Vicarious

Vicarious by Paula Stokes Read Free Book Online

Book: Vicarious by Paula Stokes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paula Stokes
gun.
    We’re positioned against the wall. We exchange looks. I freeze up completely for a second as I see myself drop low and lunge for the guard.
    My lips quirk into a smile as I admire my takedown move. Then I remember how Jesse’s brain edited me earlier and wonder if I was actually half as agile as I looked.
    My heart threatens to burst straight through my rib cage. I gasp for breath before leaping on top of the guard. I pin the hand with the gun to the floor. I see myself grab it. Then the guard is pleading and he’s getting shocked and then we’re on the run. Sharp spikes of air thrust in and out of my chest as I watch myself almost run directly into the second security guard.
    I lose the momentum of the ViSE again as Jesse and I head for the river. I start to smell the ginger of the tea and feel the kitchen table hard beneath my forearms. Searing pain races through my temples and my stomach lurches. I try to empty my brain, but I keep flashing back to the freezing up, to the fear Jesse felt when I was in danger. I’ve never known him to be afraid.
    With his military background and ViSE experience, he should be battle ready, always in control. That intense fear response means something.
    Something I’d rather not think about.

 
    CHAPTER 6
    The teakettle whistles. I pull the headset off and fling it down on the table, flinching from the mild shock. Opening my eyes, I blink hard, clutching one hand to my churning stomach.
    Jesse hears my chair scrape against the floor and opens his eyes. “Hey, you quit in the middle.”
    â€œI saw enough.” My lips are tight. I jump up and go to the stove, nearly scorching my hand on the burner as I reach for the kettle. I crank the stove off, counting the beats of my heart as they pound in my temples. “The way you see me is weird.”
    Jesse removes his headset, folds it, and slips it into his pocket. “How so?”
    â€œIt’s just different.” I think of my wide, dark eyes looking at him from the doorway of the penthouse, my agile form attacking the guard in the server room. “I look so graceful to you. More like my sister than me.”
    He studies me carefully. “Maybe I’m not the one with the skewed perception.”
    â€œWhat is that supposed to mean?” I remove two mugs from the nearest cupboard, pouring each one of them exactly three-quarters full of tea.
    â€œI don’t understand why you’re always putting yourself down. Comparing yourself unfavorably to Rose.”
    â€œI grew up in her shadow,” I say simply. “Everyone finds her beautiful.”
    â€œYeah, she’s hot, and so are you. But the world is full of hot chicks. Not every girl can disarm a security guard and jump off a bridge.”
    I smile in spite of myself. It’s true. Rose isn’t one for adventure sports or martial arts. I used to question why Gideon didn’t train her alongside me. He said she was old enough to make her own decisions, and she had no interest in fighting, at least not with her fists.
    I suddenly feel lost in her absence, a satellite with nothing to orbit. Hopefully she’ll be home soon.
    I plunk both mugs down on the table. “Help yourself.”
    Jesse reaches past both mugs for my hand, but I pull it away. I try to step back, but the kitchen feels as if it’s shrunk. I smell evergreen again. Jesse is everywhere.
    â€œI don’t feel like tea anymore.” I turn and busy myself at the counter.
    â€œWhat’s wrong, Winter? What did I do?”
    â€œYou showed me that on purpose,” I say, without turning around. “You knew I would figure out what it meant.”
    â€œWhat what meant?” He sounds honestly confused, and for a moment I hope I have it all wrong, that he’s just another guy looking to score, like I told Rose earlier.
    I spin and face him. “The way you felt when the gun went off.”
    â€œI was scared. I care about

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