Home > Renegade (Rules of Deception #2)

Renegade (Rules of Deception #2)
Author: Cora Reilly

 

 

Tessa has finally made peace with her life as a Variant. She and longtime love Alec are officially a couple, and for the first time, she has everything she wants.

 


But the air is tense at FEA headquarters. An agent has disappeared, and rogue Variant organization Abel’s Army is likely the culprit.

 

When Tessa is summoned for her second mission, she is unexpectedly launched into a massive conspiracy. Her best friend Holly is kidnapped, and Tessa knows it was meant to be her. But who is after her? And more importantly, why?

 

When the FEA’s efforts to rescue Holly don’t yield results, Tessa takes matters into her own hands. Desperate to save her friend and uncover the mystery behind Abel’s Army, Tessa launches her own investigation—but nothing could prepare her for what she finds.

 

Summoning all of her courage and strength, Tessa must decide who can be trusted and what is worth fighting for.

 

 

The floor of the helicopter vibrated against my ballerina flats. I could feel the constant buzz humming through my body, and my rapid heartbeat seemed determined to keep up with it.

In the distance, the mountains of Glacier National Park rose against the darkening sky. Their peaks were framed by crimson as the day bled away. Was Major already awaiting us? We’d be in for an ass-kicking after what we’d done. Maybe the sky wouldn’t be the only thing bleeding tonight.

Alec squeezed my hand and his gray eyes briefly darted toward me, as if he could feel the worry rolling off me. This had been a difficult day for both of us. Nobody understood me like he did. I looked over at him. His dark brows were drawn together on his tanned face. My eyes glide lower to where the snarling head of a dragon peeked out. He’d loosened the top buttons of his black shirt and it had slipped, revealing his right collarbone and strong shoulder with the top of his tattoo. He was focused on the controls of the helicopter but he was smiling encouragingly. I wanted to lean against him and breathe in his scent—cinnamon and something spicier—to convince myself that this moment was real.

Only two hours ago, Alec had admitted that he wanted to be with me. But now that the news had time to sink in, I couldn’t help but wonder: how would Kate react when we got back to headquarters? When she saw us together? Alec had emphasized that their relationship hadn’t been about love, but I was sure she wouldn’t give him up without a fight.

His black hair was all over the place from running his hands through it earlier. I loved that it was a little longer than how he usually wore it—or rather, how Kate had wanted him to wear it. It made him look more rugged.

Finally, Alec broke the silence. “You’re so quiet. What are you thinking?”

Heat slithered up my neck. It was almost like he’d read my mind. “Just about the mission.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

The events of the last few weeks still weighed heavy on me. I’d completed my first mission as an FEA agent, and it hadn’t been easy. Ultimately, I’d performed successfully, but I could just as well have died.

My palm rested over my ribcage where a serial killer had cut an ‘A’ into my skin—the mark he left on all of his victims. It was a wound I’d sustained while pretending to be someone else, but it didn’t disappear once I changed back to my own body. I’d keep the ‘A’ forever: a constant reminder of a mission that had come dangerously close to breaking me. Despite my layers of clothes, I imagined I could feel the rough edges of the scar. My chest vibrated against my palm; I wasn’t sure if it was from the helicopter movements, or because I’d started trembling. I dropped my hand before Alec could notice it.

I had no doubt that upon our return, Major would be furious with Alec and me. As the head of the FEA, Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, he was our boss and the person responsible for overseeing all of our actions. We’d gone against his orders by returning to the place of my mission, to attend the funeral of the girl I’d impersonated. But it was something I had to do for closure. I was grateful that at least Alec understood that.

He dipped the controls forward and we began to descend, the skids of the helicopter almost brushing the tree tops. The huge gray FEA building came into view surrounded by small cottages, forest, the glass dome of the swimming pool and our training grounds.

This, I reminded myself, was my home.

Alec steered the helicopter toward the landing strip at the back of the property, which was illuminated by red fog lights. And as I let my gaze stray farther north, I could indeed see a wall of white mist creeping toward us. I shivered violently. Alec’s eyes swiveled to me, away from the landing strip.

I forced my body to relax, remembering that returning to headquarters meant good things too, like getting to see my best friend, Holly, again. Whenever we were separated, it felt like a small part of me was missing.

After a moment, Alec turned his attention back to our landing. There was no hiding now: the hissing of the propeller blades would alert Major and everyone else to our arrival. This was the moment of truth.

The skids touched the ground and, with a jerk, we halted. I could still feel the vibration in my body. In combination with my trembling, it created a strange rippling in my body, not unlike the feeling I got during a shape-shifting transformation.

The blades slowed, their hissing dying down.

A heavy weight settled in my stomach.

Alec brushed a strand of hair from my forehead. The auburn lock had stuck to my sweaty skin. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be at your side,” he said softly.

At Alec’s touch, my trembling halted. I buckled off, removed the headset, slid open the door and jumped outside. My breath left my mouth in small clouds and iciness slithered through the thin soles of my shoes and into every inch of my body. It was April, but this year the winter was particularly hard in Montana. Alec rounded the helicopter and took my hand. For years, I’d been longing for this moment, for his touch, and now I had what I’d always wanted. I tried to savor it despite the circumstances.

I tugged at Alec’s arm. “Come on. Let’s go,” I said. “I want to get this over with as soon as possible.” And as long as my new bravery lasts, I thought.

We hurried across the slick pavement—it must have rained recently and the water had frozen in a thin layer. My eyes darted toward the building looming threateningly in front of us.

Whoever had built FEA headquarters must have been a fan of the Bauhaus architecture with its square forms; clear and simple without any flourishes. If I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn Major had commissioned it. But headquarters had been built in 1948—long before Major was born.

When I’d first glimpsed headquarters after Major and Alec picked me up, I’d been disappointed. I’d expected an old manor with brick chimneys, ivy-covered walls and stone gargoyles on the ledges of the roof. Instead I’d gotten a run-of-the-mill office building. But once I’d seen the wide corridors that prevented me from losing my way and the picture windows in the rooms, I changed my mind. And it was better than anything I’d experienced before. This time, though, the inside of the building wouldn’t bring me comfort.

I could already see Major standing behind the floor-to-ceiling window of his office, arms crossed, waiting for us, and he looked royally pissed.

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