Firstlife (Everlife #1) - Gena Showalter Page 0,1

no one else has managed to do. You’re too young, and your methods for success have always been inappropriate. But not this time! Persuade the girl to make covenant with us, but keep your pants zipped while you do it. And do not fail. We need her.

Might Equals Right!

Madame Pearl Bennett


From: K_F_5/23.53.6

To: P_B_4/65.1.18

Subject: Fail? Not in This Lifetime <—See What I Did There?

You’ve never cared about my methods before, only the end result. What’s changed? What’s so important about this girl? If you’ve got inside info, do me a solid and share with the rest of the class.

And just so you know, we don’t need anyone. We’ve never been stronger, and we outnumber the Troikans two to one. Also, this girl is basically an “it.” When she dies, she’ll just be one more cog in our wheel. But don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll sign her—my way. I always do.

In other news, Troika sent Archer. I’m going to cut off his limbs and beat him to Second-death with them.


From: P_B_4/65.1.18

To: K_F_5/23.53.6

Subject: NO!

Control your temper until you’ve signed the girl. Afterward, I’ll use my highest pair of heels to pin Archer down, and you can flay his skin to wear as a coat, if that’s what you desire. Have I made myself clear? Do not engage. Not yet!

And the girl is so much more than an “it” and a “cog.” Everyone is! But this day, she’ll be your boss. She’ll be both our bosses. If I were you, I’d be careful how I treated her.


From: K_F_5/23.53.6

To: P_B_4/65.1.18

Subject: Sorry, but You’re NOT Me

What you are? Too cute. Imagine me wincing in embarrassment for you as I say: I don’t actually care about your permission. Consider my last message an FYI.

And you know better than most I treat my bosses the same way I treat everyone else. If you don’t like it, Madame, you can absolutely reassign me. I have nothing to lose. I’m guessing you have plenty.


From: P_B_4/65.1.18

To: K_F_5/23.53.6

Subject: Nothing to Lose?

How about something to gain? Sign the girl, and I’ll give you what you’ve always wanted. Your mother’s name and where to find her.

I’ve been told history is written by survivors,

but I know that isn’t always true.

My name is Tenley Lockwood and very soon, I’ll be dead.

This is my story—but my end is only the beginning.

chapter one

“You are better off Unsigned than a slave to Troikan law.”


I’ve been locked inside the Prynne Asylum—where happiness comes to die—for three hundred and seventy-eight days. (Or nine thousand and seventy-two hours.) I know the exact time frame, not because I watched the sun rise and set in the sky, but because I mark my walls in blood every time the lights in the good-girls-gone-bad wing of the facility turn on.

There are no windows in the building. At least, none that I’ve found. And I’ve never been allowed outside. None of the inmates have. To be honest, I don’t even know what country we’re in, or if we’re buried far underground. Before being flown, driven, shipped or dropped here, we were heavily sedated. Wherever we are, though, it’s bone-deep cold beyond the walls. Every day, hour, second, our air is heated.

I’ve heard friends and enemies alike ask the staff for details, but the response has always been the same. Answers have to be earned.

No, thanks. For me, the price—cooperation—is simply too high.

With a wince, I rise from bed and make my way to the far corner of my cell. Every step is agony. My back hates me, but the muscles are too sore to go on strike. Last night I was caned just because.

I stop in front of my pride and joy. My calendar. A new day means a new mark.

I have no chalk, no pen or marker, so I drive the tip of an index finger over a jagged stone protruding from the floor, slicing through the flesh and drawing a well of blood.

I hate the sting, but if I’m honest, I’ll love the scar it leaves behind. My scars give me something to count.

Counting is my passion, and numerology my favorite addiction. Maybe because every breath we take is another tick on our clock, putting us one step closer to death...and a new beginning. Maybe because my name is Tenley—Ten to my friends.

Ten, a representation of completion.

We have ten fingers and ten toes. Ten is the standard beginning for any countdown.

I was born on the tenth day of the tenth month at 10:10 a.m. And, okay. All right.