Identity Unknown

"Being back here made me see how much it can get to you; the training, all of the lessons, even just the environment we are in. We aren't the same as everyone else. And everyone else can never know.'

After six months of searching for her father, Charlotte Goode returns to the Gallagher Academy. Exams and eager friends await, but something is wrong. When a phone call changes everything, Zach can offer the answer - but someone will stop at nothing to keep him silent. And when a double agent is revealed, Charlotte must choose who to trust - but time is running out, and the Academy's greatest secrets are at risk.

The stakes are higher, but is she ready?

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6. Skimming Stones

14 hours left.

Rick and I decided to walk. Sitting still wouldn't achieve anything. Being left with your thoughts for too long does more harm than good.

"Why don't we just go to Blackthorne?"

"Nah," Rick replied, "there'd be no fun for me, would there?" He tried to joke, but I sensed that he wasn't keen to return home, so I didn't push him to say more.

We backtracked my earlier steps (which was easier said than done, as the snow had started to melt).

"This is hopeless," I remarked as we passed the clearing in which I had woken. A lake glimmered ahead of us. I sat down on a fallen tree, too tired to continue on our futile search.

"Stevens didn't even give you a proper briefing?" Rick used my teacher's name - no, my enemy's name - casually, sitting down beside me.

"Nope." I picked up a stone and skimmed it across the water's surface, watching the noisy sputters of droplets as the stone interrupted the lake's calm exterior.

Rick let out a low whistle. "Kinda harsh, don't you think?"

"You don't know the half of it," I said, trying to hide the tremble in my voice.

Rick studied me carefully, and instantly knew that I didn't want to talk - couldn't talk. Instead, he grabbed a pebble near my foot and flung it towards the lake, a clutter of splashes emerging as the poorly-thrown stone hit home.

"Rubbish," I smirked. "Hold it flat, and don't use your arm so much." I placed another pebble in his palm, adjusted his fingers around its smooth surface. "Try again."

He flicked his wrist, the pebble sailing through the air gracefully like a careless swallow on a summer's evening. It broke the lake almost soundlessly. I marveled at how effortless he had made it seem.

"Good," I said, suddenly aware that I was still clasping his hand. I pulled away awkwardly, moving my gaze away from his. This was all too familiar. I had vowed never to go down that road again.

"Charlie," he whispered, his eyes boring into mine.

"Look, Rick, I..." I began, ready to politely decline whatever he was about to say. But he pressed a finger to my lips. I saw the slight tremble of his hand. I replayed the way he had said my name in my head; he sounded afraid. Suddenly the moment seemed anything but romantic.

A gunshot struck the silence. I couldn't help but flinch, and beside me I felt Rick do the same.

"We should split up," Rick announced.

"Are you crazy?" I countered. "Unknown enemy in an unknown territory? It's textbook - operatives should stick together."

"Operatives and assassins." Rick traced a scar that encircled his wrist. He had muttered the words, but they rang in my ears. But he spoke before I could.

"Meet you back here in an hour," he said, already running away from me. I watched helplessly as he disappeared from my view. Another shot sounded, jolted me into action. I turned on my heels and ran.

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