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Home > United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(5)

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(5)
Author: Ally Carter

“But—” Liz started. She hadn’t had spies as parents. Unlike Bex and me, she still didn’t know the signs that a conversation was over.

“That is all, girls. You go settle in,” Mom told Macey. “I’ll see you all at the Welcome Back Dinner.”

And then she turned. A cold wind blew across the grounds. Her dark hair spiraled around her, and she walked so tall, so straight. And I knew Rachel Morgan wasn’t going to cave, not to the likes of us.

Macey must have known it too, because there was fire in her eyes when she said, “Tell me everything.”

Bex and I shared a look, then Bex lowered her voice. “We’d better go inside.”

The halls were starting to clear out as we made our way through the mansion. Loud music boomed out of a few rooms. There were showers running on almost every floor. It sounded like the start of a new semester, but when we reached the suite I shared with my three closest friends in the world, it hit me: this wasn’t a regular semester. It was our last semester.

“Okay. We’re inside. No eavesdropping freshmen here, so are you three going to tell me what’s going on or aren’t you?” Macey asked, spinning on us all and slamming the door. “Because I know Cam didn’t get that scratch on her cheek from shaving.”

Absentmindedly, I reached up and touched my face, the last remaining trace of Cambridge and Knight and our encounter with my boyfriend’s mother. I know childhood is supposed to scar you, but mine seemed to be going to extremes.

“I got this in England. Cambridge,” I said, clarifying.

“You were there?” Liz asked. “With Knight?”

“Yeah,” I admitted. Something about the memory sent a shiver down my spine. “We went to try to get him, bring him into custody, you know? But Zach’s mom was there, and we weren’t quite quick enough.”

“Why him?” Macey asked. She was bristling against even us. “Why did he get to be saved?” she demanded.

“He wasn’t saved! We were too late,” I shouted. “We were there to take him into custody. And then he started rambling on and on about how he had left the Inner Circle because they were planning some big, huge, terrible thing. He said it had already started.”

“What was it?” Liz asked, but Bex just shook her head.

“Before he could tell us…he died.”

“No,” I said, and I felt myself growing cold and angry. “Before he could tell us, Zach’s mother murdered him.”

Down the hall, music was blaring. Girls rushed past, looking for lost suitcases and misplaced uniform skirts; but in our suite, the real world was taking over. It was already long past graduation.

“So you didn’t even try to save Preston?” Macey’s blue eyes turned to ice.

“Preston Winters is not a soft target, Macey,” Bex snapped. They weren’t the comforting words of a friend. They were the analysis of an operative, and that was exactly what Macey needed then. “His father knows that Catherine is hunting down members of the Inner Circle, and he’s no doubt taking precautions. He’s also a US ambassador in a major post, which means embassy protection. Which means anti-terror roadblocks and biohazard detectors, bulletproof limousines and marines. It means marines, Macey. So Preston isn’t out there on his own. He lives in a fortress with a whole lot of people whose job it is to step between him and a bullet, so pull yourself together. Preston is fine. And if he’s not our mission at the moment, then he’s not our mission. Do you get that?”

It took her a moment, but eventually Macey nodded. She walked to her closet and threw open the doors, pulled out a plaid skirt, and started getting undressed.

“What are you doing?” Bex asked.

Macey looked at her like she was an idiot. “Welcome Back Dinner,” she said, not only as though the fight was over but like it had never happened at all.

“So you’re…” I started slowly, carefully choosing my words, “okay?”

“Sure. Fine. Let’s just go to dinner,” Macey said, but none of us moved.

“Oh, you guys,” Liz exclaimed after a moment, and then she started to cry.

“Liz, what’s—” I started, but her wails cut me off.

“It’s our last Welcome Back Dinner!”

Bex tried to comfort her. (But Bex is really better at inflicting pain than softening it.) I wanted to say something. But all I could do was remember that of all of Liz’s many, many skills, pretty-crying definitely isn’t one of them.

Bex looked at me, a silent thought coursing between us. It was going to be a very long semester.

Chapter Five

Walking down the stairs that night, most of the senior class around me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it had been forever since I’d been to a Welcome Back Dinner. Then I stopped cold, one hand on the banister of the Grand Stairs, realizing it hadn’t been forever. It had been a year. (And let’s face it, a year is pretty much forever in teenage girl time.)

“What is it, Cam?” Bex asked. The rest of the group was walking on toward the doors like conquering heroes.

Like seniors.

But I was still frozen where I stood.

“Cam,” Bex said again, “what’s wrong?”

What was I supposed to say? That Liz was right, and the whole night was a little too symbolic-slash-scary? That Macey was right, and marine protection or not, Preston wasn’t going to be safe until he was far away from his father? Or that Bex herself was right—that we were operatives, and we just had to keep our eyes on our mission?

So I didn’t say anything.

“Don’t freak,” Bex said, almost like she’d read my mind.

“I’m not freaking,” I said.

“Because you look like you’re freaking.”

I turned my gaze to her and let my guard down. “I haven’t done one of these in a while,” I said.

“I know. But I don’t think that’s the problem.”

“It’s not?”

“Nope.” Bex shook her head and walked down a couple of stairs. “I think you’re freaked about what happened at Cambridge. I think it scared you.”

“I’ve been through worse, Bex,” I said, joining her on the lower stairs. “Way worse.”

“Oh, not the attack.” Bex raised a finger in contradiction. “What happened before the attack. I think you saw the future. Which is kind of freaky when—two months ago—you didn’t think you were going to have one.”

“So…Cammie…” Tina Walters started as soon as I’d found my seat at the senior table. None of the teachers were inside yet, and the hall was filled with chattering and laughing, but something else, too. Tina leaned closer, her voice no louder than a conspiratorial whisper, “What have you heard?”

“About what, Tina?” I said. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. Tina wasn’t just the Gallagher Academy’s self-appointed director of communications (aka school big mouth). She was also the daughter of one of the school’s leading alums, who happens to pose as D.C.’s most powerful gossip columnist. So conspiratorial whispers are kind of Tina’s stock-in-trade.

“About that huge oil tanker that exploded in the Caspian Sea, of course!” she said as if natural and geopolitical disasters were common Gallagher Academy conversation. And…well…I guess they kind of were. “What do you think really happened?” Tina asked.

It had been in the news, of course. I’d heard about it. Everyone had heard about it. But even for spy girls, it was an unusual topic.

“Because my sources say it was no accident,” Tina said before I’d had the chance to utter a word. “Every Iranian port on the Caspian has been shut down because of it. And trust me, if there is one thing the Iranians like, it’s oil. If there are two things they like, it’s oil and their ability to ship it to potential buyers.”

“How about that bridge explosion in Azerbaijan?” Courtney Bauer asked.

Liz wheeled on her. “What about it?”

“Mom said there was a bomb on the train,” Courtney said.

“A bomb?” Liz asked.

“Yeah.” Courtney stirred the ice in her glass almost absentmindedly as she answered. “I’m pretty sure she was the one who separated that car from the rest of the train before it blew.”

“She saved a lot of lives,” Bex said, but Courtney tried to shrug it off.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” she said, even though it was. After all, it’s hard to admit that your mom did something really scary without also admitting that, next time, she might not be so lucky.

“So…” Tina went on, “Cammie, what do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, but Tina just looked at me. “Really,” I told her. “I don’t know anything. I was in England with Bex’s parents.”

“Ooh, did you hear about that former prime minister who got blown up at Cambridge? It was supposedly an accident, but my sources say it wasn’t. What do you know about that?” Tina tried again.

I could have lied to her. I would have lied to her. My school had taught me how. My circumstances took away almost all of the guilt. I was just about to do exactly that when the doors at the back of the room swung open and our teachers walked in. As their long procession moved down the center aisle, a new thought filled my mind.

“Where’s Zach?” I scanned the room. “And Mr. Solomon? Where are they?” I asked.

Macey gave me an It’s not fun, is it? look, but I didn’t have time to consider the irony. Or the hypocrisy. Honestly, there’s such a fine line between the two that sometimes it makes my head hurt.

I’d always assumed that Zach and Mr. Solomon would be back for the start of school and, technically, school began with the Welcome Back Dinner. But Zach and Mr. Solomon were nowhere to be seen.

Before anyone could answer, my mother took her place at the front of the room and said, “Women of the Gallagher Academy, who comes here?”

In unison, every girl in the room stood and said, “We are the sisters of Gillian.”

With every line of our motto I felt a tug, not just in my heart but in my head. We were sisters. And that wasn’t going to end with graduation. We would honor her sword and guard her secrets with our lives. Our school’s motto made it sound so easy, so grand. There in that beautiful building with our perfectly pressed skirts, it was supposed to be so simple. Gallagher Girls = Good. But it wasn’t. I knew it. I’d seen it. I’d heard Zach’s mother brag about being a member of my sisterhood. Looking around the room, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any traitors in our midst even then.

“I hope you all had an excellent break,” my mother said from the front of the room. “It’s very good to see you back here, safe and sound.” She took a breath, letting the words settle over us. Then she shuffled some papers on the podium, checking notes she probably didn’t need.

“Now, eighth grade, your suites will be undergoing a complete bug sweep—that’s insects, not listening devices. Please be prepared for some brief interruptions in the next week and use the back stairwell for the time being, as we have found termites in the front. Sophomores, Professor Buckingham tells me that many of you have yet to turn in your Track Declaration Forms. Those must be filled out before classes begin tomorrow morning. Trust me, ladies, this is not how you want to begin your careers. And, seniors…congratulations. I’m very proud of you, and I’m very excited for you to begin our career assessment program. The first event is in two weeks. Please see Madame Dabney for the complete schedule.”

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