Authors: Teyla Branton
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Paranormal & Urban, #sandy williams, #Romantic Suspense, #The Change, #series, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Suspense, #Paranormal, #charlaine harris, #action, #Urban Fantasy, #woman protagonist
This is a work of fiction, and the views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author. Likewise, certain characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
The Cure (Unbounded Series #2)
Published by White Star Press
P.O. Box 353
American Fork, Utah 84003
Copyright © 2013 by Nunes Entertainment, LLC
Jungle photo copyright © 2013 by Dreamstime
Model photo and cover design copyright © 2013 by White Star Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded, reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Thank you for supporting the author’s rights.
Printed in the United States of America
Year of first printing: 2013
To my daughter Liana, who adores reading my books. I love to hear you laughing and to watch your face while you read. Thanks for all the help with your little sister and for wanting to discuss all your great ideas. Maybe someday I’ll be reading
I LOVE YOU!
PEERED AROUND THE TREE
at the couple who sat on the park bench, their faces set, their bodies taut and anxious. The woman, Mari Jorgenson, had no idea what she was—what she had become. She spoke earnestly, but the man only pretended to listen. His eyes roamed the trees that dotted the area, stopping briefly on a grouping of three evergreens crowded by thick bushes.
What was he searching for?
I pushed my awareness out as far as I could, but nothing unusual registered on my senses. This area of the park appeared deserted, which was natural since November had slammed down on Portland like an iceberg from the Bering Sea, bringing a brutal cold spell the city hadn’t seen in decades. Still, it was a nice change from the constant rain or the wet snowflakes that seemed to saturate every inch of every piece of clothing I wore. My hometown of Kansas City wasn’t exactly warm in the winter, but the cold and wet had never been as penetrating. A twinge of nostalgia pinged in my chest when I thought about Kansas because I could never, ever go back to what I’d been. I was fortunate to have escaped mostly in one piece; others hadn’t been so lucky.
Peering around the tree again, my eyes found Mari’s small form on the bench. Even at this distance, I could see the Change that had taken place gradually over the two months I’d been watching her. I’d already sensed that she was Unbounded, though in the beginning it was hard to tell, even for someone like me. Complete confirmation had come last week after we’d gone skiing in Utah, and she’d banged up her knee so badly the doctors had told her she wouldn’t regain full use of it.
A day later she was walking. With that single event, both her life expectancy and the likelihood of violent death increased by nearly twenty-four hundred percent.
I felt for my Sig tucked inside its holster at the back of my jeans, easing it out so my long jacket couldn’t get in the way. It was racked, a bullet in the chamber. I’d double-checked before I followed them from work.
Crouching, I eased forward behind the bare bushes to the right of the tree, my muscles singing in relief at the movement. I’d trained vigorously for hours with the other Renegades before I went jogging in the park with Mari this morning, but I’d had all day for any strained muscles to heal. I felt as fresh as when I’d awakened.
My mind ran over what I would soon have to do. Mari and I had become friends, and I knew how betrayed she’d feel at the depth of my deceit. She’d figure it out quickly once it was all in the open. Her brain was already running at high speed because of the changes inside her. At the accounting firm where I worked with her under an assumed name, she’d begun to accurately calculate entire columns of numbers without the aid of a machine. Her Unbounded father had been skilled at engineering, and her great-aunt Stella was a technopath, so this ability didn’t surprise any of us. It was only a matter of time until her co-workers noticed. There was no telling what else she might be able to do, and her very existence made her a potential danger. To us, to our enemies, to the entire world.
Mari jumped to her feet, hands in her coat pockets, her breath forming white clouds in the air, more visible now that the sun had set and twilight was deepening. Night came early on these winter nights, though it wasn’t quite six o’clock, and some distance away, I could still hear the faint sounds of rush hour traffic on the main road. I couldn’t make out what Mari was saying, but I knew her well enough to guess that she was giving Trevor an ultimatum. She wanted to see a marriage counselor and for them to work toward having a child. I wondered if he noticed the new sureness in her movements, how the blemishes in her skin had disappeared, and how thick her long, silky hair had become. Her heart-shaped face showed only a hint of her Japanese heritage, which was less than an eighth, but since her Change, I thought she was looking more and more like the small-boned Stella, whose mother had been full-blooded Japanese.
Trevor also came to his feet but didn’t yell back at her, which made the fine hair on my body rise in alert. I’d been forced to get to know him somewhat over the past two months since we’d come for Mari, and this calm wasn’t like him. He was a loud, opinionated man who liked his dinner on the table by six-thirty and his wife submissive at all times. He never planned dates, remembered her birthday, or sent flowers on their anniversary. She’d admitted to me once in tears that he only touched her with affection when he wanted her in bed—which happened less and less these days.
Trevor was another reason we had to act sooner than later. Unbounded had a high rate of fertility and most birth control methods failed. If she slept with him now, we might end up with more complications than we bargained for. Better that Mari first understood the consequences.
Trevor eased away from Mari, his hands in his jacket pocket. He darted a nervous glance in the direction of the trees behind her. Something was very wrong. If I were closer, or if I touched him, I might be able to sense what he was hiding, but the only thing I felt from him now was a tight nervousness. I almost hoped he’d turn violent. If he did, it would save us oceans of headache in the long run, though I wasn’t about to let him have the satisfaction of hurting Mari.
A faint movement in the trees behind Mari caught my attention. Easing around the bushes, I paused at the edge of the sparse covering offered by an evergreen. To check out the movement physically, I’d have to expose myself by running across open space. Mari, Trevor, and whoever might be there would see me coming, and I couldn’t have that. Being careless might cost more lives than just my own. The Renegades depended on me.
A breeze hit my face, soothing my fears.
Only the wind.
The cell phone in my pocket vibrated, and I checked the caller ID before answering. It was Ava, the fearless leader of our little band of Renegades, and also my fourth great-grandmother. I wondered if she was calling about Cort, who was supposed to have taken over watching Mari after we left the accounting firm. Unfortunately, Mari had quit work early when her husband showed up without warning. Cort
be following the signal from my GPS chip now, and catch up to me at any moment, but he’d been known to become distracted with whatever scientific experiment he was working on in his lab. It was kind of getting to be a problem. As one of the newest Unbounded in our group, I was at the bottom of the useful list and tattling wouldn’t earn any brownie points, but I’d endured the torture of the office all day and it was only fair that he and the others took their turns. Mari’s Change affected all of us.
“What’s up?” I asked, keeping my voice low.
“We have a problem.” The tension in Ava’s voice dissolved my concerns about Cort. She didn’t stress over anything small.
“What is it?”
“You need to get back here as fast as you can. I’ll explain later.”
I glanced again at the bushes behind Mari. No more movement. Had it really been the wind? Regardless, I couldn’t leave Mari alone with Trevor. “Is Cort on his way?” Okay, so I
rat on him. A guy who’d lived almost five hundred years should know better.
“He’s on a plane to Mexico—as of nine o’clock this morning. Dimitri went with him. I would have notified you sooner, but we’ve been a bit busy.”
I gritted my teeth. We had only two main interests in Mexico, and problems with either would mean more deaths. Worse, her tone told me Mexico was only the beginning of what had gone wrong.
“I want you to bring in Mari,” Ava continued. “We need you here. We should have brought her in last week when we were sure.” There was no censure in her voice, though I’d sided with Stella in waiting. I knew how hard it was to have my life change from one minute to the next.
I was tempted to ask for backup, but I could imagine the fun my brothers and the rest of the Renegades would have if the movement in the trees turned out to be nothing more than the wind or a stray dog. I needed to be sure. I hesitated several heartbeats before saying with a slightly forced confidence, “I’ll be there within the hour. Sooner if I can.”
“Good.” The line went dead.
How soon I’d actually make it depended on what I decided to do with Trevor and how good a fighter he turned out to be. Though I trained hard every day, my Unbounded ability had nothing to do with combat. I’d been weeks ahead of my brother Jace, and he’d surpassed me during his first lesson, his quickness immediately identifying his area of skill. Even so, they claimed I was progressing faster than most new Unbounded, and every now and then I felt I could almost see what my opponent would do next the way Jace could.