Never Fade Page 48

“No,” Chubs said, rolling his eyes. “I flew in on a cloud and came blitzing down from the Heavens like a bolt of lightning on this kid.”

“Hey, now,” came the PSF’s gruff reply. “I can take her, and there’s not a damn thing you’d be able to do about it. So watch your attitude, boy.”

That attitude was what was throwing me off, too. Chubs wasn’t brave by nature; courage tended to rear up when he felt that his friends were threatened, true, but this wasn’t so much bravery as it was recklessness. And that was the last—the very last—thing I associated with him.

I don’t know how much time passed between then and the moment the PSF’s radio buzzed. A minute. Ten years. Forever. “This is Jacobson, do you read?”

The man unclipped his black walkie-talkie from his belt. “I read. Did you find anything?”

“No, nothing out of the ordinary. It’s hard to tell much with the rain coming down. Any footprints would be washed out, over.”

“She’s alone, I’m sure of it,” Chubs was saying. “I followed her.”

“All right,” the man said. I saw his boots sink that much deeper into the dead, muddy grass as he took two steps toward me. My eyes squeezed shut again, and it was near impossible to force my body to go limp with him so close. I didn’t want him touching me. Panic flared up bright as morning light as his boot nudged my ribs.

The cold, wet leather of his glove closed around my upper arm and he yanked me off the ground. My arm twisted, sending sharp, shooting pains into my shoulder.

“Don’t!” Chubs snarled. “Don’t touch—!”

The PSF’s grip didn’t ease up.

“I mean,” Chubs began again, this time his voice neutral, “they take out the cost of medical care from the reward money if the kids are injured. I can handle it from here…sir.”

“That’s better,” the man said, dropping me facedown into the dirt. “Get her and clear the hell out of here. You’re trespassing, and if I find you back here, I’ll arrest you myself.”

The rainwater was collecting in my ear, running free down the curve of my cheek, and soaking Liam’s old jacket. I waited for it to carry my fear away, too, down into the earth where it couldn’t touch me again. I took in one deep, wet gulp of air and held it.

A car engine started in the distance. I opened my eyes again, watching Chubs come toward me. He knelt, one hand smoothing the tangled cloud of hair off my face. We listened to the wheels churn up the loose gravel of the driveway, both of us still and silent.

“I’m sorry,” Chubs said finally. “Are you okay? Did he dislocate your shoulder, because if he did—”

“I’m all right,” I said, “but—but could you please cut the zip ties off now?” I was horrified by the way my voice shook, but in addition to the discomfort, my brain was starting to spark up old memories that were better left buried deep. The bus ride into Thurmond. The sorting. Sam.

The minute I heard the plastic snap under his knife, I was pushing myself up onto my knees, ignoring the ache in my right shoulder. Chubs began to reach over to check on it, but I leaned back, just out of his reach.

We sat there, staring at each other, letting the space between us fill with rain and silence. Finally, I held out my hand, and without a word, he pressed the black booklet into it.

The cover was a tough faux leather, and I hadn’t necessarily been wrong in thinking that it was a passport. At first glance, it looked exactly the same—from the faint blue paper and the iridescent United States of America seal overlaying it.

FUGITIVE PSI RECOVERY AGENT. God, there was an official title for it?

“Joseph Lister,” I read. “Age twenty-four, six feet, a hundred and seventy pounds, from Penn Hills, Pennsylvania.” I glanced over at him. He was wearing an identical scowl to the one in his official photograph. “You know, it’s funny. The least believable thing about all that is your weight.”

“Oh, hilarious,” he groused, snatching it back from me before I could skim through the other pages. It was so Chubs—so the Chubs I knew—that I smiled. He struggled to keep his lips pressed in a stern line, but I saw the beginnings of a curve.

“I really thought you were dead,” I said quietly. “I shouldn’t have let them take you.”

He brought a hand up to his shoulder, pressing it there, as if his mind was cycling back to that moment, too. “You pushed the panic button, right?”

I nodded.

“I would have done the same thing,” he said. “The exact same thing. Well—” He stopped, actually considering this. “I probably would have been a little steadier in applying pressure to the wound, but other than that, yes. Well…”

“You’ll want to stop now,” I told him dryly. “Before you ruin our touching moment.”

The window above us suddenly opened and Jude’s curling mass of hair appeared there. “Roo—are you okay? Oh my God, Vida wouldn’t let me watch, but I tried to go around front, but the doors are all boarded up and there’s nothing in here so I just—”

Chubs helped me up, giving me a look that clearly asked, What fresh hell is this?

“I’ll tell you everything later, and you’re going to do the exact same. But for now, we have to see if we can find some kind of clue about what direction Lee might have headed—”

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