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Home > United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(11)

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(11)
Author: Ally Carter

“Go to bed, girls,” Mom said, but she didn’t look at me. “I will deal with you in the morning.”

“But—” Liz started.

“But nothing.” Mom never took her eyes off of Joe Solomon. He winced again when she started wrapping a bandage tighter and tighter around his ribs.

“The hospital staff should be doing this,” she told him.

Mr. Solomon smiled. “I like the nurse I’ve got.”

“Girls, I need to debrief Mr. Solomon, and he needs to visit the hospital wing.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Mr. Solomon said, but Mom gave him her “mom” look and he backed down.

“He’s going to tell me about his mission, and then he’s going to have his head CAT scanned and his ribs X-rayed. I will talk to you girls in the morning.” She ushered us toward the door. “It will all be better tomorrow.”

I wanted to think it was true—that my mother was right, and that there was nothing a night in my own bed would not fix. But I wasn’t so certain. Especially when we walked into the suite and saw that someone was already sleeping in my bed.

“Zach!” I didn’t care that I was yelling. I ran to him. He propped himself up on one elbow and gave me a sleepy smile.

“You woke me,” he said.

“You’re not supposed to be in this part of the school,” I said.

He took my hand, held it against his chest, and said, “Spy.”

“Hello, Zachary.” Bex was sauntering through the door. “It’s nice to see you. Now, get out.”

He didn’t have to be told twice. He pushed himself off the bed and started for the door, pulling me along behind him.

We didn’t say a word as we crept down the hall lined with suites filled with sleeping girls. Neither of us spoke when we reached the spiraling staircase at the back of the school.

The stone was cold against my skin. A freezing wind blew through the cracks in the old windows. But Zach’s hand was warm in mine, and I didn’t feel the chill, even when he stopped me on the stairs, pressed me against the wall, and kissed me. Softly at first, then more urgently, hungrily. It was like he hadn’t eaten in weeks.

“Hi,” he said finally, pulling back and running his hands through my hair.

“Hi,” I said and kissed him again. I didn’t think about the classes I’d missed or the ones that would be waiting on me in just a few hours. I couldn’t even dream of going to bed.

“You were gone,” I whispered into his skin. “You were gone for so long.”

“I’m back now.”

“Don’t go again,” I told him, but he said nothing. That was the kind of promise that spies could never make, so he just took my hand and led me farther down the stairs, into the wide corridor that ran along the back of the school.

“You saw Preston?” he asked when we reached the warmth of the hall.

I nodded.

“And they took him?”

Again, I couldn’t say the words but didn’t have to.

“Where were you, Zach?”

“Looking” was his answer.

“For your mom?” My voice cracked, but I didn’t hide it.

“We didn’t find her.”

“She found us. In Cambridge. She killed Walter Knight.” I made myself look at him, see the hurt that filled his eyes. He already knew about our mission, of course. But I had to say it anyway. I had to be the one to tell him, even if he wasn’t hearing it for the first time.

“I’m so sorry. If she hurt you…” He ran his hand along my neck and shifted my head, as if to make sure everything was the way it should be.

“I’m fine.”

“I’ll kill her.”

“Don’t say that, Zach.”

“But I will, Cammie.” He pulled away from me then, as if he couldn’t bear to touch me with his hands—dirty hands. Like I deserved better than to be touched by the hands of a killer. “Someday. I will.”

“No.” I reached for him.

“Yes.” His voice was sad, not cocky. It was like he’d seen the future, and he was finally telling me the thing he’d always known, Zachary Goode’s great and final secret. “I will.”

“Where were you, Zach? What happened to Mr. Solomon? To you?”

Zach ran a hand through his hair. He was far too young to look so exhausted.

“You know how we started out tracking my mom.… Well, we figured the best way to find her would be to find whatever Circle descendant she had her sights set on next.”

“Which one?” I asked.

“Delauhunt,” Zach told me. “Frederick Delauhunt. He’s an arms dealer. We tracked him down to this fortress outside of Buenos Aires. He probably had fifty armed guards. And we could tell by the activity in the compound that they were getting ready to move him. We should have waited for backup, but I kept thinking about what would happen if we didn’t find him again. I thought about what they did to you. And then I got stupid.” Zach took a deep breath. “And Joe got hurt.”

He eased slowly away, almost like he was content to leave me, like deep down he knew that I was better off without him. “You should probably go to bed, Gallagher Girl.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“You should go to bed anyway. Try to get some sleep.”

I leaned into him. “No. I shouldn’t.” I took both his hands in mine and stepped backward. “Do you want to see something cool?”

“What do you think?” he asked with that roguish grin he’d first given me when he’d walked through our doors as an exchange student. Before things got complicated. Before his mother changed my life.

I walked to an old candelabra that the housekeeping staff rarely remembered to clean, so it was dusty when I reached for it. And pulled.

Slowly, a door opened a crack. “What is that?” Zach asked, creeping closer.

I took his hand again. “Come on.”

There was a time when I loved being in the secret passageways on my own. I would slip inside the darkness and disappear, be alone in the middle of a hundred people, be myself inside a place where you spend most of your time learning to be somebody else.

I’d never shown that one to Bex. I’d never brought Liz or Macey there to study. That was my private passage, and as I held on to Zach’s hand, it felt very much like it still was. Only then, it wasn’t mine. It was ours.

We squeezed together through dusty corridors and tight shadowy spaces, skirting between decaying beams. It must have been the servants’ quarters once upon a time, because there was a round window there in the narrow space. It stared out to the east, across the grounds and the hills and the trees.

We stood together, looking out at a world that was covered with frost, a shimmering white glow.

“Wow,” Zach said. He pressed up against the window, which fogged with his breath.

Sometime years before, I had dragged an old bean bag chair to that place. I watched Zach sink onto it, and then he pulled me down to lean against him. I felt his arms go around me, holding me tight.

I was safe.

I was warm.

I was home.

Chapter Twelve

PROS AND CONS OF THE WEEK THAT FOLLOWED:

PRO: Nothing helps take your mind off of stumbling into (and almost messing up) a live CIA operation like makeup work.

CON: We had to do a lot of makeup work.

PRO: We no longer had to wonder whether or not Zach’s mom was going to come after Preston at the embassy.

CON: We had no idea where Preston was.

PRO: Zach was back.

CON: I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just a matter of time until we all had to go away again.

I could tell you that the week that followed was a pretty typical week at the Gallagher Academy. I could tell you that, but I’d be lying. After all, my roommates and I were not just the girls who had missed the first few days of classes of the spring semester—we were also the girls who had been there when Ambassador Winters was taken into custody, which in teenage-spy-girl terms didn’t make us famous. It made us infamous. And let me tell you, that is a really big distinction.

“So, Cam,” Tina Walters said, slipping her arm through mine as we walked into the Grand Hall, “I heard that Winters is locked in an underwater facility off the coast of Greenland. What do you know about that?”

“Nothing, Tina,” I said.

“But the cover story is bogus, right? I mean, I know they’ve told the press that he was extracted based on intel that he was going to be the target of a terror plot, but that’s not true, is it?”

Tina leaned a little closer, studying me so intently I thought my skin might catch fire. I was sure she didn’t actually know the truth. Very few people did. That’s the thing about spies. Most of the secrets we keep are from each other.

I liked Tina.

I even trusted Tina.

But I couldn’t tell Tina the truth. Not because she was the school gossip (even though she was), but because, from that point forward, almost everything about my life was on a need-to-know basis and, right then, Tina didn’t. No matter how much she probably thought otherwise.

“So…” Tina asked slowly. “What’s the deal?”

“I don’t have a clue, Tina.” I shook my head, and thought about the look the ambassador had given me as he sat in the back of the van, defiant. Had that look been a threat? A warning? Or maybe just a good-bye. I shook my head again and said, “I really don’t know,” realizing it wasn’t even a lie.

“What I want to know,” Courtney started, leaning into the conversation as we sat down at the senior table, “is what is the deal with Preston Winters…?”

“He’s cute,” Anna Fetterman said, then blushed.

“Yeah,” Tina agreed. “I’m sure he was really cute when they led him away in handcuffs.”

Anna gasped. “They didn’t?”

Tina nodded slowly. “They did. To tell you the truth, I always got the feeling he might be kind of evil. It’s the dimples,” she hurried to add. “I, for one, never trust a boy with dimples.”

Macey bristled but didn’t say a word. After that, the Grand Hall fell quiet. Or as quiet as the Grand Hall ever is. I wanted to grab Macey and pull her away, tell her that it was all going to be fine. That Tina and the CIA and MI6 and that man from Interpol were all wrong—that Preston wasn’t like his father.

But just then, from across the table, Bex caught my eye, and I could tell she was thinking it too: What if he is?

“Cameron,” Professor Buckingham’s voice came slicing through the Grand Hall, “if you are finished with your breakfast, I need you to come with me, please.”

“Why?” I bolted to my feet. “What’s wrong?”

“Right this way, dear,” Buckingham said. She swept her arm toward the big double doors, and I didn’t have a choice. I followed.

“Hello, Cammie.”

For a moment, I couldn’t move—couldn’t speak. I stood just inside my mother’s office door looking at the man I’d last seen sitting in a van with Ambassador Winters in Rome. I remembered everything about him—the moment he’d given me his business card two years before as I snuck out of our school to see my first boyfriend; the look on his face two days before as they were driving Preston and his father away. I knew exactly who I’d been brought to see. What I couldn’t imagine was why.

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