"Targets acquired ten o'clock."
My best friend's voice was as cool as the wind as it blew off the Thames. Her resolve was as solid as the Tower of London's ancient stone walls that stood twenty feet away .I could see the night getting darker - the lights grow brighter - and my best friend's confidence was almost contagious. Almost. But staring at the crowd in the distance, I couldn't help but think I am not prepared for this.
I mean don't get me wrong, I am prepared for a lot of scary situations. After all, in the last year and a half I'd been fake kidnapped once, almost truly kidnapped twice, targeted by one international terrorist and two incredibly cute boys. So, scary? Yeah, scary and I go way back.
But at that moment Rebecca Baxter and I were standing on ice skates on a rink that used to be the moat around the Tower of London. We were outnumbered and outsized. So something about that moment was . . . terrifying.
Even though my best friend was beside me. Even though our school had trained us well.
Even though we go to a school for spies.
"Ooh, Cam. They're looking this way."
Part of me hoped Bex was talking about her father, who stood by the skating rinks concession stand, or her mother, who was by the rink's east exit. I totally wished that Bex was talking about the agents in the crowd, whose job it was to protect me - like that woman with the backpack who had been trailing us all afternoon, or the man who was posted at the top of Tower Bridge, as it transportation routes for a half mile in any direction. But I knew Rebecca Baxter well enough to know that she wasn't talking about the spies. She was talking about . . . the boys.
When Bex spun effortlessly and skated backward past the crowd of guys that stood laughing and showing off at the edge of the rink, every single one of them turned to stare at her. Her red scarf waved in the wind as she smiled. "So which one do you want?
"No thanks." I shrugged. "Trying to give them up.
I mean, sure they looked nice, cute, and completely harmless, but if there's one thing we Gallagher Girls know, it's that looks can totally be deceiving.
"Come on, Cam," Bex pleaded. "How about the tall one?"
"The short one?"
"No thank you," I said with a shake of my head.
"The one with . . ." Bex didn't finish. Her eyes went wide and she stared past me, but my mind was thinking back to a chilly November night in Washington D.C., and a steamy summer afternoon on a rooftop in Boston, as the two scariest moments of my life flashed before my eyes.
I felt my heart begin to pound. "What is it?" I scanned the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of what Bex had seen.
"Cam . . ." Bex started.
I spun on the ice, waiting for Bex's mother, for her father, for some of my guards to register the same shock I saw in my best friend's eyes, but their faces were blank.
"Bex," I snapped, "what is it?"
"It's nothing. It's just . . . Tell me this Cam . . .? Her smile was pure evil, and she spoke so slowly that I sort of wanted to hurt her. "Just tell me . . . are you sure you've given up all boys?"
"Bex, what are you saying?" I asked.
But my best friend just pouted, raised her hand to her mouth, and said, "Oops."
And then Rebecca Baxter, the most highly coordinated girl at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (which, believe me, includes some really coordinated girls), tumbled onto the ice.
Well, it turns out that pretending to fall down is an excellent way to make boys stop staring and start moving. Of, course our other roommate, Liz, would no doubt require a lot more evidence before citing that as a scientific certainty, but considering that fact that eight boys had been staring and seven boys rushed to Bex's rescue, I'd say our results were pretty statistically sound.
But, honestly, at that moment statistics were the last thing on my mind, because fluffy white snowflakes were floating through the night sky that stood between me and the one boy who didn't move, the boy who didn't swoon, the boy who just stood by the rails with his hands in his pockets, staring at me, saying, "Happy New Year, Gallagher Girl."
There is a pretty wide range of emotions that any girl - much less a Gallagher Girl - is bound to encounter on any given day - from joy to sadness, frustration to excitement.
At that point it's pretty safe to say that I was feeling all of them.
And I was trying to show none of them.
Bex's seven suitors kneeled beside her on the ice, while my skates pulled me closer to the one boy who lingered by the rail.
"You look cold," I somehow managed to say.
"I used to have a warmer jacket, but then I gave it to some girl."
"That wasn't very smart."
"No." he smirked and shook his head. "It probably wasn't."
Despite having known him for almost a year, there were a lot of things I still didn't know about Zachary Goode. Like how soap and shampoo could smell so much better on him than anyone else. Like where he went when he wasn't showing up at random (and frequently dangerous) points in my life. And, most of all, I didn't know how when he mentioned the jacket, he made me think about the sweet, romantic part of the night last November when he's given it to me, and not the terrible, bloody, international-terrorist-are-trying-to-kidnap-me part that came right after.
From the corner of my eye, I could see that the boys had "helped" Bex to a bench not far away, but Zach didn't seem to notice. He just inched closer to me and smiled.
"Besides, it looked better on you."
There are a lot of things that that the Gallagher Academy teaches us to remember, but right then I was wishing my exceptional education had also taught me how to forget.