An Altered Series Prequel


By Jennifer Rush

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ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD

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Before Anna and Sam, there was Dani and Sam.

There’s one rule that all Branch operatives must live by: No attachments. When Dani O’Brien entered the Branch, she planned to trade her freedom so that her family could have a better life. But joining up with the mysterious organization is more than she bargained for. Branch head Connor watches over her closely–too closely. The training is brutal, the experiments are secret, and the missions promise to be anything but ordinary. The only thing getting Dani through each day is the hope that she’ll run into Sam–a young man, about her age, who wears the world on his shoulders.

Find out how it all began in this short-story prequel to Jennifer Rush’s thrilling and suspenseful Altered series.


Chapter 1

The bed beneath me was thin as paper, though not as thin as the cotton gown still tied around my naked body. I felt oddly vulnerable in a way I never had before. One year at the beach, my best friend, Tiffany, dared me to run naked from one end of the park to the other.

I did it without a second thought.

I got banned from the beach park for the rest of the summer, but it had been worth it. Everyone said I was fearless after that, until it became part of my name. “Dani, that fearless girl,” they called me. I never bothered correcting them. Never bothered to point out that running naked through a park was more bravado than fearlessness and that, at home after dark, I cowered in my room like a mouse. Afraid of the monster that was my father.

The truth was, when I was with my friends, I pretended I was fearless. And I liked it. And as each day went by, it seemed a little truer than the day before.

I was fearless now. It was no longer a title handed down by a bunch of friends at the beach. It was a part of me. So why did I feel like I wanted to break free of this room and run? I was safe here. Wherever here was.

Wasn’t I?

Goose bumps popped on my arms, racing clear up to my shoulders.

You are fearless. You are fea—

The door opened and I nearly lurched out of my skin.

“Sorry,” the female lab tech said. I hadn’t met this one yet, but she looked almost exactly like the last three people I’d encountered.

Her dark hair was tied back in a tight bun. Whatever she wore beneath her white lab coat was hidden to the point that it seemed like she wore only the coat. Her ears were bare, despite obvious piercings. Her ring finger was just as unadorned.

Everything about this place was toneless.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” she went on.

“You didn’t,” I answered, and she gave me a look that said she wasn’t buying it.

“Come.” She waved me forward. “He’s ready for you.”

“Who is ‘he’?”

She held the door for me and said nothing.

After a standoff of eleven silent seconds, I gestured to my gown. “Am I supposed to meet him half-naked?”

A blush of color touched her cheeks. “Oh, right. Sorry.” She hurried past me to an inset closet door that I hadn’t realized was there. Inside were the clothes I’d arrived in—a black dress with a short, pleated skirt, a white belt, and a pair of patent leather flats.

“I’ll wait outside for you,” the woman said, and left me.

I slipped into my clothes quickly. Once in the hall, the woman led me to the left. We took several more turns after that, and she had to use her key card at no less than four checkpoints.

Finally, we reached a section labeled NORTH. This wing of the building didn’t feel much like a lab, not like the section I’d spent the greater part of the morning in. North section had a flagrantly expensive air to it, with dark-stained hardwood and soft inset lighting.

My guide came to a stop at a six-panel door, and pressed a buzzer on the outside. A second later, the door opened and a man peered out at us.

“Thanks, Ms. Hemlin,” a voice said from inside the office. “You are excused.”

My guide nodded and scurried off.

The man at the door opened it wider, allowing me through. He hadn’t said a word to me, which gave me the impression he was only a door-opener and nothing more. I wondered how one got a job opening doors, and what special skills were on his resume. Opens doors deftly and efficiently?

I took a step inside and noticed it was easily five degrees cooler in here than it was in the hallway.

“Sit,” someone said.

The voice came from a young man seated behind an old desk with gold inlays and delicate scrollwork carved on the front. He wasn’t much older than me, or at least he appeared young, and he was more handsome than he ought to be. He knew it, too. I could tell. One of those people who used his good looks to his advantage.

I was no stranger to that. People act like beauty is a shallow thing to give weight to, but it can be a weapon, used in the same way as humor, or cunning, or intellect. You use what you got.

Growing up, my mother had always said I was beautiful, but it was never meant as praise. She had the rare gift of turning compliments into disparaging remarks.

My being beautiful was seen as a weakness in her eyes, as if I would “rest on my laurels” for the rest of my life and let the less attractive people wait on me. When I was seven, she cut my long, auburn hair to a short, short boy cut. I was called Daniel that entire year at school.

When I turned fourteen and grew C-cup boobs, she bought me compression bras.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started to realize that being pretty wasn’t such a bad thing. And just to drive the point home to my mother, I started wearing tighter shirts, shorter skirts, and push-up bras. She tried grounding me, but by that point I’d outgrown her, both physically and mentally. I’d learned how to intimidate her from the best teacher: my father.

My mother backed off after a while.

Thankfully, she’d all but ignored Anna. I only hoped she continued to ignore her while I was gone.

“Dani,” the good-looking man said. In the soft overhead lighting, his dirty blond hair appeared wet, but I suspected it was some kind of hair product to keep it slicked back. Darker stubble covered his face.

He wore a plain white button-up, the top two buttons undone, and a tailored black suit jacket that hinted at toned arms. Sitting beside him, on the desk, was a pair of camel-brown leather gloves.

In his left hand, he held a file, and in his right was a tumbler of amber liquid.

He took a swig and set the glass down as I eased into one of two chairs. I checked his desk for a nameplate but found none.

 “It’s nice to meet you.” He smiled, displaying a row of flawless white teeth.

“We haven’t met,” I reminded him. “I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name.”

The smile widened. He dropped the file next to the tumbler and pulled in a breath to respond.

I cut him off. “And don’t say touché.”

He raised a brow. “Why not?”

“Because that’s what most people would say.”

“And you don’t think I’m most people?”

I glanced around the room, assessing. What people choose to surround themselves with says a lot about who they are.


  • "Within minutes, this medical-engineering thriller will have readers glued to their seats....Riveting."
    Kirkus Reviews on Altered
  • "A rapid-fire thriller....Fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series seeking more dystopian titles would likely enjoy this new adventure."—Booklist on Altered

On Sale
Dec 3, 2013
Page Count
32 pages

Jennifer Rush

About the Author

Jennifer Rush is the author of Devils & Thieves and the Altered Saga. She currently lives in Michigan with her family, where the winters make her grumpy and the summers make her forget the winters. When not writing, she can be found curled up with a good book or out wandering, either by foot or by car. She dreams of seeing the world someday (as long as it’s not winter).

Learn more about this author