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Copyright 2012 by Sophie Davis Books
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted by any means electronic, mechanical, photographic (photocopying), recording, or otherwise
without prior permission in writing from the author.
Printed in the United States of America
Learn more information at: www.sophiedavisbooks.com
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Designs
Editing and proofreading by Stephen Wilson, Mary Munsell, and Amanda Phillips
Formatting by Inkstain Interior Book Designing
Talented (Talented Saga # 1)
Caged (Talented Saga # 2)
Hunted (Talented Saga # 3)
Captivated, A Talented Novella
Created (Talented Saga # 4)
Exiled, A Talented Novella
Inescapable (Talented Saga #5)
Pawn (Nightmares Trilogy #1)
Sacrifice (Nightmares Trilogy #2)
Blind Barriers (Blind Barriers Vol. #1)
Courting Chaos (Blind Barriers Vol. #2)
Fragile Faade (Blind Barriers Vol. #3)
Haunted Haven (Blind Barriers Volume #4)
Idol Identities (Blind Barriers Volume #5)
To my late Aunt Heidi,
whose creativity and dedication
to the arts will truly be missed.
THE KNOCK AT the door came again. Just like the last three times hed tried to get my
attention, I ignored his appeal. Instead, I continued to stare at the metal lock that was
barring him from entering.
Natalia, open the door, his deep voice demanded. Concentrating harder, I
watched as the latch switched from the locked to the unlocked position. The sound of
the lock engaging and disengaging was barely audible to me, but I knew that he heard
the click loud and clear. Confirming my thoughts, he quickly tried to turn the knob
again just as I re-engaged the lock.
Natalia, he warned. His exasperation made me smile. I will break this door if I
have to, he said, his voice low and threatening. The harsh tone left little doubt that he
would do just that if I didnt quit playing games. With a heavy sigh, I finally relented,
disengaging the lock and leaving it that way. He turned the knob so hard the metal
screeched in protestI thought that it might break off in his handand then Danbury
Mac McDonough burst into the room.
I sat on my king-sized bed, propped against the fluffy pillows, my arms crossed over
my chest, my legs crossed at my ankles and a smirk on my face. Mac, the Director of the
Talented Organization for Extremely Interesting Citizens (aka TOXIC), stared at me
disapprovingly. Are the games really necessary? he demanded, clearly annoyed.
Am I not allowed any privacy? I retorted, not bothering to hide the irritation in
my own voice.
No, you are allowed all the privacy you like, but you are not allowed locked
doors, he said with mock patience.
Locked doors, privacy, whats the difference?
The difference, Natalia, is that if you have a seizure and the door is locked, those
seconds that we lose could prove lethal. His voice was hard, but the tenderness in his
eyes touched me. The steely reserve that Id been holding on to faltered a little, but I
Pasting on a small smile, I said, Im fine, see? I spread my arms wide to prove my
point. He studied me carefully through narrowed gray eyes, inspecting every detail of
my appearance for signs of damage. I felt like a child under Macs hard gaze, but
refused to avert my eyes. In addition to my seizures, Mac feared me so depressed that I
might injure myself. His unsubstantiated anxiety had landed me in weekly therapy
sessions with the Head of Psychoanalysis for the Agency. You wanted to talk to me? I
prompted when I couldnt take his scrutiny any longer.
How are you feeling? he finally asked.
How was I feeling? Where to begin? Expressions like lab rat, caged animal, and
prisoner came to mind, but Mac wouldnt appreciate those responses.
Fine, I replied shortly.
Fine? he repeated lightly, raising one bushy eyebrow in challenge.
Fine. Just like I felt fine yesterday. Just like the day before that. And exactly how I
felt the day before that. My voice rose an octave as I punctuated each word.
Mac continued to look me up and down as if the only way that he would believe my
words was if he couldnt detect otherwise. Returning his stare, I tried to match the cold
glint of his gaze with my own. He was careful to avoid direct eye contact, afraid that I
might read his thoughts. As if I needed such contact to access his mind. We both knew
better, but we also both knew how much he hated the intrusion, which is why I
I have been thinking, maybe you would like to help out with some of the classes at
School? He said it like it was a question, but I knew that he wasnt really giving me an
option. Mac wasnt in the habit of offering choices; he was more accustomed to barking
orders, and few people had the nerve to disobey. I used to be one of his sheep. His
approval and praise had meant the world to me, but over the last nine months, Id
distanced myself from the flock. Despite that, option or not, I was eager to do
somethinganythingbesides sit in this room.
Really? I replied, almost ashamed by how excited the prospect of leaving my
bedroom made me. I tried not to let the excitement show, but I could barely contain
myself. I had been locked up in this room, in this house, on the same grounds as the
McDonough School, for months. The only time that Mac permitted me to leave was to
make the short trek to the Schools Medical Facility for my daily blood draw and
injections with Dr. Thistler. Even my therapists, Drs. Wythe and Martin, came to Macs
house for our sessions.
Well, maybe locked up was a slight exaggerationthe door was only actually locked
when I locked it from the inside. And the room wasnt exactly small; it was bigger than
most accommodations for teenagers, even bigger than some families entire homes, and
My large bed was covered in a burgundy down comforter with silver embroidered
swirls and occupied a space in the middle of my bedroom. One wall of the bedroom
was glass and covered with draperies the same burgundy and silver pattern as the
comforter. A mahogany dresser stood about waist high, extending almost the entire
length of the wall opposite the bed, and a wall screen for watching movies stretched
above it. A third wall contained a roll-top desk made of the same mahogany as the
Huge black-and-white paintings of icy lakes and snow covered mountains, painted
by a well-known artist, hung on the three true walls. Next to the desk were giant French
doors, made of the same mahogany with an intricately carved design. Behind the
wooden doors sat a walk-in closet that stretched nearly half the width of the room itself.
Most of the clothes in the closet hadnt been touched in yearstwo years to be exact.
The shelf that ran around the top of the closet held many shoe boxes filled with
pictures of me as a teenager. My curly, chestnut hair highlighted my purple eyes and
framed my small face. My smooth olive complexion was marred only by a smattering of
freckles across the bridge of my slightly upturned nose. Beside me in most of the
pictures was a slightly older boy, a comparative giant, with shaggy blond hair and clear
blue eyes, his skin as light as mine was dark.
The pictures used to decorate the walls and the bedside tables; when Id moved back
into this room, Id packed them all away, not wanting to see them every day.
I thought that it would be good for you to get out and rejoin the living, Mac said
dryly, interrupting my thoughts and bringing me back to the present.
Funny, considering youre the reason that Ive been denied access to the living, I
snorted. The fact that our house was so close to throngs of students and teachers I was
barely allowed to interact with seemed almost cruel.
Yes, well, your health has been much better in recent weeks, and Dr. Wythe seems
satisfied that your mental state is stable. Great, I thought, the man who overanalyzes
everything has decided that Im not crazythats reassuring.
I could go back to Elite Headquarters, I replied, hopefully. I knew that Mac
approving my return to the Hunters was about as likely as me rehanging those photos,
but I had to try.
You have not been cleared by Medical, he stated, the annoyance from earlier
returning. Lately, wed been having this conversation a lot.
Medical doesnt seem to be any cl