Partner Games (Games #6)(7) read online by Jessica Clare
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Partner Games (Games #6)(7)
Author: Jessica Clare

Fourth already? And we just got here? I groaned as I finished zipping my bag and hauled it over my shoulders again. “How did they get here before us?”

“I don’t know, but we need to run,” Georgie said, her competitive side getting the better of her. She grabbed my hand and started to drag me forward. “Haul ass, Clemmy-pie.”

I trotted after her slowly, eyeing the path up the mountain. “Um, Georgie, I love you but I don’t think I can run all the way up that.”

“Just go as fast as you can,” she pressed. “If we move too slow, I’m afraid Green Machine’s going to catch up to us.”

“Damn it,” I grumbled, thinking of the smug faces of the two cops. “How do you always know what to say to get me moving?”

 

~~ * * * ~~

 

Judging by my watch, it took us two hours to climb the trail to Machu Picchu.

Judging by my legs and my lungs, it took fucking forever. By the time we got to the top of the trail, I was wheezing and exhausted, and Georgie was panting and covered in a fine sheen of sweat. I’d had two nosebleeds and my head was pounding so much that I couldn’t even enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Seriously, so far, me and Peru were at odds with each other. All these mountains were kicking my beach-living ass.

“Holy…shit…” my sister gasped ahead of me. “This is…so freaking cool. Look around, Clemmy.”

My nose felt like it was about to start another high-altitude nosebleed, so I shoved some wadded Kleenex into my nostrils to plug them and did as she advised. I was speechless.

Machu Picchu was amazing.

We were up the side of the green mountain, and nestled amongst the ridges and rocks were buildings and walls and terraces of people who’d lived here hundreds of years ago. Stone ruins of old houses and temples scattered all over the side of the mountain. My paleontologist heart gave a little pitter-pat of excitement. Tourists climbed over grassy terraces and wandered around the stone buildings, spots of color amidst the green and gray rock that dominated the area.

“Wow,” Georgie breathed.

I agreed with that. Wow didn’t seem like enough to say to encompass the enormity of the ruins around us, but, yeah. Wow. “Do you think we’ll have time to explore?” I adjusted my glasses and peered around us. “Or should we just start looking for the Temple of the Sun?”

“There’s three teams ahead of us,” Georgie said, ever practical. “We can either explore and just decide to be last place and be happy, or we can look for the Temple and try to get ahead of those three teams and see if we can get first place.”

“Temple it is,” I told her. “This place is huge. How are we ever going to find anything?”

“Easy,” she said, and moved forward to a couple of tourists who were leaving the grounds. “Excuse me,” she called out, wearing her winning smile. “Can you tell us where the Temple of the Sun is?”

They pointed.

Georgie and I were off.

Machu Picchu was huge, but we were able to find the Temple with little issue, mostly because of the people milling around. When they didn’t understand English, we’d show them our disk and they’d inevitably point us toward where the filming was.

We ran up to the temple. Like the rest of Machu Picchu, there was no roof, and it looked to my eyes more like a castle than a temple. There were stone stairs to race up, and a rounded turret at the top. As we ran up the stairs, another team appeared in the doorway, a clue disk in hand.

“Ladies,” Swift said, and winked at me.

“Oh my God, Georgie Price, I fucking love you,” Plate said to my twin, pausing on the steps as we went up. He clutched his heart dramatically.

Georgie giggled.

I rolled my eyes. As we passed them, I noticed Swift rolled his eyes and gave Plate a shove, too. That made me smile.

Until he called out, “Good luck, Tiny.”

Then my smile turned into gritted teeth.

Georgie and I entered the designated area, only to find it occupied by several people. Two cameramen immediately zoomed in on us, a production assistant hovered nearby with a headset, and there was a man in an ornate feather headdress with a stack of disks.

As the first one in the room, I hesitated. The production assistant frowned and gestured for me to go toward the costumed man. Right. I stumbled toward him and gave him a small, awkward wave. “Um, hi?”

Georgie just laughed at me. “Can we have our disk, sir?”

He held it out. On the front was written ‘Team Challenge’. Georgie took it and handed it to me, and I flipped it over to read. My hands were shaking, from adrenaline, and altitude…and maybe that wink Swift shot in my direction. “The Incas were known for the architectural style of building called ashlar, in which stone is fitted tightly together without the use of mortar. For this challenge, you will find one of the designated areas and reconstruct a stone wall using the blocks provided. All blocks must be used except one, and no light can show between the bricks. When you have finished your wall, bring the remaining brick to the Incan lord and he will give you your clue for the next challenge.”

“This sounds hard,” Georgie whispered to me.

“Nah, it’s rocks and piecing stuff together,” I told her. “We’ve got this.” After all, wasn’t that what I did for a living? I tucked the disk under my arm and down the stairs we went.

The cordoned areas were marked off on one of the green-covered terraces, and jumbled into a pile on a big World Races mat were cubes upon cubes of rocks. Off to one side was a big wooden square marked with our team color. I noticed three other displays that had been completed, and the rocks were stacked carefully inside the big wooden square, like tight fitting puzzle blocks.

Georgie made a sound of dismay and picked up a stone. “Do we just grab and start shoving?”

“No,” I said, climbing onto the pile of rocks. “I’m going to sort these into shapes and sizes, and you need to go study one of the others and look for a pattern.”

I hated to say it, but I mostly wanted Georgie out of my hair. I worked best when I could concentrate, and I knew my twin. She’d poke through the blocks and chatter the entire time. I needed quiet, and I needed to think. So as Georgie wandered off to look at the other puzzles, I began sorting blocks. Small squares went in this pile. Big flat squares went in this one. Medium-sized rectangles went in this one. There seemed to be several different shapes, but no unique rocks. That was good. I could work with that.

When I had everything sorted, Georgie moved to my side and put her hands on her knees, watching me crawl around on the ground, fitting together rocks. “Tell me how I can help, Clemmy.”

“Okay,” I said, sitting up. I pushed my glasses back on my nose. “We have eight different kinds of rocks, right?”

“Right?”

I grabbed the pile closest at hand. It was the small, rectangular bricks. “Go and count how many there are of this kind in their puzzle. Count both sides, and make sure you don’t count the bricks twice, all right?”

“Okay,” she said, a frown on her face.

“I’m going to take another brick and count how many there are in the others. We’re going to compare our count to everyone else’s count, and whichever one we have an extra of, we know that’s the additional bogus piece. Then it’s just following the pattern that the others have and putting them together.”

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