Author: S. M. Anderson
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Release Date: December 11
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Target Audience: 14 and up
Adopted off the black market, Alexander Mitchell, has no idea his DNA is copyrighted and property of military weapons giant Texacom Defense. Nor that his DNA is being used to develop an army of clones. When the company discovers he was not properly disposed of 17 years ago, they send an assassin copy, BETA23, to terminate Xan and cover it up After he narrowly escapes BETA23’s first attempt, Xan teams up with Lacey, a
genetically engineered genius he’s surprised to find common ground with— only they’re awkward together. Half of the time she stares at Xan like the science project he is and the other half…let’s just say Xan can’t keep his eyes off her lips. When they manage to capture a company copy by luck and sheer stupidity on Xan’s part, Lacey is determined to see the good in their prisoner to the point she believes BETA23 can be persuaded to give them the intelligence they need to keep the company forever off Xan’s back. Xan’s not sure if he can trust the darker version of himself, not when it means gambling with the lives of his family and the possibility of losing Lacey.
Beta opened his swollen eyes. Craning his neck sideways, he took a good look at his surroundings. Pain throbbed through his skull and down his spine. Everything blurred, but the outline of the shelves confirmed he was still in the storeroom. His mouth omitted a soft groan. The screech of a heavy wooden chair sliding across the tile floor resonated in his ears, and Beta winced. The slight flex of his facial muscles shot needles of pain through the bruises on his face.
A blurry figure appeared above him. “How are you feeling?”
He waited a moment for his vision to clear and ignored the burning itch of his skin as his cells started the process of regeneration.
Lacey hovered over him, brow furrowed and lips pursed as she examined him. When he didn’t respond, she rested a hand on his shoulder and gave it a little shake.
The light touch of her palm sent a wave of energy through him. He jolted upright. “Ouch!”
Pain so severe that he felt like the walls of his head would collapse in on themselves riveted through his body.
She winced. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Please don’t move if it hurts.”
Beta scooted to the top of the bed and leaned his back against the brass headboard.
“You didn’t startle me. I just…” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t think of a way of saying what he meant without sounding weak.
“Never mind.” She gingerly touched the edge of his swollen eye with the tips of her fingers. “Are you in pain?”
He stiffened like the reflex of a beaten animal the first time it knows the touch of a gentle hand. Why should she care? “It’s fine. We heal quickly.”
Her gaze slid across his face. She probed every bruised nook and cranny. There was a hunger in her eyes as if she was the question and he the answer. He felt something else too; an emotion or feeling that he couldn’t put a name to. Something he’d never, in his short life, experienced. Beta stared past her, his eyes focused on the faint brush strokes of the wall’s dried white paint. If he could just ignore the strange new animal that had awakened inside him, he’d rally again and escape.
He cleared his throat.
“Sorry.” Lacey pulled back. “You must be hungry.”
She disappeared from the room and returned with a tray of food in her hands. Then she unfolded two short legs from the bottom of the tray and laid it across his lap. A loose strand of her ebony hair brushed against his cheek. Beta’s fingers twitched, knocking his wrists against the handcuffs. He wanted to tangle his hands in that silky-looking hair, just to know what it felt like.
She dipped a spoon into a bowl full of watery soup and pressed a mouthful to his lips.
Beta slurped down soft noodles with bits of chicken. Warmth spread from his belly to the rest of his body. He glanced up at Lacey’s face, inches away from his. Large red marks ran along the side of her jaw and neck. His throat tightened, remembering he had been responsible for those bruises. The little air he could suck in with bruised ribs tasted stale and stagnant. Another new sensation breached the impenetrable hold of his heart, this one unbearable. Beta swallowed hard. He had never regretted hurting someone before.