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Unremarkable anything bu.., p.13

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 13

 

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2)
 


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  Honor screamed. Honor screamed and she couldn’t stop.

  The sounds of their screams haunted him. He heard them during the night; he heard them in his nightmares. Their screams were his nightmares.

  Going back to the facility—it had been a horrible mistake. The destruction of humanity by August’s hand had progressed to a dismal degree. It needed to be stopped. Ryder had thought he could wait until he had more control, a higher rank within the organization, but he couldn’t. Time was not his friend and it was close to being his enemy. All of them—there would be nothing left of them soon if August continued to reign. How had he been blind for so long? Why hadn’t he seen it earlier? Because he’d wanted to believe in someone, he’d needed a figure to look up to, a person to take his father’s place. His father had been a hard ass, but as far as he knew, he’d been a decent man, but the same could not be said for August.

  No one ever said the actual words, but there were whispers, shifted gazes, on what exactly the underground parts of facilities were being used for. And he could hear them through the vents; crying, pleading, moaning. Who were they and what had been done to them? What was still being done to them?

  Ryder did his UD rounds, careful to avoid making eye contact as he made sure each individual was within their cell and alive as they transitioned through the turning. One thought was paramount in his mind: How had Superior August, a single being, gotten to be so powerful? It was true he was charismatic and appeared, to someone who didn’t know his true nature, to be empathetic. But to have so many people, thousands of people, unquestioningly follow him—it was incomprehensible. Had he threatened and bribed his way to the top? Ryder believed it. There wasn’t much he wouldn’t believe about his previous mentor.

  Something was happening and he wasn’t sure what it was, but it was huge. The shield of order had a crack in it. The air was thick with apprehension. Agents were jumpy, UDs were more belligerent. Everyone was waiting for something, building up to something. He left the cool interior of the prison and strode up the stone steps to the upper level, nodding a greeting to officials that actually glanced his way.

  He was driven by a single thought: Get Honor out. That was it. That was all he was capable of focusing on. When he tried to strive for normalcy, he lost. She’d been out of his line of vision for half a day and it was too long. He didn’t know where she was, what was happening to her, and it was driving him crazy. He had to find her. Of course, once he did, he had to act like she was nothing to him. It was an atrocity to allow such a falsehood, but he had to do it—for her safety no one could know what she was to him. He just wanted to see her, to know she was okay, and then he would be okay.

  “Officer Delagrave.”

  He paused near the opening of a hallway he intended to go down. “Yes?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at the bulky redhead he knew did more than just pump iron to get his veiny, bulging muscles. There were supposed to be tests done on that sort of thing, but there were ways around them. There were always ways around them.

  “This hallway has been closed until further notice. There’s a suspicious smell at the other end,” Agent Leonard said as he clasped his hands together before him and widened his stance.

  Ryder stared down the white corridor, wondering what the door at the end led to. “Really? I don’t smell anything.”

  Thin lips flashed in a semblance of a smile as the agent stood taller, one hand hovering threateningly over the gun residing on a narrow hip. “Lucky for you.” He nodded his head. “I think officers are needed in the gymnasium. Something about an assembly for the new recruits. Be an upstanding officer and go show your support.”

  The dismissal was obvious and grated on Ryder. There was a reason Leonard didn’t want him to go down the hallway and that only made him want to go down it all the more.

  “You’re going to try to nonverbally intimidate me? Is that it? Seems kind of childish.” He closed the distance between them, looking down at the older man. “And what are you going to do? Shoot me? August’s favorite officer? You would really do that?” he asked mockingly, hating that he had to use August as a barrier against the other UDKs and unremorseful at the same time. He did what he had to do—always.

  His hand dropped to his side and he leaned away. “No. Of course not. I was just resting my hand.”

  Ryder snorted. “Resting your hand on the hilt of your gun? Good spot for it. Completely nonlethal.”

  Crimson stole over the agent’s cheeks. “Aren’t you supposed to be at another facility anyway? What are you doing here?”

  “I’m here because August wanted me to be. What’s your reason? Run out of drugs at the other place?”

  The man’s face scrunched up. “Listen—”

  The scream was faint, but filled with terror, and somehow—Ryder didn’t know how—he knew it was Honor. Fear crashed through him, froze his breaths, and stuttered his heartbeat. His eyes collided with the higher ranking officer’s and then he took off, ignoring the shouts of the other man.

  He could hear him behind him, racing to catch up, but his own footsteps were louder, his inhalations and heartbeats a cacophony of despair. Every fiber of his being was shouting at the injustice of that sound, of what it implied. Honor was in danger. He had to save her. He had to save her.

  He felt her; beyond the closed door at the end of the hallway. The air was alive with her energy. He reached for the lock on the door just as hands rammed down hard on his shoulders and tried to pull him away. Again there was an obstacle between them. Rage pulsated through him, erased logic, and he reacted. Have to save her, have to save her, have to save her.

  He clenched his fists and spun around, pounding them into the man’s face without hesitation or regret. Again and again, until his face was a bloody mess and he collapsed to the floor. Chest heaving with each lungful of air, he rushed for the locked door. He had to hurry; there wouldn’t be much time before others showed up.

  “Honor!” he shouted. “Hang on, Honor!”

  Ryder noticed a red smear on the door, but it didn’t register in his brain what it was until the door was open and he saw it on the floor; drips and small pools of it. His eyes followed the trail and halted on her kneeling form. A male body was unmoving beside her. Her hands were clasped together against her forehead, as though she prayed. Whimpers came from her, broken and faint as convulsions attacked her body in an unrelenting mass of misery. At first he thought the blood was hers, but then he noticed the head—the head wasn’t fully connected to the neck.

  He sucked in a raspy breath, able to piece together what had happened, but not why it had happened. She looked up, just a flicker of eyes his way, unseeing, her gaze back to the dead boy immediately. It was enough to see the devastation in her eyes, the cheeks stained with tears, and the pain. Her features were pulled down with it. His feet moved, but it wasn’t fast enough.

  He was moving in slow motion; toward the girl he cherished above all others. He had to get to her. She was broken and he was broken because of it. Protect her—he only wanted to protect her.

  “Honor?” he said softly as he crouched down next to her, lightly placing his palm on the crown of her head. He didn’t want to scare her, but the need to touch her was too powerful to deny. He kept his attention on the blond-haired boy who looked vaguely familiar, too young to no longer live. His expression was peaceful, as though he slept a dreamless sleep. Ryder supposed he did.

  “I…killed…him,” she moaned, quietly weeping.

  “You had no choice.” Even as he said it, he knew it was true. There was no other way she would have taken another life.

  Tragedy-hued orbs lifted and stared. “You always have a choice, Ryder. This time, I chose me.” Her lips trembled and she blinked, dislodging a cascade of tears.

  “I don’t believe that. You never choose you.” He brushed hair from her eyes. “What happened?”

  “He…my blood…Scarlet—” she broke off, inhaling sharply, her gaze going to something near the d
oor.

  “Your sister? What about her?” Ryder followed her eyes and flinched. He looked down at her hands, relieved to find all the fingers on each hand intact. “That—” Her sobs made any attempt at words obsolete. When Honor’s weeping tapered down enough to be heard, he said, “Come on; let’s get you out of here.”

  He helped her from the room, pulling her away when she paused. Gasps of mourning left her, distorted by the cries she couldn’t keep inside. The unmistakable anguish Honor felt pulled him to her and he wrapped his arms around her in the hallway, her cheek resting on his pounding heart.

  Nothing mattered.

  August could, and would, show up. Agents were probably swarming them at that very moment. He would be seen as a traitor, maybe even kept locked up and stripped of his rank.

  None of it mattered.

  He closed his eyes, breathing her in, holding her close, doing the only thing he could. He comforted her. He didn’t need to know what had happened, not yet; he only needed to know she was hurt and he had to sooth that somehow. The rest of it—they’d figure it out together once she calmed down.

  “I’m impressed. I didn’t know if you had it in you, Honor.”

  She stiffened against him and Ryder looked up, protectively tightening his hold on her slight form. “Get away from us.”

  “That is not how you talk to your superior, as you know.”

  “I don’t care. What happened in there?” he demanded.

  August’s icy eyes narrowed on him. “None of your concern, son. You can go now.”

  A heavy weight landed on his back and a familiar voice said, “The superior told you to leave. You’re being insubordinate.” Breath heated the back of his neck and Ryder clamped his teeth together to hold in a shudder. “You know where the ones that can’t follow orders go and I’ll be happy to take you there.”

  “I don’t know, actually. Maybe you should tell me. And your voice…it sounds a little nasal.” Ryder lifted a single eyebrow and glanced over his shoulder at Agent Leonard’s swollen face. “I wonder why.”

  “Go, Leonard.”

  “Sir—”

  The superior straightened. “Go.” When the agent had disappeared around the corner, he turned his attention to Ryder. “Now. Where were we? Oh yes, you were about to leave. Don’t make me tell you again, son.”

  “Don’t call me that,” he snarled, his grip unconsciously constricting even more around Honor.

  “Don’t call you that?” He cocked his head. “After all this time, all these years I’ve done so, now you tell me to stop? I’m offended, Ryder, and severely disappointed. You know, even when you know you're going to be betrayed, seeing it in action still affects you in ways you can't prepare for.”

  “Let me go,” Honor whispered.

  Before he could drop his hold on her, Ryder was shoved away with enough force to hit the wall behind him. He stared at her in disbelief. Nothing with her features changed and yet everything was different about the girl glaring at Superior August.

  Shoulders hunched into her frame, head lowered, yet eyes locked on August’s, the pretty face was distorted into something only great loss, the kind you couldn’t heal from, could do. He knew. He’d been there, for a long time, until he met her. Fear for her clenched his chest and wouldn’t let go.

  “Honor—”

  A palm cut through the air and stopped inches from his face, yet her head remained directed toward August as she said in a brittle voice, “I want to see my mom…and my sister…now.”

  He laughed. He tipped his silvery head back and he laughed in her face. Ryder moved for him, but she was already there, diminutive in size, but all-consuming in her grief.

  “I did what you wanted! Now show them to me!”

  “I can’t.” He looked at her, the true evil in him seeping out into his smile.

  “I did…what you…wanted,” she choked out, the quivering in her form escalating as she fell back a step. “You said—”

  “I know what I said. I say all kinds of things, don’t I? This is only the beginning, Honor. There is so much more for you to accomplish. When I am done with you—then you may see them.”

  “My sister…her…” Honor’s throat convulsed.

  “What did you do to her family?” he said in a low voice.

  “Look at you, standing up for the girl you were supposed to learn about, not care about. I’m disenchanted by you. After everything I told you about her and her father—and your father—you’re choosing her. It would appear your betrayal knows no limits. This is a sad day all around.” He shook his head, his features impassive and most obviously not saddened.

  “You betrayed me first,” Ryder spat out. “You betrayed me with every lie you told me, with the deceit you filled my head with. Everything about you...is a lie.”

  “So melodramatic. Teenagers are so angst-filled.”

  She swung around, the fracture in her still clear to see. It was widening, each second that passed detrimental to the wound that was growing inside Honor. “What about my father?” Tears led a jagged line down her face. “Tell me what you know about my father!”

  “Go on. Tell her,” his former mentor softly mocked, placing his hands on his hips.

  Helpless, Ryder drove shaking fingers through his hair. “I don’t know if it’s true,” he murmured, lowering his head toward hers. “I thought it was, at first, but…it can’t be. I don’t believe it anymore.”

  As he said those words, a pressure released from his chest, and he realized he believed that. August had lied. He had to have. It was what he did.

  Honor grabbed his shirt and yanked him forward. “You tell me what you know and you tell me right now. I am so close to losing it right now, Ryder, you have no idea.”

  August chortled and Ryder’s hands clenched with longing to connect with his face. He pretended he wasn’t there, instead focusing on Honor.

  “I was told your father…killed my father. I know they died at the same time. I don’t know all the details, I don’t know anything, really—only what August told me. He said your dad attacked mine for no reason and then he…your dad…had to be taken out. Only…I don’t think it’s true, Honor, not anymore. Are you listening to me?” he said slowly, his eyes never leaving her unfocused ones.

  She was still, her expression one of insurmountable shock. It didn’t look like she even breathed.

  Her hand fell from the fabric of his shirt as a small exhalation left her, the color of her eyes darkening as she turned away. And then…she was diving for August, pounding her fists on any surface of his face or body she could get to. The sounds that left her—horrible, gut-wrenching, and relentless—chilled Ryder and had him racing toward her at the same time; not to save August from her attack, but to save Honor from herself. He knew where she was; where the pain and the lust for vengeance, the inability to accept—it all came crashing together and nothing but revenge made sense. He’d been there. He had been wrong, but he’d been there.

  “My father wasn’t a murderer!” A fist struck August’s chin. “You’re lying. What did you do to him?” She shoved him back. “What did you do to my mother? What did you do to my sister?” Another clenched hand grazed his cheek. “I want to know! I want to know what you did to them! Where are they? Where is my family? What did you do to them?” she shrieked in a high, unfamiliar voice.

  Agents jogged toward them, weapons ready as they called out warnings. Ryder moved to grab her, to get her away from the threat of his fellow UDKs, and paused, narrowing his eyes at what he was witnessing. It was strange seeing a five foot nothing young woman who couldn’t weigh much over one hundred pounds beating on a strapping, if somewhat elderly man, although to be fair to August, he was extremely fit for someone who had to be in his sixties. Even stranger than that, enough to cause his stomach to twist and knot up; was that he let her. August let her pummel him, over and over, with a little half-smile on his face, almost like he was enjoying her loss of control, like he wanted her mindless with rage.<
br />
  “Come on, Honor, show me how much like your father you really are,” he said softly, not even blinking.

  She froze, and then went limp, as though an invisible arrow of devastation had pierced her heart, falling away as soft cries wracked her small frame. And for that alone—that August turned her to tears—made him hate him more than he thought he could.

  Heat shot through him and Ryder moved for August, a low growl rumbling in his throat. He fisted his hand and landed it against the older man’s jaw. His head snapped to the right and August lifted his hand, fingering his lip as he turned his gaze back to him.

  “That almost hurt. Take her.” He looked beyond Ryder, for the first time showing discomfit when his eyes returned to him. “And him. Take them both. Lock them up.” A hint of weariness was the only indication complete composure was not his. “I’m disappointed in you, Ryder. I don’t know if you’re worthy to be called my son anymore. I will think on this and come to a decision about your place in the organization.”

  Hands wrapped around Ryder’s arms and yanked him back. “I was never your son! And screw the organization!” he shouted, struggling against the agents as they pulled him away.

  Something dimmed in August’s eyes as he watched Ryder be dragged down the hall; something that took all the fight out of Ryder. Most truths were easily hidden, but some, like a glance of the eyes, or a glimmer of emotion in an otherwise stoic expression, could not be concealed. And whatever he’d just seen in August’s eyes—it wasn’t good, not for him. If August cared about him at all, it was worse for Ryder than anything else that could come to be. He was poison, a manipulator, a destroyer. August was the last person he wanted interested in him.

  Honor wildly fought the agents. “My father didn’t kill anyone! I want my mom and sister! Where are you taking me?”

  They kept coming, every time one went down, another taking their place. He could have told her there was no use in fighting. They’d just keep coming, until they won.

 
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