Infinity Bell (A House Immortal Novel)

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9780451467379: Infinity Bell (A House Immortal Novel)
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Return to national bestselling author Devon Monk's heartpounding House Immortal series, where eleven powerful Houses control the world and all its resources. But now, the treaty between them has been broken, and no one—not even the immortal galvanized—is safe....

Matilda Case isn’t normal. Normal people aren’t stitched together, inhumanly strong, and ageless, as she and the other galvanized are. Normal people’s bodies don’t hold the secret to immortality—something the powerful Houses will kill to possess. And normal people don’t know that they’re going to die in a few days.

Matilda’s fight to protect the people she loves triggered a chaotic war between the Houses and shattered the world’s peace. On the run, she must find a way to stop the repeat of the ancient time experiment that gifted her and the other galvanized with immortality. Because this time, it will destroy her and everything she holds dear.

Caught in a cat-and-mouse game of lies, betrayal, and unseen foes, Matilda must fight to save the world from utter destruction. But time itself is her enemy, and every second brings her one step closer to disaster....

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About the Author:

Devon Monk is the national bestselling author of two urban fantasy series, Allie Beckstrom (Magic for a PriceMagic Without Mercy) and Broken Magic (Stone ColdHell Bent), as well as the author of the Age of Steam steampunk series (Cold CopperTin Swift). When she's not writing, Devon knits silly things and lives in Oregon with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Mojo.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PRAISE FOR THE HOUSE IMMORTAL NOVELS

BOOKS BY DEVON MONK

ROC

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

1

I thought you were an angel burning in that dark night. I thought you had come to save me. Maybe you did. But I never wanted you to die for me.

—from the diary of E. N. D.

The sound of the seaplane’s engine growling low and loud as it came in for a landing jarred me awake.

I sat, still half asleep, reaching for my duffel, my gun, or anything I could use as a weapon. The seat belt dug into my hips painfully, and a warm, soft cloth slid down away from my chin.

“We’re coming into San Diego, Matilda,” my brother, Quinten Case, said from behind me.

Right. Seaplane, running for our lives from the Houses who thought we were behind the murder of Oscar Gray and Slater Orange. Houses who ruled all the resources in the world, and were, at this moment, using those resources to sift through the world to find me, my brother, and Abraham Seventh.

To be honest, the chances of us slipping their notice weren’t great. The chances of us slipping their notice before the Wings of Mercury experiment—an old time machine my ever-so-great-grandfather had built—triggered and killed me, Abraham, and all the other galvanized in the world was right near zero.

Still, I was a Case. And we Cases never gave up when saving the world.

It was dark outside. Night. I must have slept for hours. The rest of the blanket covering me fell away as I lifted my hands to rub at my face.

“How much longer?” I asked.

“Just about to land.”

I straightened and dug at the knots in my neck, rubbing the ache out of it. Then I glanced back at my brother. He sat with a blanket around his shoulders, cradling a thermos cup between his hands. His dark curly hair was mussed, as if he’d been pulling his fingers through it. Even in the low light, he was too thin, too pale.

Captivity had not sat well with him, somehow sharpening his features and movements and cornering that restless-genius mind of his.

“Coffee?” he offered.

“I didn’t know we had any on board.”

Corb, who sat in the rear of the plane, raised his voice over the lowering rumble of the engines. “We were saving it for when we made land. A victory celebration.”

The big man and his pilot wife, Sadie, had come to our rescue and smuggled Quinten and me out of Hong Kong in their little seaplane. They’d also rescued my farmhand, Neds Harris, who was sleeping in the seat next to me, and Abraham Seventh, the man I might be stupidly falling in love with and who was passed out in the cargo area.

Travel had been less than kind to Abraham. He had a sort of rugged handsomeness about him, dark wavy hair above a broad face with piercing hazel eyes, and a strong jaw covered in scruff. But now his skin was yellow between the bruises that covered it. The stitches that held him together, crossing his face, neck, torso, arms, and legs, had nearly disintegrated in just a few hours. Loose threads poked up out of his skin like sun-seeking maggots in rotted fruit.

At first we’d thought he’d been soaked in Shelley dust, a substance possessed by the heads of Houses and used as a means to control galvanized—people like Abraham, people like me, who were made of bits stitched together. Shelley dust on the skin would burn through the stitching.

Then Quinten had found the bullet holes in Abraham’s chest. Abraham had been shot with Shelley dust, which meant it was doing as much irreparable damage to his internal organs as his stitches.

Quinten thought we could negate the dust’s effects if we got him to a doctor soon enough. I didn’t know how soon would be soon enough. But I knew he didn’t have much time left.

Along the tattered lines of Abraham’s broken stitches were new, thin silver threads holding him together. That thread was my father’s own invention, made of nanos and minerals right out of the soil and water of our farm.

Quinten had sewn Abraham together last night with the spool of thread I’d packed with me. So far Abraham had remained in one piece. The thin silver stitches were precise, clean, and beautiful in their way. My brother had an artist’s hand with stitching.

I should know. He was the one who had stitched me together when I was just a little girl.

But along with the unstitching, Abraham had lost a lot of blood. Too much. The heavy blanket we’d wrapped him in was soaked with it, and it was seeping out of holes we could not patch.

At least he couldn’t feel pain. None of the galvanized had full sensation.

Well, except for me.

“Matilda?” Quinten held out the cup.

I pulled my thoughts away from Abraham and took the steaming, fragrant drink from my brother. Coffee wasn’t my favorite hot beverage, but right now anything liquid and warm would do me fine.

I took a couple sips, the bitter liquid spreading through my empty stomach like a heat wave, then noticed Neds were watching me.

Neds Harris was a man put together in the nonstandard configuration of two heads side by side on one body. He’d been with me for two years now, and had left my off-grid farm when the Houses had discovered not only that I was off grid but also that I was something they wanted to own.

I offered him the coffee.

Right Ned took a sip of it, offered it to Left Ned, who shook his head. “I’m good,” Left Ned said.

The plane dipped suddenly and I almost missed them handing me back the coffee cup.

“Need some help up there, Sadie?” Left Ned called out to our pilot.

“From you?” she called back. “I can handle this with two eyes twice as good as you could with four.”

“Except I wouldn’t hit every pothole in the sky,” Left Ned muttered.

“I heard that,” she said. “Not another peep out of you, or I’ll tell my husband to escort you overboard.”

Neds held up their hands in surrender, although Left Ned was grinning. They both settled back a bit and closed their eyes.

I took another sip of coffee and passed it back to Quinten. “How are you feeling?”

In the dim light my brother’s sharp features were a little blurry, but I could make out that irritated frown of his. “I’ve been thinking about what we need to do.”

When Quinten used that tone of voice, nothing but trouble came of it.

“Get Abraham blood?” I suggested. “And cleanse his system before his organs fail?”

“No. Well, yes, but not that. The break in time. How to fix it. We talked about this,” he admonished, as if I’d been sleeping through a class lecture.

“No,” I corrected, “we haven’t had time to talk about anything. We’ve been running. I guess just you and your genius were comparing notes in your brain again.”

He slid me a quick smile. “All right. Well, we need to talk about it.”

“Now?”

The plane bucked again, and Sadie corrected with a tip of the wings that had me grabbing the armrest of my chair to keep from sliding into Neds.

Neds, eyes still closed, chuckled and Sadie cussed.

Outside the windows I could barely see the city lights through the fog. I sure hoped Sadie had a better view than I did.

“Maybe after we land,” he said.

Better idea.

We held on tight as Sadie brought the plane down into the water, slowing against the drag until we had turned and were trolling over to the dock.

San Diego glowed distant and fuzzy in the fog that was so thick, it seemed to swallow the world whole.

“This is it,” Sadie said, her hand busy over switches and toggles as the little plane came to a rest alongside an unlit dock. She unlatched her seat belt and shifted in her chair so she could look back at all of us. “As far as we can get you. I wish we could do more. . . .”

“You’ve been great,” I said. “Above and beyond, and then some. Thank you so much for all of your help. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

She smiled. “A friend of Neds is a friend of ours. Always.”

“You are good people, Sadie,” Right Ned said around a yawn. He rolled the stiffness out of his shoulders. “And a decent pilot. I owe you one.”

“You owe me nothing,” she said. “Just see that you stay alive.”

“I’ll put in an effort,” Right Ned said.

Corb opened the rear door and the plane shifted and rocked as he exited and lashed the vessel to the dock. The sharp salt and oil scent of the bay wafted, cold and wet, into the plane.

Left Ned nodded at me. “Give me a minute to find us transport. I’ll be right back.” He unlatched the side door and hopped out onto the pontoon then over to the dock.

It was a little strange having Neds do all the legwork to get us home. I was usually the one coordinating escape routes for the people of House Brown. I knew all the ins and outs for the off-grid families to avoid the direct gaze of the other powerful Houses who didn’t think House Brown or the people in it should have freedom or a voice.

But my knowledge and contacts had not been enough. Neds knew Sadie and Corb, and, with them he had gotten us out of Hong Kong. He said he knew people who could get us across the country quickly and without notice.

I didn’t know if those people were a part of House Brown, or were perhaps people like Sadie and Corb, who flew so far under the radar, they didn’t even claim House Brown.

What I knew for sure was we had to be moving, and quickly for everyone’s safety. Anyone helping us right now was putting himself directly in the line of fire.

“What about Abraham?” I asked.

Quinten glanced down at the unconscious man. “We’ll carry him. Hopefully Neds can find an accommodating vehicle.”

In just a couple minutes, Neds did find an accommodating vehicle. A dark late-model box van with two seats in the front and plenty of cargo space in the back.

Between Neds, Quinten, Corb, and I, we strapped Abraham securely to the stretcher, then transferred him from the plane to the van.

I was glad it was dark and foggy and that the dock was secluded. But security cameras could be anywhere. We needed to be gone fast.

Quinten took the driver’s seat, a stocking cap on his head, covering his curls. He was already rolling away from the dock before I got the side door closed.

Neds rode in the back, sitting on the floor next to Abraham. I decided that might be a good place for me to stay out of sight too.

“Gloria’s?” Quinten asked.

“End of the world, she’d be top of my list of safe harbors,” I said. I didn’t know why he had to ask me. He’d spent time with her. I’d never even met her in person.

“I think,” he said, “well, it may be an end of the world, but there could be a fix. We can fix it. Us Cases. You and I. That’s what I need to tell you. I think I know how. Brilliant, actually, but we don’t have all the pieces yet, so there are some challenges involved.”

“Pieces to fix Abraham?” I asked. “Or save the world?”

“No.” He glanced up in the rearview mirror, and I wasn’t sure quite how much sanity shone behind his eyes. “Time. We need to fix time.” The way he said it made me feel like I was a second-grader who hadn’t learned to count yet.

“We can do that? Fix time?”

“I think . . . yes.”

Impossible? Probably. But, then, it wouldn’t be the first impossible thing my brother had done. I was living proof of that.

“All right,” I said, “We’ll fix time. But first we need to get to Gloria’s for Abraham, right?”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course, yes.” He turned his attention back to the foggy road, taking us away from the harbor and toward Newport Avenue.

I stared at his reflection in the rearview mirror. He carried a tightness around his eyes, and in every line of his body, really. As if he expected something to jump out at him from each dark corner we passed. I just hoped captivity hadn’t rattled his brain too hard. It had been three years since I’d seen him, and his imprisonment could not have been easy.

Gloria’s place was about thirty minutes away, a squat, square building crammed between an antiques shop and a restaurant space that constantly rotated through owners, unable to stay in business long enough for the new layer of paint to dry.

The faded sign above her shop windows said she sold books and odds and ends. While I knew she did do that, she also had one of the most advanced secret medical facilities known only to House Brown beneath her shop. We made sure it remained secret and advanced by sending her monetary support, equipment, and tech whenever we could get our hands on it.

Because of that and Gloria’s skills, a lot of people in House Brown had received care the other Houses would never have provided.

I’d never been here, but several years ago, Quinten had spent a year working with Gloria, learning basic and maybe even some advanced doctoring from her.

He’d never told me why he’d decided to leave her tutelage. That was not long after our parents had died, when he had been intent on absorbing the best on-the-road education House Brown could scrape together for him.

He parked the van back behind the shop. “I think this is bad . . . well, not the worst idea,” Quinten said, “but it might not be a good idea.”

“Fixing time?” I asked.

“No.” He frowned at me and shook his head slightly as if he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t following his mental leaps. “Coming to Gloria,” he said. “She’s . . .”

His voice faded and his eyes went distant.

This was no time for him to check out.

“She’s what, Quinten?” I asked.

He shook his head again, and this time his eyes cleared. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. We do have wounded, and some of us are House Brown. All right. Stay here a second. I’ll make sure she wants to see us.”

He got out of the van, and Neds and I sat in silence a bit, the engine ticking off heat in the cooler air of the night.

“This might be a strange question,” Left Ned said. “But how much do you trust your brother?”

“Completely,” I answered truthfully. “Why?”

“Besides I don’t know the man?” Right Ned answered. “He just seems like he’s got an awful lot of things buzzing around in his head and not a lot of it making sense.”

“He’s been gone for three years. A prisoner.” I had to pause so I could swallow down my anger. “Might take him more than one night on the run to pull himself into civilized manners.”

“It’s not the manners so much that bother me,” Left Ned said. “Does he seems . . . right to you?”

“Not to say your brother’s a problem,” Right Ned amended. “We just want to know you think he’s in his right mind. That he’s the same man you could trust when you last saw him three years ago.”

“He is,” I said. “I trust him.”

“Good,” Left Ned said. “Because if I were thinking of turning us in, it’d be here, now that we’ve reached the mainland. And it’d be at a House Brown safe house like Gloria’s.”

“Really, Neds Harris? You were a spy for House Silver.”

Left Ned winced at the tartness of my tone, and I regretted letting the words carry anger. I was tired. I was worried.

Abraham was as near to dying as a galvanized could be. My brother wasn’t wholly...

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