Scout leaned toward me. “Whatever you get—I’m eating half of it.”

“Good to know,” I said, then pointed at a sandwich made of two rings of pastry stuffed with cream and topped with almonds. “I’ll take one of those.”

“Excellent choice,” Henry said. “You have better taste than some people.”

Scout snorted.

Henry packed it in a small white box, taped it closed, and handed it over with a smile. Then he turned to Scout. “And you, little Miss Geek? What do you want?”

“I am not a geek.”

“Okay, dork. What do you want?”

This time, Scout stuck out her tongue, but that didn’t stop her from pointing to a small tart that was topped with fruit and looked like it had been shellacked with glaze. “Tartlet, please,” she told Henry. He boxed one up for her, and after teasing her with the box for a minute or two, finally handed it over.

“You kids have a great weekend,” he said, as Scout and I headed for the door.

“You, too, geeko.”

The door chimed as we walked through it and emerged back into the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Couples heading out to dinner and tourists getting in some final shopping hurried up and down Erie. Even though the workweek was officially over, the city didn’t seem to slow down. I wondered what it would take for Chicago to be as quiet and calm as my small town of Sagamore . . . and I bet freezing winter winds and a few inches of snow probably did that just fine.

“They’re good people,” Scout said as we crossed the street.

“They seem great. The youngest son—”

“Alaine,” she filled in.

“Was he a Reaper target?”

She nodded. “He was. He went to school with Jamie and Jill. They tagged him when he was pretty far gone—depressed all the time, not interacting with his family. And how could you not interact with that family? They’re awesome.”

“They seem really cool,” I agreed. “And Mrs. M clearly loves you.”

“I love her back,” Scout admitted. “It’s proof that sometimes people come into your life you didn’t expect. That’s how a family is made, you know?”

Having been dropped off by my parents at a school I wasn’t crazy about—and having met Scout on my first day at St. Sophia’s—I definitely knew. “Yeah,” I said. “I get that. You and Henry get along pretty well.”

“Ha,” she said. “Henry’s a secret geek. He just doesn’t want to admit it. He watches every sci-fi movie he can find, but wouldn’t tell his friends that. He plays baseball, so sci-fi isn’t, you know, allowed or whatever.”

We walked quietly back down the block, pastry in hand.

“Are you ready to talk about whatever it is you’re not talking about?”

I trailed my fingers across the nubby top of the stone fence around St. Sophia’s. “Not really.”

“You know I’m here for you, right?”

“I know.”

She put an arm around my shoulders. “Do you ever wish that sometimes the world would just stop spinning for a few hours to give you a chance to catch up?”

“I really do.”

She was quiet for a second. “At least we have dessert.”

That was something, I guess.

It wasn’t until hours later, when Scout and I were in her room, listening to a mix of music from the 1990s, that I finally felt like talking.

“Jump Around” was blasting through the room. Scout sat cross-legged on her bed, head bobbing as she mouthed the rhymes, her Grimoire in her lap. Since my plans to sketch the SRF still hadn’t worked out, I sat on the floor adding details to a drawing of the convent, filling in the texture of brick and jagged stone while I picked at my pastry. And Scout had been right about that—maybe it was the whipped cream (the real kind!), or maybe it was the sugar (lots of it), but it did help.

I finally put my sketchbook away, put my hands in my lap, and looked up at her. “Can we talk about something?”

She glanced up. “Are you going to break up with me?”

“Seriously.”

Her eyes widened, and she used the remote to turn off the music. “Oh. Sure. Of course.” She dog-eared a page of her Grimoire, then closed it and steepled her fingers together. “The doctor is in.”

And so, there on the floor of her room, I told her what I’d seen in the SRF, and what I’d learned in my follow-up visit to Foley’s office.

And then I asked the question that scared me down to my bones.

“They’re doing some kind of secret genetic research that they had to stick me in a boarding school and leave the country to work on. And we know the Reapers were using the sanctuary for some kind of medical stuff. What if—”

Scout held up a hand. “Don’t you even say that out loud. Don’t even think it. I don’t know your parents, but I know you. You’re a good person with a good heart, and I know they raised you to care about other people. Otherwise, you’d be hanging out with the brat pack right now instead of resting up for whatever is coming down the pipeline tomorrow—doing the right thing. The scary thing. I don’t know exactly what your parents are doing right now, Lily. But I know one thing—they are not helping Reapers. There’s no way.”

“But—”

She held up a finger. “I know you want to say it so that I can disagree with you. But don’t. Don’t even put it out there. There’s no way. It’s a coincidence, I’ll admit, that we’ve run across two mentions of medical or genetic hoo-ha this week, but even coincidences usually have rational explanations. And you’re not thinking rationally. Your parents are not like them. You know that, right?”

It took a moment—a moment while I thought about all the stuff I didn’t know about my parents right now—but I finally nodded. She was right: Whatever questions I had about the details of their work, I knew them. I knew my dad had floppy hair and loved to make breakfast on Sunday mornings and told horrible, horrible jokes. And I knew my mom was the serious one who made sure I ate green vegetables, but loved getting pedicures while she read gossip magazines.

I knew their hearts.

She must have seen the change in my face.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Little more enthusiasm there, Parker.”

“Okay.”

“You’re probably going to find out your parents are in Germany working on some kind of top-secret new mascara or something. Ooh, or spy stuff. Do you think they’d be doing spy stuff?”

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