Never Fade Page 70

“Stay where you are,” he called out, watching me stalk toward him. “You’re not allowed inside no more, not until Knox says so.”

They had given him a gun, but I could tell by his grip he either didn’t know how to use it or he didn’t want to. I reached out and brushed my fingers against his outstretched hand. I stopped the memories before they could bubble up; anger made my abilities sharper somehow, more efficient.

“Sit down and stay down,” I snapped, and I shoved the door open.

Our combat instructor had once told us that, when you were trying to settle a dispute without violence, the least “productive” emotion you could give in to was anger. No one can reason with another person so furious she can barely see straight. Well. I thought it was pretty productive to getting my way. I let the wind slam the door shut behind me.

I stood in the dark, blinking to adjust my eyes to the light. I felt a movement at my side—a solid, thick shoulder appeared directly in front of me, blocking both my path and line of sight. I followed the line of green coat up to Brett’s grim face.

“You can’t be here,” he whispered. I felt him try to press something into my hands and glanced down. He’d taken his hat off and stuffed it with tiny packages of saltine crackers. “Take this and go back before he sees—”

I had just wrapped my fingers around his wrist when the eyes up on the platform finally picked me out of the shadowy crowd.

“Well, well, well…” Knox called. “Look what the wind went and blew in.”

I glanced around, surprised to find nearly twice as many kids scattered around the space as before. Most were up near the platform, seated on the ground in circles with bags of chips and cereal boxes out in front of them. They were dressed in shades of gray and white—hunters, back from their hunting? The boys and girls at the far end of the warehouse were stretched out on the cement, moving just enough for me to see that they were breathing. I didn’t see any food or fire near them.

I forced a deep breath in, relaxing my face into a fake smile. I had to work this slower, get him to drop his guard so I could get closer. Every nerve in my body was screaming for me to move, run, grab him. My heart throbbed with the refrain: now, now, now. But there were too many bodies between us. Too many hands with guns.

Knox leaned forward in his chair. “Something you wanna say?”

I noticed Vida then, her shock of electric blue hair shining over his shoulder. She moved carefully, long limbs graceful as she swerved and slid through the bodies on the stage.

The look on her face told me everything I needed to know. If Knox made the mistake of leaning back in his chair just then, she would have gladly found a way to break his neck.

Okay? I mouthed to her. Vida nodded, her eyes flicking down to Knox, then back at me. I knew what she was telling me to do.

Michael stood from where he’d been pawing at some poor shaking girl’s chest, and he blocked Vida from my sight again.

“I was just wondering what it would take to convince you to let me go out on hunts,” I said. I slipped my frozen hands into the back pockets of my pants as I walked up to the stage. “To let me go out and get supplies for everyone?”

Knox threw his head back and laughed. Several of the girls and younger boys sitting on the platform around his feet forced out breathy laughter of their own. My skin prickled; it sounded like a pack of dogs with sliced vocal cords was trying to bark.

I felt a body move behind me, coming up at my back, but I didn’t turn to see who it was. These kids weren’t about to force me out through intimidation. Michael could hit me, Brett could haul me back outside by force, but what I could do to them went beyond the physical.

“You?” Michael scoffed. “A Green?”

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid I’ll prove there’s nothing special about you Blues after all. I’ve always heard you guys were all brawn, no brain.”

Just like I thought—he definitely wasn’t used to being spoken to this way. The bully in him was fascinated and very, very angry all at once. Most likely because everyone around us looked like they were starting to wonder why I couldn’t go out and get them the supplies they obviously needed.

Knox stood slowly, tapping the ash from his cigarette out on the ground.

Come here, I thought. Come here and let me end this.

The trickle began at the back of my mind, turning to a full-on roar. I could do this. One step closer, and I’d show him why they ranked my kind as Orange, and his only as Blue.

I would tear him down.

Knox’s hair slid forward, past his ears. When he pushed it back, I saw he had woven together bright pieces of paper into rings around each finger. They almost looked like… They almost looked like the project a bored kid would make with a candy wrapper. I didn’t know what the hell they were or why he was wearing them, but it gave me an idea.

“How about a trade?” I asked. “No work, no food, right? You let me join one of those hunting teams so I can eat, and I provide enough food to feed everyone for the winter.”

Knox scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“I’m not lying,” I said. “You saw what we had in our packs. That’s just what we could fit in our bags. We had to leave tons of it behind.”

Vida’s full, petal-pink lips parted, a silent question dripping from them.

Of course I was lying. She knew that. Come on, I thought. He’d have to accept. I could feel the mood of the kids around us shifting in eagerness. They watched me with a new light in their eyes.

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