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This thrilling sequel to Illusive will have readers on the edge of their seats.
You don’t belong with us.
These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans-those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will.
When great numbers of immune individuals begin to disappear, fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, superpowered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case: super criminals and government agents working side by side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all, for better or for worse.
Table of Contents
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The Cold War isn't thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat.
—President Richard M. Nixon, 1964
Ciere Giba crouches beneath a sky threatening snowfall. Her heavy winter boots leave impressions in the slush and gravel, and her eyes are fixed on the highway. If a car were to pass, she'd be in danger of getting splattered with half-frozen water. But the only vehicle to drive by was a snowplow, and that was hours ago.
A gloved hand falls on Ciere's shoulder and she glances up. A teenage boy stands over her. He has smooth, coppery skin and his black hair is cut short. Dark eyes meet hers and quickly look away as he offers a small, encouraging smile.
Ciere reaches out and tugs on his leg. The young man obliges and kneels next to her.
"Still have all your toes?" Alan Fiacre asks, still smiling. He doesn't look at her; all the while, his gaze roams over the nearby road.
Ciere grimaces. "Since I can't feel any of them, I have no idea."
He laughs. "If it makes you feel any better, the others look just as miserable. Conrad and Henry can only find one more hand warmer, and they're fighting over it."
"Really?" She peers over her shoulder, glancing at the four mobsters about twenty feet behind her. A woman, Jess, sits on the ground and feeds fresh rounds into a clip. Over her stands Pruitt, an eidos with curly black hair and scarred fingers. And sure enough, Conrad—that bear of a man—is holding out a fist toward Henry, a tall black woman who holds out her own hand with the index and middle fingers extended. Looks like Conrad wins.
"Wait," Ciere says, "are Henry and Conrad rock-paper-scissoring for the last hand warmer?" Somehow, she thought that mobsters would've had a more ruthless way of settling disputes.
When she looks at Alan, she sees that he's met her gaze. Alan has never been comfortable with eye contact, so it sends a shock through her. "What?" she says softly. He opens his mouth, but a loud crackle of static cuts him off. The screech and whirr of Conrad's two-way radio blaring to life.
"This is falcon one," a male voice says. "Repeat, this is falcon one. The target has been sighted. Over."
Conrad lifts the radio to his mouth. His words are heavy with a German accent. "This is falcon two," he says. "Message received. We'll get back to you once the job is complete." He clicks the radio off and stows it in his jacket pocket. He rubs gloved hands together. "All right, people. Showtime."
At once, the group is a flurry of action. Pruitt picks up one side of a chain laced with metal spikes and hefts it to the other side of the highway. Jess helps him, stretching out the line so it lies evenly across both lanes. Guns are checked and rechecked; extra magazines are passed between hands; soft, eager murmurs replace the annoyed mutterings. Sledgehammers and crowbars are hefted into gloved hands.
Conrad moves next to Ciere. Even when she stands, he still towers over her. "You ready, Kitty?" It's an old nickname a newspaper once gave her—the Kitty Burglar. If Conrad remembers her real name, he's never bothered to use it.
Ciere closes her eyes and inhales a long breath. A few months ago, she would've balked at the illusion requested of her.
"Don't let anyone see what you are, understand?"
The words come back to her, a whisper on the icy winds, but they don't inspire fear or caution. Rather, they spark life into her, and when she reopens her eyes, there is no hesitation. She stretches out a hand, a useless but familiar gesture, and it centers her.
Months ago, Ciere would have cast her illusion outward, like throwing a sheet over a table. It would cover everything, but the pain was debilitating. Now, after months of careful practice, Ciere reaches out and imagines the world the way she wants it. She visualizes the frozen white fields, the twist in the road around a clump of trees—the trees that make a perfect place to stash their getaway van—and the dirt-streaked snow covering the pavement. She gently pulls at the landscape, smudging over the lines of the spiked chain and the armed mobsters. The illusion settles into place, and anyone who walks into the scene will be affected by it—all they'll see are a few hazy flickers, like heat waves rippling across the snow.
It's a good illusion, and Ciere lets herself feel a moment of satisfaction. With a crime family as infamous as the Alberanis, one can never be too careful.
"I hate this part," comes Jess's voice somewhere to her left. "If any of you step on my feet, I'll choke you with your own scarf."
They hear it before they see it—a truck, huge and lumbering, taking up most of the road. The truck is painted white and has a covered bed—better to hide its cargo. Ciere sucks in a sharp breath. This is it. She takes hold over her illusion, pulling its edges around the truck. If its occupants found themselves invisible, she'd blow this operation in a matter of seconds.
Someone touches her arm. She doesn't have to see him to know it's Alan. "Steady," he whispers.
She finds his hand and squeezes tight.
"Three," Conrad says softly. The truck moves steadily toward them, leaving dark exhaust in its wake. "Two."
Alan's fingers tighten around hers.
"One," says Conrad's voice. The truck slows, as if its driver has seen something, but it's too late. The tires roll over the strip of spikes.
The sound is horrendous. A scream of tires being rent apart, metal grating on concrete, and a shriek of brakes. Sparks dance along the pavement and the truck tips to one side. It grinds to a smoky, screeching halt.
The mobsters are already moving. Ciere can't see them, but she hears the crunch of feet on gravel and sees the snow stirring around invisible legs. Someone swings an invisible sledgehammer at the back of the truck. A loud thud and the door wrenches free. It's yanked open and snow flutters into the air as invisible bodies climb up and into the truck bed. Ciere doesn't have to walk over to know what they'll find inside: crates and crates of automatic rifles.
The plan relies on invisibility and speed. It's worked before: disable the truck, open the doors, pull out the dazed driver and passenger, tie them up, locate and display the guns, and then call the police. The law takes care of the gunrunners, while Ciere and the crew make a quick getaway. It's quick, clean, and bloodless—exactly how the Gyr Syndicate likes to operate.
But this time, one of the gunrunners reacts with terrifying speed.
Ciere sees it in flashes. A dark object appears in the driver's hand. The windshield suddenly turns white as cracks begin to spider through the glass. Something small and powerful pierces her jacket and a curious numbness creeps down her left arm.
She finally recognizes the object in the driver's hand—a gun. He must be carrying some of the cargo in the front, Ciere thinks. It's her last coherent thought.
The world tilts sideways as she takes an involuntary step. Her foot hits a patch of ice and she begins sliding into a ditch. Gravel and snow cave beneath her and she stumbles, trying to stay upright and failing.
She instinctively reaches out to catch herself as she falls. Her palm hits the ground first and pain spikes up her arm, into her chest. It whites out her vision.
A hand clamps down on her left shoulder, tight enough to bring her back to the moment. Alan appears before her, his eyes bright with panic. "Ciere?"
That's when she realizes. She can see him.
They're visible. They're all visible.
"GIBA!" Conrad's roar echoes across the frozen landscape.
So he does know my name, she thinks, and then reality sets in.
An unfamiliar male voice begins screaming. More shots ring out and suddenly Alan is pushing her back across the frozen landscape, gripping her right arm, his body a solid barrier between her and the truck. "Put down the gun!" Henry shouts, and Ciere imagines a confrontation she can't see—the mobsters surrounding the truck, the truck's two occupants overwhelmed—
Then she hears it. The rip-roar of automatic weapons fire.
"GIBA!" Conrad yells again, and Ciere shoves Alan away, stepping free of him. The scene before her unfolds; her adrenaline-sharp sight makes it almost seem like slow motion.
Jess is on the ground, her arm wrapped around her chest. The snow beneath her is stained red.
Pruitt has thrown himself to the ground in front of Jess, bringing his gun around and firing wildly at the two Alberani gunrunners. The passenger-side window shatters, but it's all the damage Pruitt manages to do before he runs out of shots.
Ciere's gaze snaps to the truck. One of the gunrunners has taken refuge behind the truck bed. The other crouches near the front fender, a submachine gun tucked into his shoulder. He has pale blond hair—almost white—and there's a calm to his features.
"GET JESS OUT OF HERE!" Conrad bellows. His shots are more methodical than Pruitt's panic fire. Conrad pulls the trigger once, twice, a third time, and then the gun clicks empty. He fumbles for a fresh clip, but Ciere can see it'll take too long.
"No," she whispers, and reaches out with her immunity.
Her touch is shakier than before. It's not quite right; there's blurring around the edges. But one moment, Conrad and the others are there—and then they aren't.
The pale-haired man rises from his crouch, plugs a fresh clip into the gun, raises it to his shoulder, and sweeps a wide arc. The rounds rip into the snow, kicking up a sheet of brown and white, pushing at the edges of Ciere's illusion.
A hand fumbles at her back, fingers clamping around her good arm. She can't see his expression, but Alan's voice is tight with fear. "Hurry up." They nearly stumble into the ditch and then they're running, aiming for the trees, blinded by adrenaline and snow. Her body is taut with fear, and she keeps expecting to feel a bullet rip into her. Her arm throbs in time with her racing heart.
Together, she and Alan crash through the underbrush. The van rests between two frozen trees, its white paint camouflaging it almost as well as an illusion.
Pain claws up her neck, into the back of her skull, the sharp throb a reminder that her illusion is still up. Releasing it is like letting go of clenched fists—immediate relief, followed by a hollow ache.
Alan flickers into sight. His hat is gone and his dark hair is damp with melting snow and sweat. He stares at something behind Ciere's back and she whirls, sees Conrad and the others rushing toward them. Jess is thrown over Conrad's shoulder in a fireman's carry. He eases her to the ground and the group converges on her.
Alan slides the van's door open, his other hand still gripping Ciere's jacket. He gently nudges her until she sits on the edge of the van. Her left arm feels numb, like when Daniel once snapped a rubber band across her skin. Only when she looks down does she see the bloody mess of her jacket sleeve.
This whole situation feels wrong, like a train that's jumped its tracks. Every other assignment went smoothly, effortlessly. Cleanly. This time, it's like that pale-haired man knew. She saw it in his face, certainty and calm. He'd known something was wrong before they sprang the trap.
A fist closes around her jacket and suddenly she's being shaken so hard, her back molars click together. Pruitt looms over her.
"What the fuck were you doing?" Pruitt says, and he drags her away from the van. She stumbles, tries to step back, but he doesn't let go.
"Get off!" she snaps, her own hand closing around his wrist. For a second, they're locked together.
She's about to reach out with her immunity, ready to blind Pruitt, but Alan's fist collides with his jaw. Pruitt looks more startled than anything else, and his fingers yank free of Ciere's jacket. She takes two steps back and Alan slips into that open space.
"Back off," Alan snarls. For the first time, he really looks like the bodyguard he claims to be.
Pruitt's face hardens. "Jess is dead!"
"It wasn't Ciere's fault," says Alan.
"Her illusion fell and they saw us coming." Pruitt takes another step forward, trying to edge around Alan. "They saw us coming—that's how they managed to shoot Jess—" His arm draws back, his fingers clenching into a fist.
Conrad is the one to catch Pruitt's fist in midair.
"Don't do this," he says.
Pruitt shakes him off and Conrad lets him. "She—she—"
"Don't make me drop you," Conrad says, and there's nothing to his voice. No anger. Just a statement.
It is probably the only thing Conrad could have said to calm Pruitt. His mouth pulls tight and he turns away, half jogging back to the van. Conrad faces Alan and Ciere.
"Henry, help me get Jess into the back," he says heavily. "Pruitt, passenger seat. Kids in the back. Henry, sit between them—one fatality is enough for this mission."
"And what about the mission?" says Pruitt, still fuming.
Henry calls from the other side of the van. "I've already alerted the cops—they'll be here soon. And that truck isn't going anywhere."
Ciere allows Alan to lead her into the van. She liked Jess—the woman was friendly, for a mobster. And now she's dead, her blood staining the van's carpeted interior. Her body is covered by someone's jacket—the only dignity they can offer. Ciere scoots away until her back is pressed to one side of the van; she doesn't want to see.
She barely notices when Alan pulls at her sleeve. "Need to look," he's muttering, and it's probably not the first time he's said it. Ciere shrugs her shoulder, winces, and allows him to tug the fabric away. Alan's fingers are quick and surprisingly graceful; he gently pulls at the sodden material of her shirt until it comes free of the wound. Ciere forces herself to look.
The wound isn't bad; it's a graze. The bullet went through her jacket sleeve and carved a divot in her biceps. Blood drips down her arm and she finds herself fascinated with the bright color. Wordlessly, Alan presses a fresh bandage to the wound. He leans in, as if to steady her, and his voice is quiet in her ear. "We should leave."
Surprised, Ciere almost pulls away. "What?" She keeps her voice low.
"They'll blame you for Jess's death," says Alan. "Pruitt already does. We should leave now."
"We can't leave," Ciere says, running her fingers over the bracelet she wears. It's a silver bangle, tight around the bones of her wrist, its shiny exterior hiding the GPS tracker within. "Our time with the Syndicate isn't up yet. They'd find us. Or sic the feds on us." She doesn't continue with that train of thought: the feds would be even more deadly than the mobsters.
"So we're running from people who want us dead," Alan says, "by hiding with people who also want us dead."
Ciere lets her head fall back and closes her eyes. The ache of the wound settles into her bones. "Just another Monday."
Five months ago, three criminals walked into a hotel.
There was one middle-aged man, with guns hidden under a custom-made suit jacket; one teenage girl who could conjure illusions with a mere thought; and one teenage boy who could remember things better off forgotten.
The clerk who checked them in was a young woman, probably working the graveyard shift in between college classes. When she viewed the middle-aged man's ID tags, her eyes went wide.
"Mr. Guntram," said the hotel clerk, looking both starry-eyed and nervous. "We thank you for your patronage." She handed over a set of keycards with trembling fingers and a flush across her cheeks.
Brandt Guntram gave her a polite smile.
"Come," he said to the two teenagers as he headed toward the elevators, and they hurried after him.
They got out of the elevator on the eighth floor. "I'm in the next room," said Guntram, holding out a room key. "If you need me, there's a door between our two rooms. Feel free to wander, but stay in the hotel, please."
Ciere accepted the keycard. "What," she said, not bothering to hide her sarcasm, "did you buy out this hotel or something?"
Guntram's mouth twitched. "Or something."
It was a mob hotel. Ciere knew that the moment they stepped inside. There were distinct signs, if one knew what to look for. Like the fact that every security camera's lights were turned off. Or the men who walked through the halls had barely hidden bulges around their shoulders and thighs. Or that everyone seemed wide-awake at midnight.
"The Gyr Syndicate helped the hotel owner out of a bad situation," Guntram said, untroubled by Ciere's flat stare. "His daughter is an eludere. The Alberanis tried to recruit her. We… discouraged them."
"And now they're letting you use this hotel as a base of operations," said Alan.
"I have to meet with some of my associates," said Guntram. "This is as good a place as any."
Ciere unlocked the hotel door and Alan went inside first, flicking on a lamp. The room was clean and fresh, with two double beds and a view of the Manhattan skyline.
Alan dropped his backpack onto the bed nearer the door. "Only one chair," he murmured. He frowned slightly, then snatched up the chair and carried it to the hallway door.
"What are you doing?" said Ciere.
Alan wedged the chair beneath the doorknob. "Standard security. There are two doors—one to the hallway and one to Guntram's room. I'd rather have a chair for each, but since we only have the one…" He shrugged. "I suppose we just have to trust Guntram more than we trust the outside world."
Ciere stared at him. She didn't really know him—they'd been friends less than a week. In fact, she wasn't even sure they were friends. More like allies thrown together by chance.
"You don't have to do that," Ciere said. "Pretend to be my bodyguard." Calling him her bodyguard was a lie she'd come up with when she had no other way to explain his presence.
He shrugged. "How else would we explain why I'm here? It's not like we can tell them who I am."
Alan was the last Fiacre—a remnant of the family that created the Praevenir vaccine. To conceal his identity, Alan spent most of his life on the run. Even now he used falsified ID tags—ones that Ciere's crew leader, Kit Copperfield, slipped into her hand as she was leaving the house that morning. The tags declared Alan to be "Mr. Alan Ashbottom." Ciere could just imagine Kit smirking as he decided on that alias.
Alan had spent most of his life in hiding. And not just because of his infamous family.
Alan was an eidos. He could remember anything and everything—including the Praevenir formula. The formula that people had killed and died for. The formula everyone thought was lost.
Everyone but Ciere and Alan.
Ciere sat on the other bed. It felt unreal to be in the same room with someone who shouldn't exist, with a mobster one door over. She still half expected to be at home in Philadelphia, to wake up in her own bed, to find Kit making breakfast in the morning. Some part of her couldn't grasp that her old life was gone and her new life had started—among a crime syndicate with a boy she barely knew.
Who was currently wedging a coffee table against Guntram's door.
"Would it disturb your security measures if I went downstairs? I saw a coffeemaker in the lobby." She wasn't exactly hungry, but she had a few of Kit's home-baked scones. They were all she had left of home. Eating them, drinking something hot, it might make her feel human again.
Alan's eyes darted to hers before settling somewhere on her shoulder. "Want me to come with you?"
She shook her head and grabbed the hotel keycard. She shifted the chair away from the door and stepped into the hallway. "I'll be right back."
The hallway itself wasn't remarkable—industrial carpet, a few framed pictures along the wall, and the soft shuffle of voices nearby. For a moment, Ciere simply stood there and breathed. Being a thief wasn't exactly a relaxing lifestyle, and she should have felt grateful for this moment of relaxation. She wasn't on the run, nobody wanted to kill her, and she was safe.
Safe among professional killers.
She released a shivery little breath, trying to shake off her unease.
Drinks, she repeated to herself, focus on one task at a time. She turned to the right, angling herself toward the elevators, and that's when she saw him.
A man sat in the hallway. Back to one wall, legs spread out before him, eyes unfocused—at first Ciere thought it was some drunk hotel patron unable to locate his own room. She started to turn around, when recognition froze her in place.
She knew this man. She knew him.
He looked just like he had earlier that day—thirty-something, with shoulder-length red hair and a waistcoat. But his glassy eyes stared at nothing. Blood flecked his pale skin and Ciere suddenly realized that the carpet was soggy. Even in the dim light, she could see the huge crimson stain spreading out around her mentor.
She blinked hard several times, saw the scene in flashes. Splashes of red against bloodless skin, lips half-parted, fingers gone still. Ciere stared at the closest thing she had to a parent, gutted and splayed out like roadkill.
It was a nightmare.
It had to be a nightmare.
"Kit?" she said in a voice that sounded years too young. She sank to her knees beside him. He's supposed to be in Philadelphia, supposed to be baking things and plotting out his next job—not here, not bleeding and pale and—
Her trembling fingers reached for his collar, but just before she touched him, a flicker ran over his body. She recoiled when she felt it. A familiar vibration. A buzzing pressure that she'd never felt outside her own skull.
"No," she said, and squeezed her fists. Her immunity reached out—a tentative touch rather than a definitive shove. She lengthened her own shadow, used it to reach for Kit.
Her illusion encountered resistance. A shock of pain pulled through her temples and she pushed through it. Her illusion pressed against Kit, and there was a jolt like touching an open circuit.
The illusion shattered.
Kit disappeared. The carpet became white again. And Guntram lounged against the wall, his arms folded comfortably over his chest. He watched her, his expression remote.
Ciere swallowed, trying to force her thudding heart to slow. "You," she sputtered, her throat thick with shock. "You—you made me see—" She could still see Kit when she blinked.
Then she realized what she'd said and couldn't say another word. Because the only people who could conjure images were like her, and that meant—that meant—
"Took you too long to push back my illusion," said Guntram evenly. "And there's your first lesson working for the Gyr Syndicate: never let your emotions prevent you from recognizing reality."
Devon Lyre stands in a frozen courtyard and listens to a fire alarm that he, for once, didn't pull.
"I hate drill days," moans a girl to Devon's left. She has her hands shoved under her armpits for warmth. "Seriously, who decided to schedule one in November?"
"Sadistic principals," says a guy to his right, earning a nasty look from one of their teachers. But even the staff looks pink-cheeked and miserable.
This is the problem with going to an elite boarding school. Angelien Prep actually cares whether its students live through an emergency… if only so their parents can keep paying the tuition.
The courtyard is usually a nice place to hang out; girls tend to sunbathe near a fountain, and a statue of some Greek god stands proudly near a pond. But now that pond is frozen, and the perfectly clipped grass is buried beneath a foot of snow.
This particular day consists of a fire drill (students shivering in the cold and pressing together in bundled masses), an earthquake drill (everyone trying to fit under their desks and then freezing in the courtyard), and the tsunami drill.
("No, students, there's no use running—you're all probably going to die in this case."
"We should be so lucky," Devon mutters, and someone laughs.)
When Devon and his classmates return to their classroom to thaw out, it's time for the last emergency procedure: instructions on how to protect yourself against adverse effects. The teacher sets down a stack of glossy government-sanctioned brochures. She picks one up, clears her throat, and begins to read to the class.
"'Nearly eighteen years ago,'" says the teacher, "'a new strain of meningitis caused a global pandemic. An effective vaccine was created by scientist Brenton Fiacre, but it was improperly tested prior to global distribution. The vaccine called Praevenir caused unexpected side effects in approximately 0.003 percent of its recipients.'"
Devon sits at his desk, chin cradled in one hand, eyelids drooping. He lets the words slip past him, catching only part of the lecture. He can recite it from memory, but that's not new. He can recite anything from memory—because that's what it means to be one of that 0.003 percent.
"'… The following symptoms—precognition, body manipulation, perfect recall—'"
Cheers, Devon thinks.
"'—levitation, telepathy, the ability to induce hallucinations—'"
That's what the government calls illusions. Hallucinations. Devon silently scoffs at the idea. Hallucinations make the process sound vague, blurry, and random. He knows firsthand what illusions can do.
"'—and mind control.'" The professor pauses a moment, letting the class absorb her words. Her eyes flick back to the brochure.
"'The names for adverse affects, in respective order from most to least common, are eludere, dauthus, eidos, levitas, mentalist, illusionist, and dominus. It's important to understand these dangers because we are currently in a state of tension with East Asia—'"
Come off it, Devon thinks angrily. Just say that China hates us.
"'—America has many territories to protect—'"
America invaded and is currently holding Korea hostage, Devon mentally corrects.
Praise for Deceptive:"Shootouts, betrayal, undercover ops, and a determined hitman with his sights on Ciere keep the adrenaline pumping, all while the teens do some serious soul searching...[Deceptive is] more political in its focus, zeroing in on human rights; readers attracted to action and government conspiracy will be easily engrossed and walk away hoping for more."—Booklist
"Lloyd-Jones deftly weaves several plot strands, using flashbacks to impart background information. Snappy dialogue and harrowing action scenes move the twisting plot along and maintain suspense throughout...A must-read for fans of intrigue and superpowered villains."—School Library Journal
Praise for Illusive:"Multiple plot twists and the present-tense narrative heighten Ciere, Devon, and Daniel's sense of paranoia as they struggle to survive in a world in which it is often difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. A thrilling read."
Praise for Illusive:* "Boasting a complex plot, heart-stopping bursts of action, and questions regarding human nature, Lloyd-Jones' thought-provoking, multifaceted narrative neatly sidesteps categorization as just another superhero or dystopian novel--though fans of both will be drawn to the material and be pleasantly surprised. An impressive debut guaranteed to disappear from the shelves before your very eyes."—Booklist (starred review)
"Superpowered teens screw up repeatedly in this crime-caper debut... Lloyd-Jones relishes the details of criminal undertakings and con jobs but also builds a believable world of haves and have-nots, unaffected and immune... [Entertaining] and unpredictable. Readers may also want to check out the Wild Card series edited by George R.R. Martin for a similar take on superpowers. An action-packed adventure with a charming criminal crew."—Kirkus Reviews
"Multiple plot twists and the present-tense narrative heighten Ciere, Devon, and Daniel's sense of paranoia as they struggle to survive in a world in which it is often difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. A thrilling read."—SLJ
"Illusive starts off at a sprint, and the pace never falters. With razor-sharp prose, and richly drawn characters, I was captivated beginning to end."—Jennifer Rush, author of the Altered series
- On Sale
- Jul 14, 2015
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers