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Unremarkable anything bu.., p.17

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 17

 

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2)
 


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  Arms open, a grin on his face, he said, “Welcome, Honor, to your new life.” Mutters of outrage erupted behind them, cut off with a stern look from Superior August.

  “I’ve heard that before.” She stopped before him. “You reward me for killing your followers? How do you justify that?”

  “I reward you for turning into what I wanted you to be. The loss of lives is inconsequential. Look at you, all grown up and lethal,” he mused, rubbing his firm jaw as he studied her.

  It sickened her, deep down where she still cared about things, that she had done anything to please him, that what he had wanted, had ultimately happened. She had let him win. Ryder had told her not to, Isaac had told her to always do what was right, and she’d failed them both. But they were dead, so did it really matter? It should matter to you, whispered in the far recesses of her brain, too far away to warrant any influence.

  “You,” he breathed, clapping heavy hands on her stiff shoulders, “are my true child.”

  “I am nothing of yours.”

  “Come now.” He made a tsking sound, dropping his hands. “You are mine. Every part of you, I own. I made you. You were just a normal girl until I fixed you.” He leaned close, his breath stale as he said, “You can thank me now.”

  “You didn’t fix me. You destroyed me. Purposely. You took everything from me, took away anyone I ever cared about. Why would I ever thank you?” The rage bottled up inside her wanted to be released, longed to be unbridled on the being standing by her.

  Honor took a deep breath, fighting for the control it was getting harder and harder to find. “You know what? I will thank you. One day. I will show you all the thanks I can,” she promised.

  “Why not today?” He grinned thinly when she didn’t respond, looking at his robots. “Clean the mess up downstairs and then head to the lab. It’s time.”

  “Time for what?” She received hateful looks as agents swept by. She returned the glare. They were all idiots and pretty soon they would all be dead idiots.

  “I need your blood again. I have a supply I gained during your unconsciousness, but it is dwindling, the results unsatisfactory. That is why I kept you unconscious for so long. I was building up my supply. Only now I need more.” August grabbed her wrist and squeezed, dragging her down the empty hallway.

  “We need to make more like you. And fast. The rebels have an army in the making and plan to attack on the facilities. Not that they’ll succeed or get that far, but we need to be prepared for everything. You’re probably wondering how I know all that. There is little I don’t know. My eyes and ears are far and wide.”

  “Will you tell me what you did to me, what’s really going on? I mean, it doesn’t matter now, right? You’ll use me and then you’ll dispose of me. What harm would it be in telling me the truth?”

  “Here’s a truth for you: they are not dead,” he said, propelling her so hard toward the wall her back slammed into it. “Stay put.” A button on the wall opened the large, white, sterile laboratory and he jerked his head for her to enter.

  “Who’s—” Words tried to form and couldn’t, her dry mouth and tight throat preventing them.

  Hope rushed up and Honor wanted to squash it down, but couldn’t. It welled inside her, bringing tears to her eyes she hastily blinked away. It seemed she wasn’t as lost as she’d thought, or maybe she was just really unwise for allowing herself to have faith.

  “If I killed them all, what would be your motivation to cooperate? I would have no leverage then. That would be stupid and I am not stupid,” he said, nodding to the table. “Sit. Hold still.”

  “Who is alive?” Please say all of them, please say all of them.

  “Your mother. Your sister.”

  Relief and sorrow melded together and she closed her eyes, grateful that her family had been spared and mourning Ryder and Isaac, and even Talley. She clenched her hands together, digging her nails in the palms of her hands.

  “And the others?”

  “The others?” He blinked. “Oh. You mean lover boy and your knight in dented armor. Dead. Sorry.”

  It was a thoughtless reaction, propelled by fury and anguish—her nails slicing into the soft skin of his neck and dragging down. Angry welts appeared in four thin lines, blood forming and fading immediately.

  “That…was not smart.” Without his composure altering, he backhanded her, causing her head to snap to the side.

  Honor covered her eye with a hand, the pain stinging, throbbing, and then receding. “I don’t know exactly what you are, but I know you are a monster,” she said in a low voice, letting her hand fall from her face.

  Cold blue eyes tinged in gray met hers. “So I am. As are you. Only a monster can spot another one.” August studied her. “You don’t believe it, not yet, but you will. Do you know how you make a monster? You take everything they ever cared about away from them. You make them alone, with no one to love them, and you make them hate. I know this because that’s how I came to be me. It’s not so bad, Honor. You’ll realize, in time. Monsters don’t feel anything; they don’t hurt, because they don’t care. Maybe now you’ll realize what a gift I’ve given you.”

  “They’ll fight you,” she said, wincing as he grabbed her by the biceps and shoved her toward the table. Honor leaned against it, belligerent. He may take her blood, but she would not make it easy for him.

  “They won’t win.”

  “They will. Because they’re good. And you’re bad.”

  “The good only win when the bad give up.” His gaze flickered to hers. “And what do you think you are now? You just killed countless men. You are an animal, a monster, out of control, and lethal, and that’s how they’ll see you. They’ll kill you the first chance they get.”

  “Good.” The needle stabbed into the prominent vein of her forearm. “I hope they do.”

  “Where’s your sense of self-preservation?”

  “I don’t have one anymore.” The syringe was removed and another took its place, the needle remaining embedded in her flesh.

  “Now that’s a pity. And a lie.” Ten vials filled, the rubber band was removed with a snap. “We need to test these. How about on the UDKs you let loose underground? They’re still down there, you know, too scared to do anything but wait. Idiots, all of them.”

  Cold dread iced her from the inside out. “What about the agents and officers? Shouldn’t they be the first? Isn’t it an honor,” she sneered, thinking of Ryder and Isaac. They’d known all about righteousness, in their own individual ways. Where had it gotten them? Dead.

  “Everyone thinks they know what’s going on,” he mused, “but they don’t. Not even you.”

  “So tell me.”

  “Not just yet.” August left, returning almost immediately with ten agents. “If you come out of this alive, then I might. Make me proud.” He quickly injected her blood into the six men and four women, hastily leaving the room.

  The door locked with a click.

  Honor watched their transformations, saw them turn from misguided—maybe bad, maybe not—people into inhuman beings bent on bloodlust. She wasn’t even surprised when it happened. She expected it. They went after one another, they went after her. She didn’t think. She didn’t feel. She annihilated.

  When it was over and she was the only one left standing, numbness enveloped her and wrapped her protectively in its arms. Eyes taking in the end scene, her shoulders slumped.

  I am a monster.

  The white walls were painted in red, the floor awash in it. The strong metallic scent thick and there was not a body that twitched. They were all dead. They had all been bad, or maybe not all of them had been, but they were wrong. They had been wrong and then they were dead. She’d killed them all. She could never go back, never allow her mother to hug her, allow herself to hug her sister, if she ever saw them again. She was as bad as August. She was August.

  He won.

  Broken. I am broken.

  The door swung open and there he stood, grinning. H
is black suit emphasized his trim form, his gray hair gleamed like silver under the ceiling light, and those cold blue eyes twinkled at her. “Come, Honor. We have much work to do. And you have your new family to meet.”

  She walked. Dead inside, her feelings frayed to the point of nonexistent, she met him at the door. She was going to ask him what he meant about her new family, but she didn’t care enough to.

  “He’s waiting.” August strode down the white, endless hallway and Honor followed, leaving the blood and gore behind, metaphorically closing the door on what had recently transpired. “There was a reason your father and Ryder’s had to die.”

  Her heart squeezed at his name, but outwardly it was as if his name had never been spoken. She continued to follow August, around a corner, past a desk where a receptionist went about her job as though she were in a bank and not a building of chaos and evil. What reason, other than that of what an insane mind would cook up, could warrant the loss of her and Ryder’s dads?

  “Why make me kill all of them?” she asked tonelessly.

  “Weeding out the bad ones, the weak ones, that’s all. If there is no control when they first turn, there is no hope for them. Control is always the key.”

  They went up a flight of steps and walked into an open room. Like most of the building, the walls were white, the floor gray. What was out of place was the black leather furniture, the television mounted in a corner of a wall, and the person sitting on the couch, watching them, waiting. He was clean, dressed in jeans and a black tee shirt, his hair dark with dampness. There was no expression on his face.

  Her footsteps faltered and the numb feeling slammed into her and spiraled away, all sorts of emotions taking the place of it. Disbelief, joy, horror, fear—they were all there, thundering through her, causing her to tremble.

  “You said he was dead,” she whispered.

  “He is—sort of. It wasn’t ideal, the way he was turned, but I think in the long run, that is inconsequential. What matters is that it was successful, so far anyway, and that he is the second of your kind. He still needs more injections, but the first round was positive. We’re off to a good start.” August’s voice sounded from far away and she shook her head to clear it, straining to hear him over the roar in her ears.

  “I had the two of you chosen to be mates from the time of your birth. Your fathers wouldn’t allow it and were against my plan. I told them it was a reward to have their children bettered in this way, something to be proud of, but they wouldn’t listen. I wanted the two of you to meet. Your fathers declined. There was a…disagreement. It didn’t end well for them. I know you understand I had to do it, so that everything could come to pass as it had, so that you could be together.”

  “What?” came out faint and choked.

  He gave her a look of sorrow. “You know what. They had to die. It wouldn’t have worked out as it did any other way.”

  The figure on the couch stood, his silver-rimmed eyes studying her. He was waiting for her. There was no malice on his face. There was nothing. Honor blinked and tears spilled down her cheeks, her feet unconsciously moving. What if he was gone? What if the being before her wasn’t the man she knew?

  There was so much she should have said to him. There were so many things, so many feelings, she didn’t understand, but knew enough to understand their significance. No matter his faults or mistakes, he always tried. That was the thing about him—everything he had done he had done with purpose, with a goal in mind. And a lot of the things he’d done, he’d done for her. He'd said he was selfish, but where she was concerned, he had only been selfless

  Honor exhaled softly and it sounded like, “Ryder.”

  She stopped inches from him, wanting to smell that scent she associated with him, but it too was no longer there. That saddened her. Her hand lifted and cupped his angular cheek, her breath gasping as he turned his face into her palm. His skin was cool, his features more defined, even more handsome than before. Long, thick eyelashes lowered and he inhaled deeply, a faint tremble to his lips.

  She was torn between wanting him to be okay the way he was and wishing what he was had never come to pass. He would have been better off dead. It wasn’t right—neither of them should be the way they were. Was it bad that part of her was hoping maybe she wouldn’t have to be alone, that maybe, whatever would happen, they could wade through it together—that a part of her was bursting with relief that he was alive, even though not alive in the way he should be?

  “Say something,” she whispered.

  He shook his head, pressing his forehead to hers, but otherwise not touching her. A moment passed, then another, before he stepped away. He was cold and yet when he left her, he took warmth with him, causing her to shiver in the absence of him. She touched his shoulder and he tensed. Honor’s hand dropped away, her brow furrowing.

  “I won’t be this,” he murmured, glancing at her and away with a tight jaw.

  “You have no choice,” she told him quietly, clenching her fingers to keep them from finding their way to him again. For so long she’d pushed him away—she never wanted to do that again.

  “She’s right. And you already are, son. There is no undoing this,” August said from where he stood near the wall, observing their interaction.

  Honor watched his left hand fist as he raised his head to glare at him. The flesh of his neck was unmarred, as though it had never been severed with a sharp blade. “There is. For every disease there is a cure. This can’t be any different.”

  August’s face went slack a moment before he laughed. “You think so, do you? Going to go on a quest to find it? Good luck. In the meantime, you’re due for another transfusion.”

  “No.”

  The older man’s expression transformed into something monstrous and he lunged for him, pushing him back. “After everything I’ve given you, you’re going to be an ungrateful snot? I just gave you life!”

  Ryder stumbled, steadying himself with a hand to the armrest of the couch. “After you took it away. That’s what you do. You take it away, you give it back, and then you take it away again. I don’t want this life, or anything else from you.”

  He went still, his eyes going from Honor to Ryder. “What about her? Do you want her?”

  He wouldn’t look at her. Ryder kept his gaze straight ahead, the only telling action the way everything about him went taut. He opened his mouth, gnashed his teeth together, and then ground out, “Yes.”

  “If you don’t have your transfusions done, the effects won’t last. You need more blood for it to become permanent—at least five more sessions. Agree and I’ll let you both leave. All I will require is that you report back weekly and that whenever I need you to remove mistakes, you do. I’ll have to place tracking devices on you again. I’m sure you understand why. If you don’t do this—” He grabbed Honor and twisted her arm behind her back. She tried to break away, but he was too strong. “I’ll cut off her head. You know I will.”

  “You won’t. She’s too valuable.” Ryder moved closer and August pulled back, heading for the stairs.

  “I’ll make more. Eventually. You two can’t be the only ones adaptable to the virus. True, you are my first choice, but I can compromise with others in your stead.”

  Ryder locked eyes with her, intense green fire burning through them. If everyone’s eyes spoke like his, there would be no need for words. “No, but we’re the only ones you have right now.”

  Honor’s arm was going numb from the force of his grip and still she tried to get it out of his grasp. It was futile. “Don’t agree to anything. He’s lying. He’ll tell you anything to get you to do what he wants. Don’t let him win.”

  His eyes turned sad, the hint of a smile on his lips. “Don’t you get it, Honor? He has you. As far as I’m concerned, he already has.”

  “That’s a good boy.” August released her, shoving her away. She fell forward, Ryder catching her.

  Straightening his suit and patting his hair, he told them, “I have some bus
iness to attend to. I will be back momentarily. Don’t try to escape. We’re in lockdown. There is no way out. And even if there was, I’d find you. You will not go anywhere until that blood is inside you, Ryder.” He pointed at Honor. “Or she dies. And I mean it.”

  When it was only the two of them, Ryder smoothed her messy hair from her eyes, pressing a firm kiss to her forehead. “It’s going to be okay, Honor. No matter what. I promise.”

  “Don’t make promises. Then you look like a liar when they fail.” She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of him, his embrace disturbingly calming with all the despair clinging to them.

  “You know, this isn’t how I expected us to be together.”

  She looked up and caught the touch of humor in his eyes. “I don’t think anyone would ever pick this as a way to be with someone.”

  “He said he picked us to be together, when we were babies. Do you believe that? Do you believe it's true?”

  “He says lots of things.” Honor turned her gaze from the heat of his. “What does it matter anyway?”

  He answered slowly, “It makes me think, that maybe out of all of the bad, there was something good, or something good was meant to happen in spite of it. Is that crazy?”

  She shook her head, the intensity of Ryder's eyes making it hard for her to breathe. Instead of saying anything, she reached for his hand and clasped it in hers, looking at their interlaced fingers.

  “Do you know what we are?”

  She returned her eyes to his; his so close she could see the myriad of shades in greens and silvers in them. “We’re monsters.”

  Ryder smiled sweetly, cupping her face within his palms. “No. We’re hope.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  Honor moved to put distance between them, wondering how they had gone through everything they had and ended up where they were. He didn’t let her get far before he gently tugged her back. She let him, allowing her eyelids to slide shut as he hugged her from behind, his cool cheek against hers. It was crazy, but she felt safe in his arms. With all the chaos around them, and even because of them, she was sheltered from it all, if she was near Ryder. She could even pretend none of it was going on. It was them and that was it. Nothing else existed.

 
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