Home > Firstlife (Everlife #1)(9)

Firstlife (Everlife #1)(9)
Gena Showalter

I chew on my bottom lip as my mind whirls. I’ve never voiced my desire aloud, have held the secret close to my heart. “My grandparents left me a trust.” One my parents can’t touch. My grandparents were Troikan, which was how my mom was raised. When she met my dad, she decided Myriad was the place for her. “At eighteen, I’ll be set. I’ll be able to afford a house on the beach.” One with zero neighbors who force me to think about issues I can’t solve. “I’m going to...surf.”

I’ve never been allowed, could only watch other people from the safety of my bedroom. Anytime I asked to do something remotely “dangerous,” I was told I had to wait until I reached the Age of Accountability and signed with Myriad.

Now I crave excitement. The wind in my face, water beaded over my skin.

For some reason, as happiness buzzes in my veins, my gaze is drawn to New Guy.

He’s staring at me again.

Each of my pulse points leaps. Not knowing what else to do, I nod in acknowledgment.

“Wait. Are you eye-screwing him?” Bow demands.

What? “No!”

Somehow he hears our conversation over the chatter around us and calls, “Yes.” Then he winks at me.

I glare at him before I glare at Bow. I might have shared tidbits of my life with her, but that doesn’t mean she knows me or has the right to castigate me. “Do you want me as your enemy, Bow?”

Her jaw drops. “No. Of course not.”

I say nothing else, my point made. I stand and walk away from her...toward New Guy.

He smiles at me, but it’s the wicked one, as if he knows a secret I don’t, and it sets my nerves on edge.

As I pass him, I take a page from Bow’s book, hook my foot around the leg of his chair and yank. The chair topples over, taking him with it.

His surprised laughter follows me out of the cafeteria.

Chapter three

“There is no supposed to be, only what is.”

—Myriad

There’s a line in the hallway. As I take my place at the tail, Bow rushes up behind me, apologizing. I ignore her. As usual, some kids are sent to the gym to “lose a few pounds,” and some are sent to the commons to “lose a little crazy.” In either case, the time is considered a preclass “warm-up.”

Also as usual, I’m sent to the commons.

A guard oinks at Bow and pushes her toward the gym. For the first time, she sidesteps him and tries to follow me.

I remember her warning. You have to keep me nearby from now on.

She’s that worried about New Guy?

The guard—I call him Colonel Anus—grabs her. At the moment of contact, she spins, raising the arm he’s holding and also cradling it against her chest while rotating her wrist, putting her palm just under her chin. She uses her other hand to latch on to the meaty part of his palm. Then she steps back, twisting his wrist.

He drops, hitting the floor with a thud, his arm now positioned behind his back.

Girl has even more skills than I realized. I’m impressed.

“I’m staying with my roommate today. Get used to the idea.” She drops Anus’s arm and steps on the back of his head to pass him. His nose slams into the floor, and he wails with pain. The problem? He has a friend I’ve named Ben Dover. Ben launches into action, grabbing Bow by the hair and yanking. She flails as she falls backward.

“Chubby girls don’t get to spend their mornings chatting about their problems.” He spits at her when she lands. “The treadmill is your best friend.”

“Well, my fist is your worst enemy.” She kicks out and nails him between the legs. “And my foot. Yeah, I probably should have mentioned my foot.”

He loses his breath as he drops to his knees.

She sits up and draws back her elbow, clearly planning to knock out his teeth. New Guy runs past her before she can act and she goes still, as if her mind has clocked out for a smoke break. Did he do something to her? By the time she’s all systems go, the guard has swallowed the nuts she drilled into his throat and reentered the game. He easily dodges her next blow and throws one of his own, popping her in the jaw.

A loud crack rings out.

As Bow crashes, other inmates move out of the way. Including me.

I want to help her, and I will—when I can actually do some good. Know when to strike and when to wait. Or hurt.

Two other guards and a nurse—a woman I affectionately refer to as Nurse Ratched—enter the fray.

Nurse Ratched pulls a syringe from the pocket of her lab coat. “A special cocktail for a special girl.” Bow is held down and stuck in the neck. Her entire body begins to twitch, but she remain conscious. Most other kids pass out when they’re drugged.

Guilt fills me. Could I have done something?

She would have done something for me.

“Show over.” Nurse Ratched, another Russian, glares at me as if I’m at fault. “Move along. Now!”

No other choice. Well, no other intelligent choice. I head to the commons alongside the others. I’m trembling as I sit in my assigned circle in the back of the room, where chairs without cushions have been nailed down.

New Guy shoves someone aside to take the spot next to me. That someone—a boy named Hank—protests until New Guy gives him a hard thump to the throat. While Hank gasps for air, New Guy gifts me with that slow predator’s grin.

I breathe him in: peat smoke and heather. Exotic, with a hint of musk, and I swear it’s like I’ve just been transported to the British Isles after a rainstorm.

His eyes...they’re as bright as the sun I haven’t seen in over a year, and they are the most mesmerizing shade of gold with flecks of crystalline blue.

In one, there are five flecks. In the other, three.

Five. The number of our senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Three. A trinity. We have a spirit, soul and body.

In an octave, the fifth and third notes create the basic foundation of all chords. How appropriate. Those eyes have somehow made my blood sing. Or I’m simply malnourished and on edge, and my brain is overcompensating.

Yeah. That.

This close, I can almost count New Guy’s individual lashes. They are long, spiky and jet-black...and I’m staring at him, I realize.

“That wasn’t a very nice thing to do,” I say.

“And knocking over my chair was?” His voice is low and husky with a slight Irish lilt, and it’s almost as smoky as his scent. “Let’s do the introduction thing so my heartbeat will finally calm down. I’m Killian. And you are stunningly beautiful.”

Before he’s finished delivering the (clearly) practiced line, I’m already building walls. “I think you mean I’m attitudinal.”

“Definitely not. But now I’m certain you’re irresistible.”

“I think you mean unsuitable.”

“Or adorable.”

Oh, crap. Are we flirting? “All right. Enough.”

The corners of his lips twitch. “Are you playing hard to get, lass? It’s never happened to me before, so I need clarification.”

“I’m not playing anything. And I’m impossible to get.”

He rubs his hands together with something akin to glee. “Well, then. Challenge accepted.”

I open my mouth to protest, but my gaze lands on his wrists. Myriad brands. They are the loveliest I’ve ever seen, the links slanted rather than rounded, creating languid eyes. And up close like this, the tattoos on his forearms appear to be Technicolor. They are spectacular, but there are too many to count without a more intense study.

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