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One last chance...
for Max, Fang, and Dylan...
before it all ends.

Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming.

BOOK ONE | Before

Chapter 6

“I SMELL BLOOOOD,” Star intoned in a deep voice an hour later. “Lots of it.”

Ratchet scowled. “Say it again, girl, and see what happens to you. Go on—say it one more time. I’m telling you, something was out there.”

“At least it wasn’t worse,” Kate said, her easy smile returning.

Fang nodded, glancing quickly in the rearview mirror. All he and Maya had found was a bunch of buzzards having a prairie-dog party.

“Yeah,” said Star solemnly, “it could’ve been a small lizard, bent on destroying us all. Or a mutant desert bat, prone to feasting on the hearts of ‘enhanced humans’. Right, Ratch?”

Holden and Kate couldn’t help giggling, and Fang was reminded of the flock. How many times had they joked with one another just like this, teasing and arguing? And here he was with a whole new gang. But the teasing felt harsher, the arguments more real. No flock in sight.

No flock, but there was Maya, next to him. She sighed unconsciously, like she felt as separate from the group as he did. It made sense. As the only two flyers, they could’ve made it to San Francisco in about forty-five minutes, but instead they had six hours of driving ahead of them.

Maya leaned her head on his shoulder. The bench seat in the front of their “borrowed” van meant she could sit really close, and she was.

Really close.

He breathed her in, ignoring the squabbling in the backseat, and an understanding seemed to pass between them. It was more than just having wings that separated them from the gang. They felt weird with the others because they felt good alone. Together.

Like he had with Max.

Just as Fang’s thoughts started to spiral, Maya straightened up and frowned, leaning forward. “Do you see that? Like a dust cloud, way ahead, on the road?”

Fang squinted and saw what she was talking about: a growing haze, blocking the road ahead of them. “Ratchet?”

Ratchet looked smug. “I thought you guys didn’t trust my senses.”

Fang sighed. After the theatrics with Star and Kate, his gang was exhausting him. “Please?”

Ratchet sighed and lowered his sunglasses, peering through the windshield. When he spoke his voice was gruff, all business. “We got company. Looks like a convoy of vehicles, hogging both lanes and about to pay us a visit.”

In seconds Fang had slammed on the brakes and made a tight, fast U-turn that sent the van up on two wheels. He stomped on the gas and shot them down the road in the direction they’d just come from.

“Sorry, but I’m not into sticking around for the welcoming committee,” Fang said tersely, scanning the road ahead for the turnoff he’d seen a while back.

There was a slim chance that he was overreacting, that these were trucks taking vegetables somewhere or something. Fang estimated the chance of that to be approximately point-zero-one percent.

He accelerated more. He could feel the engine straining—and the van definitely wasn’t up to off-roading. Fang watched the dust cloud advancing in the rearview mirror and felt Maya’s tension next to him, her wings brushing his. It was tempting to break loose and fly… but no. They couldn’t leave the others.

Fang breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the thin outline of the gravel road ahead. After the turnoff, they could ditch the van, flee to forest cover, and take whoever it was hand to hand. If necessary.

“Almost there,” Fang muttered under his breath.

Half a mile… a few more seconds…


Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Rebecca Soler

Rebecca Soler is a New York-based actress who voices numerous principal characters for the CW's Saturday morning cartoon lineup including: Viva Piñata, Huntik, The Winx Club, and Chaotic. Other audiobooks include Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen, After by Amy Efaw, for which she was awarded a 2009 AudioFile Earphones Award, and Monster High by Lisi Harrison.

Audio Excerpts (MP3)
Clip #1
Chapter 1 to Chapter 4
Clip #2
Chapters 5 to 8
Clip #3
Chapters 9 to 12
Clip #4
Chapters 13 to 16
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