How did they get used to this? Knowing what I knew, how was I supposed to make it through a day at high school, watching three o’clock get closer and closer by the second?
“Toby.” Brooke said my name, and I turned around to face her. Was this the part when I said thank you? Or maybe the part when she did?
“You can’t go.” Apparently, this was the part when she issued more orders.
“Can’t go where?” I asked, truly baffled.
“This afternoon. Even if we need every man we’ve got, even if all the others go, you can’t.”
I stared at her. I was the one who’d uncovered this whole thing, and now she was telling me I couldn’t be a part of it? What a suckfest.
“You’ve been ID’d,” she said. “Whoever this agent is—assuming it’s not Amelia—he knows who you are. You’d lead him straight to the rest of us, and there’s no way for us to know for sure that you’re completely clean. You’ll have to go through a complete body scan later, to make sure there aren’t any more plants on you, but there’s no way I can pull that off without raising some major questions with our superiors. We can’t afford to have them questioning us right now.”
Damn it. Since when had Brooke become so…so…reasonable?
“So what am I supposed to do seventh period?” I asked. When I’d first joined the Squad, the biggest perk wasn’t the royal treatment I got from the whole school. It was the fact that I was henceforth excused from gym class for seventh-period practice.
“Well,” Brooke said, smiling in a way that had me prepping myself for bad, bad news. “We still need to paint the banners for the game on Friday…”
Double damn. Damn to the nth degree. Everyone but me was going to go out and save the day, and I was going to be stuck in the practice gym by myself painting banners for a football game.
I forced myself to look at the bright side. If worse came to worse, I could always entertain myself by coming up with some creative banner sayings.
Zee took one look at the expression on my face and shook her head. “Stick with Go Bayport,” she advised. “Or maybe Beat Hillside. No obscenities. No sarcasm. And nothing that even remotely suggests that the football team has the combined IQ of a spider monkey.”
She knew me too, too well, but I have to confess—the spider monkey part had never even crossed my mind. Zee may have misjudged Amelia, but there are times when her genius really shines through.
Code Word: Betrayal
By the time I managed to wrangle my way back into the inarguably uncomfortable boots, I didn’t have much time to desweatify myself before heading to first period, and for once, the twins weren’t there to do it for me, and everyone else was so busy doing their own last-minute primping that no one seemed to notice that for the first time since I’d joined up, I looked somewhat less than Godlike.
Knowing better than to press my luck, I snuck out of the locker room before anyone had a chance to do damage control on my barely made-up face, and for the first time in weeks, I felt like myself. I mean, yeah, I was wearing God Squad clothes, and yes, my hair was still God Squad hair, and practice had done nothing to dampen my Bounce Index, but I wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t look it.
I didn’t look like the old me, either, but it was a start.
Half of me expected to run into Jack on my way to first period, and I purposefully didn’t pay much attention to where I was walking, tempting fate to re-create the interaction we’d shared yesterday. And the day before. In just two days, things between us had gotten so much more physical, so much more intense.
Then, just as I was reaching up to open the door to my geometry class, I came to the single most horrible realization of my life. Things had cooled down between Jack and me right after our first kiss. I’d been sending him back-off signals, and he’d respected that, even if he’d done it in a way that let me know that he wouldn’t stay away forever. And then, at the pep rally, he’d called off the truce and come up to me.
He’d touched me.
Had he touched my shoulder? Had he squeezed me while we were kissing? Had he planted something in my skin while my mind was too occupied with his lips to notice or care?
I hadn’t spent much time thinking about how I’d gotten tagged, or who might have tagged me, but really, there weren’t that many options. I went to school, I went to practice, and I went home. Since I was pretty sure I could rule out Noah and my parents, and since the other girls had no reason to tag me, that left either school or some random interaction I’d had in transit.
And if someone at school had tagged me…
The thought ate at me, chewed at my skin and my stomach, and crawled up the back of my spine until I thought I was literally going to puke up all of the coffee I hadn’t drunk that morning. Except for the Squad, Bayport High wasn’t exactly a cesspool of secret identities. There was only one other person at this school who could have possibly had access to the kind of technology that Tara had cut from my skin that morning.
I’d thought it myself. Of everyone at our school, he was the one person most likely to figure out our secret, and he was the one whose discovery would devastate our operation the most.
I just hadn’t realized how much it would devastate me.
“Thinking about me, Ev?”
For a second, I thought I was imagining his voice, but then his hands were on my neck, and he was leaning in for the kiss.
I don’t exactly remember what happened next. It’s all a little fuzzy, but the next thing I knew, Jack was on his back halfway down the hall, and my blood was pumping the way it only did after a fight. Most guys probably would have reacted poorly to that kind of violence, but Jack wasn’t most guys. He just climbed to his feet and held up his hands. “I come in peace,” he said, “and I swear to you, it wasn’t my idea.”
That was less than comforting. He’d used me. He’d pretended…The things he’d said! The way he’d made me…And the whole time he was…
I couldn’t seem to put a whole sentence together, even in the sanctity of my own mind. It didn’t occur to me—even for a second—that when we’d first met, our positions had been reversed. I’d been the one using him. The first time we’d kissed had been in his father’s office, on the tail end of my part in our first mission of the season.
“It wasn’t your idea,” I repeated dumbly. “So whose was it? Your father’s?”