United We Spy (Page 31)

“Cammie,” she said again and then she was there, holding me, pressing against my wounds. “Where are you hit, sweetheart? Where are you hit?”

“Mom!” I cried. “You came for me.”

“No.” My mother shook her head. I followed her gaze to the man on the ground. “We came for him.”

“Is he…” I started, not quite able to bring myself to finish. Something was boiling up inside of me. It took a moment for me to realize that something was hope.

Mom smiled. “He’s the final Circle leader, Cammie.” My mother’s breath came in ragged bursts, almost like she couldn’t believe what she was saying.

“Final?” I asked. My voice broke.

“Maxwell Edwards was the great-great-great-great grandson of Gideon Maxwell.”

“But I thought there were no Maxwell heirs,” I said.

“He was illegitimate. That made him harder to track down. But we did it. We found him. He is the last one,” Mom said. And I looked at the man on the pavement. He was supposed to look bigger somehow, more like a monster. But he was only a man. That’s all any of them were—men and women. People whose anger affected their minds and poisoned everything they touched.

Mr. Solomon appeared. There was a gash at his temple and he carried a sniper rifle. Suddenly, I understood why Agent Edwards’s backup had only gotten off one shot.

I watched my teacher kneel by the body and feel for a pulse.

“He’s dead.” Mr. Solomon stood and reached for my mother. “It’s over.”

“Joe, she’s hit,” Mom said, and I coughed again.

“You’ll be fine, Ms. Morgan,” Mr. Solomon said. “You’re going to be fine, do you hear me?”

And I nodded my head, unwilling or just unable to disobey a direct order.

“Up,” I said and forced myself upright.

“Sweetheart, the ambulance will be here soon,” Mom told me.

“Dr. Steve,” I said and tried to stand.

“He’s dead too.” Mom pressed her scarf against my side, tried to stop the flow of blood. “Sweetheart, they’re dead. They’re gone. It’s over.”

And then I fell to the ground.

And cried.

Chapter Thirty-six

Number of hours I was in surgery: 5

Number of hours I was unconscious: 9

Number of times I dreamed about the night before: 7

Number of times that, in that dream, I did things differently: 0

I woke to the sight of a dark figure standing at the window, watching.

“Zach?” I said and tried to move, but my left arm was too heavily bandaged.

“Sorry.” Preston leaned into the light. “I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.”

He looked like the dorky boy who’d been standing in his father’s shadow, on the verge of becoming the country’s first son. He looked like the terrified kid who had jumped off a roof and had never heard the words Circle of Cavan.

“How do you feel?” he asked me. “Do you need the doctor or—”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m fine. I’m okay. Just…sit. Talk to me.”

I watched him pull a chair closer to my bed, lean into the light of the blinking machines and hanging IV bags. He moved like someone who was afraid that I might break.

“How are you, Preston?” I asked. It was a question I’d been wondering for days, but there had never been a good time to ask it.

“I guess I’m great in comparison.”

“Don’t make me laugh,” I told him.

He smiled. “Deal.” Then he took my hand. “It’s good to see you up. I was hoping you’d be awake before I had to go.”

“You’re leaving?” I asked.

He looked down at the bed, at my bruises and my bandages. “Yeah. I think it’s probably for the best, you know. Your mom has been great. She offered to try to get me enrolled or whatever—finish out the school year here with all of you, but…” He trailed off. It seemed to take forever for him to look at me again, and when he did it was like I was seeing him for the very first time.

“Thank you for getting me out of that place, Cammie. Have I thanked you yet?”

“You don’t have to say that,” I told him, but Preston just shook his head.

“No. I really do. I might have died in there. It could have killed me,” he said, and I knew he wasn’t talking about his body. That place was a prison, but it was designed to kill your soul. “Anyway, now I think I have to leave.” He stood slowly.

“No. You don’t.”

“Yeah.” He smiled down and squeezed my hand. “I think it’s time for me to go be with my family.”

“Preston, wait!” I tried to sit up, to reach for him, but the movement was too much.

“You’re in pain,” he said. “Let me get the doctor to give you something.”

“There’s a button for the morph**e, but I don’t like it. It knocks me out.”

“You know, it’s okay to admit a little weakness now and then, Cammie. It won’t kill you. In fact, I hear it makes you stronger.”

“Cam!” Mom cried and held her arms out wide. She acted like she was going to hug me, then thought better of it at the last minute. “How are you, kiddo?” she asked instead. Her hair was longer and, if possible, shinier. She had more color in her cheeks, like she’d been on a beach or a ski slope—maybe both. I’m not going to say she was glowing, except…well…she was totally glowing. She looked alive and at peace and…happy. My mother looked happy.

I hadn’t realized until then the degree of sadness that had always loomed around her before. A subtle, constant hum that coursed through everything she said and did. But it was finally gone.

“How do you feel, sweetheart?”

She pushed my hair away from my face, and her voice was like a cool cloth on my forehead.

“Fine. I think.”

I tried to sit up, but my mother pushed me back down.

“Easy, now. You had a close one.”

“Am I…”

“You’re going to be fine,” my mother told me.

“Amirah?” I asked.

Mom smiled. “She’s going to be fine too. She left this morning. We have a team of Gallagher Girls on her. She will be held in a secret location for the time being, but then… She’ll be fine, Cammie. We’ll keep her safe.”

And only then did I really let myself believe it.

I watched my mom straighten. It was almost like flipping a switch as she transitioned from mother to headmistress.

“I’d say you dodged a bullet, but you didn’t,” she told me. “Still…you were lucky.” She smoothed my hair again. “Dr. Steve shot you in the arm. The doctors expect you to regain full use of it with a little physical therapy. You get to wear that sling for a while, though.”

“And the other bullet…” I tried.

“It could have been bad, Cam. It could have been really bad, but somehow Agent Edwards managed to miss all the major organs. You were lucky,” she said again.

I shifted on the bed. Pain shot through me, and I winced. Lucky wasn’t the word I would have used, but my mother was right. She usually is.

I heard her talking about security protocols and the chances of attack. Part of me listened to every word as she talked about what Zach’s mom had said, the threat the little girl who called herself Amy was probably under at that very moment.

But another part of me—the girl part, not the spy part—just kept looking at the simple diamond ring on my mother’s left ring finger.

“Mom…” I heard my voice crack.

“Hello, Ms. Morgan.”

I turned and saw Mr. Solomon walking into the room. He looked like the most handsome man alive as he put his arm around my mother’s waist and kissed her cheek.

“Well, kiddo.” Mom blushed as she looked up at Mr. Solomon. “There’s something we need to talk about.”

I looked from my mother to my CoveOps teacher—my father’s best friend. Once upon a time, he had sworn to take care of me and my mom should anything ever happen to my dad. And he’d done that. Joe Solomon loved me, I was sure of it. But he was in love with my mother. And part of me knew that he always had been.

“Ms. Morgan,” Mr. Solomon started cautiously, “if you’ll—”

“Yes,” I blurted. Tears ran down my face. “Yes, I give you my blessing to marry my mother.”

Things were supposed to return to normal after that, but they didn’t.

Maybe it was because, once again, I was lying in a hospital bed. Maybe it was because we’d seen how fragile peace was, how delicate a line we walked. Maybe it was because we were seniors, and Liz had stopped worrying about the fate of the world and started worrying about college admissions. (Thus far, she’d been accepted at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, MIT, and six other schools she hadn’t technically applied to.)

But my worries looked different than they had before.

“What do I call him? I mean, I can’t exactly call him Mr. Solomon. Or do I? Do I call him Mr. Solomon? Or Joe?” I looked from Bex to Macey, who shrugged in response, and I talked on. “I mean, he’s still my teacher. But he’s also going to be my stepfather. Do stepfathers get called ‘stepfather’?”

But then I saw Zach walking down the hall toward my room, and I couldn’t finish. It felt wrong worrying about my new stepfather when his own paternal issues were still so totally up in the air.

“Hey,” I said. “How are you?”

Liz moved from the end of my bed and Zach eased closer, carefully, like I was still entirely too fragile.

“I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be asking you that.” He leaned down and kissed the top of my head. “Remind me to kill you later for going off like that.”

“It hurts when I laugh,” I told him.

“Good. Because I’m not joking.” He didn’t smile but he kissed me again, on the lips, and moved to the window, almost like he was standing guard. He looked like Agent Townsend, but I didn’t say so.

There was a TV in my room, and the newscasters kept talking about how the riots in Caspia were dying down. The film crews that had surrounded the UN were gone. All that remained, it seemed, were two dead traitors in the streets of Roseville and a bullet-riddled teenage girl. No one seemed to know how close we’d come to World War III—how it might have really happened if Catherine had never come in from the cold.

Catherine.

“Where is she, Zach?” I asked. “Where is your mom?”

“Mommy dearest is in Sublevel Two for the time being,” Zach said. “There has been some debate about what to do with her. The CIA wants her, of course, but until all the moles are out of the agency, your mom and Joe don’t want to let her out of their sight.”

I couldn’t blame them.

“What about you, Bex?” Liz asked.

“What about me?” Bex wanted to know.

“Well, if you go to Oxford, then maybe I’ll consider going there too. What are you going to do after graduation?”