It was almost ten o’clock by the time Freddie finished her English homework and hunkered down at her family’s computer in the corner of the dining room. She’d claimed she had a paper to write, and though she did surf the web for a few resources on the Executioners Three, she didn’t turn up anything beyond what she’d already known.
Well, she found a conspiracy website (with very dubious sources) that claimed the Executioners Three were actually aliens escaped from government test facilities. But she found this hard to believe—a serial killer on the loose seemed more likely.
Freddie was right in the middle of reading about which galaxy these supposed aliens were from, when a familiar “uh-oh” sound dinged from her ICQ.
Her heart rocketed through her forehead. Frantically, she clicked opened the messenger service.
And right there, before her eyes, was a window claiming the user verybadhumanindeed82 wanted to add her as a contact. “Do you accept?”
Freddie slammed down the enter key, and without waiting for Theo to initiate a conversation—and not even caring if she seemed wildly overeager—Freddie typed out:
did you get ICQ just to talk to me?
A short pause. Then:
Freddie’s throat clenched up.
But then she shook her head like a wet dog—because she wasn’t supposed to care if Theo wanted to talk to her. He was the enemy.
Solemn vow. Solemn vow.
Besides, there was a perfectly logical explanation for his ICQ debut—and it had nothing to do with Theo wanting to talk to her, but everything to do with their earlier agreement.
Did your grandmother woke up?
Freddie’s throat clenched up all over again. She even coughed a little. Then rubbed her eyes and reread the message.
So why are you talking to me?
You ask a lot of questions.
And that is not an answer.
Freddie’s fingers hovered over the keyboard. What could she answer with that wouldn’t show how excited she was to be talking to him? And that also wouldn’t scare him away?
No, wait—no. She wasn’t excited. These sparkles in her veins were not from him. SOLEMN VOW, GELLAR. SOLEMN VOW.
She just needed to stay on task. An opportunity had come her way; she couldn’t squander that.
I need another favor, Mr. Porter.
Bold, Gellar. Bold.
What does that mean?
You just came right out and said it.
Is there some other way I should approach my request? Do you have a secretary that handles these things for you?
I think they’re called admins now.
Freddie couldn’t quite tell if this was a flirtatious comment or an annoyed one. Either way, the whole conversation was making her gut swirl.
What would it cost me to get a keycard to your school library?
For several agonizing seconds, Theo didn’t respond. And for those several agonizing seconds, Freddie’s heart wound itself into tangled misery.
Until she finally snapped and typed:
Are you still there?
Yeah. I’m thinking.
Oh, thank goodness.
When do you need the library?
Tomorrow morning. I can meet you outside before school starts.
I presume this is for a prank?
Then uou probably shouldn’t have told me about it. I mean, what’s to keep me from interfering?
Quid pro quo. I didn’t interfere when you were at my school.
Because I distracted you.
Freddie’s eyes widened at those words: Because I distracted you.
And he thought she was the bold one?
She wet her lips and hastily wrote back:
PUH-LEASE, Mr. Porter.
We both know I’m the one who distracted you.
Another agonizing pause, until at last he responded:
Doesn’t really matter who distracted whom.
But she greatly appreciated his proper use of “whom.”
This is different from what happened on Monday.
*That* was refraining from interference; this would be straight up helping you.
Ungh. And he knew how to use a semi-colon! This was really too much for Freddie’s little heart.
And in case you’ve forgotten, he went on, we’re enemies. Remember?
Right. Dammit. They were enemies. Right, right, right.
Well, the library isn’t actually part of the prank, she hastily typed. So you wouldn’t be aiding and abetting.
Like, the prank squad will be there for mayhem. I just *also* need to find something in your library — and I can’t get in without a keycard.
What do you need to find?
If you get me a card, I’ll explain.
There was that pause again. And there went Freddie’s intestines again, coiling into knots.
Until she finally cracked.
Are you still there?
You are so impatient. Let a guy think.
I will give you access to the library.
But in exchange, I want a 2 page paper on the Russian Revolution. Single spaced. None of that big font bull shit.
Sure. Freddie could do that. Theo hadn’t said it had to be a good paper.
When do you need it by?
Okay. I’ll give it to you at rehearsal on Wednesday.
Freddie sucked in sharply.
That meant he would be at the next rehearsal. That meant, maybe…maybe they would have to kiss again, and yes, she knew this was very bad to want—and YES, her conscience was shrieking at her about best friend betrayals and backstabbing…
“Yarrrgggh,” she groaned at the screen.
“That sounds very serious,” Steve said.
Freddie lurched around, almost toppling out of the desk chair. “Erm, hey, Steve. Whasssupppp?”
Her stepdad arched an eyebrow. “I have never heard you speak that way. Nor look so guilty.” His lips pursed. “Are you watching porn?”
Freddie’s whole face turned molten. “STEVE.” She clapped her hands to her cheeks. “Of course not—yuck! Gross!”
“Well, in that case”—Steve grinned—“you won’t mind getting off the computer. I need to make a phone call, and you’re hogging the line.”
“Fine,” Freddie muttered, twisting mournfully back to the keyboard.
I have to go, she typed out. My stepdad needs the phone. What time can you meet?
7:15. At the steps that lead out of the student parking lot.
Okay. Cya then.
That you will, Gellar.
That you will.