BOOK 1 // NINE: Stalemate

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            At first, I froze

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            At first, I froze.

All my muscles were paralysed, though I couldn't quite pinpoint which emotion had brought about this change. Fear? Terror? Or perhaps just pure surprise, because if I'd had to pick the person most likely to be found down a deserted BioPlus corridor, looking as guilty as I did, Jace Snowdon would've been the last person on my list.

Eventually, my body seemed to unstick itself, and realising this was enough to steer me around the corner. I kept my eyes trained on Jace, like a second's lapse in concentration might see him vanishing in front of me. If that happened, the curiosity might've killed me.

I knew we recognised each other. This was not the face of somebody encountering a complete stranger: not the way Jace's eyes were sweeping over me, mouth parted like he was struggling to scrape together some words. Bizarrely, it was the first time I felt like I had the upper hand in the situation.

"You." His voice came out barely louder than a whisper, hardly working wonders to make him seem less vulnerable. "It's you again."

"I could say the same thing," I said, briefly wondering where the confidence in my tone was coming from – it certainly wasn't inside my head. "If I'd had to make a bet on the place we'd meet again, it definitely wouldn't have been here."

Only then did he seem to realise exactly what he was doing; both hands dropped from the handle he'd been trying, but his step back ended up looking more suspicious than anything else. There was no sign on the door, but a small glass panel revealed some kind of office setup, and I could see an entire row of filing cabinets against the opposite wall. The keypad on the door was old-fashioned: a metal pad with numbered buttons, obviously not a part of the alarm-triggered circuit.

"What are you doing?"

I hadn't really expected this to get me an answer, but I was suddenly aware of the way Jace was looking at me, studying my face a little too closely. "Your eyes," he said, almost to himself. "Something's different. You had blue eyes last time I saw you."

"I have got blue eyes," I said quickly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"No, you haven't." Even without a mirror, I knew exactly what he could see, but that didn't mean I wanted to talk about it. I was already having enough trouble trying not to squirm under his gaze. "They're green. A really dark green."

Instinctively, I broke eye contact, though I knew this would hardly be enough to deter him from the obvious. "You're seeing things," I told him. "Maybe you should get that checked out."

I knew he was still looking at me, and the obvious had already dawned on us, but there was still one bridge I was determined to keep him from crossing. I had to figure out a way to escape. Nothing good could come of standing here, continuing this conversation for any longer than it had already gone on. And yet my feet were rooted to the spot, suddenly two dead weights dragging me down.

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