“I wanted to live. I wanted us to have a future, and there was nothing else on my mind. With Daniel by my side I ran so fast my lungs ached.”
Mina’s world is turned upside down as an important person from her past materialises to take her away from the Compound. She finds herself separated from her friends and facing life-changing decisions on her own.
Meanwhile, Daniel is on a mission to find Mina when he becomes involved in the Resistance – along with the rest of the Freaks. His visions take their toll as he learns of an event that could devastate the people he loves the most. Only he can stop it.
Angela finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime as she helps Sebastian seek out his father in Area 14. After a perilous journey there, the group are thrown into another life and death situation... can Angela find a way out?
Fans of the popular YA dystopia series Blemished will not be disappointed by this thrilling conclusion. It will keep you guessing right up to the very last page.
Release date: January 13, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 332
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The stairs coiled into darkness. Daniel tripped over his feet as he ran. He leapt down the steps, taking them two at a time, his breath panting and his heart thumping. He had to find her.
He clutched the railing and skipped over the last few treads, landing heavily on his ankle. A jolt of pain spread up his shin to his knee. Where now? He didn’t know this building. He only knew that he had to get to the lobby. A blaring alarm fogged his mind. He burst through the doors leading to a hallway and then scoured the walls for a sign. There! The arrow led the way. He set off again, his trainers squeaking against the linoleum.
Daniel ran flat out around the bend, reaching for the wall with his fingertips, trying to stay balanced. Sweat ran down his forehead – matting his hair to his skin. Another set of doors and yet more corridor. His heart pounded, and his legs ached, but he never slowed down. He would never slow down until he saw her. Not until he knew she was safe.
Urgent footsteps followed behind; he ignored them. Up ahead he saw a glimpse of the lobby and his muscles responded. Nearly there. Just a few more steps. He shoved the swinging glass doors with the last of his energy. He’d made it. He’d found her.
What he saw made him stop in his tracks.
Mina stood with her arms outstretched and her feet spread apart, spanning the width of her shoulders. She raised her chin to the ceiling. Everything about her stance said “power.”
Crumbling plaster trickled to the ground as the walls shook around them. Daniel’s knees trembled under the sheer force, whilst his stomach flipped. Ali lurched forward to intervene. He approached with his hands up in surrender, yet Mina still flicked a wrist and swatted him against the wall. He slumped to his knees; blood dripping from his nose.
“No!” Daniel shouted. He stared at her in astonishment.
Mina’s head snapped towards him and with a sick feeling in his stomach, he met her eyes; the eyes of a stranger. It chilled him to the bone.
“Mina, kid, you have to stop this,” pleaded Matthew. He held his gun loosely – pointed down – yet still Mina tossed him aside. He crumpled to the floor like a broken toy. A woman next to Mina gazed at her lovingly, encouraging the violence.
Daniel glanced at Matthew and Ali, longing to check they were okay, but he remained petrified under Mina’s glare. She stared through him as though she didn’t recognise him at all, and his heart panged. He longed for a glimpse of the old Mina. The girl he loved so much. Instead, acidic bile rose in his throat at the sight of her.
A chunk of plaster fell from the wall, shattering at his feet, forcing him backwards. In the same instant, the doors to the lobby smashed, showering them all with broken glass. Daniel shielded his face, feeling the way they ripped at his clothes and broke his skin. There was blood on his hands; he smelled it, the metallic rust of blood…
Daniel woke with a start. In a panic, and wondering if his dream had been real, his fingers reached up to his face. He remembered the glass cutting at his cheek and lips. But the pain of his tearing flesh had been nothing compared to the pain of what he saw. Mina, using her powers against her friends… he never wanted to see it again. His fingers came away wet with blood. Had it been real? He eyed the barn full of people. After almost a week since the battle with Hamish, the Compound recovered at a slow pace; gradually building up from nothing.
Sleeping bodies twitched, snored and drooled on their sleeping bags. Those awake shuffled through the barn, yawning and stretching. The low sunlight, hazy with mist, seeped through the open barn doors. Outside in the campsite, Compounders knelt around their fires making tea and coffee for breakfast. The clanging pots sang, and the smell of burnt coffee drifted through the open doors into the barn. He sat up and put his hands on his knees, watching those around him.
A light touch on his shoulder made him flinch, and he whipped his head around. It was just Mike. His clenched muscles relaxed.
“You all right, mate?” Mike asked. His forehead creased with genuine concern – a first for Mike. He generally had a sarcastic grin on his face. “I could smell you from the other side of the barn. You’re bloody terrified. What’s up?” From the look of his ruffled black hair, he’d just woken up.
“Bad dream,” Daniel replied. “Really bad dream.”
“No kidding. Your nose is bleeding. You should get some tissue or something for that.”
Daniel touched his nose. It didn’t hurt, and he couldn’t see any reason for having a nosebleed. His head, on the other hand, ached like he’d had a vision... Of course… this had been no dream. There’d been something about it, something which had made it feel incredibly real. Like the way the glass cut at the skin on his hands.
Instead of a flash like most of his visions, this one crept up to him in his dreams. His heart sank. No, it couldn’t be. His visions always came true, and Mina would never attack her friends like that.
“You sure you’re all right?” Mike crouched beside him, leaning down so they were face to face; making Daniel feel under examination. “Hey, less of the hostility, bro. I can smell it y’know.” He yanked Daniel up by the elbow. “Come on – let’s get your nose sorted.”
“Fine… seeing as I don’t have much of a choice.” Daniel shot him a glare.
“Yeah well, you know how this Freak thing works, one of us is in pain, the rest of us feel it, blah blah blah.”
Daniel did know. He, Mina, Kitty, Mike and Hiro were all linked by their strange abilities – like a cord connecting them together. They called themselves the Freaks because it was how people treated them, and when one of them felt pain, they all felt it. Just like when Hiro almost died in the battle. Daniel suppressed a shudder, remembering the searing heat in his abdomen.
He followed Mike through the barn – trying not to trip over sleeping bodies. During the battle, most of the castle blew up, and the trailers burned down. It left only one decent place to sleep: the barn. Although “decent” was a stretch. It stank of stale body odour, it was cramped, and babies cried all night.
“I’ll just wash the blood away with some water,” said Daniel.
Mike narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure? Has it stopped bleeding now? Don’t you need to plug it with tissue or something?”
“It’s fine,” Daniel lied. He tore off part of his sleeve and dabbed his nose with it. They made their way out of the barn, and he wished he could take a deep breath without everything smelling and tasting like blood.
He dipped a cup into the rain water barrel and poured it over his face, washing away the blood. When finished washing, he saw Mike straining to see something in the distance. He stood straight, around the same height as Daniel – who’d reached six feet after his most recent growth spurt – but skinnier.
“Is that a car?”
Daniel squinted. “I doubt the large, black blob shaped like a square with windows could be anything else. Do you?”
“Sarcasm before 8am. Really?”
“Who are those people standing around it? Compounders?” said Daniel. He’d not seen Mina when he woke. Maybe she was there.
“I think we should go find out.”
Daniel shrugged and followed Mike. Anything to distract him from the dream.
“Mornin’ lads. What yer up to on this fine mornin’, eh?” Ali jogged over to them, wearing his usual attire of tight jeans, pointy-toed boots, and beaded necklaces.
“We’re going to check out the car.” Daniel pointed towards the Compound gate. “See what’s going on.” The dream replayed in his mind – Ali slumped by the wall, hurt. His stomach clenched, and he shook the thought away.
“Great. The last thing we need is more unwelcome visitors,” he said.
“Maybe someone should tell Mary,” Mike suggested.
“Ye volunteering, lad?”
Mike stopped walking and faced Ali with his hands on his hips, in a way that reminded Daniel of his adoptive sister Angela when she didn’t want to do something. But Mike had nothing on Ali, and the older guy stared Mike down.
“Oh, all right then, I’ll do it,” he conceded.
“There’s a good laddie.” Ali ruffled his hair with a grin.
Mike shot Ali a narrowed eyed glance and shuffled off mumbling to himself. Ali winked at Daniel, and they set off again.
Daniel liked Ali. He was a good-looking guy: brown-skinned with a strong nose and twinkly eyes, and only a few years older than him, too. Mina spent quite a lot of time with Ali, and he knew some boyfriends would be jealous, yet he just felt a sense of calm watching the two of them together. He knew Ali would protect Mina. After getting shot you put things into perspective, and petty jealousy was not high on his priorities, especially after watching the way jealousy consumed Angela during their time in the Compound.
They reached the gravel path leading to where the old gates guarded the Compound. Most of the border had been demolished in the battle with Hamish, leaving vast gaps for anyone to enter.
Facing them stood a woman approximately forty years old with dark brown hair pulled back away from her face. A bolt shot up his spine. He’d seen her before, just not in the flesh. She’d come to him in his dream; the woman encouraging Mina to do those terrible things. The sight of her confirmed his worst fears. It was a vision.
Ali seized hold of his shirt and stopped in his tracks, pulling Daniel from his thoughts. “De ye see who that is? It’s... It’s...”
Daniel tore his eyes away from the woman to follow Ali’s gaze to the tall, thin man, perhaps in his late-twenties or early thirties, with dark hair and a calf-length leather coat. “Mina’s Uncle Matthew? I thought the GEM had him. I thought he was dead!”
Ali’s voice softened and his eyes widened, drinking in the scene before him. His fist dropped Daniel’s shirt. “He... He’s alive.”
Daniel had never seen Ali like this before. His normally cool demeanour, which Ali kept up even when saving the life of Compounders during the battle, completely faded to show a softer, more vulnerable side. He staggered forward and grasped Matthew by the lapels of his leather jacket.
“Why didn’t ye tell me?” Ali demanded.
Mina stood next to her father, both of them facing Matthew and the mystery woman. Daniel approached her, his heart in his mouth, desperately trying not to think of the dream. She had her hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes. He moved closer to her and put an arm around her shoulder, but she didn’t even notice. She just stared straight ahead.
“I was imprisoned by the GEM.” Matthew had dark circles under his eyes and the shadow of bruise on his cheekbone. His leather jacket hung loosely from his body. “I wanted to––”
“I thought ye were dead.” Ali relaxed his grip and instead placed his hands on Matthew’s chest. The two men were exactly the same height and stared at each other with an intensity that made Daniel feel as though he was intruding on a private moment.
“I’m alive. I’m here,” Matthew said with a husky voice both weary and emotional. “I’m back for good, Ali.” He sounded beaten yet relieved. Glad to be home, or at least away from the GEM.
They embraced, and Daniel realised with a grin that he needn’t ever be jealous of Mina and Ali. He wondered if she’d known all along.
“Mina, perhaps we could talk in private?” said the mystery woman from his dream. She smiled. It wasn’t exactly a warm smile. Her voice floated along with the kind of soft tone carefully calculated to put people at ease. It was the same tone of voice his mother used to use just before she did something particularly nasty. An old burn scar itched on his thigh.
“Okay,” Mina replied. “Anything.” She spoke in an odd way, breathy and high-pitched with an emotional tremor. He squeezed her shoulder.
But when he glanced round at Mina’s face, he saw the way she beamed up at the woman as though she was an angel sent from heaven. He’d assumed her to be wary, even afraid of this new person. Now he knew she was happy – ecstatic even.
Jonathon stepped forward to shield his daughter with a hard glint in his eye.
“She isn’t going anywhere with you.”
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