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Ordinary anything but se.., p.11

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 11


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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  She had earlier learned from a newbie that three nights a week would be spent doing physical training; two nights would be learning self-defense moves and how to use weapons. That would continue indefinitely even after she returned home, wherever her home ended up being. Honor felt like she was in FBI boot camp or something. It was weird.

  It was happening.

  The room was huge, had high ceilings, white walls, and the standard squeaky, shiny orange floor. It smelled like body odor and was hot, but that could have been Honor more than the temperature. She had started out with sit-up and push-ups and she had weight training left before she was done. Her body was tired and burned from exertion.

  “Why are you such an ass to me?” she snapped, swiping sweat from her face. It dripped into her eye anyway, causing it to sting.

  “Some things just come naturally to me, I guess.”

  “Don’t you ever get tired of it?” She kept her eyes trained on him while she waited for his answer. Honor seriously wanted to know.

  “Don’t you ever get tired of thinking you’re some kind of superhero? Perfect Honor, trying to save the world,” he mocked.

  “At least I have morals.”

  “Yeah. Pity that. Girls without morals are so much more fun. The rest of you are just tedious.”

  They made a lap, his words and presence getting to her, in spite of Honor telling herself she wouldn’t let it happen. Ryder always got under her skin. He was gifted that way.

  “Can’t you just be real for once? Actually talk to me?” Why did she just say that? She was a moron to say such a thing.

  She kept her gaze forward, hoping Ryder didn’t respond. She could only imagine the kind of answer she’d get to questions like that, the derision he’d look at her with. Only he didn’t respond, at all, which was actually even worse. That way she had no way of gauging his reaction.

  Minutes passed and then he said, “I thought you were supposed to be some great runner? Maybe you didn’t check out the guys on the track team too closely. I was best in State sophomore, junior, and senior year.”

  Of course Honor knew that. Everyone did. “What about freshman year?” Ryder fell back at those words. Good. She got a little smidge of her self-respect back.

  Running always centered her, balanced her, helped her to find an inner peace. Although, today, with Ryder antagonizing her, it was a struggle to find solace. And then she had to wonder why he didn’t go to State for track his freshmen year, which made her wonder about his life before he moved to her town, and wonder about his personal life in general. What was he like outside of school, away from her, and at home? It bothered her that she even cared to know; it bothered her that she was curious about him in any way.

  “I could go twice as fast as you are.” He was trying to get a rise out of her again—or a race.

  “So do it,” she gasped out, forcing her legs faster to widen the space between them.

  Sweat covered her face and body; making her workout clothes, courtesy of UD Headquarters, cling to her. Honor’s black hair was up in a ponytail and slapped her back and neck as she jogged. If Ryder wanted a challenge, she would give him one.

  He was beside her in less than ten seconds. “Is that the best you got? I’m disappointed. I thought you had more spunk to you.”

  She gritted her teeth, intent on finishing the three miles as fast as she could just to get away from Ryder’s taunting words. Honor sprinted past other newbies, a grin catching her lips at the exhilaration of the run. She glanced over to the left. Ryder lifted one eyebrow at her, a challenge in his eyes.

  Honor sprinted, unexpected laughter falling from her lips as her body cut through air, as she weaved around slower runners, as she let the run take over her. She pumped her arms and legs and focused on beating Ryder to the end of the last lap. Her body quivered, her heart raced in her chest. Honor felt alive. She was flying.

  She was free.

  She felt a little more like herself, a little more like the girl Honor used to be, before the past week, before her dad had died even. She stumbled at the thought of her father, and of what he had been. It still didn’t seem real. Honor wondered if it ever would. There was a twinge in her heart she pretended wasn’t there. She swallowed, trying to dampen her dry mouth and throat. Honor had accepted his death because she’d had to; there was no way she couldn’t. He was dead. Honor was still struggling with the thought that he’d actually died a long time before she’d thought he had.

  Ryder swept by, reaching the black tapped line on the floor before Honor did. She slowed to a walk, sucking in deep gulps of air. She forced herself to inhale and exhale slowly. Her pulse was on super speed and her heart thundered. That brief moment of wonder, where everything had clicked and was right and made sense; it was gone.

  Ryder was already storming toward her. She looked straight ahead, inwardly daring him to say something.

  And of course, he did.

  “You gave up. Why?” He fell into step beside her as she made her way to the water fountain.

  “You’re faster. You won.” She sucked down cold water from the fountain, wiping water from her mouth. Honor wasn’t about to tell him the real reason she’d slowed down was because of something wimpy like emotions. Ryder would use it against her in some way or form.

  “No. You gave up before you made it to the finish line. I hadn’t won yet,” Ryder said slowly. His hair was damp with sweat, as was his body. He should have stunk. Somehow he still smelled good.

  “Which one of your parents has the virus?”

  He flinched at her question, looking away. Ryder used the water fountain before asking, “Why?”

  Honor shrugged, walking toward the weight training area of the room. “Curious.”

  “My dad had it.”

  Had it? “UD or UDK?”


  She stared at a set of free weights. “He’s dead.” It wasn’t a question.

  Ryder’s body stiffened beside her. She looked at him and he looked away, toward the last set of runners. “Two years ago.”

  Honor didn’t want to feel empathy for Ryder. She didn’t want them to have anything in common. Too bad they had more in common than she liked, and no matter how hard she tried to hate him, for some reason she couldn’t.

  “Mine too. Two years ago.”

  Ryder turned to her with his bruised face he had her to thank for. It was just a glimpse, a shadow, maybe a trick of the lights even, that showed a tightening of his features, showed something dark and sinister. She blinked and it was gone, making her wonder if it had ever been there.

  “Guess who your spotter is?” His mocking smile was back in place.

  “Not you,” Honor retorted. But then she looked around and saw she was wrong. Everyone else had a partner. She looked at Ryder with something close to misery on her face. He laughed, which did not make her feel any better. “Aren’t you supposed to trust your spotter?”

  “What’s not to trust?” He patted the bench. “Hop on, Rochester.”

  She moved to the bench, pausing. “You drop it on me, you will so wish you hadn’t.”

  “Promises, promises.”

  It was Wednesday and educational training for the day had ended. Honor had mixed feelings about being able to go home tomorrow night. It didn’t feel like she should. It didn’t feel right. Plus she couldn’t go home. Where would she go? What was it going to be like in public? In school, even. There was one week left before graduation. Luckily Ryder had gotten her homework for her and had been turning it in for her as well so she would be able to graduate on time. Honor had had her doubts he would pull through.

  The thing about Ryder was he always surprised her, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad. He’d been pushing her every night at training to do more, to be faster. He didn’t have to run with her, he didn’t have to spot her with the weights; he didn’t even have to help her learn self-defense moves or how to shoot a gun. Yet there he was, day after day. Honor didn’t know why. She proba
bly never would.


  She looked up, taking in the baby-faced blond standing by the door to her room. It was Scott, the boy who’d been trying to escape over the weekend.

  She slowly approached him. His gaze shifted to her and away. “Hi. How are you doing?”

  Scott leaned against the wall, his arms crossed. “I’m…better. I just, uh, wanted to…say thank you, for trying to help.” He kept his head down, his eyes on the floor.

  Honor put a hand on his arm. Scott looked up, misery and sorrow etched into the features of his face. “You don’t need to thank me for trying to help you. So how are you doing, really?”

  His throat convulsed. “Not…not well.” Scott put a hand over his eyes and leaned his head against the wall. “I can’t believe this, any of this. It’s too crazy. Why didn’t my parents tell me? I don’t understand.” His hand dropped away. “Do you?”

  She stared at him, finally shaking her head. “No. It’s nuts. But…it’s real.” Honor shrugged. “Maybe they didn’t tell you because they were hoping you wouldn’t get it.”

  “Maybe.” He sounded grim.

  Releasing a slow breath, she said quietly, “No one told me either, Scott. I was just taken. I was brought here and I was scared and I’m still scared. Honestly, I wonder if that ever goes away, being what we are, seeing what we see, knowing what we know.”

  “Everything’s different now. Everything.” He raised his hand, clenching it into a fist, and let it drop to his side.

  “It is. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You don’t have to let it have control over you.”

  He stared at her, the confliction he felt coming out in the tightening around his eyes and mouth. “Right.” He didn’t believe her; his tone said he didn’t.

  She tucked that information away, wishing she could help him and knowing she couldn’t. There were some things people had to find on their own; hope being one of them.

  “How much longer do you have to stay?”

  “An extra week. If I don’t straighten out, Nealon told me I go to the place for the flunkeys.”

  Honor stiffened. “Nealon’s an ass.”

  Scott laughed softly. “Nah, he’s actually the best out of all of them.”

  That was true. It didn’t mean he wasn’t an ass though.

  He straightened. “Anyway…I just wanted to say thanks, so…thanks.” Scott started to walk away.

  “Scott?” He stopped, turning with an expectant look on his face. “What’s your last name?”


  “Where are you from?”

  He tilted his head, answering, “Mineral Crest. What’s with the questions?”

  Honor couldn’t explain it. She had to know about them, all of them, so they mattered. They all mattered to her. A mental tally was in her head, each name that held importance to her ironclad in her mind.

  She shrugged. “Just curious.”

  Scott walked away after a moment.

  “He’s not going to make it.”

  She started, swinging around to glare down at Natasha. “You don’t know that.”

  She snorted. Her hair was a mess of spikes and she wore a pink tank top over a yellow tank top and ripped jeans. She smelled like cigarettes and spearmint gum. “I do actually. You can tell. They have a certain look to them.”

  “What look is that?”

  The petite, hardened girl eyed her. “One you would be smart to learn. Fear.”

  “So if I show fear, I’m done for? Is that it?”

  Two bony shoulders rose and lowered. “Pretty much.”

  “That makes no sense. It’s natural to be scared.”

  “If you’re a wimp.” Natasha leaned close, her cigarette-mint smell seeping into the air between them. “So, Honor, what are you afraid of?”

  “I’m not afraid of anything.”

  That wasn’t true. She was scared she was changing and she didn’t like what she was changing into. She was scared to see her mother and sister. She was scared to know all there was to know about her father. She was scared of the future, the past, the present. She was scared of everything.

  “You’re a bad liar.”

  “Why don’t you go find your boyfriend and stop bothering people?”

  Natasha blinked. “My boyfriend? Oh, you mean Ryder. Speaking of which, here you go.” She tossed a folder at Honor and she caught it before it fell to the floor. “Your schoolwork. Have fun.”

  “Why didn’t Ryder bring it?” she called after Natasha’s retreating form.

  “My boyfriend is too busy,” she retorted over her shoulder.

  Honor stared after her, wondering about the massive chip on her little shoulder, wondering why Ryder was staying away, wondering why she cared that he was staying away.

  She was finishing up her homework when Nealon appeared. The first clue something was off was his presence at the training facility during the night, the second was the look in his eyes. Honor would have almost said it was excitement, but it seemed closer to panic. The third was his clothing. He had on jeans and a long-sleeved brown tee shirt. He looked so much younger in the casual clothes she could only blink at him. The man standing before her didn’t look like him.

  He tossed a pile of clothes at her. They landed in her lap where she sat on the bed. “Get dressed.” Honor opened her mouth. Nealon swung around and pierced her with his eyes. “Now.”

  She stiffened, not liking his demanding tone of voice. “I’m not dressing or undressing with you in the room.”

  He muttered something sounding strangely like a swearword and stormed out of the room. “I’ll be waiting outside the door.”

  Honor knew enough to realize it was not the time to antagonize Nealon. She grabbed the wadded up clothes that smelled like him and quickly dressed in the jeans and long-sleeved white tee shirt and socks that all surprisingly fit. But should she really be surprised? Probably not. Nothing about her life was private anymore.

  He entered the room again after a quick knock on the door. “Ready?”

  “How did you know—“

  “Here. Put these on.” He shoved a pair of tennis shoes at her.

  She tugged the white shoes on her feet that, of course, were the right size. “What’s going on?”

  Nealon strode down the hallway. She followed. “I’ll explain in the plane.”

  That drew her up short. “Excuse me? Did you say plane?”

  He backtracked to her, his eyes flashing. He leaned in toward her as he said through gritted teeth, “Move it, Rochester. I mean it.”

  She did.

  They practically ran out of the building, drawing the attention of teenagers and agents alike. The air was chilly, even for closer to the middle of May. It was dark and windy out with clouds taking up the sky. Honor was so glad for outside air she didn’t care what the weather was like. It wasn’t right what they did to them; UDs and UDKs alike, keeping them away from their homes and inside a building for at least a week with no permission to venture outside.

  Resentment shot through her and she had the crazy urge to make a break for it. Her eyes darted around, taking in the black Lexus with a gray-haired man standing beside the driver’s side door, illuminated by a streetlamp. It was just him and Nealon and her. As though he was attuned to her every thought, he turned back, steadying his gaze on her.

  Don’t, his eyes warned.

  Honor sighed and got into the car. It smelled like the clean smell she associated with Nealon. He got in the backseat as well. The car shrank with him in it. His presence took up the whole backside of the vehicle and then some.

  As the car pulled out of the parking lot, Honor asked, “How did you know what I was thinking?”

  “I used to be you.”

  She frowned, turning to face forward. What did he mean by that? “Where are we going?”

  “Owl Mountain, Michigan.”

  She had no idea where that was. “Why?”

  Nealon tossed a manila envelope at
her. “Read up.”

  Honor clutched the folder to her chest. “I think you should know…” She swallowed, her body beginning to tremble. “That whole plane thing? It really can’t happen. I’m scared of flying.”

  He stared at her, his brown eyes reflecting streetlights as the car drove out of town. “What do you mean?” he asked evenly.

  “I…I’ve never flown. I don’t want to. Ever. The thought…it makes me queasy.”

  “How queasy?”

  “Throw up queasy,” she admitted. “Can’t we just drive there?”

  Nealon pressed his head against the back of the seat and closed his eyes. “It will take five hours to drive there. It will take less than one to fly.”

  She strove for a positive tone as she said, “Five’s not that long.”

  His head lifted and his eyes snapped open. “The UD you go to school with escaped as he was being transferred to the new facility. He’s considered dangerous. Every minute he isn’t found is one people’s lives are at risk.”

  She sucked in a sharp breath, the weight of his words slowly sinking in, chilling her. “Christian?”

  The space between them disappeared as Nealon glared into her face. “You need to stop thinking of him as Christian and start thinking of him as a UD. That is all. He can never be more than that to you. Ever.” His eyes scanned her face. “Do you understand?”

  Honor swallowed and looked at the file in her hands. No, she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand any of it. “Why are you bringing me along?”

  “Because I like your company so much.”

  “Why?” she insisted.

  “The administrators saw on the cameras how he responded to you. They think he’ll listen to you.”

  Honor felt sick. “You plan on using me to get to Christian?”

  “First off, this goes way beyond me. Secondly, he isn’t Christian anymore. Not to you.”

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