by Rebecca Rode
Treena is nervous for Rating Day. A single number will brand her forever—a valuable citizen, or a pathetic waste of space. Her top-Rated boyfriend is confident their scores will coincide so they can attend the academy together. But when the big day arrives, her true number shocks everyone.
To get her life—and boyfriend—back, she must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone wants her dead. And then there’s Vance, the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and beautiful brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. Treena must join up with Vance if she is to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within her heart.
“Your Rating is wrong,” Vance said. “Their precious Rating system says absolutely nothing about you and what you’re capable of.”
I shook my head. “So far, everything I’ve done has proven my number absolutely correct.”
“Treena.” His tone softened. “I don’t know why you that happened to you. But I do know one thing.” He stopped on the step below me, and I whirled to face him. We were the same height now, and his expression was fierce. “You are the most loyal, the most determined, and the most fascinating girl I’ve ever met. No number could ever describe you.”
The deadness inside cracked, and the pain came flooding back. I felt like a five-year-old again. Falling, grasping for a handhold, for something to save me. “It doesn’t matter now. Tali's dead.”
He gave me a long look. Then he sat down, right on the steps, easing me down next to him. I lay my head on his shoulder and let him pull me close. The warmth of his embrace felt completely and utterly right. For a long moment, I allowed myself to forget about the past few days. There was no empress, no punishment mode, and no mission. There was just us. The world was cool and dark, and his touch sent my heart pumping as if it had just awakened from hibernation.
“Dying isn't the worst thing to happen to someone,” he continued thoughtfully. “Anyone coward can die. The hardest thing is being left behind, trying to make sense of a world without them.”
I tilted my head back and allowed myself to look up into Vance’s eyes. They were dark, pulling, as if absorbing all the light that entered, saving it for some future purpose. His eyebrows were choppy, untrimmed, and his lips chapped. But somehow, it worked. It was simply . . . him. No surgeries, no tallies of volunteer hours and checklists. Vance just took life one day at a time, keeping his family safe, trying to put the pieces of himself back together. I could see it, the pain in his heart. It was something we shared now.
A warm feeling spread through my chest until I thought it would burst. This was who he really was. The tumultuous battle within him seemed to have trickled away, leaving one gallant, vulnerable boy. A boy who was looking at me as if I were something precious—who looked at me, instead of at my Rating. His eyes flitted between mine, his confidence replaced with uncertainty.
“It feels good to finally choose sides, doesn’t it?”
“Whose side are you on, then?”
His chin was just above mine, and he lowered it until our eyes were level. Then his hand tilted my chin upward toward his. His fingers brushed the side of my face, cradling it gently in his firm hand. I felt his breath on my face, felt the battle within him as well as I felt it in myself. But something pulled me toward him.
“Yours,” he said. He closed the distance between us, slowly, then paused.
And our lips met.
Praise for the Book
"Gripping, from beginning to end . . . a tale as action-packed as Divergent yet as introspective as The Giver. . . . Sure to be an instant classic in the genre." –R.J. Craddock, author of The Children of Cain series
“Fluent and engaging . . . brimming with fabulous characters and intrigue that will keep you flipping pages. Can't wait to read the next book in this series!” –Adrienne Monson, author of the Blood Inheritance trilogy
“Had me hooked from the first page to the last . . . Thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend!” -Randy Roberts, BoredShorts TV (Kid History/Kid Snippets)
Author Rebecca Rode
REBECCA RODE is an award-winning author and journalist. She is the author of the inspirational book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, and writes for Deseret News, KSL.com, FamilyShare, and Provo Daily Herald. However, her true love is writing for teenagers. She enjoys playing with her four children, traveling, reading, and martial arts, and she has a ridiculous addiction to her husband's chocolate-banana shakes.
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