Unremarkable anything bu.., p.7
Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 7
Ryder stood in front of Honor, her front colliding with his back, and moved them toward on unknown corridor, shielding her as best as he could. “No one touches her,” he growled.
“There are two of you and over a dozen of us,” the woman said, watching him intently. “Who do you think is going to win?”
“Don’t care. You’re not getting her.”
She straightened her shirt, saying dismissively, “Tie them up for now.”
A mass of UDs swarmed him and hands grabbed at him in an effort to haul him away from Honor. Ryder fought, ducking and weaving, throwing punches when he saw an opening. His training had made him cold, precise, and focused. The pain in his knuckles was fleeting and barely registered in his head before it was gone.
“Ryder!” Honor’s fingers grazed his arm and his control broke when she was dragged away from behind.
Suddenly, it wasn’t Honor they were taking from him—or it was her, but it was also his dad—it was Ryder’s hope, his happiness, it was anything that made him feel anything good and he couldn’t let them take it away, not again.
Animalistic, angry sounds burst from his throat as he unseeingly pummeled anything and anyone that kept him from Honor. He didn’t feel the hits that landed to his face and back, or the blade that sliced through his shoulder. He didn’t hear any noises but those of Honor as she screamed; he saw only her as she wrestled her way back to him and was captured and pulled away again and again. The distance between them widened, turned insurmountable, the obstacles from him to her never-ending, and still he battled. The only thing he knew was that he had to get to her, that nothing would be okay until he had her, and that he couldn’t lose her.
The roar came from behind him and vibrated through the clearing, halting all movement. He spun around, fists raised, but no one wanted to fight anymore. They shied away from him with averted eyes. He dropped his hands and straightened, his chest heaving with each breath he managed to suck through his mouth. A cut above his left eyebrow stung and sweat and blood mixed, dripping into his eyes. His shoulder was on fire, a steady stream of red flowing from the wound.
His eyes searched for and found Honor, and next to her, stood Christian Turner, his hand firmly wrapped around her bicep. Ryder's feet were moving before it registered in his head. “Get your hands off her.”
Christian’s eyes narrowed on him, his jaw tight. “I should have known you would be responsible for this.”
He didn’t speak, his gaze moving along the fallen UDs dumb enough to try to take down Ryder in an enraged state. When Christian looked at him, one dark eyebrow was lifted. “You beat up six men. We’re supposed to be stronger and faster than you, and yet you took down six UDs.”
Ryder rolled his shoulders. “I can add one more to that list.”
“Ryder,” Honor said warningly.
Christian took a step toward him. “The last time the three of us were together, I recall you shooting Honor. Why would I ever give her up to you?”
Honor chose that moment to yank her arm out of Christian’s grasp. Glaring at the two of them, she put distance between them. “I am not an object. I don’t belong to either one of you.”
“How did the two of you come to be here?”
“We found them,” the brown-haired woman told Christian.
“She was ahead of him. I don’t know if they were together or not. He attacked Seth in Lodi. Hank saw it happen and knocked him out, then tossed him in the tunnels some ways back. Lodi is compromised. We have to warn others they need to move on. Who knows how soon more UDKs will show up and take over where he left off?”
“I didn’t attack him,” he cried in exasperation.
Christian looked at Honor thoughtfully. “Were you with him or trying to get away from him?”
“You know, it doesn’t really matter,” she replied conversationally.
“Why is that?”
“Because more UDKs are in these tunnels, and sooner or later, they’re going to find us all.”
Stiff-jawed, Christian turned his attention away. “We need to move. Now.”
“How did they find us here?”
“I don’t know if they found us, Juli, or if they’re tracking them.” He jerked his head in the direction of Ryder and Honor. “Either way, we need to move. Jax, Dominic, tie Ryder up.”
Two men approached Ryder and he braced himself. “Try it and you’ll regret it,” he promised as they advanced.
Christian stormed toward him, stopping when their faces were inches away. “Would you rather stay here, not knowing who will find you next?” He cocked his head, his gray eyes studying him. “Maybe you would.” Turning away, he said, “Tie him up, but he stays. His UDK buddies can decide what to do with him. Honor goes with us.”
“I don’t—” Juli began.
“I decide where I go, not you,” Honor interrupted.
Incredulity flashed across Christian’s angular face. “You want to stay here? With the person who shot you?”
“I didn’t mean to shoot her. I was aiming for you.”
He snorted. “Even better. You want to stay with the person who can’t aim worth shit?”
Ryder snapped his teeth together, wanting so badly to bash Christian’s face in.
“You can’t leave Ryder here. If other UDs find him, they might kill him!” Natasha burst out.
He looked at her and noted how pale she was. He’d forgotten she was even with them.
“So?” Christian cast a baleful look her way.
“You want me to train you? Ryder’s ten times better than I am. Bring him too,” Natasha stated, her quivering lower lip giving away her nervousness.
“He’s more trouble than he’s worth. Be glad he’s being tied up and that’s all we’re doing to him.”
Natasha didn’t respond, going tight-lipped.
“We need to stop arguing about what we’re going to do and just do it. I’m leaving. I hope you don’t wait too long to follow, Christian.” Juli started toward a dark chamber, Natasha’s arm firmly in her grasp as she ushered her forward. Others were following behind her.
Ryder wondered what the hell Natasha was doing in the tunnels anyway, but as far as her safety was concerned, he wasn’t especially worried. She could handle herself, and the UDs may be fugitives, but they weren’t savages; at least, he didn’t think those particular ones were anyway. He told himself she would be okay, but it didn’t really make him feel any better. Were any of them really okay?
Soon only Christian, Ryder, and Honor were left.
Christian beckoned with his hand, impatience hardening his sharp features. “Honor. Come. We need to go.”
She resolutely shook her head. “No. I want to go my own way.”
“She said she’s not going with you,” Ryder snapped.
Honor glanced at him, and then turned to Christian. “Someone is looking for me. I can’t go with you.”
“Let me guess: Nealon?”
She didn’t answer, briefly looking down. Ryder frowned, watching the way Honor pressed her lips together, her stance defensive. What the hell was that? Nealon? Nealon was old, at least in his mid-twenties. What was going on between the two of them?
Christian’s voice was low as he said, “You did me a favor once. I’m inclined to do the same for you. It is clear you are on the run for some reason. If you go with me, I can offer protection.”
“Maybe someday I’ll take you up on that, but not today,” Honor said with a dim smile.
“Fine. Just…try not to get yourself killed.” He looked pointedly at him. “Again.”
Ryder smirked, but it wasn’t a pleasant one.
“Stay out of my way, Delagrave, and I’ll stay out of yours.”
“Same to you. I thought you were tying me up?” he called after his retreating back.
“Not my problem anymore,” the UD said over his shoulder
“Wait! Why wasn't there anyone in that town? In Lodi? It seemed deserted.” He needed to understand something. Nothing was making sense.
Christian paused long enough to say, “Because the UDKs came and wiped the town out. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last.” He disappeared into the darkness of the passageway.
“What? Why?” There was no answer that time. Why would they do that? Confusion tightened his features.
Honor said quietly, “Don't try to understand it. Chaos is forming. That's all you need to know.”
He turned to face her, reaching for her. “It doesn't matter right now. We have to get out of here.”
She brushed him off, moving away. “I’m going now, Ryder.”
“I know. Let’s go.” He was purposely being obtrusive, but what other option did he have? None. She would not be leaving without him. It was as simple as that.
Her gaze roved over him, pausing on his eyebrow and halting on his shoulder. Muttering, Honor quickly tore off the sleeve of her shirt, ripping it into a strip and wrapping it under his armpit and over his shoulder, tightening it with more exuberance than was warranted. Ryder grunted at the pain, but said nothing.
“You’re not going with me,” she told him, meeting his eyes.
“The hell I’m not. You don’t even have a gun anymore! Who’s going to protect you?”
“You know, I actually feel better around you without a gun in the equation.”
“Will no one ever forget that?” he demanded of the cracked wall.
“It’s kind of a big deal, Ryder.”
“Honor…I’m not—I can’t…” He swallowed, desperation clutching his heart and squeezing. “You don’t know what it’s been like…the months since you’ve been gone, thinking I’d…thinking you were dead. Please. Let me go with you. I know I’ve been an ass to you and I thought I had reason to be, but I was wrong, so wrong. Let me make it up to you. You can trust me. Please trust me. I am not the same person you met a few years ago. Let me prove it.”
Honor blinked, her expression saying she didn’t know what she was looking at. “Ryder Delagrave…begging and stumbling over his words. I never thought I’d witness such a phenomenon.”
“Now you’ve seen everything.” He tried to grin, but knew it came off twisted.
Sighing, she said, “I do think you’ve changed, that you are different from the person I knew before all this, but I can’t chance that you’re not. I am sorry. And I have to go. You can tell them I attacked you and got away. Then no blame will come to you. Okay? You belong with the UDKs. I don’t. I never did.”
“No. I don’t. I don’t belong there. I thought I did, but—” he croaked, grabbing her hand and squeezing.
She was right. He knew she was right. Ryder had to go back, even though the thought of reentering that sterile facility full of lies and deception made him physically ill. He didn’t even understand all that was going on, but he knew it all had to be stopped. He had to finish what he’d put into motion. He had to stop August, somehow, or die trying. Dying didn’t seem so bad, not anymore. If he couldn’t have what he wanted, maybe he could at least have justice.
Mind made up, he nodded grimly. “Fine. I’ll go back. But only because I have something I have to do. And Honor? One day, you will be mine,” Ryder said with quiet conviction, her fingers cool within his palm. She had to be. It was the only thing that made sense to him in the midst of all the pandemonium.
A faint smile flittered over her lips, those luminous blue eyes of hers locked on his as Honor squeezed his fingers before tugging away.
“Be seeing you, Ryder,” she said, tossing back words he’d said to her in a different reality so many months ago as she strode down the only other opening available.
He hung his head, breathing heavily at the loss of her light. Honor had barely melded into the underground world when he heard them. He dropped to his stomach, quickly yanking the homemade tourniquet from his shoulder, grimacing at the burn, and shoving it into the pocket of his shorts. He groaned for effect as three UDKs swarmed around him, shouting and making enough noise to ensure any near knew they were not alone.
“Delagrave? What happened to you?” Gina Howard, a tall blond, asked, dropping to the ground next to him. She was an officer like him, but she was a few years older. Most didn’t advance as quickly as Ryder. Most didn’t have a vendetta like he did.
“I don’t know. I was attacked in Lodi and somehow ended up down here. How did you find me?” He sat up and held his head, keeping his eyes down.
“Agent Medina told us to find you, said you were gone much too long. Something about a cut off phone call on the emergency line.”
“How did you know to look in the tunnels?” He allowed her to help him stand, wincing as the skin around his wound pulled when he moved.
“You need stitches,” Zach Moran stated, looking at the sliced flesh of Ryder’s upper arm.
Zach was tall with brown wavy hair and brown eyes. Lifting weights was his favorite pastime and his rippling muscles were proof of that. He had this act of being nice, but he wasn’t. At least in his case people knew he was a jerk. He had gone through training around the same time as Honor had and Ryder had seen him around the Anderson Junction facility, but they’d never been social, not because Zach hadn’t tried.
“It’s fine,” he said, slowly bracing a hand against the wall for show.
“How many where there? Which way did they go?”
“How did you know to look in the tunnels?” he repeated, staring him down.
Zach wouldn’t answer, turning his attention to the doorways.
“Chip,” Gina whispered.
His green eyes flew to her blue ones. “What did you say?”
“Gina, shut up,” Tim Beck hissed, his eyes darting around but never touching on Ryder.
Tim was short with red hair and acne. He was a suck-up, a year older than Ryder. He tried too hard, always.
“We need to find the UDs! Let’s go.” Zach started for the chamber Honor had passed through and Ryder unconsciously lurched forward to thwart him.
“Are you okay?” Gina asked, lightly touching his elbow.
Ryder shook his head, deciding to play the wounded victim to his full extent. “No. I think I lost too much blood. I feel sick, dizzy.” He swayed on his feet. “We should probably head back.”
“What? No.” Zach shook his head, staring at the dark opening with longing. “We need to find the UDs.”
“I’m sure they are long gone by now.”
Eyes narrowing, he slowly walked toward Ryder. “You know…I saw her. Honor. Just a glimpse, but I know it was her.” His head tilted. “Did she do this to you?”
His stomach got queasy as he locked gazes with Zach. “I never saw Honor.”
“You know she escaped, right?”
“Escaped? She’s dead.” His throat tried to close on the word.
“Nah.” Zach shook his head, grinning. “Not anymore she isn’t.”
“What are you—”
“Don’t any of you know how to shut up ever?” Tim snapped. “You’re talking about stuff you’re not even supposed to know about. Let’s head back. There’s nothing here.”
Ryder’s head swam as they trekked their way through the underpasses. He had a GPS on him, somewhere. And Honor…what had Zach meant with that comment? Resolution that he had to go back formed in him, solidified. It was his best choice. Even Honor had known that. He rubbed his forehead as they walked, wondering how she’d gone from the girl of the man who’d killed his father to the girl he wanted to prove himself to.
“Nice friend you got.”
Natasha stiffened in front of him, but kept moving, because she didn’t have a choice. If she didn’t walk, she got carried, something Christian had already warned her of. She’d believed him, walking even faster than she had been before she’d stopped all together with the declaration that she wasn’t going anywhere with them. Her light brown head of hair with the short,
She was like a mini-machine. She’d taken down two men twice her size. Grudging respect for her bloomed within him, and that angered him. In turn he mocked her. He knew what he was doing, he knew it was wrong, and he kept doing it.
“Weren’t you two buddies? You and Ryder? UDK chums and all that? It’s gotta hurt, seeing how much you don’t mean to him. But Honor, he was pretty worried about her, wasn’t he?” Christian didn’t know why he continued to rile her, but his mouth kept spouting off, no matter how many dirty looks Juli sent his way as they journeyed through the underpasses.
He remembered her at school—a semi-loner and yet she thought she was better than him. Always with a snarky comment, a dirty look, following Ryder around like a puppy, like he was a god, and he’d barely looked at her then or just now. He hadn’t tried to free her, and he hadn’t even spoken to her. It must chafe to realize the people you wanted to belong to didn’t want you as much as you wanted them. Christian felt empathy for her, and he hated that he did. He didn’t want to feel anything for Natasha Becwar except loathing.
“Christian,” Juli quietly admonished.
“What?” he got out through gritted teeth.
“Focus on what we’re supposed to be doing, which is to get out of here in one piece, instead of picking on the hostage.”
“You sound like my mother.”
“Maybe you’ll listen then,” she muttered, putting distance between her and Christian.
Only he didn’t. On and on Christian tormented her, not even really knowing why. And when she tripped and fell, he instinctively moved to help her up, but stopped himself at the last second. Natasha landed hard on her side—luckily in a dry spot, unable to catch herself with her tied hands. Her cheek hit the rock ground, scraping it raw, and his stomach dipped. She didn’t make a sound, looking small and helpless lying there, but also proud, always with that upward tilt to her chin.
Jax turned, glowering at Christian, and quickly hauled her to her feet. “Great role model you’re being for the younger UDs. You're acting exactly like what the UDKs accuse us of being—a monster.”
by Lindy Zart have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes