Never Fade Page 99

Liam, you can’t. Not this time. The thought made me feel displaced somehow, like I was watching him come toward me from the top of the falls.

“Just don’t tell them about this,” I whispered. “Please.”

I wiped at the tears on my face. They stung as they dripped down my cheeks, my chin, onto my neck. It was embarrassing and overwhelming but somehow right that he was the person who found me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Liam nod. Of course he understood—he’d gone off a number of times by himself because he didn’t want us to see him fray and unravel. When you have people relying on you, you can’t put on anything other than a brave, determined face, otherwise you chip away at their confidence, too.

“There has to be something in the medicine…in the bag,” he was saying, “something to help you rest or to…to…”

They had gotten the medicine back to camp, then. Chubs had administered it. The fact that Liam was even as coherent as he was now meant that the hit hadn’t been for nothing—some small good had come out of it.

I took my boots when he offered them, slipping them on. The numbed sensation was working up from my toes to my ankles to my calves, and I was waiting for it to spread. I was so tired; I hurt so badly. I felt myself slipping under a flat, gray ice, and I didn’t have the strength to pull myself up from under it. I sucked in a deep breath, tilting my head back—like that would be enough to stop the tears.

“Tell me,” he pleaded. “I can’t—This is… It’s too much.”

Too much. My mind latched onto that single phrase. Too much, too much, too much.

He knelt down next to me, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed; I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it, not until he reached over, his finger running along the scar on my forehead. When I didn’t flinch away, I felt it trail feather-soft down the side of my face, across my cheek. His hands were rough and chapped from the unforgiving weather as they slid back through my hair to the hollows behind my ears. I closed my eyes, letting his thumbs brush away the tiny flakes of snow that had caught in my lashes.

Move, I told myself as I forced my eyes open. Move—because he wasn’t. I could feel him leaning toward me, dipping his head closer to mine, and I mirrored him, tilting my face up to meet him halfway. Liam’s eyes were closed, and it seemed, just for a second, almost like he was trapped in some kind of a dream. I felt his breath warm my lips.

The touch was so assured, and I had wanted it for so long, that in that tiny slice of morning, it was almost easy to forget what I had done.

That he wasn’t supposed to know me at all, let alone care enough to try.

Too much.

“What are you doing?” I whispered.

Every part of him seemed to seize up, and I recognized the alarm in his face when I saw it. Liam jerked his hands away, falling off balance in the process. He tried to scramble up onto his feet, but he was slow and weak, and the best he could manage was looking away as the tips of his ears went bright red. He was on his feet and moving before the feeling of his touch disappeared from my skin.

He muttered something, tucking his hands up under his arms as he shook his head. He backed away two steps at a time, and I wondered what kind of expression I must have been wearing for him to mirror such a lost one back to me.

“It’s okay,” I told him, though it was so far from the truth, I would have laughed if I wasn’t already crying. It was amazing—I had no idea you could keep sinking, even after you’d hit the dark bottom of your life. But letting him get that close, letting him comfort me after everything I had done, was a bruising low.

Before I could finish, Liam was talking again, and that strange tone was back in his voice. Even as he spoke, he was shaking his head. “Ruby—you’re Ruby. Chubs said that you and Vida and Little Buddy there were helping him look for me. He said that you and me, we never met before, but we had to have, we had to, because I know your face. I know your voice. How does that work?”

“I talked to you while you were sick,” I said, feeling panic grip at my stomach. “In the warehouse in Nashville.”

“No—no—I mean, yeah, I know you did.” Liam was rambling in a way that was almost agitated. Pacing, too, the small width of the wooden deck. “That’s not it; I know it’s not.”

End this now. Don’t twist it any further. A clean cut and you can go and finish this.

“I’m League,” I blurted out, because it was the one thing I knew would stop him from coming closer—the one thing that would change his look of compassion to one of total and complete contempt.

“You—” he began. “What? That’s not…that’s not possible.”

The camps. I needed to think about the camps we’d free as soon as I brought the intel back to Cole and Cate. The good work that would come from this, rising up above the blood pooling under my feet and the trail of smoke and fire my footsteps left behind. That was my future now. That was the only thing there was for me.

“You’re right, though. We did meet before,” I said. “At a safe house in Maryland. I handed you the money from your brother, remember?”

He did now. I could see it in his face, the way he squared his shoulders. I kept my eyes on the trees behind his head, my arms wrapped tight around my center to try to trap in that last bit of warmth. He looked like he was about to be sick.

“But you got out, right?” Liam said. “Because Chubs would have told me. He wouldn’t have kept that from me. You were League, but now you’re—”

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