Vitro by Jessica Khoury Read Free Book Online

Book: Vitro by Jessica Khoury Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jessica Khoury
something intense and wild. His eyes were brown, not amber-brown like Jim’s, but gray-brown, almost colorless, and oddly flat, as though someone had forgotten to add the flecks of green and black that should have been there. She was hypnotized by his gaze and did not move.
As if realizing his stare was unnerving her, he relaxed and gave her a shy smile, twisting his hands together. “You’re very pretty,” he said. “Prettier than I expected. Sorry, I’m not good with . . . with all the questions. We don’t often get visitors, you know.”
He let go of her and stepped back, shrugging his shoulders apologetically. “You could say I’m not really a people person.”
Slightly bewildered, Sophie brushed at her hair and watched him from beneath a furrowed brow. “It’s okay,” she said hesitantly. He talks as if he’s always been on this island. If he had, she could understand his . . . eccentricities. “Just let’s hurry, all right? I want to see her, to see for myself that she’s okay.”
He nodded crisply and charged on at a faster pace. Sophie hurried to keep up, but her mind was already miles ahead. If her mother was truly fine, as Nicholas insisted—why the message? What could her “emergency” possibly be that she would suddenly invite Sophie to the one place that had always been forbidden to her? It was true Sophie had always wanted to see Skin Island—but not under circumstances like this. Not because her mother was ill or dying. But was she? Just what is going on here?
She thought regretfully of Jim back at the airstrip, and wondered if she should have asked him to come after all. He seemed quite upset over the damage done to the plane, and Sophie felt a bit guilty about not feeling guilty enough. After all, if it wasn’t for her, he and his plane would be safe and intact back on Guam. Well, it was him who mucked that landing, not me. Maybe her worry was misplaced, and it wasn’t Jim who deserved her concern but herself. If Nicholas was lying— though she couldn’t see why he would be—and her mother needed help and possibly a quick getaway, Jim might be their only way out. She hoped he would find a way to get the plane off the ground, for all their sakes. The last thing she wanted was to be stranded with no way out. She’d always thought of this place as exotic and exciting, a secret haven of cuttingedge research, filled with brilliant minds racing to combat everything from dementia to cancer. She’d never imagined it to be so . . . sinister.
She wondered what Skin Island had to hide, and what her mother had to do with it. For some reason, the usual explanation about medical research and Alzheimer’s didn’t seem to be measuring up to the level of dread Jim and the other pilots had about this place. She stuck close to Nicholas, weaving in and out of tall, swaying stalks of bamboo.
“How much further?” Sophie asked.
“Not far.”
They came across a narrow path made of cracked pavement; at one time, it must have been smooth and flat, but now it looked like it was made of cobblestone, with grass shooting up between the cement plates. It led back toward the smaller island, winding through a grove of thick bamboo, and forward to, she hoped, her mother. She studied Nicholas as she followed him through the tall bamboo stalks. His hands were sunk deep into his pockets and his chin maintained a perpetual upward tilt, so that he seemed always to be looking down on the world. He walked with the confidence of one well acquainted with his surroundings, and she wondered what his story was, why he was on this island—why he was allowed on the island when she was not.
“How long have you been here?” she asked softly.
He didn’t turn or slow, but his head swiveled to the left, revealing the curve of his jaw and a hint of dark eyelash. “Too long,” he said sepulchrally, then added in a brighter tone, “But not for much longer.”
“Does your mom or dad work for Corpus too?”
He turned and

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