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In the seventh book in the bestselling series, evil scientists are still trying to convince Max that she needs to save the world, this time by providing the genetic link in speeding up the pace of evolution. Worse, they're trying to convince her that her perfect mate is Dylan, the newest addition to the flock. The problem is that, despite herself, Max is starting to believe it.

Fang travels the country collecting his own gang of evolved humans, but the two separate flocks must unite to defeat a frightening doomsday cult whose motto is Save the Planet: Kill the Humans. And this time, the true heroine, for once, might just be little Angel.


Chapter 4

IF I ACTUALLY DIED, that is, and if I had such a smarmy obit. Which, please. Spare me. I beg you.

I caught myself, of course, my wings thrusting with power. My sneakered feet barely grazed the dusty, red clay ground before I surged upward, deciding that killing Dylan was an appropriate response.

He had flown quickly to about a thousand feet, and I shot up to him like an arrow. As soon as I was near, he said, "Admit it! Your heart is pounding!"

"That was the free fall," I yelled, circling him in the sky, trying to find the best angle to take him out.

"Look at you!" he taunted. "Moping in a tree! Feeling all sorry for yourself!" He faced me as we circled each other, our wings rising and falling in unison. "Oh, my boyfriend's gone" he said in a high, squeaky voice, which was, I promise you, ,nothing like my voice. "Oh, what should I do? Oh, I can't live without him! Ohhh!"

A red bloodlust blurred my vision as I darted in to punch him. He blocked my arm and pushed me back. No one ever talked to me like that. No one would ever dare throw such drivel at me.

"Shut up!" was the best my adrenaline-lit brain could come up with on such short notice. "You don't know what I'm thinking or feeling!"

"Yeah, you're sitting in a tree because you're fine," he said, his handsome face flushed, his turquoise eyes glittering. "That's easy to see. I can't believe this is Maximum Ride, destroyer of despots, warrior hottie, leader of the flock! All you need now to make yourself more pathetic is a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream!"

Okay, I've been called everything from arrogant to zippy, but no one's ever called me pathetic. Had I really sunk so low?

"Me, pathetic?" I snapped back. "Look in a mirror lately, loser? I can't stand you, but every time I look up, you're making cow eyes at me!" I swung my feet forward and smashed him in the chest—just as I had done to that whitecoat in my daymare. He let out an "Oof" and couldn't catch his breath for a moment, falling about twenty feet.

Then he rushed back at me, nothing like the thoughtful, eager-to-please guy eh'd been when we'd first met. Where was he learning how to fight like this?

He whapped me on my side with a powerful wing, making me spin. I'd actually never been hit by a wing before. It's feathery but packs a surprising punch.

"Oh, you can stand me," Dylan said as I righted myself. "You're just afraid to!"

"You're a delusional freak!" I shrieked, trying to drop down to him so I could kick the side of his head. But he feinted and swung to the left, then he grabbed my ankle and yanked hard. My wings bent up painfully. I went horizontal so I could box his ears. He sucked in a breath and let go of me, then I managed a weak kick to his arm.

I got it now. That's where he was learning to fight: from me!

"Why can't you just get out of here and leave me alone?" I bellowed.

"I can't!" Dylan shouted back, his face twisted with an anger I'd never seen from him.

"You can," I said through gritted teeth. "Just point your wings that way and flap!"

"No, I mean, I really can't!" A look of confusion crossed his too-good-looking face. Suddenly, he lost all bitterness and just hovered in the air near me, his wings working smoothly and steadily. He rubbed one hand across his chin. "I actually can't," he said, calmer now, looking at the ground far below us. "And you know why, Max. Don't make me say it." He sounded vulnerable, frustrated.

I'd been told that he had been created—literally created—just for me, as my "perfect other half." Let me tell you—if Dylan was my perfect other half, then I needed to give my first half a serious look-see. It all just seemed like total sciencey bullcrap right now.

"I know why, Dylan. It's because I'm the only available teenage winged female you've ever met. You might want to wait until they start mass-producing them. Better selection. They've still gotta work all the bugs out." I frowned, thinking of Fang finding a bug-free Max.

"Never, Max," Dylan said. "I'm programmed to imprint on you. You know it. I can't fight the urge to be with you, no matter what."

"That's why you've been stuck to me like glue?" I said. "Because you have to?!"

Dylan frowned at me."Yeah. I think."

"You think?"

Suddenly his gaze was piercing, haunted."I think I'd want to be with you even if I were programmed to do the exact opposite."

There was nothing I could say to that. Instead, I folded back my wings and dropped fast to the ground.

Copyright © 2011 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 (Ella and Simone), Huntik (Sophie) The Winx Club (Techna) and Chaotic (Sarah). Other audio books include Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen and After by Amy Efaw for which she was awarded a 2009 AudioFile Earphones Award. Rebecca is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

Audio Excerpts (MP3)
Clip #1
Chapter 1 to 4
Clip #2
Chapters 5 to 8
Clip #3
Chapters 9 to 12
Clip #4
Chapters 13 to 16
Clip #5
Chapters 17 to 20
Clip #6
Chapters 21 to 23
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