Never Fade Page 59

“What was that?” I asked. “Were you really going to force your way through?”

It was how he shrugged, like it didn’t matter, like it was nothing, that made me crazy.

“I can’t believe it,” I said. “Wake up! Wake up! This isn’t like you at all!”

“I wouldn’t have had to do it if you didn’t stick me with those stupid kids—I could have flashed some papers and we would have been in!” He dragged a hand through his tuft of dark hair. “And you know what? Even if I had gone through with it, it’s not like they would have caught up to us. Honestly, weren’t you and Lee the ones who always said we had to take risks if we were going to get by?”

“Are you…” I could barely choke the word out. “Are you serious? Risks? Where is your head? You are so much smarter than this!”

Did it matter that I was yelling or that he was doing his best to try to tower over me with his height? Did it matter that the other two were watching us through the windshield?

“Sure, we would have gotten through the blockade, maybe even miles away, but what if they got your license plate number and reported that? What if up the road there was another blockade, and they were waiting for us there? What would you have done? You’re the only one with papers; you would have been fine—but if they had taken me? Or Jude or Vida? Could you have lived with that?”

“What about Liam?” he shouted. “You know, the one whose brain you decided to fry? The one who’s lost, or dead, or near to it because you decided to screw with him? Remember him?”

Every inch of my skin felt like the branches of the trees overhead, stripped bare and coated with frost. “You do blame me.”

“Who else would I blame?” he shouted. “It’s your fault, dammit! And now you’re acting like this? Like those kids are more important to you than us? Yeah, I’ve had to make a few changes. So what? I’ve been getting on just fine making my own decisions. You keep acting like I’m still bleeding out in your hands, but I’m fine! I am better than fine! You’re the one who’s wrong! You’re—”

I hadn’t even heard the door open, but Vida was suddenly standing beside me, her shoulder pressed against mine.

“Back. Off.” I felt her hand close around my wrist. “You don’t want us here, ass-clown? Fine. We’re out.”

Jude was white-faced as he scurried around the back, clutching our few possessions in his hands. “I’m ready,” he said, his voice betraying none of the fear I saw in his eyes. “Let’s go.”

I took the leather jacket that Jude passed to me, my mind trying to catch up with what was happening. Chubs’s fingers caught the pocket and held tight. “What are you doing?”

“I think…” My whole face felt numb. “I think this was a bad idea.”

No, my brain was screaming, no, no, no!

“Ruby!” he said, shocked. “Tell me you’re not…Ruby!”

“You think we’re worthless? You want to prove that you’re so damn brave?” Vida shouted back. “Go ahead and get your stupid ass killed. We’ll see who finds Stewart first!”

Vida hooked her arm through mine and began to haul me down the slight curve of the highway’s shoulder, down into the snow-splattered forest ahead. It was deep, and dark, and lovely. I couldn’t see the beginning or end of it.

“Asshole,” she was muttering. “God damn him, I hate his stupid-ass face and his stupid-ass driving—acting like we’re as dumb as dirt. Asshole!”

Jude jogged to keep pace with us. Branches snapped around my face, clawing at my hair. The flashes of sunlight through the treetops were disorienting, blinding red one moment and orange the next, and all I could think was fire. All I could see was Chubs’s face close to mine as we clung to each other under the dock at East River while the world burned above us.

I felt a hand touch the small of my back, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My legs buckled, and I barely managed to catch myself on a tree before I collapsed completely.

What are you doing? I thought. This is Chubs. This is still Chubs.

For several agonizing minutes, I couldn’t hear anything beyond my own harsh breathing. I felt physically ill, like I was about to heave up everything in the pit of my stomach.

This is Chubs. Who says things he constantly regrets, even if they’re the truth. Who lets his anger get the best of him—especially when he’s afraid. And you left him. You walked away. That was Chubs, and you left him.

I felt a hand tugging on mine. Jude stood beside me, his EMT jacket crinkling.

“I think you were both wrong,” he said quietly. “He doesn’t blame you for what ended up happening with Liam. He blames himself. He’s only acting like this because he’s gotten to the point where he’s willing to do anything to set it right.”

“Why would he think any of this is his fault, though?” I asked.

“He’s a loose cannon,” Vida said, glancing back over her shoulder. “He survived being shot. Some part of him thinks he’s invincible and that he can make stupid mistakes and get away with it. There are other ways he could have traveled, but he chose to run with the f**king wolves. If he’s not desperate, if he doesn’t hate himself, then he really is just a goddamn idiot.”

“You guys don’t know him,” I started.

“No,” Jude said carefully, “but we know you.”

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