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Sophie Jordan


  To Kari Sutherland —

  for getting me through five books

  and teaching me so much in the process.

  Thank you doesn’t come close to covering it.



  Part One: Resistance

















  Part Two: Crossings












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  About the Author

  Books by Sophie Jordan



  About the Publisher



  * * *

  Presidential Proclamation

  Section 1. Funding for Detention Camps

  * * *

  a) Within forty-eight hours of the issuance date of this memorandum, and in conjunction with the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management of Budget, a sum of $1.27 billion shall be released to the Wainwright Agency for the express purpose of the administration and expansion of all detention camps for the continued harmony and protection of this country against the threat of HTS carriers, whose genetic mutation predisposes them to commit violence. . . .



  He comes to me at night. The first time he intruded on my dreams I thought it was an isolated thing. A sudden troublesome nightmare that would fade with the night, never to return.

  But it does. He does. And I begin to realize he’s never going away. Brown eyes. Bullet hole. Black-red blood. He will always be there.

  The knowledge sinks slowly, awfully, like an animal’s teeth biting down and holding deep and hard into my muscle. I can’t pull away. Can’t shake it. I’m caught. Pinned in its jaws.

  Strangely, I thought being labeled a killer and losing everything—my future, family, boyfriend, friends—was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. It’s not. Finding out they were right? Finding out that’s exactly what I am?

  That’s worse.

  He’s just a shadow in the corner of the room tonight. A dark, motionless shape, the edges of him blurred like smudges on paper.

  I sit up in the bed, drawing my knees to my chest. Sean lies beside me, chest rising and falling softly, unaware of our late-night visitor. And I guess he’s only my visitor really. Nothing haunts Sean. For him the past is just that. Something left behind, and I envy his ability to move on. To accept himself. To simply accept what is.

  My gaze slides back to the dead man. I feel his familiar eyes crawling over me. Watch him watching me while cicadas drone a steady lullaby outside the trailer. Looking at him, I remember everything. That moment when the director of Mount Haven forced my hand and demanded that I kill. Oh, Harris gave me a choice. I guess. If letting him kill Sean was a choice. Either I killed a stranger—an anonymous carrier—or Sean died. That was my choice. No matter what, someone would have died. Either way, my fate was decided.

  Sean sleeps on, blissfully unaware, his body like something sculpted from marble, the dark ink tattoos on his arm and neck standing out starkly against his lighter skin. I try to use this—the familiar, comforting sight of him—to make me feel better. He’s why I killed that man, after all. So Sean could live. But it doesn’t work. Unable to look at him, unable to bear the reminder, I turn away.

  And that’s what Sean has come to be. A reminder of the most horrible moment of my life. I don’t regret saving him, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a killer now.

  When we first fled Mount Haven and arrived at this trailer practically sitting on the US-Mexican border, everything was great. Sean. Me. We were great. Holding hands, touching, kissing. Like two teenagers who had just discovered each other. In a way, I guess we were that. We curled around each other every night, our bodies like two spoons. There was no pressure beyond whispered words and lingering kisses. Just the scent of him, his skin warm and solid next to mine, was enough. Being with him filled me with a giddy sense of hope—a belief that everything was going to be all right. Was that only days ago? How quickly things disintegrated and dissolved to dust.

  My nails dig into my palms, indenting the flesh with tiny half-moons. I embrace the pain, taking the punishment. Rolling on my side, I pretend that the figure in the corner isn’t there anymore, watching me. Brown eyes. Bullet hole. Black-red blood.

  I pretend Sean hasn’t become someone I can’t bear to see or touch or love.

  Closing my eyes, I tell myself pretending will eventually work. That it will become real.

  I’m the first one up. I feel achy and tired all over, and I take an extra-long shower, bowing my head and letting the water beat down on my neck. It doesn’t help that I never really went back to sleep, too afraid of a repeat visit from Brown Eyes himself. I used to treasure my eight hours of sleep every night.

  Back home, Mom had to shake me awake two or three times every morning. I loved my bed. The down-filled comforter. The surplus of pillows and stuffed animals from my youth. The way the morning sunlight would filter through my pink-and-green diaphanous curtains. It’s strange how much you miss all those little things. What I wouldn’t do to hug one of my old stuffed animals. To be that girl again. Sometimes on Saturdays Mom would make French toast and sausages. The savory aroma would fill the house and lure me from bed. It’s hard to accept that those days are gone. Even lunches at my old private school, Everton, had been delicious. Not that I appreciated it at the time. I miss the salad bar and the made-to-order stir-fry.

  Gil pops up on the couch, his hair sticking out in every direction. He rubs his eyes as I pour cereal into a bowl. No milk, but I’m already used to eating it dry.

  A book slides to the floor. He must have fallen asleep reading it. It’s an old, yellowed, dog-eared copy of The Hobbit. Last night he told Sabine the general plotline. She sat before him like a little girl, holding her knees and rocking in place, her eyes wide as he painted a picture of hobbits, dragons, and all manner of fantastical creatures. Sean had listened, too, his smile rueful as his eyes slid from them to me.

  “Sorry.” I wince as I set the box back down on the table. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

  Blinking, Gil reaches for his glasses sitting on the upside-down crate serving as a coffee table. No longer blind, he zeroes in on me. “Nah, I needed to get up anyway.”

  I resist asking why. It’s not as though we have that much to do. Sean monitors the comings and goings at the river below. Gil occasionally joins him or relieves him. Right now we’re just waiting until Sunday, when we’ll make our crossing. Along with a copy of The Hobbit, we discovered a box of checkers on the dusty shelf in the corner of the trailer. We play that a lot, even though Gil always wins. There’s the challenge, the hope that we might beat him, that keeps bringing us back. That and boredom.

  I munch noisily as Gil removes a stale bagel from a bag and takes a huge bite. Our food choices are limited. The place was supplied with minimal groceries when we first arrived. Nothing fresh. Mostly items that won’t expire or grow mold anytime soon.

  “Didn’t think I could miss anything about Mount Haven,” he mutters, dry crumbs falling from his lips.

  I nod, understa
nding. “The food.”

  “I never ate that well before. Unless you count jumbo slushies and bags of Cheetos from the gas station.”

  I nod like I agree. Like I didn’t eat well in my old life, too. Except I did. We ate out at the best restaurants. Sushi. Chinese. Italian. And Mom was a good cook, even if she only bothered once, maybe twice, a week. She made a lasagna so deep you could lose a fork in it. Dad would groan at the sight of it. My chest tightens, an uncomfortable ball forming in the center. I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.

  Sean and Sabine join us. We all move around in companionable silence, preparing our unappetizing breakfasts.

  Sabine isn’t a morning person. You’re lucky to get a word out of her before ten a.m. She rips the foil packaging off a Pop-Tart and sits across from me at the table. Shaking long brown hair back from her face, she manages a smile, biting into the pastry. Crumbs fall to the table, and she brushes them onto the floor.

  Sean uses one of the jugs of water to make some coffee, and soon the rich aroma fills the trailer. He offers me a mug and I accept. After the first bitter swallow, I reach for the sugar and add a generous spoonful. Then a second. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy a latte again. Maybe they have those where we’re going. Maybe. My life is full of maybes. Even more than the maybes are the “never happening agains.”

  I sigh against the ceramic rim, grateful for the surge of caffeine to my bloodstream.

  “Good?” Sean asks.

  “Yeah. Thanks.”

  Sabine’s gaze darts between us. There’s silent inquiry in her eyes. Speculation. I know she’s wondering what’s up with us. Well, with me.

  Sean gathers up his well-worn map and binoculars and the spiral pad he’s been using to take notes. The map in his hand crinkles as he says, “I’ll be back later.” His gaze sweeps the room, lingering on me the longest. “I wouldn’t mind some company.”

  I nod, and the motion feels jerky, unnatural. “Sure. I’ll be out in a little while.” Like I have something keeping me inside the trailer.

  The trailer door shuts quietly after him.

  Gil rises. “Hope you don’t mind, but I’m gonna borrow one of the beds and go back to sleep. That couch sucks.”

  He heads off, the weak linoleum creaking under his bare feet. I’ve been here almost a week and still can’t stand walking barefoot over the gross floor.

  “So what’s up with you and Sean?”

  My gaze whips up. Sabine has moved on to the second Pop-Tart. She chews primly.

  Despite our less-than-stellar diet of Pop-Tarts and dry cereal, she looks good. Better than she did when I first met her at Mount Haven. There’s color in her cheeks now and her gaze is bright.

  “What do you mean?”

  She rolls her eyes. “You can barely look at him.”

  Is it that obvious? We’re all getting along. Smiling. I put on a good show. At least I thought so. “We’re fine. Nothing’s wrong,” I deny. Because it can’t be. Whatever this is, I’ll fix it. We’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.

  “Right.” The corner of her mouth lifts. “When we first got here, you two couldn’t keep your hands off each other. It was like being stuck with a couple of honeymooners.”

  My face warms. “It’s nothing. I’m just focused on getting across. I’ll relax once this is over and we’ve made it to the other side.”

  She shrugs a slim shoulder. “We’ll either make it or we won’t. I’d think you’d want to get in as much quality time with Sean as you can before we leave. Especially since we might be caught or killed. Carpe diem and all that.” She says it so matter-of-factly. Our life has become this. The subject of our potential demise commonplace. Caught or killed. At this point, they’re one and the same.

  Her smile slips away and she stares at me evenly, a sharp glint in her eyes. Almost like she’s annoyed with me. How can I explain to her what’s going through my head? That since we settled in here, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with killing that guy. Being close to Sean is . . . difficult.

  Rising from the table, I murmur something about making the bed and head to the back of the trailer. One thing about being stuck in an eight-hundred-square-foot space is that there is nowhere to hide. Not from one another. Not from ghosts.

  I wake with a jolt again that night. Opening my eyes, I sit up and immediately look for him. The man I killed. He’s not here. A relieved breath pushes past my lips.

  “Davy?” Sean’s there, sitting up beside me. I blink at the empty space surrounding us and lower my body back down on the bed, clutching the sheets to my chest in knotted fists. I gaze at the ceiling, focusing on the web of spidery cracks in the vinyl-covered ceiling.

  Sean settles beside me. His hand curls around my arm in a loose touch.

  “Bad dream?” His deep voice rumbles through the dark.

  I nod. It’s easier than explaining that I woke because I was afraid a manifestation of the guy I killed might have decided to come visit me again.

  “Are you okay?”

  My voice scratches across the air papery-thin. “Yes.”

  “Why do I feel like you’re just telling me that because you think it’s what I want to hear?”

  It’s what I want to hear, too. It’s what I want to be true.

  I face Sean in the dark. He’s so close but feels far away from me. It’s as if I left him in the past. Back at Mount Haven, where they were grooming us to be something more than the killer stamped onto our genetic code. Something worse. Except he isn’t gone. He’s here. “I don’t want you to worry about me.”

  “I’m always going to worry about you, Davy. That’s called caring.”

  “I know. I care about you, too.” I’m just not sure I can be with you anymore. Not like this. Not the way you want me to be. Not the way you deserve.

  After a moment, his hand slips from my arm and some of my tension whispers free, and I hate this. Hate that I’ve pulled away from him and he knows it. Sabine noticed. He’d be a fool not to notice. If it wouldn’t be so awkward, I would move into Sabine’s room across the hall. But that would only be like waving a red flag that something is wrong, that I’m broken.

  “Good night, Davy.”

  “Good night,” I return.

  I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be fine. Broken things get fixed all the time. I’ll stop being so weird around Sean, and everything—the world included—will work itself out.

  * * *

  A beautiful eagle was gliding through the vast skies when he heard the hiss of an arrow. He screeched as the tip pierced his body. Mortally wounded, he plunged down to earth, his life-blood draining into the sand. Looking down at the arrow jutting from his side, the eagle discovered that the shaft had been feathered with one of his very own plumes—his destruction that of his own creation.

  —Aesop’s Fables, “The Eagle and the Arrow”


  GIL HAS TAKEN TO PREPARING OUR DINNERS, AND IF I never eat another peanut butter sandwich again, that would be just fine with me. I long for a warm meal. French fries. God, pizza.

  “I miss my mother’s cooking,” Sabine murmurs, tearing off bits of her sandwich and placing them in her mouth. “She made schnitzel and sauerbraten. Like the real deal, you know?” She cocks her head to the side. “Think I’ll ever have German food again?”

  “In Germany,” Gil volunteers.

  Sabine laughs without humor. “Yeah. My chances of going back home to Garden City, Idaho, to visit my family are better than me making it to Germany.” Sabine hasn’t said much about her family up to this point. I know she’s one of six kids—the only one with HTS. Her father considered taking her and running away, but he couldn’t abandon the rest of the family. Not just for her. I think she understands that, but it must sting nonetheless, knowing you’re the sacrifice.

  “Where we’re headed?” Gil shakes his head. “I doubt you’ll ever see bratwurst again. Your mom never taught you to cook?”

  “She tried. I never paid attention. I was too into

  “I never knew you were a tech geek.” Gil’s face brightens.

  “I wasn’t that great at it, but yeah. I was on my high school robotics team.”

  “You must have been good. They brought you to Mount Haven for some reason.”

  “Yeah, because I speak German and passable French. Not that that’s gonna help me much in Mexico.” She reaches for a pudding cup, tearing it apart from the others in the pack. It’s like she feels the pressure of our gazes, though. She looks up and gives a small shrug. “And I had a nearly perfect GPA.”

  “Oh.” Gil rolls his eyes. “That might have been another factor.”

  Tucking a long strand of brown hair behind her ear, she smiles at him, then glances at me and Sean.

  “I miss my mom’s lasagna,” I volunteer, arriving at something to contribute to the conversation, determined to shake off my funk and be as normal as possible with my friends. Because they are my friends. The only friends I have left. I need to make an effort.

  “Enchiladas,” Sean adds, taking a bite of his sandwich. Gil made him two. A good thing, considering he devours half a sandwich in one bite.

  “I don’t think that will be a problem where we’re going. We should get some decent Mexican food at least.” Sabine reaches for another pudding cup. She peels the foil top back and licks it clean.

  “We can hope,” I say.

  “You kidding?” Gil shakes his head. “I’m expecting some serious Mexican food like what my abuela made. I can’t wait for some chicharrónes.”

  I can’t help smiling. “Or what? It’s a deal breaker? We’ll stay here and eat peanut butter and pudding cups forever?”

  “Hello, Debbie Downer,” Sabine teases, tossing empty pudding cups into the nearby trash can.

  “Watch. In a month we’ll be missing pudding cups and peanut butter.” Sean nudges my shoulder lightly. I smile back at him, and it’s not too hard.

  Sabine wrinkles her nose. “Doubtful.”