Worst. Road Trip. Ever.
Escaping with Reid Wentworth should have been fun, but how can I enjoy it when I just (accidentally) killed someone, my mom and brother are in danger, and the Consortium is trying to enslave humanity? (Yeah, they aren't fooling around.) So feeling something for Reid Wentworth was not part of the plan. Trying to help unite the Resistance against the Consortium means I can’t be distracted by hot boys.
The Resistance secret hideout isn’t exactly Hoth's Echo Base. A traitor there wants me dead, but we have no idea who it is. And with both the Resistance and the Consortium trying to control me, the only one I can trust is Reid. If we’re going to have any chance of protecting my family, controlling my unstable powers, and surviving the clash between the Oculi factions, I’m going to have to catch this traitor. By using myself as bait.
The Schrodinger’s Consortium series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Anomaly
Book #2 Enigma
About the Author
Tonya Kuper is the promotions manager at the Seymour Agency, as well as a frequent contributor to the blogs YA Stands and All the Write Notes. Anomaly is her debut novel. Visit her online at http://tonyakuper.blogspot.com/.
Read an Excerpt
By Tonya Kuper, Kate Brauning
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Tonya Kuper
All rights reserved.
Three days ago, I killed someone. Every time I close my eyes, I see his body convulse as the bolt of lightning I Pushed struck his body. I still see Santos's face contorted in pain before he sinks under the surface of the water.
I opened my eyes after brushing my hair and swept my toiletries off the faux-marble counter into my backpack. Stepping out of the bathroom, I scanned the rest of the room for my belongings. My blue bra lay on the floor where I'd dropped it the night before, next to the paisley bedding. It had been beyond embarrassing shimmying that thing off under my shirt when I was right next to my hottie bedmate.
I plopped my backpack on the bed and grabbed my bra. It was still dangling from my hand when the door leading to the parking lot swung open and Reid smiled at me from the threshold. Perfect. Of course he walked in at this exact moment.
My face flushed with heat. I scrambled to stuff my garment into my bag, but the clasp hooked on one of my bracelets. Trying to work the clasp off my bracelet took way more effort and time than it should have. The stupid thing was stuck. I peeked up to Reid to see if he was still looking at me. Wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes as he coughed into his hand. He looked over his shoulder as he pretended to hack up a lung to camouflage a laugh.
My cheeks had to be as bright as a red shirt from Star Trek, like the red of imminent death.
Sharing the motel room with Reid, my trainer, was convenient and safer. But him being my kind-of-sort-of-boyfriend also meant I was hyperaware of personal stuff, like how much time I spent showering or Reid catching me staring at him constantly. I mean, we shared a bed and were definitely into each other, but he'd never seen my bra before — on or off.
He'd now witnessed me wrestle with my undergarment — and lose. Which was both slightly embarrassing as his trainee and absolutely mortifying as his kind-of-girlfriend.
Reid looked at me, his brows pulling up in sympathy. He crossed the tiny motel room in three strides and stopped beside me. His warm hand touched my wrist as he studied the clasp and he gently unhooked it from my bracelet. He caught my lacy bra before it fell to the bed.
Reid Wentworth was touching my bra, and my boobs weren't even in it. What were the odds of that?
He'd worked my bra better than I had. How had he gotten his bra-handling knowledge? The thought made me break into a full-body sweat.
Reid turned to face me. "I just turned in the room key. Cohen, my contact from the Hub, called while you were in the shower. The Hub gave us the green light to a safe house outside Flagstaff. We gotta pack ASAP and get on the road. They want us there before nightfall."
I sat on the bed. "I'll be ready in three minutes. I think I'll miss this room, though." We'd only spent one night, but something about it felt more secure than our two previous stops.
My bra was still in his hands. I yanked it from him. "Thank you."
"I'll help you with your bra anytime. Just say the word." He winked.
I wanted to hide.
"Wait." He pulled his duffle to the bed. "You'll miss the mustiness of a seventies motel in need of a major facelift?" With the bra safely tucked away, I bent to lace up my boots. "I know, it's weird, but I like this place."
He walked into the bathroom and came out with his toiletries. "You like the wood paneling, the shaggy Muppet carpet, and an air conditioner that's louder than my bike?" I peeked toward the rattling air unit. Despite the jolting noise, the curtains floated gracefully above the machine like paisley ghosts.
The room seemed more hidden than the other places we'd stayed, nestled in the woods somewhere in New Mexico. We drove rural highways instead of interstates all the way from Florida to stay under the radar, but I still felt exposed, afraid someone would see us. Now the mountains and trees gave me a sense of coverage, of safety.
I tied up my other boot. "Yeah, it's old, but I like it."
Hiding, tucked away in a dark room, I could almost pretend I hadn't murdered another human being. Being around people reminded me I was dangerous, that I could be an incomprehensible monster. Maybe I was keeping others safe if I was hidden.
A loud, deep buzz sounded, drilling into the recent memory of gunfire and weapons, of people dying. My heart paused and I dropped to the floor, kneeling behind the bed.
Reid strode to the bedside table where his phone buzzed, but his wide eyes watched me, worry etched on his face.
Duh. Way to jump to conclusions. Chill out, Josie. I forced myself to stand.
The phone buzzed again, vibrating against the wood and reverberating in my bones. I blinked and jerked, an involuntary flinch.
It's just his phone. Get a grip.
But a buzz meant someone was contacting Reid, contacting us. Any communication was bad news at this point.
Reid stepped to me hesitantly, as if he were approaching a skittish stray dog. Understanding flashed across his face. "That will probably happen for a while. But it will get better." He touched my hand for a moment, but it was enough to remind me that we were safe. For now. I relaxed my posture as I exhaled.
At my side, he positioned the phone so we could both read the screen.
I stared at the contact information, a line of pound signs. The meaning of the symbols finally registered. The number was restricted and blocked. I read the first line of the message.
This is Meg.
My body was numb. I couldn't feel my fingers or toes. They didn't exist — or if they did, I couldn't control them. I reread the three words.
My mom. I wasn't sure I wanted to read on. Not just because I didn't want bad news, but I didn't want bad news that had anything to do with my family.
Reid bumped his shoulder to mine. "I didn't think we'd hear from your mother this soon after her last message." His voice was quiet.
It had been three days since I'd seen her face on her video message. Three days ago seemed like forever, yet it didn't.
The phone buzzed again, making me jump, waking my body from a fear-induced paralysis.
Eli and I are redirecting to the Hub. 3 Founders need to be present to make executive decisions for the entirety of the Resistance. If the need arises, I have to be present. We should be there tomorrow. The Council is unaware there is a mole within the Hub. Use caution.
Hearing from my family made my heart burst with sweet relief because it was confirmation they were still alive and well. But fear squashed the celebration, turning my blood to cement.
I needed a minute to think. I couldn't let my family go to the Hub with no way to protect themselves. I shoved the phone out of my line of sight, toward Reid. Instead of moving, he caught my hand and whisked me around to face him. "Josie, I know that look." He let my hand fall. "If I take you to the Hub instead of the safe house, not only will I be disobeying direct orders, but it could get both of us, and possibly others, killed. You'd be giving the mole what he wants — you."
He was right. The mole wanted me. And the best way to get to me was through what I cared about most. My family.
I took a step away from Reid, and the back of my legs hit the bed. I sank down onto the mattress.
My mouth opened, but I couldn't put two words together. My thoughts jumped from the mole, to my family, to the Consortium.
Reid stepped in front of me, his sober expression replaced with brows arched in concern. "Josie, I understand how you must be feeling — more than you know. But I'm supposed to keep you safe."
I shoved myself off the bed. My knees buckled immediately and I rocked onto my heels, falling back to the mattress. Frustration clamped down on my emotions and I was ready scream. I couldn't look at Reid, but I held a palm up as I stared at the phone still in his hand.
He gave me his phone, the text message already pulled up on the screen. Then he sat next to me, making the bed dip under his weight. I read the message again.
What were my choices? If I went to the Hub, the biggest community of the Resistance, I'd be trapping myself with someone who wanted me dead. If I went into hiding with Reid, I'd still be hunted by the Consortium, plus separated from my family. Neither option was a vacation.
The muscles in Reid's jaw flexed as his gaze traveled over my face. "I know your family means everything to you. Eli shouldn't have to be involved in this."
That was the part I couldn't take. I let my head drop into my hands, slumping between my knees. The smell of bleach from the linens was almost comforting.
I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that Eli, my nine-year-old brother — the only sibling I had left, one of the people I cared about most in this world — would be staying in the same compound as the mole, as the person who helped Santos try to kill me. Swallowing the ache in my throat and the sting in my sinuses, I willed away my tears.
"Josie." There was a desperation in Reid's voice.
I slowly sat upright and lifted my eyes to meet Reid's.
Reid looked toward the window. "The Consortium wants all Anomalies dead because we're too dangerous. Since you're on your way to being the most powerful Anomaly on the planet, you aren't just the target — you are the freaking bulls-eye."
I wasn't what mattered. Eli would be in danger. I was the only one who could protect him. I was the only one who could protect a lot of people.
My family seemed to be under attack. My older brother had died after allegedly being contacted by the Consortium, my dad was supposedly undercover at Science Industries in L.A., the Consortium's headquarters, assassins had attempted to kill me, and my mother had taken drastic measures to keep her family safe for years. Being two of the Founders of the Resistance, in direct opposition to Schrodinger's Consortium, my parents were automatically on a kill list. Us two older kids were, too. Eli wouldn't be exempted. Logically, I had every reason to fear for my little brother's life. The cute dude wouldn't even develop Oculi abilities for over seven years, but that wouldn't stop the Consortium from taking him out. Santos's infiltration and betrayal was proof that the Consortium saw my family as a threat and would take whatever steps needed to eliminate us.
Reid stood and crossed the small room to shut off the air unit. A whole new world of muted sounds came to life. A mourning dove cooed nearby, two housekeepers spoke in hushed tones outside as they pushed a cleaning cart on the cracked sidewalk, and a truck rumbled in the distance. There were spaces in the new quiet, spaces with virtually no sound but plenty of room for thought.
If it was important to the Consortium to destroy my family, we couldn't discount any action or effort when it came to them. Right now, plans involving my family were being changed. If they were at the Hub, it was reasonable to assume I would want to be with them. Someone could be using my mom and brother as decoys, as a way to me. My family was bait. Despite the tranquility of our little hiding place, fury simmered in my stomach.
I shoved off the bed again and stepped to Reid's side, making him look at me. His eyes fluttered shut. "I wish I could just take you away from all this." His dark lashes fanned upward as he opened his eyes. "But this is your decision."
His compassion for me meant more than I would be able to convey to him. If this were a normal life and we were normal people, his care for me would've been all I needed. But our world was anything but normal. My safety didn't matter, no matter how much he cared about me. My priority was keeping my family and others safe. If that put me in harm's way, so be it. "You and I are more powerful than the mole and we'll out number him. Statistics are in our favor. And he doesn't get to use my family as bait."
Reid shook his head and something flickered in his eyes. He tugged me against him, my chest colliding against his. My fingers dug into him, pulling him closer.
Terror trickled through my nervous system, seeping through every inch of me, infusing my body. "I need to go to the Hub," I whispered. It wasn't a want, it was a need. I needed to keep my family safe. And in doing that, I'd be facing my own mortality. But what scared me more was facing their mortality, Eli's mortality. I'd already lost one brother.
Standing in front of the lone motel room window, our bodies bathed in rays of morning sunshine, to anyone watching, we would have looked like we were glowing from within, like superheroes. But superheroes wouldn't let fear cripple them like this.
Reid let his forehead rest against mine and closed his eyes. "I don't like this idea for a lot of reasons. But I know that's selfish." Blue eyes stared into mine. A sadness masked his face that I didn't understand.
"Sorry," I whispered.
He pressed his lips into a tight line. "Let's go." He squeezed me then turned to finish packing.
"How are we going to identify the mole?" He zipped his duffle bag. "I have no idea, Josie."
I plucked my phone from the bedside table, the varnish of the dark wood worn along the edges. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. "You need to know something. We have to be different in the Hub." He shook his head. "We can't, uh," his voice scratched. "We can't do this in there."
"What?" I let my gaze drop to the ground.
"Josie." I couldn't look at him until I was sure the sting in my eyes had dissipated. "Josie, look at me."
That was my luck. My first boyfriend ever broke up with me on my birthday, then my long-time crush ended anything between us before we even had a chance. Two guys ditching me in under two weeks. That had to be some kind of record. For losers.
The shabby motel floor creaked under our feet as Reid dropped his bag, stepped in front of me. "We have to play by the rules in the Hub, and I'm someone who trains others to follow the rules. One of the rules? No trainer-trainee relationships. A romantic relationship between trainers and trainees clouds the trainer's judgment. So we can't do this." He motioned between us.
Understanding why didn't make the rejection any less painful.
Reid dipped his head, his dark hair falling forward, leaving an inch between our noses. "Make no mistake, I love what we have." The deep line between his brows reappeared. "But going into the Hub means putting the mission before us. And I'm all for it. We don't want anyone, including the mole, to know how we feel about each other. It could be used against us. Also, if the right people found out, there would be consequences. I would be stripped of my trainer privileges and thrown out of the Hub, and you would be thrown out, as well. At this point, we need to be in the Hub and take advantage of my position if we want to catch the mole and figure out what is going on. We can't be anything more than friends for now. No one will report us outside the Hub, but inside? In front of the Council? That's a different story. At least until the Council deems you no longer a trainee, which is unlikely — at least for a while. If we continue on to Flagstaff, we won't have to hide our relationship."
We'd have to give up what we'd just gained. I understood the rule, the trainer couldn't have his judgment compromised by getting involved with a trainee. This wasn't a typical teenage crush, though. What we had wasn't just a two-week whirlwind romance; this was a lifetime of growing together. I'd known him for as long as I could remember. He was my older brother's best friend.
I couldn't move. I'd lost my family, my friends, my home. I'd naively thought maybe I could have the one guy who understood what I'd lost and understood me.
A weird pressure bloomed in my chest, but I had to ignore it. I had to move and focus before tears fell and I became a puddle on the floor. Besides, we needed to get on the road.
My feet didn't want to budge, I didn't want to make this choice. But I had to. I backed away from Reid. "Come on." Stepping to the bed, I flung my backpack over my shoulder. "We have to catch a mole. Before he kills my family. Or me."
Reid snagged his duffle, his face drawn in worry, and opened the heavy door, squinting into the bright morning light. Neither of us spoke as we secured our bags and our helmets, and I climbed on the bike behind Reid. I forced myself to move as though nothing was different, touching Reid when I had to without reservation. But everything was different.
Reid turned the key, revved the throttle, and the engine roared to life under us. Turning his head over his shoulder, his pale irises met mine. "Last chance. Left to Flagstaff or right to the Hub?"
My chest felt restricted, like I was wearing what I imagined a corset would feel like, and I couldn't pull in a full breath. Left to be with Reid, but not my family. Right to protect my family, sacrificing a romantic relationship with Reid. The invisible corset wrenched tighter. "Right." I gripped his waist, anticipating the turn.
Excerpted from Enigma by Tonya Kuper, Kate Brauning. Copyright © 2017 Tonya Kuper. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.