Home > Firstlife (Everlife #1)(6)

Firstlife (Everlife #1)(6)
Gena Showalter

No one tells me to remove the sheet, a sign in and of itself. The guards don’t want anyone to record what’s going to happen, and they can blame me for the lack of feed, maybe even claim I hurt myself in an attempt to incriminate them. Not that they’d get into trouble for hurting me.

“What’s going on?” Bow demands.

I explain the situation. She waves a hand through the air, unconcerned.

“You won’t need those,” she says. “I’ve got this. You can sit back and simply enjoy the show.”

As if.

I move to the side of the door, taking a sentry position. With a sigh, Bow does the same.

One hour ticks into another, but I remain in place. I’ve done this kind of vigil before, during the realm riots that occurred in my front yard.

My dad is a senator in the House of Myriad, responsible for ensuring Myriad-friendly laws are passed and Troika-friendly laws aren’t.

Sometimes when a hot-button issue arose—like Myriad’s desire to supersede the human government—Troikan protesters congregated on our lawn, threw rotten food at our doors and windows and screamed vitriol. I just had to wait for it to end.

The stress is the biggest obstacle. My limbs shake. My stomach twists. Sweat drips down my spine. At least I’m not cowering.

I’ll never cower again.

“You sure they’re coming tonight?” Bow asks, as blasé as ever.

“Yes. No. I don’t know.” Sloan could have lied to me. Her version of payback, I suppose. Although keeping us frazzled tonight so we’re useless tomorrow isn’t exactly her MO. She likes to use shivs of her own.

Finally the doors slide open. I tense, ready to strike. Four men wearing black masks march into the room.

They know where we’re hiding. The two men in front swing their arms to deliver a brutal punch. One to each of us.

I’m slower than usual, so I fail to duck in time. I take a fist to the center of the chest, my heart skipping a beat...then another...before leaping into a too-fast rhythm. Bow manages to duck just fine, grab her guy by the arm and, using her elbow as a hammer, break his radius. As he howls with pain, she kicks out her leg, nailing my guy in the torso, causing him to double over.

I act quickly, slamming my knee into his nose. He goes down as another guy dives on me, knocking me down. Upon impact, agony consumes me. I can barely breathe, my lungs flattened, stars winking behind my eyelids.

Get up! I have to win this.

I try without success. Meanwhile, I hear a rustle of clothing, the crunch of other bones breaking...another howl of pain. Dragging sounds. A feminine grunt.

A shadow falls over me. I hold out my hands to ward off—

“It’s okay,” Bow says. “It’s just me.”

Relieved, I sag against the cold, hard floor.

“The men are out for the count and now in the hall.”

Good, that’s good. Guess she had this, after all.

Maybe I can trust her a little?

No, no. Must resist the urge. Despite what Sloan said—despite Bow’s actions—no good can come from an alliance. We’re too different, and with Bow’s support of Troika, she’ll turn on me soon enough.

“I guess we’re even,” I manage to say. I had her back with Sloan, and she had mine with the guards. I got the better end of the deal, but that’s not a me problem.

“Wow. You are one tough Nutter to crack. And that’s not a compliment.”

“I used to be nice,” I tell her. My version of an apology, I suppose. “I was even shy.”

I don’t miss the girl I used to be; she’s a stranger in so many ways. She was scared and weak.

With a strength that baffles me, Bow picks me up and carries me to my bed. She gently lays me across the mattress, saying, “What you need is—”

“Do not say light.”

“Fine. A distraction from your troubles. Want to make out a little?” There’s a teasing note in her tone. “This would be a pity session, nothing more. You may be female, but you’re still not my type. You’re way too mouthy. Oh! I know! I can teach you better uses for your—”

“Shut. Up,” I say, trying not to laugh. Laughing will only make the hurt worse.

“Is that a soft no?”

“Hard no. I’m currently in a relationship.”

She arches a brow. “You have a boyfriend?”

“No.” Miss you so much, James. “I’m dating myself.”

Bow snorts. “You want my advice? Break up with her. She’s no good for you.”

“Hey!”

“Well, it’s true. Right now her priorities are seriously screwed up.”

* * *

The next six days are surprisingly good. Well, as good as can be expected in a place as vile as Prynne.

The four guards were culled from the pack. Dr. Vans says they just up and disappeared, but that can’t be true. He never punishes his men. I think the bastards are recovering in the medical ward. I just don’t know why Bow and I haven’t been punished.

I mean, we’ve been fed three squares every day, we haven’t been singled out during any of our classes, and Sloan hasn’t attacked us.

It’s the little things.

My biggest complaint? Most of Bow’s conversations begin with “If you sign with Troika, you’ll...”

Discover the true meaning of joy.

Know peace for the first time.

Have access to the best advisors in the world.

Make friends who will always have your back.

Pick one. Pick all. Gimme. But too bad for her, Myriad makes the same promises.

I place my newest blood mark on the calendar and straighten with ease. My back is on the mend, my range of motion almost normal.

“Tell me something,” Bow says as she ties her boots. I’m surprised she’s lucid. She spent the entire night threatening the wall. Go away. I’m going to kill you. Oh, yeah? Well, I can definitely hurt you. “Have you met with a new ML lately? A boy? Maybe kinda sorta...handsome.” She gags, as if the word tastes foul. “Maybe he pulled you aside in secret.”

ML—Myriad Laborer. “No. Why?”

She hikes a shoulder in a faux-casual shrug. “I know Myriad’s MO. When a teenage girl refuses to do their bidding, they send a boy they think she’ll like. One who’s supposed to rev her engine.”

“My engine is set to idle, remember? Maybe permanently.” After James... No. Just no.

“Hey. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

My parents would never agree to...

Oh, who am I kidding? They so would.

“I guess it’s better than the alternative.” She stands, stretches her arms over her head and arches her back. “If Myriad ever considers you a lost cause, there’s a good chance they’ll send someone to kill you.”

Same with Troika. There have always been whispers about Laborers who poison the Unsigned to prevent a pledge to the other realm. “One, I’m not close to signing, period. And two, if I die here, Dr. Vans won’t get a bonus.”

The pro? The greedy bastard would take a bullet to save me. The con? It’s just a matter of time before he ramps my torture to the next level.

No matter what’s done to me in the future, I will hold out. I must. I’ll be released on my eighteenth birthday. Though my parents signed with Myriad before my conception, there was a special clause for the birth of a child.

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