The woman’s dive kept replaying in my mind. Some of the men seemed shocked, but most just continued what they’d been doing.
Matt sat down at a table in the center of the room. A large map lay atop the surface with counters in various locations. He didn’t offer us seats, but I took one anyway.
He didn’t waste any time. “Where are they?”
“Apparently they’re being held in New York, in some mountains. We have a list of properties in the car that we can cross-reference the description with,” I said, annoyed that we’d forgotten to check the list before coming here.
“How did you find that out?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.” I cringed at the memory.
“The people who run the operation control several different facilities. Twelve, to be exact. Most of them are within the continental United States, but the rest are scattered around the world.” Matt stood, picking most of the counters off the map.
“There are two in New York. One’s right in the middle of the city, the other is next to a little lake in Essex County, located on the southwest slope of Mt. Marcy.”
“So how are we going to get them out?” I wished he would get to the point.
“How do you think?” He gestured in the direction of the men downstairs. “The scientists have a small airfield outside of Albany. As far as we’ve been able to learn, they’re going to transport them on Christmas Day. We just never knew which facility we needed to target.”
“We’re going to break them out before they can leave the compound. If we let them leave, they’ll be near impossible to stop on the open roads. They’ve got additional security for the transfer.”
He took his time explaining every minute detail, from how many men there would be to what they’d be doing.
Mouse and two others would work on disrupting the surveillance equipment and breaking the electronic locks on the entrance to the labs, then giving technical support when we were inside. One team of mercenaries would sweep in, taking down the majority of the defense, and then a second team, containing Matt and myself, would follow with the primary target of locating and retrieving Nicole and Marissa.
I didn’t like the idea of splitting from Mouse, especially if it meant I had to put up with Matt. My head told me I hated him, but I still felt a strange urge to be closer to him. I couldn’t forget the sensation his eyes had evoked as he lowered his head to kiss me, or the feel of his lips on mine.
I shook my head, jolting myself out of a daze. I shouldn’t be thinking of the kiss so fondly, he’d only done it to distract me before ruining our plans.
“There will be more men arriving over the next couple of days,” he said, oblivious to my thoughts. “The rescue will occur at midnight on the twentieth. We hit the road at seventeen-hundred hours.”
“Why so early?” I asked.
“It’ll take that long to trek up to the mountain.”
“What are we going to do until then?” Mouse asked.
“I don’t care,” Matt said. “You can crash here if you want, but you have to stay out of our way.”
I nodded. That sounded okay to me.
“There’s another office opposite here for the women to sleep.”
“Are there many women?” I asked.
“Two others.” He turned one of the map counters over in his hand. “Nike and Iona.”
“Nike, like the shoe?” I asked, a little confused.
“No, Nike, the goddess of victory.” A smirk lifted the corner of his mouth.
“Oh.” I wanted to slap myself. We’d learned about Greek deities before. Heat flooded my cheeks at my mistake.
“Iona is human, but she knows what she’s doing. Don’t talk to her. She’s a bit weird about people. Nike is like you, sort of. You saw her before.” He paused. “You probably want to talk to her at some point. In fact, you need to.” His face softened slightly as he talked about the strange woman.
I felt an unusual tug inside me. It wasn’t a pleasant reaction, but I couldn’t place exactly what emotion it was. Jealousy, perhaps?
This was going to be weird. We’d never been trained to work with so many people. We knew the other girls’ reactions as well as our own. What would it be like working with men?
“Go get your car. We’ll open the garage next door for you,” he said.
We turned to leave, but I heard him call me, voice soft. “Close the door.”
I did as I was told.
“These men are good at what they do, but they’re not exactly model citizens. You may be born to fight, but you’re still a teenage girl. Stay out of their way unless you’re with me or Nike. I don’t want any problems.” The weight of his eyes caused my skin to prickle.
“What sort of problems are you anticipating?” I asked coldly.
“You kissed me after knowing me all of ten minutes.”
My blood boiled. He was calling me easy.
“You’re an asshole.” Tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to hide them as I spun to leave. “And for the record, you kissed me.” My voice hitched. Why did it have to be now, of all times? Why did I even care what he thought?
I yanked open the door but he was behind me. His big hand reached over my head and pushed it closed again.
“I’m serious.” His breath was warm against my cheek. “If I find you flirting with anyone, you’re out. Your sister can stay where she is.”
“For your information,” I said, turning to face his judgmental eyes, “you’re the only guy I’ve ever kissed. Some first kiss, huh? I guess it’s better than nothing. If we hadn’t escaped, I probably never would have had the chance, so I guess I should thank you. At least if they catch me again, I’ve got something to remind me why being a lab rat isn’t so bad.”
He stared at me, like he was only seeing me for the first time. I turned and yanked the door open, his hand no barrier.
“I’m sorry.” His faint words drifted behind me as I stormed down the stairs.
A single tear ran over but I brushed it away before it could fall.