“Got it,” I said, already eager for Harry to get here at the end of the week, because it would mean finally seeing Cate. “Did you get the phone from Nico?”
Alice couldn’t bear to be parted from her fancy camera, even for this, and there wasn’t time to get another one. Nico had programmed a cell phone to automatically upload the photographs they snapped of the building and send them back to us.
Cole looked down at his watch, then over my head down the hall where the others had just appeared. “Taking his sweet-ass time this morning, isn’t he?”
“Or someone’s a little too impatient to get going,” I pointed out.
“Just ready,” he said. “Can we pick up the pace a little, Sunshine? It looks like a cat threw you back up.”
“Better than you—you look like you came out the other end.”
Cole chuckled. “Got me there.”
I grabbed Liam’s arm as he passed me on his way to the tunnel door, kissing his cheek. “See you later tonight.”
He stepped down into the tunnel, shouldering a backpack Cole had left for him there. When I turned to say good-bye to the other Stewart, he’d stooped, turned his cheek toward me, and was waiting. I flicked it with my finger, making him laugh again.
“You’re impossible,” I informed him.
“It’s all part of my charm,” he said, shifting the heavy bag on his shoulder. “Take care of things, Boss.”
“Take care of him,” I said, pointedly.
He gave one last mock salute before shutting the door to the tunnel. I waited until the sound of his and the others’ steps faded completely before locking the door after him.
For a moment, I was tempted to go back to sleep—just showering and crashing for a few more hours sounded better than it had any right to. It already felt like a long day, and it had only just begun.
At around two in the afternoon, I realized I was being followed.
She never spoke, and she stayed well away, but Lillian Gray was there, observing from a safe distance. It made my skin crawl, the way her eyes were always assessing.
Dr. Gray was there, watching the training through the windows of the gym; hovering outside of the computer room; leaving the kitchen just as I was coming in. It took me another two hours to realize that it was likely she was trying to work up the courage to ask me something. And even then, it was only because Alice pulled me aside after harassing the woman into a short interview and told me, point-blank: “She wants to see her kid.”
Seeing my expression, Alice added, “Look, I don’t have any kids of my own, so I can’t exactly give you insight as to how a woman’s brain can get rewired to unconditionally love the same little dirtbag that scrambled her brains, but I have a feeling she’ll be a lot warmer toward us if she gets her way.”
“Did she give you anything you could actually use?” I asked as we walked back toward the big room.
“She’s a true politician’s wife,” Alice said ruefully. “She talked for two hours and managed to say nothing useful. Any interest in sitting down with me for a chat, by the way?”
“Not even a word about the president?” I asked, turning the subject back to the matter at hand. That was what worried me most about this arrangement—Dr. Gray had made the arrangement with Alban to help Clancy, and she’d done it behind her husband’s back. As far as we knew, they hadn’t been in contact for years, but we had no sense of how she really felt toward the man. His name came up, and she shut down.
“I think she’ll talk—she’ll give me the smoking gun on how long, exactly, the president has known about Agent Ambrosia—but not for free. Is there any way—”
“No,” I said, firmly. “It’s not a good idea.” Clancy had been reasonably well behaved up until now. I didn’t want to tempt fate by even hinting his mother was nearby.
“Liam would say yes.”
“Good thing he isn’t here.”
Alice’s look of irritation morphed into one of amusement. “You’re the boss, lady. I’ll figure out another way to get her talking before I leave tonight.”
“Are you all set for the trip?
“We should be fine. Our water treatment facility isn’t too far away, otherwise we would have left early this morning like the others.”
I had no idea if Alice told the other woman that I was the roadblock, but it was about an hour later that Dr. Gray found me in the kitchen, slowly and reluctantly pulling together a meal for Clancy. One look at the rapidly depleting pantry stock had taken my mind off her until, like an unwanted chill, she stepped inside the kitchen and shut the door behind her.
“If you’ve been following me in the hope that I’ll slip up and reveal where he is, you’re going to be disappointed. And,” I added, “you’re delaying his meal.”
Her mouth tightened into a flat, bloodless line. Everything about this family was cold and distant, wasn’t it? With both this woman and her son, it felt like I was constantly walking on my toes, trying to keep my balance.
“He has a mild nut allergy,” she said, nodding toward the open container of peanut butter I’d scraped clean. “And he doesn’t like Granny Smith apples.”
Instead of being touched by this demonstration of motherly concern, I felt my expression rearrange itself into one of total and complete exasperation.
I actually bit my tongue to keep from saying, He’s lucky he gets any food at all.