Everyone is exactly like me. There is no one like me.
Ven wrestles with these contradicting truths every day. A clone of wealthy eighteen-year-old Raven Rogen, Ven knows everything about the girl she was created to serve: the clothes she wears, the boys she loves, the friends she loves to hate. Yet she’s never met the Authentic Raven face-to-face.
Imitations like Ven only get to leave the lab when they’re needed—to replace a dead Authentic, donate an organ, or complete a specific mission. And Raven has never needed Ven . . . until now.
Ida turns her back to me as she quickly switches out her plain cotton sleep-shirt for the spandex material we are given to exercise in. She is one of the few girls with a penchant for modesty. The rest of us, either a result of living together for so long or our DNA programming, don’t care.
I strip off my pajamas and yank my sports bra into place with sure movements while, across from me, Lonnie does the same. Both of our bodies are toned and lean but Lonnie’s arms and calves are thicker than mine and her skin tone is more olive than my pale flesh and even paler white-blond hair. Molecular duplication at its finest. Ida’s milky skin contrasts with the dark curtain of hair that ends halfway down her neck. I catch sight of a small scar I’ve never noticed before.
“What’s that?” I ask, pointing to a spot just below her hairline.
“What’s what?” Ida secures her sports bra and turns to me.
“The scar on your neck.”
Lonnie and two other girls crowd in to look where I point. Ida strains but can’t quite see it.
“I don’t remember getting a cut there.” Ida’s brows scrunch with worry. She gives up trying to see the affected area and faces me instead. “Why would she have a scar?” Lonnie asks, pushing through for a closer look.
“Maybe her Authentic got one and they had to match it,” Clora offers.
No one says anything for a moment as we all contemplate that. I don’t say a word about the fact that I, too, have a small scar. On my forearm. Under bright lights, it’s just barely visible on my translucent skin. I don’t remember where mine came from, either.
“Girls, quit yappin’ and get a move on,” the Overseer near the door shouts, jolting me out of my thoughts.
The group disperses and the others shove their pajamas into hampers near the gym doors. A hand on my arm surprises me. It’s Anna, watching me with hard eyes.
“You got a letter.” It’s not a question.
I wonder how she knows. I’ve only told Lonnie and Ida. Am I acting that differently? Anna doesn’t wait for me to answer. “What you’ve been told is wrong. Assignments, what happens after . . . it’s not what they say.”
My volume automatically lowers to match hers. I lean in. “What are you talking about? How do you know?”
She casts a quick look toward the door. Her words are rushed. “I can’t explain. You have to trust me. Whatever you do, you can’t let them send you to Relocation. Okay?”
Her chin juts. “Just promise me.”
“Fine. I promise.”
“Be careful, Ven.”
Anna removes her hand from my arm and hurries past me into the gym. A few questioning stares point in our direction as the others join her. I am about to chase her down, to demand an answer, when a voice stops me short.
I turn and find Josephine waiting for me, her white uniform crisp and clean, her eyes patient and quiet like the rest of her. My heart jumps into my throat and pulses. “Yes?”
Her voice is soft. “I need you to come with me.” My heart races.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heather Hildenbrand was born and raised in a small town in northern Virginia where she was homeschooled through high school. (She’s only slightly socially awkward as a result.) Since 2011, she’s published more than eight YA & NA novels including the bestselling Dirty Blood series. She splits her time between coastal Virginia and the island of Guam and loves having a mobile career and outrageous lifestyle of living in two places. Her most frequent hobbies are riding motorcycles and avoiding killer slugs.
Heather is also a publishing and success coach bent on equipping and educating artists who call themselves authors. She loves teaching fellow writers how to create the same freedom-based lifestyle she enjoys. For more information visit www.phoenixauthorink.com and find out how to create your own Outrageous Life.
She is represented by Rebecca Friedman. You can find out more about Heather and her books at www.heatherhildenbrand.com
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