were a mind reader,” he said with a faint laugh.

Cole’s muscles were still stiff, and it was obvious he was in a great deal of pain as he stood. He tilted his head toward the showers.

I followed him into one of the shower stalls. The curtain rings screamed as he pulled the cheap plastic shut behind us, making me jump and press my back against the cement wall. It was tight quarters, and I was already feeling uncomfortable when he leaned around me, bruised face a few inches away from mine, to turn the shower on at full blast.

“What are you doing?” I demanded, trying to push my way past him. He grabbed my shoulder and held me next to him under the stream. We were drenched before Cole began to speak.

“The showers are the only place in HQ that aren’t recorded. I don’t want to take a chance that the other cameras in the room can pick up our little chat.”

“I have absolutely nothing to say to you,” I said, pulling myself free.

“And yet I have so much to say to you.” Cole put both arms out to block me and nearly lost his balance. Unsteady on his feet, not performing up to maximum strength, tired—an easy target. I rammed my shoulder into him, but I must have telegraphed my plan. He caught one of my arms and twisted until my muscles screamed and my joints felt like they would pop. His skin was hot, like he was trying to spread the fire burning in his blood to mine.

He’s one of them, he’s one of them, he’s one of them—

“Calm down!” he barked, giving me a hard shake. “Get a grip! I’m not gonna hurt you! I want to talk about Liam!”

Cole released his iron grip on my arm, then took a step back, holding up his hands. I was still breathing hard as I turned. The water served as a nice barrier that neither of us was willing to cross. Steam curled up around my soaking sneakers, then my knees, and then I was breathing the hot damp air into my tight chest.

“Liam who?” I said, when I got a grip on myself.

Cole gave me an exasperated look, and I knew the game was up.

“You brought him back in,” I said, an edge to my voice. “I did everything to make sure he’d be safe.”

“Safe?” Cole laughed without a hint of humor. “You think sending the idiot out into the world to be captured or killed was a kindness? He’s lucky I still check for our contact procedure, otherwise the skip tracer on his ass would have happily delivered him to camp.”

I couldn’t help it; my fists clenched. “How did you force him to help you?”

“Why do you assume I forced him to do anything, darlin’?”

“Don’t,” I gritted out, “call me that.”

Cole’s light brows rose. “I guess that answers my question about why you lied to Alban. Care to explain how you even know my brother?”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. “Cate didn’t tell you?”

“I have my suspicions, but there wasn’t any mention of him in your file.” Cole cocked his head to the side, a gesture that was Liam to a T. The second and third fingers on his left hand tapped against his leg—a nervous tic, maybe. “Alban seems to have some idea, but the others don’t.”

He leaned out of the stream, resting against the stall for support. Still suffering, but coasting on a wave of pride that kept him from showing it. Classic Stewart move. “Look, he wasn’t working with me at all. That night—the one you saw—was the first time I had seen him since he split from the League years ago. We set up a contact procedure for emergencies, and he used it. I thought it was a life-or-death situation, otherwise I never would have told him how to find me.”

“Because you were on a deep cover Op?” I asked. “What the hell is on that flash drive? I’ve never seen Alban so worked up.”

Cole kept a steady gaze on my face, and, I think—because I was so furious—I was finally able to match it. “Tell me.”

He blew out a long sigh, rubbing the top of his head with bandaged fingers. They’d broken every single one on his left hand to try to get information out of him. Alban had told me as much, with no small amount of satisfaction.

“I’m guessing your Op, whatever it was, ended up being compromised and that’s why they stormed your apartment?”

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