“What were you even doing there?”
“Looking for a fight. I needed something that would make the news.”
“Oh my God, it did?”
“I was this close,” he said, and held his thumb and forefinger a fraction apart. “Edged out by a corrupt politician.”
“You were robbed.”
“Indeed. My father paid them off, I think.”
I watched Noah closely when I asked my next question. “So your father knows about us, then?”
“Yes,” Noah said evenly. “He does.”
Noah raised his eyebrows. “And what?”
Boys. So impossible. “What does he think?”
Noah looked like he didn’t understand the question. “As if that matters?”
Ah. He understood the question, he just didn’t know why I was asking. “It does matter,” I said. “Tell me.”
“He thinks I’m a fool,” Noah said simply.
I tried not to show how much that hurt.
Apparently I failed, because Noah took my hands in each of his. It was the first time he touched me like this, like it mattered, since before Jude took me. His touch was impossibly gentle as he unwrapped the bandages on my wrists, but it still hurt and I began to protest. He hushed me. He lifted my hands to his mouth. His petal-soft lips brushed over my knuckles, then my palms. Noah looked into my eyes and owned me.
And then he kissed my scars.
“It doesn’t matter,” he murmured against my skin. His fingers traced the cuts, healing the veins beneath them. “There’s only one thing that does.”
“What?” I whispered.
He looked at me through his long, dark lashes, with my hands still in his. “Killing Jude.”
NOAH’S HANDS WERE GENTLE AND HIS VOICE was soft, which made his words somehow even more chilling.
I wanted to kill Jude. I’d thought about it many times. But those words in his mouth sounded wrong.
Noah let go of my hands. “I made arrangements before I came here to have more people watch your family, but I don’t think Jude’s going to go after them,” he said, staring straight ahead. “Everything he’s done—it’s been to get at you. He said he took Joseph because he wanted to make you hurt him yourself, knowing that’s exactly what would torture you the most.”
I swallowed. “But now I’m in here. And so are you.”
Noah was silent for a moment. Then said, “Not forever.”
Something in his voice scared me, and drew my eyes to look. Noah was beautiful—always—but there was something dark now beneath those perfectly carved features. Something new.
Or maybe it was always there, and I had just never seen it.
My pulse began to race.
Noah turned to me, the movement fluid and graceful. “The girl I saw—Stella, yes?”
“What do you know about her?” He sounded like himself again, and I felt relieved without quite knowing why.
“Not much,” I admitted. “Jamie said something about her almost passing for normal, but I don’t know what she’s in here for.” I felt a little bad now that I hadn’t bothered to find out, but in my defense, I’d been a bit preoccupied. “Why?”
Noah ran his fingers through his hair. “Have you noticed anything different about her?”
“Different as in . . .”
“Nothing obvious,” I said, with a shrug.
Noah arched an eyebrow. “Our abilities aren’t exactly obvious, either.”
True. “So you think she’s like us?”
“I wonder. There has to be some kind of reason I’ve seen you and her. Think about it—there are millions of injured and sick people everywhere. But I’ve seen only five. The only thing I can think of that connects us is—”
“But that would mean . . . Joseph.” I could not fathom him sharing this misery.
“I think whatever we have is acquired,” Noah said carefully; he must have guessed my fear. “If Stella’s here, she has a file like everyone else, and it will mention her symptoms. Maybe she shares some of yours?”
And my grandmother’s.
But if my grandmother and I were both different in the same way, it had to be hereditary, which meant Noah was wrong. All of this could happen to Joseph, too.
Noah ran a hand over his jaw. “It might show some kind of connection—something we’re missing.”
Something we’re missing. The words sparked an image of Phoebe crying and rocking on the floor while Brooke reassured her, then smiling behind Brooke’s back. “We should check Phoebe’s, too,” I said, though the idea of her being like us was a horrifying thought.
And I had an equally horrifying thought—if Stella and Phoebe were like me and Noah, there was another thing we had in common.
We were all here.
I glanced at the tiny window in the music studio. Branches were thrashing in the wind, but despite the chaos outside, the room was quiet. The sky was still dark.
“We should go now,” I said to Noah, and we rose from the floor together. “How are you going to get their files?”
“The same way I got us into this room,” he said, flashing his crooked grin. “With a bribe.”
Noah led me up and out of the studio and into the hall. I didn’t want to risk a whisper, especially not in front of Dr. Kells’s door. It had an identical keypad, I noticed. But what if she was in there?
Noah shook his head when I asked my question out loud. “She’s only here a few times a week—and she definitely wouldn’t be in there at this hour.” He pressed a series of different numbers this time. Fewer. The door opened with a click.
“Well, well, what have we here?”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. Noah and I turned at exactly the same time.
To see Jamie standing in the hallway, just a few feet away.
“If it isn’t Noah Shaw,” he said in a low voice, mimicking Noah’s accent. “Seducer of virgins, fresh from making beautiful music with his beautiful conquest in the music studio. METAPHOR,” he stage-whispered.
“Jamie—” I hissed. He was going to get us caught.
“Which is fine,” he said, holding up his hands defensively. “Free country. But unless you’re about to engage in some executive-secretary role-play—”
“Or, oh my God, psychologist-patient role-play? Please tell me that is not what you were about to do, or I will throw up in both your faces. Simultaneously.”