The Drafter Page 81

“I know that.”

That paper was starting to tick her off. “Silas,” she said softly. “Quit with the girly ‘if you cared, you’d figure it out’ crap. Tell me what’s bothering you, or leave the baggage on the curb.”

His big hands gripped the paper, making it crackle as he lowered it.

His strong jaw was tight and his shoulders were so stiff they pulled at his shirt. His lips twitched as a thought flitted through him, and something in her fluttered, a memory, almost. “Your pattern is off,” he said.

“Silas!” she shouted, and there was a long “Oooooo” from the store below, followed by laughter.

Still holding the paper, Silas leaned across the table. “Listen to me, Peri Reed,” he said as he took a frozen cookie. “My bad mood is none of your business. Besides, your pattern is off. Why don’t you fix it? It’s not me that’s bothering you, it’s your asinine, anal need for perfection.” He snapped through the cookie and leaned back, eyes holding his anger.

“It is not,” she said, hiding her irritation behind a sip of hot chocolate. But then she looked at the yarn in her lap. “Damn it, Silas. Now it’s going to bug me forever.”

He lifted the paper back up between them. “So fix it. We’ve got time, princess.”

“Don’t call me that,” she said, glumly brushing the pattern. She hadn’t even known the autumn-shaded scarf existed until this morning, and it rankled her that he knew the error bugged her. Not only bugged her, but enough that, yes, she’d fix it. Sighing, she pulled the yarn off the needle. “I’m going to fix it. I was just making sure I hadn’t coded something into the pattern first. The last time I unraveled a project I didn’t remember starting, I destroyed a list of names.”

Silas jerked, the soft rattle of the paper making a shiver cross over her. He slowly lowered the paper, and Peri took in his white face, not knowing what she’d said. “I’m going to fix it?” she prompted, and Silas’s chair creaked as he leaned forward.

“Do you remember them?” he said, brow creased.

Warning flags snapped in the wind of her imagination at his intensity. “The names? No,” she lied, not knowing why except that knowledge was power, and he was agitated. “Why?”

Silas sputtered, pushing back to gesture at nothing. “Allen asked me about a list of corrupt Opti agents that Jack got hold of in Charlotte. He’s desperate for it. It was the only thing Opti pressed me for, wanting to know if you knew of it. Which I think is stupid because they were the ones who scrubbed you.”

Harry and Gina are corrupt? Cold, she recalled the nine rows of knits and purls she’d pulled out in the airport. How many of her other friends had been on it? Well, not friends exactly, but they wereall she had.

“Bill thinks the original chip is still alive,” Silas said, pulling her attention back. “Do you know where Jack might have hidden it? If we can find it, then all this ends. It ends, Peri.”

Her eyes flicked up at the determination in his voice. Why are you only telling me this now? she thought as mistrust flashed through her. “Jack doesn’t retain sensitive information,” she lied. She’d obviously not only seen the list, but knitted the information into a scarf. “How will a list of corrupt agents bring Bill down? Is he on it?” she asked, remembering the last phrase, Bill is corrupt.

“I doubt it, but he’s already submitted a fake list of corrupt Opti agents to protect his own stable, and if the real list gets out, he’s done.” Silas’s hands clenched, the man clearly anxious. “You must know where Jack hides things. Right?”

Head down, she pulled out a row of stitches. Not anymore, she didn’t.

“Sorry,” Silas apologized. “It’s just that I’ve been working on this for five years, and we’re so close. Jack wouldn’t have had time to stash it anywhere but your apartment.”

Peri nodded, the yarn making a kinked mass of red in her lap as she pulled off more. Her Mantis had a safe, but Opti knew and would have looked. Putting the information in an off-site data storage unit was out. They were too easy to find and hack into. That’s why she’d knitted the information into her scarf. The knitted list was gone, but if Bill was looking for the original, it probably still existed. And though her hiding things wasn’t a good idea, she did have a few cubbies she could check. They were going there for her talisman anyway.

“Please,” Silas said, startling her when he reached across the cookies and took her hand, stopping her from pulling off more yarn. “Help me find that list, and I’ll help you get your memory back. Whatever you want.”

“Just the fragment from Charlotte,” she said, uneasy. “I don’t want to know anything more about Jack than that.”

“Okay. Good.” His hand slipped from hers, and Silas stood, hesitating as if not knowing what to do with himself. His eyes went from the door to the window. He took out his phone, clearly wanting to text Howard or Taf.

Frowning, Peri pulled the last of the red off the scarf, the kinked yarn in her lap looking like the insides of an exotic insect. She reached for a cookie, the scent of the chocolate suddenly turning her stomach. In a wave of vertigo, the red yarn at her middle became a blood-soaked wad. Jack’s face, pale from pain and blood loss, flashed across her mind.

A thump from the bathroom jerked her head up, and she froze when a suntanned, manicured hand pushed open the door. Her pulse hammered, and she stared past Silas.

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