Home > Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(10)

Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(10)
Victoria Scott

His hair is so dark, it looks like wet ink, and is spiked around his scalp in soft tufts. He has a strong jawline, and right now that jaw is clenched so tightly, I’m afraid this guy is about to kick me when I’m down.

“They’re all gone,” I whisper. I hadn’t thought to say anything, but it just slips out.

He narrows those chilling blue eyes at me, and in an instant, they flick toward the floor near one of the bookcases. He looks back at me, and I wonder if maybe, even though he looks a little like a serial killer, he’s going to help me up.

His gaze lands on my hair, on the feather woven into it. Then he turns and walks toward the stairs, carrying a colossal egg under his arm. I contemplate fighting him for it; it’s easily the biggest egg I’ve seen tonight. Then I realize it’s pointless. I’m dizzy from hitting my head, and this guy looks like he works out for a living. But I think about the way his eyes flicked toward the bookcase. It makes me wonder …

Treading softly, I move toward where he had looked. But there’s nothing there. I grab on to the top of the bookcase, as far as I can reach anyway, and step up. Then I climb the shelves like they’re a ladder until I can see over the top. There’s nothing there and — when I look around the room from this elevated height — I don’t see anything anywhere else, either.

I crawl down the shelves until I’m standing on the floor again. Then I get onto my hands and knees. When I lay my face against the cool tile and peer under the bookcase, I have to bite my lip to keep from whooping.

I see an egg.

Pressing myself flatter against the floor, I stretch my arm out. I hold my breath as I retrieve it, afraid if I fill my lungs, I’ll drop my prize. Once the egg is safely out, I study it closely. It’s the size of a watermelon, which I guess is okay, but the coloring is all wrong. It’s not like the others, with the remarkable sheen that changes when you turn them over in your hands. This one is dull, and when I hold it up, I see there’s a fracture the length of my finger running across the bottom.

It must have dropped onto the floor and rolled beneath the bookcase. Looking at it, I wonder if whatever’s inside is still alive. My guess is no, but I have no other choice than to hope it is. I stand up, pull out my shirt, and lay the egg in like my shirt’s a nest.

Then I smile. This egg is ugly, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s got a little stank rolling off it. But it’s mine. And I’m going to take care of what’s inside.

I wrap both arms around the bottom of my egg and hurry up the stairs, out the front doors, and into Bob. Slamming the car door, I glance around. I’ve got to find a safe place for this thing. I grab my bag from the back and pull out anything sharp. When all that’s left is soft clothing, I nestle my egg inside, take one last look at it, then zip the bag back up.

Opening the glove compartment, I start to toss in all the remaining items from my bag. When I get to the device, I notice the red light is blinking. My shoulders tense. Will it be the same message as before? Or will there be new information that helps me find the race? I hadn’t even stopped long enough to wonder what I was supposed to do now that I had this freaky egg in my possession.

I slip the device into my ear, close my eyes, and push the button.

Silence — clicking — static.

“Congratulations. You have chosen Pandora Companion KD-8. Each Pandora is unique in its design, and your Pandora is no exception. Please stay tuned for a message from the Creator of KD-8.”

She knows. She knows which egg I took. Opening my eyes, I place a hand on my bag, imagining the egg safe inside. My knees bounce as I anticipate hearing someone new on the device. I don’t have to wait long.

“Hello?” an older male voice says. “Hello? Okay. I’m Creator Collins, and I generated Pandora KD-8. I cannot tell you much about my — er, our — Pandora, as there are strict rules about such things.” The man pauses, as if he’s afraid to say too much. “But I can tell you I’ve spent my entire professional life conceptualizing KD-8’s capabilities, and I hope you find them useful inside the Brimstone Bleed. While you must discover KD-8’s abilities for yourself, please know I have the utmost faith in his ability to reveal his strengths when the time is right. Good luck to you, Contender. And …” The man hesitates again. “And I hope you care for KD-8 as I have.”

My mind buzzes thinking about the man who created my Pandora — Creator Collins. He sounds like an okay guy. His voice is that of a man who owns too many sweaters. I like the way he seems to care about KD-8. It makes me think there might be something special about my egg. I wonder if he made other Pandoras, or if it’s only one Creator per Pandora. Something about the way he hoped I would care for KD-8 the way he did makes me think it’s a one-to-one situation. And who are these Creators anyway? I instantly picture mad scientists with big white hair and plastic goggles. Insert flash of lightning.

I keep listening, and within seconds, the woman whose voice I’ve already memorized returns. “Please report to Lincoln Station and take the train to Valden. You have one hour.”

The deadlines thing is already getting old. I’m a girl who doesn’t like to be rushed. But apparently that’s a big thing in this race. I’m quickly learning that I’ll have to adjust, be someone who rolls with the punches.

Pulling Bob’s visor down, I check myself out in the mirror. Mascara runs down my cheeks, and heavy bags droop beneath my eyes. My hair is everywhere, but when I touch a hand to the back of my head, I don’t find any more blood. Win.

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