Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

I trusted one person in the entire world.

He was currently punching me in the face.

Overlapping numbers scuttled across Rio's fist as it rocketed toward me, their values scrambling madly, the calculations doing themselves before my eyes. He wasn't pulling his punch at all, the bastard. I saw exactly how it would hit and that the force would fracture my jaw.

Well. If I allowed it to.

Angles and forces. Vector sums. Easy. I pressed myself back against the chair I was tied to, bracing my wrists against the ropes, and tilted my head a hair less than the distance I needed to turn the punch into a love tap. Instead of letting Rio break my jaw, I let him split my lip open.

The impact snapped my head back, and blood poured into my mouth, choking me. I coughed and spat on the cement floor. Goddammit.

"Sixteen men," said a contemptuous voice in accented English from a few paces in front of me, "against one ugly little girl. How? Who are you?"

"Nineteen," I corrected, the word hitching as I choked on my own blood. I was already regretting going for the split lip. "Check your perimeter again. I killed nineteen of your men." And it would have been a lot more if Rio hadn't appeared out of nowhere and clothes- lined me while I was distracted by the Colombians. Fucking son of a bitch. He was the one who'd gotten me this job; why hadn't he told me he was undercover with the drug cartel?

The Colombian interrogating me inhaled sharply and jerked his head at one of his subordinates, who turned and loped out of the room. The remaining three drug runners stayed where they were, fingering Micro-Uzis with what they plainly thought were intimidating expressions.

Dumbasses. I worked my wrists against the rough cord behind my back—Rio had been the one to tie me up, and he had left me just enough play to squeeze out, if I had half a second. Numbers and vectors shot in all directions—from me to the Colombian in front of me, to his three lackwit subordinates, to Rio—a sixth sense of mathematical interplay that existed somewhere between sight and feeling, masking the world with constant calculations and threatening to drown me in a sensory overload of data.

And telling me how to kill.

Forces. Movements. Response times. I could take down this idiot drug runner right now, the way he was blocking his boys' line of fire— except that concentrating on the Colombians would give Rio the instant he needed to take me down. I was perfectly aware that he wasn't about to break cover on my behalf.

"If you don't tell me what I want to know, you will regret it. You see my dog?" The Colombian jerked his head at Rio. "If I let him loose on you, you will be crying for us to kill your own mother. And he will like making you scream. He—how do you say? It gives him a jolly." He leaned forward with a sneer, bracing himself on the arms of the chair so his breath was hot against my face.

Well, now he'd officially pissed me off. I flicked my eyes up to Rio. He remained impassive, towering above me in his customary tan duster like some hardass Asian cowboy. Unbothered. The insults wouldn't register with him.

But I didn't care. People pissing on Rio made me want to put them in the ground, even though none of it mattered to him. Even though all of it was true.

I relaxed my head back and then snapped it forward, driving my forehead directly into the Colombian's nose with a terrific crunch.

He made a sound like an electrocuted donkey, squealing and snorting as he flailed backward, and then he groped around his back to come up with a boxy little machine pistol. I had time to think, Oh, shit, as he brought the gun up—but before firing, he gestured furiously at Rio to get out of the way, and in that instant the mathematics realigned and clicked into place and the probabilities blossomed into a split-second window.
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