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Ordinary anything but se.., p.9

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 9


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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Honor sat on the far end of the couch closest to the partial wall so she could see everyone from below and knew if anyone was coming. She’d caught a glimpse of Ryder earlier talking with Nealon and had quickly turned away, not wanting to draw his attention to the loft and her. She’d always thought she could read him, that she’d had him easily pegged. Now Honor knew that wasn’t so and it unnerved her. Ryder wasn’t obvious; he was instead multifaceted.

  Sundays were free days. There was no testing or training (Nealon had informed her yesterday that was to come), no information overload, although Nealon had dropped a large, thick book in her arms when he’d flagged her down after breakfast.

  “Read it,” was all he’d said; turning away before she’d had a chance to comment.

  She hadn’t known what she’d expected from him. He’d spent the better part of Saturday with her, explaining things to her, showing her around the place. Then Sunday…he gave her a book. She felt a little lost, a lot alone. Honor had no one to talk to. She wanted to tell him about what she’d seen last night, about how Burns had handled things, about the boy she hadn’t seen at all today. He probably knew anyway and didn’t care. Honor kind of thought he would though.

  “Shouldn’t you be reading?”

  She started, the heavy book sliding from her lap and landing on the floor with a small thump. Honor took in Ryder’s black tee shirt, faded jeans, messily styled hair, and lastly, his slightly swollen nose. The bruises had gone from purple to greenish-yellow.

  “I was informed Sundays are free days, and anyway, shouldn’t you have a life?” Honor leaned down to pick up the book, but one large boot stopped her. She looked up at him. “Really?”

  “So you just carry that hefty book around for fun? You must be a tortured soul, intent on self-torment. And I have a life. A spectacular one, in fact.” Ryder removed his boot from the book with a quick lifting of his lips.

  Honor picked the book up and set it on the stand next to the couch. “Yeah, that’s why you hang out here when you don’t even have to. Great life.”

  Ryder plopped down on the couch close enough that his leg was touching hers. She could smell his expensive cologne. It smelled good, kind of fruity, but masculine too. His body heat seeped into her thigh. She moved away.

  “You’ll be happy to know I came here specifically to see you.”

  She went still. “Why? Revenge?”

  He leaned toward her, his eyes studying her face. “That starts tomorrow.”

  He flashed another quick lifting of the lips that wasn’t really a smile. Her insides churned in response. He looked and sounded much too cheerful about whatever it was he had planned for her the next day.

  “You and I, we have some unresolved issues to discuss.”

  “Such as?”

  “Your obsession with me. It’s beginning to worry me. You can’t keep following me around everywhere. I mean, school was okay, but here?” He shook his head. “A line has to be drawn.”

  “You are hilarious.”

  “I know. Don’t be jealous.”

  Shaking her head, Honor decided a change of subject was needed. Too much of charming Ryder and it was easy to forget all the other parts of him.

  “When did the UD virus kick in for you?” she asked, carefully watching him.

  Ryder’s face went implacable. “Two years ago.”

  “Two years ago. When you were sixteen.” Honor’s eyes studied his face. “About the time you moved here.”

  “You’re fast,” he mocked.

  “Is that why you moved here?”

  “No, it was the beautiful scenery.”

  “You know, I liked you better when you were trying to woo me.”

  “Is that what you thought I was doing?” Ryder laughed. “Please.”

  Honor shifted uncomfortably, her face burning. Well, that’s what she’d suspected anyway. Not always, but some of the time.

  “I was watching you. Big difference between wooing someone and watching someone. Maybe you should trade that textbook in for a dictionary. I’m sure there’s one around here somewhere.” He pretended to search the area, shrugging as his eyes came to rest on her.

  She looked down at the brown book on her lap. Ryder had been spying on her, waiting to see if she’d turn into a UD or a UDK. Natasha had been as well. Ryder’s interest in her for the last two years; it had all been a big joke on Honor. Not that she cared, but the duplicity of Ryder’s intentions was more than a little aggravating.

  “If your nose wasn’t so close to already being broken, I’d break it for sure this time,” she said evenly, staring at his profile.

  Ryder smiled at the shy girl across the room. She jumped to her feet, her book clutched to her chest, and hurried from the loft.

  “Yeah, about that. That won’t be happening again.” Cold eyes were narrowed on her and Honor fought to keep a shudder in. “Don’t ever try something like that again. I mean it.”

  “And if I do? Will bad Ryder come out?” She didn’t know why she was taunting him. No good would come of it. But when they tossed words back and forth, she felt, somehow, alive, in a way she otherwise never did.

  He looked at her so intently and for so long that Honor wiggled in the seat. Ryder leaned forward; near enough she could see the gold flecks in the green of his eyes. “You don’t want to see bad Ryder. Trust me,” he said silkily.

  He straightened, smiling. Honor didn’t know how he couldn’t hear her heart pounding, but he didn’t comment, so he must not have. “I wasn’t prepared last time. I will be from now on.” Ryder got to his feet and looked down at her. “See you tomorrow after school. I’ll be sure to remember your schoolwork.”

  He started for the stairs.


  Ryder turned with a quirked eyebrow.

  Honor slowly stood. “When did you…when did you know…what you were?”

  “On my sixteenth birthday. It was epic. Most kids get to drive. I got to find out my art teacher was a freak. Happy Birthday to me and all that. ” His tone was carefree, but there were lines around his lips that hinted at what the change had really cost him.

  Honor didn’t believe it was epic, not in a good way, at least. And seeing that for the first time? It wasn’t easy to accept, not for anyone.

  When he moved to leave again, her pulse picked up. She didn’t want him to go and she didn’t understand why. There was so much she didn’t know about him.

  “Why did you really come here today?”

  A grin hovered on his lips as he turned his head to the side. “I just wanted to make sure you were still in one piece so I can exact my revenge on you tomorrow.” He faced her and winked. “Be seeing you, Honor.”

  She stared at the spot he’d stood long after he was gone. Honor was confused. She hated feeling that way. What Ryder said and did contradicted one another on a daily basis. Could it be he had been worried about her? She shoved the thought away, but it lingered, giving her doubts. Ryder was good at that, making her doubt herself, and him.

  She never knew where she stood with him, which Honor kind of thought was what he intended. She picked up the book titled ‘UD Handbook’ and headed for her room. He’d basically just said he was not, and never had been, interested in her.

  She walked down the steps, one hand against the wall to keep from losing her balance. Then why had he gone out of his way to interact with her so often? Why do you care? She didn’t. Honor needed to understand, that was all.

  Plus he’d asked her to have dinner with him. But that was after the UD virus had affected you. Honor stopped at the bottom of the stairs, her gaze lifting as she felt eyes on her. Four kids watched her from the benches, three boys and one girl.

  Honor would have kept walking, but one of the boys called out, “Hey, you.” She stopped and looked at him. He had wavy brown hair, brown eyes, and straight, even teeth. The boy flashed a smile. “Come here.”

  Nerves jumbling in her stomach and palms dampening, she approached them, the book held tightly in
her arms. She recognized them from the night before. They were spread out over two benches like they weren’t infected with a body-changing virus, like they weren’t being kept from their homes, like their lives hadn’t recently been completely reworked. They were good actors.

  “I’m Zach,” the talker of the group said.

  “This is Rose.” He pointed to the blond-haired girl sitting next to him. She was pretty, but there was an inflexible edge to her face, an unforgiving element. Honor thought she would fit right in with the UDKs.

  “Max.” A boy with shaggy brown hair and pale blue eyes nodded.

  Zach smiled. “And James.” James had glasses, short dark brown hair, and kept his eyes down as Honor looked at him.

  Out of all of them, James stirred her interest the most. He looked so despondent and either wouldn’t, or couldn’t, hide it like the others. They were all scared. Honor had seen it in their faces the night before. She of all people knew things always seemed better during the daytime hours, even when it wasn’t. It was easy to forget the incident from the other night when it wasn’t staring them in the face.

  “I’m Honor.”

  “Everyone knows who you are,” Rose said. She didn’t say it nicely either.

  She chose to ignore her comment. “Where are you from?”

  Zach answered, “We’re all from different parts of Wisconsin.”

  “So all UDs and UDKs in Wisconsin are registered through here?”

  Rose laughed, but again, it wasn’t a pleasant sound. “This is the third facility in the state, the newest one.”

  Honor swallowed. “I thought…I thought the chances of being born with the virus have lessened. Why are they opening more facilities?”

  James finally looked at her then. She took in his young features and felt a twinge in her heart. Something about him reminded her of Scarlet; the innocence he had yet to lose. “The chances have lessened, but the population of people is always multiplying. There are over seven billion people in the world right now. An eighth of that carries the virus,” he said in a quiet voice.

  “How old are you?” Honor asked him. It was important to her that she got all the information on James he was willing to give. She didn’t know why, just that it was.

  “I turned sixteen five days ago.” He clasped his hands together in his lap and looked at them.

  “He’s been here four,” Max answered, jumping to his feet and startling Honor.

  “James was a quick turner,” Zach said. “Most kids don’t turn so soon after their sixteenth birthday. I’m seventeen. Tomorrow is my eighteenth birthday. Tomorrow I also get to go home. Rose is going to be seventeen in a month and she’s been here six days too.”

  Ryder—he had turned on his sixteenth birthday. Two years he’d been living with that knowledge, two years he’d known the life everyone thought existed wasn’t real at all. What did that do to someone so young? Her gaze went back to James. What had it done to him?

  “I’m sixteen and six months and…five days. Same as I’ve been here.” Max began bouncing on the balls of his feet.

  “Max is a little hyper,” Zach supplied when Honor gave him a look.

  “I noticed that.”

  “I wanted to thank you,” Zach said, rising to his feet.

  He was tall, probably over six and a half feet, and muscular. Honor hadn’t noticed his muscles when he was sitting. His biceps bulged as he crossed his arms, showing he liked to lift weights and a lot.

  “For what?”

  “For standing up for Scott. He hasn’t adapted well. He was brought here a day before you.” Zach showed his impressive teeth. “I heard you didn’t take the news so well either. We were in training when they brought you in, so unfortunately, we missed the excitement.”

  Rose flipped her hair, a bored look on her face. “UD Headquarters. Never a dull moment.”

  “Where is he now? Is he okay?”

  “He’s in lockdown, in his room, under supervision. To make sure he doesn’t flip out again, hurt himself, try to escape.” Max spun on a heel and began to moonwalk.

  Honor watched him a moment, then shook her head.

  “How did they break the news to you, tell you, you were a UD carrier?” Zach asked.

  The still-fresh anger and resentment reared up. “They didn’t tell me anything. I saw them take Christian. I was worried they’d killed him or something. I didn’t know what was going on. They came for me the next day. I didn’t know what to think. So I ran.” Honor shrugged.

  She noticed Max stopped bouncing at the same time Zach stiffened. Rose sat up, looking interested for the first time since her arrival. Only James didn’t show any reaction to her words.

  “Christian? You mean the UD?” Zach asked slowly.

  Honor met his eyes. “Yeah. Christian Turner. I go to school with him.” The friendly atmosphere vanished. She literally felt the air around her cool. She shivered, swallowing.

  “We don’t associate with UDs, Honor,” Zach said in a brittle tone.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “He’s a UD, an undead. He’s the enemy.”

  “Enemy? Since when are they the enemy?” Honor tightened her grip on the book, her anger building. “He’s not just a UD. He’s a person.”

  “Not anymore he’s not. He could flip out, go on a killing spree. UDKs and UDs don’t exactly hang out together. It’s pretty simple. They’re bad. We’re good. We keep our distance from one another.”

  She stared at him, at all of them, stunned by Zach’s words and their facial expressions. “They’re not bad. They didn’t ask for this and I’m sure they don’t want it. It could have been any of us,” Honor said softly. “We all were born with it. It could have gone either way. We could be UDs instead of UDKs.”

  Max looked down, but Rose rolled her eyes.

  Zach said, “Only we’re not.” He moved closer, looking down at her. “You better realize where your loyalty is, and fast. People who don’t know or choose unwisely…they don’t do so well outside these walls.” He ended his threat with a smile.

  Honor stared him down; unable to believe what she was hearing. She glanced at Rose and away. She wouldn’t be getting any understanding from her. She could see the indecision in Max’s eyes. He wasn’t quite like the other two, not yet. Max could go either way. James quietly watched her, no animosity on his face. He was smart. She could tell that from the few sentences he’d uttered. He was too intelligent to mindlessly follow anyone. She hoped.

  She turned back to Zach. “You know who I’m loyal to, Zach? Me. That’s who.” Honor hurried away from them, but not too fast. She didn’t want them to think they had upset her.

  They had.

  Honor didn’t want them to think she wanted to escape them as quickly as she could.

  She did.

  The way Zach, and maybe the rest of them, thought…it was scary.

  Honor made her way down the narrow stairway toward the UD housing. She pushed Zach’s harsh words from her mind. She didn’t care what he thought or said about her or Christian. He was wrong. She hated that Christian was being kept locked up like an animal or a criminal. He hadn’t done anything bad. He hadn’t asked for any of it. She was pretty sure he didn’t want to be what he now was. None of it was his fault. She couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t known him outside of the facility if maybe she would have thought more like Zach. She liked to think it wouldn’t have mattered. Honor didn’t really know. But she did know Christian, if only distantly.

  Nealon was speaking with one of the robots. Honor stayed by the doorway, wondering if he would make her leave. He glanced at her, but didn’t otherwise acknowledge her in any way.

  Her attention was immediately drawn to Christian’s room. It was empty. She frowned, fear trying to take hold. She shook it off.

  She stalked over to Nealon, not waiting for him to notice her. She was pretty sure that would be a long wait. “Where’s Christian? Nealon. Where’s Christian?”

  He f
inally faced her, the man he was talking to fading away into the murky corner he probably lived in. “It’s Agent Nealon, Rochester.”

  “Before it was Nealon. Today it’s Agent Nealon?” He didn’t answer. “Fine. Whatever. Agent Nealon. Where’s Christian?”

  He watched her features as he coolly replied, “Moved.”

  Nealon turned away and headed for the stairs.

  Her stomach dropped and she took off after him. “What do you mean, moved? Why? Where is he?”

  All she could think was that it was her fault somehow and that they’d probably hurt him or killed him or something and it was all her fault. Honor couldn’t stand the thought of being responsible for someone’s demise. It filled her with overpowering dread and helplessness. She couldn’t breathe thinking about it.

  Nealon paused halfway up the stairs. “Your interest in the subject was frowned upon by the hierarchy. They thought it best he be transferred to another facility as you appear to be much too concerned over his welfare.”

  “Hierarchy?” she barely got out around the tightening of her throat. My fault. All my fault. “Why wouldn’t I be concerned? I know him.”

  He kept going, his form almost to the top of the stairs. Honor came to a stop, her shoulders slumped. What had she done? She’d jeopardized Christian’s safety with her good intentions. What if they had hurt him, because of her?

  “I don’t understand. Who are these people?”

  He didn’t stop, didn’t slow down.

  Dejected, Honor stared at his taut back, sad on so many levels. It was too much. She was going to break apart from it all. “Nealon?” she softly beseeched, not really expecting him to respond.

  His back stiffened even more than it already was and he swung around, coming down the stairs toward her fast. He was tight-lipped and his eyes warned of danger. “I am not your friend. I am your superior. I am here to guide you and nothing more.”

  “I didn’t—“

  Nealon leaned close enough that Honor could smell his scent that pierced her chest with an ache for her father and her childhood; her innocence. “It’s Agent Nealon. Don’t think I’m anything more than your director, Rochester. Understand? I am not here to babysit you, to take care of you. I am not your pal. I am not your father.”

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