Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books


Added By: HRO
Last Updated: Administrator


Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: M. D. Waters
Publisher: Dutton, 2014
Series: Archetype: Book 2

1. Archetype
2. Prototype

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags:
Avg Member Rating:
(0 reads / 0 ratings)


The stunning debut that began with Archetype-- and has readers buzzing--concludes in Prototype, when a woman's dual pasts lock onto a collision course, threatening her present and future.

Emma looks forward to the day when she can let go of her past--both of them. After more than a year on the run, with clues to her parents' whereabouts within her grasp, she may finally find a place to settle down. Start a new life. Maybe even create new memories with a new family.

But the past rises to haunt her and to make sure there's nowhere on the planet she can hide. Declan Burke wants his wife back, and with a little manipulation and a lot of reward money, he's got the entire world on his side. Except for the one man she dreads confronting the most: Noah Tucker.

Emma returns to face what she's done but finds that the past isn't the problem. It's the present--and the future it represents. Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter.

In the shocking conclusion to M.D. Waters's spectacular debut, Emma battles for her life and her freedom, tearing down walls and ripping off masks to reveal the truth. She's decided to play their game and prove she isn't the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn.



I float in nothing.

The tether binding my incorporeal form keeps me from floating into the abyss that is arctic and as black as pitch. The restraint is also fragile. One wrong move and I will have nothing to hold me.

Wake up, Emma. It is only a dream.

Not a dream, though. My worst nightmare.

The abyss I float in threatens death.

- - -

I shoulder through the thick crowd of men, clinging to the straps of my backpack. Sweat streams down my spine. Gusts of wind have pulled strands of hair free from my knotted bun and they stick to my neck. Dust clouds the area, kicked up by children playing to the side of the uneven cobbled road and by the marching of heavy military boots. Militia patrol Zirahuén's street market to thwart any trouble in the otherwise friendly haggling system.

I keep my head down and sunglasses on to avoid eye contact. Any sign of interest on my part makes men too aggressive, too hands-on. It did not take me long to learn this in the year and four months that I have been free. Not every country's government is regimented to the slavery of women like the eastern half of America is, but that does not mean women are not wanted.

Needed, actually.

I keep my wedding ring--the ring Declan Burke gave me in the weeks before he died--on a chain around my neck. Sliding the set of diamonds on my finger has saved me multiple times. If men believe I am married, most tend to back off out of respect for my "husband."

The ring is the last of the jewelry I took from my old home, and I hate to part with it, but it is time. I am nearly out of money and have nothing to show for it. In the year I have searched for my parents, I have come up with only one promising lead: the name of a man who lives in Mexico, of all places. Zirahuén, Michoacán, to be exact. A village beside Lake Zirahuén in the central highlands of Mexico.

The man I seek is ex-resistance like my parents, who seem to be nothing more than ghosts. After escaping a prison in America's eastern territory more than twenty years ago, they disappeared without a trace. For all I know, they could have died. Either way, I have to know what happened to them. Maybe if I find them alive--I refuse to believe they are dead--I can finally figure out where I fit in this world.

Knowing I am Emma Wade--ex-resistance major, wife of Noah Tucker, mother to Adrienne--does not change the fact that I am still a clone carrying Her soul. That those I left behind could not bring themselves to accept me for who I am. I am forced to make a new life for myself, and this is all I hope to do once I find my parents.

I politely decline the hagglers stepping in my path on my way to the area selling produce. I am told the man I seek sells fruit, but this is all I know. Three blocks into the market, I find a row of five carts selling various types.

Stopping, I ignore the shoulders brushing past. Rubbing the tight muscles in the back of my neck, I blow out a gust of air. Five carts. Five men. And I do not speak Spanish.

I pass the first three because the men are too young to be the man I seek. The fourth is a man who cannot be younger than eighty, speaks no English, and cannot stop staring at my breasts... or the ring lying between them. I know he could be the right man, but my instincts say definitely not.

One glance at the last cart reveals another young man, late teens, and my stomach falls. Peter swore I would find him here, and though I spent only two weeks on his ranch in Montana, I trust him more than I have trusted anyone in a very long time.

The ex-resistance general took me in at my lowest point. A time when I was beginning to believe I would never find my parents. When thoughts of the family I left behind clawed at my guilt. But also a time when my abyss dreams had progressed into a true nightmare.

The peace I found with Peter could not have come at a better time. More than that, he gave me hope again with a single name: Cesar Ruiz.

An older man exchanges places with the young man behind the last cart and my heart leaps. I approach the cart, which houses red apples. Flies swarm the bruised skin, removing any appeal. The man behind the rotting wood wears a wide-brimmed hat and has a shock of salt-and-pepper hair flaring around his deeply wrinkled face. He rubs wide, stubby fingers over his mustache while studying me with dark eyes.

I remove my sunglasses and hang them from the front of my tank top. "Cesar Ruiz?"

Please speak English.

The man shakes his head and speaks rapidly in Spanish. He also avoids looking me in the eye.

I hold up my hands to stop him and try to regulate the air that has just become trapped in my lungs. This has to be him. "I do not understand. Do you speak English?"

The young man from before sidles up beside me. His black hair is pulled taut in a low-hanging ponytail. "What is it you need, American?"

"I am looking for someone. Cesar Ruiz?"

"Not today, lady. Tomorrow."

The boy's eyes shift quickly to the old man, and I know intuitively I have found the right place. This would not be the first time ex-resistance has lied to me about their true identity. Even in a whole other country than the Americas, they would not want to be found by the wrong person. I have to be careful not to scare him off.

"My name is Emma Wade," I tell him. "He knew my parents, Lily and Stephen. I am only trying to find them."

I finish with a pointed look at the old man. His head is tilted in a way that says he listens, but he swats at the hovering flies in an effort to deflect suspicion. I know this tactic and am not fooled.

Instead of nodding or giving me the brush-off, the young boy picks up an apple from the cart. "Not today," he repeats, squinting into the sun. He tosses the fruit in the air and catches it in his other hand, then rolls it between his palms.

The next time the apple flies in the air, I snatch it away. "Tell him I have come a long way and will not leave without the answers I came for."

The boy opens his mouth to respond when the old man steps around the cart, hands raised. "It is okay, Miguel."

I let out a relieved sigh. That did not take as long as I expected. "You are Cesar?"

He casts a furtive glance around. "Not for a long time. How did you hear of me?"

"An old friend of yours named Peter. I ran into him in Montana. He made me groom a lot of horses before telling me where to find you."

Cesar nods toward the shade of an alley behind his cart, shouting orders in Spanish to Miguel. Once we stand between the buildings, he glances around to determine if we are alone.

He removes his hat and fans his face. "You are resistance?"

"No." Not exactly a lie. Originally, yes, but I am not Her anymore. He does not need to hear my complicated story. "I have friends working against Burke Enterprises."

His eyes widen. "This will not be easy. Not after--"

"--the cloning. I know."

I am curious if Noah was as surprised as I was when the government practically begged Burke Enterprises to begin a cloning program on a much grander scale. They even went as far as to erase the charges against Arthur Travista for the murder of the two hosts of their first successful clones. Ruby and Lydia refused to press charges, anyway. And why would they? They are alive and well with healthy babies. A miracle of science.

No one knew the truth about me, thank God. The few friends Declan trusted with this secret have thus far kept quiet, believing Declan and I were kidnapped by the resistance. At least that is the story they tell the media. With the security system--put in place by Noah himself--there is no way they did not see my fight with Declan. I am not sure how far out the view went, but they know I was the last to see him alive, at the very least.

I shiver, suddenly cold despite the humidity. Declan will forever stare at me from the cold depths of that lake.

"Did you know my parents?" I ask.

"Stephen and Lily Wade, you say?"

I nod.

A single round shoulder lifts as he looks down the alley and into the market, where so far no one pays us any attention. "I knew a lot of men who went by the name Stephen, but no one by the last name Wade. The only Lily I knew was a Lily Garrett. Young woman with no husband. No children. Our time in the southeast region was short. It is possible she could have gotten married after I left."

My heartbeat races in opposition to the plummeting feeling in my stomach. "Peter said--"

"Pete and I have been around a long time. Have known a lot of people." He taps his temple. "We have good, long memories. If I once knew a couple by this name, I would, and could, tell you."

I should feel numb to these dead ends by now, but I am not. I clench my jaw and turn to hide the tears brimming in my eyes. They are more a sign of my mounting frustration than anything else. This and I am exhausted from the long day of traveling to get here. Crossing Mexico's border cost me a lot of my remaining funds; then I had to travel by aerotrain for half a day before reaching a working teleporter. All for nothing.

My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of three pitched dings in the street. Cesar and I step out of the alley and look up at the holograph image of an emergency broadcast filling the sky.

The blond male newscaster is American, according to his accent. The Spanish translation runs along the bottom of the holo-sky stream. I stare past the reporter in the video feed to the building behind him, a flutter of nerves winging through my stomach. The main office building of Burke Enterprises towers above all of Richmond, Virginia, a grand structure of glass and steel.

"Must be about the clones," Cesar says with a scowl deepening the wrinkles on his face. "Burke Enterprises wants the world to know how important they are."

These same broadcasts air in America. I had not expected them to stretch to other countries, but I should not be surprised. Infertility is a worldwide issue, and no doubt other countries are salivating for Dr. Travista's "cure." The one he keeps to himself and that other scientists are unable to replicate.

No one has figured out how the elusive doctor managed to transfer an entire soul into a cloned body capable of carrying multiple pregnancies. According to Dr. Travista's reports, we clones can even accept donated organs now; we are no longer as fragile as our predecessors were.

In a newsroom, a dashing man with too-white teeth speaks into the camera. "... a while since we've heard from the creator himself, Dr. Arthur Travista, so do you think he's making a rare appearance today, Tim?"

The camera switches back to the man in front of Burke Enterprises. A strong wind tunnels through and lifts his carefully placed hair."That's a good question, Isaac, and the consensus here is that, yes, we will indeed be hearing from Dr. Travista today. It's possible he wants to add to the recent statement released from the White House regarding the rising number of successful pregnancies since the birth of a daughter from the Original Clone herself, Ruby Godfrey, just this past winter."

The man, Tim, pauses and tilts his head as if listening to someone speaking in an earpiece. He glances behind him and says, "It appears the moment has come, and I am told, Isaac, that it is not Dr. Arthur Travista. Let's tune in now to where the surprise speaker approaches the podium."

The massive crowd surrounding the dais goes deathly quiet. Camera flashes burst sporadically as finely dressed men spill through glass revolving doors. In the center of this protective cluster is a tall man with cropped dark hair, his head bowed just enough to hide from the camera. Despite his hidden face, I know this man too intimately to be fooled. Yet it is impossible.

Knees weak, I brace a hand on the corner of the tan and red building to my left. This cannot be real. But I do not imagine the broad set of shoulders or the sure gait of the man who demands respect from everyone around him.

Declan Burke reaches the podium and looks into the roaring audience. Flashbulbs erupt in a frenzy as the photographers race to capture every angle of the man long believed captive of the resistance.

Off-camera, Tim gives the audience a brief rundown of the past year in an exuberant tone: Declan's disappearance, how without his financial aid and support we would not have the promise of a thriving future. If Dr. Travista is the "father" of cloning, Declan is definitely the "godfather."

Declan raises his hands for silence, casting the throng his devastating smile. Even now my heart skips. Despite our last days together, I loved this man too much for my own good. While our world requires men to think of their women as possessions, Declan treated me with more kindness and love than I deserved. His patience in those first months of my clone life went above and beyond what any other man would have deemed necessary. It has taken me a long time to admit this, but I am the woman I am now because of him. My past, what little I remember, has not defined me.

He has.

Declan tugs down on the dark blue suit jacket he wears--my favorite color on him--while he waits for the crowd to calm. Meanwhile, I study the small changes in him. He wears the shadow of a goatee and tightly trimmed hair. His crowd-pleasing smile does not reach his eyes. He is also thinner than I remember.

"It has been a long year," he says in his deep voice. Every syllable raises goose bumps along my skin. "A year of many successes for the human race. God willing, the success will only continue to grow."

His expression sobers and he shifts his weight. "I am only sorry it was a year I could not celebrate with you. For me, it was a year of fear at the hands of the resistance, followed by several months of recovery. A year I will never get back, but a year I intend to be repaid,"he finishes with a fist on the podium.

Arms rise in the air and obscure the perfect shot of Declan, who waits in silence while the men cheer. A taut line stretches his full mouth. This matches the fire in his eyes perfectly.

"I came here today not to discuss my harrowing year with these so-called freedom fighters but to beg you, the people of every nation watching this broadcast, to help me."

Declan's gaze falls, and a look of sheer loss paints his expression. The strong hands that know every inch of my skin slide up and grip the edges of the podium. His chest rises and falls hard beneath his fine suit.

Then his gaze lifts, and there lies a heat that had not been there prior. Through the camera, past all the miles between us, the intensity of his stare sears into me. As if he sees me. As if there is no distance between us at all.

"The resistance took my wife, Emma. And I want her back."


My breath catches on the heels of his announcement. Why would he do this? Revenge? Have I not paid enough?

Declan continues, though his voice is nearly drowned out by my heartbeat rushing in my ears. "I'm offering a reward in the amount of a hundred thousand dollars for any information leading to the rescue of my wife, Emma. But," he says in a sharp tone that emphasizes the word, "bring her to me alive, and you will be a millionaire ten times over."

My picture flashes across the hologram along with a phone number. It is an old picture--my hair was chin length then--taken from the showing of my art in a gallery. My first and last show.

Cesar pushes me into the wall, where I hit with a thunk. Pieces of the weathered surface fall and pebble around our feet. He grips my throat in his hand. For an old man, he is strong and fast. "What is your real purpose for seeking me out, Emma Burke, wife of the richest man in the Americas?"

I gasp for what little air his hand allows. "He lies. I escaped. Thought he was dead. I swear."

The old man backhands me, and I stumble into the cobbled street with a ringing ear and throbbing cheek. Men face me from every direction. Thanks to my image poised over their heads like a beacon, I am all too recognizable to this poor village.

They glance between me and the picture, and the potential threat urges me to take an unsteady step back. Then the whispering begins. Pointing. I take another step, my heart crashing against my sternum like a caged animal.

Go, go, go.

The men converge on me like a swarm of buzzing insects. Spinning, I jump on a stack of produce crates resting against the side of a one-story building. I pull myself to a red-shingled rooftop and roll to my back. I take one heaving breath before getting to my feet and crossing to the other end of the angled roof.

I jump to another building, this one with a flat top, that sits slightly lower to the ground. I am to the middle when several men jump down behind me. One of the men is fast and snags me by the pack I wear. I drop to my backside and scrape my palms on the concrete surface.

He reaches for me again. I swing a leg at his ankles and sweep his feet out from under him. By the time I get back up, the others have reached me. I nail one with an elbow shot. Another with a head butt that brings tears to my eyes. White dots float in my vision. Unsure I will be able to aim accurately again, I slide out of the grabby hands and run for the side of the roof.

I jump to the ground and roll in a thick patch of grass. The edge of the village is not far, and beyond that, a collage of pine, oak, and ash trees. I can lose myself in the sprawling hills of Michoacán. What I should do after that is anyone's guess.

The majority of my followers quit their pursuit before the village limits. They do not run every day like I do. I run because I must outrun them all, a lesson I learned from one of my most useful memories of last year.

I do not look back but instead listen to the dropping off of footfalls and, according to their tones, frustrated curses. I run into the trees and lose several more. Well into the first mile, I reach the entrance to a cemetery. Stone steps lead up the steep hillside. Aging statues of angels, heads bowed in prayer, frame either side of the entrance. Ivy winds up their ethereal bodies. Loose green leaves carpet each step. The sun shines through dense foliage, casting heavenly fingers around the blessed area.

I duck behind large headstones, hoping to lose whoever still follows. When I think I have been out of sight for a while, I push through the door of a mausoleum and close myself inside. Dust particles float in shafts of sunlight from small windows near the top. Three stone coffins fill the space. Dried flowers rise stiffly from dust-coated ceramic vases.

Voices sound close outside and I scramble to the nearest coffin to test the lid. The stone is heavy but scrapes aside with little trouble. A putrid and dank-scented cloud encapsulates the air around me. My gag reflex hitches and I cannot bring myself to look down at first. The raised calls outside grow closer, though, and force me into action.

Whoever the woman was, she has completed the decomposition process, making things easier. She wears the remains of a full-length white dress, pearls at her throat, and a diamond ring to rival mine.

I could sell those.

I grip the coarse stone edge and shake my head. I cannot believe I just considered robbing a dead woman's grave. There are no circumstances that dire. Not even mine. Besides, I will owe her once I do what I am about to do.

Carefully, I push the remains aside and climb in. The interior smell is nowhere near as bad as the initial release, but it is still awful. I hold my breath and exert all my strength into shifting the heavy lid back into place. Soon, not even a slip of light passes through.

My next draw of breath drags in the foul air and pulls tears from my eyes. Oh God, there is a dead woman next to me. Dead. I want to cover my face but I dare not move. A sharp hip bone sinks into my back like a knife. The back of my head lies on a bed of ribs. I am living inside my nightmare. Trapped by the infinite dark with death at my back.

Outside, the unmistakable sound of the door opening makes me stiffen. Two men speaking in rapid Spanish are inside the mausoleum. The scuffling of shoes against concrete echoes in the space. I hear them travel between the coffins, taking their time. I hold my breath when one of them speaks directly over me, his voice muffled. Three taps, like palm slaps, sound on the lid. I flinch, then lie frozen, unable to do so much as blink. Soon, every muscle quivers beyond my control.

After what feels like an eternity, the sounds disappear, but I never hear the door close. Is the coffin lid on crooked? Was there dust on the floor to track my footprints? I do not remember. All I know is that someone could still be inside, waiting me out. Despite how badly I want to be free, I fear leaving the confines of this coffin more.

My heart drums, and sweat beads along my brow. Every muscle in my body aches from lying so absolutely still. I crane my neck to better listen for stragglers and jostle the rib cage under me. The skull loosens and rolls, then settles near the crown of my head.

A whimper escapes my throat and I slap a palm over my mouth. Humid breath travels across my knuckles in quick gusts. I try very hard not to think about the trauma that would have loosened the woman's skull from her spine, but in the dark, it is hard to think of anythingelse.

I listen hard past the rush of blood in my ears and still hear nothing but dead space. But I have to be patient. A few more minutes with a skeleton win out over even one second back in Declan's hands.

The time passes in slow, tense increments, and eventually I make the decision to check the room. I ease into position, careful of the loose bones lying behind me, and push. My adrenaline has slowed, and the strength I need to move the stone has waned dramatically. I cannot make the lid budge even a little.

My eyes widen and black dots fill my vision. I want to scream but can only mouth the word "no" into the space that now feels as if it closes in around me. I bite my lower lip and push again. The following scraping sound explodes in the silence and I startle back into the skeleton. A bone stabs my back. I lurch up and hit my head on the coffin lid. The dull throb manages to slow me down, but only for a moment.

I need out.

I heave my entire upper body against the lid and force it aside. Cool, fresh air accompanies a blinding light. I scramble up and topple over the side. I hit the ground with a thud, sending a jolt of pain into my hip and down my leg.

Leaning against the coffin's dais, I drag in every blessedly fresh breath. My eyes water in the sunlight, but after several blinks, I conclude that I am alone. I reach out and shut the door. They could still be out there, which is the only reason I have not run. If I stay where I am long enough, I will walk from here rather than run.

Except Declan's broadcast has ensured that I will always be running. He essentially put a price on my head that no one can or will refuse. In only a few minutes, and from an entirely different country, Declan Burke managed to snatch my freedom right out from under me. How can I continue my search now? Anyone who is or was resistance will assume I am a spy, and everyone else stands ready to turn me over for a pile of cash. I will face danger and difficulty no matter where I go.

Not everywhere.

I sigh and rub my temples. I cannot accept that running back to Noah is the only option I have. But if there is another, I do not know what it is. I would gladly go back to Montana, but putting Peter in Declan's line of sight is the last thing I want to do. No one else I have met has opened their home to me.

Damn it.

I stand and brush dust from my backside. "Just get out of Mexico, Emma. Worry about the rest later."

- - -

Getting out of Mexico is as simple as sneaking into the back of a cargo truck bound for Arizona. I avoid plenty of close calls by hiding my hair under a scarf. My sunglasses and lack of eye contact do the rest.

Twenty-four hours have not given me a better outcome to my issue. Even if it were a question of money, I could not simply sell my wedding ring to the first buyer. Not without being recognized. My luck got me across the border but will not hold out much longer.

Despite all that, I am still against asking Noah for help. After the way I left, the only help he may give is a hand back out. He probably despises me. He should. Even if I am wrong and he holds no resentment toward me, there is another truth holding me back. I am a coward and cannot face the guilt behind my own actions. Seeing him, seeing Adrienne, will be a glaring reminder of my mistakes.

I have one last option left, though it is not one I look forward to. But I am resolved to try. I waste no time and find the nearest public teleporter. The outside of the booth says ARIZONA PUBLIC TRANSPORT in black letters. Warnings below spell out the dangers of trying to port unlawfully out of the country. As the booth is an instrument that turns you into a billion tiny pieces, I would not risk unlawfully goinganywhere.

Inside, the silver floor gives under my weight, and my stats--total mass, water, and body fat, as well as additional calculations based on the clothes I wear--appear in glowing red lights on the clear surface. Once the calculations are finished, a keypad appears. With shaking fingers, I type in the port number, breathe deep of the spearmint masking the rancid scent of the numbing agent, and watch the Arizona street melt away.

The second I step onto Las Vegas Boulevard, the desert sun envelopes me. The passersby on the main strip ignore me despite how I must look after my time in Mexico. This is exactly why I chose this destination. In Las Vegas, everyone is too concerned with their own bad luck to see mine. Even though the broadcast played everywhere, I have no reason to believe it has gone viral enough to make much of a difference yet. Even if it has, the gamblers are too focused on their game of choice, getting drunk, or sleeping. The crowd, too, is also so thick that to the video cameras I am merely one face among thousands. Even if Declan monitors the footage, the odds of finding me are slim.

I slide my large sunglasses on and duck my head as I weave through the men. Several slow their pace outside glass-encased booths where beautiful, scantily clad women showcase their goods. The women wink and smile seductively. They run their hands over their bodies to draw attention to their best assets. Dollar amounts flash on the glass when a man stops to look at the merchandise.

Marijuana merchants entice potential customers with promises of a good high from mobile stands they maneuver through the throng. Neon-colored tubes sprout from the top like flowers. Screens on the stands stream the names of the weed for sale. Blue Cheese. Amnesia Haze. Diesel. White Rhino. Despite the odd names, money changes hands at a consistent rate.

I turn into the nearest casino: the Crystal Palace. The structure is in the shape of a diamond and made entirely of glass. The lobby is white and gold marble. Bronze statues of ancient gods on pedestals adorn corners with tall sprouting plants. Fountains spray water high into the air.

I stand out amid such opulence. My hair is dirty, my skin and clothes covered in dust, and I am certain my exhaustion weighs heavy on my face. I crave a shower and a soft bed, so I use the last of my cash to pay for a room and hope the insanity of my plan is fueled by my lack of sleep. That when I wake, I will have a better plan.

Except this does not prove true. I wake knowing my latest idea is my only option next to running back to Noah, and I refuse to give in so easily. I dig clean clothes out of my bag: dark jeans, white tee, and black leather jacket. Under one pant leg, I strap on the only weapon I own--a knife, in case things go horribly wrong--then slick my hair into a low-hanging ponytail.

In the hotel's casino, amid the ringing of slots and clicking of chips, I patrol the tables until I find an unguarded cell phone beside a patron. His chips are stacked high to one side and his laugh soars above everyone else's. I lean on the table as if I have an interest in the game, smile at the man, who has crooked yellow teeth, and slide his cell off the edge.

"Good luck," I tell him as I walk away, hoping he does not notice the flush in my cheeks. One thing I never do is steal from others, but I have little choice. I cannot have my call traced to this location. With the cell phone, the best they can do is locate the nearest call receptor.

"Leaving so soon?" the man yells, but I never look back.

I find a shadowed corner near a large plant and slip behind, keeping my attention on everyone in the vicinity. With shaking fingers, I dial a number I wish I could forget as easily as my past.

A man answers the phone on the second ring. "Declan Burke's office."


I recognize the voice on the other end of the line as Declan's assistant, Armand Tulley. "I need to speak with Declan Burke," I tell him.

"I'm sorry, miss, but--"

"This is Emma Burke." I press a knuckle into my temple, feeling the start of a headache coming on. "Put my husband on the phone."

The words feel foreign and wrong, but they do the job. The line goes quiet, leaving me to listen to the pleased laughter and groans of loss all around me. Sweat tickles my brow and I fan my shirt to cool my hot skin as I wait for Declan to answer. How will he act? Despite what he has told the world, he may want me dead. After all, I tried to kill him.

"Emma?" Declan's deep voice, filled with worry, causes me to jump.

I take a moment to wet my dry lips before responding. "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what? Searching for my wife?" He sounds almost angry now. "I should be asking you the same question."

I grip the phone tighter. I have not been his wife since before Noah deleted all records of our union at Her behest. Something Noah explained to me a long time ago but apparently a fact Declan refuses to believe. "I am not your wife. Our marriage was erased years ago, remember?"

Silence envelopes both ends of the line. I imagine he searches for a new lie he hopes will lure me back. I lift the wedding band hanging heavy around my neck and slip it onto the end of my index finger. The diamonds catch and reflect the fluorescent lights and remind me how everything he represents is nothing more than a set of chains.

Finally, he says, "You were happy with me... before all this madness. I know you loved me just as I love you."

"After how things ended, I cannot believe you can so easily forgive. There is no reason why I should trust you to let me live."

"I've had a lot of time to consider what happened between us, and I understand why you felt compelled to act as you did. I understand why you were angry, and you had every right."

I lost my husband and daughter because of him. I lost my rightful place in this unforgivable world. What I feel goes beyond anger. "Tell me something, Declan. If I were to return, would we work through our issues like normal people?" I already know the answer, but I need to hear him say it.

"We aren't normal people. Would it be so bad to forget all that's happened? To get back to where we were?"

"You mean to the lies and deception?" Tears sting the backs of my eyes. Whether they are from anger or disappointment, I do not know. "I cannot live like that again, but I cannot live my life on the run either. Please rescind the offer for my return. I am no threat to you or your company. I am only trying to find some peace."

"With your other husband?" he clips out.

"No," I say too quickly, then take a deep breath to steady myself.

There is an audible sigh on the other end. "Emma, please come home. Let me take care of you."

A single, hard laugh bursts free from deep inside me. "By giving me limited access to the world? By forcing me into having your children, then giving my daughters to one of your camps?"

"Our children will never know that life. They don't have to, Emma. There are benefits to being who I am. You only got a glimpse of what I'm capable of doing for you."

What he is capable of doing to me is the only thing concerning me, and that is why I will never return. "Will you call off the search or not?"

"What kind of man would I be if I gave up the woman I love more than life?"

"You do not know what love is. If you did, you would let me go." I hang up before hearing his response. The cell clatters to the marbled floor and I crush it under my shoe.

Why did I think that would work? I know Declan too well, and he always gets what he wants. What he pays for, as he so eloquently put it to me once. According to the laws in the east, I am his property. The Burke family purchased my host as a teenager, and because I am a clone his company created, he has every right to me. But I cannot accept that. Not with freedom still in my grip.

I step around the plant into the view of the casino. One glance into the teeming room reveals new trouble. White-and-gold-uniformed men stand near tables, their attention seemingly somewhere else, but I know this tactic. The red coats in Declan's labs used to trail me too. They are not as unassuming as they would like me to believe.

Two of the security men throw something that zips through the air so fast I am clueless about its purpose until my arms, elbows to shoulders, are strapped tight to my rib cage. My legs are restrained from knees to hips. They have used some sort of wire to snare me. I lose my balance and drop to my butt like a stone.

One man, the head of security according to the extra flair on his uniform, raises an arm. "We got her. Someone call the hotline."

They will not send me back to Declan. I twist my ankles around and pull up my pant leg. I finger my knife free, then run it up between my thighs, cutting the wire.

Patrons at tables scramble out of their seats, crowding the aisles. Others take to using the tabletops for their escape, toppling hundreds of chips on the way. Security fights to get through the mob while I work my way into a standing position.

I am unable to free my arms before someone barrels into me and we skid across the marble floor. My back hits a clay pot so hard the pot cracks open and potting soil spills all over me. I thrust the knife into my attacker's thigh. He yells and his weight disappears, taking my blade with him.

On my way back into a standing position, I shoulder another man in the stomach. After that, any route out I may have had closes like the lid of my recent coffin. I allow those buried fighting instincts to take over and ignore the alarmed warnings in my head, because I will get out of this. I have to.

Someone snatches my ponytail and yanks my head back. My back hits his chest and I slam my heel down on his instep. He cries out and pushes me right into another man, who catches me by the shoulders. The man looks nothing like Declan--none of them do--but he may as well be a perfect representation. The determined set of his jaw. The tight grip of his hands. Letting this man, or any other, take me so easily cannot happen. Not like this. I will die first.

I bring my knee up between his legs and he releases me with a grunt. I strike him in the chin with a solid kick, then immediately aim another to my right, connecting with a chest. I whirl around with a jumping roundhouse to the front again, then tilt forward to balance a kick back into the man coming in behind me.

Finally, the way is clear to run. Free of the main casino, I face a full hotel lobby. The men and few women disperse, willing to leave my capture to the multiple security guys behind me. The front doors have only begun to slide open on my approach when a heavy body slams into me. We crash through the window. I roll into the semicircular driveway with a scattering of glass shards. The fast-approaching whir of an electric car engine warns me to keep rolling across the drive. I am clear by only seconds when the squeal of tires rends the air, followed by a thunk as the vehicle hits the man.

My head spins and I feel as if I have been running for miles. I cannot remember which way to the nearest public teleporter, but I have to move. Shouts warn everyone to get out of the way. They are too close.

I roll to my knees and clamber to my feet, then take off down the street, refusing to look back. Something hot and wet oozes down the side of my face and tickles my cheek.

I duck into the first public teleporter I find. Through the glass, I can see the mass of white-and-gold-clad casino security continue to pursue me. I use my nose to type in an untraceable code followed by the port number I no longer have a choice but to use. The security draws too close, with guns raised. Spearmint floods the booth. My body numbs and the Las Vegas Strip disappears.

The resistance command center looks no different as I appear inside one of the ten teleporters lining the wall. Stations arranged in a semicircular pattern fill several rows of wide steps and face a cavernous room of monitors. Each station is in the shape of an elongated number three and manned by two resistance members. They stare at four video relay monitors apiece. The eight monitors per station are hooded by a shelf that gives off enough soft light to illuminate a single keyboard inlaid in a pale wooden desktop.

I find myself frozen inside the teleporter, unable to stop the port number to downtown Polson, Montana, from filtering into my thoughts. It is not yet too late to make the choice to return where I know I am welcome. Except Peter is too old to fight for me and I bring nothing but trouble. Especially now.

Swallowing my fear, I step out of the teleporter. People stand from their stations to face me, some speechless, others whispering to a close neighbor. Nobody welcomes me, the impostor who looks like Emma Wade.

I approach the nearest young man who does not look as hostile as a few of the others. "Can you tell me where I can find"--asking for Noah feels like too much. I am not ready--"Foster Birmingham?"

A man of average height steps forward and brushes the younger one aside. His hair is flaming red, cut short and spiky. His freckled face is rectangular and hard-edged. He is almost attractive, but not kind, according to the set of his jaw. Fierce green eyes take my measure, scanning me from scuffed boot to bound arms. I know I must look a sight--I can feel the tickle of hair sticking to the sides of my face and neck, not to mention the blood now dripping off my chin all over my leather jacket--but I wish he did not have to be so thorough in his assessment of my state.

"You made a mistake coming here," he says, squaring his shoulders and tucking his hands behind his back.

I balk for only a moment. "Who are you?"

"Major Clint Reid."

My thoughts trip on the word "major"--Emma's old position inside the ranks of this group. There is a pulse of indignation toward this man who takes Her place.

Still, I will try to be civil, though this man already sets my teeth on edge. "My name is--"

"I know exactly who you are, Mrs. Burke."

Heat blossoms in my cheeks. No one has called me this in well over a year, and I do not like it. "That is not my name."

He ignores me and uses two fingers to motion for someone to come over. "Lock her up."


I expected several reactions when I arrived, but locking me up was not one of them. "What?"

Two men reach for me. I strike out with plenty of kicks, my only defense at this point, but am in the wrong place to fight back. These men are thoroughly trained to handle a threat, so one woman with her arms tied down is nothing. There will be no escaping this problem. They have me pinned to the ground in a matter of seconds, pressing my throbbing, bruised cheek to cold concrete.

"Get her out of here," Reid tells the men.

They haul me up so fast the room spins. My feet barely touch the ground as they lead me into the hallway. Sonya is there, and she stands as if made of stone, watching them drag me in the opposite direction. She has grown her hair out since I last saw her, and the tight black curls brush her narrow shoulders. A small child rests on her hip. A beautiful little girl with blond ringlets. The girl's pale skin is a sharp contrast to Sonya's darker brown. Despite the year and few months that have passed, I would know this child's face anywhere. I see it in my memory every day.


I cannot take my eyes off her. That is, until Noah approaches Sonya with a soft smile that lights his eyes. His hair is cut short, his blond a shade darker than Adrienne's. He kisses Sonya's cheek and brushes a hand down Adrienne's back.

"Noah!" I do not know if I yell because I am in need of rescue or because I am witnessing a living nightmare. There is no mistaking the close relationship that has formed between Noah and Sonya. There is also no mistaking the fact that I hate it.

Noah spins in my direction. His complexion pales.

I drag my feet to slow the progress of my imprisonment, but the men tug me with little effort.

"Stop!" Noah darts around Sonya. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Major Reid ordered her locked up," a man tells him.

Our progression comes to a standstill, giving Noah a chance to catch up. "Let her go."

There are more than a few "buts" going around, and nobody moves to set me free.

Noah stares down the two holding me until they release my arms. "If Reid has an issue, he can take it up with me, his commanding officer, and yours," he finishes in a tone that makes me shrink back. I remember this dangerous tone of his all too well. He once used it to threaten my life.

The men retreat, leaving me alone with Noah. He runs a hand over his cropped hair and gives me a half smile. Laugh lines fan away from his eyes. There is color in his face, and his amber eyes are the brightest I have seen them outside a memory of my past. He looks a million times better since I last saw him. He looks happy.

"I did not know where else to go," I say. "After the broadcast--"

"I wondered if you'd come."

My heart trips over itself, and my feelings for him clamber to get free and act. I want to run my nails over his new tightly trimmed beard and along his sideburns. I want his arms around me so bad I ache. I want to bury my face in his warm, musk-scented neck and justrelease.

But I cannot let this need overtake me. I made my choice and, apparently, so has he. "I could use a place to stay for a couple of days. I need to--"

"Emma," he breathes, my name a sigh wrapping around me. His eyes close and he takes a deep breath. "Of course you can stay." His voice is firm again and he opens his eyes. "As long as you need."

I look away from the mask of indifference he gives me. The place where Sonya stood is empty now, Adrienne gone from my sight.

Rustling from him draws my attention back. He pulls a knife free from a pocket in his black uniform pants and nods at my bound arms. "I take it these aren't a fashion statement."

I force a chuckle as he swipes the knife through the tight wire. "No."

He looks at my bleeding forehead. "My guys didn't do this, did they?"

"A whole other group of men, actually." I massage my throbbing arms. "My luck has sort of run out since the broadcast."

"I saw the satellite feeds from Mexico. Close call, huh?"

"You saw what happened?"

He reaches into another pocket and frees a dark blue bandanna. "The entire world has by now. The networks are eating it up. Burke has successfully turned it into a botched attempt to escape your captors."

My stomach sinks as he carefully places the cloth over the wound on my forehead. The pressure sends a jolt of stinging pain down my face and I wince.

"You should let Sonya look at this," he whispers.

I replace his hand with mine and step away. The last thing I want is to set foot in their hospital wing. I plan to avoid doctors and their tests for the rest of my life. "I will heal."

"It looks ba--"

"She's beautiful," I say, cutting him off and motioning to the now empty corridor. I already regret coming here. He smells too good. Looks too good. And the mention of Sonya wrings my heart with fresh pain. "Adrienne," I clarify when he looks confused.

"Just like her mother."

The reverence in his tone snags my attention and I find his gaze seeping into me, though his expression gives nothing away. I cannot help but wonder if the adoration in his voice is for Adrienne or me. Maybe it is too much to hope for a little bit of both.

The way he looks at me is a trap I easily slide into. I shake myself free of his thrall and say, "You are with Sonya now?"

Noah's expression shifts to surprise, then embarrassment, and finally, determination. "Yes. She's been a good mother to Adrienne." His gaze lowers to the floor. "It just sort of happened."

I wonder why he feels the need to explain while conversely feeling I deserve an explanation. But a much stronger emotion clouds this: a sudden need to end Sonya's rights to my child. Not Emma-of-my-past's child. Mine. This is the first I have felt such a solid claim to her since living through her birth.

He opens his mouth to say something else, only to be interrupted by the bellow of a man who, in all of minutes, has made me despise him. We turn as one to face Clint Reid.

"You put us all at risk by harboring this fugitive," Reid says.

Noah sweeps an arm between us as if on instinct and glares at Reid. I stare at the appendage meant to stave me off, wondering why on earth he thinks the separation necessary. I may have a few choice words for this man, but I would never attack first.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Noah says. "She came here for help."

Reid glances calmly between us, a muscle ticking in his square jaw. "Or she came here to spy on us."

"I am no spy," I tell him.

The man's mouth twitches with amusement and derision all at once. He speaks to me now as if Noah no longer matters in this conversation. "Declan Burke returns from the dead with a story about his kidnapped wife, and you conveniently stroll into our headquarters a day later? I don't buy it. You've been planning this with your husband--"

"He is not my husband." The more this stranger goes there, the more I hate it. I want no further association with Declan than absolutely necessary.

"Funny. You sure played the wife role to"--his gaze slides over me in a salacious manner--"perfection."

I narrow my eyes, biting back the fighting words worming their way to the surface. I cannot let him bait me.

Noah shifts to stand in front of me. "You have no idea what you're talking about. Emma thought Burke was dead, same as us."

Reid's attention shifts slowly from me to Noah. "You can't prove she didn't meet him after she disappeared last year. They could have staged that little event in Mexico yesterday to throw us off."

"You're right," Noah says. "I can't prove it, but I know Emma better than anyone, and she would never turn on us."

"With all due respect, this clone is not Emma Wade. You'll be much better off once you accept the fact that your wife is dead. In fact, we'll all be much better off."

Noah strikes him in the jaw and Reid's head snaps to the side. Clearly Reid did not see that coming any more than I did. I doubt the major feels the same warm charge I do, though. It was a good hit, and well deserved.

Noah prepares to swing again and I come to my senses. One time is enough, so I take him by the arm. "Stop it, Noah. Let it go."

Reid wipes the blood coating his lip with the back of his hand, glancing askance between Noah and me. "That's the problem, Mrs. Burke. He can't let it go. Do us all a favor and open his eyes, will you? Remind him who and what you really are so we can finally move past the loss of a woman you will never be."

The fire zips through me so fast it burns out all rational thought. While proactive before, Noah is not quick enough to halt the stinging slap I lay across Reid's face.

Reid merely smiles and snorts a single laugh while rubbing the area. "Did I say something to offend?"

"I do not know you but am already sure every word out of your mouth is offensive."

Reid raises an eyebrow at Noah. "She doesn't know me. You hear that? How much more proof do you need?"

The words sink in and I realize Emma Wade knew this man. Because my memories are lost in some dark abyss, I have only proven his point. Noah cannot even look at me.

"This was a mistake," I tell them. "I will leave."

"You aren't going anywhere," Noah snaps, and gives me a look that dares me to argue. To Reid, he says, "There will be no further discussion on the matter." He then takes me by the elbow. "Come on. Let's get you settled."


How do you feel today, Emma?

Any nightmares?

The internal voice comes in the curious resonance that can only belong to Dr. Travista. Why, I do not know. Maybe because I am living a new nightmare, trapped underground with Noah and Sonya, forced to wear Her clothes from a cardboard box marked EMMA'S in bold black letters. A box I refuse to look into too deeply. My past haunts me around every turn.

I stare in the full-length mirror at a version of Emma Wade that I, along with everyone else, would love to deny exists. She wears black pants with zippered pockets everywhere. Military issue. They are fitted but loose enough to move comfortably. The basic tee is white and fitted as well. With my dark hair hanging long and loose over my shoulders, I could easily be the version of Noah's wife who died more than a year ago. For half a second I am tempted to find scissors and cut it back to chin length.

I sigh at my reflection and run warm palms down the front of my thighs. "Pull it together."

A knock on the door startles me and I twist to face the steel surface. "Come in."

A whisper-soft shiff fills the space as the door slides into the wall. Sonya peeks her head in and gives me a belated, tight smile. "May we come in?"


Another head, male, bald, and shiny, ducks in nearly a foot below Sonya's. The man's smile beams from one unusually tiny ear to the other. He must be older by twenty years, but he looks far more youthful than I feel at the moment.

"Hello, Miss Emma," he says, and darts into the room with quick feet, stocky arm extended in greeting. He wears tan slacks and a rumpled button-down shirt striped in shades of brown. One of his shoes is untied. His palm, when I take it, is warm and moist but soft.

"Just Emma," I say.

"Phillip Malcolm. Call me Phillip." A nervous energy makes his hazel eyes dart, his smile twitchy. His head bobbles jerkily from side to side. "Or Phil. Or Dr. P."

It takes everything I have not to yank my hand free. "Doctor?"

Dr. Malcolm glances between me and Sonya, who leans cross-armed in the doorway. "Geneticist, actually. Or at least that's how I began my career. I like to dabble in all the sciences. You know, I once even tried my hand at ichthyology, which sounds boring except--"

"Phillip," Sonya cuts in. Her weary tone suggests she has to do this often.

The man flushes, but his smile never shows any hint of disappearing. "Anyway. My specialty is in genetics."

Sonya walks the rest of the way in, her hands sliding into the deep pockets of her white lab coat. Unlike Dr. Malcolm's, her attire is neatly pressed. "I told Phillip I wanted to take a look at that cut on your head and he insisted on coming along to meet you."

He raises both hands as if to stop me, though I stand perfectly still. "I am a huge fan."

What an odd little man. "Thank you. I think."

Sonya's hands reappear with a set of gloves. "May I?"

I step back. "I cleaned the wound myself, and it is not deep enough to warrant an examination."

Despite my words, she continues to snap on the latex. "Why don't I be the judge of that?"

Hold very still, Emma, Dr. Travista's voice says in my head.

My heart leaps. "The cut is not even bleeding," I tell her, retreating again, this time stepping on a wooden support leg jutting out from the standing mirror.

Dr. Malcolm tilts forward and back on the balls of his feet, waving a dismissive hand at me. "She's right, Sonya. You can't fix what ain't broke." He winks at me.

I blink.

Is this a trick? Why is he trying to help me?

I stare at the man so long I almost forget what I am doing--escaping--and Sonya nearly has her hands on me before I dart around her. "Okay, hold on a second. Please do not do that, Sonya. I did not ask for your help, and I do not need it."

Her espresso eyes meet mine, unblinking. "All right. Fine. But you've been doing a lot of traveling," she says, rummaging in her deep pocket. "I'm guessing you didn't have any immunizations."

"You want to know if I have had my shots?"

She eyes the wound on my forehead. "I wanted to look at that and then draw some blood. For the safety of the population, I need to make sure you aren't carrying anything contagious."

The last thing I want is to have a needle shoved through my skin. I do not believe I carry anything but would also hate to be the reason an entire underground population--

"Did you know there was once a virus," Dr. Malcolm begins, "that killed hundreds of millions a year? Up to eighty percent of all who contracted the virus died. It was unintentionally introduced in Veracruz back in the 1500s and killed millions of the native population." He wiggles his fingers over his forearm and squishes up his nose. "They'd get these tiny little pustules--"

"Phillip," Sonya says with a dark eyebrow raised at him.

He mimes locking his thinned lips and winks at me again. I cannot help but smile. He has also sold me on the needle, which I hope for his sake was not his master plan. "I guess if it could mean the life of hundreds of millions, you should check my blood for this deadly virus."

Dr. Malcolm chuckles and waves a hand in the air. "Oh, they eradicated smallpox in the 1900s. No worries."

Sonya motions for me to sit on the bed. She pulls a chair over to sit in front of me and focuses on preparing my arm for the blood draw. She is close enough that I cannot help but inhale her sweet scent. Like raw sugar and vanilla. The smell is too sweet for my tastes and I wonder if Noah likes it.

I am suddenly filled with images of the two of them together, making love, talking about marriage, raising Adrienne together. Maybe even having more children. Are they to this point in their relationship? Does he love her?

It is as if my rib cage constricts in reaction to this thought. More than anything, I do not want him to love her. Is this how he felt last year after seeing me with Declan? He had the means to watch every detail of my time with Declan, too. I can only imagine the torture he must have experienced.

The room grows eerily silent except for two sets of uneven breaths between me and Sonya and the measured set leaning around Sonya to watch. The air grows warmer by the second.

"Little pinch," Sonya warns, then slides the needle into a vein.

I wince and watch the vial fill with my blood.

"In the blood," Dr. Malcolm whispers unnecessarily, "are six billion letters making up a gene sequence." His gaze lifts from the vial to my eyes. "One single letter out of place in a single chromosome can lead to death." His smile lifts the corners of his eyes, causing lines to fan away from the outside edges. "Did you know that?"

I swallow hard, my suddenly dry throat clicking. "No. I did not."

His eyes twinkle. "But I am sure Dr. Travista has already checked you for these sorts of defects. I bet you're perfect."

Perfect. Yes, Dr. Travista used that term a lot. But I am far from.

Sonya looks up at me as if we are sharing in some wordless conversation. I do not know what that could be, nor do I care. All I care about is the order of my six billion letters in the hands of these two doctors. The last thing I want is to find out something is wrong with me, which will cause a domino effect of actions that can only lead to tests. Tests lead to a loss of freedom.

"I only give you permission to test for viruses," I tell her. "Not my gene sequence." I look pointedly at Dr. Malcolm. "All right?"

His beaming smile falters. "Of course. But if you ever change your mind, I'd love to spend some time--"

"I will not change my mind."

Sonya removes the needle and passes the full vials to Dr. Malcolm. While stuffing everything else back into her pockets, she squints up at my cut. "Looks superficial."

I lean away. "I told you it was not bad."

"Just doing my job, Emma. Keep it clean until the skin closes." She stands and places the chair back in front of the little desk. "Let me know if you need anything. You know where to find me."

"Us," Dr. Malcolm amends. "I would love to chat with you while you're visiting, Miss Emma."

"Please. Just Emma."

"Are you staying long?" Sonya asks, then activates the door switch.

Dr. Malcolm darts into the hallway, stops, then spins to face the room with interest dancing in his bright eyes.

"No," I tell her.

"Too bad."

This is the last thing I expect from Sonya after how we left things. I will never forget the look on her face as she said the words that ultimately led me to leave in the first place: You aren't his wife.

She gives me a tight smile, then disappears into the concrete, boxlike hallway. Dr. Malcolm waves enthusiastically before sprinting off after her.

Dumbfounded by what just happened, I start to close my door but stop when a very tall someone fills the space. Long, toned arms brace on either side of the steel doorframe. I beam up at the man whose skin is the color of milk chocolate and whose eyes have a grayish-blue hue.

Foster swoops in and scoops me off the ground in a swinging hug. I do not need all of my memories to feel bone deep that Foster Birmingham is my best friend in this entire world. He was the only one who accepted me without question after discovering my clone status last year.


Not Her.

He sets me down and holds me at arm's length, giving me a cursory once-over. His eyes shine with some private amusement. "All your limbs are still there. All ten fingers and toes?"

I wiggle my fingers in his face.

He smirks. "And look at how well they work."

I raise an eyebrow. "What am I missing?"

"Apparently nobody enough to warrant a simple phone call."

Copyright © 2014 by M. D. Waters


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.