Never Fade Page 69

“He was caught about a week and a half ago, and he had a really nasty bug he couldn’t shake,” Olivia explained, her voice trembling slightly. “I knew something was wrong right away. I kept asking him questions about you guys, and he just seemed so disoriented. It turned into a fever, and then…this.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Jude asked. “Why is he acting like that?”

As if to answer for himself, Liam suddenly twisted to the side, his face screwing up with the effort it took to cough. Deep, wet coughs that shook his entire frame and left him gasping for air. I kept one hand on his stomach, reassured by the slow pulse I felt there. God, his face—my eyes returned to it over and over again.

“I think he has pneumonia,” Chubs said. “I can’t be sure, but it seems the most likely. If I had to guess, most of the kids here have it, too.” He stood on unsteady legs. “What are you treating them with?”

From the moment we had entered the tent until now, my shock and horror at the sight of Liam had been enough to make me forget even my anger. But the bitter reality was solidifying around me, and I could feel the heat rising in my chest, twisting, and twisting, and twisting until it felt like the next breath I released was tinged with fire.

Olivia’s words spilled over one another. “Nothing. There’s nothing. I have to beg for food, we’re surrounded by water, we are drowning in water, and I can’t even get a drop of the fresh stuff!”

“It’s okay,” he told her. “Liv, it’s okay. I know you’re trying.”

“Do you have anything in the car?” I asked, looking up at Chubs.

“Nothing strong enough for this,” he said. “We need to get them warm, dry, and hydrated before anything else.”

Olivia was still shaking her head. “I’ve tried so many times, but he won’t move the sick ones into the warehouse. Most of them aren’t Blues, and they only got this bad because he refused to give them work, and if you don’t work, you don’t get food. You can’t come into the warehouse. I honestly think he’s trying to hide them from the others.”

Well. He couldn’t hide them from me. He couldn’t hide what he had done to Liam. I felt a pure, unflinching fury grip me. I couldn’t have shaken it, even if I had wanted to. I was on my feet, storming toward the flap, and there was only one thought in my mind, streaming through again and again, driving the anger deeper until I felt like I would explode with it.

“Where are you going?” Jude asked, stepping in my way. “Ruby?”

“I’m going to take care of this.” It was a stranger’s voice. Calm, certain.

“Absolutely not,” Chubs said. “What happens if someone catches you swaying him? What do you think he’ll do to you?”

“Sway him? Like the way Clancy would have?” Olivia asked. Her eyes went a touch wider at my nod. “Oh. I thought…I wondered why he was so interested in you. Why he fought so hard to keep you from leaving.”

“Jude,” I said. “Help Chubs. You guys need to figure out if there’s a way to get a fire going in here without burning the place down. You remember how to do that, right?”

He nodded, his expression still screwed up in misery. “You have to do something. We have to stop him, make him see this isn’t right. Please.”

“Ruby,” Olivia called. Her voice was clear, each word cut from stone. “Ruin him.”

My mind was buzzing, waking from a long, unwelcome sleep. It had been a while, hadn’t it? My right fist clenched at my side, as if each finger was imagining how it would feel wrapped around his throat. It would be easy—all I needed to do was get close to him.

I knew it was what Clancy would have done. He thought it was our right to use our abilities, that we had been given them for a reason. We have to use them, he had said, to keep the others in their place.

The silky quality of his voice slipped through me, a shudder following like an echo. His dark eyes had been wild when he said that, burning with conviction. I had been terrified of him then. At what he could do…and how easily.

I had those abilities, too. For whatever reason—whatever science was locked away on Leda Corp’s servers—I had a way to right almost every wrong Knox had brought upon these kids. And Jude, he had turned to me without hesitation, with full faith. Like it was the most natural thing for me to take care of this. I was beginning to see how it was.

Ruin him. I’d do more than that. I was going to humiliate him, bring him low, leave him an empty shell whose only memory was my face. I would chase him into sleep. I would make him regret the moment he’d decided to keep Liam here and leave him outside to die.

“Be careful,” Jude whispered, stepping aside to let me pass.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “See if you can find a black coat around here. Check his pockets to make sure he didn’t find the flash drive and take it out, too.”

“Later, gator,” he said.

“In an hour, sunflower,” I murmured.

I could feel Chubs’s eyes on my back, but I didn’t turn around; I couldn’t, not without the fear that I’d be forever frozen in this exact spot, watching Liam waste away into nothing in front of me.

I am here, I thought as I stepped out into the rain. He is here. We are all here.

And we would be leaving together. Today.


THE BOY GUARDING THE DOOR into the warehouse couldn’t have been older than me, but he did stand a good deal taller and wider. A few months ago, that would have been a real obstacle.

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