Reboot

Author: P Hana

Page 23

   

Yellow Teeth let out an annoyed sigh and holstered his gun, striding over to me. He yanked me to him by the waist of my pants, tugging the button through the hole and pushing them down.

“Anyone else would have gotten a bullet in the brain,” he muttered, grabbing the bottom of my shirt and jerking it over my head.

I pressed my arms against my thin white bra and tried to breathe, but my lungs wouldn’t cooperate. My chest rose and fell too fast, my throat tightening up painfully.

“For the love of Texas,” Yellow Teeth said in utter exasperation, pulling my arms out to the side. “You’d think you were a newbie.”

Yellow Teeth grimaced at the sight of the ugly scars stretched across my chest and quickly averted his eyes. But the Reboots didn’t. They all stared.

I turned my head away, trying not to let my arms shake. I failed.

Twenty-two didn’t look at me. His face was turned firmly to the side so I couldn’t see anything but the back of his head. He hadn’t looked.

“All right, put ’em back on. Get in your seats,” Paul ordered.

I grabbed both my shirts and pulled them over my head as fast as possible, my eyes on Twenty-two—on Callum—the whole time. He still hadn’t looked at me.

I buttoned my pants and sat down in a chair next to him, quickly strapping myself in. My hands shook as I folded them in my lap, and I glanced over to see Callum staring at them. I pressed them together tightly to make the shaking stop, but it didn’t work.

Ever caught my eye when I raised my head, and gave me a sympathetic look that made the pressure in my chest worse, not better. I focused my gaze on my lap.

When the shuttle landed I trailed out last. My trembling legs didn’t work right anymore. I fell behind as the other Reboots marched across the roof and down the stairs.

Callum stood at the top of the stairs and waited, holding the door open for me. I gripped the rail as I wobbled down the stairs on my stupid little legs.

I felt something warm against my free hand and looked down to see Callum intertwining his fingers with mine. His skin felt pleasantly hot against my cold, dead flesh and I gripped the hand appreciatively and tried to smile at him. His big eyes flashed with worry and sympathy but he smiled back.

We slowly made our way down the stairs and through the eighth-floor door. I didn’t want to let go of him but the boys’ quarters were to the left, the girls’ to the right. He squeezed my hand and I slipped it out of his, shoving it in my pocket to try and keep the warmth.

When I got to my quarters, I avoided Ever’s eyes as I stripped off my field clothes and changed into sweats.

“Wren, it’s really not—” she began.

I frowned at her as I climbed into bed, and she stopped talking. I pulled the covers all the way over my head and curled myself into a tight ball until the darkness engulfed me.

TWELVE

“YOU MISSED OUR RUN THIS MORNING. IT’S TOO BAD, BECAUSE I was pretty awesome.”

Callum grinned at me as I walked across the gym and stopped in front of him. That big, sparkling smile had returned.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my eyes darting around the gym. A couple Reboots stared at me. “I overslept.” I focused on Callum again, my cheeks warming at the sight of that smile. “Thank you for going anyway. That’s really good.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

I caught Hugo staring at me from across the gym and I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at the shiny wooden floor. I wanted to crawl into the corner and hide my face and never look at any of these people again.

“You gonna hit me, or what?” Callum asked.

A surprised laugh escaped my mouth and I quickly cleared my throat to hide it. But it was too late; he’d heard it, and utter delight danced across his face. “Um, yes,” I said, blushing when I looked into his eyes again.

Callum put his fists up in front of his face and I threw a light punch that he easily blocked. I threw a harder one, pulling back just before I made contact with his jaw.

“Faster,” I said. “I almost hit you.”

“You may have to accept that I’ll never be good at this,” he said, ducking as my fist flew toward him.

“No.”

“No?” He jumped as I tried to kick his legs out from under him.

“Good.”

“Thank you. No? You don’t accept it?”

“No. All my newbies are good. I’ve never lost one during training. Only two after.”

“Out of how many?” he asked, throwing a weak punch I easily dodged.

“Were you even trying there?” I asked, unable to keep a corner of my mouth from turning up.

“A little.” He bounced on his feet.

“Try a lot.”

He threw a harder punch but I still easily sidestepped it. At least it was better.

“How many?” he asked again.

“Twenty? Twenty-five? Something like that.” We swung at each other harder now, my fist clipping his chin. I caught his arm as it came for me, yanking it so hard he fell on his butt. He immediately tried to take my legs out from under me, like I had taught him, and a smile spread across my face.

“Is this funny?” Callum asked, giving up after I jumped out of the way.

“No, it was good,” I said, dipping my head so he couldn’t see the bigger grin spreading across my face.

His fingers grasped my wrist suddenly and I stumbled, my knees smashing into his stomach as I landed on top of him. He let out a moan mixed with laughter.

“I win,” he wheezed.

“You call that winning?”

He grabbed my hand as I started to climb off him, rising up on his elbows so his face was closer to mine. “Yes.”

I looked at our intertwined hands instead of his dark, happy eyes, trying to fight the warmth spreading across my body. A full-body blush. Wonderful.

“I’m sorry about what I said,” he said quietly, and I looked up at him. “I didn’t mean it.”

I slipped my hand out of his and slid off him onto the cold floor. He might be sorry, but he’d certainly meant it. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not,” he said, sitting up and leaning in close to me to talk privately. “I shouldn’t have said you enjoy hunting people just because you’re good at it—”

“I do enjoy it,” I interrupted. “In a way. The chase, especially. But . . .” I didn’t see how he could possibly understand—not at this point.

“But what?”

“But it’s not like I have a choice,” I said softly. “I barely remember my human life, and what I do remember is really bad. This is all I know. This is all I’m good at. So, yes, sometimes I enjoy it.”

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