Ordinary anything but se.., p.17
Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 17
“You need to cooperate and come with us, Christian Turner,” Burns said, flicking the cigarette to the ground.
The boy’s eyes darted in his head, an arm across his stomach. “Screw…you…” he rasped out. He began to fall forward, but managed to catch himself.
“I don’t think so,” Burns said, grabbing him.
Christian tried to get loose, but he was too weak. Isaac supported the boy’s other side when his legs gave out. His skin was cold and clammy. He was dead weight, passed out. Isaac felt eyes on him and looked up, toward the school. He went still, stunned by the young girl’s beauty, but what held his attention the most was the look in her eyes. It was fierce. She quickly looked away, turning her back to them. He blinked and helped Burns load Christian into the SUV. The photograph in the file the UDKs had on Honor Rochester did not do her justice.
When Honor ran, after Isaac got over the initial surprise—no one ran—he had to admire her courage. She’d just made his job ten times harder, but somehow it didn’t matter to him. Would his life have been different if he’d run? Would Demi still be alive if he’d stood up for himself instead of simply conforming? Pain slammed into him and his breath was stolen as an image of her silvery eyes swept through his mind. If Isaac had done one single thing differently, maybe his whole life could have been different; maybe he’d still have Demi—then again, maybe not.
That was the first hint Honor wasn’t going to be the usual UDK newbie. Usually newbies were too scared to do anything but comply. There were so many instances when she showed her inner strength and her firm belief in what was right and wrong. When she attacked Ryder, when she showed how full of life and fearsome she could be, he’d secretly been cheering her on. As he’d carried her away and she’d given in to the pull of slumber, her pale face exhausted and dark circles under her eyes, Isaac had thought her the most magnificent creature he’d ever witnessed in action.
He hated that she looked up to him, that she was looking for a father figure, or whatever it was she needed in her life, and had for some reason found in him. Isaac wasn’t worthy; he wasn’t what she needed. Isaac didn’t want to care about her, he didn’t want her to be any different than any other UDK he brought in, guided, and let go out into the world, but she was. Honor surprised him, made him think, and made him question himself and others. She wielded so much power and didn’t even know it.
Unfortunately, August did.
“She’s not a threat, sir.”
They were at the UD Headquarters in Owl Mountain. Isaac’s shift should have ended hours ago, but when the boss requested your presence, you went. August’s old man smell surrounded Isaac, making it hard for him to breathe.
Superior August watched Honor on the monitor. It was footage from earlier that night when she’d thought she was sneaking around to see Christian. She had to have known by then that anything she did was because they allowed her to.
“Do you see that? The way she cares for him? That makes her dangerous to the cause and to the other UDKs. If her loyalty is to a UD she is compromised.”
His stomach muscles clenched. Whatever Superior August was thinking, it wasn’t good, not for Honor. Isaac had to try to make him see reason without being too obvious about it.
“They go to school together. She knows him. It’s natural for her to be concerned.”
August’s eyes cooled. “I knew her father, Nealon.”
“Her father was a UD. She’s a UDK.”
“What does that have to do with DNA?”
“Honor is a little headstrong, I know, but people respond to her. She’s a natural leader.”
August leaned back in his chair, his icicle eyes set on Isaac. “Exactly. There are enough UDK leaders. We don’t need some rebellious teen starting a war against us because she thinks she knows everything and she knows nothing. She cares too much about the UD. Move him. Immediately. I’ll decide what should be done with her as well.”
Isaac’s insides chilled, but he made sure his face revealed nothing. He gave a brusque nod and got to his feet.
“What are your thoughts on Ryder?”
He paused. “Why do you ask?”
August shifted in the chair and clasped his hands together. “He hasn’t been acting like his usual self lately. I think she may have something to do with it.” He pointed at the monitor. It showed Honor running up the stairs. Another camera caught her stepping into the open room used for assemblies. “See there? All she’s done is proven herself to be a liability. She is a bad influence. Maybe more UD blood runs through her veins than there should be.”
Isaac stared at the monitor, watched with a sinking stomach as Honor tried to help the hysterical boy, and he watched her face as he was knocked unconscious. A chunk of ice fell away from the shell around his heart and Isaac turned away, unable to watch anymore. Why did she have to be like that—so proud and brave?
“That was unnecessary management of the incident,” was all he said.
August turned in his chair to gaze at him, a thoughtful look on his face. “He wasn’t shot,” he stated.
Isaac met the cold man’s gaze. He didn’t care about any of them. The UDs were less than human to him and Superior August wasn’t even really that fond of any life form, especially an undead one. They all had a purpose, a reason for living, and it all centered around him. He pretended to be fair and to frown on violence; he too was a good actor.
To Maximus August, all the UDKs symbolized was power to him, and as long as they were kept under control, they were safe. The moment they proved to have a strong will, like Honor, it usually ended badly for them. Isaac had tried to warn her. She hadn’t listened.
Grim-faced, Isaac said, “I’ll take care of it.”
August didn’t speak for a drawn-out moment. “I know you will. You always do,” he finally said.
Isaac strode from the room, angry and tired and sickened by his superior, himself—all of it. That was him; master of fixing anything that was a possible glitch in August’s smooth plans for the UDK dynasty. Isaac had earned the title and that revolted him the most.
Isaac told her lies. He hated himself for it, but it was necessary. She had to learn to separate her emotions from her actions, to hide her true self if need be. Honor had to think of Christian as someone she used to know, but who was now gone and dead to her. It was the only way she’d survive. At the same time, on the car ride over to the plane Honor was afraid to get on, he told her to do what was right, a total contradiction of all he’d just spouted about UDs. Of course Honor would do what was right. Of course she would help Christian if she could. It was laughable how fearless she was in any other situation, but the thought of getting on a plane was traumatic to her. Isaac could understand that too. Her father had supposedly died in a plane crash—supposedly.
“It is unfortunate he escaped,” August said, looking at his desk.
He inwardly shook his musings away, turning his attention to the man before him. Isaac stood there, stoic, hands clasped before him. “Yes.”
He’d given Christian a chance to live. Maybe it would end up being for nothing, but at least he’d given him a chance, which was more than most of them got. Isaac wouldn’t regret that; couldn’t regret that.
“The organization has been around for over a century and this has never happened. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. He’ll have to be put down.” He looked up, met Isaac’s eyes. Like that hadn’t been the plan all along.
August suspected Isaac was involved. He was a smart man. It probably hadn’t taken him long to figure it out. He was also vain and didn’t want to believe one of his agents could be helping the UDs. For the moment, Isaac was safe. Any other mishaps and that probably would no longer be true.
“May I ask why you insisted Honor and Ryder be present for this?”
“If Ryder keeps his head on straight, he’ll one day take over my position. I have every confidence in that. As for Honor, it might help
Isaac heard his words, but the tone of his voice and the look on his face were at odds with them. He had a bad feeling, and he’d learned through the years to trust them.
Isaac kept an eye on Ryder, not liking the jittery way he was acting. His eyes shifted in his head and every time he looked at Honor, there was pain there. What had August said to him in those ten long minutes they’d spent behind closed doors? He slammed the door shut and looked at Honor and Ryder. Burns lit a cigarette, leaning against the vehicle. It was chilly out, the breezes cool and frequent. The moon illuminated them, but kept their faces hidden.
“We’ll split up. Honor, you need to get to him first. Talk to him. Calm him down.” She looked at him like he’d destroyed something dear to her. Maybe he had. Isaac forced himself to keep his features impassive, to not let what he was feeling show in his eyes or voice or face. “He knows you. He’ll respond better to you.”
“He knows me too,” Ryder said, crossing his arms and uncrossing them.
Isaac looked at the boy trying to be a man. “He doesn’t like you. Honor gets to him first. Burns and I will be next. You stay back, Ryder.”
His eyes dilated. “What? No. I need to stay by Honor. In case something happens.”
“You need to stay away from Honor in case something happens.”
What did August tell you to do? Ryder looked away from his gaze and swallowed. Something you don’t want to do. Not only did Isaac have to somehow look like he was trying to bring Christian in while he wanted anything but that to happen, but he also had to keep an eye on Ryder to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid.
“Burns, you watch Ryder.”
“Come on!” Ryder exclaimed.
“Will do,” Burns said in his rough voice.
They began to move.
“Nealon?” He paused and looked back.
Honor stood under the glow of a streetlamp, looking like an otherworldly being with her Snow White beauty and sad eyes.
“I can’t hurt Christian. I can’t be a part of this,” she whispered.
Isaac resisted the urge to pull her into his arms and keep her there, to protect her from everything she shouldn’t have to see or be a part of. She was too young for this. Her life should have been full of fun, frilly things, boys, laughter and sunshine. Not this. Honor had too much faith in the world, in good prevailing evil, to have to deal with any of this. It would shatter her eventually; it would turn her into him. Isaac hurt on the inside for her.
“No one’s going to hurt Christian,” he promised.
Honor gazed at him. “You called him Christian.”
“It’s his name, isn’t it?” Isaac turned away.
“What’s yours?” she called after him.
He kept walking. If he answered her, he would give her a piece of him. If he answered her, she would matter to him and Honor would know that. He couldn’t tell her his given name, and yet, he had to.
It all happened so fast. Somehow Ryder got to them before he should have. Isaac wanted to strangle Burns when he saw the three of them, but he settled for a look promising pain. Burns shrugged, but there was fear in his eyes.
“Stay right there.” Ryder had a gun trained on them.
Seeing that made all the emotions Isaac kept under control soar to the surface. August wanted Ryder to shoot them. Not only would Christian and Honor be injured or possibly dead, but Ryder would be lost as well. He saw Honor’s lips move, but couldn’t hear what she said. He was too far away. Isaac moved as quickly and quietly as he could with his gun raised. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t fast enough.
He reached them as a shot filled the silent air.
Disbelief froze him for a split second. Isaac couldn’t believe Ryder had fired the weapon. Then there was no time to think, only to react, as Honor began to fall. He stared down at her face, saw the light dim in her eyes even as a faint smile graced her lips, and rage like he’d never felt before consumed him.
Isaac wanted to roar with it, to pick up his gun and aim it at Ryder Delagrave and pull the trigger. Then he wanted to blow Burns away as well for not doing his job. Ultimately, he longed for August’s blood. It all went back to him.
He clutched her to him, unable to speak. She was so light, warm, and sticky with her life essence that was steadily leaving her. He smelled her blood and wanted to somehow gather it all up and shove it back into her. His glare stopped Ryder from approaching and he instead dropped to the ground. Burns talked into his cell phone, calling for an ambulance.
Isaac looked up and met Christian’s eyes. Run.
Christian hesitated, his face set in fury and a need for vengeance. Isaac recognized that look. It was one he knew he wore as well. I’ll be back, his glowing eyes said.
Not for her, you won’t, Isaac answered back.
Christian finally took off down the alleyway, alive for one more night.
Gone was the unfeeling, unemotional Isaac. He wanted him back, he wanted that part of himself that was able to shut off the emotions and not feel, not react, and simply act; he wanted him back. He stared down at Honor’s pale, unresponsive face. He knew that Isaac would never come back, not after this. He was gone. The pain was too much.
It built inside him, consumed him. Isaac would never pretend not to feel again, he would never act like someone didn’t matter when they did.
You matter, he silently told her.
He gathered her close, put his face to her soft hair, and felt dampness leak from his jaded eyes that had still somehow managed to see the rare beauty and radiance that was Honor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
USA Today bestselling author Lindy Zart writes in a multitude of fictional genres because, well, her brain requires it so she stays somewhat sane. She has been writing since she was a child, but luckily for readers, her writing has improved since then. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two sons, and one cat. Lindy loves hearing from people who enjoy her work. She also has a completely healthy obsession with the following: coffee, wine, pizza, peanut butter, and bloody marys.
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Lindy Zart, Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)
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