Unforgotten (Excerpt)

Check out Unforgotten, the second book in Jessica Brody’s Unremembered trilogy, available February 25th from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

After a daring escape from the Diotech scientists who created her, Seraphina and Zen believe they are finally safe from the horrors of her past. But new threats await them at every turn as Zen falls prey to a mysterious illness and Sera’s extraordinary abilities make it more and more difficult to stay hidden.

Meanwhile, Diotech has developed a dangerous new weapon designed to apprehend Sera. A weapon that even Sera will be powerless to stop. Her only hope of saving Zen’s life and defeating the company that made her is a secret buried deep within her mind. A secret that Diotech will kill to protect. And it won’t stay forgotten for long.

 

 

 

ALONE

The fire is hot and relentless, rising up from a thicket of smoldering ash. Lashing at my feet. Filling my eyes with smoky tears of defeat.

The flames hungrily stare me down. Like a wolf licking its lips at the sight of an injured animal. Savoring the promise of a feast. Taking its time before moving in for the kill.

The wood crackles beneath me. One by one, branches are crushed, incinerated to black dust in the path of the merciless blaze. I am its only target. The sole destination. Everything else is a mere stepping-stone along the way. A dispensable victim to demolish and cast aside as it fights its way to me.

I search my surroundings desperately for help. But there is none to be found. Silence answers my distress. Punctuated only by the mocking fizzle and crack of the flames.

They can’t let me die here. Their prized possession left to burn. To shrivel up. To turn to bitter ash. They won’t. I’m sure of it.

They will be here soon. They will stop it.

And for the first time in my shallow, abridged memory, I will welcome the sight of them.

The smoke billows up, cloaking everything in a sickly haze. My vision—normally flawless and acute—is gone. My throat swells and burns. I wrench my head to the side, coughing. Choking. Gagging.

One ambitious flame forges ahead of the others. Winning the race to the top. It claws at my bare feet with long, gnarled fingers. I curl my toes under and press hard against the wood at my back. I can already feel my skin start to blister. Bubble. Scream.

And then I fight. Oh, how I fight. Thrashing against my constraints. But it’s no use.

And that’s when I realize… no one is coming.

The fire will consume me. Melt the flesh right off my bones. Turn my entire manufactured existence into nothing but grimy dust to be carried off across the countryside with the slightest breeze.

The wind shifts and the smoke clears for long enough that I can just make out a tall, hooded figure standing alone on the other side of the river. Watching silently.

The fire finally catches my skin. The pain is excruciating. Like a thousand swords slicing through me at once. The scream boils up from somewhere deep within. A place I never knew about. My mouth stretches open on its own. My stomach contracts. And I release the piercing sound upon a city of deaf ears.

 

PART 1
THE DISCOVERY

 

PAST
ONE WEEK EARLIER…

I roll onto my stomach and clutch the side of the bed, gulping hungrily at the air. The beautiful, fresh, unpolluted oxygen fills my lungs. My blood. My brain. My thoughts come into focus. The gnarled knot in my stomach starts to unravel.

I pound my palm hard against my chest, searching for my heart. Waiting eagerly for its next beat. It feels like hours of stubborn silence pass. My rib cage, an empty chamber.

Until finally…

BA-BUMP

BA-BUMP

BA-BUMP

With a sigh, my head drops forward and I put forth a silent offering of gratitude.

When I look up, my vision has cleared and I can see my surroundings.

The austere wooden furnishings of our small bedroom. Cloaked in slowly vanishing darkness. And Zen. Breathing softly beside me. Lying on his stomach. A lock of dark thick hair flung over his left eye. One arm is tucked underneath him and the other is draped across the bed. Saving my place. Completely unaware that I’m no longer there. That I’ve been replaced by a damp silhouette of sweat.

Still sucking in frenzied breaths, I run my hand across my forehead. It comes back moist.

The light is just starting to break outside, giving the room a faint, ghostly glow.

I eye the empty space next to Zen. The thought of lying back down and closing my eyes again sends my heart into a tempest of banging and sputtering.

I gently rise and walk over to the armoire, easing open the heavy oak door. I slide my arms into Zen’s linen doublet and button it over my nightdress. Zen’s sweet, musky scent on the jacket immediately starts to calm me as I guide my feet into my leather mules and tiptoe toward the door. The floorboards grumble under my feet and I hear Zen stirring behind me. When I turn around, his endless brown eyes are already open, concern flashing in them. He’s watching me, his forehead creased. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course,” I whisper, certain the tremble in my voice will give me away. “I…” But my throat is dry and thick. I attempt to swallow. “I had a bad dream. That’s all.”

A dream.

Not real.

I repeat it in my mind. Hoping it will sound more believable the second time around. Knowing the one I really have to convince is me.

Zen sits up. The sheets fall to his waist, revealing his bare chest. Beautifully toned from the countless hours of hard labor he’s been doing since we arrived here six months ago. “Same one?”

My lip starts to quiver. I bite it hard and nod.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I shake my head. But then I see the frustration on his face. His constant need to fix me. And I don’t have the heart to tell him that he can’t.

“It’s no big deal,” I say, breathing the words in an attempt to lighten them. “It was just…”

Ghastly. Horrifying. Real.

I swallow again. “Unsettling.”

I force a smile onto my face. Praying that Zen can’t see my cheeks twitching from across the room. “I’m just going to go outside and get some fresh air.”

Zen hastily kicks the covers from his legs. “I’ll go with you.”

“No!” I say. Too loudly. Too quickly. Too stupidly.

I attempt to cover with another pathetic excuse for a smile. “It’s okay. Really. I’m fine.”

He studies me for a moment. His probing eyes asking, Are you sure?

I’m not sure about anything right now.

But I still find the strength to say, “Don’t worry. Go back to sleep.”

I don’t wait to see if he does. It’s not the battle I want to fight right now—not when there are much larger ones waging in my mind. I simply turn and leave.

Once outside the house, I walk to the highest point on the property. A grassy knoll that overlooks the pasture in one direction and the wheat field in the other. I sink to the ground and sit with my legs folded awkwardly to the side. The sun is beginning its slow ascent into the sky, reminding me that my time alone out here is limited. The earthly clock is ticking. Soon the world will be awake and I will be who I’m supposed to be.

Not the trembling shell of a person I am right now.

I force myself to focus on the sky. On the sun’s determined climb. It happens every day. Without fail. The same arc across the same sky. No matter the country. No matter the century.

The thought brings me a small amount of comfort.

I’ll take what I can get.

The sunrise isn’t as pretty here. It was one of the first things

I noticed after we arrived. The pinks are less vibrant. Grayed out. The oranges are more muted. Almost faded. As though the artist was running low on paint.

Zen says it’s because the air is clean. Vehicles won’t be invented for nearly three centuries. Smog makes for better sunrises.

Regardless, it doesn’t stop me from watching.

I wasn’t lying when I told Zen it was the same dream. It’s always the same dream.

They come in the night. Capture me and transport me, kicking and screaming, back to their lab. They strap me to a chair with thick steel clamps that are impossible to bend. A large intricate contraption protrudes from the ceiling. Its clawlike arm, complete with razor-sharp teeth, pries open my mouth, reaches down my throat, and pulls out my heart. Then another machine takes over, working quickly to disassemble the stillpumping organ on a cold, sterile table. Half of it is carved off, placed in a jar, ushered away, while the other half is returned to the claw and replaced in my chest cavity by way of my throat again.

The partial heart settles back into its home behind my rib cage. I can still feel it beating, compelling blood in and out of my veins, keeping me alive. But the process no longer holds meaning. A perfunctory action done out of routine, nothing more. I am now forever incomplete. Half a person. A hollow casket that will be forced to seek the other half for the rest of eternity.

A dream.

Not real.

The problem is, dreams are supposed to get fuzzier the longer you’re awake. But this one only becomes clearer with each passing second. Crisper. As though I’m moving toward it. Getting closer.

As though they’re getting closer.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath.

“They don’t know where we are.”

“They can’t find us here.”

“We are safe.”

“I am safe.”

I recite the words over and over again, hoping that today will be the day when they no longer feel strange on my tongue. When I might start to believe them.

“They don’t know where we are.” “They can’t find us here.”

“We are safe.”

“I am safe.”

But then, like clockwork, the bleak reply comes from the back of my mind. The shadowy version of the truth that’s much easier to believe.

I’m not safe.

I’ve never been safe.

They will never stop looking for me.

I reach down the collar of my still-damp nightdress and feel for my locket, rubbing my fingertips gently over the black surface of the heart-shaped medallion and the swirling loops of the silver design emblazoned on the front.

The eternal knot.

It’s an ancient Sanskrit symbol that, according to Zen, represents the flowing of time and movement within all that is eternal.

To me it represents Zen.

I insisted on wearing it here even though Zen suggested I take it off. Apparently people in seventeenth-century England don’t look kindly upon unfamiliar symbols that can’t be found in something called the Bible—a book everyone here seems to live by. So I agreed to keep it hidden under my clothing at all times.

But right now I need it.

I need it to soothe me. To erase the grisly images from my mind.

I hear careful footsteps behind me and I jump, scrambling to stuff the locket back under my nightdress. My head whips around to find Zen standing there, fully dressed—minus the doublet that I stole—and I let out a puff of air. He tosses his hands up in an apologetic gesture. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

He sits down beside me. Even though the show in the sky is over, I turn my gaze back in the direction of the sunrise. For some reason, I can’t look at him right now. I am ashamed of my weakness. Every nightmare—every fear I let overtake me— is like a drop of poison in this new life that Zen and I have worked so hard to create. This paradise that we promised each other.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asks.

I laugh. It sounds about as fake as it feels. “I told you. I’m fine. It was only a bad dream.”

Zen cocks his head and raises his eyebrows. It’s the look he gives me when he knows I’m lying. I cast my eyes downward and lazily pick at a patch of grass.

“They don’t know where we are,” he offers. “They have no idea.”

I nod, still refusing to meet his gaze. “I know.”

“And if they did, they would be here by now.”

I nod again. His logic is sound. If they had somehow figured out that we escaped to the year 1609, they would have appeared instantly. They wouldn’t delay. Which means the longer we live here without seeing one of them, the more likely it is they have no clue where we are.

The only other person who knew we were planning to come to the year 1609 was Rio. And he’s…

I watch his helpless body writhe violently, arms flinging, eyes rolled back in his head, before he collapses to the ground with a horrific cracking sound. And then…

Stillness.

I shake the horrid memory away, trying to fight off the familiar guilt that comes every time I think about him.

The point is, they can’t find us.

We are safe.

The last thought makes me feel like a fraud.

“You need to let it go,” Zen urges gently. “Forget about everything that happened before. I’ll never let them take you back there.”

Before. Them. There.

They’ve become our code words for the things we don’t dare talk about.

That other life that Zen wants so desperately to forget.

That other place where I was held prisoner in a lab.

That other time when science has the ability to create perfect human beings out of air.

Before we came here.

I think we’re both terrified that if we actually utter the word Diotech aloud, they might hear us. Our voices will somehow reverberate through the very fabric of time, travel five hundred years into the future, and echo off the high, security-patrolled walls of the compound, giving away our location.

“Dwelling on it won’t do you any good,” he continues. “It’s in the past.”

I smile weakly. “Well, technically, it’s in the future.”

He bumps playfully against my shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

I do. It’s a past I’m supposed to have forgotten. A past that’s supposed to be erased from my memory. I have no actual recollection of Diotech, the biotechnology company that created me. My final request before we escaped was that every detail of my life there be completely wiped from my mind. All I have now are Zen’s accounts of the top-secret compound in the middle of the desert and a few abridged memories that he stole so that he could show me the truth about who I was.

But apparently that’s enough to populate nightmares.

“Do you miss it in the slightest?” I say, surprised by my own bluntness.

I can feel Zen’s body stiffen next to me and he stares straight ahead. “No.”

I should know by now not to ask questions like this. They always put Zen in an unpleasant mood. I made this mistake several times after we first arrived, when I tried to talk to him about anything related to Diotech—Dr. Rio, Dr. Alixter, Dr. Maxxer—and he simply shut down. Refused to speak. But now the question is already out. I can’t take it back. Plus, I want to know. I feel like I have to.

“But you left behind everything,” I argue. “Your family, your friends, your home. How can you say that you don’t miss it?”

“I had nothing there,” Zen replies, and the sudden sharpness in his voice stings. “Except a mother who cared more about her latest research project than her own family. And a father who left because of it. My friends were friends of convenience. Who else was I going to hang out with when I was never allowed to leave the compound? You weren’t the only one who felt like a prisoner there. So no, I don’t miss that at all.”

I can tell immediately that I’ve gone too far. I’ve upset him. And that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But this is also the most information I’ve ever gotten about Zen’s parents. He never speaks of them. Ever. Which only makes me want to press further, but the rigidness of his face warns me that it would be unwise.

“Sorry,” I offer softly.

Out of the corner of my vision I see his jawline relax and he finally turns to look at me. “No, I’m sorry.”

It’s a genuine apology. I can tell by the way it reaches his eyes.

He rises to his feet, struggling slightly, as though the action requires more effort than it should. Then he brushes the damp dirt from the back of his breeches and holds out a hand for me to take. “C’mon, Cinnamon. Everyone will be up soon. You should get dressed.”

His use of the nickname Cinnamon makes me chuckle, effectively lightening the mood. It’s a popular term of endearment in this time period that we picked up from the husband and wife who own the farmhouse where we’ve been living.

I take his hand and he pulls me to my feet. But he doesn’t let go once I’m standing. He keeps pulling me toward him until our faces are a mere fraction of an inch apart. “It’ll get easier,” he whispers, bringing the conversation back to the reason I came out here in the first place. “Try to forget.” He places his hands on the sides of my face and softly touches his lips to mine.

The taste of him erases everything else. The way it always does. And just for that moment, there is no there, there is no them, there is no before. There is only us. There is only now.

But I know eventually the moment will end. Because that’s what moments do. And sooner or later, I will be doubled over the side of that bed again, fighting for air. Because even though I have no real memory of the former life that haunts me, I still can’t do what he wants me to do.

I can’t forget.

 

2

FOREIGN

Living and working on a farm in the countryside of England is one of the many precautions we’ve taken to stay off Diotech’s radar. Zen thought it would be better if money never changed hands and no official transactions were recorded. So we work here in exchange for a place to live and food to eat.

I enjoy farm life. It’s not overly complicated. There is a set of tasks to undertake each day and I feel satisfaction in completing every one. Like hundreds of tiny victories. Plus it’s quiet here. Peaceful.

John Pattinson owns and runs the farm, while his wife, Elizabeth, tends to the maintenance of the home and their four children. Zen mostly works alongside Mr. Pattinson, helping with the sowing, plowing, reaping, and general upkeep of the crops. I help Mrs. Pattinson with the domestic chores and the care of the animals.

The problem is, Mrs. Pattinson doesn’t like me. Zen says I’m being paranoid but it’s something I just know. Sometimes I catch her watching me as I’m going about my work. She has a suspicious look in her eyes. Like she’s waiting for me to screw up. To show who I really am.

I think she can sense that I’m different. That I don’t fit in here.

I suppose neither does Zen. After all, he was born five hundred years in the future. And seventeenth-century farmwork is something we both had to learn very quickly. But somehow he’s been able to assimilate a lot easier than I have.

That’s one of the (many) downsides of being created by scientists in a lab. You simply stand out. Even if people don’t quite know why. They can perceive there’s something strange about you. Something unnatural about the way you were brought onto this earth.

That’s what Mrs. Pattinson senses. Whether she understands it or not is irrelevant. I understand it. Which is why I always feel like I have to tread carefully when she’s around.

I remember one of the first things she said to me when I arrived. She looked right at me, her gaze darting skeptically up and down my entire body before finally landing on my eyes.

“I’ve never seen purple eyes before,” she said, her tone brusque and accusing.

I swallowed hard and opened my mouth to speak. Even though I hadn’t the slightest idea what I would say or how I would recover.

Thankfully, Zen was prepared, as always. He stepped forward, put his hand gently on my arm, and replied, “Her greatgrandmother was from the Orient. Lots of purple eyes out there.”

“It doesn’t matter that it’s not true,” Zen later explained to me. “It only matters that she believed it.”

But I wasn’t even sure about that. She may never have mentioned it again, but I see the doubt on her face every time she looks at me. I hear it in her gruff tone when she addresses me.

Her children don’t seem to like me either. They pretty much avoid me as much as they can.

The only person in the house who doesn’t seem bothered by my presence is Mr. Pattinson. But I don’t consider that any type of accomplishment. He’s a sweet-tempered, jovial man who appears to love everyone. If his wife has voiced any objections to us being here, he certainly hasn’t entertained them. It’s fairly clear that, in this time period, the man of the house makes all the decisions.

Because it was Mr. Pattinson who, six months ago on a chilly day in late March, agreed to let us work here in exchange for food and lodging. He was the one who welcomed an unknown eighteen-year-old boy and sixteen-year-old girl with open arms and offered to lend us some of his and his wife’s clothing. And he was the one who enthusiastically ate up Zen’s story about us being newlyweds who were both born and raised aboard merchant ships that have been sailing back and forth from the Far East for the majority of our lives, which accounts for our “funny accents.”

I was actually quite surprised to see how prepared Zen was when we arrived. Everything had been carefully thought-out ahead of time, even down to our fake period-appropriate names—Sarah and Ben. He told me that, in reality, the plan was as much mine as it was his. We’d been working on the details for months before we left the Diotech compound. Of course, I have no recollection of this.

But even if I had remembered planning our cover story, I was glad Zen was the one to deliver it. He’s a natural storyteller. When he speaks, his voice is so calming, his face so earnest, it’s hard not to invite him right into your home.

The boys, Thomas, James, and Myles, are enamored of him. They sit around the fireplace for hours every night after dinner, listening to Zen tell made-up stories about his life on the high seas with his father, the merchant trader. Sometimes I even find myself leaning forward in my seat with anticipation, waiting to hear what comes next, desperate to find out whether or not the crew really can fight off a Chinese giant squid and live to tell about it. I then have to remind myself, with sinking disappointment, that none of it actually happened.

 

Later that morning, as soon as we’re dressed and outside and the front door closes behind us, Zen pulls me toward him, capturing my mouth with his. It’s a hungry kiss. Eager. It takes me by surprise. I love how he can still take me by surprise. Zen’s lips gently pry mine open and his tongue starts to explore. I remark how much better the porridge we had for breakfast tastes on him than it did on my spoon five minutes ago. I feel his fingertips press into my lower back, urging me closer. Then his hands are under my cap, in my hair, massacring the tight bun that I spent the morning coaxing my hair into, but I can hardly bring myself to care. I’m too swept up in Zen’s fierceness. His famine for me. It spreads over me like a wildfire.

When he breaks away, I’m breathless, gasping for air. Although I’d take his kiss over oxygen any day.

“What was that?” I ask, resting my forehead against his lips and inhaling his scent.

I feel him smirking into my skin. “A goodbye kiss.”

This makes me laugh. I tilt my head and gaze up at him. “Where are you going? Saturn?”

“Nah. Just the wheat field.” He reaches out, his fingertip tracing the hook of my ear and drifting off my cheek, heating my face to a boil. “But without you, it may as well be another planet.”

I open my mouth to speak but only stammering air escapes. He smiles, teasing me with his eyes. “Bye, Cinnamon.” And then he’s gone. Disappearing in the direction of the wheat field. I rake my teeth over my bottom lip, attempting to savor him for another second before reluctantly starting toward the barn.

October is only a few days away, which means it’s time to harvest the fruit in the orchard. Mrs. Pattinson has assigned me the task of picking the apples and pears. I wouldn’t mind it so much except for the fact that it requires me to work with Blackthorn, the Pattinsons’ horse.

He hates me, too.

With a sigh, I grab the rope halter from the hook on the wall and let myself into the stall. Blackthorn stiffens the moment he sees me, his head jerking up and his eyes narrowing. Then, upon noticing the halter in my hand, he whinnies and stamps his foot.

“I know,” I tell him. “I don’t like it any more than you do.”

I take a step toward him and he startles and kicks his back feet against the wall.

“Come on,” I implore. “Don’t be like that.”

But my coaxing doesn’t seem to be doing any good because he edges himself into the corner and stares me down, ears pinned back, nostrils flaring. I have no doubt he’s planning to charge if I get any closer.

Mr. Pattinson says Blackthorn only reacts this way because I’m too tense when I’m around him. I have to learn how to relax. Horses can sense fear.

Unfortunately I don’t think it’s my fear that he senses. Even the horse knows there’s something off about me.

Before we came here, I’d never seen a horse before, or any animal, for that matter. I didn’t even know what they were. When the Diotech scientists designed me, they were very particular about what I knew and what I didn’t. Even down to the words in my vocabulary. Zen says that was just another way to control me. By controlling what knowledge I had access to. And apparently they didn’t think horses were important enough to add to my mental dictionary. I made the mistake of nearly leaping out of my shoes and letting out a piercing shriek when we arrived on the farm and I came face-to-face with Blackthorn for the first time.

Zen was quick to cover for me, stating that since I was born and raised on a merchant ship, I’d never come in contact with any farm animals before. But once again, I don’t think Mrs. Pattinson ever completely believed the story.

All the other tasks I can handle—cooking dinner, baking bread, working in the garden, chopping firewood, sewing clothes, washing laundry. I was designed to pick up skills quickly—after only one demonstration. And I actually enjoy the manual labor. It keeps my mind calm.

The jobs that require interaction with the animals—feeding the pigs, letting the chickens out of their coop, milking the goat—are the ones that I’ve come to dread every day. Because animals see right through me. Zen can’t dazzle them with well-crafted stories to put their doubts to rest. They know something is wrong with me.

I take three slow steps toward the horse and attempt to ease the halter up over his nose. I proceed cautiously, careful not to make any sudden moves. His eyes follow me with the same distrust I see when Mrs. Pattinson watches me. I flash the horse a beaming smile to show that I’m perfectly nice and not a threat, but the action seems to have the reverse effect. He flinches and whips his head up, knocking me in the chin. The force of the blow sends me flying backward and I fall into a soft patch of mud.

The horse looks over and I swear I see him smirk.

Groaning, I push myself up and do my best to brush the mud off the back of my skirt. This will definitely require laundering later today.

I’m about to go in for a second try when I hear the door creak open and Jane, the Pattinsons’ six-year-old daughter, slinks into the stall. She’s wearing a dress with a ripped hem that will surely be added to our mending pile any day now. Her sunshine-blond curls are still matted and tangled on one side of her head from sleeping on them. She brushes them clumsily out of her face, revealing a pair of large, inquisitive blue eyes.

Dangling from her hand is the tiny doll, about the size of my hand, that she carries with her wherever she goes. She calls it Lulu. Its body was made from the stained white fabric of one of Mr. Pattinson’s old shirts, and its blue short-sleeved frock was crafted from one of Jane’s outgrown baby dresses. It has a painted-on nose and smile and buttons for eyes.

I’m surprised to see Jane here. Since we arrived, she’s never spoken to me. None of the children have, really. Maybe a few perfunctory words here and there like, May I have some more bread, please? but beyond that, I might as well be a ghost in this house.

There have been a few times when I’ve looked up from my work and caught her watching me from a distance but she always scampers away as soon as she sees me notice her. I’ve convinced myself that she’s terrified of me. But she shows no fear now.

Without a word, she gently places the doll in the front pocket of her dress, walks toward me, removes the halter from my hand, and proceeds to approach the horse.

Blackthorn towers over her and for a minute I wonder if it’s a good idea to even allow her into this stall. One little jerky move from him and she could be crushed to death. I consider dashing after her and scooping her up into my arms but I soon see that this won’t be necessary because the horse actually relaxes the moment he sees her. His nostrils stop flaring, his ears bounce straight up in the air, and he lowers his head so that his eyes are level with hers.

“That’s a good horsie,” she coos, rubbing the top of his nose. His eyes sink closed. She easily slips the halter around his head and ties it. Then she silently points to the harness on the wall behind me. I grab it and take one pace toward him. He tenses again but Jane is quick to soothe him with a soft clucking sound.

I manage to get close enough to toss the harness over his back and buckle the strap around his chest. Then I fetch the fruit baskets from outside his stall and secure them to the hooks on either side. He doesn’t look happy about any of this, but he seems much more tolerant of my presence while Jane is here.

I’m about to say thank you to Jane when I hear an angry huffing sound behind me. We both turn to see Mrs. Pattinson glaring at us. Her eyes drift down from me to her daughter.

“Jane,” she says tightly, “go inside.”

Jane bites her lip and scuttles away. Mrs. Pattinson lingers to give me one more distrustful glower before following her daughter.

She must think she’s out of hearing range when she turns the corner toward the house because she whispers gruffly to Jane, “What did I tell you about conversing with that girl?”

There’s no way for her to know that my actual hearing range reaches far beyond any normal human being’s. That, in reality, I can hear horse hooves clip clopping down the dirt road five minutes before they actually arrive at the house, a hawk flapping its wings in the next valley, or even the hushed early-morning bickering between her and Mr. Pattinson in the kitchen when I’m sitting on the knoll five hundred feet away watching the sunrise.

Although I fear that even if she had known I could hear her, she wouldn’t have cared.

I swallow the stinging in my throat and hook the lead rope to Blackthorn’s halter, pulling him out of the barn and toward the orchard. He follows me obediently but uses the entire length of the rope to put as much distance between us as he can.

 


Unforgotten © Jessica Brody, 2014

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