Never Fade Page 72

They brought us around to the other side of the warehouse, out of sight from the tents and door, to a caged-in area where dead power generators and AC units were locked up.

Vida took one look at our future habitat and began to kick and snarl, struggling against the two guys holding her. With one ear-splitting shriek from her, they lifted Vida into the air and tossed her in. I was in such a state of blind pain, all it took was a nudge from the guy holding my arm for me to walk into the chain-link cage.

I waited until they had secured the locks and were making their way back to the building before dropping to my knees. I pressed my blistered palm into a puddle of freezing slush, swallowing back the whimper. The burn had sliced through every other thought in my head.

Next to me, Vida pushed herself up, dragging her legs over so she could lean against the fence. She took a deep breath in, closing her eyes.

“Let me guess,” she said after she had steadied herself. “You found Prince Charming in the White Tent?”

“Him and about twenty others,” I said, hating the way my voice shook. My entire hand felt like it was on fire. I tried shaking it out, but the burn felt like it was tearing its way down through each layer of skin.

“Show me,” Vida said. When I didn’t flip my palm up, she did it for me. I was surprised to feel her vibrating with her own kind of rage.

“Damn. I’ll kill him.”

She carefully placed my hand palm down in the slush again.

“I blew it,” I said. “I was right there. He was right there. I should have just…used my other hand or…”

“Bitch, please,” she said. “If you had been able to recover fast enough to do something, then you really wouldn’t be human.”

“As opposed to what?”

She shrugged. “A mannequin? An unfeeling, heartless bitch who feeds on others’ misery and is physically incapable of crying, unless it’s tears of blood?”

I flexed my good hand in my lap. “Is that my rep at HQ?”

“They call you Medusa,” Vida said. “One wrong look and your brain turns to stone.”

Creative. Also, fitting.

“Where are the others?” she asked.

“In the White Tent outside,” I said. I sat back against the steel AC unit so I could look at Vida. “They’re all really, really sick. Half of them look like they’re already dead.”

“They’re that bad?” she asked. “Stewart, too?”


“Damn,” she muttered. “That explains why you looked so pissed.”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling my anger start to prickle again. I’d had him—he was right there, and I had been too stupid and too slow to end it. “It does.”

“Hey, boo,” she said. “I’m in this now, too, and I got a lot of experience playing ass**les like they’re f**king harps. You need backup, I got you. Stop trying to convince yourself that you’re in this alone.”

I looked up, surprised.

“But just so you know,” she said, sounding like herself again, “if it turns out that we have to fight each other for this initiation shit, I’m still going to kick your ass.”


WE WERE LOCKED UP LONG ENOUGH that what little sunlight there was seeped into winter’s early night. Long enough that hunger started to set in, for a fine mist of rain to turn to flurries of snow, and a worried Jude to leave the shelter of the White Tent and come looking for us.

Without any kind of electricity to pump through the light poles in the parking lot, it was damn near impossible to make out anything other than someone’s or something’s general shape. I gave up looking for a friendly face and turned my full attention back to the kids standing at the corner of the warehouse, about a hundred yards from where we were locked up. I was so absorbed in the horrifying conversation they were having about Knox putting down a wild dog, I didn’t see Jude until he popped up at the other end of the cage.

“Roo!” he whispered. “Roo!”

Vida whirled around, reaching for a gun that wasn’t there. “How did you…?”

“Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap. I had to go the whole way around the building to get by without them seeing me.”

I cast one last look over my shoulder at our “guards,” and then moved toward his glowing face. To his credit, he knew to duck down so Vida and I could block him from the other kids’ sight.

“What happened?” The chain-link fence rattled as he pressed himself up against it. “I thought you were just going to chat with him, but you were gone so long, oh my God, why are you in there, what did you do? Chubs was—”

“Jude,” I tried to interrupt, “Jude—”

“—and then I was all, ‘no way; Roo wouldn’t let anything bad happen,’ but Olivia started saying all of these terrible things that Knox has done, and we couldn’t find the flash drive on him, which means it still must be in that jacket—”


He stopped mid-ramble. “What?”

“…I need you to go ask Olivia where they store the jackets and stuff they swipe from the kids they recruit,” I said.

“Why?” Jude asked. “To try to find Liam’s?”

Vida snapped her fingers, cutting him off. I shot her a grateful look.

“No—no, we don’t have time to look through them all, and another kid might have grabbed it. We need Liam to be able to tell us what happened to it. What I want you to do is find the jacket I was wearing—the leather one, remember? The Chatter is in the inside left pocket. That’s all I need you to get.”

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