Eden

By: Kate Wrath

Prologue

Pounding, slamming, punching, fingers crunching. Tangled arms and lungs and nothing working can't move can't breathe—

"Eden! Eden!" Jonas' voice explodes in my ear. "Goddammit stop this thing right now!" Panting—mine, his. A soft breath of voice. "It's OK. It's OK."

"We are stopping. It takes a minute!"

"You're OK," Jonas says as the world slides sideways, our shoulders ramming into a wall.

A huge rectangle of daylight appears in the hull. All I can see is white—bright, bright white that makes me squeeze my eyes closed—but I'm scrambling for it, falling out the door and onto the road. I scrape myself off the pavement and stumble away, making Jonas' hand miss my back. He reaches for me again as I stand to the side, hands on knees, head down, gulping air. I swallow down the bile. I am OK. It's just a stupid armored truck. Nothing more.

I take long, deep breaths through my nose, sucking in clean, fresh air. I straighten and look at the wide stretch of blue sky beyond the road, remembering how open and endless the world is beyond the barriers.

"OK?"

I nod, turning toward Jonas. I am OK. I'm not even embarrassed. Not terribly. Not until I see Spec standing there, his pale eyes wide as he watches me.

Something in me snaps. "I have some issues. OK?"

Spec's eyes flick from me to Jonas. He licks his lips, shrugs his shoulders like he's taking off a pack, and tosses me a smile. "Don't we all." He looks to the front of our convoy, and to the back. "Is this going to keep happening?"

My jaw tightens, but I lift my chin. "I'll get used to it." My eyes scan past him to the long stripe of road that lies ahead of us. "How much longer?"

He laughs as he turns back to the truck. "You better get used to it," he says. "There'll be lots of places where you can't get out. Places where stopping equals dying."

As he disappears back into the truck, Jonas and I lock gazes. His green eyes are wary, but his mouth is a line of determination.

"What's your trick?" I ask, half pissed-off that he's dealing just fine with being packed in a metal box again.

He shakes his head, looking away. Disconnected. We're so, so disconnected.

Giving up on an answer, I start to move past him, but his gaze flicks back to me.

He doesn't smile, not the way I'd like. But there's something real in his eyes. "I'm mostly just focusing on how badly I have to pee."

I laugh unexpectedly, running my fingers through my hair. A glance at him reveals his gorgeous face stretched into a wide smile. As I step toward the truck, I keep my voice level, covering up the flutter of emotion inside me. "Does that mean I shouldn't take a pee break now?"

"God, no," he says. "Take a pee break. There are places where peeing equals dying."

Wearing a smirk of amusement, I move between the trucks to take his advice. I gesture to the driver to turn around, tossing him a glare that ensures his quick compliance. It's the most privacy I'll get out here, so I try not to think about it. Instead, my mind wanders back to Jonas. He doesn't realize it, but he really has helped. That smile. That moment of connection. A guilty little indulgence to hang onto when I close my eyes in the dark pit. Healthy? Probably not. Good idea? Unlikely. I thought I was past that. But sometimes you've got to make concessions. Choose your poison. Especially in our messed-up world, where stopping equals dying. ...Where peeing equals dying....

I snicker as I squat.





Chapter 1: Just Pretending

Despite all the things that have become clear, I still have no idea who I am. For all the pieces of information, I am an unresolved image. Hazy at best. Or focused with a line drawn down the middle. Two sides, split.

I woke up in this world as nothing, became Eden, then found out I was Lily before I was erased. Now that I’ve found my past, now that I’m ‘home’, there will be expectations. How can I possibly meet them, when I’m such a patchwork of personalities?

Jonas reaches out and takes my hand, smiling. Or is he Jason? I don't know him any better than I know myself. Still, I smile back. I'm warm inside, like my entire being is absorbing this sunshine. Within, without. A tropical breeze wafts across the terrace, thick with moisture and salt, as we follow Spec's long strides toward our destiny.

Footsteps behind us, a buzz of guards who have accompanied us this far—those who were part of the armored convoy that brought us all the way from Baton Rouge to Miami. We're home now, and it's about to get interesting.

Spec makes for the edge, where a railing overhangs the sweep of buildings below. I can hear them down there. Coming. Their voices drift in waves up to us, a mass of uncertainty. My stomach is twisting at the thought of all those people. Who am I to pretend that I belong here? That I know what I'm doing. But Spec has made it clear. There can be no doubt. No weakness. Not a hint of hesitation. Blood drains away from my face as my mind touches the memory—surrounded by a massive crowd, not allowed to hesitate.... Blood. Blood. Too much blood.

Our journey from Outpost Three took us through some horrendous places, and put us through hell. Saint Louis will always be a nightmare for me, remembering what I did there. No. What I had to do. I had to kill George, or we’d all be dead. Just like I had to bear the pain that came in the form of some maniacal contraption attached to my nerve centers. That was the least of the pain. This is the real punishment. The memory that lives on, turning my gut with every little reminder. The guilt. The endless feeling of rising panic.

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