Amy’s eyes go wide. “Radicals? That sounds dangerous.”
“We left dangerous for vicious six years ago, sis,” I remind her. “It’s time to get our lives back.”
“All the more reason that I don’t want you in added danger,” she insists. “We can’t be sure Sheridan’s Chinese contacts don’t know who you are. Why wouldn’t they just come directly after you once Sheridan is out of the picture?”
“No way would Sheridan tell them who I am,” I say, “or who Gia is, for that matter. If Sheridan disclosed his sources, the Chinese would bypass him, and his payday.”
“I’d agree with that,” Liam adds. “I have zero concern that Sheridan gave away his sources. The man is giving away power. He wants guaranteed cash, and that means the cylinder goes direct from him to them.”
“I’m actually surprised he’s giving up the power,” Gia comments. “Knowing him, I was certain that’s what he was after.”
“Money is power,” Liam says, “and at some point he had to realize that no matter how cautiously that cylinder might be released to the public, it will rock the economic world as we know it. We can’t tell the Chinese the prototype works.”
“No one but Chad has ever seen the cylinder,” Gia replies, “including me. For all anyone knows, what we’re giving them is all there is.”
He gives a nod and glances in my direction. “It’s a good plan. I have connections in China, people I trust that can connect you with the right people—but then what? We need a clear-cut plan.”
“It goes through me,” I say. “No one else. I offer them what we have in exchange for what they have.”
“How do they get to Rollin if we can’t?” he asks.
“Jared,” I say tightly. “I believe he’s working both sides. If I call Sheridan and tell him I have the cylinder, Rollin will find out and counteroffer. I’ll let the Chinese know what I’m doing and coordinate the timelines.”
Liam taps the table. “That only works if you’re right about Jared.”
“He’s the only one who knew where I was in order to insert Meg into my life, and yet Sheridan is the one who kidnapped me.”
“But he showed Amy a picture of Rollin with Meg,” Tellar argues.
“To gain my trust,” Amy says, her voice strained. “That picture and Chad’s voice mail convinced me to trust Jared, and to share things Chad meant for my eyes only.”
“He’s a master manipulator,” I say, a low growl of anger permeating my tone at just how deep and long his betrayal runs.
“Someone tried to grab me in Denver,” Gia says. “Jared knew I was there. He must have told Rollin, and Rollin thought I knew something that might help him win the race against his father.”
“Exactly,” I say. “And he left Jared with me, trying to get my secret.”
“And if he couldn’t,” Gia says, finishing my thought, “he figured he’d trap you and Amy together and use her to make you talk.”
Amy pales. “If we make this deal, do I dare believe this is over? That we’ll be safe?”
My eyes meet Liam’s and we share a look of torment. We both want to say yes, but neither of us is willing to build her up and risk tearing her down again.
“It means we have hope,” Gia says, taking her hand, “and that’s more than we had yesterday.” She glances around the room. “Let’s call China.”
WE AGREE THAT I’M the only one to be identified to the Chinese, for everyone’s safety. With this in mind, Liam makes phone calls to his contacts in China and cautiously puts out feelers with people he trusts, who he knows will limit his involvement. Once he’s made the calls, though, we can do nothing but hole up in the safe house and wait. And wait, we do. For three long days we are all climbing the walls, but finally Liam’s contacts pay off. We are given the contact information for a high-ranking, English-speaking leader in a powerful radical opposition group. Finally, it’s time to put our plan into play, and the ball is in my court.
We gather in the War Room, with me at the head of the table, Liam at the opposite end, and Gia, Amy, and Tellar present as well. A piece of paper sits before me with the name and number of the contact we need, written in Liam’s neat, controlled handwriting. Phone in hand, I hesitate and do not dial, but it’s not about doubt or regret. Instead I simply inhale on a moment that is about these people around me, the tension in their faces, the nervous energy emanating from them. And what I feel—the unity, the support—is something I have not felt since I sat at a table with Amy and my parents. I trust these people. Really trust them, and it makes me realize that no matter how I craved having a confidant, a friend, in Jared, it was more about not being alone than it was about trust. Alone isn’t better. I knew that even then.
Resolved to carry this through to the bittersweet moment of what some call justice, and what I call revenge, I punch in the number. There are three rings before a man with a heavy accent answers and I introduce myself.
“I’ve been expecting you, Chad,” he says and laughs, quite amused, as he adds, “I am Chen, but I am sure you know this already. Explain what it is that makes you reach across the world.”
I share our situation, explaining how Sheridan and Rollin Scott are working on the cylinder with a Chinese diplomat we already know from Liam’s sources this man despises. “I have the schematic for the most recent prototype, and the notes from the scientist who created them.”