After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins. Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others. When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself. Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.
Once the sun rises, I can make out trees in the distance. Real trees with leaves, which means there must be water nearby. I’m not sure Ruins water is safe to drink, but I do know I’ll die if I don’t drink something.
Even though I’ve been walking for hours, the trees don’t seem to be getting any closer. My legs have taken on a sponge-like quality and I stumble, but manage to stay upright. If I fall, I may never get up again.
I’m almost to the trees. They’re only a little farther now.
There’s no water here. How can there be trees without water?
Despair overtakes me and I drop down, pounding my fists on the barren ground. I stuff a soft green leaf in my mouth, seeking moisture, but my mouth is so dry, I gag on the pieces, tearing my throat like shards of broken glass.
My head spins as I lie on my back and struggle to form coherent thoughts. I take a deep breath and tell myself to think. Think is such a strange word. Think, think, think. It doesn’t even sound English.
Shaking my head to clear my mind, I try to pull myself together, remembering where I am and forcing myself to focus on my immediate situation. What do the Buddhists call it? Being mindful.
My brain works to form rational thoughts, but there’s nothing rational about this. I left home to find my place in the world, is this really where my search was supposed to lead me? It’s more like a cruel joke. If I was on a date with destiny, it just took a bizarre turn into a twisted ending I never saw coming.
God, if only I hadn’t gone to the park that night, none of this would’ve happened. I begin to cry. For my family and friends who will never know what happened to me, and for me. I’m not ready to die, I’m only 17.
I can’t help wondering if I would have spent so much time agonizing over my future if I’d known I’d be dead so soon. If I’d known, maybe I’d have done everything differently. Now I know my future. My life ends here. Alone. In the Ruins.
Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and wracked with guilt, seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor returned to the Union, leaving behind the boy she loved. Now, she and her friends must find a way to do the impossible – warn the citizens of the Union about an impending rebel attack without alerting the government and risking retaliation against her friends in the Ruins. When every move Evan makes is thwarted, it soon becomes clear she’s being watched. Faced with a daily fight to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, she returns to the Ruins. But life in the Ruins has its own dangers, and soon she’s fighting a different battle – to stay alive long enough to discover the truth.
Lisa opens the door still in her pajama pants and a tank top. Jack’s behind her in nothing but a pair of sweatpants. I raise an eyebrow in silent judgment. How could she have Jack spend the night with Colin here?
“Where’s Colin?” she asks, looking past me.
“What do you mean, where’s Colin? Isn’t he here?”
“No. He never came home last night. I thought he was with you.”
“You were with me.”
“No, I mean after we separated. I figured he showed up at your place.” Her cheeks turn bright red.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” My hands ball into fists of anger at my sides. “You can’t really be that…” I bite off the words. It’s not my place to share how Colin feels about her.
“He probably left with one of those girls we saw him with,” she says.
I push into her apartment and find Colin’s duffel bag on the floor where it’s been since he began camping out on her couch last week. “So, he just blew off his train?”
“Maybe,” she shrugs.
“Not likely,” I say, stalking back outside, unease gnawing through my stomach. If all this other shit wasn’t going on, I could chalk it up to Colin getting laid, but I can’t shake the feeling something isn’t right. I’m halfway to Bryce’s before I realize that’s where I’m headed. Hopefully he takes me seriously.
My fast walk turns into a jog as I cover the remaining three blocks and two flights of stairs down to the apartment he shares with Jack. I’ve only been here once before, but I think I remember which one it is. I lift my hand and knock on the pale blue door then pace the small empty concrete porch. Thirty seconds pass before I knock again, louder and longer this time. Still no answer. I’m beginning to think he’s not here when the lock clicks and the door cracks open.
Bryce swings the door wider, and my eyes zero in on a bare chest. My gaze drifts from his firm abs and pecs up to meet a pair of gray eyes, squinted against the morning light. Confusion fills his features as he stares at me.
“Colin didn’t come home last night,” I blurt out, my voice breaking.
His gaze rests on my face for a moment before circling the room, reminding me we’re being monitored. “I’m sure he’s fine, but let me get dressed, and we’ll look for him.”
Stepping inside, I close the door and bounce on the balls of my feet while I wait for him. The place is decorated in neo-classic guy. A fireplace and hearth runs the length of the front of the apartment, and opposite that is a solid glass wall overlooking a weedy, overgrown garden. The limited furniture is a jumble of chairs, a couch, and a couple of mismatched tables littered with empty beer bottles.
Bryce dresses in record time and takes my hand, pulling me outside. He leads the way to the depot to catch a train back to the nightclub. “I want to retrace his steps after we left,” he says. “He might’ve just found some company for the evening.”
“That’s what Lisa said, but I think there’s more to it.”
“It’s no secret how he feels about Lisa. He might’ve just wanted to get away for the night.”
“But his bag is still at her place. He would’ve had to come get it before catching his train.”
The nightclub is deserted with the exception of a handful of staff still cleaning up. Bryce walks up to a lanky guy pushing a broom. “Can I talk to the manager?”
A woman in her mid-thirties approaches us a few minutes later, wiping her hands on an apron. She sweeps a chunk of blond hair out of her face with the back of her wrist. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I’m Detective Cooper,” Bryce says, flashing his credentials. “We’re looking for a friend. He was here with us last night, but we’re not sure what happened to him.”
She glances between me and Bryce. “Did something happen to him?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Can we take a look at the security feed from last night?”
“Sure,” she says, inclining her head. “Come on back.”
We follow her past the bar and into a small office beyond the kitchen. “Here,” she says, indicating a chair in front of a display screen.
Bryce sits and she shows him how to move through the video files. Bryce locates the one time-stamped from when we were here and forwards through frame-by-frame. I see us leaving for the night and Colin dancing with the girls, getting another drink, dancing some more, then about an hour later, Colin walks toward the exit alone. A guy in a sweatshirt, hood pulled up, hands shoved into his jeans pockets, approaches Colin. They appear to exchange words. Colin nods before following the guy out the front door.
“What the hell?” I ask. “Who was that guy?” Terror sweeps through me, turning my blood to ice. “And where the hell is Colin?”
“I don’t know,” Bryce says, reaching over to squeeze my hand. “But we’ll find him, I promise.”
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