Onyx A LUX NOVEL Book two Onyx A LUX NOVEL Book two Jennifer ll.

Armentrout T his book is a w ork of fict ion. Names, charact ers, places, and incident s are t he product of t he aut hor’s imaginat ion or are used fict it iously. Any resemblance t o act uall event s, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincident al. Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer ll. Arment rout . All right s reserved, including t he right t o reproduce, dist ribut e, or t ransmit in any form or by any means.

For informat ion regarding subsidiary right s, please cont act t he Publisher. Ent angled Publishing, LLC 2614 Sout h T imberline Road Suit e 109 Fort Coll ins, CO 80525 Visit our w ebsit e at w w w .ent angledpublishing.com. Edit ed by Liz Pell et ier Cover design by Liz Pell et ier Print ISBN 978-1-62061-011-4 Ebook ISBN 978-1-62061-012-1 Manufact ured in t he Unit ed St at es of America First Edit ion August 2012 T he aut hor acknow ledges t he copyright ed or t rademarked st at us and t rademark ow ners of t he follow ing w ordmarks ment ioned in t his w ork of fict ion: Oreos, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., W i , Coke, Expedit ion, Barbie, Rubik’s Cube, Infinit i, X-Men, Snack Pack, Prius, Pop-Tart , Google, Pept o-Bismol, Mac, Y ukon, W index, Rolex, Dumpst er, Jet t a. Dedicated to book lovers and book bloggers everywhere, those large and small.

Chapter 1
Ten seconds passed bet w een w hen Daemon Black t ook his seat and w hen he poked me under my shoulder blade w it h his t rust y pen. Ten w hole seconds. T w ist ing around in my seat , I inhaled t he unique out doorsy scent t hat w as all him. Daemon pulled his hand back and t apped t he blue cap of his pen on t he corner of his lips. Lips I w as w ell familiar w it h. “Good morning, Kit t en.” I forced my gaze t o his eyes. Bright green, like t he st em of a freshly cut rose. “Good morning, Daemon.” Unruly dark hair fell over his forehead as he t ilt ed his head. “Don’t forget w e have plans t onight .” “Y eah, I know . Looking forw ard t o it ,” I said dryly.

As Daemon leaned forw ard, his dark sw eat er st ret ched over broad shoulders. He t ipped his desk dow n. I heard t he soft inhales from my friends Carissa and Lesa, felt t he eyes of everyone in class w at ching us. One corner of his lips curved higher, as if he w ere secret ly laughing. T he st ret ch of silence became t oo heavy. “W hat ?” “We need t o w ork off your t race,” he said, low enough t hat only I could hear. T hank God. Trying t o explain w hat a t race w as t o t he general populace w as not somet hing I w ant ed t o get int o. Oh, you know , just alien residue t hat rubs off on humans and light s t hem up like a Christ mas t ree and becomes a homing signal to an evil alien race. W ant some? Uh huh. I picked up my pen and considered poking him w it h it . “Y eah, I figured as much.” “And I have t his really fun idea of how w e can do it .” I knew w hat his “fun idea” w as. Me. Him. Making out . I smiled, and t he green of his eyes heat ed. “Liking t he idea?” he murmured, and his gaze dropped t o my lips. An unhealt hy amount of excit ement had my ent ire body humming, and I reminded myself t hat his sudden t urnaround had more t o do w it h t he effect of his bizarre alien mojo on me t han it did w it h me as a person. Ever since Daemon healed me aft er t he bat t le w it h t he Arum, w e w ere connect ed, and w hile t hat seemed t o be enough for him t o jump int o a relat ionship, it w asn’t for me. It w asn’t real. I w ant ed w hat my parent s had. Undying love. Pow erful. T rue. A w hacked-out alien bond couldn’t do t hat for me. “Not in t his lifet ime, buddy,” I said finally. “Resist ance is fut ile, Kit t en.” “So is your charm.” “W e’ll see.” Rolling my eyes, I faced t he front of t he classroom. Daemon w as a t ot all babe, but he w as st ab-w ort hy, w hich, at t imes, zeroed out t he babe part . Not alw ays, t hough.

Our ancient t rig t eacher shuffled in, clut ching a t hick w ad of papers w hile he w ait ed for t he t ardy bell. Daemon poked me w it h his pen. Again. Squeezing my hands int o fist s, I debat ed ignoring him. I knew bet t er. He’d just keep poking me. T urning around, I glared at him. “W hat , Daemon?” He moved as fast as a cobra st riking. W it h a grin t hat did funny t hings t o my st omach, he glided his fingers along my cheek, plucking a t iny bit of fuzz out of my hair. I st ared at him. “Aft er school…” I st art ed t o get all kinds of crazy ideas as his grin t urned w icked, but I w asn’t playing his game anymore. I rolled my eyes and w hipped back around. I w ould resist my hormones…and t he w ay he got t o me like no one else. A slight t ic of pain t hrobbed behind my left eye t he rest of t he morning, w hich I t ot ally blamed on Daemon. By lunch, I felt like someone had sucker punched me in t he head. T he st eady noise of t he cafet eria and t he mix of disinfect ant and burned food made me w ant t o run from t he room. “Y ou going t o eat t hat ?” Dee Black gest ured at my unt ouched cot t age cheese and pineapple. Shaking my head, I pushed my t ray over, and my st omach roiled as she dug in. “You could eat t he foot ball t eam under t he t able.” Lesa w at ched Dee w it h obvious envy sparkling in her dark eyes. I couldn’t blame her. I’d once seen Dee eat an ent ire package of Oreos in one sit t ing. “How do you do it ?” Dee shrugged daint y shoulders. “I guess I have a fast met abolism.” “W hat did you guys do t his w eekend?” Carissa asked, frow ning as she w iped her glasses w it h t he sleeve of her shirt . “I w as filling out college applicat ions.” “I w as making out w it h Chad all w eekend.” Lesa grinned. Bot h girls looked at Dee and me, w ait ing for us t o share. I guessed t he w hole killing-apsycho-alien-and-almost -dying t hing probably w asn’t somet hing t o t hrow out t here. “We hung out and w at ched st upid movies,” Dee answ ered, giving me a slight smile as she t ucked a shiny black curl behind her ear. “It w as kind of boring.”

Lesa snort ed. “Y ou guys are alw ays boring.” I st art ed t o smile, but a w arm t ingle skat ed across t he nape of my neck. T he conversat ion around me faded and a few seconds lat er, Daemon dropped int o t he seat t o my left . A plast ic cup full of st raw berry smoot hie—my favorit e—w as set in front of me. I w as more t han a lit t le shocked t o be receiving any present from Daemon, much less one of my favorit e t reat s. My fingers brushed his as I t ook t he drink, and a jolt of elect ricit y danced along my skin. I yanked my hand back and t ook a small sip. Delish. Maybe it w ould make my t ummy feel bet t er. And maybe I could get used t o t his new gift -giving Daemon. Much bet t er t han t he ot her douchebag version of him. “T hank you.” He smiled in response. “W here’re ours?” Lesa quipped. Daemon laughed. “I’m only at t he service of one person in part icular.” My cheeks flamed as I scoot ed my chair over. “Y ou are not servicing me in any w ay.” He leaned in, closing my new ly gained dist ance. “Not yet .” “Oh, come on, Daemon. I’m right here.” Dee frow ned. “Y ou’re about t o make me lose my appet it e.” “Like t hat w ill ever happen,” Lesa ret ort ed w it h an eye roll. Daemon pulled a sub out of his bag. Only he could skip fourt h period early t o get lunch and not end up in det ent ion. He w as just so…special. Every girl at t he t able, besides his sist er, w as st aring at him. Some of t he guys w ere, t oo. He offered his sist er an oat meal cookie. “Don’t w e have plans t o make?” Carissa asked, t w o bright spot s coloring her cheeks. “Y ep,” Dee said, grinning at Lesa. “Big plans.” I w iped a hand over my damp, clammy forehead. “W hat plans?” “Dee and I w ere t alking in English about t hrow ing a part y t he w eek aft er next ,” Carissa jumped in. “Somet hing—” “Huge,” Lesa said. “Small,” Carissa correct ed, eyes narrow ing on her friend. “Just somet hing w it h a few people.” Dee nodded, and her bright green eyes glimmered w it h excit ement . “Our parent s are going t o

“T hat ’s so cool t hat your parent s are let t ing you have a part y at your house. since my birt hday w as t he follow ing Sat urday. “Not like I can st op her. Oh. so it w orks out perfect ly. I could feel t he eyes of everyone else. Heat sw ept over my cheeks. And t here w as his t w in brot her’s deat h… T he part y became t he t opic of discussion at t he t able for t he rest of t he lunch period. “Cookie?” he offered. “Come and get it . daring me.” Dee shrugged one shoulder and looked aw ay. “Mine w ould st roke out if I even suggest ed somet hing like t hat . He w inked. And maybe even Daemon. T hen he w ouldn’t bear t he w eight of being responsible for his family.” I glanced at Daemon. T hat cookie—t hose lips—w ere right t here.” Come and get…? Daemon placed half the cookie betw een those full. his mout h inches from mine. During t he t ime w e’d spent t oget her. w hich meant he didn’t have a problem w it h it . and Daemon…dear God.” His lips t ipped up one side and he leaned t ow ard me. no w ay w as t his going t o st ay a “small ” part y. “Sure. but I couldn’t bring myself t o check out w hat t hey really w ere doing. “Our parent s are pret t y cool. holy alien babies everyw here… My mout h dropped open. holding a cookie full of chocolat e chips. He shrugged.be out of t ow n Friday. t he part y w ould be all over t he school. W hich w as kind of cool scheduling. t here w as no w ay I could refuse t hat . My st upid heart skipped a beat . Daemon arched his brow s. t oo. In a t ow n w here drinking in a cornfield w as t he height of excit ement on a Friday night . Did Dee realize t hat ? “Y ou okay w it h all of t his?” I w hispered t o Daemon. Upset t ummy or not . I t ruly believed Dee w ant ed her parent s alive more t han she w ant ed anyt hing else in t his w orld.” I forced my expression blank as a pang hit me in t he chest . totally kissable lips. But by Friday.” I knew he could if he w ant ed. Several of t he girls at t he t able made sounds t hat had me w ondering if t hey w ere t urning int o puddles under t he t able. .” Carissa said. I’d figured out most of his bad at t it ude w as because of all t he st ress.

but Ash T hompson w as chat t ing w it h anot her boy. “You didn’t come st raight home aft er school. “I t hink I’m going t o hurl. but it w as…it w as chocolat e chip. and I w asn’t sure w hat t hat said about me. They were advanced reader copies from other bloggers passing t hem along for review . And I w as. Maybe t hat w as w hy I w as light headed and dizzy. Breaking t he cookie in t w o. And I also ignored six feet and t hen some of boy leaning against t he railing. T he t rip home w as t ort urous. My hands felt w eak. Kit t en. super-hot version of t he Secret Service and I’d managed t o evade him. Daemon reached up and t ook t he cookie. Huh. … There were several packages waiting for me at the post office and I only barely squealed. My gaze moved aw ay from t heir t able. I ignored t he w ay t he skin on t he back of my neck t ingled as I climbed t he porch st eps. . Gat hering my mail close t o my chest . “T ime’s up.” I st ared at him. I w ant ed t o craw ll in a hole. Taking anot her sip of my smoot hie. My hands shook a lit t le as I reached for t he chain around my neck. like. w hat ever. Mr. Was he a Luxen? T here w eren’t many t heir age.Dee gagged. I kind of w ant ed t o. I expect ed t o find Daemon’s alien ex-girlfriend giving me her t rademark bit ch look. T he obsidian w as cool against my skin. Maybe I w as coming dow n w it h somet hing. My t hought s w ere scat t ered. but he w as st aring at a t able full of jocks w ho w ere making some int ricat e designs w it h t heir mashed pot at oes. as if he’d just w on some bat t le. T here w as a gleam t o his eyes. Glancing around t he cafet eria. No one else even remot ely looked in our direct ion. Sure evidence I w as coming dow n w it h mad cow disease. So I needed t o st op freaking out . I felt unease skit t er along my spine like I w as being w at ched. It surely had not hing t o do w it h t he boy sit t ing beside me. So I at e it and loved it . Garrison st ood by t he double doors t o t he library. Like he w as my ow n screw ed-up.” Annoyance colored his t one. he handed me t he larger piece. W hat did he t hink I w as going t o do? Take t he cookie from his mout h like somet hing st raight out of an Rrat ed version of Lady and t he T ramp? Heck. half t empt ed t o t hrow it back in his face. feeling foolish for being w eirded out over not hing. scanning t he rest of t he cafet eria. I shook my head.” Mort ified. but I doubt ed Ash in all her supremeness w ould be smiling at a human boy. It w asn’t like an Arum w as going t o bum-rush t he high school cafet eria. comfort ing—a herald of safet y. I snat ched it aw ay.

” he replied smoot hly. he grabbed a glass of milk. “Obviously I had t o go t o t he post office. Is t hat w hat you’re t alking about ?” I peeked up. “Sure. “Y our mail could’ve w ait ed. And keep it dow n. “Y ou picked milk. Of course. “Y eah.” I sighed. “Do you…feel anyt hing around me?” “Ot her t han w hat I felt t his morning w hen I saw how good you looked in t hose jeans?” “Daemon. “T he back of my neck get s all w arm and t ingly. “Y eah. Our argument had t urned int o a st eamy make-out session st raight from one of t hose cheesy romance novels I read. w hich reminded me of t he last t ime he’d been in my house dressed like t hat . t oo?” .” His long fingers idly t raced circles on t he w ooden t able. We hadn’t mast ered t he art of polit e conversat ion yet .” “I know t here probably aren’t any Arum around right now . As he sat beside me. I realized he w as w earing black sw eat s.” Nah.I dug out my keys w it h my free hand.” Mut t ering under his breat h. T w o more w eeks… I fiddled w it h my glass. I really missed my lapt op and my blog. Daemon’s alien mojo had blow n most of t he light bulbs in t he house and had fried my lapt op. It w as so hot .” I replied. t aking my glass t o t he t able. not looking up. books w ere more import ant t han t he Arum. “Drink?” He sighed. Mom promised me a new comput er for my birt hday. We’d got t en int o it . My mom’s asleep. I poured myself a glass. HE NOT ICED ME! “I’m being serious. Milk?” I gest ured at t he fridge. “Help yourself. t hat ’s more import ant t han your books. Right now . Y ou’re not going t o get it for me?” “I offered orange juice. “Can I ask you a quest ion?” “Depends. you feel it .” Daemon follow ed me int o t he kit chen. t oo t ired t o get int o it w it h Daemon. People w ho didn’t heart books didn’t underst and.” “Y ou offered. it w as just books. I sighed.” I pushed open t he door and dropped t he pile on t he t able inside t he foyer. he w as right behind me. A half smile played across his lips. but you can never be t oo careful. “W hat is it ? Just books?” Grabbing t he OJ from t he fridge. and you have a t race on you t hat w ill lead t hem right t o our doorst eps. T he encount er st ill kept me up lat e at night . Not t hat I’d ever admit it . not w ait ing for an invit e. t rying t o disregard t he girl in me t hat screamed.

Ever. W hoops. but you’re not w eak. brow s inching up his forehead. I’m st ill not w eak. especially w hen I led Baruck aw ay from your house and I killed him. Like. but I just set my half-empt y glass dow n. just w eird. “W hy?” “Y ou look like crap. T he t ingling w asn’t painful or anyt hing. T he Luxen didn’t get sick. You’ve proven yourself.” My cheeks flushed. “Are you feeling w ell?” he asked.” Daemon w at ched me over t he rim of his glass. Not really.“W henever w e’re near. kneeling dow n.” W hoa. “I know you’re not w eak. . W hich made me t hink of t hat damn chocolat e chip cookie in his mout h. Unt ill t hen. and w hen he st ared at me like I w as t he last piece of chocolat e in t he w hole w orld. “W hat ’s w rong w it h you?” “I don’t know .” Any ot her t ime his comment w ould’ve st art ed a w ar in t his house. W e need t o get you out side and t ry t o w ork your t race off. “Doubt ful. But w hat it symbolized did bot her me—t he damn connect ion w e knew not hing about .” “It doesn’t bot her you?” “Does it bot her you?” I w asn’t sure w hat t o say. “I w as going t o say t hat unt ill t hen. you’re a—” “If you say I’m a w eakness. “I t hink I’m coming dow n w it h somet hing. t hen.” His brow s furrow ed. T he concept of being sick w as foreign t o Daemon. “It could be a…side effect of t he healing. you’re at risk.” Daemon snort ed. He had t o look up slight ly t o see my face.” One second Daemon w as sit t ing at t he t able and t he next he w as beside me.” Anger pushed dow n t he nausea in my st omach.” I st ruggled t o keep my voice low . “Just because I’m human doesn’t mean I’m w eak. I w ill hurt you. I probably got alien coot ies. It w as hard t o st ick t o my resolve of not caving t o t he ridiculous not ion of us being t oget her w hen he w as act ually… nice.” “Oh. “W ell. And w hat you did t his w eekend.” He sat back. ever. t apping int o our pow ers? I st ill can’t figure out how t hat happened. “I t hink I proved t hat I’m not . I can’t afford for you t o be sick. Even our heart s w ere beat ing t he same. I bet he’d look hot w it h a milk must ache.

Get off your but t and let ’s w ork off some of t hat t race. As long as you carry t he t race. “Y eah…not my ego. I backed up unt ill my hands found t he edge of t he kit chen t able. st ret ching his Under Armour shirt across his chest . Not like I expect ed Daemon t o care I w asn’t feeling w ell. Running w as t he last t hing I w ant ed t o do. I left t he kit chen and w ent upst airs.” Daemon chuckled deeply. Kit t en. A heart beat lat er. But maybe that voice w as correct. and his lips brushed my chin.” “Kat …” “And I’m not saying t hat t o be difficult . he w as in front of me. He moved a fract ion of an inch closer. A st rangled gasp escaped t he back of my t hroat . but I changed int o a pair of sw eat s and a t hermal. “Daemon. His breat h w as w arm against my cheek and our eyes locked.” I groaned. w hispered an insidious. He only cared about himself and his sist er.T he side of his lips t w it ched as if he knew w hat I w as t hinking and w as fight ing a smile. chuckling smugly. annoying voice in my head. Not t hat lit t le smirk of his. T hen he prow led forw ard. Placing his hands on eit her side of my hips. “Keep t elling yourself t hat . And suddenly he w as st anding. and I sw ayed t ow ard him. I’m really not feeling w ell. blocking my exit .” In a blink of an eye. . t ow ering over me. he bent forw ard. T hat’s not true. “I just w ant you out of my face. Go anyw here. Daemon pulled back. “I’ll get changed. “W hat ?” I demanded. heard him begging me not t o leave him.” I pushed up from t he t able.” Surprise w idened his eyes as he st epped back. “Caving in so easily?” “Caving in?” I laughed w it hout feeling. I feel like hurling.” “Keep using your ego st eroids. Go get ready. My skin st ill felt clammy and gross and it had not hing t o do w it h w hat happened. “It ’s not safe for you t o be running around w hen you look like a damn light house. “Now I need you t o prove you’re not w eak. Kit t en.” He folded his muscular arms.” Dammit ! Giving him t he finger. you can’t do anyt hing. He had healed me w hen he could’ve left me t o die and I had heard his t hought s. head low ered and eyes full of int ent . but a real smile. ignoring t he rolling in my st omach.

she placed her hand against my forehead. I dow ned t hem. t he brisk November w ind. “Open up. Some sixt h sense knew t his w asn’t going t o end w ell.” Prying one eye open. I obedient ly opened my mout h. I’ll call and check on you before t en. I couldn’t do it . I speed w alked all t he w ay back t o t he house. but …” “Mmm. but I w ant you t o st ay in bed and rest . Chapter 2 I last ed t w ent y minut es. “I should probably call in t o w ork—” “No. “Honey. W it h t he uneven t errain of t he w oods. I’m okay. rest ing my head against t he t ub. she handed me t w o pills.Eit her w ay.” She grabbed a tow ell and ran it under the tap.” Pausing. and t he boy next t o me. W it hin a minut e of reaching my bat hroom. “On and off all day. “It ’s probably just t he flu. “How long have you been feeling sick.” I t ook t he t ow ell from her. pressing it against my forehead.” She placed bot h on t he t able and sat beside me. “It ’s just t he flu. “T he t emp isn’t t hat bad. almost cert ain I w as approaching st age one of a zombie infect ion. She hurried int o t he bat hroom. I t hrew up—t he clut ching-t he-t oilet . pulling my hair back. honey? A few hours. It w as so bad I w oke up Mom. I closed my eyes. t ears-st reamingdow n-my-face kind of hurling. I saw a t hermomet er shoved at my face. “Here’s your phone and some w at er. . but I ignored him. I had t o sw allow t he urge t o puke and go for a fun jog.” I moaned. on-my-knees.” she t old me. you’re burning up. Sleep w as all I needed. T he coolness w as w onderful. “One hundred and one. okay?” I nodded and t hen snuggled dow n. or just now ?” Mom—ever t he nurse. Changing int o a long sleep shirt t ook an absurd amount of t ime. T he room did a T ilt -a-W hirl on me as I climbed under t he covers. Leaving him halfw ay t o t he lake. I w ant you t o t ake t his. And I feel bet t er already. “Depending on how high your t emperat ure is. no quest ions asked. She gave me a bland look and w ait ed unt ill t he t hing beeped. She folded up anot her damp clot h and placed it over my forehead.” Mom clucked over me unt ill I got up and t ook a show er. w e w ill det ermine if I’m st aying home. all day. Daemon called out t o me a couple of t imes. and I squeezed my eyes shut and w ait ed for Mom t o ret urn.” I groaned. T sking under her breath.

A w eird fog ent ered my brain. It didn’t t ake me long t o reach t he lake. Y ell ow . Icy w at er lapped at my ankles and t hen my knees. Gold. it seemed. promising relief. “W hy?” . “I…I need t o cool dow n. I moved forw ard. W ind w hipped around me as I st ared at t he apparit ion. “Kat ?” Slow ly. My skin felt st ret ched t ight over my muscles—hot and prickly. but I st umbled dow n t he hall and t hen dow nst airs. Tw o beat s at once. and t he room spun. heavy and errat ic. covering my clut t ered comput er desk. I slept . I realized. He couldn’t be real.” Underst anding shot across his face. T he night shirt w as damp. But it w asn’t enough. t he moonlight leading t he w ay. beckoning me. st opping w hen my t oes sunk t hrough loose dirt . Red. but I pushed on. T he front door w as like a beacon. Sw elt ering. w aking up once t o check in w it h Mom. I w as so hot . t he w ind blow ing my damp shirt and hair back. and t hen again past midnight . Moonlight sliced his face in shadow s. Prickling heat scorched my skin as I st ood t here. I w as dreaming. a never-ending t rain of nonsense. Cold sw eat dot t ed my forehead as I sat up. I low ered my gaze and t he t rees lining t he road shift ed colors. but I kept w alking. I t urned. burning up from t he inside. yes. I st ood. but never fuzzy. He seemed fuzzy. All I knew w as t hat I needed t o cool dow n. t he onyx-colored w at er rippled. reflect ing in his w ide. Burning. T hen t hey t urned a mut ed shade of brow n. I st ood on t he porch. Daemon w as never fuzzy. It w ould be cold out side. Several t imes t he w orld felt like it t urned upside dow n. Under t he pale light . int ensely bright . My insides felt as if t hey’d melt ed int o goo. My t humping heart echoed in my head.” I moved backw ard. Fast and blurry somet imes. Kit t en?” Daemon asked. I didn’t know w here I w as going. I w ent t o push t he blanket s off and not iced t hey w ere across t he room. St ars lined t he night sky. I st epped off t he porch. T he door t o t he hall w ay sw ung open. In a daze. Pieces of gravel poked at my feet . clinging t o my feverish skin. “Don’t you dare go int o t hat lake. My t hought s ran int o one anot her. T hen I w ould be cold. “W hat are you doing. bright eyes.

” He pulled back.” He brushed back t he hair plast ered t o my cheeks. hoping t o ext inguish t he flames. “Kat . Cold w at er soot hed t he burning in my skin. I sunk fart her dow n. No Kat y. grasping my shoulders and giving me a light shake. my arms hung limply at my sides. pressing my cheek int o his chest .” I pushed at him w eakly. look at me. Kit t en. … Things were hazy. w rapping my arms around his t aut w aist . I dragged in deep gulps.” “Kat . “But I do w ant you. Fingers smoothed over my cheek. back t ow ard t he lake. Like a song. I st umbled from his hands. Come on. Y ou’re burning up. “Hell —sicker t han you already are.” Let t ing go. I sighed. St rong. T he w hole w et w hit e shirt … It ’s w orking. “I…I don’t feel good. “Kat . Y ou aren’t fooling anyone. His arms w ere around me before I t ook t w o st eps. Daemon w as pulling me out of t he blessed w at er. I leaned int o him. don’t you t hink?” He w asn’t making sense. Brain cells w ere definit ely melt ing. Bot h hands w ere on my face. T he reprieve w as over. lost for a lit t le w hile. A deep voice spoke to me in a language t hat w as musical and soft . solid arms surrounded me. and my skin w as burning again. st ealing my breat h and t he fire. Maybe I w ould. nearly fading. It ’s t oo cold. “I’m so hot . disjointed.” I w asn’t looking at him? My legs gave out . but a midnight sw im in November? T hat ’s a lit t le daring. don’t make me come in t here and get you.“W hy?” He t ook a st ep forw ard. Warm hands kept the hair back from my face. but my lungs w ere seared.” T his w as just a dream. now is not t he t ime t o get int o t hat conversat ion. you’re hot . Kit t en. “W hat ’s w rong w it h you?” he demanded. T he burn eased. but …more beaut iful and comfort ing. . pulling me back t o t he surface. t urning me around.” His int ense gaze drift ed dow n t o my t oes. “I know . No t hought s. “It ’s t oo cold. you can’t get in t he lake. Kit t en.” Somet hing in w hat he said cleared a bit of t he haze. I could st ay under here forever. No Daemon. holding my head up. I sunk int o t he sound. “I don’t w ant you. He smelled w onderful. moving so fast I w as in t he w at er one second and st anding on shore t he next . “Yeah. It w ashed over my head. You’re going t o get sick. “Have you lost your mind?” “Don’t . Frigid air rushed me.” My head t hrobbed. And t hen t here w as not hing. No fire.” Daemon’s arms t ight ened around me.” “Uh. Like spice and man.

Mom had been by my side. … Four days of being in the hospital. It ’ll just make t he t race w orse. Everyt hing burned. not cert ain I w as ever going t o w ake up. and it t ook a heft y amount of bit ching t o get released aft er I spent all day T hursday t elling anyone w ho came w it hin a block of my door t hat I w ant ed t o go home. but t his w eird in-bet w een w here a fire raged in my body. I heard more voices. More hushed voices. Gasping. He had t he cool hands. not somet hing serious. “Y ou can’t . T here w as no day or night . She w as t alking t o…someone. Now Mom w at ched me w it h shadow ed eyes as I dow ned t he glass of orange juice from our fridge. Missing t hree days of classes already earned me t he t ruckload of homew ork Dee had dropped off last night . I had t o be… And t hen t here w as a coolness in my veins. Mom? Mom sounded w orried. I didn’t hear Mom as I felt t he prick again on my skin. even. and a st rangled scream escaped t he back of my t hroat . are you sure you’re feeling w ell enough t o go back t o class? You can t ake t oday off and go back on Monday if you w ant . staring at a w hit e ceiling and feeling fine. T here w as a prick in my arm. t ugging somet hing up. you w ere in t he hospit al. and I knew I w as dying. I’d obviously had a bad case of t he flu. I arched my back off t he bed. but I felt t he obsidian humming. like a rush of w int er’s air. Wet clot hing st ripped aw ay. A st eady heart beat under my cheek. I w asn’t sure. vibrat ing above me. T he hands moved t o my neck. I t ried t alking t o t he voices around me. Heat sw ept inside me. a dull pain t hat radiat ed t o my fingers. Bright light s int ruded. It moved quickly. At some point . Y ou should t ake it easy. Once. She w as in jeans and a light sw eat er. and t hen I heard not hing. Only that I woke up Wednesday in an uncomfortable bed. Somet hing w arm and soft slid over my skin.” “Honey.” I w as moved around. I t hought I heard Dee. Great . rushing t hrough my veins. pulling my arm out from underneat h t he covers. I w as w rapped in a cloud and carried somew here. T hen t he cool hands w ere back. lulling me unt ill t he voices faded and cool hands event ually replaced t he w arm ones. and I had next to no recolection of any of it.” . “Honey. It w as odd seeing her out of her scrubs. Someone I didn’t recognize. And t hen I slept for w hat felt like an et ernit y. “I’m fine. dousing t he flames and leaving a t rail of ice in it s w ake. A fire raged inside me t en t imes w orse t han before. A chain…my necklace? T he hands w ere gone.I heard voices.” I shook my head. and maybe I did.

W hy don’t I give him a quick call and see if he can check on you before he goes in for his rounds?” Even more bizarre w as t hat my mom w as now referring t o my doct or on a first -name basis—t heir relat ionship had t aken a t rip int o serious land. No w ay. If it w as…I w as going t o…I didn’t know w hat I’d do. and I’d missed it . Grabbing my backpack. “Y ou mumbled a lot .” I w ondered w hat I’d done in front of t hem t hat I couldn’t remember. I st opped. Alt hough. A few seconds lat er. no. pulling out her t ext book. “I did?” . “Do I even w ant t o know ?” Lesa giggled. How in t he hell had Daemon know n I w as sick? T he dream I had about t he lake couldn’t have been real. crap. “I’m glad you’re feeling bet t er. I’m curious how he knew you w ere so sick at t hree in t he morning.I w ashed out t he cup. but … Y our friend brought you t o t he hospit al. “Y ay! Y ou’re back! How are you feeling? Bet t er?” “Y eah.” Her eyes narrow ed.” Oh. but you scared me. Daemon brought you in. Really. She t ugged on a st rand of my hair as she passed.” “My friend?” “Yes.” My eyes dart ed t o t he door. And you kept calling out for someone. We w ere all w orried. “Act ually. I’m doing okay. “Y ou don’t have a fever. it seemed. “Mom?” “Y es?” “You came home in t he middle of t he night Monday. I w as even more confused. Lesa w as t he first t o arrive.” Oh. I am. Carissa came in. “How did I get t o t he hospit al?” “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” She placed her hand on my forehead. “W ill —Dr. smiling.” “I know you t hink you’re feeling bet t er. I’m very curious. “So am I.” She fixed my cardigan w hich I’d apparent ly but t oned w rong. right ? Before your shift ended?” W hen she shook her head. but I w as sure my flaming cheeks w ould be involved. Michaels—may have cleared you t o go home.” Chapter 3 I’d never been more eager t o get t o t rig in my life. “I’m okay. I’ve never seen you so sick. Especially w hen w e st opped by t o visit and you w ere complet ely out of it .

He had a not ebook. “Know w hat ?” I cocked my head t o t he side. My hope t hat it w ould fade along w it h t he t race w as t ot all bunk.” Lesa giggled. but I don’t t hink he ever w rot e anyt hing in it . “Y ou look a lot bet t er t han t he last t ime I saw you. Inches separat ed us. I t w ist ed around in my chair. w ait ing. “Oh. Text book-less as usual. “Meet me in t he library at lunch.” He slid int o his desk chair.” A minut e before t he t ardy bell rang. so I had t o face t he front again. T he t eacher st art ed t he class. God. His gaze flickered around me. I faced him. Taking a deep. Since t hey’d overheard part of t he conversat ion. His expression didn’t change as he leaned back in his chair. Carissa w as full of giggles and Lesa launched int o her fant asy about .” “In privat e. No one really goes in t here.” I grumbled. My mind w as st uck on t he fact I w asn’t glow ing anymore. Carissa kept her voice low . Maybe five seconds lat er. You know . I asked t he girls t o let Dee know I’d be lat e for lunch. “I need t o t alk t o you. “Y es?” He grinned. I’d been shining like a disco ball on Monday and now I didn’t have a t race? “Like. “Y ou w ere calling out for Daemon.” I dropped my face in my hands and moaned. w it h all t hose books and st uff. Aft er class. I should be—no. “It w as kind of cut e. pat ient breat h. Daemon sw aggered int o class. I felt an all-t oo-familiar w armt h on my neck and glanced up. I let my jaw fall slack.T aking pit y on me. at all?” He shook his head. He w as looking at t he t race.” I w hispered. Daemon had his desk t ipped forw ard.” “T hanks. “Okay. “Y ou’re not glow ing. I w as ecst at ic. because how else w ould Daemon get aw ay w it h not doing a damn t hing in class? He passed by w it hout so much as a look. I felt his pen poking me in t he back. it w as st ill t here. I w as beginning t o suspect our mat h t eacher w as an alien. Surprised.” I made a face before flipping t o t he front of t he class. but I w asn’t paying at t ent ion. but t he connect ion.” he w hispered. and I knew w hat he w as doing.

because I could so pict ure Daemon get t ing int o t hat sort of t hing.” He glanced up t o w here Mr. Garrison gave me t he usual unt rust w ort hy glance t hroughout biology aft er his eyes w idened upon seeing me. “Sant a Monica. I’d no longer be t he “new kid. dropping t he not e on his desk. Garrison w as w heeling t he project or t o t he middle of t he classroom. Appearing oblivious t o t he curious st ares.” “T ot ally okay. “Now know n as ’no longer t he new kid. Y ay. not many faces. Morning classes dragged. Probably had more t o do w it h t he fact he w asn’t t oo happy t hat I knew w hat t hey really w ere. “Blake Saunders from…?” “California. I’m Kat y from Florida. Garrison said.’” “Ah. like it w as st yled t hat w ay on purpose. Garrison. Mr.” Mr. Garrison scanned t he classroom. Blake from Sant a Monica.” “All right . everyone st ares kind of t hing?” “Y ou got it . He w as like t he unofficial guardian of t he Luxen living out side of t he alien colony.doing it in t he library.” I grinned. Blake t ook his seat next t o me and smiled. his gaze st opping on t he empt y seat beside me. Or t hink about . Good looking.” Mr.” He laughed soft ly. His brow n hair w as art fully messy. A st at ic charge shocked me.” “Hi. w earing a vint age Pac-Man shirt —w hich w as made of aw esome. He w as new . “small t ow n.” t he boy supplied. and a boy w alked in. “Hi. Have fun. I see.” My eyes narrow ed on Mr. A low murmur w ent t hrough t he classroom as t he st ranger handed Mr. Somet hing I didn’t need t o know . not sure if “Have fun” w as a t hinly veiled insult or a secret hope t he non-alien boy w ould dist ract me from t he alien one. . obviously. T he non-glow y version of me seemed t o get as much at t ent ion as t he glow y version.” Several oohs and ahhs follow ed t hat . Lesa sat up st raight er. w it h golden-colored skin and a confident grin on his face.” I t old him. “T here’s your seat and your lab part ner. “Sorry about t hat . I w as beginning t o t hink somet hing w as w rong w it h me. t oo. T he door opened just as he w ent for t he project or. his arm brushing mine. “It seems w e have a new st udent . But now I w as. “Good. Garrison a not e.” He pulled out a not ebook.

“Not w hat you’re hoping. A basic no-man’s-land. it w as probably t he fever. and t hen roamed around unt ill I found him back in t he nosebleed sect ion—East ern European cult ure.” My eyes snapped back t o his.” He made no move t o clear up any space in t he t iny 6x6 hole.” He st ret ched out his legs so t hat his feet w ere under mine. “How did you know I w as sick in t he middle of t he night ?” Daemon st ared at me for a moment . brushing against t hick lashes. hands shoved int o t he pocket s of his faded jeans.” Daemon gave me a sexy smirk.” “And w hat a lovely reput at ion t hat is. I sneaked a quick peek at t he new boy. “Y ou t ouched me?” . Not really. Bet t er. His lips curled int o a half smile. I st ared at t he map of Europe over his shoulder. sexy w hisper—“in privat e?” I shivered—and it had not hing t o do w it h t he t emperat ure. “Embarrassed someone w ould see you and t hink you’re capable of reading?” “I do have a reput at ion t o maint ain. Know ing Daemon. A w avy lock of hair covered his forehead. at least bio now had some eye candy. I dropped my bag out side t he w alls and hopped up on t he desk opposit e him. T he back of my neck w as w arm. W ell.Blake gave me one more quick grin before t urning his gaze t o t he front of t he classroom. He w as lounging in a cubicle beside an out dat ed comput er. “No. I dropped my gaze…t o his mout h. I entered the musty-smeling room. W rong move. Y ou w ere burning up. … Daemon wasn’t waiting at the double doors to the library.” I gripped t he edge of t he desk. “Y ou don’t remember?” His eerie eyes w ere w ay t oo int ense. “Okay. I passed a few underclassmen at t he t ables and comput ers eat ing t heir lunches. Couldn’t go w rong w it h t hat . A young librarian glanced up and smiled as I looked around. Fiddling w it h t he chain around my neck.” “W ell. he w as probably hiding so no one w ould see His Coolness in a library. “So w hat did you w ant t o t alk about ”—his voice low ered t o a deep. but I didn’t see him. “I w as w ondering if you w ere ever going t o find me. Shouldering my bag.

someone is going t o see us.“Yes. I t ouched you…and you w eren’t w earing a lot of clot hes. “Don’t hit . I smacked his hand aw ay. Not by how close w e w ere or how his fingers w ere sliding under t he sleeve of my cardigan.” “Y ou’re not nice.” Heat crept over my cheeks.” I drew in a deep breat h. so I did go sw imming in t he lake?” He pushed off t he desk and t ook one st ep forw ard. I must prot ect myself. Wow zers. “You did. Not somet hing I expect ed t o see on a Monday night . “Not like anyone is going t o say a t hing t o me. so not a good sign.” I t ried pulling back. t ugging on t he sleeve of my cardigan.” He reached out . His scent w as on my t ongue.” I hissed. Body said yes.” “I’m not sure I can do t hat .” But he dropped my hand. “Let me go. Our chest s t ouched. “It ’s not like I haven’t seen t he upper part before. I shook my head. “T his isn’t manhandling or w hat ever t he hell t hat is.” T he smug st ret ch of his lips spread. really.” Visions of me against t he w all at my house and Daemon kissing me danced in my head like sugarplums. Kat y said no. Oh. but t his st upid connect ion hasn’t ?” “Nope. but I’m not complaining. t hen?” .” “So?” He gent ly picked up my hand. Kit t en. Daemon pulled me up against his chest and low ered his head. “Oh my God. but he kept my w rist secured in his hand. I saw a lot . Part s of my body t ingled. and I didn’t get a real good look dow n—” I came off t he desk sw inging. eyes snapping w it h rest rained anger. w hich put him in t he same breat hing space as me…if he act ually needed t o breat he. It w asn’t real. t hat ’s your reason for—for manhandling me?” “Manhandling?” He pressed forw ard unt ill my low er back w as against t he cubicle desk. “And you w ere soaked…in a w hit e T-shirt . Nice look. Very nice. he w as fast . It ’s not nice. “T he lake…it w asn’t a dream?” Daemon shook his head.” “Shut up.” Disappoint ed. “Don’t be embarrassed. “W hat does t hat mean. “Daemon. I w asn’t affect ed by t his. “So my t race has faded. “Oh. My knuckles only brushed his face before he caught my hand.

and I should’ve pulled back. and I kept answ ering.” “W hat ever. I gripped and pulled him forw ard. “Y ou’re no longer at risk.” W hat w ere w e t alking about ? My hands w ere on his low er st omach. Y ou t old me you w ant ed me.” His chin brushed my hair and t hen slid over my cheek. “W e’re st ill going t o be seeing each ot her. “If t hat makes you feel bet t er. A spark passed from his skin t o mine. but w e bot h know it ’s a lie. His skin—it hummed like elect ricit y.” “Keep t elling yourself t hat . I slid my hands t o his sides. “Y ou don’t know anyt hing.” he murmured. “W ow .“I don’t know . easing my legs apart . T here w as not hing like it .” Bot h of my hands w ere on his chest . I know t hat makes you happy.” “It ’s not a lie.” Daemon gripped my hips. Y ou know w hat t hat means. T hey had a mind of t heir ow n. my free hand w as against his chest .” I t ipped my head back. and it rumbled t hrough me. t ot ally meaning t o push him aw ay.” Hold your horses. “W hen?” “At t he lake.” He slant ed his head. and I really haven’t a clue how . I w as w orried about you. “I t hink t he not seeing-your-face part out w eighs t he safe part . “Daemon…” “But back t o t he t race. Inst ead.” God. moving forw ard. “You kept calling out my name. I liked it . smoot hing up my forearm. Lost my mind.” My breat h w as coming in short gasps. So did mine. humming in t he charged air around us. You know . and I shouldn’t . His muscles w ere hard underneat h t he sw eat er. I shivered.” “T hat I don’t have t o see your face out side of school?” He laughed. His heart beat w as fast and st rong. Kit t en. His lips curved know ingly against mine.” “Uh huh. “And don’t even lie. “W hy do you keep t ouching me?” I asked. and he let go of my w rist .” he admit t ed.” . lift ing me ont o t he edge of t he desk w it h an ease t hat w as dist urbing. “I know bet t er. I must ’ve been really out of it .” His fingers w ere complet ely under my sleeve. I claimed no responsibilit y for t hem. “I had a fever. t oo. flust ered. “I like t o. His breat h w as a w arm st roke against my lips.” Somehow . but it w as like you couldn’t hear me. “You said you w ant ed me.

A heady mix of emot ions w arred inside me. I kept t elling myself t hat . W hy lie?” “Because it ’s not real. I didn’t w ant t his. I don’t t hink you even know . scorching my lips as his hands t ight ened on my w aist . T here w as a POP! and CRACK! T he smell of burned plast ic filled t he cubicle. My body burned. “Kat .” I said. It didn’t w ork. “I beg t o differ. breat hless draft s. We pulled apart .” “I did—” “Don’t you dare say you w ant ed me. And I t hink t his comput er t ells a different st ory. breat hing heavily. he sighed. our lips met . W hen his hands inched under my shirt . Over his shoulder I saw t hin st rips of smoke w aft ing from t he t op of t he ancient monit or. “God. w as like having a fever all over again. Touching him. Daemon let go.“It …scared me. “T hat —t hat w ill never happen again. T he pain and embarrassment lingered in me.” “And I t hink you’ve said t hat before. t oo.” I shot him a dirt y look. W hen he saw my expression. Everyt hing about him w as st ill around me. Against his mout h. God. My brain clicked off as my fingers dug t hrough his sw eat er. Hard. His t eet h caught my low er lip w hen he pulled aw ay. coming t o his full height . T he w orld burned. pulling me against him. it w as as t hough he reached deep inside me. w hich meant no kissing…or t ouching. in me. Good God. Sparks flew . w arming every cell.” Daemon st raight ened. I moaned. because you t reat ed me like I w as t he Ant ichrist ! You can’t just undo t hat because t here’s a st upid connect ion bet w een us. only t o come back for more. even as I slid my hands up his chest and circled t hem around his neck.” I sucked in a sharp breat h as an icky feeling spread t hrough my chest . w as t his going t o happen every t ime w e kissed? And w hat in t he hell w as I doing? I’d decided I w asn’t going t o let t his happen w it h Daemon. I w iped t he back of my hand over my mout h. Looking aw ay. and…and oh. filling every dark space w it hin me w it h t he heat from his skin. his kisses w ere deep. I w as on fire. “Y ou didn’t w ant me before. I pushed him. “You really hurt me t hen. Daemon kissed like he w as a man st arving for w at er. kissing him. st aring at me like I’d kicked his puppy int o t raffic. you enjoyed t hat —just as much as I did. t aking long. I don’t even like t his—kissing you. T he w ay he’d t reat ed me w hen w e first met st ill st ung.” Before I could respond or even give t hought t o t he fact t hat my sickness act ually scared him.” he reminded me. Y ou humiliat ed me in front of an ent ire lunch room!” . because it w as just t he connect ion bet w een us.

Just as badly as I do. I’m pret t y sure you said you’d give up your first born child t o go.” Shocked. Daemon’s eyes flashed. “I bet t hat by New Y ear’s Day. .” My mout h opened.” I shook my head. A muscle popped out in his jaw .Daemon looked aw ay. as if you don’t w ant people t o know you made a mist ake t hat day and act ed like a dick. and irrevocably—” “W ow . “Look. I st ared at him.” Y eah. I glared at him. “Y ou do w ant me.” “Y ou can’t be serious. “Y ou are w ay t oo confident .” I st art ed t o t urn. deeply. grinning proudly. Maybe he really… I shook my head.” His brow s furrow ed. “Y ou’re a t errible liar. ever. His apology w asn’t enough.” T aking a deep breat h. “I know . I’m…I’m sorry for how I t reat ed you. dragging his fingers t hrough his hair. Y ou do w ant t his. you w ill have admit t ed t hat you’re madly.” He grinned. I do like you a lo—” I cut myself off before I said t oo much. “Y ou w ant t his as badly as you w ant t o go t o ALA t his w int er. w e’re all t he w ay hidden in t he library. “Kat —” “I’m not saying w e can’t be friends. “Anyw ay. W ant t o t hrow anot her adverb out t here?” My cheeks w ere burning.” “I’m confident enough t o w ager a bet . “Y ou don’t even know w hat ALA is!” “T he American Library Associat ion midw int er event . back t o t he w hole you-w ant ing-me part . dumbfounded. but no w ords came out . “Saw you obsessing over it on your blog before you got sick. but he caught my arm. I’m going t o blame aft ereffect s of t he flu or t hat a zombie at e my brain. And I’m supposed t o be okay w it h t hat now ?” His eyes w idened. because I w ant t o.” Now my jaw w as on t he floor. “W hat ?” “I don’t w ant t his w it h you. I kind of did say t hat . t his didn’t happen. I st ruggled w it h my t emper…and my amusement . Like. “Daemon…” He looked at me st raight on. “Even now . Daemon never apologized. Kat .” he said.

I reached inside my backpack and pulled out my binder full of art crap. w at ch w here you’re going. I w hipped around. for t he love of God…” Daemon w inked. made out w it h Daemon. irrevocably. Before my fingers could t ouch it . Back t o my bet —by New Year’s Day. and irresist ibly in love w it h me. Oh my God. you’ll have admit t ed t hat you’re madly.” a t easing voice int ruded. I grabbed my backpack and hurried t hrough t he st acks. I reached for t he handle on my locker. but I already knew he w asn’t t here. I choked on my laugh. I jumped back. Seriously. I looked around t he t hinning crow ds. and my art binder fell t o t he floor. “And you dream about me. I should’ve st ayed home.“How about irresist ibly?” I rolled my eyes and mut t ered. I’d dazed out in half of my classes. Like t hrow common sense aside and run back t o t ackle him. Probably even show me your not ebook w it h my name circled in heart s—” “Oh. “It ’s on. right ? I didn’t slow unt ill I w as st anding in front of my locker on t he ot her side of t he school. “I’m surprised you know w hat an adverb is. . leaving Daemon in t he cubicle before I did somet hing insane. pret ending t hat everyt hing he’d done and said all t hose mont hs ago hadn’t left a raw mark on my heart . clenching a ragged backpack in his meat y fist . t he locker sw ung open. Kit t en. considering he could uproot t rees.” Spinning around.” “St op dist ract ing me. Daemon? He could manipulat e object s. w hat just happened? It couldn’t be… My heart rat e w ent int o cardiac arrest t errit ory. Opening a locker door w it h his mind w ould be a piece of cake for him. Because I’d be pret ending. “I bet you’ll admit t hat . and blew up anot her comput er. Sucking in a sharp gasp.” St unned. deeply. cocking an eyebrow . I hadn’t felt him t hrough our creepy alien bond. Simon Cut t ers st ood behind me. “W hoa. Gasping. I backed aw ay from t he locker. W hat a hell of a day back.” He released my arm and folded his across his chest .

I had no art ist ic t alent .” I st ood. “Excuse me?” T he t ips of Simon’s cheeks t urned ruddy as Billy lurched forw ard.” One of t he guys laughed. “Hey…w hat do w e have here?” Simon opened his mout h. Had he seen t hat happen? I knelt t o pick up my art w ork. sidled up next t o Simon. a beady-eyed foot ball player w ho only seemed t o not ice my boobs w hen he looked in my direct ion. “T his milk isn’t for free and w asn’t even for sale.” I glared at him. Cut t ers?” All of Simon’s friends’ eyes w ere on him. Billy grinned as his gaze zeroed in on me. Somet hing w as engraved on t he band. I w as drunk and I…I do st upid t hings w hen I’m drunk. “Isn’t t hat right .” I croaked. w hat are you doing?” Billy Crump. ready t o flee. He seemed t o sense t his. dropping his arm over my shoulder.” “Yeah. “I just w ant t o apologize for everyt hing t hat happened homecoming night . shoving my binder int o t he locker.” “T hanks.” “T hat ’s not w hat w e hear. He w as closely follow ed by a rabid pack of t eammat es. “Let me guess. I just didn’t —” “Yo. babe. but one of t he guys beat him t o it . sw inging . glancing back at t he locker. Epic aw kw ardness ensued as w e t ried t o pick up t he papers w it hout t ouching each ot her.” My eyes dropped t o his hand. Simon handed me a st ack of crapt ast ic draw ings of flow ers. Simon ain’t int erest ed in you. but he beat me t o it . He had five seconds before my point y-t oed shoe ended up bet w een his legs. I blinked at Simon. maybe I should. He choked out a laugh and st epped back. “Look.“Sorry. but I couldn’t make it out . because he dropped his hand and flushed. “W ait a sec. w hy buy t he cow w hen t he milk’s for free?” A slow rush of fury inched t hrough my veins. “Here you go. Simon. W hat t he hell w as Simon t elling t hese douchebags? I shrugged out from underneat h Billy’s arm. “Anyw ay. “I w ant ed t o t alk t o you. She’s t rying t o get on your jock again?” Several guys chuckled and elbow ed one anot her. Light reflect ed off t he blue and gold w at ch around his t hick w rist .” He grabbed my arm. T he scent of his cologne nearly knocked me out . “T hen maybe you should st op drinking. “Like my mama alw ays said.” He ran his hand over his closely cropped hair.” Billy fist -pumped a red-faced Simon.

Drip.his backpack over his shoulder. I’d w ant ed t ea. already having st art ed her shift in W inchest er earlier t hat day. mot ioning a “call me” hand signal w hile anot her made a rat her obscene gest ure w it h his mout h and hand. I looked around. I glanced at t he count er. One of t he t all. I decided t hat t he only t hing t hat w as going t o make t oday bet t er w as t he sw eet t ea I’d seen in t he fridge t hat morning. At t hat t hought . It had opened by it self. t he guys broke apart and headed dow n t he hall. Frow ning. Lid off. One of t hem spun around. w hich requires a glass and. t hinking someone had broken t he w indow from out side. but not int erest ed in a second glass. I faced my locker again.” My mout h dropped. “Shouldn’t you boys be in class by now ?” Laughing. frost ed glasses w as in t hree large pieces on t he count er. “Y ou lying son of a—” “W hat ’s going on dow n t here?” Coach Vincent called from t he end of t he hall w ay. Glass shat t ered. Giving up. It had st art ed aft er t he w hole locker incident and didn’t show signs of st opping. But Simon w asn’t my biggest problem. Chapter 4 Mom w as gone. I jumped at t he sound and t hen hurried t o t he kit chen. w incing as my st omach dropped t o my t oes. t ea. like I st rained somet hing. but I w asn’t sure if t hat w ere possible. “Yeah. I rummaged around. unable t o figure out t he source of t he noise. but I’d forgot t en it w as W ednesday—also know n as Fend For Y ourself Day. . but she w ouldn’t list en. but it w asn’t like w e had a lot of visit ors out here unless it w as a Depart ment Of Defense officer bum rushing t he house. Broken glass and w at er dripping… T hen it st ruck me. I w as t rying t o t ell her t hat . My pulse sped up as I opened up t he fridge. Brow n liquid ran across t he shelf. man. Drip. Drip. Fail. I w ant ed t o slam my fist int o somet hing. T he jug of t ea w as on it s side. my heart t ripped up a lit t le as my gaze w ent t o t he count er below an opened cupboard. A dull ache had t aken up residency behind my eyes. I’d been hoping she’d be home so I could chat w it h her for a lit t le w hile and forget about t he w hole locker incident . I t hrew a load of clot hes int o t he dryer before realizing t here w ere no dryer sheet s. Going t o t he linen closet . hoping t o find somet hing. w ell. spilling dow n t he sides.

like t he couch. love aft er one conversat ion. I grabbed a t ow ell and cleaned up t he mess. Just w herever I w as. T hey w eren’t really everyw here. and even t he bat hroom. W ho w as I kidding? I sort of loved all t hat angst . it w asn’t w orking. It w ouldn’t be like t hat if she caved and inst alled a w all-t o-ceiling bookcase. Could a person get schizophrenia from being sick? Now t hat just sounded st upid. Soul mat e.” I w hispered. I knew I w as more t han a lit t le freaked out by w hat w as happening. Boy pushes girl aw ay for some paranormal reason or anot her. Immediat ely. Maybe t here had been a minor eart hquake or somet hing—a minor eart hquake t hat only t arget ed glasses and t ea? Doubt ful. I dragged in air so fast my head sw am. It w as me. breat h st ealing. Boy finally admit s love. Ignoring w hat w as happening w asn’t w orking. I couldn’t clear my head and fully immerse myself in t he charact ers. It w asn’t t he book. laundry room. It had opened before I reached it . t he bane of my exist ence. Besides. T w o coincidences? Numb inside. It just w asn’t in me t o run from my t roubles like t his. I grabbed a bookmark off t he coffee t able and shoved it in t he book. moving crap around for fun. W eirded out t o t he max. But it couldn’t be me. T here w as no w ay t he act of w ant ing t ea had somehow caused t his. backing up. I grabbed a book off t he back of t he couch and spraw led out . I checked just t o be sure. But no mat t er how I t ried t o get int o t he book I w as reading. T he w hole t ime I w as t hinking about t he locker door. t oes curling. Half of it w as t he book. It had inst a-love. kit chen count ers. Dog-eared pages w ere Ant ichrist of book lovers everyw here. T his w as t he second t ime in one day t hat somet hing had moved on it s ow n. Girl st ill loves boy. Aliens had t he pow er t o do t hat kind of st uff. W hat if I w as imagining I w as moving t hings? T he fever could’ve killed off a few brain cells. But w hat ot her explanat ion could t here be? It w asn’t like t here w as an alien hiding under t he t able. recliner. if I w as honest w it h myself. Girl sees boy and falls in love. . I didn’t . I needed a serious dist ract ion. Mom hat ed t hat t here w ere books everyw here.“No w ay.

“W hy do you keep it ching your arm?” “Huh?” I st opped. and t hat w as so not logical. burned smell.” Dee cringed. Pushing off t he couch.” . “No clue. I w as t he one t o place you in dry clot hes. Kat y. “Ew .” she said.” “Alt hough he did volunt eer for t he job. I hadn’t closed t he locker door all t he w ay and Simon’s lumbering st eps had jarred it open. “No. “Daemon is so helpful.” She poked at t he gunk w it h a spat ula. “I w as t rying t o melt chocolat e. “W hat are you doing?” I peered over her shoulder. Pulling on my hoodie. Half of it had melt ed. “W hoops. t he pot s flew t o t he sink.” I shuffled over t o t he t able. dropping my arm and rushing over t o t he count er. T he t ap t urned on.” I laughed. W hat w as happening… T here had t o be a logical explanat ion for it .” Her eyes narrow ed. “Oh.” “Nice. I headed next door. t hey t ook my blood in t he hospit all t o make sure I didn’t have rabies or somet hing. And t here w as a good chance t hat Mom had left t he cap on t he t ea loose. He got me w hen he brought you back. “I have some st uff t hat you can put —holy crap. “W hat w ere you and Daemon doing at lunch?” I hesit at ed.Sit t ing up. One of t he pot s looked like it w as filled w it h t ar. she t ugged up my sleeve. I w as just about t o come get you. not even realizing I w as doing t hat .” “T hat he is.” Dee pulled t he spat ula up. W here…w here is he?” She shrugged. T he only fault in t hat line of t hought w as t he fact I lived next door t o aliens. W it h a w ave of her hand. T here w ere several pot s scat t ered across t he count ert op. T here w as a sw eet . “I w ant ed t o t alk about t he w hole lake t hing.” Dee sighed. Dee immediat ely pulled me int o t he kit chen. I w as okay.” “W it h your microw ave hands?” “It ’s an epic fail.” Laughing. t hat w as real. I w as fine.” she said.” She grabbed some dish soap. her eyes rolling. “I’m get t ing bet t er at t his. “I’m glad you came over. I’d t hought I…dreamed t hat . “I can’t get t he t emp right . I checked t he w indow t o see if Dee’s car w as out front . I t ook several more deep breat hs. I pressed my head t o my knees. “I w as hoping t hat w as you. She w as alw ays doing st uff like t hat . And t he glass—left on t he edge. by t he w ay.” “T hen w hy don’t you just use t he st ove?” “Pfft . Logical explanat ions made t he w orld go around. I loat he t he st ove.

narrow ly missing a collision. and even t hough I w as busy st aring at t he crack in t he w ood floor. “Kit t en. I hung out w it h her for t he next couple of hours. st aring at my arm. w ell.” I said.” A lazy smirk appeared.” My ent ire inner elbow looked like a fleshy st raw berry. his breat h t eased t he loose hair around my t emple. and aft er I t ugged my sleeve back dow n. sending me int o anot her fit of giggles. T he raised splot ches of red skin w ere speckled w it h darker dot s. “It ’s my favorit e book. act ually. Let me get some aloe. I usually prefer books w it h pict ures and small sent ences. T hat might help. “Does it hurt ?” I shook my head. I hid my surprise. It helped w it h t he it ching. All t hat w as missing w as a leafy green cap. Daemon w as crossing t he road just as I shut t he front door behind me.” W hen he spoke. Dee finally admit t ed defeat . Our legs t ouched.” Unable t o help it . but somet imes I st ep out of t he box. she seemed t o forget about it . In less t han a second. t oo close. It w as aft er t en. so w hat have you been doing?” “Pat rolling. She’d raised one brow at my larger chest as if t o say she’d like t o have seen me avoid t he same mist ake.” I frow ned at my arm.” “Sure. um. It ’s like you had some kind of react ion t o somet hing. “Y uck. Dee ran a finger over it . “W here. because. and I’d sw ear he managed t o get closer. but I w as glad I’d headed over and ended it hanging w it h Dee. “Everyt hing is all quiet on t he w est ern front . and I said good-bye as I headed home t o get some rest .” I avoided his ext raordinary eyes and face. I w as having a real hard t ime not recalling w hat his mout h had felt like on mine earlier. She dropped my hand. I laughed. he w as on t he t op st ep. “T hat ’s really w eird.” He st epped ont o t he porch. “All you did w as get your blood t aken?” “Y eah. He st ood close. Kat y. “Nice reference. His shoulder brushed my arm. It had been a long first day back at school. I laughed so hard my st omach hurt w hen Dee leaned t oo close t o a bow ll she w as heat ing and accident ally set her shirt on fire. I could feel his gaze on my face and t he heat from his body. W hat could’ve done t his? Dee ret urned w it h a jar of t he cool gunk. “I didn’t know you knew how t o read t he classics. your favorit e kind of pict ure book is t he one you can color in?” . It just it ched like crazy. W hen she ran out of chocolat e and plast ic spat ulas. “Well.“W hat ?” I glanced dow n at my arm and sucked in a breat h. “Let me guess.” My head jerked t ow ard his.” “Hey. w at ching her dest roy one pot aft er anot her.” I cracked a smile.

“T w ice in one w eek. Somet imes it w as t oo easy t o fall int o t he easy bant er w it h him. I’ll have you admit t ing your undying devot ion t o me by T hanksgiving. “Been t hinking about our bet ? W anna give in now ?” And he t ot ally ruined t hat t ender moment . Get t ing in w ay over my head. “T he st ars… T hey’re beaut iful t onight . T he back of his knuckles brushed my cheek and I pressed my lips t oget her t o st op a sigh. “I’ll w alk you home. he reached forw ard. and I had no idea w hat t o say.” “T hat ’s already passed. “May I?” Laughing under my breat h.” He sw ung around. Laughing under his breat h.” “Exact ly. But I gave him my arm.” He w ent dow n one st ep as I st ared w ide-eyed at him. “Of course not . “I’ve been t hinking. T he next t hing I knew . but his arms w ere st ill around me. “Hey. God…” I murmured. “T his bet really isn’t fair t o you.” “Um. T easing. Real. It had everyt hing t o do w it h t he ache in his gaze.” “Really.” He placed me on my feet .” He offered his arm. T hen he pivot ed around. T hat lazy smirk spread.“I never st ay in t he lines. having not hing t o do w it h t he simple t ouch. W armt h blossomed in my chest .” And t hen he shot off t he porch. Moment s passed in silence. t oo damn easy t o imagine doing t his w it h him every night . eh? Nope. I live right t here. Laughing. T he next second. “I w as fast er t he last t ime.” I rolled my eyes.” I said slow ly. t he roar of t he w ind drow ning out my surprised squeal.” . T here w as a t ender look in his t hat w armed and fright ened me. His lips t w it ched. Daemon. Only he could pull t hat off. grinning dow n at me. “I’ve got …t o go.” Not like he didn’t know t hat . My heart leaped int o my t hroat . My cheeks felt numb. I’m being a gent leman. t ucking a st rand of hair behind my ear. “Y ou…going t o put me dow n?” “Mmm. New Y ear’s Day? Hell. he w as st anding in front of my door. “Put me dow n.” Our eyes met . I shook my head. Duh. he scooped me up int o his arms.” “Oh.” I mut t ered. sw allow ing. dumbfounded. W e’re making t his a habit . t ipping his head back.” I looked aw ay. “I’m sure I’ll hold out unt ill Hall ow een.” Daemon w inked. “Daemon—” “Did I t ell you I carried you all t he w ay back t o t he house t he night you w ere sick? T hought t hat w as a dream.

I t ucked my hair back again and st ood beside him. T he knot w as grow ing bigger in my t hroat . T here w as no humor in t he sound. “He w on’t t alk about it . “W hy w ould you apologize?” “I…I’m just sorry for everyt hing…you guys have had t o go t hrough.” I st art ed t o respond. and I…” “Y ou w hat ?” Daemon backed off my porch. t hen laughed. I st ood t here and t ried t o make heads of w hat just happened. Probably. “I’m sorry. I’ll keep New Y ear’s Day as t he deadline. W hy had I asked him t hat ? I knew he didn’t remember anyt hing about his planet . I t hink it ’s t oo hard on him—t he w ar and losing his family. but he w as gone before I could. even bit t ersw eet ones. “W hat about Mr. Daemon and Dee couldn’t remember t heir parent s and had lost t heir brot her. “T he Elders—do t hey remember anyt hing about Lux?” He nodded.” Tearing my gaze aw ay from t he st ars.I follow ed his gaze. I w ent inside and event ually w as able t o push Daemon t o t he back of my mind. t hey’d had a t ough life. Daemon and Dee rarely t alked about t he Luxen t hat remained in t he colony hidden deep w it hin t he forest surrounding Seneca Rocks. “It is t hat simple. I w ent from room t o room unt ill I got a signal and called Mom. He held my gaze for a beat and t hen looked aw ay. Garrison?” “Mat t hew ?” He shook his head. laughing under his breat h.” I bit my lip. Placing my hand against my chest . “I w ish t hey did. t here had been somet hing infinit ely more t han mad animal lust bet w een us. War had t urned t hem int o refugees.” And I meant it . but I w asn’t ent irely sure w hy. “Keep t alking like t hat . I looked up at Daemon. For a moment . and I w ondered if I’d said somet hing w rong.” Underst andable.” Daemon’s head sw ung t ow ard me sharply. leaving her a message. T he sky w as dark. right ? But I t ry t o avoid t he colony as much as possible. Memories. Eart h w as pract ically a host ile planet t o t hem. considering how t hey had t o live. his smile secret ive. His profile w as harsh and haunt ed. “Y eah. t hey are. “Do t hey remind you of your home?” T here w as a pause. are bet t er t han not hing. “I’ve decided t o go easy on you. “Have you ever asked t hem t o t ell you about it ?” He st art ed t o respond. W . moving t oo fast for my eyes t o t rack. Mr. All of t he Luxen. but t here w ere a hundred or so bright dot s glimmering against t he inky night . And it scared me. Kit t en. a lit t le t hrow n off by his sudden change in t opic. Christ . squint ing at t he sky. Garrison had lost everyt hing and God only knew how many of t hem shared t he same t ragedy. you know ?” A knot formed in my t hroat . Grabbing my cell. a crazy moment .

silvery glow . t he show er t urned on before I even got in it . And I refused t o fail. hidden in t he shadow s. T he ache t hat had been in his eyes… It w as so much. smacking me right in t he face. I hopped off t he bed and crept t ow ard t he w indow . drift ing over t he ground below . and I felt bet t er just hearing her voice. Hist ory w as one of my favorit e subject s. eit her. I felt t he w eird w armt h t hat w as becoming increasingly familiar creep across my neck. And every part of my being w ant ed—needed—t o go t o him. She promised t o bring me home a salve. I pulled t he curt ain back fart her and pressed my forehead against t he cool glass. I’d overslept and missed my first t w o classes. I t ugged up t he sleeve of my shirt . going beyond him and me. plus my ent ire closet empt ied it self ont o my floor as I debat ed w hat t o w ear. Somew here. Denying t hat desire w as one of t he hardest t hings I’d ever done. As I opened my hist ory t ext again. w as Daemon. about t o have one craw ll it s w ay out of my st omach. Hours lat er. even t hough it didn’t hurt and it w asn’t bruised. More t han w hat I undoubt edly could w rap my head around. I couldn’t underst and or explain how I knew . t o t op it all off. T here w as an exam on Monday. I t old her about my arm. New Y ear’s Day? W asn’t going t o happen. And t his morning. I sat on my bed. t rying t o forget about all t he w eird st uff and focus on my hist ory homew ork. but I did. … I was having one of those days where I wanted to start throwing things because only breaking crap would make me feel better. T he skin w as st ill pat chy and red. but it w as eit her t hat or I fail. t he glass of t ea and t he connect ion t o Daemon? My gaze moved back t o t he w indow . T he full moon lit everyt hing in a pale. Sunday night . Eit her I w as t urning int o an alien. I didn’t see anyone. A yearning sparked in my chest . . I focused on my chapt er. On Sat urday.hen she called back. T he only good t hing about t oday w as t hat I’d w oken up w it hout t hat it chy rash on my arm. St udying on a Friday w as t he height of lameness. my bedroom door opened as I w alked t ow ard it . Closing t he t ext book. but I let t he curt ain slip free and w ent back t o my bed. or I w as crazy. My limit for acceptable w eirdness in my daily life had been maxed out . Did being sick have anyt hing t o do w it h t he locker. She said I probably bumped it on somet hing.

I had no ot her opt ion but t o saddle him w it h anot her one of my problems. He st raight ened his t ie w hile he clenched his brow n suit case t ight ly in his right hand. damn draft y hall w ays. My new out look on not being a byst ander in life meant I had t o face t he fact t hat I’d really changed. A million t hought s ran t hrough my numb brain and none of t hem w as w ort h a damn. because I’d promised Daemon not t o t ell anyone t hat he’d healed me. I debat ed w hat t o do. I shuffled int o class. . W hat w as w rong me? Somet hing w as— somet hing w as really bad. Lat e for bio and out of breat h. and all t he t imes I’d ended up w it h a t race.T he w hole w ay t o school. and I needed t o get over myself and confront t hem. And I needed t o do somet hing about it before I exposed everyone. I raced dow n t he nearly empt y hall. Garrison st rolled in. Agreeing w ould be a good t hing.” My eyes snapped open. I just st ood t here like a damn fish. sorry. “T hey’ll give you a heart at t ack. I w as t rouble. Garrison’s blue eyes narrow ed. it sw ung open w it h a pow erful rush and slammed against t he w all. asking w ay t oo many quest ions. “T hen please. shouldn’t you be in class?” “Y es. “And t hat is a t ardy. Closing my eyes. Y es. as I heard t he st art led gasp from behind me and knew I w as bust ed.” He spread his arms and ushered me inside. t rying t o ignore t he giggles from t he ot her st udent s w ho’d apparent ly heard my ass get t ing chew ed out . Garrison said. T he noise echoed dow n t he corridor. But not hing came. Blood drained from my face.” Unsure of how I earned my first t ardy. T hese t hings couldn’t be brushed aside as a coincidence any longer. My cheeks flooded w it h color. and his scow ll deepened unt ill I t hought it w ould leave a permanent mark on his face. So w as he. T here w as no w ay I could go t o Dee. draw ing t he at t ent ion of a handful of ot her lat e st udent s. Mr.” Mr. don’t just st and t here. clearing his t hroat . I opened my mout h t o speak and agree. At least t hat w as how it felt . praying t hat I’d be safely in my seat before Mr. fear set t led like sour milk in my st omach. W hen I first moved here. Plus discovering t heir big secret . Gaping and gaping. inch by inch. “Miss Sw art z. Y our second. but st ill. No w onder Daemon had been such a douche canoe t hose mont hs. Just t hinking about t hat possibilit y left a bit t er t ast e in my mout h. As I reached for t he heavy door. Making friends w it h his sist er. I’d been not hing but problems for him.” I managed t o croak. almost get t ing myself killed…t w ice. I frow ned as I slid out of my car and slammed t he door behind me. “T hese damn draft y hall w ays.

” Mr. Several more giggles erupt ed from her side of t he class. “Y eah.” Passing Lesa a grat eful smile. eyes narrow ing. I t ook my seat next t o Blake and yanked out my t ext book w hile Mr. And besides. but w hat could I t ell her? “I w as running lat e t his morning. aren’t you?” Kimmy’s face t urned blood red. w hich w asn’t even w ort h my anger right now . making small sw ipes w it h his favorit e red pen. but it looked forced.“Skank. T here w as no w ay I w as going t o let him t hink t hat Kimmy w as t he reason my face had gone albino w hit e. “Can I just go home?” I asked as I sw it ched my t ext books. Kimmy calling me a skank probably had somet hing t o do w it h Simon. Garrison flipped off t he light s and launched int o a st imulat ing lect ure on t ree sap. I st art ed replaying t he door incident over and over again in my head.” she said. You know how t hat just screw s your day up from t here. “Are you doing okay over t here?” I nodded. Had Mr. Was I going to end up like Bet hany? Chapter 5 Carissa w as w ait ing for me by my locker aft er biology.” He smiled. “T hat ’s real funny coming from you. but before I could say anyt hing. Garrison said. I really hadn’t put much t hought int o it . Garrison began reading off t he at t endance.” Kimmy said from behind her hand. Mr. Blake nudged me w it h his elbow . figuring I’d just w ear jeans and a shirt .” I t hought about elaborat ing for a second. Lesa shot t he blonde a look. I w as sure it w as on purpose.” We headed dow n t he hall. “T hat ’s enough. “Y ou are t he same cheerleader w ho forgot t o w ear her undies during t he pep rally last year. “Having a bad day?” “You could say t hat . “Class. . chat t ing about t he part y on Friday and w hat w e w ere going t o w ear. He skipped my name. I’m perfect . Forget t ing about t he boy beside me. Garrison really believed it had been a draft ? And if he didn’t . She laughed. w hat w as st opping him from cont act ing t he DOD and handing me over? Unease squirmed in my belly.

“Y ou don’t have forever. I don’t t hink I’d fit in one of your dresses.” Dee picked up her fork and pushed t he food around on her plat e. I have enough. you really need t o st art applying.” I st ared at her. I w as afraid t o t urn around. “You should w ear a dress.” Problem w as I had no idea w here I w ant ed t o go or w hat I w ant ed t o do. know ing I didn’t have anyt hing dressy.” I groaned.” Dee’s gaze dart ed over my shoulders. “Dee.” “W e just had homecoming. pret t y princesses. “Carissa t old me I had t o w ear a dress on Friday night . “You’re going t o run out of t ime. Carissa launched int o t he rout ine conversat ion about w hat colleges I w as going t o apply t o. We get t o be pret t y princesses for t he night and dress up for t he part y. Somet hing w as not right w it h her. Y ou can borrow one of my dresses.” She t urned her angelic face t o mine.” “You know . lips t urned dow n at t he corners. I didn’t really plan for t hat . “So I can’t w ear jeans t o t he part y? I have t o w ear a dress?” “Huh?” Dee blinked and looked at me.“Everyone is dressing up. Most of t he st udent s w ere applying t here. Don’t be silly. Dee w as already at our t able. “Kat y.” Lesa snort ed and repeat ed. I w ill w hen I decide w here I w ant t o go. T he pict ure in my brain w as equally hilarious and fright ening. I hear it from my mom every day.” “W e’re not six. and w hat ever she w as going t o say died on her lips.” Dee poked at her green beans. “If I w ore one of your dresses. . and I launched int o my ow n t irade t he moment I sat dow n.” she said. I’d look like a t ight ly packaged sausage. half expect ing t o find a set of DOD officers st rolling t hrough our school cafet eria in black suit s. She w asn’t eat ing and w as now suggest ing I could w ear one of her dresses.” she explained. dumbfounded. “Pret t y princesses?” “Y es. She w as hoping I w ould send an applicat ion int o W VU. “I have plent y of dresses you can w ear.” she insist ed as she grabbed a plat e of w hat appeared t o be Salisbury st eak. “since w e don’t get a lot of reasons t o act ually w ear somet hing nice around here. quick t o remind me. Her eyes w idened and face paled.

She w as giving him t he t hird degree. “His name is Blake Saunders. W hoa. sw iveling around.” Dee t urned t o me. He smiled.” “Did you go t hrough his personal files or somet hing?” I asked. “He’s cut e. but …I glanced at t he t able in t he back. “Can w e t alk lat er?” In ot her w ords. It w as Adam T hompson—t he nice t w in as I liked t o refer t o him and he w as Dee’s… friend? Boyfriend? “W hat ’s going on?” I asked. Her gaze dart ed t o me. “W ho’s t hat ?” Dee asked.I slow ly t w ist ed in my seat . T here w as also no Ash. scanning t he crow ds for someone. t oo. or w hat ever it w as t hey did. I found out he’s living w it h his aunt .” “Nice is good. I gave him a lit t le w ave back.” Lesa said. her expression unreadable. and w aved. Adam w as get t ing food. A muscle in his jaw popped. Bonus point s t here. He looked…pissed. and t hat w as hot . I w as confused. He w as very cut e. St range. She poked it w it h her fork as if she expect ed it t o jump off her plat e and run aw ay. preparing myself t o be t hrow n on t he floor and handcuffed. Blake st ood by t he doors t o t he cafet eria. T he smirk on his face faded. His gaze found our t able and his hazel eyes set t led on me. and I t w ist ed back around. “He’s a new kid in our biology class. amused. frow ning. “I overheard him t alking t o W hit ney Samuels. It t ook me a moment t o find w hat Dee w as ut t erly t ransfixed by. I nodded and glanced behind me. Daemon w asn’t sit t ing w it h us t oday. .” “I t hink he’s coming over here. My eyes bounced back t o Daemon. W hat ’d I do now ? Dee kicked me under t he t able. eyeing her lunch. and w hen I did. Nice w as great . Kat y. Lesa snort ed. He looked up at t hat exact moment . it w asn’t somet hing she could say in front of t he ot hers. “He’s nice.” I shrugged. but I not iced someone else. Blake reminded me of a surfer. And he w as human. flashing a set of ult ra-w hit e t eet h.” Carissa said. He seemed t o be in a heat ed discussion w it h Andrew .

revealing a set of st raight w hit e t eet h. it should fade in a mont h or so.” Blake laughed. “Hey. And it w as also draw ing t he at t ent ion of t he ot her girls. except for t he w hole st aring t hing. t hough. “I bet lunch w as bet t er in Sant a Monica. How about you?” He t urned t o me. It ’s a much smaller school t han my old one. He answ ered every one of our quest ions and w as quick t o laugh. Last t ime I’d heard t hat t one w as w hen Ash had show n up at t he diner w it h Daemon before school st art ed. T he people are nicer here. “W ant t o sit ?” Nodding. “I’m Lesa w it h an e. he t ook t he empt y seat beside me.” Aft er anot her round of aahs. “My uncle w as get t ing t ired of t he cit y.” “Hi. Y ou’re in bio. T heir eyes kept dart ing back and fort h bet w een us. My cheeks w ere grow ing hot t er by t he second. All she needed w as a pen and paper. But it ’s pret t y cool around here. “Okay.” Lesa added.” “Nah. and t his is Carissa and Dee. Every so oft en.” “Ah. “Nice t o meet you. as if she w ere going t o do an int erview for t he school new spaper.” “Not much happens. her voice surprisingly t ight . “Everyone is st ill st aring at me. t his is as far as you can get .” “So how are you adjust ing t o your classes?” Carissa folded her hands on t he t able. right ?” Lesa nodded. he’d glance at me and smile. W e’re Kat y’s cool friends. “So w here are you from?” asked Dee. A nervous smile w as on his face as his eyes flickered over t he t able. I hand over new -kid st at us complet ely t o you.” Lesa grimaced aft er t aking a bit e of her food. “Hi. he grinned.” “W ell. T he conversat ion moved easily. “Sant a Monica. it ’s also quest ionable t here.St anding beside me w as Blake.” I said. . so I’ve been able t o find my w ay around easily. It had not hing on Daemon’s smile—w henever he decided t o grace our w orld w it h it s presence—but it w as nice. Blake w as super friendly.” I t old him. “Since you’re st ill t echnically new ?” “Oh no. Turned out he had gym w it h Lesa and art w it h Carissa.” Lesa chirped. so he w ant ed t o get as far aw ay from it as possible.

He nudged my arm. “T hat guy over t here.“We’re having a part y Friday night . I w ant ed t o hide under t he t able. “So no compet it ion t here?” .” Blake said. “He’s just …Daemon.” “W hy?” I asked. “She doesn’t have a dat e. No girlfriend. “Did you guys dat e or somet hing?” “No. “But I’m surprised you don’t have a boyfriend. He’s been st aring at you since I sat dow n.” Dee st iffened w it h t he fork halfw ay t o her mout h.” Lesa added w it h a sly look.” Blake nodded as he leaned back. st ret ching.” Lesa’s eyes sparkled. Real smoot h move t here. “Y ou have a girlfriend you left back in California?” Dee cleared her t hroat as she found t he food on her plat e t o be of ext reme int erest . “Y ou’re going?” I nodded. She didn’t say anyt hing. Dee’s parent s are let t ing us have it at t heir house w hile t hey’re aw ay t his w eekend.” Lesa flashed me a quick grin.” I said.” He t urned his at t ent ion back t o me.” Blake glanced at me. leaning in t ow ard me. And he doesn’t look happy. W hat w as her deal? Half t he school appeared t o be invit ed. “Nope. but I could t ell she w asn’t happy w it h t he invit e.” Dee w as t he first t o look. it w as right in my ear. t w ist ing t he lid on my w at er. Blake chuckled. Like my aw esomeness w as just so ext reme t hat I couldn’t be single? “Well.” Blake said. Mort ified.” “Huh. w ondering if I should be flat t ered. Her lips formed a t ight smile. “No boyfriend?” Blake sounded surprised. “No. “T hat ’s my brot her. W hen he spoke. “You’re more t han w elcome t o come. “T hat sounds cool. My mout h gaped. Every muscle in my body demanded t hat I t ake a look-see.

” Her look seemed t o say. We took separate cars. I found myself nodding. I caved and had t o look because I could st ill feel him. Boy. because I w as w ondering if you w ant ed t o grab somet hing t o eat aft er school?” W hoa. have fun. Looked t ot ally kissable. he w as bold. I could w ait one more day t o t alk t o Daemon. t oo. He had a fuller bot t om one.” Int erest lit up his eyes. I glanced at Dee. T here w as a flut t er deep in my chest . Blake’s smile remained on his face t he rest of t he lunch. “Perfect snow boarding w eat her. “I don’t t hink I’m ever going t o get used t o t he w ind here. … Blake and I decided to go to the Smoke Hole after school. Dee misint erpret ed my hesit at ion. I had every int ent ion of finding out w hy she w as act ing so w eird over Adam and t hen t alking t o Daemon about t he w eird st uff t hat had been happening. but I felt pierced.” I said. Now here near as bright as Daemon’s.” Dee adds. His cheeks w ere flushed under his t an as w e grabbed a seat near t he crackling fireplace. rubbing my chilled hands over my arms. and the wind was howling when we got there. Go out . w ho looked just as surprised as I did. Be normal. “It ’s fine. It ’s brut al. Daemon w as st aring. Not at me. making t he specks of green st and out . “W e can get t oget her t omorrow aft er school.” “But —” “It ’s okay. but at t he boy next t o me.My eyes w idened.” A slow smile crept over Blake’s lips. T here w as definit ely no compet it ion t here. because she didn’t seem very pleased w it h Blake’s int erest in me. “And I’ve been t old t o expect a lot of snow come w int er. Do you snow board?” . His hot ness level w ent up t en point s. t hough. Tow ard t he end. Daemon’s gaze slid t o mine.” “Me. tearing at the bare branches of t he t rees surrounding t he parking lot as w e rushed inside. Or maybe t hat w as my w ishful t hinking. I t ried t o draw in a breat h. I glanced over at Blake and our eyes locked. My lips t ingled. “Not likely. t hen. Blake had been right . “Good t o know . T here w asn’t anyt hing friendly in t he hard line of his jaw or his sharp jew el-t oned eyes.

And I w asn’t sure w hat t hat meant .” “W hat kind of look is t hat ?” “Y ou just have t he surfer-boy look going on. I like how you w rit e your review s. I nodded and figured I’d get my geekdom out of t he w ay.” . t hick clouds blanket ed t he sky. T ow ard t he end.” Blake grinned and t hen shift ed his at t ent ion t o t he w ait ress t aking our orders. My skin didn’t feel st ret ched t oo t hin. I miss t he surfing and blogging—t he w hole connect ing w it h people all around t he w orld t hat shared t he same passion.” Flat t ered and complet ely w on over by t he fact he act ually read my review s. Very w it t y. “I like t he sound of t hat . I t old him t he closest I’d come t o surfing w as w at ching t he guys dow n in Florida. I t ook a sip of my drink as I glanced out t he w indow . “How did you know ?” Blake leaned forw ard and w hispered. and he t ried t o convince me it w asn’t t hat hard. “W hen I first saw you. T he blog is really import ant t o me. Most people don’t get it . I didn’t have t hat kind of coordinat ion.” I paused. “I looked you up. but I found your blog. “So. I had you pegged for a surfer. I review t hem on t he blog. He didn’t make fun of me like Daemon had over t he w hole blog t hing. I love books.” T his guy w as perfect . Cool point s for Blake. “T hank you. Y ou have t hat look.” “Really?” He nodded.” “Cut e?” He arched a brow . “Okay. It ’s a pret t y aw esome communit y. Dark. it ’s pret t y hot . he w as ripping a napkin int o t iny pieces w hile he grinned at me.I laughed. “Yep. I w asn’t t hinking about aliens from out er space or t he looming t hreat of t he DOD or Arum. He t old me about surfing w hile w e w ait ed for my slice of cheese pizza and his cup of chili. you have a blog?” Surprised. “Yeah. I smiled. I know . I t ot ally do. I used t o blog about surfing. And you’re passionat e about it . T he hair. t he t an—it ’s very cut e. T here w asn’t a t ipsy feeling in my st omach w hen our gazes met . “I’d kill myself in t w o seconds. W it h him. I laughed. kind of a nerdy t hing t o do. A lot . It seemed so…normal.” He grinned. We t ook our t ime eat ing. It w as t he most relaxing hour I’d spent in a long t ime. I w asn’t nervous. I w ent ski ng once w it h my mom and it w asn’t pret t y. Surprisingly.” “Oh.

“I’m glad you came w it h me.” Pushing off t he hood. Was he going t o kiss me? I t ot ally loved t he easy aft ernoon w e’d just spent . t he branches shook and groaned under t he force of t he w ind.” “I am w hen I w ant somet hing. T here w as a loud crack. if anyt hing really w as going on. and I froze. and my head jerked up.” I t w irled my keys as w e st opped by his t ruck. A w elcome change from t he pins-and-needles feeling I got around Daemon. Chapter 6 . T he w ind w hipped at my hair. St at ic rushed over my skin. Blake leaned t ow ard me. “You know . Blake nudged me w it h his elbow . T here w as no w ay he could move fast enough. “Y ou seemed pret t y confident . he moved t o st and in front of me. but . One of t he t hick branches broke under t he w eight of t he w ind. w ell …I just didn’t feel right leading him on. And t he branch st opped…in midair. I couldn’t believe how much t ime had passed. suspended by not hing. but I knew it w asn’t fair t o pret end I w as complet ely free. I didn’t know w hat w as going on w it h Daemon. Heart racing. I felt t he t iny hairs on t he back of my neck raise.” “So am I. but it w as only in my head. I shot forw ard and I t hought I screamed St op. Above him. but I w as st ill buzzing t oo much from my aft ernoon w it h Blake t o care about t he fact I hadn’t bought a jacket yet . Panic leaped int o my t hroat as it spiraled dow n t o w here Blake st ood. “I don’t normally put myself out t here. w here I couldn’t help but feel comfort able around him. crackling bet w een t he layers of my clot hing. just asking like t hat in front of an ent ire t able of st rangers.” Brisk w ind cooled my w arm cheeks. much like Dee.” He leaned against t he hood of his t ruck. and t he size of t he branch promised major damage. crossing his ankles. I just w asn’t sure w hat t hey meant . Oh God.He had one of t hose personalit ies. I had feelings for Daemon. W hen w e left t he diner close t o five.

hovering as if it w ere t et hered by an invisible st ring. I low ered my head. but I couldn’t move. Sharp. not quit e making it out . leaving me dizzy. “Sorry.” “But —” “See you lat er. unable t o speak. My shoulders slumped as I dragged in air.” I sagged at t he sound of Daemon’s voice. Panic and pow er rushed t hrough me.” Each w ord sounded like he spoke it t hrough grit t ed t eet h. Oh. “Is she okay?” Blake asked. “How …how are you here?” . “W ow …” Blake ran a hand t hrough his spiky hair. W hen he climbed in on t he driver’s side and moved t he seat back. st rong hand curled around my arm. his eyes w ide w it h w hat ? Fear? Excit ement ? He st epped t o t he side and lift ed his gaze. but I knew it couldn’t be good. w as t his it ? W as I having an aneurysm? “Kat y…it ’s okay. I felt and recognized t he w armt h t ingling across t he nape of my neck. Shock rippled t hrough me. I obeyed w it hout quest ion. She’s fine. st epping forw ard as his eyes dart ed behind me. God. lapping at my sides. A w arm. Normal. I snapped out of it . And I’d ruined it .” I w hispered. “Get in. T he w hole aft ernoon had been perfect . “Are you okay?” I nodded. W hen I didn’t answ er. I st opped t he branch—I did t hat . and my head…it t hrobbed somet hing fierce—a kind of scary pain t hat signaled somet hing w as very w rong.T he branch hung t here. My breat h paw ed at my chest . Daemon t ook my keys from my numb fingers and opened t he passenger door. but I couldn’t bring myself t o look at him. Too real. st aring st raight ahead. Blake w as st aring at me. T he falling branch scared her. T he rush of pow er left me at once. t aking me along w it h him.” Blake said. Everyt hing seemed t oo bright for a cloudy day. shielding my face w it h my hair. T his lit t le “event ” had sapped me of energy. cracking t he pavement like it w ould’ve done t o Blake’s skull.” Daemon said almost gent ly. T urning t o him.” I sw allow ed. “T he branch—” “Y es. sounding w orried. “Kat . I had no idea w hat he must be t hinking. slicing pain erupt ed behind my eyes and I w inced. For once. T he heavy branch crashed.” Daemon st art ed w alking. “T hat ’s all. “T hat w ould’ve killed me. Blake called out my name.

“I didn’t plan on t his happening! All I w ant ed w as t o have a normal aft ernoon w it h a boy—” “W it h a boy?” he spat . I’d possibly exposed t hem all t o a human—a human w ho could go t o t he press. He w as furious. “Yes. eyes flaring an int ense green. T he cent rall air w as blow ing heat from t he vent s. but Blake asked me t o grab somet hing t o eat w it h him and I just w ant ed one freaking aft ernoon w it h someone like me. I did plan on coming t o you t onight .” Turning in my seat . Daemon yanked t he keys from t he ignit ion and sat back. Knot s t w ist ed my insides. I felt sick. T hey’d learn about me. hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. eyes shelt ered by a long w ave of hair. “I w as driving around.” Underst anding seeped in. and w ho could cat ch t he at t ent ion of t he DOD. Trapped by w hat I’d done. t he headache eased up and I felt almost normal. And you need t o be honest w it h me. you’ll t ell him t hat he moved out of t he w ay. exact ly? Before or aft er you did somet hing t hat put s you at risk?” I flinched. I saw Blake by his car. w it h a normal boy!” W hy did t hat sound so surprising? I t ook a deep breat h. “I w as planning on t elling you. except it w as like I had pulled an all-night er. “Daemon…” His jaw w orked. Halfw ay home. He w as st ill st anding t here like w e’d left him. you laugh it off. “You’ll pret end like not hing happened. Do you underst and me?” Close t o t ears. “Y ou have friends w ho are normal. “I’m sorry.He didn’t look at me as he t urned t he ignit ion and pulled out of t he parking space. w ho could t alk at school. “W hat just happened back t here never happened. He faced me. “We need t o t alk. I nodded. Kat . Neit her of us spoke unt ill he pulled int o t he drivew ay of my house.” “You w ere?” Daemon st ood in front of me.” I nodded again. T hey’d find out t hat t he Luxen had special abilit ies. If he brings it up.” His frow n w ent so deep I t hought his face w ould crack. We w ent inside my empt y house.” . Y ou don’t seem surprised you just did t hat . and I couldn’t blame him. but I w as shivering uncont roll ably as I sat on t he recliner. If he even suggest s t hat you…t hat you st opped t hat branch. Silence t icked aw ay t he minut es. “W hen. “I need t o act like you did in t he beginning?” He nodded curt ly. I’ll have Dee and Adam get my car.

If you haven’t guessed it yet . I shrank back as my heart rat e picked up.” “Moving st uff w it h my mind shouldn’t be possible. doors opened. moving fast is nat ural. T he show er t urned it self on. Daemon. “How do you know ?” His eyes lat ched ont o mine. “Sorry.” I sighed.” he said. “T ell me w hat ’s been happening. “How can you t hink t his is funny? Look at w hat happened t oday! I didn’t mean t o st op t he branch! I mean.” “How oft en has t his been happening?” “On and off for around a w eek. like he w ant ed t o laugh. and t he glass flew out of t he cabinet and t he t ea st art ed pouring it self in t he fridge. “I t hink I did get alien coot ies. It ’s act ually more effort t o slow dow n and appear ’normal.“It ’s not t he same t hing!” Daemon seemed t o get w hat I w asn’t really saying. “Nice. pulling behind it spiky barbs t hat dug in deep. and I could get w hy. “W hat if I’m t urning int o an alien?” A look crossed his face. I get a split t ing headache and feel exhaust ed aft erw ard.” Guilt shot t hrough me. W hy did everyt hing I say lat ely come out as a crit icism? “Y ou’re not dying. W hat if I’m dying or somet hing?” Daemon blinked and w as suddenly beside me. It did sound absurd. Our legs t ouched. T he first t ime it w as my locker door.’ as you put it . For a second. sit t ing on t he arm of t he chair. but I didn’t consciously st op t he damn t hing. so I didn’t say anyt hing. T he w hole healing-me t hing—it changed me. Garrison’s classroom w it hout t ouching it .” A snicker escaped. And I don’t know w hat ’s w rong w it h me. and a couple of t imes. but I t hought it w as a fluke. I didn’t w ant it t o hit him.” My heart ached. T oday. He seemed t o t hink it w as a draft y hall w ay.” He sighed. T hen I t hought about w ant ing a glass of t ea. “My room w as a mess. “Because I’d never let t hat happen. because I’ve been moving t hings…w it hout t ouching t hem. his eyes w idened and I’d sw ear t here w as a flicker of pain in t hem. For us.” My hands balled int o fist s. “W hy do you have t o move so fast ? It ’s…w rong.” . “I don’t know if t hat ’s possible. I opened t he door t o Mr. I couldn’t move t hings before. Kit t en. I guess I just forget I have t o pret end around you. but t hen it w as gone. clot hes flew from my closet .” He said it so st rongly t hat I believed him. His breat h st irred my hair.

unable t o look aw ay. he w as in his t rue form. but not out loud. radiat ing a pow erful red-w hit e light . I don’t w ant t o put you guys at risk. He w as shaped like a human. “I’ve alw ays t hought it had somet hing t o do w it h exposing our abilit ies. W ould it happen again? Y our light is really pret t y. it ’s obvious t hat you’re using some of my abilit ies. W hen he’d been healing me. “W hy didn’t you t ell me w hen t his first happened?” “I don’t know .” I said. solid. T he prickly feeling w as back. “I know you aren’t doing anyt hing on purpose. okay?” My brow s rose. huh?” . “I w ant t o t ry somet hing. but it ’s blinding me. I sw ear I’m not doing it on purpose.He sighed. his voice w hispered in my thoughts. “So I am t urning int o an alien?” “Kit t en…” All I could t hink about w as t he movie Alien and t hat t hing craw ling out of t he dude’s st omach. spreading over my skin. Say something to me. Y ou spoke t o me t hen. His pupils t urned luminous. eyes t roubled.” Daemon leaned back. His form flickered and faded. “How do w e st op t his?” Daemon st ood. Luxen don’t speak out loud. and he w as st anding in front of me again.” My breat h caught as he held my gaze w it h his st range eyes. A few seconds lat er. He w as silent for a moment . Not aloud. and I knew he w ould be w arm t o t ouch. “I don’t know if it w as a product of my healing you t hose t imes or w hen you connect ed w it h us during Baruck’s at t ack. but now I’m w ondering if it ’s more t han t hat .” Daemon paused.” Closing his eyes. “Okay. except mine w ould be a glow ing ball of light or somet hing. We can st ill hear each ot her. I’ve never heard of t his happening before.” “Never?” I w hispered. Like w hat happened in t he clearing. “Uh. In t heir t rue form. It drove home t he point —t he one I forgot somet imes—t hat he w asn’t from t his planet . he let out a long breat h.” I sw allow ed. Every inch of me became painfully aw are of him. His light dimmed. Say somet hing t o me. If t he real reason is because w e…change humans. “I should’ve. I’d heard his t hought s. hi?” His chuckle t ickled inside me. “So my light w as blinding you. “We don’t heal humans. I heard his ghost inhale. Eit her w ay. pursing his lips. It w as st ill st range seeing him like t his. I w ouldn’t have t hought t hat .

” “I’m pret t y sure I liked you before t his.” “Y ou shouldn’t . leaving a faint t race behind. And st op t ouching my books.” Daemon murmured.” “W ell.” I nodded.” He t ook a fort ifying breat h. back t o t he import ant st uff. hoping w e had enough t ime. “Okay.” “T hat ’s really not import ant right now . “W hy can I st ill hear you? Y ou act like I shouldn’t . but w e’re st ill connect ed. “Am I glow ing now ?” It usually happened w hen t hey w ent int o t heir t rue form. w hat is t his st uff you’re reading?” I shot from t he chair. “I alw ays liked you. t oo.” He st ret ched idly as his gaze roamed across t he room.” “Uh huh. snat ching t he book aw ay and holding it close t o my chest . From t he moment you first flipped me off.” So t hat had changed. it w as. w hen you healed me.” I fiddled w it h t he chain around my neck.” I set it back w here I’d left it .” “But you didn’t st art t o w ant t o spend t ime w it h me unt ill aft er t he first at t ack.” . “Y ou do realize t his w hole t hing is w hy you…” He arched a brow . how do w e get unconnect ed?” “T hat ’s a good quest ion. As he t urned it over. and t he last t hing I w ant ed w as t o expose Dee and t he ot hers. Kit t en.” One hand out st ret ched. you had one hell of a w ay of show ing it . “It ’s w hy you suddenly like me. “No. I love t his book. Kit t en. “His t ouch kills? Really. Just give me some t ime. Maybe w e w ere already st art ing t o. “Y ou have books everyw here. “And I’ve already said I’m sorry for t he w ay I t reat ed you. T here w as no t elling w hat I’d accident ally do next . “I’ll figure out w hat is happening w it h you. “Shut up. like… morph t oget her or w hat ever. “W hat are w e going t o do?” His gaze set t led on me.“Yeah.” he admit t ed. A book flew off t he arm of t he couch and int o his hand.” “True. his brow s rose and his gaze moved over it quickly.” “W ell.

I’m not dat ing anyone anyw ay.” I said. “T his isn’t a game. He could’ve sat anyw here else in t he cafet eria. “T his is a st upid conversat ion. “If you say so. “Anyone human. He’s nice.” I st epped sidew ays.” His shoulders t ensed.” “Y ou w ouldn’t ?” His hand shot out . “Lesa invit ed him t o t he part y on Friday. And obviously he w ant ed t o spend t ime w it h you out side of school. “And it has not hing t o do w it h w hat I feel. Does doing t hat make it easier t o t ell yourself you don’t have feelings for me?” “You t reat ed me like a red-headed st epchild for mont hs.” I shook my head.” I sat on t he couch. st anding.” My brow arched.” “He w as sit t ing w it h you t oday at lunch.” challenge filled his eyes. “He kept st aring at you.” It t ook me a few seconds t o respond.” . “W e’ll just have t o see about t hat . “He’s in my bio class. but if I w ere. W e can’t have a repeat of t hat .” “Maybe he likes me.” “W hat ? I’m not supposed t o dat e or hang out w it h anyone now ?” Daemon smiled.” Folding my arms. keeping dist ance bet w een us.Daemon frow ned. “Do you like t hat guy you w ere w it h?” “Blake? I don’t know . “Because t here w as an open seat and it ’s a free w orld w here people can pick w here t hey w ant t o sit . You doing t hat t hing w it h t he branch w as only one inst ance.” “W hat ever. I w ouldn’t st op just because you said so. shrugging.” Daemon’s eyes darkened t o an evergreen. I sighed. yes. Kit t en. t ucking back a st rand of hair behind my ear. Maybe he just felt comfort able w it h me. because w e’re bot h sort of new .” “T here w ere ot her seat s open.” Somet hing flickered across his face. I’m sorry if I have a hard t ime believing t hat w hat ever you feel is real. “I don’t t hink you should be hanging around him unt ill w e know w hat ’s up w it h you moving st uff. “T here’s not hing t o see. “W hat is it w it h you? It ’s like you need t o convince yourself I can’t possibly like you. and t hen he w as st anding in front of me.

He glanced over his shoulder at me. and t hen w hen his friends show ed up. Halfw ay t hrough class.” Heat sw ept over my face. w hen he w rot e somet hing dow n.” I sighed. “It ’s no big deal. T he dull gray shirt he w ore st ret ched over his broad shoulders as he t ensed under my st are. “I’ll t ake care of it . but if it w ere. He normally kept it cut close t o t he skull.” Chapter 7 I didn’t get much sleep t hat night . w hen he scrat ched his head. smacking Simon right in t he face. I debat ed making a run for t he door. On t he ot her hand. My mout h dropped open as I sat back. Simon kept glancing over his shoulder t hroughout class. He act ually apologized t o me. just breat hing soft ly against t he back of my neck.” He paused. T he t ooll had half t he school t hinking I w as easy.” “Maybe not t o you. “By t he w ay. I could st ill feel him. T he heavy English t ext flipped off t he desk. his shoulders squaring. Brow n hair curled against t he faint ly flushed skin. but less import ant in t he grand scheme of t hings. Needing a dist ract ion. I supposed he w as in need of a haircut . “T hat ’s not okay. since most boys around here didn’t let t heir hair grow more t han an inch or t w o.” Daemon’s eyes narrow ed. He could feel me drilling holes int o his head.“I know . I arched a brow . but it is t o me. It w as also day t w o of no pen pokes. T here w as a six-foot -t hree alien behind me. I’d w in. he t old t hem I w as t rying t o get w it h him. I glared at his head. Anot her problem. and his shoulders rose as he t ook a deep breat h. so t rig t he next day sucked w orse t han normal. I t hink it ’s his friends. My at t ent ion fell back t o t he book in front of him. Simon t urned back st iffly. Annoyance flared and my fingers burned. “Yeah. Not t alking t o me. And no mat t er how far I scoot ed up.” He flickered out and appeared by t he ent rance t o t he foyer. Holy crap… . Jerk-face. I w as hyperaw are of him—w hen he moved. Ha. I’ve heard w hat Simon has been saying. A slow flush crept over t he back of his neck. he’s being a douche.

Playing it cool w asn’t somet hing I w as part icularly skilled at . “Mr. Aft er t he class set t led dow n and t he t eacher t urned back t o t he chalkboard. I knocked my book off t he desk. Daemon poked me w it h his pen. t hen pick it up. Sorry. Simon w as beet red as he sw iped t he book off t he floor. It all happened quickly. “Y ou coming?” “I w ouldn’t miss it for t he w orld. “W -w hat ?” Simon st ut t ered. T he branch—” “Scared you?” he said. is t here somet hing you w ould like t o share w it h t he class?” he asked in a t ired. I had no idea how t o prepare myself for seeing him aft er t he branch issue. He was wearing a vintage Super Mario Bros. “Like it w as suspended for a few seconds. shirt today. “Very bad kit t y…” … Blake arrived to bio minutes before the bel.” His eyes narrow ed as he w at ched me. eyes narrow ed.” “I…” W hat w as I supposed t o say? Deny. t hough. “W hat w as t hat ?” he w hispered. “You look…” “Like crap?” I supplied. Maybe t he w ind caught it or somet hing.” T here w ere a few scat t ered chuckles from t he ot her st udent s. “Look.Jumping up. and t hen his eyes set t led on t he book. maybe. t oo. Anyw ay. He looked around frant ically.” “Y eah. about yest erday? I’m sorry I freaked out . rest ing my cheek on my fist . bored voice. It shocked me. t he big part y is coming up.” He t ilt ed his head t o t he side.” He let out a loud sigh. Deny. Our t eacher’s eyes narrow ed as he searched for t he source of t he disrupt ion. I t w ist ed around. “W ell. W ould it be t hat easy? Damn.” . I w as a bet t er liar t han Daemon gave me credit for. “Are you okay?” I nodded.” I smiled faint ly. “I w as going t o say t ired. T here w as no mist aking t he amusement in t he t ilt t o his lips. “I don’t know . Cut t ers. “No. relieved at t he change in t opic. “It ’s no big deal. He placed it in t he middle of his desk and cont inued st aring at it . he st ared at t he book now lying on t he floor as if it w ere some kind of creat ure he’d never seen before. Deny. but I’d sw ear t hat branch st opped. eyes locked ont o mine.

We exchanged numbers. meet ing his. Screw t hat . “Y eah. glancing dow n at my not ebook.” I t oyed w it h my pen.” . but it w as off. I gave him direct ions. And. if you w ant ?” His lashes low ered. A dat e—not dinner-and-t he-movies kind of dat e— but a dat e nonet heless. before t he part y.” He sat back. He w as t ot ally dat eable. w ell. T he lit t le specks of green in his eyes w ere now here near as vibrant as Daemon’s—w hy w as I even t hinking about him? “W e can call it a dat e. I t hink so.” I smiled. remembering w hat Daemon had said about not hanging out w it h Blake. I like t he idea of calling it a dat e. w ait ing for class t o begin. Dee toyed with a ring on her finger and kept her voice low due to Mom sleeping upstairs. A couple of t imes. We chat t ed for a lit t le w hile about t he part y. “Sounds bet t er.“Good. I snuck a look at him.” Blake leaned in. “Y eah. I really t hought …” “Y ou t hought w hat ?” Her gaze skit t ered aw ay. And I liked t hat . “I’m glad you’re coming. T aking a deep breat h. “I’m not sure I like t he ’kind of’ t hing. his hand brushed mine. I could see him shirt less. and t hat made him a t housand t imes more at t ract ive. “Y ou t hink so?” Dee smiled. I doubt ed it w as on accident . A small part of me w ondered if I’d asked Blake just t o find out . “T hat sounds cool. I guess you can say t hat . Excit ement bubbled t hrough me. Oh. surfing t he w aves. fanning his golden cheeks. T here w asn’t anyt hing forcing him t o do it . his breat h surprisingly cool on my cheeks. … Curled up on my couch after school on Thursday. I did somet hing I rarely ever did.” Blake’s smile w as infect ious. I’m surprised you’re act ually okay w it h him coming t o t he part y. Mint y. t hat boyish smile of his helped. He seemed t o like me all on his ow n. “Y ou can st op by my place first . t he part y just got a w hole lot more int erest ing. except t hat maybe he w ant ed t o t ouch me.” I plopped dow n beside her. He w as w at ching me w it h a crooked smile on his face. “The new boy seems t o really have t he hot s for you. kind of. I refused t o t hink about w hat Daemon w ould do w hen he saw me arrive w it h Blake. “I just t hought t here might be somet hing bet w een you and Daemon.” My gaze flicked up. Like a dat e?” I flushed.

T he elders know t hat since w e’re bot h eight een already. I cleared my t hroat .” I w as st ill st uck on t he w hole mat ing t hing. Dee’s small hands flut t ered t o her sides. huh?” I blinked. but w e can’t . t hat ’s shocking. Adam and I are t rying t o decide w hat w e w ant t o do. and t here is a part of me t hat likes him. It ’s a lot of pressure.” . “All of t hem w ould t urn t heir backs on us. not w it hout t he DOD’s permission. I w as posit ive Dee w asn’t even at t ract ed t o Adam. “Y eah. T hat ’s w hat t hey w ould’ve done t o Daw son if he…if he w ere st ill alive and w it h Bet hany.” And her brot her’s love had ult imat ely led t o t heir deat hs.” Besides a w hacked-out alien bond and all our secret s. but w hat if you didn’t w ant t o have kids? W hat if you fell in love w it h anot her boy or…a human?” “T hey w ould out cast us. Daw son loved Bet h.” “W hat ?” My eyes bugged. “Do t he elders t ell you w ho you can be w it h?” Dee frow ned. I mean. W hat ’s up w it h Adam?” Crimson sw ept across her pale cheeks.” “Come again?” Up unt ill five seconds ago. w e’re old enough t o be mat ed. I had t o w orry about w hat college t o pick. but know ing t hat w e’re get t ing close. “We usually w ait unt ill w e’re done w it h school. t here’s not hing bet w een us. feeling for t he remaining siblings. “Adam and I have been t rying t o spend more t ime t oget her.” She sighed.” She faded and t hen w as st anding on t he ot her side of t he coffee t able. she ran her hands t hrough her curly hair. marrying and making babies?” “Yeah. “Would t hey force you t o leave or somet hing?” She shook her head. “Mat ed? Like. And I know he w ould st ill be w it h her. I low ered my gaze. t hey w ant us w it h anot her Luxen and t o reproduce as soon as possible.” No doubt . “T hey’d make us w ant t o leave. “W hat happened w it h you and Adam?” St opping in front of t he T V. “W e had sex. “Not really. but our race is dying off.” “Coming of age?” She nodded. “Once w e reach eight een.“Oh. shocking. “Y eah. Not about get t ing knocked up as soon as possible. And Daemon really w ant ed t o risk all of t hat t o be w it h me? He had t o be on crack. you know ? Everyone expect s us t o be t oget her.” “I get t hat . no. “Let ’s not t alk about your brot her. I know t hat sounds messed up. w e’re coming of age.

I decided I w ant ed t o see if w e. “But now I have all t hese…knot s in my t ummy. a w hole lot of aw kw ard at first . I t hought I loved him w hen w e w ere doing it .” I laughed. one arm hanging off t he couch. “But I’m not sure if he felt t hat w ay because of me and how I’d act ed. could even do it . “And how w as it ?” Her cheeks flushed again. having such a…human react ion.” “I don’t know . So. And w e did.” W ow .” .” She w as on her feet again. Like. Should I?” “Uh. but I don’t know if I like him because I’m supposed t o or if it ’s real. but t hings…w orked out . I don’t know . I can’t st op t hinking about him.” I didn’t know if I should be happy for her or not .” She st art ed pacing again.” Dee sat up. “W ant t o know how great it w as? I w ant t o do it again. you know . “I t hink he probably feels t he same. One jade-colored eye opened. Y ou should probably call him. “But w e’ve only been friends. yeah. “It w as…it w as good. T hat ’s t he problem. I’m glad it w as…good. w ondering w hat he t hinks. and he’s good looking. “I don’t even know w hat love is. “So w hat does all of t his mean?” “I don’t know . I t ot ally respect him. really. We didn’t even w ant t o go t o homecoming t oget her. Like. I’ve only let him be a friend t o me. We w ere just friends and not hing more. But now ? I don’t know . her eyes w ide. sit t ing on t he couch.” She flopped ont o her back. but anyw ay. “It w as more t han just good.” She sighed. Dee. hands t w ist ing t oget her.” “Have you t ried t alking t o him?” “No. I t old him t hat w e should t ry t o have sex.” “Good?” Dee appeared beside me. A lit t le aw kw ard at first —okay. Maybe he’s alw ays felt more for me. t hat sounded real romant ic.“I didn’t know how I felt about him. “W hat if he doesn’t feel t he same?” It w as st range seeing Dee like t his. I don’t know w hat t o say. I like him.” “It w as great .” “Damn. you just did it w it h him. Or at least .

” A faint smile curved her lips.” T aking a sip. “W ait . She hung around a lit t le longer t hen left t o go call Adam.“Call him. “Y eah. “It ’s okay.” Relief flooded me. He’d been a pat ient . w ho w as I t o judge? I asked one guy t o go out . “I t old him I w ant ed t o check w it h you first and make sure you w ere okay w it h it . since I had no experience in any of t his. Mom. Did you guys use prot ect ion?” Dee rolled her eyes. like Dad. Mom had met Dad her first year of nursing residency at t he hospit all in Florida. “Y ou are t he birt hday girl and all. before Dad died. t he moment he’d looked int o Mom’s eyes. got . w rapping my hands around t he w arm cup.” I smiled. W e t ot ally used prot ect ion. I w as st ill shocked t hat Dee had sex. I w as t ot ally not t he go-t o person for relat ionship advice. W hile w ait ing. I raised my brow s. “Don’t forget I have you all day Sat urday unt ill I go int o w ork. “Like Dad?” Mom smiled sadly. Mom w oke up and w e ordered pizza before she had t o leave for w ork. w e chilled on t he couch like w e used t o. Mom handed me a cup of st eaming cocoa. w e can do dinner w it h W ill.” She paused. t hough. t rying t o impress some girl.” “I’ll only t urn eight een once. But t o have sex just t o find out if you liked someone? W here w as t he romance in t hat ? Of course. But according t o my dad. It w as such a big st ep. “I t hink you’ll like him.” T hat w as t he best advice I could give. T hey’d dat ed for six mont hs. “I’m all yours.” “Good. for you birt hday. She crossed her ankles and t hen re-crossed t hem t he ot her w ay.” Her eyes narrow ed. so don’t make any plans. Oh! Are w e going t o a fancy dinner and w ill w e t alk polit ics and current event s?” “Shush it . I t ook anot her drink of cocoa. right ?” I grinned. set t ling back.” She smiled. At least it w as great . Poor Dee. He’s really like…” My heart did a funny t hing. “I’m so not ready for a baby Dee. he couldn’t even remember t he ot her girl’s name. having fall en off t he deck and broken his foot . crinkling her nose.” She t hrew her slipper-covered feet ont o t he coffee t able. I w as pret t y sure. “W ill w ant s t o do dinner w it h us on Sat urday. Y eah. “Should I dress up for t his? Since he is a doct or and all.” “Oh. even for… aliens. “I w ant ed t o run somet hing by you. He’s not st uffy or overbearing.” Neit her of us spoke for a few minut es. just t o see if anot her not iced.

“I’m happy you met him. T hat w as all he w ant ed. I could hear t he car doors out side.” “He is. It t ook me a few minut es t o realize t hat it w as in t he dryer. Mom had t his habit of changing her perfumes and lot ions w it h t he seasons. I couldn’t believe it fit me. “Holy crud. t he laught er as I pulled out t he cardigan. I’d been t here t he day hospice had t old us it w ouldn’t be much longer. I’d give anyt hing t o have t hat kind of relat ionship. Even w hen t hey’d argued. No mat t er how many t imes I t ugged on it . I finished off t he rest of my cocoa and w iggled closer t o Mom. “W ill sounds like a really nice guy. t he neckline of t he dress w asn’t coming up any higher. I’d heard him t ell Mom t o love again. T hat kind of love should’ve been able t o beat sickness.” I moaned and headed dow nst airs in a flurry of black and t apping heels. Eit her one w ould’ve been embarrassing. T hank God Mom had already left for w ork. and slipped it on. T he dress clung t o my bust and had a cinched empire w aist before it Bill ow ed in soft w aves t o end before my knees. emphasizing t he vast difference bet w een Dee’s body and mine. and married w it hin t he year. My boobs just might come out and say hello t onight . Aw hell. I headed dow n t he hall w ay. I came short ly t hereaft er. I kind of looked hot .” I said finally. Chapter 8 I readjust ed t he t hin black st raps for t he t hird t ime and finally gave up. W hat if I did somet hing st upid? Like lift a T V in front of an ent ire house full of classmat es? . inhaling t he apple-scent ed body lot ion she alw ays w ore during aut umn. shook it .engaged. I w hipped open t he closet door. T hat kind of love should’ve conquered anyt hing. nervous and nauseous.” Dad w ould approve of anyone w ho made Mom happy. St anding out side t heir bedroom. She’d eit her st roke out or applaud t he dress. and t here hadn’t been t w o people more in love t han t hem. She lift ed her slender arm and I snuggled in. But I needed t o cover t hose babies up.” She kissed t he t op of my head. it fit a lit t le t oo w ell. love fueled t heir w ords. but I couldn’t find it in t he mess. I knew I had a red cardigan t hat w ouldn’t look t oo bad w it h t his dress. I closed my eyes. “I like t o t hink your fat her w ould approve.

“A friend gave it t o me.” And he did. Blushing. “Int erest ing necklace. w ine cooler in one hand.” . but you didn’t have t o.” “No.” “I w ant ed t o. “T hanks for t he flow ers again. T hey’re really pret t y. “Well. She’s alw ays t rying t o pick t hem up. I st epped back. holding a half dozen roses in his hands. His gaze dipped and he reached out . sounds right . t oo. His eyes drift ed over me. And you look really nice.” “I’m glad you like t hem. T hey’re perfect . I backt racked t o t he front door and sw ung it open.” He moved forw ard. T aking a deep breat h.” I smiled as I set t he roses on t he count er. not t he underage-drinking-of-herw ine-cooler part . I w as w orried I’d look like a nerd for giving t hem t o you. I can only st ay for half an hour t ops. It ’s really cut e. I’m really sorry.” I t old him.” I smiled. so he set t led on one of my mom’s w ine coolers.” “And you just put t hem right back. “Would you like somet hing t o drink before w e head over?” Blake nodded and follow ed me int o t he kit chen.” “It ’s really different . No one had ever given me flow ers before. looking around as I found a vase for t he roses.” He smiled as he held out t he flow ers. Mom w ould’ve loved him for t hat —w ell.” He let it drop. t rying t o push aw ay t he images of Daemon it brought along w it h it . “W hoa.” “T hanks. I t ook t he roses and inhaled t heir clean scent . holding t he roses close. “Sure.” he said. “Hey. Giddiness sw ept t hrough me. His knuckles brushed t he sw ell of my chest . “Y ou have books everyw here. t hey’re beaut iful. W hat kind of st one is t his?” “Obsidian. “T hank you.” Ah.” Blake st epped in. We have some family coming in last minut e. you look really great . He leaned against t he count er.Just t hen t here w as a knock on t he door. “Y eah. Opt ions w ere limit ed. “My mom hat es it .” I placed my fingers on it . I searched for somet hing t o say. t he key w ord again: w ant . “But I kind of have some bad new s. “Are you ready t o go over?” He finished up t he w ine cooler and rinsed it before t ossing it in t he t rash. dressed in a dark V-neck sw eat er w it h a collared shirt on underneat h. picking up t he silver chain. huh?” I laughed. “It ’s cool.

” “Y ou w ill.” “I don’t know about t hat . “Y ou game?” “Sure t hing. t w o t hings. Y ou’re not a t ool.” He dipped his head. Curiosit y filled me.” “Good. Would kissing him be like kissing Daemon? Would t he w orld burn or just simmer? I w ant ed t o find out . hoping t he disappoint ment w asn’t audible. T here’s t his lit t le Indian rest aurant I saw in t ow n. . His lips spread in a crooked smile. st aring in his eyes. So? Is it a deal?” My breat h slow ed in my lungs.” I glanced around.“No.” Blake grinned. Can you do dinner w it h me t omorrow night ?” I shook my head. if you do one t hing.” I felt a lit t le dizzy.” I murmured. Blake smelled good. Y ou did bring me roses. “W hat are t he t w o t hings?” “You’ve got t o give me your hand. she does. If t his is a speed dat e. “T hen w e can go over.” “Are you sure? I feel like such a t ool. “W ell. W e didn’t give you much not ice. I had t o t ip my head back t o meet his eyes.” He inched closer. T here w as a slight scent of aft ershave t hat reminded me of t he conversat ion I’d had w it h Lesa about how boys smelled. “It ’s okay. st ill holding ont o my gaze.” “W hich is?” “W ell. Spending t he day w it h my mom. I w ant t o make it up t o you. “Deal. you’re going t o have guys all over you.” “A kiss?” I w hispered.” Anot her st ep closer and his shoes w ere t ouching mine. “And a kiss. In t hat dress. “I need you t o remember me w hen I leave.” “Of course.” I said. w e’ve got t o make it believable. but yes. “Y ou ready t o head over now ?” “Y ep. “I can’t t omorrow . needed t o discover if I could forget t he boy next door in a simple kiss. bit ing my lip.” “How about Monday?” he asked. “Do your parent s let you out on a school night ?” “It ’s just my mom.

anger. I pulled free and gave her a t ight hug. “Y es. I kissed him back. W it h everyt hing happening. and his hands dropped t o my w aist . I felt like one of t hose girls in t he books I read.” Out side. I felt sick. I w ait ed breat hlessly in bet w een kisses for somet hing—anyt hing—ot her t han t he rest lessness st irring inside me. breat hing heavily. and his hand found mine. pleasant cider-and-spice smell float ed out side and t ickled my nose. surrounding t w o guys in a W i deat h mat ch.” . and I felt like I w as sw imming in raw emot ions. I’m ready. T hen all at once. W hen she saw our hands joined t oget her. Blake w hispered my name. I w as t hinking t oo much int o t hings. and I closed my eyes. “Just one more t hing. A st irring of sour guilt poked at me. His kiss deepened. and sadness—w hich w ere not hing I w as searching for. A w arm. St ress. My mout h opened. reminding me how much I loved t he smell of aut umn. She’d dug up numerous paper lant erns and st rung t hem along t he porch.His hand found my cheek. t elling me t hat my heart hadn’t been in t hat kiss because of someone else. t here w ere numerous cars lining t he drivew ay and all t he w ay dow n t o t he empt y house at t he beginning of our road. Not hing had been w rong w it h t hat kiss. packed on t he couch. and t he gent le nat ure of t he kiss w as disarming. sw oll en. she barely hid her surprise…or disappoint ment . His lips w ere ripe. T he house looks great . and t hey t ight ened w hen he sw ept his lips over mine again. She looked beaut iful in her delicat e w hit e dress t hat highlight ed t he darkness of her hair and t he emerald color of her eyes. blinking. t hick candles spread t hroughout flickered soft ly. And kissing him w as just t oo fast . It had t o be me.” he said. “Holy crap. People w ere everyw here inside. It w as elat ing and yet confusing at t he same t ime. Feeling like I w as doing somet hing w rong. he w ouldn’t feel compelled t o pursue our unreal connect ion. “W ow . Several familiar faces w ere crow ding t he st aircase. I t hought t his w as supposed t o be a lit t le part y?” Dee had really out done herself. T here w as just ant icipat ion and t he need t o lose myself. At first . “W ell. playing t he host ess. but t here w ere no w ords t o be spoken. t est ing my response. And it w as more t han t hat . and she w asn’t happy w it h w hat I’d done. Blake and I couldn’t go t w o feet w it hout bumping int o someone. Dee w eaved in and out of t he crow d. Blake broke cont act . Maybe if Daemon saw me happy w it h Blake. his lips brushed across mine light ly. I placed my hands on his shoulders. ot her t han it w as lacking somet hing. Pract ical Kat y st ill lived inside me. I felt frust rat ion. I w ill definit ely remember you w hen I leave.” I low ered my chin. laughing as t hey drank from red plast ic cups. delving int o a guy headfirst w it hout even t hinking about it . pulling me closer. T hrough t heir w indow s. “Ready?” Was I? Conflict ion t ore t hrough me.

doesn’t it ? I’m a nat ural. Blake smiled at me.” He t ook a sip and coughed.“It does.” I bust ed int o laught er at t he horrified look on Dee’s face and t he curious one t hat crossed Lesa’s. “Kat y…?” My cheeks burned. and everyone smelled of sea and sunt an lot ion. “My friends w ould not do t hat w it h w hipped cream. Y eah. your friends are crazy. It makes life int erest ing.” “I do somet imes.” “T hey’re your friends. back st iff. We t urned just in t ime t o see Carissa rush from t he room. I t hen briefly saw Adam. he led me t ow ard t he dining room. “Okay. t hough. T here w as even a punch bow ll.” T hen she float ed aw ay. but I w ant ed t o escort her t o t he part y. W hen I nodded. change isn’t t oo bad. T hen she bumped me w it h her hip. W ell. She saw Blake and me and came t o a st op. t oo.” W ild giggles came from t he kit chen. “He’s my—” “Dat e. as if he liked t he sound of my laugh. “W hat ?” Dee screeched and t ook off t ow ard t he kit chen. “I have t o bail soon. “W hat did t hey put in t his? Moonshine?” I laughed. “In beach houses. w ho appeared t o be st alking Dee t hrough t he crow d.” “Y ou sound like you miss it . handing me a red plast ic cup.” “Escort her?” She glanced at him. I’ll go…check on some st uff. t hen back t o me.” mut t ered Lesa. “Want t o get a drink?” Blake asked. She couldn’t seriously w ant me t o be w it h her brot her. follow ing quickly behind t he flurry of w hit e.” Blake said. “I have t o see t his. no doubt . “God only know s around here. but hey.” Carissa folded her arms over her chest .” Lesa comment ed dryly. I made a ment all not e t o ask her how her call w it h him had gone. “Y ay. dist ract ing me from my t hought s. I t ried t o not let her disappoint ment get t o me. w here w e could see several bot t les.” She looked over my shoulder. an annoyed look on her face as she bolt ed t o w here Dee w as in t he doorw ay. .” Blake insert ed. coming up behind Dee. A huge amount of suspicious noises w ere coming from t he dark corners of t he large house. “Dee. Spiked. cat ching and squeezing my hand. One of t hem had already gone dow n t hat pat h w it h a human and look w hat happened. “We had part ies like t his back home.

We w ere briefly int errupt ed by a group w ho w ant ed t o t alk t o Carissa about her older brot her. I leaned int o Blake’s arm. grew heavier and w arm. liking t he w ay t he bulge of muscles in his upper arms felt against my chest .” “Aren’t t hey t he t w o w ho planned t o get married aft er graduat ion?” “Y ep. w ho w as aw ay at college. “W e st ill on for dinner?” he asked. T he hand on my back bunched int o t he silk of my dress. her dark eyes flicking up. T he nape of my neck t ingled. W e st ayed like t hat aft er Carissa drift ed aw ay. I liked t his—w hat ever t his w as. “Aw esome. sorry about t hat . curving around my w aist . Ment all not e number t w o: pull head out of ass. Kissing. It w as kind of gross. Blake must ’ve made a lot of friends quickly. He didn’t seem t o mind. At t he reminder. Blake. having fun. W hipped cream should only be used on pies. “I’m not t rying t o be a prude. but I st ill found it ent ert aining. but w ho act s like t hat in public or at a friend’s house? I mean. right ?” She shook her head emphat ically. I w alked him t o t he door. his arm st ill around my w aist . “Y ou have no idea w hat Donnie and Becca are doing in t here.” Carissa shuddered. smiling.I glanced over at Carissa. and t hen it w as t ime for him t o leave. but I st ill knew t he second he came dow n. I’m act ually—” My back w as t o t he st airs. “Hi.” His hand slid across my back. T his filled me w it h an obscene amount of glee. and he st opped mid-sent ence t o lean dow n and w hisper. It seemed nat ural t o be close t o a guy.” I t urned my head. I’d forgot t en t hat she had older siblings. And I can t ell you t hey have not w ait ed for marriage for most t hings. come on. Not sure w hat t hat said about me. “Y ou’re kidding. w hose cheeks w ere as red as my sw eat er. t o be flirt ing. “Me. my st omach knot t ed again and my gaze dart ed around t he room. T he air changed. “I really w ish I w ere st aying.” I giggled. t oo.” “It ’s okay.” I had t o look aw ay t o st op from laughing. It ’s disgust ing. Blake frow ned. because most of t he kids w ere t alking him up. “Y ou’re act ually…w hat ?” .” She t ook a deep breat h. It all felt easy. And a lot of girls kept st ealing looks at him. most ly for show . “You bet . and t hen I st ayed t here. And w ho w as I kidding? Last Friday I’d been get t ing all hot and heavy in a library.

and t hen he glanced up. I need t o get going.” Y eah. but at t he same t ime it t hrilled me. He shook his head slight ly and faced me. “I know w ho you are. But t he w hole t ime. And it w as like being st ruck by light ning. People approached but st opped just a few feet from him. it seemed like t hey w ere afraid t o come t oo close. T hose magnet ic eyes shimmered under t he dim light of t he candles. Acut ely aw are of Daemon’s int ense st are. “All right . “Y eah. “It ’s alw ays nice t o meet anot her fan. Daemon st raight ened. I complet ely forgot t he boy w it h his hand on my w aist . but it seemed unnat ural not t o.” He offered his free hand. His eyes w idened slight ly. I hat ed his effect on me.” His smile falt ered. “Hey t here…” Blake’s hand pressed int o me as he leaned around. “I don’t t hink w e got t he chance t o int roduce ourselves t he ot her night at t he diner. Daemon st opped in front of us. geez. I placed my hands on Blake’s back and leaned up. Blake had no idea w hat t o say t o t hat . w rapping his arms loosely around me. “T his is Daemon Black. but at t he same t ime. he w as a good head t aller t han Blake. Blake laughed soft ly in my ear. “I’m…I’m looking forw ard t o it . I t w ist ed t ow ard Blake. Not hing w as easy about it . like I w as. It w as obvious t hat people w ant ed t o be around him. Daemon glanced at Blake’s hand before ret urning his gaze t o me.” I smiled. In t hat second.” . Behave. My name is Blake Saunders. “I’ll call you. Daemon cleared his t hroat .” Oh. T his w as t he first t ime I’d really seen Daemon around anyone ot her t han his family or a friend or t w o out side of school. At his full height . “W ell. w het her t hey liked it or not . Daemon w as dressed casually compared t o t he rest of us but st ill looked bet t er t han any guy in t he room. I didn’t w ant t o t urn around. pressing my lips against his smoot h cheek. Daemon had t his effect on ot hers.” He smiled a lit t le as he leaned in. t oo. T hey w ere draw n t o him.” Laughing under his breat h. He had on a pair of old. He absent ly t ucked a st rand of dark hair behind his left ear and flashed a w olfish grin at somet hing someone said. dist ressed blue jeans and a shirt t hat bore some longforgot t en band name. I know w ho he is.My heart sped up. he had his eyes fixed on me. T hanks for…everyt hing. no mat t er t heir gender.” He st art ed t o smile. and I knew Daemon w as t here.

” “Y ou did?” His gaze follow ed t he obsidian.” I t old him blandly. W it h one last grin t ossed in Daemon’s direct ion. scow ling as I st art ed fiddling w it h t he obsidian around my neck. right ?” Ash asked. Oh. T hey’d been dat ing on and off for a w hile. “I t hink she got it w hen w e w ent shopping t oget her. “Y ou know . I faced him. “Y our sist er. He’d just given Blake t he st ink eye and now Ash w as leeched t o his side. “Babe. leaving me behind w it h Daemon? “W here did you get t his dress?” he asked. he held his ow n—sort of—against Daemon. She leaned int o him.” “Oh. “I t hink you forgot some jeans or t he bot t om part of your dress.” “Say about w hat . let t ing go.” Oh.” He arched a brow . you couldn’t have been much more of a jerk if you t ried. my eyes locked w it h Ash’s.“Alw ays. Irony w as such a bit ch. but she did a great job decorat ing t he house. looking half disgust ed. but it usually looks looser on her. And she w as. “Y ou look really nice t onight . Had t o give it t o t he boy. “T hat ’s a cut e dress. t hat felt like a jell yfish st ing. It ’s Dee’s. Holding my st are. Blake saunt ered out t he door. And God. and t hen he low ered his head. An unreasonable emot ion crept up my spine t he longer she st ood t here. but t hen t urned her at t ent ion back t o Daemon. She recruit ed me from t he moment I got home.” Daemon’s gaze dipped again. He frow ned.” My st omach hollow ed. Kit t en. “T hought I t old you not t o hang out w it h him?” “T hought I explained t hat just because you say I can’t doesn’t mean I w on’t . W hy. you rushed . and I shivered under his int ense scrut iny. she smiled sw eet ly and w rapped a t hin arm around his narrow w aist . did Blake need t o bail early. “I don’t even know w hat t o say about t hat . “You bot h did a great job. oh w hy. I didn’t like t hat at all.” Ash smirked.” I said. in her skint ight sw eat er dress t hat ended an inch below her but t . “I t hink Dee has her hands full. as if she w ere all t oo familiar w it h t he lines of his body. I couldn’t pict ure Daemon st ringing paper lant erns w it hout light ing t hem on fire and t hen t hrow ing t hem.” Surprise shot t hrough me. Tearing my gaze from him.” “Don’t let her fool you int o believing she did all of t his herself. Must ignore—must ignore. babe?” Daemon st iffened. t his w as fabulous.

T here w as no w ay I cared t hat Daemon and Ash w ere doing w hat ever. I t ried t o get cont roll of my overexposed emot ions. I had no idea w here it w as coming from or w hy I felt t hat w ay. I kicked off my heels and t ossed t hem aside. My palms w ere sw eat y and t hey felt foreign and cold. seemed like it …in bet w een w hat ever he w as doing w it h Ash. I st ood t here. I t urned aw ay before I said somet hing t hat w ould embarrass me lat er. T hen it st ruck me as I headed dow n t he st eps. He could make out w it h t he Pope for all I cared. Oh my God. And I had a dat e coming up w it h a hot . I w ant ed t o scream. I did care. W hat I w as feeling w asn’t right . T here w as no w ay I w as jealous. and I raised my brow s expect ant ly. W hat w as w rong w it h me? Dazed. I felt like I w ant ed t o explode and everyt hing w as hot and cold at t he same t ime. At some point . my feet bare against t he cold grass and gravel. Images of Ash kissing him sucked t he air out of my lungs. I cared—I cared t hat he’d been upst airs w it h Ash doing t hings t hat …I couldn’t even w rap my brain around w it hout w ant ing t o do physical damage. My ent ire body w as shaking. blinding any rat ional t hought t rying t o t ell me I w as being st upid. Dee’s high-pit ched giggle follow ed my st eps. He w ant ed t o be w it h me? Y eah. I had t o search t he ent ire upst airs for you. . W hy don’t w e go back t o your room and finish w hat w e st art ed?” T he punched-in-t he-gut feeling nearly doubled me over. Hell. lost in my sw irling emot ions and messed-up t hought s unt ill I heard t he sound of feet crunching over grass. Daemon st epped out of Ash’s embrace w hile scrat ching a spot above his heart . But t hat hot feeling w as t here. I w ant ed t o run back in t here and pull out every st rand of Ash’s hair. T he last t ime I’d been t his jealous w as w hen all t he bloggers w ent t o a book conference last year and Mom w ouldn’t let me go. but it st ill seemed like t he w orld had st opped spinning. I st art ed w alking. I didn’t like Daemon—I didn’t . Jealousy I had no right t o coursed t hrough my veins. My breat h shuddered in my chest . I kept w alking. It w asn’t reasonable. but it w as lost in t he crow d of people. st ealing t hrough my veins. Needing air and dist ance. I couldn’t figure out w hat w as going on. T he figure moved out of t he dark shadow s and a st ret ch of moonlight bounced off a gold and blue w at ch. Taking several gulps of fresh. and I’d just kissed Blake. I squeezed my eyes shut and sw ore. T hat so w asn’t w hat I w as feeling. normal human boy. I didn’t st op unt ill I st ood beside t he empt y house at t he end of t he road. clean air. My head spun. He caught my eyes.off so fast . Part of me knew w hat I w as feeling w as ridiculous. But my blood w as boiling. t his w as w orse. Daemon spoke. I st epped out ont o t he crow ded front porch.

beefy fingers. “W hat happened t o your face?” Simon lift ed a flask t o his mout h. and my heart sped up. t oo close. but it w as overshadow ed by t he fact he and his friends had half t he school calling me a skank. I w ouldn’t be pushed around or t hreat ened. He pit ched t ow ard me. My st omach sunk all t he w ay t o my t oes. A lip w as split .” “W hat ever. “Or else w hat ?” “My dad’s a law yer.” He lurched forw ard.Simon. “He’ll —” A couple of t hings happened next . is t hat you?” He st aggered t o t he side and leaned against t he house. he hadn’t been screw ing around. and t hen small ones spread out . “Daemon Black. Fury t ore t hrough me like a speeding bullet . I t hink you should sit dow n or somet hing. W hen Daemon said he’d t ake care of t he problem. Part of me felt bad for t he dude. “Y ou’ve got t o t ell him I set everyone st raight .” His hand t ight ened as he sw ayed. Fully visible.” T he hairs on t he back of my neck rose. A large. w incing. “Kat y.” “He’s not my boyfriend. he had a sw oll en-shut eye t hat w as an ugly shade of violet . “I came here t o t alk…t o you. “You’ve got t o t ell him I didn’t mean anyt hing t hat night . Daemon must ’ve put t he fear of God in him. Four of t he five w indow s w e st ood next t o t rembled and t hen cracked. dropping t he flask.” Simon inched closer. I can’t …have t hat kind of shit being said about me. Jesus. but t here w as no doubt she had heard t he rumors. T ell him or else. A horrible cracking sound deafened my ears. W hat in t he hell w as he doing here? Had Dee invit ed him? I hadn’t t old her w hat had happened bet w een us. Y ou’ve got t o call him off.” He grabbed my arm w it h damp. because—” “You’ve got t o t ell him. Not by Simon or anyone. I gaped. Bruises marred his jaw . “Y our boyfriend happened t o my face. jagged fract ure st reaked dow n t he middle of each w indow .” I st epped back as t he w ave of alcohol and desperat ion crashed int o me. “Simon. “People are st art ing t o t alk. I’m…sorry.” “W ho?” He t ook a drink.” My eyes w idened.

“I t ook t hem off. Y ou—you freak!” I w as glow ing? “No! It ’s not me. and I t urned. and I t ook a st ep t ow ard him. Not only did I expose my freak-o abilit ies again. “Y ou…” I couldn’t cat ch my breat h.” Unable t o do anyt hing. falling t o t he ground. “Y ou’re…you’re glow ing. A dist ant part of my brain t old me I needed t o st op him. But t hen t he t op w indow exploded.unt ill t he ent ire w indow s shuddered under t he unseen force and exploded.” . T here w as a faint reddish-w hit e glow creeping int o my vision. I w as so screw ed. A fine sheen of cold sw eat dot t ed my forehead and residual fear kept hit t ing me low in t he st omach. A car door opened and an engine roared t o life. “I just blew up a bunch of w indow s.” “W hat ?” Daemon moved closer. Daemon’s st eps slow ed as he spot t ed me. W hat had I done? W hen my house came int o sight . mort ified and fright ened by w hat I’d done. sending shards of glass raining dow n on us. “St ay aw ay from me! Just st ay aw ay from me. T he remaining w indow on t he second floor vibrat ed. making my w ay int o t he heavy t ree line. Cringing. Backing up. I w at ched him st agger around t he house. Minut es passed before I st raight ened and picked my w ay around t he shat t ered glass. T he ot her w indow shuddered. “Y ou’re bleeding. Kat ?” Several moment s passed before I could speak. but it ’s not me!” He scrambled t o his feet . Face pale. I shielded my face as glass rained dow n. “W hat t he hell?” St ruck by absolut e horror. My breat h saw ed in and out of my chest unt ill t he very last piece of glass landed. He pushed a low -hanging branch aside as he neared. Chapter 9 Simon yelped as he lurched from t he falling glass. Simon glanced from t he w indow s and t hen t o me. I don’t know w hat ’s happening. Lit t le pieces slid t hrough my hair. “W hat are you doing out here. he st umbled over his ow n feet . “W here are your shoes?” I glanced dow n at my feet . I st ood t here. Man. I st ood mot ionless. Simon shook his arms and more glass fell aw ay from his clot hes. T here w as anot her loud crack. because he w as obviously t oo drunk t o drive. pinging off t he ground and me. Branches and leaves crunched. My arm felt like someone pinched me. I’d almost t urned Simon int o a pincushion. T he pane cont inued t o t remble violent ly. His glassy eyes w ere w ide. I didn’t know how t o cont roll it . some falling out and ot hers get t ing st uck in t he t angled w aves. He t hrew up his hand and w obbled. W hat happened?” He paused. and I knew Dee’s dress w as t orn. eyes w idening. I felt t he familiar t ingle along my neck.

Full-blow n panic squeezed my chest . Daemon w rapped an arm around me. I can.” I shimmied free. feeling safer in his embrace t han I did any place else. okay? And if he st art s t o t alk. Speechless. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose. because t hat seems w rong. It w as bullshit . t ugging me against his chest .” Hope sparked. no one w ill believe him. low ering his head so w e w ere eye level.” I murmured. you can’t beat up guys because t hey t alk badly about me.” I paused. t hat ’s not import ant . um.” I had no idea w hat t o say.” “Act ually. “Daemon. W hat happened?” Taking several deep breat hs. Ha. his arms had alw ays been a sanct uary of sort s.In t he blink of an eye. “Y ou t hink?” “Yes. “No one w ill believe him. “Kat .” Daemon pulled back. I sucked in a sharp breat h. People w ill t hink he’s crazy. pressing my face int o him and clut ching his sides. Kit t en. And if he does. draw ing a deep breat h. I didn’t resist him. I did it because of w hat he w as saying. knocking off t iny pieces of glass. and he w as upset about you. w hat happened?” Lift ing my head. W hen I w as done. No! I ran int o him.” His hand pressed a soot hing circle against my back. I let t he w ords come out in a rush. I’m not going t o lie. I did. “I’m not going t o let some punk-ass human t alk about you like t hat . Daemon w as beside me.” “Anyw ay. “I w as w alking and I ran int o Simon—” “Did he do t his t o you?” His voice w as so low it sent shivers t hrough me. “He know s w hat he did—w hat he t ried t o do—and t o spin t hat around on you?” Daemon eye’s flit t ed t o t he shadow s seeping among t he t rees. I’ll —” “Y ou’ll do not hing. Somet imes I forgot how prot ect ive Daemon could be…or how dow nright scary.” . but . Me. t hanks. “He said you beat him up?” “Y eah. “No. blinking rapidly. Even before it w as formed. “Simon w as drunk. And I couldn’t blame t he connect ion for t hat . especially him or his friends. “I don’t t hink I’m supposed t o say t hank you. my eyes searching his. so t here’s a good chance he w on’t even remember.” “Wow .” His hand clenched at his side. “He deserved it .” No apology in his voice. “I t hink you’ve already scarred t he boy for life.

” T he w orst case of verbal diarrhea happened. He w as right beside me. t alk t o me. I hat e t o break it t o you. She w as messing w it h you.” He dropped my arm. It had not hing t o do w it h you—or her. W hat w as I doing? I couldn’t be mad at him w hen I had done t he same t hing. and I st art ed w alking t ow ard my house. “W hat ever.” He held a branch out of t he w ay so I could pass under it .” “I can make it back home w it hout your help. “I’m so going t o w in t his bet . Daemon let out a long.” And so had I. Kat . “Kat . I w asn’t t he one t rying t o scare off Blake. “W ho cares about Ben?” “Blake. st opping me just as my porch came int o sight .” He grabbed my arm. dropping my arm. You have no idea w hat w as going on bet w een Ash and me. T here w as no breaking his hold. but I w as. “I w ould hope so. “Y ou’re lying—blushing cheeks and all. “Okay. I don’t like you. It w as ridiculous. I recognized my mist ake immediat ely. “You w ere kissing me a few days ago and now you w ere having fun w it h Ash? Is t his w hat you normally do? Jump from one girl t o t he next ?” “No. I don’t .” “Shouldn’t you be making out w it h Ash right now anyw ay?” He st ared at me like I’d grow n t w o heads. “W hat w ere you t hinking back t here? Y ou w ere upset . t hank you very much.” .” I st omped forw ard.” Anger flared in his eyes.“Obviously not .” he mut t ered. W hy?” Heat infused my cheeks. “Y ou’re right . Just forget I said anyt hing.” He sounded smug.” “Yeah. “Me? Jealous? Y ou’ve lost your mind. “T hat ’s w hat all of t his is about ?” “No. but you are doing it . I am being such a w hiny girl. We w ere only t alking. It is right t here.” “Y ou’re jealous. “God. suffering sigh. You can do w hat ever you w ant and I don’t have any right —” Daemon cursed. I t hought you didn’t like me?” My hand curled in t he air.” I correct ed. “T hat ’s not w hat I do.

I t ook an involunt ary st ep back. I t urned on my heel and st alked t ow ard my house.” Frust rat ed. yes. “Do you t hink I didn’t enjoy kissing you? T hat I haven’t t hought about it every second since t hen? And I know you have. Blake called t o chat . And honest ly. “Do you really t hink I’m going t o go t o her?” “Uh. “Can w e just forget t his? Please?” Daemon smoot hed a finger over his brow . and I received a shiny new lapt op already set up w it h everyt hing inst alled. . Chapter 10 Turning eight een w asn’t as excit ing as I’d t hought it w ould be w hen I w as a kid. but aft er a few successful st eps aw ay I realized he w asn’t going t o. I don’t care. Aw esome. t ight coils t hrummed. “It doesn’t mat t er. but some pret t y cool st uff happened. st ormed out of t he part y. and nearly decapit at ed Simon. All of t his before midnight . I do! Do you w ant me t o w rit e it dow n for you? Send you an e-mail or a t ext ? W ill t hat make you feel bet t er?” Daemon arched a brow .” In t he pit of my st omach. I don’t care if you and Ash make alien babies t oget her. I’d made enough of a fool of myself t onight . I made it most of t he day not w orrying over w hat had happened last night .“W hat ever. Y ou probably already don’t .” He shook his head.” Daemon w as suddenly in front of me. I had t o fight t urning around t o see if he st ill st ood t here. Just admit it . I do. yeah. his voice a soft denial. you w ouldn’t even enjoy kissing me. “I can’t forget t his and neit her can you. “Y ou don’t need t o be sarcast ic. I half expect ed him t o st op me.” I w hirled around.” I t ook a deep breat h.” “And you don’t need t o be here.” “Kat . for crap’s sake. Ash is w ait ing for you. I have. w alking again. “I’m not jealous. “W hat is t he point of t his?” “Have you?” “Oh. Kicked a hissy fit over Ash and Daemon.” He cocked his head t o t he side in exasperat ion. if it w eren’t for t his st upid connect ion.

T he cust omary ice-cream cake w as different t his year.” W ill picked up his glass. Bonus point s t here.” Unsure of how t o feel about him being here a year from now . I’m just glad you’re complet ely recovered from t he flu.” he said. But he did give me a gift card t o t he local bookst ore. She didn’t t ake her eyes off him unt ill it w as near t he t ime for her t o get ready for her shift in W inchest er. “No problem. “I know you probably don’t like t he sound of t hat . I spent t he rest of t he day t raveling a great dist ance w it h Mom t o meet W ill at t he nearest Olive Garden.” “I’m not reluct ant t o t he idea. Kell ie t old me how close you w ere t o your fat her. it ’s easier t o use. “I plan on being here t o share t hem w it h you and your mot her. A huge chunk of my life t hat had been missing ret urned. t rying not t o roll my eyes. He smiled.” . I w asn’t sure how t o feel. t ipping it t ow ard me.” Mom beamed up at him like he’d just discovered t he cure for cancer. dangling t he fork from his long fingers. T hey chat t ed w hile I sat at t he t able.” he said. I logged int o my blog and w rot e a quick “I’m Back!” post . Amusement flickered in his eyes t hat w ere so pale. finishing off t he last of his cake w hile t he silence bet w een us grew t o an aw kw ard level of epic proport ions. inclining his head t o t he side as he w at ched me. clanging it off his.” I said. Part of me w ant ed t o be happy for Mom. Mom had t o pull me aw ay from t he lapt op pret t y quickly. t hough. feely sort . w hich w as t he only sect ion of t he ice-cream cake I’d eat . t aking t he knife from Mom. W ill joined us at home for it . “Have you been enjoying your birt hday so far?” he asked. I set my glass dow n and bit my lip. I sw allow ed t he last of t he crunchy part . it ’s been really nice. crinkling t he skin around his eyes. I picked up mine. but it w as just w eird t o see her w it h anot her dude. W ill cleared his t hroat . “Y eah. W ill remained in t he kit chen w it h me. “Well.” “I second t hat . Weirder t han I’d t hought it w ould be. W ill w as t he t ouchy.” Mom said. “T hank you.” I said honest ly. He smiled. No one w ant s t o be sick on t heir birt hday. “If you run it under hot w at er. Not once did he t ake his hand off my mot her’s during dinner. t hey w ere almost gray like mine. It w as cut e. but t he ot her part felt like I w as bet raying Dad. let ’s t oast t o many more in t he fut ure.Before I did anyt hing else. “It ’s just different . I can underst and your reluct ance t o having me around. W ill placed a slice in front of me. “Here. and he w as charming and handsome.

.” “And I t hink you broke your but t . clut ching my chest . “It ’s act ually. and a long-sleeve t hermal. Mom ret urned. but aut umn and w int er sucked for it . “I t hink I’m having a heart at t ack. I t hought t hat from t he moment she came t o w ork at t he hospit al. I gat hered all t he clot hes. arms flaying around my head like one of t he hot pink puppet s from t he movie Labyrinth. almost condescending.” I scoot ed out of t he laundry room and skipped dow n t he hall w ay. I t hink I had a new book boyfriend and his name w as T od. T here w as laundry t hat needed t o be done and a kit chen t hat could use a good scrubbing. I w ent t o t he w indow . I t urned it up loud enough I couldn’t hear my ow n t hought s.’ and not blah or w hat ever. I shrieked and w hipped around. sucking up her t ime.” His smile t ipped higher. T he longer one w as because I couldn’t st op gushing.” My brow s furrow ed. all running inside. ’I how ll and I w hine.” He t ook a drink. I looked like a hot mess. Something on a line.” St art led by t he deep voice. I changed int o a pair of comfy sleep short s.” He paused. “A scent and a sound.“Different isn’t bad. St opping on a channel t hat offered hit s from t he eight ies. “Y eah…t hat is st range. “Your mom is a great w oman. Gross.” Laught er filled Daemon’s voice. w hatever. la la la—Mouth is alive. W it h t he sun set t ing out side. I’m aft er you. I’m on t he hunt . I’m glad I could be t here for her. And I’m hungry like the w olf.” I gasped. My foot slipped on a sect ion of w ell-cleaned w ood and my but t smacked on t he floor. it’s discord and rhyme—w hatever. his smile spreading. but it w as t he night you w ere at t acked t hat t hings w ent from a professional w orking relat ionship t o somet hing more. sliding at t imes on t he hardw ood floors. I’m lost and I’m found. Neit her is change. I set t led on one of t hose usually annoying st at ions on t he T V t hat played only music on a blank screen. He st ayed right up t o t he moment she left for w ork. ending his t ot ally w eird at t empt at bonding w it h me…or marking his t errit ory. I dumped a load int o t he w asher and st art ed singing along t o one of t he songs. Running t hrough t he house. “Holy crap. Y umt ast ic. and I’m hungry like the—” W armth spread dow n my neck. It w as t oo lat e t o get t he dead plant s out of t he flow er bed. I’m aft er you. “St range how somet hing good can come from somet hing horrible. Gardening w as somet hing t hat alw ays helped clear my t hought s. lit t le reindeer-covered socks t hat reached my knees. seeing t hem kiss before t hey got int o separat e cars. glancing t ow ard t he door. “In t ouch w it h t he ground. I w rot e a quick review for Monday and t hen a longer one for Tuesday.

” “I hope not . w hy are you doing chores on your birt hday?” I couldn’t believe he’d remembered. “And you remembered?” “Y ep. . but I heard your…singing. His brow s inched up. shoving his hands int o his jeans.” I said.” I rubbed my backside. “So I just let myself in. “No.” “T hat is pret t y lame.” “T hen w hy did you break int o my house?” He shrugged again.” Daemon looked ent irely t oo smug for his ow n good…or mine.” He shrugged.” I st ood. bad t hings t o me. “Seriously. I guessed you w ere t he only one here. list en!” His glit t ering eyes slid in t he direct ion of t he living room. maybe I did break my but t . I don’t t hink you do. W hy are you doing laundry and singing eight ies songs on your birt hday?” Now surprise smacked me upside t he head. “How …how do you know it ’s my birt hday? I don’t even t hink I t old Dee.” “Nah. and your door w as unlocked. Act ually.I remained spraw led across t he narrow hall w ay. t urning t he song dow n. I knocked several t imes. “Do you need somet hing?” He leaned against t he w all. dow n t o my t oes. t rying t o cat ch my breat h. and picked up t he remot e.” He flashed a smile. w ent int o t he living room. “I hat e you. T he door w as unlocked and I heard t he music.’ Do you w ant t o sing along t o t hat ? Maybe jog up t he st airs and pump your fist s in t he air?” “Daemon. forcing me t o t ake an uneasy st ep back.” “I can see t hat . “Y our face is pret t y red. I make a habit out of it . “Nice socks. “I’m obviously t hat lame. w incing. w hat do you w ant ?” He w as direct ly behind me. “W hat t he hell? Do you just w alk int o people’s houses?” “And list en t o girls absolut ely dest roy a song in a mat t er of seconds? Well. Y ou sure you didn’t smack t hat on t he w ay dow n?” I groaned. man.” I shuffled past him carefully. “T he night you w ere at t acked at t he library and I w ent t o t he hospit all w it h you? W hen you w ere giving t hem your personal informat ion. st aring at him.” His gaze w ent over me. Anyw ay. yes. “I didn’t break in. Oh. I overheard you.” “Really. “Oh. “It ’s ’Eye of t he T iger. I don’t need somet hing. Being t hat close t o him did funny. I’m kind of part iall t o your but t .

“How big of a piece do you w ant ?” I pulled t he cake out of t he freezer.“I came over t o apologize. It ’s made of ice cream and has t he yummy crunchy middle part ?” “Okay. It got an inch dow n and w ouldn’t go any fart her. and shocked some more.” I t urned. “How big of a piece are you w illing t o part w it h?” “As big as you w ant . “Even bigger. I grabbed a hair t ie off t he count er and t ugged my hair back. t hen come on.” Daemon frow ned. t hat may w ork. scanning t he t ables for t he basically unusable shiny object t hat never got clear recept ion out here. I’m as cold as ice. Cake should sw eet en your disposit ion a lit t le. I’m sorry.” “Hold up.” I rolled my eyes. you’re not helping. I moved t he knife t o t he side. aw ed. “I know it seems like a huge surprise t o you t hat I do have feelings and t herefore do feel bad at t imes for t hings t hat I may have…caused.” He hovered over my shoulder.” . “I hat e cut t ing t hese freaking t hings.” “Not hing can soft en me.” T he knife refused t o cooperat e w hen I t ried t o cut off half of t he cake.” We w ent t o t he kit chen in aw kw ard silence.” I grabbed a knife out of t he draw er and sized up w hat I t hought w ould be a suit able piece for him. I have t o record t his.” I rolled my eyes and moved it a couple of inches. Let me grab my phone. “Bigger. “Okay. I’m being serious.” “W hat ?” I w as shocked. “Perfect . Want t o sit ? I have cake.” “Hardy-har-har. Of course apologizing w ould only be hard for him. “Y ou’re going t o apologize again? I don’t even know w hat t o say. “Kat . “Okay. W ow .” I fought t he grin t hat t ugged at my lips. T he crunchy middle part is my favorit e. T his is…hard for me.

” he comment ed.” he grumbled. My st omach w as full of knot s. and t he knife w ent t hrough t he cake. “Y ou don’t w ant t o eat in here?” “No. I poured t w o t all glasses. aren’t t hey?” “W hat ever. . He cleared his t hroat . I nodded.” He reached around and our hands brushed as he t ook t he knife from me. I poked t he cake. “See? Perfect . T hen it cut s right t hrough it .” I scow led at his blat ant reminder. “Okay?” Sit t ing back. I grabbed t he silverw are and mot ioned t ow ard t he living room. I sat dow n on t he couch. T he but t on-dow n shirt he w ore pulled across his shoulders as he leaned over and ran t he knife under hot w at er again before cut t ing a smaller piece. huh?” Looking up. “I really did come t o apologize for last night .” Daemon shrugged and follow ed me int o t he living room. “My mom had t o w ork. I let him t ake over. “So w hy are you spending t onight by yourself? It ’s your birt hday.” St epping aside. “Daemon—” “W ait . I w at ched as he st abbed his cake w it h his fork unt ill he part ed t he ice cream aw ay from t he cookie middle. “Y eah. Elect ricit y danced over my skin.” I poked at t he cake some more. not really hungry at all. It seems so formal. and he t ook a seat on t he ot her end. and I just didn’t feel like doing anyt hing. I grabbed t w o clean plat es and placed t hem on t he count er. “Nice roses.” “I guess you probably w ould have preferred I hadn’t st opped by t hen. “You need t o run it under hot w at er. He did t he same t hing W ill had done earlier.“Let me t ry. Chew ing on my lip. t hey’re nice. I’ve spent many of t hem by myself.” I hadn’t t hought a second about Blake since Daemon show ed up in my hall w ay. I don’t like eat ing at t he dinner t able.” I sat t he plat e aside and pulled my legs up underneat h me.” He held up his fork. “Do you w ant somet hing t o drink?” “Milk is alw ays good if you’ve got some?” Get t ing t he milk. Brad?” “Blake. He t ook a bit e of t he crunchy part . “It ’s not as bad as it sounds.

eit her. “I never w ant ed t o hurt you. but it ’s a t hreat t o all of us. And I haven’t . lashes low ered.” “No. I underst ood books. And I’ve done bot h of t hose t hings.” I bit my lip. exhaling. Everyone expect s us t o be t oget her. “T hings are complicat ed bet w een Ash and me. “We may get lucky. I underst and. “I don’t know .” He shrugged.’ T ime t o st art making babies. I’ve almost done it several t imes. It ’s a t heory. I w ant ed t o apologize for last night . “Anyw ay. separat e but t he same. Ash and I haven’t done anyt hing for mont hs. No pressure. his jaw clenching. I guess it ’s like t w o phot ons split t ing. t hat w as one hell of a display of pow er t hat you have no cont roll of.” He glanced at me. T hat evening t hey ret urned from hiking. We’ve know n each ot her since w e came here. and he w as covered in blood. It w as official.” “W hat you did last night w it h t he w indow s. And I keep t hinking of Daw son and Bet hany.” Daemon w ent on.He glanced dow n at his plat e. but you need t o be careful.” He shuddered. “I’ve been t hinking about it . I could expose you all. I don’t know more. since w e’re ’coming of age.” . I guess t he w hole w indow t hing freaked me out . I liked t he sound of t hat even less t he second t ime around.” “And he healed her?” “Yep. I did not underst and boys—especially alien boys.” Daemon drew in a deep breat h. Never in my life had I had such a hard t ime figuring myself out as I did w hen it came t o Daemon. “Not hing happened bet w een Ash and me last night . “Even Ash expect s us t o be t oget her. T hey…t hey died a couple of days lat er. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you like I did. before you even came around. W hat you’re doing might fade over t ime. I didn’t w ant him t o know t hat I saw him blush. I don’t jump from girl t o girl. but I’m sorry if it …hurt you.” “So do I. st abbing his cake. T hat explains how w e can sense each ot her. I do like you.” T w o bright red spot s blossomed across his cheeks. It ’s t he t rut h. She w as just …messing w it h you. “And all of t his? I know it ’s hurt ing her.” T here w as a peculiar flut t ering in my chest .” He st opped. “I can’t be w it h her t he w ay she w ant s—t he w ay she deserves. Well. so I w ouldn’t mess around w it h Ash.” He paused. I ran my hand over my leg and looked aw ay.” “Do you t hink w hat ever is happening w it h me w ill st op?” He scooped up t he last of his cake and t hen placed his plat e on t he coffee t able. And I know t hat ’s hard t o believe. I’m not t rying t o be…cruel. “Cont rary t o w hat you t hink about me. I never w ant ed t o do t hat . I t hink she may have got t en hurt . Especially t he elders. st ruggling for t he right t hing t o say.

” “He’s older t han he looks. Mat t hew w as w it h us. especially around t hese part s. “W e landed near Skaros.” I fingered t he necklace as Daemon t urned t o t he t elevision and smiled. “He arrived at t he same t ime w e did. “W hen?” “Yep.” “Skaros?” I scrunched up my face. He’s aging w ell. I picked it up and placed it in my lap. “Y ou w ere t his close t o having ’W alk Like an Egypt ian’ dow n. An eight ies hair band played. is t hat even on Eart h?” . he picked a piece of lint off my t hermal. “I’m checking around t o see if anyone has heard of t his happening. “Aft er seeing your dance skills earlier. I have t o be careful.” Daemon nodded. I rolled my eyes. in t he same area.” Daemon laughed.” “W here did you guys…?” How in t he w orld w ould I say t his? Coming up empt y. t o only be lost again.” he said. It w as before w e moved here. arrogant spraw ll t hat made my t oes curl. He had no idea w hat t o do w it h me. and he shoved a t hrow pillow at me.” “W ow . huh?” “Somet hing like t hat . We w ere living in New York. screeching about a love lost and found. I bust ed out laughing.He leaned back against t he couch in a lazy. “Did you know I had a purple Mohaw k?” “W hat ?” I laughed.” “Y ou’re a douche. not even able t o imagine t hat . purple and black. Pierced nose and all. He became our guardian of sort s. being t he oldest out of everyone. I guess he t hought he w as responsible for us. T oo many quest ions w ill give w ay t o suspicion. I guess I w ent t hrough t his phase.” he said. you w ould have blended right in w it h t he eight ies.” “But Mat t hew —he’s not t hat much older. “Can w e not ment ion t hat again?” He grinned as he t urned t o me. “W here did you all land?” Reaching over. He’s around t hirt y-eight . grinning. t hough. “Uh. I w inced. a sly look on his face. “Y ou w ere a skat er boy.

“It ’s act ually a small island near Greece. “Not very good. I guess.” He smiled slight ly. It ’s kind of like our birt hplace. t hey kept us t here for t he first five years.” “How many of you landed t here?” “A couple dozen. our brains and w hat not .” “My family and friends arrived fift een years ago. “W hat did t hey do w it h you guys?” “T hey kept us in a facilit y out in New Mexico. t o be from a different w orld. w e w ere placed w it h him. but t hat doesn’t mean t he Luxen didn’t come before t hat . but t he DOD came as a huge surprise t o us. T here w ere t w ent y or so of us. T hey—t he DOD—had been assimilat ing t he Luxen for years. Since Mat t hew had a relat ionship w it h us. I’m act ually smart er t han I act . clut ching t he pillow t o my chest . At t en I could’ve gone t o college.” “No shit . “But you guys w ould’ve been only t en years old. w e w ere pret t y much adult s.” I let t hat one sink in. Did you live w it h Mat t hew unt ill recent ly?” “Believe it or not . T hey rounded up hundreds w ho had arrived in America. and as soon as w e arrived. At fift een.” I couldn’t imagine w hat t hat must ’ve been like for him and t he ot hers.” He laughed at my expression.” .” His lips pursed. To be so young. “Anyw ay. We didn’t know t hat humans w ere aw are of us. I don’t remember anyt hing from t he beginning. We develop a lot fast er. Kit t en. Apparent ly t hey knew about us from t he moment w e got here. All w e did know w as t here w ere Arum around. t hey let us go. “Mat t hew lived w it h us unt ill w e moved here. amusement creeping int o his eyes. and t hen w e came t o America. t he DOD w as t here. Usually w it h an older Luxen w ho could t ake care of us. “Is Area 51 t he real deal?” He eyed me. and w hen w e w ere…deemed ready t o fully assimilat e. “I t hought t he w hole Area 51 t hing had been around a w hile. “How did all of t hat go?” He glanced at me.” I did a quick calculat ion in my head. “Wow . and t hen t o be t hrust right int o t he hands of a foreign government had t o be scary. It ’s know n for t his rocky region w here a cast le once st ood.” Anot her fleet ing grin graced his face.“Yes. We learned a lot about humans during t hat t ime. w e mat ure different ly t han humans. T he DOD set us up w it h a house and money.” My eyes w ent w ide.” I t w ist ed t ow ard him. All t hose crazies t rying t o get int o t he compound had good reason. “W e st ayed in Greece unt ill w e w ere around five. or at least t hat ’s w hat Mat t hew has t old us. I’d like t o go back one day.

“Y eah. w it h my mom w orking so much since Dad died. You don’t have t o.W ell. t hreat ening t o consume me w hole. “Same here. “T here’s alw ays an older Luxen w e can pass off for our parent . t hen w e moved t o Sout h Dakot a. How many different places?” “We st ayed in New York for a w hile. Skin uncomfort ably hot . I searched for somet hing safe t o t alk about . His gaze moved t o my shiny red lapt op sit t ing on t he coffee t able.” I grinned. T urned full Luxen w hile kissing her.” Shaking my head. t he w hole blow ing-st uff-up part . It w as how Bet hany found out . T hat had t o be…” “Aw kw ard?” “Y eah. Back t o aw kw ard conversat ion. I w as remembering just how I’d lost my last lapt op. “Dee said you guys had moved a lot . and a sw elling developed in my chest . . “It happened w it h Daw son. I set t led back against t he couch.” Silence fell bet w een us.” “Y ikes. I’ve been w it hout since…w ell. “But w hat about people asking quest ions—looking for your parent s?” Daemon glanced at me sidelong. And if you t hink not hing goes on here. Running t heir ow n lives since t hey w ere fift een. “T hat ’s never happened before. “Do you w ant me t o leave?” T here w as t he opening—my chance t o t ell him t o go. aw kw ard. Mom got it for me. did I?” “No. I shouldn’t be so shocked. and I couldn’t help but w onder if w e w ere t hinking t he same t hing. And not only t hat . “No. since t hen.” My cheeks heat ed as I st ared at my lapt op. His eyes held mine a moment .” T here w as a pause and I held my breat h. He rarely t alked about his brot her. I mean. Daemon w as w at ching me in his int ense w ay w hen I looked at him. How it had felt t o be kissing…t ouching.” His gaze focused on t he T V again. “I see someone got somet hing for her birt hday. “Y eah. or w e can morph int o an older version. “He w as making out w it h her and lost cont rol. I didn’t apologize for t hat . in a w ay. t hat probably explained part of our nat ional debt . you can st ay or w hat ever…” Or I needed t o just shut up. I’m not doing anyt hing and if you have not hing t o do. w it h just Mat t hew checking in on t hem. Daemon cleared his t hroat . you haven’t lived in Sout h Dakot a. My ow n life w as sort of t hat w ay.” He scrat ched his cheek. T he morphing t hing w e t ry t o avoid because of t he t race.” I sighed.

Like. “Dee w ant s t o pave her ow n w ay in life.T hen w e moved t o Colorado before coming here. I scoot ed aw ay. I w as alw ays t he one w ho provoked t he change in scenery. “He’d never leave. deep shadow s in his eyes.” I made a face. And I t hought he w as st upid for falling for a human. He loved Bet hany. t here are more males t han females. “It ’s not right .” Paving her ow n w ay had ended up w it h her having sex w it h Adam.” “Couldn’t he have left w it h her.” “None t aken. and if t he colony had discovered t he t rut h. Daw son did. He w as big on hiking and out doors. You should cont roll your ow n lives.” Daemon smiled as he shook his head. “Do you t hink Dee is happy here? She makes it sound like she can’t leave. I don’t t hink t hey w ould’ve changed him.” Surprised. “But w e don’t . “We w ere against it . bringing his legs ont o t he couch. It ’s like I w as looking for somet hing. T hat ’s import ant . He w as int o t he w hole rust icliving t hing. Our group w as upset w it h him. “He didn’t cave. but Daw son…he w as t he st rong one. but none of t hose places had it . T here are a lot of us here. I laughed.” “I can underst and t hat . “Paired off and mat ed? I underst and it — you guys need t o reproduce. So t he females are paired off very quickly and prot ect ed above all. No offense.” He glanced at me. and I can’t blame her for t hat . Kit t en.” Clut ching t he pillow t o my chest . it ’s not . ever. I rest ed my head on it .” Daemon exhaled raggedly. . He st ret ched as if he w ere t rying t o rid himself of some sort of t ension t hat had suddenly set t led over him. But Dee can’t be forced t o do t hat . “If you haven’t not iced yet . especially w it hout t elling Dee or me.” Daemon shift ed.” I shook my head.” “Act ually. “W est Virginia?” “It ’s not t hat bad. More so t han any ot her place. I have friends w ho I can be myself w it h—a w hole communit y. It ’s not fair.” Daemon glanced at me.” A bit of his t eet h show ed in his slight smile. Most Luxen don’t push for anyt hing different .” “I bet New Y ork w as your favorit e place. really.” “It ’s not . “It ’s here. giving him more room.” “It w as hard for him. I w ondered if she st ill had dreams of going t o college overseas. snuck past t he DOD? Maybe t hat ’s w hat happened?” “Daw son loved it here.

holding t he pillow t ight . “W ell.” My skin t ingled w here it made cont act w it h his.” he sw ore. T he obsidian came int o view . So w hile I probably w ant t o beat t he crap out of you most of t he t ime.” I ran a finger over t he w ire t w ist ed at t he t op of t he cryst al.I know bot h of t hem are dead. “Can I ask you a quest ion and you t ell me t he t rut h?” “Alw ays.” I shrugged. “But how can you live like t his? Like. “T hey’d lock you up…or w orse. I reached around my neck and pulled at t he daint y chain.” Daemon reached out and cupped my hand t hat held t he obsidian.” Our faces w ere only inches apart . aren’t t hey?” His lips t hinned. just w ait ing for t hem t o find out t here’s more t o you guys?” His fingers curled around mine. “You w ould’ve liked Daw son. enclosing t he pendant unt ill w e bot h held it in our hands. Y ou w ant more milk or anyt hing?” . “It ’s all I’ve know n—it ’s all any of us have know n.” “It ’s okay. “T here’s a really nice guy under t he jerk. you’re prone t o moment s of great dickdom. But I’m not going t o let t hat happen. but he didn’t lie.” A lump formed in my t hroat . “T he DOD is a bigger concern t han t he Arum. “But don’t w orry about t hem. Looked just like me but a much bet t er guy. He didn’t answ er my quest ion. “Okay. Somet hing st ruck me t hen.” He paused. “T hat ’s really kind of sad. “T his hasn’t been a very birt hday-friendly conversat ion. His hand w as st ill around mine. Not a douchebag.” I paused.” I blinked aw ay t he sudden rush of t ears. he reached one arm back and rest ed his head against his curved elbow . but you’re not bad. I really don’t t hink you’re a bad guy.” “It ’s our life.” He arched a brow . “Y es. and I held it in my hand. Leaning against t he couch. Not hing w ill happen t o you. aren’t you?” He squeezed my hand and t hen released it . but you’re not bad. “Y ou’re alw ays prot ect ing ot hers. I guess t hat ’s not t oo bad. I’ve seen glimpses of him. st opping my movement s. Y ou have a lot of responsibilit y. “I’m sure I w ould’ve. in ot her w ords. “W hat w ould t hey do if t hey knew I w as moving t hings like you?” “T hey’d probably do t he same t hing t hey’d do t o us if t hey knew .” Daemon t ilt ed his head back and chuckled. “Do you w ant t o know w hat I honest ly t hink?” “Should I be w orried?” I laughed. He laid his finger over mine.” He smiled again.

because he changed t he subject . And yeah. “But it ’s t he fact t hey’re like mit t ens on your feet . He w as rat her large. Don’t judge me. I’m sure t here’re cornier t hings t han my socks. And don’t you dare knock t hem. like some sort of old cat w oman. “I used t o love t he holidays.” His lips t ipped up. We’d put it up w hile w at ching t he parade on T hanksgiving.” “T he only t hing? I figured you’re t he t ype of person w ho w ant s t he Christ mas t ree t o go up on T hanksgiving. t his Bob guy…” “His name is Blake.” Rolling my eyes.” “I seriously love t hese socks. It ’s t he only t hing I like about t he holidays. “I like t hem like t hat .” He didn’t respond but w at ched me int ent ly. “Y es. I w iggled my t oes. since she’s new at t he hospit al. I w ill kick you off t his couch. And I know she w on’t be t his year.” I ordered. and don’t st art . she’ll get t he shaft .” As if t hat w ere some kind of great dist ance.” I laughed. “W hat ?” “How oft en do you run t hrough t he house singing?” he asked seriously.“No. “Sock mit t ens. “I’m alw ays alone on t he holidays. “W hat ever. I kicked at him. Act ually. I t hink she just loves t he idea of present s. It ’s t he human t hing t o do.” “Y ou celebrat e Christ mas?” Daemon nodded.” “Give me back my foot .” I pulled at my foot . I t hink he sensed how uncomfort able it made me t o admit . “He’s not an issue anyw ay. “So. I w as real big on t he Christ mas t ree w hen Dad w as alive. but I w ould like t o know somet hing.” “But ?” “But Mom is never home on t he holidays now .” I frow ned and st ret ched out my right leg in t he small space he didn’t occupy. “Y ou can leave now . so it didn’t leave a lot of room. “It ’s not so much t he fact t hat t hey’ve got reindeers on t hem or t hat t hey go all t he w ay up t o your knees.” He raised a brow and cont inued t o inspect t hem. huh? Never seen anyt hing like it . and he let go. Dee loves Christ mas.” .” “Fine. Dee w ould love t hem.” I shrugged. Daemon. but he caught my t oes.

His eyes had drift ed shut and his chest rose and fell evenly. He w as relaxed. t iny part of me t hat didn’t w ant him t o leave. Not a fan of pop music. and even playful w it hout making me w ant t o bash him upside t he head. “I don’t feel like my virt ue is safe. “W hat ’s t hat supposed t o mean?” Daemon shrugged.” He looked surprised. t he one I’d glimpsed a few t imes in t he past . but t hen he launched int o a discussion about his favorit e bands. I t hink I w ill have t o leave.” “Almost . I could’ve w oke him. Not right now .” he murmured lazily. I’m a huge fan of Dave Mat t hew s and older st uff. but you’re st aring at me. I pulled t he afghan off t he back of t he couch and carefully spread it over him.” “I do not . “If you keep lying. friendly. I didn’t know w hat t hat meant for me. but I didn’t have it in me.” . I pulled my t ired gaze off t he clock and looked at him. a bit heat edly. “I w as kind of surprised w hen I w as in your bedroom w hile you w ere sick. We argued over w hich Godfat her movie w as t he best and w hat realit y show w as t he st upidest . “Y ou alw ays blush w hen you lie. My eyes w idened. And I didn’t put t oo much t hought int o t hat . by t he t ime I’d realized how long w e’d been t alking. Not w hen I w as sure my brain w ould t ake an obsessive t urn int o boy land. And yeah. Hours w ent by. and w e w ere surprised t hat w e had t he same t ast es.” “I’m not sure I w ant t o know about w hat .” Daemon pried one eye open. I expect ed t he Jonas Brot hers or somet hing.m. like Dylan. I grabbed a smaller quilt and t ucked it around my legs.” I felt t he flush spread dow n my neck.” “Are you serious? No. Daemon looked so…peaceful. t here w as a t eeny. “T hank you. W e did argue over a few t hings. Not w ant ing t o w ake him. “I t hought you w ere asleep. It all suddenly felt easy.” he t hreat ened halfheart edly. “I am not .” I flushed. and I learned more about Daemon.” “Y ou had a post er of Bob Dylan on t he w all. and t hat scared t he crap out of me. And t here w as t hat different side of him.My brow s furrow ed. but he w asn’t a jerk. It w as past t hree a.

I kept my eyes glued t o her. W e never did change t he channel. Kit t en?” “W hat you w ere searching for?” Daemon’s eyes opened and held mine. A second lat er.” Chapter 11 W hen I w oke up on Monday morning. Somet ime lat er I remembered somet hing he had said earlier. Smiling. “W hat ever.” “I know how you get . Daemon poked me in t he back w it h his pen. I w asn’t sure exact ly how t hings w ere going t o play out w hen I saw Daemon in class. spreading t hrough my body. somet hing I’d oddly missed in a messed-up w ay happened.” His eyes closed. “Y eah. T here w as a spike of somet hing— excit ement ?—in my low er st omach as t he silence st ret ched out for w hat felt like an et ernit y. He t ook his seat behind me. His hand slipped over his chest . It w as just a good moment in a long st ring of bad ones. Warmt h t ingled over my neck w hile Carissa w as t elling me about a romance book she w as reading. Guess t hat phone call w ent w ell. He’d cleared out of t he house w hile I w as st ill asleep and I hadn’t seen him w hen I hung out w it h Dee on Sunday. I snuggled dow n in my corner of t he couch. At least . t hat w as w hat I kept t elling myself. I had a dat e w it h Blake aft er school. I t hink I did. somet imes. T he sw elling w as back in my chest . And I had bigger and bet t er t hings t o t hink about . “Find w hat .“Y our virt ue?” I huffed. w hich consist ed of w at ching her suck face w it h Adam. . “Did you find it ?” I asked sleepily. and a deep flut t ering st art ed in my st omach w hen I t hought about us side by side on t he couch. but I w as w ell aw are of t he fact t hat Daemon w as t here. But my t hought s kept st raying back t o Daemon. Spending t ime w it h him Sat urday night hadn’t really changed anyt hing bet w een Daemon and me.

Definit e progress had been made w hen it came t o Daemon.” I said. We’d spent hours t oget her w it hout killing each ot her or submit t ing t o w ild monkey lust . fight ing a st upid grin. Simon w asn’t in class t o blame me for get t ing his ass kicked or t o t ell people he saw me go all supernat ural on t he w indow s.” I t urned around quickly and focused on t he chalkboard. He hardly sees anyt hing.” “Blushing. “W e live next door t o each ot her. “Anyw ay. “But mine have st ripes on t hem.” I glared at him. I have a pair like t hat . “I see lot s of t hings.Lesa’s brow s arched. but all in all I w as feeling kind of good about t hings. And I had a dat e t onight .” He frow ned. “Am I t he only person w ho is w ondering how you saw her socks?” Lesa asked. My new lapt op w as divine.” He t apped his pen on t he edge of his desk. he doesn’t . Love t hem in t he w int er.” I shook my head frant ically. but she w isely said not hing as I t w ist ed around. “I’m not sure how I feel about t hat .” I passed Daemon a smug look. . I knew Daemon’s gaze w as fixed on t he back of my head. My socks w ere cool. “Shut up. “Reindeer socks t oday?” “No. “Oh. Carissa punched her on t he arm.” Carissa said. grinning. “Regular socks just seem so boring aft er seeing t he reindeer socks. point ing at my cheeks w it h t he blue cap of his pen. Polka dot s. fight ing a grin.” Lesa cleared her t hroat . “Y es?” His half grin w as all t oo familiar. “No. “W hat kind of…plans?” “Just plans. w hat are you doing t onight ?” But t erflies filled my st omach.” he said.” he reminded her.” he explained. “Reindeer socks?” “She has t hese socks t hat have reindeers on t hem and are kind of like a mit t en for t he t oes.” “Sock mit t ens?” “Regular. “I have plans. I shrugged.

T hat last bit made me sw allow . I couldn’t blame her.. sliding his dish over.. “I heard t hat Daemon beat up some guy because of you. Even if it might only be alien flu. Hell. he kind of did. I w as having a great t ime w it h him. Not bad.” Blake w inked. She kept smiling coyly at Blake. So I t old him about my homecoming dat e from hell. “I don’t know about t his. w e have t o change t hat . but .” Bot h his brow s rose in surprise as he leaned forw ard. “I’m not very food advent urous. I w as having fun. I decided it w asn’t horrendous. “Y ou going t o t ell me w hy?” “Y ou haven’t heard t he rumors?” He ran a hand t hrough his messy spikes.” “Well. “Try some of this.” T he slim redheaded w ait ress sw ung by and refilled our glasses. … “Here. . I glanced up. I felt a w eird t ug in my st omach.” It w as t he last t hing I w ant ed t o do. I bit back a st ring of curses. “I’m afraid t o even ask. Blake w as one of t he few guys w ho could pull off t he sw eat er and but t on-dow n shirt look.” Blake said aft er t he w ait ress left . “T hai is my favorit e. because you don’t know w hat you’re missing. but I couldn’t go on pret ending t here w asn’t somet hing t here. “So I heard somet hing at school t oday. God only knew w hat he’d heard. I w asn’t ready t o suddenly believe Daemon. smiling. but as I pushed t he food around t he plat e. “I hear a lot of t hings.” I kept my expression in check as I t w irled my fork in t he noodles. “Y eah.” I ran my hand over my jean-clad leg. I really had t o come clean w it h Blake.” He laughed. Love t he spices. T he small candle on t he side of t he t able flickered. but I don’t believe t hem. Slumping against t he seat . “It ’s really not t hat bad. I’m a st eak-and-hamburger kind of chick. but I figured he’d hear t he not -so-t rue part s sooner or lat er.” Blake grinned. he might ’ve already. but I t hink you’ll like it . It smells kind of funny. I t ried some more of t he noodles. “Okay. I slumped a lit t le in my boot h.” Aft er a small bit e.” “I can’t believe t he first t ime you’re eat ing Indian food is in W est Virginia. Rumors about me w ere flying like UFOs. It t ot ally looked cool coming from him. It w asn’t fair t o him…or t o Daemon.” He looked sympat het ic.” W e’d made it t his ent ire t ime w it hout bringing up Daemon.

st ruck by t he dept h of w hat he said. My brain is officially empt y.Anger flashed in his hazel eyes. my gaze sw eeping t he small rest aurant .” I didn’t respond because I hadn’t really t hought of it t hat w ay. Just t akes a lit t le bit t o get used t o. or t he w orld I’m reading. holy hell to the no.” Silence st ret ched out for a long moment . I can’t blame him for t hat . “T hat ’s t he funny t hing about t rying t o escape. No. and I w as st ill at t ract ed t o Daemon. but not complet ely. Dee’s friends. Aft er I finished a book or pot t ed a plant . “Yeah.” he agreed. “Surfing is probably t he only t hing t hat clears my mind.” I nodded absent ly. I don’t t hink about anyt hing. It ’s just t he w aves and me. . “W hat about you? Are you t rying t o escape?” Several seconds passed before he answ ered.” “W ell. my best friend w as st ill an alien. You never really can. but I rat ionalized it w as okay if I at least t old him by t he end of t he evening. I w asn’t even sure w hat I w as going t o say. I t hought he w as going t o break my hand for t ouching you at t he part y. “And so he got a lit t le mad over w hat Simon w as saying. I glanced up. “Enough about Daemon. Heck. and not hing else. I needed t o t ell him t he t rut h. Dad w as st ill dead. but he really is…prot ect ive of you. I’m not dating Daemon. feeling all kinds of aw kw ard. Blake st art ed t alking about plans for T hanksgiving break next w eek. Oh. and w hen I’d finished. t hat . Soon. I couldn’t believe it. He’d be out of t ow n for most of it . I w as being a t ot all chicken. but he’s kind of prot ect ive of…um.” “Sounds like you do it t o escape. It must be hard loving surfing so much and being so far from a beach.” Blake suggest ed. I rest ed my chin on my hand. Maybe t emporarily. I did use t hose t hings t o escape. A dist ant look crept int o his eyes.’” “Daemon can be…” “An asshole. W armt h jolt ed dow n my spine.” I squeezed my fork. so it’s probably best if you don’t get too close? I sighed. but t hat ’s kind of an ext reme react ion for someone w ho’s just a ’friend. visit ing family. Discomfit ed. He’s really not t hat bad.” “It is. W hen I’m out t here on t he w aves.” Sliding t he plat e back t o him. he sat back. but now t hat he said it . but I can’t stop thinking about how w e combust every time w e’re near. T his w as not happening. It ’s peaceful. But I didn’t w ant t o spoil dinner. “I’m glad Daemon did pummel t he dick.” “I can underst and t hat . “It ’s t he same t hing w hen I’m gardening or reading. It w as t he t rut h. It ’s just me and w hat I’m doing. I idly separat ed t he noodles on my plat e int o groups.

Behind t he t all part it ion w alls, a dark head moved t hrough t he t iny row s. I fell back against t he seat , w holly aw are of him and horrified. T his w as my dat e—my dat e. W hat w as he doing here? Daemon navigat ed around t he clust ers of t ables w it h a grace I envied. Women st opped eat ing or ceased mid-conversat ion as he passed. Men scoot ed back t o give him more room. He had a profound effect on everyone w ho saw him. Frow ning, Blake t w ist ed around, and his shoulders st iffened as he faced me. “Overprot ect ive t ype…?” “I don’t …even know w hat t o say,” I mumbled helplessly. “Hey guys.” Daemon slid int o t he seat next t o me, w hich left very lit t le room. T he w hole left side of my body w as pressed against his, t ingling and w arm. “Am I int errupt ing?” “Y es,” I said, mout h agape. “Oh, sorry.” Daemon didn’t look sincere. Or make any at t empt t o leave. A half smile formed on Blake’s lips as he sat back and folded his arms. “How are you doing, Daemon?” “I’m doing great .” He st ret ched, draping his arm along t he back of our boot h. “How about you, Brad?” Blake laughed soft ly. “My name’s Blake.” Daemon’s fingers t apped off t he back of t he boot h, brushing my hair. “So w hat w ere you guys up t o?” “We w ere having dinner,” I said and st art ed t o scoot forw ard, but Daemon’s fingers hooked around t he back of my t urt leneck, fingers gent ly sliding against my skin. I shot him a deat h glare and ignored t he goose bumps peaking my skin. “And I t hink w e w ere just about done,” Blake said, his eyes cent ered on Daemon. “W eren’t w e, Kat y?” “Y eah, w e just need our check.” Very discreet ly, I low ered my hand under t he t able, found Daemon’s t high, and pinched. Hard. He t ugged me back, causing my knee t o hit t he t able. “W hat w ere you planning t o do aft er dinner? W as Biff t aking you t o a movie?” Blake’s easy grin st art ed t o falt er. “Blake. And t hat w ould be t he plan.” “Hmm.” Daemon’s gaze flicked up, and a second lat er, Blake’s glass t ipped over.

I gasped. Wat er sloshed over t he t able, spilling int o Blake’s lap. He jumped up, let t ing out a curse. T he movement shook t he t able again. His plat e of spicy noodles slid—w ell, flew —ont o t he front of Blake’s sw eat er. My jaw dropped. Holy mount ain mama, Daemon had t aken my dat e host age. “Jesus,” Blake mut t ered, hands at his sides. Grabbing napkins, I t urned t o Daemon. My look promised a vengeful deat h as I handed Blake t he napkins. “T hat w as really st range,” Daemon said, smirking. Red-faced, Blake glanced up from pat t ing his crot ch dry. For a moment , his eyes fixed on Daemon and I sw ore he w as going t o come across t he t able. And t hen his eyes shut t ered. Quiet ly and w it h st iff, jerky movement s, he brushed off t he brow n noodles. T he w ait ress rushed t o Blake’s side w it h several more napkins. “W ell, anyw ay, I’m act ually here for a reason.” Daemon picked up my glass and t ook a drink. “Y ou’re needed at home.” Blake halt ed his movement s. “Excuse me?” “Did I speak t oo fast , Bart ?” “His name is Blake,” I snapped. “And w hy am I needed at home? Right now , at t his very moment ?” Daemon met my eyes, his st are heavy and int ense w it h meaning. “Somet hing has come up and you need t o check it out now .” Something obviously meant alien business. Unease craw led dow n my spine. Now his sudden appearance made sense. For a few minutes, I w as really beginning t o believe it had been pure, primal jealousy t hat drove him t o go all st alker on us. And as much as it t icked me off t o do t his, I knew I had t o leave. T urning t o Blake, I w inced. “I’m really, really sorry about t his.” Blake’s gaze dart ed bet w een us as he picked up t he check. “It ’s okay. T hings happen.” I felt like a t ool, w hich seemed fit t ing, since I w as sit t ing next t o t he biggest w iener ever. “I’ll make it up. I promise.” He smiled. “It ’s all right , Kat y. I’ll t ake you home.” “T hat w on’t be necessary.” Daemon smiled t ight ly. “I got t his, Biff.” I w ant ed t o face-palm myself. “Blake. His name is Blake, Daemon.” “It ’s okay, Kat y,” Blake said, lips t hin. “I’m a mess.” “T hen it ’s solved.” Daemon st ood, allow ing me t o scoot out .

Blake t ook care of t he check, and w e headed out side. I st opped by his car, aw are of Daemon’s int ense st are. “I am so, so sorry.” “It ’s okay. You didn’t knock t he st uff on me.” He paused, brow s narrow ing as he st ared hard at somet hing over my shoulder. Tw o guesses w hat — or w ho—t hat w as. Pulling his cell out of his back pocket , he checked t he display before shoving it in his jeans. “Alt hough t hat w as t he craziest t hing I’ve ever seen. But anyw ay, w e’ll make up for it w hen I get back from break, okay?” “Okay.” I st art ed t o give him a hug but halt ed. T he front of his sw eat er w as st ained and moist looking. Laughing, Blake leaned in and placed a quick, dry kiss on my lips. “I’ll call you.” I nodded, w ondering how one person could single-handedly ruin everyt hing w it hin a minut e. It w as a t alent . W it h a w ave, Blake w as gone, and I w as alone w it h Daemon. “Y ou ready?” Daemon called, holding open t he passenger door. I st alked over t o t he car and climbed in, slamming t he door behind me. “Hey.” He frow ned from out side t he car. “Don’t t ake your anger out on Dolly.” “Y ou named your car Dolly?” “W hat ’s w rong w it h t hat ?” I rolled my eyes. Daemon jogged around t he front of t he car and slid in. T he moment he closed t he door behind him, I t w ist ed in my seat and punched him in t he arm. “Y ou are such a jerk! I know you did t he glass and plat e t hing. T hat w as so w rong!” He held up his hands, laughing. “W hat ? It w as funny. T he look on Bo’s face w as priceless. And t he kiss he gave you? W hat w as t hat ? I’ve seen dolphins give hot t er kisses t han t hat .” “His name is Blake!” I punched his leg t his t ime. “And you know it ! I can’t believe you act ed like t hat . And he doesn’t kiss like a dolphin!” “From w hat I’ve seen, he does.” “Y ou didn’t see t he last t ime w e kissed.” His laught er died off. Uh oh. He t urned t o me slow ly. “Y ou’ve kissed him before?” “T hat ’s none of your business.” My cheeks flushed, giving me aw ay.

Anger sparked in his magnet ic eyes. “I don’t like him.” I gaped at Daemon. “Y ou don’t even know him.” “I don’t need t o know him t o see t hat t here’s somet hing…off about him.” He t urned t he key and t he engine rumbled t o life. “I don’t t hink you should be hanging out w it h him.” “Oh, t his is rich, Daemon. W hat ever.” St aring st raight ahead, I hugged my elbow s and shivered. I w as so angry my head w as t w o seconds from spinning. “Are you cold? W here’s your jacket ?” “I don’t like jacket s.” “Did t hey do somet hing t errible and unforgiveable t o you, t oo?” He t urned on t he aut omat ic t emperat ure set t ing. Warm air blast ed out of t he vent s. “I find t hem…cumbersome.” I sighed loudly. “W hat w as so freaking imperat ive t hat you had t o go st alker-mode and find me?” “I w asn’t st alking you.” He sounded offended. “Oh, you w eren’t ? Did you use your alien GPS syst em t o find me?” “W ell, yeah, sort of.” “Argh! T his is so w rong.” I seriously doubt ed Blake w ould be calling me again. Not t hat I blamed him. If I w ere him, I w ouldn’t be. Not w hen a psychot ic alien w as shadow ing me. “So w hat ’s t he deal?” Daemon w ait ed unt ill w e pulled ont o t he highw ay. “Mat t hew has called a meet ing of t he minds, and you should be t here. It has t o do w it h t he DOD. Somet hing’s happened.”

Chapter 12
We got back t o his house before t he rest of t hem show ed up, and I w as t rying t o keep calm as I set t led int o t he recliner in t he corner. Daemon w asn’t panicking, but he didn’t know w hat w as going on yet . Out side, several car doors slammed shut . I w rapped my arms around my w aist , and Daemon moved t o my side, sit t ing on t he arm of my chair. Ash and t he T hompson boys w ere t he first t o come in. Adam smiled at us before sit t ing next t o Dee. She offered him t he bag of popcorn she’d been scarfing and he dug in. Andrew t ook

one look in my direct ion and rolled his eyes. “Anyone have a clue w hy she’s here?” I loat hed Andrew . “She needs t o be here,” Mr. Garrison said, closing t he door behind him. He moved t o t he cent er of t he living room, all eyes on him. Out side of school, he alw ays dressed dow n in jeans. “I w ant t o keep t his lit t le get -t oget her short .” Ash smoot hed a hand over her purple t ight s. “T he DOD know s about her, right ? W e’re all in t rouble?” My breat h caught . I w asn’t mad at t he scornful t one in her voice. A lot w as at st ake if t he DOD found out about me, about t hem. “Do t hey, Mr. Garrison?” “As far as I know , t hey don’t know about you,” he said. “T he elders called a meet ing t onight because of t he increase in DOD presence here. It appears somet hing has caught t he DOD’s at t ent ion.” I sank back against t he chair, relieved. But t hen it hit me. I may be off t he hook, but t hey w eren’t . I glanced around t he room, not w ant ing t o see any of t hem in t rouble. Not even Andrew . Adam st ared at a but t ery piece of popcorn. “W ell, w hat did t hey see? No one’s done anyt hing w rong.” Dee sat t he bag of popcorn aside. “W hat ’s t he deal?” Mat t hew ’s ult ra-bright blue gaze circled t he room. “One of t heir sat ell it es picked up t he light show from Hall ow een w eekend, and t hey’ve been out t o t he field, using some sort of machine t hat picks up on residual energy.” Daemon scoffed. “T he only t hing t hey’re going t o find is a burned pat ch of ground.” “T hey know w e can manipulat e light for self-defense, so from w hat I’ve gat hered, t hat ’s not w hat caught t heir at t ent ion.” Mr. Garrison glanced at Daemon, frow ning. “It ’s t he fact t hat t he energy w as so st rong it disrupt ed a sat ell it e’s signal and t hey w eren’t able t o snap any pict ures of t he event . Not hing like t hat has ever happened before.” Daemon kept his expression blank. “I guess I’m just t hat aw esome.” Adam laughed under his breat h. “Y ou’re so pow erful you’re disrupt ing signals now ?” “Disrupt ed only t he signal?” Mr. Garrison barked a short laugh. “It dest royed t he sat ell it e—a sat ell it e designed t o t rack high-frequency light and energy. It zeroed in on Pet ersburg, and t he event dest royed t he sat ell it e.” “Like I said, I’m t hat aw esome.” Daemon’s smile w as smug, but I w as filling w it h anxious energy.

rising t o my feet at t he same t ime Mr. “Kat y. “I’m just t elling t he t rut h.” Mat t hew said. And t hey have no reason t o be. but fear spiked in me.” Andrew mut t ered. “Honest ly.” Ash said. “We don’t w ant t he DOD suspect ing t hat you know anyt hing you shouldn’t .” “W hat do t he ot her Luxen have t o say about t his?” Dee asked.” “As aw esome as t hat is. “Here w e go.” Mr.“W ow . “T hat ’s pret t y aw esome. None—” Daemon w as across t he room in a flash. Popcorn?” Adam t ook a handful. “Does t he DOD suspect w e have more abilit ies?” “I t hink t hey w ant t o know how it ’s possible t hat he w as able t o do somet hing like t hat . and t hen she gasped. Ash jumped from her chair. “Andrew . I don’t have t o like her because you’re infat uat ed w it h t he st upid human. I shot him a look. T hat t hey’ve been here.” His sist er w hirled on him. Garrison shout ed. monit oring t hings. Andrew needs his ass kicked. “W hat are you doing?” Grabbing her snack. Respect gleamed in his eyes. Dee sighed and sat back. She has just as much t o lose as w e do. capable of almost anyt hing? If so. but t hey already know you’re st rong. . so how could he explain w hat happened? And w ould t he DOD guess t he Luxen w ere far more pow erful t han t hey realized.” Mat t hew st udied Daemon. “T hey aren’t t oo concerned at t his point . It hadn’t been Daemon w ho’d t aken out Baruck. Fully enveloped in int ense reddish-w hit e light . my friends—and Daemon—w ere in danger. gasping. “T he elders t old t hem t here w as a fight bet w een our kind. I’m going t o knock t he—” “W hat ?” Andrew exclaimed. but Daemon responded before I could. t he DOD is very curious. No one implicat ed you.” Andrew murmured.” He glanced at his w rist w at ch.” I said. “Because it w as Daemon w ho caused such a disrupt ive burst of energy and not t hem. Y ou can be expect ing a visit from t hem soon.” He shrugged. Daemon. “So you’re t aking her side now ? A human’s?” “T his isn’t about sides. Garrison cont inued. T he DOD being here isn’t Kat y’s fault . keeping an eye on t he boys.” “Speak for yourself. he snat ched Andrew up and slammed him int o t he w all w it h such force t he pict ures around t hem rat t led. T he elders believe t hey w ill be here a w hile. “Daemon!” I shrieked. it ’s very import ant t hat you’re careful w hen hanging around t he Blacks. “It ’s imperat ive t hat everyone is on t heir best behavior.

“Do you really t hink she can hold her ow n against t he DOD if t hey quest ion her? Because of how close she is t o Dee and you. “I’m just his…his friend. Andrew flickered int o his human form.” Andrew scow led. Daemon. “Some just forget t hat .” Mr. T he Arum w ould’ve never seen you. at least . And you.” Ash rolled her eyes. t hanks. are you planning t o do a repeat of your brot her? W anna die for her. t his sit uat ion w as my fault. even t hose gaudy purple t ight s of hers.” Wat ching her go. “Seriously. It had been my bizarro output of energy that had draw n the DOD here. because someone needed t o. he grabbed Daemon and yanked him off Andrew . it ’s w hat human friends do. and t his w hole messed-up chain of event s w ould’ve never happened!” “Oh. shut up. T his w as ridiculous. It w as st range t o t ouch him like t his. Garrison w arned.” Ash snapped back. “But if you w ant t o put him out of commission for t he next w eek aft er t hat comment . Daemon. I sat dow n.Bot h w ere in full Luxen mode.” “Andrew . “T hat w as a low blow . . T his is her fault . Not hing but a male-shaped form of int ense bluish light . t hat w as just w rong. “Dude. “W ell.” “And it ’s w hat t he Luxen do. “I’ll w ait out side. but he w as on t he ot her side of Daemon. Ash glared at me for a long moment . brot her.” Adam said. “W hat ?” He backed off. t hey w ill ask her quest ions.” I said t o Andrew . T hey prot ect each ot her. I’ll help. My chest ached. But in a w ay. Mr. W it hout t hinking. I shot across t he room and w rapped my fingers around his glow ing w rist . she spun around and headed for t he door. and I knew he w as going t o charge Andrew again. I w ondered if she’d find a reason t o blame me for everyt hing. Unt ill t hen I hadn’t realized he’d moved. eyes narrow ed on a st ill-iridescent Daemon. Ash. t oo?” Daemon’s light flared bright er.” “T hat ’s great and dandy. “None of t his w ould be happening if you hadn’t show n up here.” Adam said. “But Daemon w ouldn’t have gone all Rambo on t he Arum if his precious human w asn’t in danger every five seconds.” W it h a disgust ed sigh. Garrison finally broke t he boys apart . T he back of my neck t ingled. Kat y risked her life t o make sure t he Arum didn’t know w here w e lived. So w as Mat t hew .” “Gee.” “I’m not his precious human!” I t ook a deep breat h. Knock me around all you w ant . but I’m not going t o be okay w it h her. st aring at his sist er. And t hat ’s w hat friends do.” Dee t hrew a handful of popcorn at her. Warmt h and elect ricit y shot up my arm. t hough.” “She’s right . “He doesn’t even deserve your ass kicking. You w ould’ve never got t en t he original t race on you.

” “Don’t be. T hey t hink you’re responsible for w hat happened—t he crazy energy t hing.” T hey left aft er t hat .” Daemon’s jaw w orked as he grabbed t w o cans of Coke. t he Arum t hing is.” His eyes searched my face in a w ay t hat made me feel exposed t o t he core. “I don’t know if it ’s scary. W e need t o be careful. meet ing mine. I t ucked my hair back. Kit t en.” Mr.” I played w it h t he t ab on t he can. I let go of his w rist and st illed under his int ense st are. and t hen Daemon’s light faded and he set t led back int o his human form. it ’s never been about me.” “Harder said t han done. “I’m sorry about w hat Andrew said. T hat w as w rong.” “W hat about t he fact w e’re made of light ?” I smiled a lit t le t hen. “He believes t hat one day. probably not in our generat ion. “It ’s not just me. “T his is t he kind of display w e cannot afford. my kind and t he Arum w ill nearly out number yours.” A cynical grin pulled at his full lips. Bot h of you need t o cool dow n and keep in mind t hat t hey are here. “W ell. I follow ed him int o t he kit chen.” “Really? T hat ’s kind of…” “Scary?” he said. “Y eah. and t hen his gaze flicked up. I needed t o know t hat Daemon w as okay. handing me one.” “St ill not right . Charged air passed from his skin t o mine. He glanced dow n t o w here my hand curved around his w rist . “Are you w orried about t he DOD being here?” I hesit at ed. “It is w hat it is. I am. I should’ve left . She w ant ed t o spend t ime w it h Adam and also make sure he didn’t end up mauling Andrew . but aft er Andrew ’s t hought less comment . including Dee. Garrison drew in a deep breat h. I mean.Tense silence follow ed. Even if I had done t hat . W hat if t hey t hink you’re…a danger?” Daemon didn’t answ er for several moment s. low ering his gaze. It ’s about all t he Luxen. but your kind—t he Luxen—freaky pow ers aside…you’re not very different from us. “I t hink t hat ’s enough for t his evening. but some day. “It ’s not me I’m w orried about .” He paused. w hich left Daemon and me alone. shocking me w it h a crack.” . besides t hat . “Y ou know w hat Mat t hew believes?” “No.

W it h a cocky grin.” Chapter 13 Horror rolled t hrough me. All of t hem ended w it h him being t aken in by t he DOD. Daemon st rung t oget her a t ruckload of f-bombs and appeared next t o me. “t hat if some of our kind believes t his. W ho really know s?” My mout h felt dry. Finally. I rolled up my jeans. Kit t en.” Pushing t he hair out of my face.” he said. Each second t hat w ent by. “Are you okay?” “I’m peachy.” “W hen I w as at t he compound before. “Most ly t hey didn’t w ant t o be kept under t he t humb of t he DOD.” . Ot hers I guessed w ere view ed as a t hreat because t hey asked t oo many quest ions. A chair flew out from under t he t able. easing a shoulder under my arm for support and pulling me close.” I w iggled out of his embrace and t ent at ively placed my w eight on my leg. I’m a nat ural disast er. how come t he DOD isn’t w orried?” He had a good point . slamming int o my knee w it h such force t hat my leg collapsed under me.” “I’m fine. t here w ere Luxen w ho didn’t assimilat e. he w inked. “Great . he nodded. t here.” T he muscle in his jaw st art ed t icking.” I shot him a dark look. grabbing me a second before I hit t he floor. “Holy crap…” He helped me st and up. get up on t he t able and let me look at t hat . T he ext reme emot ion t riggered t he st at ic t hat rushed over my skin so fast I couldn’t st op it . “W hat happens if t hey t hink you are a t hreat ? And don’t beat around t he bush about it . I yelped in pain and buckled over. I lift ed my head. T he burst of energy smacked around t he room.“It got me t hinking. Wet w armt h t rickled dow n my leg. t he unease in my st omach grew . “W hoa. but my brain w as t hrow ing out all kinds of w ild scenarios. And I w as t rying not t o let my fear for him t ake over. “W hat happened t o t hem?” Several moment s passed before Daemon answ ered. I dropped t he unopened can of soda as w ood scrapped over t ile. “T hey killed t hem.” “I might have t o agree w it h t hat . finding blood. “Come on.

” “Ha. it w as salvageable.” He laughed. Elect ricit y danced along my leg. “Basically. Ha. it w as crazy. like you. Ot her t han looking gross. I reached for t he clot h. placing my foot on t he chair.” I sw allow ed at t he sight . “W hen w e w ere younger. . He’d go t o sit dow n and t he chair w ould fly out from under him. So I’m operat ing at t he level of a t oddler?” Daemon’s lust rous eyes met mine. I don’t t hink you’ll need st it ches.” “Ugh. “W hat …how did you do t hat ?” “Skill. hobbling—and t hen air rushed me and I w as sit t ing on t he t able.” I glanced dow n and saw t he fresh gash on my knee. w hen w e w ere kids and learning how t o cont roll our abilit ies. t hat ’s w hat our elders say. His fingert ips brushed against my skin as he rolled my pant s above my knee. At least . “But he w as young. because it links us back t o our home planet . Anyw ay.” “No problem. He w as careful not t o t ouch my skin t his t ime. but he knelt and st art ed t o gent ly blot at t he blood.” T he dark graphic shirt st rained against his chest w hen he laid t he bloodied t ow ell aside and leaned back. you know ? Like t he source of it all. He came back. it ’s bleeding all over t he place.” Daemon quickly grabbed a clean t ow ell and dampened it . and I jerked. it ’s st opped bleeding already. are you?” “Uh. no. “W ow . not quit e meet ing my eyes.” Daemon shook his head as he cont inued t o dap at t he blood. “T he energy in us—w e call it t he Source.He didn’t argue w it h me about it . you really are a disast er. t hings like t his w ould happen all t he t ime.” he said. Daw son had t his habit of moving furnit ure. “Y ou’re not going t o heal me. One second I w as st anding—er.” “Great .” “T he Source?” He nodded. Not t hat bad. because w ho know s w hat w ould happen t hen? Y ou might t urn int o an alien. “Look. Kit t en?” “See? I didn’t even w ant t o move t he chair and it flew at me like a heat -seeking missile. before w e could cont roll t he Source. “T hank you for cleaning it up.” He light ly brushed his fingert ips around t he cut . “W hat am I going t o do w it h you. My mout h dropped open.

Lit t le t ingles shimmed up my leg. Oh no. arrogant .” His head slant ed and his smile w as lazy. Light sw ept t hrough me as w e kissed. But due t o Daemon’s int errupt ion at dinner. “Do you know w hat I’ve been t hinking about all day?” W it h him. Predat ory. and my new kindergart en-age abilit ies. I blinked. He inhaled deeply and it came out in an unst eady rush. feat her light . .” “I do. Funny. His eyes w ent from a cool green t o liquid fire w it hin seconds. kissing him and t ouching him—t hings I shouldn’t t hink about . As if w e’d kissed t o punish each ot her. Not w hen a slow fire w as burning under my skin—and under his. if Blake ever spoke t o me again.” His lips brushed t he skin of my cheek. His pupils st art ed t o glow and his breat h seemed t o have st alled in his chest . t he fact Daemon w as an alien w as t he complicat ion I considered t he least import ant . he w as moving closer.” Daemon rose slow ly.” Daemon shift ed his head just enough t hat our lips brushed once…and t hen t w ice before he increased t he pressure. My w hole body t ensed as he neared and placed his hands on eit her side of me. T hat is. T here w as a w hole slew of complicat ions: his at t it ude. t hey w eren’t enough. w hich w as debat able. I st ill didn’t pull aw ay. “Finding out if you look as good in st riped socks as you do in reindeer ones. “W hat are you t hinking about ?” he asked. “No. And neit her did he. Know ing all of t hat . and his lips scorched mine as he deepened t he kiss unt ill w e bot h w ere breat hless from it s int ensit y. “Do you have any idea w hat you do t o me?” he asked gruffly. his voice w as rough. Cupping my cheeks. but soon t he kisses. t he connect ion bet w een us. “I knew it . Daemon’s hand st illed as he lift ed his head. T hen he bent over t he chair bet w een us.I jerked at t he cont act . “Not hing. Like t he kiss w e’d shared in t he clearing t he night he’d healed me. But t his w as gent le and soft .” I shouldn’t let t his happen. Infinit ely t ender. Irony w as a bit ch. “I’m not doing anyt hing. I didn’t get t o t alk t o Blake. holding my gaze. W hen he spoke. rest ing his forehead against mine. it w as anyone’s guess. T his kiss…it w as not hing like t he ot her t imes. Sliding int o his arms. he exhaled a soft groan. And t hen t here w as Blake. w hich seemed t o be angry and challenging.

Or not . W ait ed for… W hat had happened slow ly sank in beyond t he fog in my brain. . flush against mine. I didn’t know anyt hing anymore. along my cheek. “We need t o st op fight ing w hat w e bot h w ant .” “I know . Let t ing go. st epping forw ard.” Air caught in my t hroat . clearing a pat h for his lips t o meet my w ildly beat ing pulse.” My voice shook. His t ongue sw ept over mine as his fingers splayed across my cheeks. and t hen t he heavy oak chair slid out from under me. His lips pressed against t he spot under my ear. “W e—” “We like each ot her. A shudder rolled t hrough me. W it h one last lingering explorat ion. I’d just kissed him. Y ou can’t say t hat ’s not t rue. My heart skipped a beat as he hovered over me w it h an expression t hat t ugged deep in my chest . His hand slid dow n my side.” He leaned in.” I said. T he full cont act of his body. w ant ing him closer. I held ont o him. “W e can’t keep doing t his. “And before you say it . his nose brushing my cheek. Kit t en. Again. He moved his fingers back up. T he kisses slow ed and his chest rose as he drank me in. I ordered restlessly. Move. pulling me up. he lift ed his head and smiled dow n at me. T he chair prevent ed all but our lips and hands from t ouching. I collapsed backw ard. t railing an invisible pat h t o my chin.” “I’m assuming you didn’t like w here it w as?” “It w as in your w ay. I closed my eyes as his fingers inched dow n my t urt leneck. grasping t he edges of t he t able on eit her side of me. Gripping his arms. sent my senses int o chaot ic overdrive. Frust rat ing. dodging our leaning bodies.” Daemon smoot hed a fingert ip over t he curve of my bot t om lip before t aking my hand. Unprepared for t he sudden void. And right aft er he’d t aken over my dat e w it h anot her guy —t he guy I should be kissing. gripping my hip as he urged me closer. It t rembled under my foot . and I w as unable t o carry t he unexpect ed w eight . he w at ched me carefully and w ait ed. “I can see t hat . bringing Daemon along w it h me.” he said. My hands w ere st ill curled around his arms. “I didn’t move t hat chair. w e w ere at t ract ed t o each ot her before I healed you.Daemon moved as close as he could w it h t he chair bet w een us. Daemon lurched forw ard.

” I sucked in a breat h.” I w as at t ract ed t o him on a level t hat w as nearly painful. “Y es. I know t hat . I opened my eyes. You have a lot t o deal w it h. some of it has t o do w it h t hat human. but it ’s about us.” He let go of my t urt leneck and slid his hand around t he nape of my neck as his body pressed against mine. T here w as somet hing w icked in t hose hot lit t le kisses he dropped all over my t hroat . t o w orry about losing. “I’ve t hought about t he repercussions—it ’s all I’ve t hought about . “T hat ’s not w hat t his is. But I can do bet t er t han t hat —bet t er t han Benny. And w hen t hey t urned out not t o be? It w ould be heart break. Do you t hink I don’t regret act ing like such a douche t o you? I’ve apologized. “It w asn’t right how I act ed. and he w ent on. t oo.” he said.” Daemon challenged. But I have my sist er and an ent ire race count ing on me.” he said. t ow ering over me.” W hy did I feel like I w as grasping at st raw s? . but t his w as Daemon. “W hy now .” I sighed. and t hen sighed. my t hought s sw imming at his t ouch.” “Dammit .” “Blake.” “Because of t he rest of t he Luxen?” My head t ipped back. “It w asn’t t hree mont hs ago and it w on’t be t hree mont hs from now . I dipped under his arms. w hen t hree mont hs ago you couldn’t st and t o breat he t he same air as me? It ’s t he connect ion bet w een us.” He st ood t here. “Y ou don’t get it . A secret I’d kept close t o my heart —t he same heart t hat w as jumping in my chest . “And t his has not hing t o do w it h t he connect ion or Blake?” “No. “T hey’ll out cast you. W iggling dow n.“It ’s not going t o be easy. About w hat w e feel for each ot her. I didn’t w ant you t o get close t o me. None of t his is easy for me. Like—” “I know . Caving t o him w as like saying t he w ay he’d t reat ed me w as okay. A dull ache shot t hrough my injured leg as I backed up. “Is t his like a ’I didn’t w ant you unt ill someone else w ant ed you’ t ype of t hing?” Daemon leaned against t he t able. He likes t hat I read a lot —” “I do. Daemon?” Tears of frust rat ion built in my eyes. It ’s t he only t hing t hat makes sense. And more import ant ly.” “T hen w hat is it . because I w ould seriously fall for him—fall more t han I already had. limping aw ay from him. “And he also blogs. Being around him had every cell in my body burning. I didn’t w ant anot her person t o care about . it required blind fait h in t he t heory t hat our feelings w ere real. And I know t his is hard for you. His w ere glow ing.” Part of me had been yearning t o hear him say t hat . “I have a lot in common w it h Blake.

” Daemon clamped his mout h shut .” “W hat w as t hat ?” Daemon gest ured at t he t able.” Not t hat I really believed he w ould. I reached for t he door but he st opped me. “Y ou do not . I can do it again if you’re not clear on w hat t hat w as. It ’s w rong.” . but t hat ’s not enough. “I have not hing against t he Int ernet . And I w ant ed him t o w ant me. I picked t he library because no one w ould see us t oget her.” “Oh. None of t his mat t ers.Daemon caught a piece of my hair and w rapped it around his finger. and I flushed.” “Y ou w ill. “And he doesn’t like me because of some st upid alien connect ion or because some ot her guy likes me. Shaking my head. And I’m not giving up.” “I don’t eit her. I squeezed my eyes shut briefly. because you w ant me and I w ant you. Fine. Y ou’ll break t hat boy’s poor lit t le human heart . Daemon.” “Y ou st uck t he cookie in your mout h!” I t hrew my hands up. “Y ou keep saying t hat …” “W hat does t hat mean?” he demanded. “T he Friday you came back aft er being sick?” He ran a hand t hrough his hair. I did w ant t o be w it h him. I cocked an eyebrow . “Do you know w hy I met you t hat day in t he library?” he asked. like it w as a good memory. People eat at t hat t able… “I t hink I show ed you t hat I like you. Daemon.” “I show you t hat I do. not because w e w ere t he same at om split or because someone else liked me. “Y ou say you w ant me.” Deep dow n. I w ent for t he door.” “I’m not going anyw here.” His eyes flashed. and I could t ell he w as fight ing back laught er. t oo. “T he t able…” “Humping my leg like a dog in heat every t ime I’m around you doesn’t prove you like me. I w on’t . Kat . “Act ually. t hat ’s how I show people I like t hem. “You w ere right .” Facing him. “Y ou can’t keep pret ending.” I knocked his hand aw ay. He smiled at t hat .” “No. “W hat ?” I faced him. And I’ve brought you a smoot hie and a cookie t o school. W hat ever.

I sat t here. “Good morning. “Daemon…” His smile w as really st art ing t o concern me. “Since w hen?” “Since t his past w eekend. How many people w ould kick a chick out of t he cafet eria like he had and t hen st art w ooing her? Not many.” Dumbfounded. a part of me had believed it . “T his is for you. “I t old you. Tan fingers held t he green st em. t hen you bet t er get t hat idea out of your head. “I didn’t w ant Ash or Andrew t o st art giving you a bunch of crap because of me like t hey did w it h Daw son and Bet h. “Simon is missing. “Did you hear?” Half asleep. “W ow . So if you t hink I’m embarrassed of you or not ready t o make my int ent ions very public. his eyes glit t ering like green t insel. Now t hat ’s even more unexpect ed. And t hen I remembered t he lump of spaghet t i hanging off his ear. “Missing?” I didn’t pay at t ent ion t o t he w arm t ingling on my neck or w hen Daemon saunt ered int o class. I’d had a hell of a t ime going t o bed last night aft er everyt hing w it h Daemon.” I st ared at him. T he flut t ering my st omach w as doing had t o be a consequence of no breakfast . holding t he rose unt ill t he t eacher w alked in and st art ed calling off names. “You know w hat . Daemon sat dow n before I could say anyt hing.” Lesa said. brushed against t he t ip of my nose. A single rose in full bloom.” Chapter 14 Lesa pract ically pounced on me t he moment I sat dow n in class. causing it t o burn. W hat in t he hell w as I supposed t o say t o t hat ? Yeah. Every single person in class w as st aring as my fingers w rapped around t he cool.My mout h snapped shut and a sick feeling leached up my t hroat . a vibrant red. Because if t hat ’s w hat it t akes. I like a challenge. I shook my head. t hen it ’s on. Confused.” His eyes pierced mine.” he added w hen I didn’t say anyt hing. heard Daemon’s amused laught er from t he day t hat felt so long ago. My eyes lift ed. Daemon st ood t here. . I t w ist ed around.” “And as alw ays.” Somet hing smelled sw eet and familiar. I’ve alw ays w ondered if your ego w as so big you didn’t w ant t o eat crow . I st ared at him. Kit t en.” Lesa’s eyes flicked up behind me and w idened. He pat t ed me on t he nose w it h t he rose again. you jump t o t he w rong assumpt ion. damp st em.

He’d been so against me mont hs ago and now he w ant ed t o be w it h me. Well. … Cops were everywhere over the next couple of days. She mout hed. Part of me act ually felt bad for Ash. And I also got t he dist inct impression t hey suspect ed I knew t heir secret . Sneaking a peek at Daemon over my shoulder. right ? Hat red t urned t o lust . I w ondered if someone had let t he alien out of t he bag. One day he brought me a pumpkin spiced lat t e—my favorit e—t hen an egg and bacon breakfast croissant . asking students and teachers questions about Simon. His brow s w ere low ered in concent rat ion. Cheeks flaming. W hen Daemon had said he w asn’t giving up. T hick. As if w e w ere a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Adam had left t he dark side and w as now sit t ing w it h Dee at lunch. going against t he w ishes of his race? Maybe he had a secret drug habit . I had no idea he w as going t o go all balls-t o-t he-w all right off t he bat . cat ching Lesa’s gaze. Daemon and I ended up being some of the first people t hey t alked t o. and I honest ly don’t t hink I t ook my eyes off it . t he fact t hat Daemon had beat en t he crap out of Simon didn’t look good. T he light caught t he moist ure on t he rose. especially since Daemon had become t he bearer of gift s. And t hat had t o be all. T hey lit erally couldn’t keep t heir hands off each ot her…or our food. Nice? It w as nice and sw eet and romant ic and about a t housand ot her t hings t hat had my heart doing backflips. plot t ing t o t ake out jocks everyw here. But t he cops didn’t t reat us like suspect s. I looked up. He did not hing t o hide his int ent ions. Aft er my first and only quest ioning w it h t hem in t he principal’s office. . my bet s w ould be on Ash or Andrew . I placed t he rose on my desk. I w as in so much t rouble.Daemon’s t hroat y chuckle w armed my chest . and a lily on Friday. Ash w as t he most likely suspect . glazed doughnut s on T hursday. soot y lashes hid his eyes. I w at ched him scribble along a blank piece of not ebook paper. She’d spent her w hole life expect ing t o be w it h Daemon. I det ermined t hat t w o of t he st at e t roopers w ere aliens. T hey lift ed and his lips spread int o a grin. Nice. W hy w ould he? Maybe he just w ant ed t o have sex w it h me. If I ended up being found in a dit ch somew here. I couldn’t even imagine w hat she w as t hinking—if she w as mourning t he final dow nfal of t heir relat ionship or if it w as just t hat she’d lost somet hing she’d believed w as hers.

W hat did he have up his sleeve t oday? In ot her w ords. really. I t ripped over t he upt urned corner of t he area rug and t ook a second t o st raight en t he ribbed sw eat er t hat had ridden up before I snat ched open t he front door. I w as in a marat hon review -w rit ing spree w hen someone knocked on my front door. Keeping an eye on me w as w hat he claimed t o be doing. I glanced dow n at my gray hoodie and t ucked a t angled st rand of hair behind my ear.” . Familiar feelings of anxiet y slid t hrough me. even as innocent and clandest ine as our meet ings w ere. body-t ingling close. “Uh. Blake…w ell. “Y ou look nice t oday. He had been gazing int o t he dist ance but pivot ed around t he moment I pushed open t he door. Daemon w as changing. I w as used t o t he sarcast ic and rude Daemon.” he comment ed unexpect edly. Blake spoke t o me in class. heart-stopping action. “So…w hat ’s up?” His excuse for spending t ime w it h me w as alw ays t he vague “Wat ching out for you. all complet ely his. But t his Daemon… t his one w ho w ouldn’t give up w as kind and gent le. In his w orld. and sw oon-w orthy romance. follow ed. I felt t he t ingling on my neck. As I neared t he door.” I cleared my t hroat . t here w as st ill a level of int imacy t hat couldn’t be denied. t hat t ranslat ed int o t ime suckage t hat involved every possible w ay he could get close t o me. Finishing up my last sent ence—Mesmerizing debut. But st rangely.” so I w asn’t expect ing anyt hing different t oday. Daemon. We could t rade insult s all day. his hands shoved deep int o t he pocket s of his jeans. w hich he w as unabashedly proud of. He brushed past me and int o t he hall w ay. Like. T he scent of him. w ait ing t o see if I w as at t acked by a chair again.Each night . “I just w ant ed t o see you. t hanks. a mixt ure of t he out doors and sandalw ood. funny and—dear God—t hought ful. t hat version w as easier t o deal w it h. It w as a heady aroma. how much more could he possibly complicat e my life? My no-kiss policy had remained st rong since Monday. In an odd w ay. w ill-breaking. but t here had been no t alk of anot her dat e. Daemon had been successful w it h t he scare t act ics. Daemon w ait ed on t he porch. Sat urday aft ernoon. Daemon soaked up my t ime. He t ext ed a few t imes at night . and quit-your-job one-sit read—before shutting my laptop. don’t-feed-your-kids. T he Hidden Circle is a forget-your-homew ork. and I alw ays had t o w ait unt ill Daemon decided t o leave before I could call him back.

I t hink I figured t hat part out .” An array of golden. “Do you t hink an Arum had anyt hing t o do w it h his disappearance?” Daemon shook his head. hell … He chuckled deeply. you know . “I’ll behave myself. Confused. I w at ched Daemon pull t he SUV off t he road and park along t he ent rance t o t he field t he kids part ied in. but kids around here didn’t disappear w it hout it having somet hing t o do w it h t he Luxen and Arum. I haven’t seen any. “I t hought w e could t ake a w alk. It ’s nice out side. T he same place w e’d fought Baruck. “I haven’t . but I w as int rigued. It didn’t t ake me long t o realize w here w e w ere going.” It w as brisk out side. let ’s go.” “Y ou ask a lot of quest ions. he st eered me in t he direct ion of his SUV. red.” I made a face at him. but w e can’t be t oo sure.” “I haven’t eit her. It just encouraged his…not -so-bad behavior. “All right .” W ell.” Glancing back at my lapt op. . “I don’t t hink so.” He leaned forw ard and w hispered. I climbed int o t he passenger’s seat . “W ell.” I laughed at t hat . “I promise.” he said.” An Arum t aking Simon w ouldn’t make any sense. Inst ead of heading t ow ard t he w oods. I glanced out t he w indow at t he familiar scenery.“Oh. “Have you heard anyt hing about Simon?” I asked aft er he’d backed out of t he drivew ay. “Exact ly w here are w e going t o t ake a w alk?” “Out doors. I debat ed. Spending t ime w it h him w asn’t somet hing I should be doing.” “I’ve been t old I’m very inquisit ive. and brow n leaves blurred as Daemon flew dow n t he highw ay.” he said dryly. “I t hink I figured t hat part out . now here near as cold as it w ould become once t he sun set .

” He crossed t he small dist ance bet w een us. “Killing at first used t o bot her me.” he said quiet ly. “Do you t hink t he DOD found anyt hing?” “I don’t know . Dead leaves of various colors lit t ered t he ground. it might be good t o be in t he know . T he soil seemed t o remember w hat had happened t hat night and refused t o let go of t he memory. Daemon smiled t ight ly. I st ill don’t . but it t ook on his essence and not hing w ill grow from t his spot .” We w alked t he rest of t he w ay in silence. I st opped at t he edge and t ried t o find t he spot w here Baruck had last st ood. Crazy. careful of t he rough t errain. climbing out . “Depends on if t hey’re using equipment I’m not familiar w it h. W hat lit t le sun t hat peeked t hrough t he clouds caught t he auburn t int in his dark hair.” I t ore my eyes aw ay from t he burned pat ch of ground. For a w hile. t aking a life.” “Is it t he w hole energy t hing?” “It ’s w hat ’s left over.” . Soon. “Wat ch out . You can’t change it . “I don’t know w hy. It bot hers me know ing t hat I’ve killed…t w o of t hem.” He st epped around a fall en t ree limb. t he only sound w e heard w as t he rust ling of our feet w ading t hrough t he colorful sea of leaves.” I moved around one part icularly gnarly-looking one. and he cleared his t hroat . “It makes sense t o me. I felt a peculiar st irring in me as soon as it came int o view . “T his might sound messed up. If t he DOD has been out here t o check it out . “T he ground w ill never heal. I don’t know w hy. A life is a life. pushing back t he leaves unt ill t he area w as uncovered complet ely. Never t hink t hat . t he branches are scat t ered everyw here. but —” “Y ou aren’t w rong for w hat you did. curving t hem around my cell phone. T he ground w as covered in leaves but t he t rees w ere st ill bent . t he scarred ground came int o view . It only w reaks havoc on you t o dw ell. “I w ant t o see if I feel anyt hing.” He t ook over.” “It ’s somet hing you have t o do. but I’ve w ant ed t o come back here.” I shoved my hands int o t he front pocket of my hoodie. “I don’t feel anyt hing. my feet sunk an inch or t w o t hrough t he leaves. “I didn’t like it . I pushed t he dead foliage w it h my foot . W it h each st ep.“W hy here?” I asked. st opping w hen I had t o t ilt my head back t o see him. T his spot w as like a sick gravesit e. looking even more grot esque as t hey t w ist ed t ow ard t he ground. huh?” “No.” His eyes met mine for a second.” Daemon bent and pushed anot her fall en limb out of t he w ay. I w as follow ing slight ly behind him. “T his place might hold a lot of residual energy from our fight and from Baruck’s deat h.” Daemon said soft ly from behind me.

smoot hing back a st rand of hair t hat had escaped my ponyt ail. “So I w as t hinking. T he slant of his mout h t ilt ed and an exhilarat ing heart beat lat er. His fingers t ight ened around mine.” He sighed. bringing it t o his lips.” My st upid heart st art ed jumping again.“And if t hey are. I glanced at him w arily. A hot shiver w ent up my arm. Peering t hrough his dark lashes. placing t he light est kiss against t he cent er of my palm. Large bales of hay came int o view . he burned me w it h one smoldering look. shoving my hands back int o t he pocket of my hoodie. Out side of your house and not just w alking around. And I’d moved my bed about t hree feet . not w ant ing him t o w orry needlessly. My lips part ed and my heart flut t ered in my chest like t he many leaves t hat fell t o t he ground around us. W e st art ed back t o t he car in silence.” .” He reached out . “Did you bring me out here just t o get me complet ely alone?” “T hat may have been a part of my mast er plan. “Y ou don’t w ant t o t ake me out on a dat e. “T hat ’s w hat it sounds like. “I t hink w e should head home.” I slipped my hand free and t ook a st ep back. I st ared at t he ground.” Daemon’s head low ered and his hair fell forw ard. “W hat ever you w ant . “I’m t rying not t o. I jerked back. “About w hat ?” “W e should do somet hing.” I w hispered.” he said aft er a few moment s.” T he t rees w ere st art ing t o t hin out . his lips pressed against mine and my heart sw elled. Daemon couldn’t be bot h. not even if t he levels of energy are higher.” “T hen t ry harder. “No kissing. and t hen he capt ured my hand.” He st ared st raight ahead. T oday I’d blow n t he light in my room. at w ar w it h w hat I w ant ed and w hat I needed. “It doesn’t really t ell t hem anyt hing. brushing my cheek. Have you been experiencing any out burst s recent ly?” “No. T oget her. His hand lingered on my cheek for a moment longer.” I said. breat hing heavily. “W e should go out t o dinner or maybe a movie. “Are you asking me out ?” He laughed under his breat h.” I nodded. w hat does t hat mean? Is it somet hing t o be w orried about ?” “I don’t t hink so.

I’d be w it h her.” I t old him. Daemon moved in front of me. no mat t er how hard it is.” “You don’t ? Because t hat ’s w hat you’re doing. hands at his sides. W alking around him. “Because I know w hat I feel in here. “hello. eyes t rained on Daemon. Tw o men st ood beside one.” he argued. I’d rat her face-plant against a brick w all t han live for t he rest of my life w ondering w hat could’ve been. She’s not w ho I w ant .” . Tw o giant black SUVs w ere parked on eit her side of Daemon’s. Tension t ight ened his muscles.” His feat ures hardened as he st opped. But I’m not . Mr. Daemon. Unease rolled t hrough me like a chilled. “It ’s just t he challenge and t he connect ion. W hat ever you feel for me isn’t real. “You pret end w hat you feel for me isn’t real or doesn’t exist . “Because you can’t .” St unned.” Daemon shook his head in disbelief. And you know w hat ? I didn’t t hink you w ere t he t ype t o run. dressed in black suit s. Knot s formed in my st omach—t he good w arm and t w ist y kind. eyes narrow ed. direct ly above his heart . not really. Y ou can’t honest ly t ell me t hat you’d risk every Luxen around here t urning t heir backs on you for me. eit her. “How can you be sure?” “Because I know . I pulled my hands out and brushed my hair back. Chapter 15 One of t he Suit s st epped forw ard. “Y ou can’t w ant any of t his w it h me.” I correct ed him aut omat ically. “I don’t run.” he spat . And I know damn w ell you don’t feel anyt hing for Bobby.” “T hat ’s ridiculous. dark w ave. “If I w ant ed her. Maybe w it h Ash—” “I don’t w ant Ash. facing me.” I st art ed w alking again. And I’m not t he t ype of person t o run from anyt hing. “I don’t w ant t o t alk—” We came t o a st andst ill at t he edge of t he w oods.“W hy do you keep t elling me w hat I don’t w ant ?” Curiosit y colored his t one.” Daemon appeared in front of me. T he DOD w as here. Black and Miss Sw art z.” “Blake. “And you have got t o st op assuming you know w hat I w ant and w hat I w ould do. I didn’t have t o ask t o know w ho t hey w ere. He t humped his hand off his chest . blocking him in. I headed for t he car. Maybe I w as w rong.” “Neit her am I.

” “T hat w on’t be necessary. apparent ly know ing t he one guy.” Daemon grinned at me. A muscle popped in his jaw as he st ood by. T hey’d kill him. “Once w e find t he…” T he passenger door of one of t he Expedit ions opened and a w oman st epped out . Daemon w as get t ing int o his ow n car.” Lane smiled. Ready?” I looked at Daemon as I headed t ow ard t he SUV. His parent s are like mine. “We only have a few hours. But it couldn’t have been him.” Daemon’s right hand clenched. “So I can meet you guys lat er.” she replied. t rying t o make myself as small as possible. fear t rickled like ice w at er t hrough my veins. I murmured my t hanks as she opened t he back door. silent and helpless.” “Well. Daemon. Fall colors and all. I w as hoping t o cat ch up w it h you. W rong somehow . “Underage drinking?” T he w oman smiled. I seriously hoped I didn’t end up on a missing person’s flyer. I nodded. revealing sharp feat ures t hat w ould’ve been pret t y on someone w ho didn’t look like she might t ase me.” t he w oman cut in. because for a moment . and w e w ere looking for her cell phone. Forcing a smile. but he st opped and glanced back at me. and I glanced at Daemon for help. “It ’s not out of t he w ay. “He know s bet t er.” I said. T he ot her Suit ’s eyes bounced t o me. Get t ing in. His haw klike gaze follow ed my st eps.” My pulse w as all over t he place. I can t ake her home and meet up w it h you guys. It reminded me of t he kind paint ed on Barbie. Fake. “W e love t he roads back here. “I w asn’t expect ing you t oday.” Daemon cont inued.” Daemon answ ered in a monot one voice. Lane. W hat if t his w as t he last t ime I saw him—saw anyone? W hat if t hey’d discovered I knew t he t rut h? . and w e could get an early…dinner. “W e can t ake her back. and you guys can cat ch up. “T hat ’s cool w it h me. It ’ll be okay.” For a moment . “It ’s okay.” Unsure of w hat I should do. “W e got int o t ow n a lit t le early and saw your car. and it gave me t he creeps. I hat e t o cut your cell phone search-and-rescue short . “W hat w ere you guys doing out here?” “T here w as a part y here last night . “She lost it and w e’re st ill looking for it ” T he cell phone felt like it w as burning a hole in my pocket now . I knew t hen t here w as not hing he could do. Plast ic. I’d sw ear I heard his voice in my head. I just hope it ’s not going out of your w ay. She had icy blond hair pulled back in a t ight bun.” Lane mot ioned t ow ard his Expedit ion. “W e w eren’t drinking. I nodded and remained quiet . going along w it h everyt hing. Maybe it w as w ishful t hinking.“Hey. I t hought he’d prot est . but he t urned t o me.

but hey. t hen at least my last memory w ould’ve given me some sort of complet ion. Luckily.” I’m sure you are. “Oh…that’s really nice.W hat if t hey knew w hat I could do? Now I w ished I’d let Daemon kiss me back t here.” she said. I t hink t hey broke up during t he summer. He must t hink a lot of you t o help look for your cell phone. “Seat belt ?” Hands shaking and sw eat y. “It ’s not oft en t hat w e see him w it h a girl. I fast ened myself in. and t hen nodded at t he driver. isn’t he?” “Y es.” agreed Brian.” Nancy nodded.” he answ ered. I w as being int errogat ed. Because if I w as going t o disappear. “Um. She climbed int o t he passenger seat and t w ist ed around. “Yeah. since w e’re t he only ones w ho live on t he same st reet .” Nancy glanced out t he front w indow . Most of t he t ime w e don’t really even get along. Brian?” “Ash T hompson. How close are you w it h t hem?” Brian asked. “T his is Brian Vaughn. He and his sist er are really nice. He’s know n Daemon’s family for several years. deciding a lit t le bit of t he t rut h couldn’t hurt . “I guess so. Great . “Daemon is like one of Brian’s ow n. but t hat doesn’t have anyt hing t o do w it h us. I forced myself t o breat he slow ly as I raised my hand. “W e’re just friends. My name is Nancy Husher. Like t hey didn’t know her name.” “It doesn’t ?” Nancy asked. I could play along. T he man behind t he w heel said not hing.” . but t he hairs on his must ache kept blow ing as if he w ere breat hing heavily.” “But you just said he w as nice. “I’m not sure I’m follow ing t he quest ion. I shook my head.” “Dee is a doll. I recognized t hat w e w ere heading back t ow ard Ket t erman. t hanks for t he ride. “W ell.” My eyes dart ed bet w een t he t w o. “And Daemon? How close are you w it h him?” My mout h dried. w e’re kind of close.” “It ’s no problem. w iggling my fingers at him before t he w oman shut t he door.” “I t hought you said he w as dat ing someone. I’m just along for t he ride.

do you like t hem?” she asked. Miss Sw art z. T hey’re parent s. No one spoke aft er t hat .” “I know . “I don’t know . blaring like an alarm.” T he t iny hairs on my body rose. and t hey all seemed w . And just t hen. given t he fact t hey didn’t know I knew anyt hing.” I glanced out t he w indow . t hat made me squirm.” I met her eyes. “Katy. I shrugged. T he car coast ed t o a st op. and act all kinds of weird. W as t his dude real? It sounded a bit mechanical. I w as going t o have a heart at t ack before it w as over. track us down. “He can be nice w hen he w ant s. w it h t he w orst case of bad t iming in t he w orld. and I w as already unbuckling my seat belt . I opened t he door and climbed out . “T ake care. “And w hat about Dee?” “She’s aw esome. They stop by. kicking his legs up. “W hat I meant is. She smiled. w ringing my hands. “And w hat do you t hink of t heir parent s?” I frow ned. w illing her t o believe me. … “I’m sure he’s okay.” She held my st are a few more moment s and t hen t urned around in her seat .” Nancy said. “T hanks for t he ride.” But t hey knew w e w ere lying. Holy crap… My eyes flicked up t o Nancy’s. Face blank. more t han just t he obvious. And t hen it rang in front of t hem. Just coming and going. I really haven’t t alked t o t hem. my cell phone w ent off in my pocket .” I said hast ily. “No problem. Sw eat gat hered along my brow . T here w as somet hing about Nancy. He t old t hem w e w ere out t here looking for my cell phone and t hat I’d lost it .” I st opped in front of her T V. “I don’t hang out at t heir house oft en. W hen Brian t urned ont o my road.” A single pale eyebrow arched.Shit .” Dee said again. they do this all the time. Fear had root ed deep inside my gut from t he moment t hey’d deposit ed me in front of my house. I almost cried in relief. T hese w ere really w eird quest ions t o be asking.” Brian laughed. but w hat ’s t he big deal?” Adam sat on t he couch. “Y ou don’t underst and. T his w as t he longest t rip ever. so I don’t run int o t hem. “I don’t see t hem oft en. “T here’s no w ay t hey’d suspect you know anyt hing.

“Are you sure it ’s not more t han t hat ?” I halt ed.” She got up. Dee didn’t look ent irely convinced.” “He’s been bringing you st uff t o school.” “Oh.” Adam’s eyes w ent w ide. “Of course. put it all out t here like t hat . “But t hat w as hours ago. Not t hat she hadn’t asked. and w e’ve been having sex.” “Honey. “It ’s t rue. he’s fine. “T hey w ere here first and t hen w ent looking for him. “T hey aren’t going t o find out .” Nodding.” Dee added. geez. clasping my hands.” Adam said. Dee.” “But w hy w ould it t ake so long w it h him?” “Because t hey like t o give him crap and he likes t o give it back. “W ow . Kat y. she sat beside a red-faced Adam. It ’s almost t en. “I’m surprised t hat you’re so concerned about Daemon’s w elfare.” Moving t o t he couch.ay t oo smart t o miss t hat . “It ’s like a parasit ic relat ionship bet w een t he t w o. Dee smiled.” A flush sw ept over my cheeks.” Adam leaned his head back. eyes narrow ed. “I’ve never seen him act like t hat w it h anyone. “T hen w hat is happening?” . guys. And it w asn’t like I could t ell Dee w hat w e’d really been doing out t here. I realized how st upid t hat w as. Lot s of it . I’d seen it in Nancy’s eyes. T hey didn’t underst and. float ing t he remot e cont roll over t o his hand.” W at ching me closely.” I laughed w eakly. t hat ’s not w hat ’s happening here.” As soon as it left my mout h. And if t hey did. I didn’t w ant t o look t oo closely at w hy I w as so concerned. All t hey are doing is being annoying and asking quest ions. W hy? “Kat y. she arched one brow .” She shrugged. “But w hat if t hey find out I know ? W hat w ill t hey do t o him?” Dee’s brow s knit t ed. you should be more w orried about yourself t han him. eyes glit t ering. but she’d let me go.” “And you guys have been spending a lot of t ime t oget her. I’d made up some lame excuse about w ant ing t o see t he spot w here he’d killed Baruck. “Just because he’s…he’s Daemon…doesn’t mean I w ant anyt hing bad t o happen t o him. “So? Y ou’ve been spending a lot of t ime w it h Adam.” Dee began slow ly. I st art ed pacing again. I pulled my hands free and st art ed w earing a pat h in t he carpet again. She knew w e w ere lying. “Y eah. Not even my sist er.

w rapping my arms around his neck. I didn’t care. but I hope you know t hat if you and my brot her have somet hing going on. “I suck at mat h.” So not a conversat ion I w ant ed t o have w it h Dee in front of Adam.” “For w hat ?” “T rig.Crap.” . It t ook longer t han I t hought . She smiled. Y ou know you’re w elcome. T hrow ing open t he door. w hat ’s going on?” Burrow ing closer.” “Y ou guys are like a family. Maybe it w as t he connect ion w rapping us t oget her.” I st ared at her. I’m not going t o be mad. W it hout t hinking. No cages. Daemon had reached t he t op st ep w hen I rushed him. I just w ant ed t o hold him—for him t o hold me. I spun around and raced across t he room. At t hat moment . For several moment s. squeezing him t ight . If you say so. I hat ed lying t o her. And you shouldn’t eit her.” Dee laughed. “No. I got you. Everyt hing’s okay. Neit her does Daemon.” I said quickly. “I don’t . I draw led in a deep breat h.” Dee cleared her t hroat . Maybe it w as somet hing infinit ely deeper. neit her of us spoke. but I w ant him happy. “W hoa t here. “And part of me underst ands w hy you t w o w ould keep it hidden. “He’s been helping me st udy. “Okay. We didn’t need t o. I rushed out int o t he cold night air.” “W ho cares w hat t hey t hink?” Adam rolled his eyes. “I w ish you’d reconsider doing T hanksgiving dinner w it h us. and t hen his arms sw ept around my w aist . I’m not —” T ingles spread over my neck. It ’s crazy and I hope Daemon is prepared for w hat ’s going t o happen. T hey just w ant ed t o t alk. Kit t en.” She frow ned.” “I seriously doubt Ash and Andrew w ould be happy w it h me at t he t able.” “Cage?” He laughed a bit unst eadily. “But I just w ant you t o know t hat I’m okay w it h it . “I t hought t he DOD cart ed you off t o some lab t o keep you in a cage. I didn’t even t hink. And if you make him happy—” “Okay. He seemed st unned for a second. You guys are know n for your w ord w ar and everyt hing else. “Ahem.

and sinker. st opping on t he sidew alk. I backed up and blushed. I’d say you w ere. but Daemon had moved t o t he edge of t he porch. grinning like an idiot . Or it w as all of us. “Hook. Blake called and I need t o call him back. so not cool.” Daemon said. my emot ions. Oh. and oh boy. He w as also smokin’ hot . “I w as only suggest ing—” “We know w hat you w ere suggest ing. st art ing dow n t he st eps. “And I really w ant t o keep my food dow n t onight . but back t o t he w hole point .St iffening. “Blake.” He paused. Daemon w as st aring at me like he’d just w on t he lot t ery.” “Did t hey believe you?” He nodded.” She smiled at me.” It w asn’t me I’d been w orried about .” I shivered. his eyes searching mine in t he dim light of t he porch. he w as st anding before me.” Dee dart ed out from underneat h his hand. I t old you. “I kind of like t his level of excit ement . “But it w asn’t you. frow ning. t hat w as bad.” “Nancy Husher. T hey w ant ed t o know w hat w ent dow n Hall ow een w eekend. “She’s apparent ly a big deal w it hin t he DOD. “W hat ?” He grinned. “See. Daemon. My t hought s. felt overly exposed w hen I met his eyes. “T hey didn’t suspect anyt hing?” Daemon shook his head.” .” “Kat …” “No. Dee had w isely gone inside. “All right .” Dee said. It w as me. “T hey asked me a lot of quest ions—especially t he lady. Disent angling my arms and w iggling out from his.” “Y eah.” “Boris can w ait . Y ou’re safe.” he said. I need t o go home. but t hey’re alw ays paranoid.” I could see t hat . “I…I w as just excit ed. “Really. Makes me t hink of—” “Daemon!” bot h of us shout ed. I gave t hem t he Daemon-edit ed-version. line. t ousling Dee’s hair. I realized w hat I w as doing. And I honest ly needed t o get out of here. “Not hing out of t he norm. Daemon is fine. “I really need t o go home. My sense of self-preservat ion w as messed up. you don’t need t o w orry.” I w aved him off. A second lat er.” I said.

” “It ’s not funny. and before I knew it . but it didn’t feel right bust ing up t heir alien T hanksgiving. soaking up his w armt h.” I could have st ood t here st aring at his sparkling eyes all night . And from t he amount of creepy peeping I w as doing from my w indow every t ime I heard a car door close out side. We can handle t he DOD. T he w armt h of his hand eased some of t he fear. I could’ve gone next door. Bot h Dee and Daemon had invit ed me. You don’t need t o w orry. I spent t he bet t er part of T hanksgiving poking around t he house alone. “It ’s not me I’m w orried about . I w as in his embrace again. I knew everyone show ing up w as secret ly an ET . Somet hing bad w as going t o come from all of t his. .” His voice low ered as he cupped my cheek. looking like she w as going t o a funeral rat her t han a dinner part y.” I w hispered. As if a pop quiz had been sprung on us and w e’d failed. “I didn’t t ell t hat lady anyt hing.” “T hey’re not going t o care about us lying over t he phone. Kat . Mom really got shaft ed. but t hen I slipped free.” I let him hold me for a couple of moment s. I t urned and w alked aw ay. Calculat ing.” “Or t hey could just t hink I’m t hat aw esome. Even Ash arrived w it h her brot hers. meet ing his. pulling a double shift t hat t ook her out of t he house from around noon T hursday unt ill noon on Friday. It snaked t hrough me. Chapter 16 As expect ed. “T hey w on’t ever know t hat . “I’m glad you’re okay. If t hey t hink you blew a sat ell it e out of orbit . “Don’t w orry about me or Dee. but t hey don’t know t hat . T here had been somet hing about Nancy. “I know . “I know .” Anxiet y didn’t fade.” My eyes closed. Trust me. t hey could see you as a t hreat .“I know . And t he damn phone rang as I w as get t ing out of t he car. but somet hing urged me t o run as far aw ay from him as quickly as I could.” He smiled. T hey probably t hink w e w ere out t here get t ing it on or somet hing.” Daemon moved closer. She knew w e w ere lying about w hy w e w ere t here. I lift ed my eyes.

t heir w icks sparked t iny flames. I w as an anxious w reck. Dinnerw are and glasses came from several opened draw ers. “I come bearing gift s in t he form of food. holding a st ack of covered plat es. He w as set t ing up t he t able. “T here’s t urkey. Candles came next . Being w it h people probably w asn’t a good idea. yams. uncovering t he dishes.” he said. I w as jealous. some kind of apple crisp t hing and pumpkin—Kit t en? Are you coming?” Peeling myself aw ay from t he front door. As I shut t he door.” “Y ou going t o invit e me in?” He held up t he plat es. But I’d made t he right call by not going. It w as like a scene st raight out of Beaut y and t he Beast . Around six in t he evening. nearly choking me. I w ent int o t he kit chen. I caught sight of Ash and Andrew climbing int o t heir car. he came in and w aved his free hand. shat t ered t hree glasses. “Happy T hanksgiving. mashed pot at oes.Part of me didn’t like t hat she w as t here. I’d t ipped over t he coffee t able. Daemon raised his hands and t w o depression glass candleholders Mom never used float ed t o t he t able. and w it h a w ave of his hand. and blew a light bulb. T he first t hing I not iced w as t he large box beside him. T he lump grew . but it w ould’ve been nice t o lose myself in t he holiday fest ivit ies for a lit t le w hile. “Hey. w iggling t hem. A lump formed in my t hroat as I t urned t o Daemon. Today alone. It landed just inside t he foyer. I felt t hat now -oh-so-familiar t ingle on t he back of my neck right before Daemon knocked.” I st epped aside. green-bean casserole. Y eah. Mom’s w ine flew out of t he fridge.” I blinked slow ly. A ball of confusing feelings unfurled inside me as I hurried t o t he door. T he box lift ed off t he porch and t railed behind him like a dog. cranberry sauce. T he only good t hing w as t he fact my head didn’t feel like it w as being ripped apart aft er t he shenanigans. “Happy T hanksgiving. I…I didn’t know w hat t o t hink. St ill grinning. St upid. Neit her of t hem looked over. “I brought a lit t le of everyt hing. pouring int o t w o cryst all flut es w hile Daemon st ood in t he middle of everyt hing. .” He headed t ow ard t he kit chen. and t hen t he scent of roast ed t urkey and yams. I kept w ait ing for a t eapot t o st art singing.

” he murmured. He nodded. I…I don’t know w hat t o say.” he said. I drank anot her glass of w ine. but t hank you. “Y ou didn’t w ant t o come over. but you shouldn’t be alone. including second helpings. but I t . because I w as able t o fight it —sort of—and I know damn w ell t hat Daemon could if he w ant ed t o. It sort of jingled. Amiable silence descended as w e w ashed t he dishes. Daemon opened t he box. side by side. I grinned. having no clue w hat he w as up t o. reached inside. “Maybe—for t oday. I also at e everyt hing t hat Daemon put on my plat e.” T he food w as divine. Sit t ing on t he edge of t he couch. “Daemon. I cleared my t hroat .” Low ering my gaze before he could see t he t ears gat hering in my eyes. Our elbow s brushed several t imes. Any doubt s I had about Dee’s cooking abilit ies vanished. And by t he t ime I st abbed t he pumpkin pie w it h my fork.” “Y ou do?” I w hispered. T oo much w ine. I know it ’s not during t he parade. “Lush. I have anot her surprise for you. I follow ed Daemon int o t he foyer aft erw ard. T hat maybe he did care for me. He moved t he large box t o t he living room w it hout t ouching it . W hen I looked up.” “T hanks aren’t necessary. w hich I underst and. Maybe he just didn’t w ant t o. “Dig in before it get s cold. and pulled out a green-needled branch and poked me w it h it . I w as eit her a lit t le t ipsy or I w as st art ing t o believe t hat t here w as more t han just t he connect ion propelling him. Cleaning up dinner w as a st rangely int imat e experience. I folded my hands and w ait ed. I grabbed t he flut e and dow ned t he bit t er-t ast ing w hit e w ine. My t hought s w ere w ay t oo giddy. his brow s w ere raised. My cheeks felt flushed. T hroughout our lit t le makeshift dinner.” I shuffled t o t he t able and sat . w at ching him w it h eyes t hat w ere blurry. He made me a plat e and t hen sat beside me. “I t hink w e have a Christ mas t ree t o put up.” He nudged me w it h his knee under t he t able.“And aft er dinner. “But you’ve got t o join me for dinner first .

” T here w as somet hing w arm and right about being in his arms. I pulled back. but he really didn’t . “I haven’t done t his since—since Dad w as alive.” I said. I grabbed a handful of his shirt and held on. blocking t he st aircase. Not right now .” T hat w as it . It w as a quick and innocent kiss. “T hank you. “All right . I really mean it . because I’m not sad. Good t ears and all. breat hless. “T hanks. He w rapped his arms around me. clasping his smoot h cheeks. Every so oft en I’d get choked up w hen I t hought of Mom’s face t omorrow aft ernoon. T he lump in my t hroat w as back. “It ’s just …” “It ’s just w hat ?” He cupped my cheeks.hink Charlie Brow n’s T hanksgiving special is on. W it h his help. Even if Daemon saw me as one giant Rubik’s Cube he had t o crack or if it w as t he healing mojo. Kat . He moved t he recliner out from in front of t he w indow w it h a jerk of his chin.” “It ’s okay. Daemon w ould never know .” “I know . I have a reput at ion t o keep up. She’d be happy. w ell.” I t ook a deep breat h. it didn’t mat t er. smoot hing t he last of my t ears aw ay. t hat ’s not t oo bad. His eyes w ere w ide.” I laughed. I just didn’t expect t his.” Trimming a Christ mas t ree w it h an alien w as a different experience. He may have t hought he knew how much t his meant t o me. holding me close as I buried my face int o t he front of his shirt . Emot ion clogged my t hroat as I w iped under my eyes. My skin t ingled from t he cont act . “Don’t let anyone know about my sw eet side. his t humbs brushing aw ay t he t ears. pupils luminous.” He brushed t he backs of his fingers over my cheek. Tears formed. but t he st upid t ears kept falling.” I sniffled. Daemon appeared in front of me. Bulbs hung in t he air along w it h t w inkling light s t hat w eren’t plugged in. I brought his lips t o mine and kissed him. Daemon dropped silvery t insel on my head w hile I plucked a bulb out of t he air. And I w ant ed t o deny it . I raced out of t he room. A lot . I t hought . Jumping from t he couch. “Kit t en?” “I don’t t hink you know how much…somet hing like t his means t o me. but t here w as no st opping it t his t ime. W e laughed. T hank you. “I didn’t do t his t o make you cry. but I felt t he zing all t he w ay t o my t oes. “I get it . t hen slid dow n my cheeks. but for t he first t ime. but he quickly enveloped me in his st rong arms. and. I lift ed my head and reached up. and I w ent . I t ried t o t urn aw ay. And I’m sorry t o cry. let ’s do t his. . I st opped—I just st opped.” Daemon t ugged me forw ard.

“It kind of fit s you.” T he scent of art ificial pine filled t he living room. T he holiday spirit w oke inside me like a slumbering giant . I grinned at Daemon and held up a bulb t hat w as so green it almost mat ched his eyes. I decided it w as going t o be his bulb. I placed it right under t he t w inkling st ar. It w as almost midnight by t he t ime w e finished. Sit t ing on t he couch, t high against t high, w e st ared at our mast erpiece. T he t ree w as a lit t le t insel-heavy on one side, but it w as perfect . A rainbow of colored light s shimmered. Glass bulbs glimmered. “I love it ,” I said. “Yeah, it ’s pret t y good.” He leaned in t o me, yaw ning. “Dee put up t he t ree t his morning. She has t o have everyt hing t he same color, but I t hink our t ree looks bet t er. It ’s like a disco ball.” Our tree. I smiled, liking the sound of that. He bumped me w it h his shoulder. “Y ou know , I had fun doing t his.” “I did, t oo.” Daemon’s lashes low ered. Man, I’d kill for a set of t hose babies. “It ’s lat e.” “I know .” I hesit at ed. “Y ou w ant t o st ay?” A single brow arched. T hat hadn’t come out right . “I don’t mean t hat .” “Not t hat I’d complain if you did.” His gaze dropped. “Not at all.” I rolled my eyes, but my t ummy w as coiling t ight . W hy had I offered for him t o st ay? His assumpt ion w asn’t t oo far off. Daemon didn’t st rike me as t he t ype t o dig PG-13 slumber part ies. I remembered t he last and only t ime w e’d shared a bed. Flushing, I st ood. I didn’t w ant him t o leave, but I didn’t …I didn’t know w hat I w ant ed. “I’m going t o get changed,” I said. “Need help?” “W ow . Y ou’re so chivalrous, Daemon.”

His smile w idened, flashing deep dimples. “W ell, t he experience w ould be mut ually beneficial. I promise.” No doubt it w ould be. “St ay,” I ordered, t hen hurried upst airs. I quickly changed int o a pair of sleep short s and a pink t hermal. Not t he sexiest sleepw ear, but as I w ashed my face and brushed my t eet h, I decided it w as t he best choice. Anyt hing else w ould give Daemon ideas. Hell, a paper sack w ould encourage him. I left my bat hroom and st opped. Daemon had not st ayed. My smile slipped from my face. He w as st anding by t he w indow , his back t o me. “I got bored.” “I w asn’t even gone five minut es.” “I have a short at t ent ion span.” He glanced back at me, eyes glit t ering. “Nice short s.” I grinned. T here w ere st ars on my short s. “W hat are you doing up here?” “You said I could st ay.” He faced me, his gaze drift ing t o t he bed. T he room suddenly seemed t oo small, t he bed even smaller. “I didn’t t hink you meant st aying on t he couch.” Now I w asn’t even sure w hat I’d meant . I sighed. W hat w as I doing? Crossing t he room, he st opped in front of me. “I’m not going t o bit e.” “T hat ’s good.” “Unless you w ant me t o,” he added w it h a devilish grin. “Nice,” I mut t ered, side-st epping him. Space w as definit ely needed. Not t hat it did much good. Heart pounding, I w at ched him kick off his shoes and t hen w hip off his shirt . He moved t o t he but t on on his jeans. My eyes w idened. “W hat —w hat are you doing?” “Get t ing ready for bed.” “But you’re get t ing naked!” He arched his brow . “I do have boxers on. W hat ? Do you expect me t o sleep in my jeans?” “Y ou did last t ime.” I felt t he need t o fan myself. Daemon laughed. “Act ually, I had pajama bot t oms on.” And he’d had a shirt on, but w ho w as keeping t rack? I could’ve t old him t o leave, but I t urned aw ay, pret ending t o be engrossed w it h a book on my desk. Chills shot st raight t o my core w hen I heard t he bed groan under his w eight . Taking a shallow breat h, I t urned around.

He w as in bed, arms folded behind his head, an innocent look on his face. “T his w as a bad idea,” I w hispered. “It w as probably t he smart est idea you’ve ever had.” I rubbed my palms on my hips. “It ’s going t o t ake a lot more t han T hanksgiving dinner and a Christ mas t ree t o get laid.” “Damn. T here goes my w hole plan.” Flust ered, infuriat ed, and t hrilled, I st ared at him. So many emot ions couldn’t be possible. My head w as spinning as I st alked over t o my side of t he bed—oh my God, w hen had w e developed sides?—and quickly slid under t he covers. I did not w ant t o know if he’d left t he jeans on or not . “Can you t urn off t he light ?” Darkness descended w it hout him moving. Several moment s passed. “T hat ’s a handy abilit y.” “It is.” My eyes focused on t he pale light peeking t hrough t he curt ains. “Maybe one day I can be just as lazy as you and t urn off light s w it hout moving.” “T hat ’s somet hing t o aspire t o.” I relaxed a fract ion of an inch and smiled. “God, you’re so modest .” “Modest y is for saint s and losers. I’m neit her.” “W ow , Daemon, just w ow .” He rolled ont o his side, his breat h st irring t he hair along my neck. My heart leaped int o my t hroat . “I can’t believe you haven’t kicked me out yet .” “Same here,” I murmured. Daemon w easeled his w ay closer, and, oh yeah, he’d got t en rid of his jeans. His bare legs brushed mine, and my heart rat e spiked. “I really didn’t mean t o make you cry earlier.” I flipped ont o my back and st ared up at him. He w as raised on one elbow . Silky locks fell int o his shining eyes. “I know . T he w hole t hing you did, it w as sort of amazing.” “I just didn’t like t he idea of you being alone.” Slow and st eady breat hs raised my chest . Like w hen he’d hugged me dow nst airs and I’d kissed him, I w ant ed t o st op t hinking. Impossible w hen his eyes held t he int ensit y of a t housand suns.

Daemon reached out , brushing a st rand of hair off my cheek w it h t he t ips of his fingers. Elect ricit y shimmered t hrough me. T here w as no denying t he at t ract ion—t he pull t hat didn’t w ant t o let eit her of us go. My gaze w as fixed on his lips like an addict . Memories of t he w ay t hey’d felt seared me. All of t his w as crazy. Invit ing him t o st ay, get t ing in bed w it h him, and t hinking w hat I w as about him. Crazy. Excit ing. I sw allow ed. “W e should go t o sleep.” His hand palmed my cheek, and I w ant ed t o t ouch him. I w ant ed t o be closer. “W e should,” he agreed. Lift ing my hand, I brushed my fingers over his lips. T hey w ere pillow y soft yet firm. Int oxicat ing. Daemon’s eyes flared, and my st omach hollow ed. He shift ed his head closer and his lips brushed t he corner of mine. His hands slid from my face and dow n my neck, and w hen he dipped his head again, his lips brushed over t he t ip of my nose. And t hen he kissed me. A slow -burning, t oe-curling kiss t hat left me aching for so, so much more. I felt like I w as spinning int o t hat kiss, falling int o him. He pulled back w it h a groan and set t led beside me, w rapping an arm around my w aist . “Good night , Kit t en.” Heart pounding, I let out a long sigh. “T hat ’s all?” Daemon laughed. “T hat ’s all …for now .” Bit ing my lip, I w illed my heart t o slow dow n. It seemed t o t ake forever. T hen finally, I w iggled closer unt ill he snaked an arm under my head. I t urned ont o my side, rest ing my cheek against his upper arm. Our breat hs mingled as w e lay t here, st aring at each ot her silent ly unt ill his eyes drift ed shut . For t he second t ime t hat night , I admit t ed t hat maybe I’d been w rong about Daemon. Maybe I didn’t even know myself. And t here w as no w ine t o blame t his t ime. I drift ed off t o sleep w ondering w hat he meant by “for now .”

Chapter 17
W hen Blake t ext ed me and asked t o meet him at t he Smoke Hole Diner Friday evening, I didn’t know w hat t o do. It seemed…w rong t o have an early dinner w it h him w hen last night I’d slept in Daemon’s arms.

My cheeks flushed. We didn’t do anyt hing ot her t han t hat one kiss, but it w as just as int imat e, if not more. My feelings for him w ere all over t he place and w hat he did for me yest erday, w it h t he dinner and t he Christ mas t ree, meant somet hing I couldn’t ignore. But I also couldn’t ignore Blake. He w as my friend, and aft er last night , I needed t o make sure he didn’t expect anyt hing more t han t hat —a friendship. Because somew here over t he course of a day, even t hough I hadn’t figured out t hings w it h Daemon, I did realize t hat he w as right about one t hing. I w as using Blake. He w as uncomplicat ed and harmless. Tot ally a nice guy and dat eable, but my feelings w ere lukew arm for t he surfer. Not hing like how I felt for Daemon. And it w asn’t right . If Blake did like me, I couldn’t st ring him along anymore. So I t ext ed him back and said okay, hoping t his w ouldn’t be t he most aw kw ard dinner of my life. T he w eat her had changed t he moment t he sun w ent behind t he mount ains. T he comfort able aut umn air w as replaced by near-frigid w inds, and t he sky t ook on a const ant gloomy, overcast presence. I pulled int o t he closest parking space t o t he door of t he diner. T he w ind had screamed t he w hole t rip, and I dreaded get t ing out of my w arm car. I couldn’t help but not ice t hat t he space of glass above t he rest aurant ’s business hours held a pict ure of Simon on it . I grimaced, t hrew open t he door, and hurried int o t he surprisingly crow ded rest aurant . Blake w as sit t ing near t he fireplace. He st ood and smiled w hen he saw me. “Hey, glad you made it .” W hen he reached out as if he w ant ed t o hug me, I pret ended not t o not ice and sat . “I can’t believe how cold it is. How w as your t rip?” Frow ning slight ly, he t ook his seat and met hodically st raight ened his silverw are around a pret end plat e. “It w asn’t bad. Not very excit ing.” W hen t he cut lery w as posit ioned just so, he glanced up. “How w as your break?” “Not very different t han yours.” I paused, recognizing a few kids from school. T hey w ere clust ered t oget her, drinking sodas and eat ing a large oven pizza. Chad—t he boy Lesa w as dat ing—w aved at me and I w aved back. “But I’m not ready for it t o be over.” W e paused w hile a plump w ait ress t ook our orders. I got a soda and a basket of fries and he ordered soup. “Hopefully t his doesn’t end up all over me,” he joked. I cringed. Not likely, since Daemon w asn’t here…yet . “I really am sorry about all t hat .” Blake t apped his st raw off my hand before peeling t he paper from around t he plast ic. “It ’s not a big deal. St uff happens.” I nodded, st udying t he st eamed-over w indow s. He cleared his t hroat ,

w ere also w at ching t he cust omer about t o flee.” He shrugged. really?” Blake nodded. Her heavy face t w ist ed int o a scow ll. “So do you have lucky guesses a lot ?” He shrugged. “It w as just a lucky guess. I w ait ed unt ill t he w ait ress ret urned w it h our order and left . I heard about t hat kid going missing.” “bullshit .” “Huh. A couple sit t ing behind t he man. “And he t hinks he’s get t ing aw ay w it h it . He t urned t o face t he st art led man.” I said. t hat w as…uncanny.” In st unned silence. My head snapped back t o Blake. “W hoa. He has so many t imes before. It could’ve been a lucky guess.” “Int uit ion. “I t hink t hat guy’s about t o skip out on his bill. I w at ched t he man t ake one last drink and st and w it hout get t ing his check. He mut t ered an apology and hast ily t hrew several crumpled bills on t he t able. nodding. “Someone is alw ays w at ching.frow ning again as his eyes narrow ed on a middle-aged man near t he bar w ho w as looking around nervously. It ’s just int uit ion. but every inst inct w as t elling me t here w as somet hing more. T hat t ot ally sucks. “No-good bums. alw ays t hinking t hey can get a free meal!” T he out burst caught t he at t ent ion of t he manager w ho w as t aking an order by t he door. and none of t he Luxen I knew could read minds or foresee anyt hing. Blake w asn’t an alien—at least I assumed he w asn’t . “Somet imes. “A good guess. “Hey! Did you pay for t hat ?” T he man st opped and fumbled in his pocket s.” Doubt bubbled up. His gaze met mine.” Blake added w it h a slight smile.” . I munched on t he fries.” “Anyw ay.” I w hispered. and she slammed her hand dow n on t he t able. “T hat ’s some spot -on int uit ion. bot h in flannel shirt s and w ell-w orn jeans. T he man leaned t ow ard t he w oman. but t hat w as just t oo w eird. “How did you know he w as going t o do t hat ?” Blake blew on his spoonful of veget able soup. w hispering somet hing. my unease grow ing.

no one moved. Dull heat flared bet w een my breast s. A w ait ress had been light ing a candle w it h a small light er. but I couldn’t st and here and do not hing. Blood pounded in my ears. A few had even st opped w alking w it h one foot off t he ground. It sw ung open. I t hink t he cops believe he ran aw ay. It couldn’t be. mout hs hanging open in silent laught er. Everyone. but he didn’t have anyt hing t o do w it h—” I froze. Her raven-colored hair hung in t hick.” Okay. She w as an Arum. No one t alked. and no one even seemed t o breat he. a t all and pale w oman w it h dark sunglasses covering half her face scanned t he crow ded pat rons. Frant ically. I t hink t hey did. Our t able st art ed t o rat t led soft ly. w incing as t he st one scorched my palm. I mean. I reached around my neck. He raised one hand. “Did t hey ask Daemon a lot of quest ions?” I frow ned. Everyone st opped. t hat meant t here w ere t hree more somew here. t ugging on t he chain. Ot hers w ere st opped in midconversat ion. Would I really charge her? I w asn’t sure. Blake w as doing somet hing w it h his w rist .T he abrupt change of subject w as jarring.” Blake t w irled his spoon in t he soup. but my eyes lat ched ont o t he front door. In t he doorw ay. Panic claw ed up my t hroat as I lift ed my eyes. seconds aw ay from ripping t he obsidian off my neck. T he obsidian flared under my sw eat er. he had a point . I dropped t he fry back int o t he basket . t he cust omers unaw are a monst er w as in t heir mix. Her red lips w ere spread in a serpent ’s smile. Some people had forks of food halfw ay t o t heir mout hs. My muscles t ensed. She w as frozen but t he flame st ill danced above t he light er. I w as so int ent on t he female Arum t hat I hadn’t paid at t ent ion t o Blake unt ill he w as in front of me. “Yeah. “W hy w ould t hey?” Blake’s hand st illed. and I w as being w ay t oo t w it chy about t his. so if t here w as one. it does. Near-scalding heat radiat ed from t he obsidian. “W ell …because Daemon did get in a fight w it h him. T he low hum of conversat ion cont inued. Arum alw ays t raveled in fours. . I w rapped my hand around it . it seems likely t hey w ould quest ion him. “Y eah. W hen t he obsidian slipped free. not believing w hat I w as feeling. Fall en leaves scat t ered across t he t ile. I w as st art ing t o st and. ropey st rands around her cheeks.

his palm cat ching t he Arum’s chin. preparing t o deliver a blow . . I sort of just st ood t here. T he female Arum hadn’t frozen. a dark. “Human?” Blake laughed. voice low . fluid mot ions as she st udied t he frozen humans and. And pivot ed around so fast t hat his hand w as just a blur as it sunk deep int o w hat appeared t o be her chest . “Arum. T here w as no expression on Blake’s face. circling each ot her in t he narrow space bet w een t he cramped t ables and frozen people. Teet h rat t led.” And t hen he launched himself at her. He laughed. It w as like a kickass sw it ch had been t hrow n. and w hen she low ered her head. She reared back. I assumed. T he air around her hand darkened w it h black energy. unsure of w hom I should be more afraid of—t he Arum or t he harmless surfer boy. Blake dart ed in. snapping her head back. oily subst ance leaked from her lip. She w as moving her head side t o side in slick. and his w hole being w as focused on t he Arum. She w hipped around. he spun and knocked her leat her-encased legs from underneat h her.” Blake accused. her head st ill moving. She faded out . She st aggered forw ard a st ep and w hirled. a few Luxen. Dropping dow n. Moving light ning fast . Blake jerked his hand back. delivering a vicious spin kick t o her back.Blake? I t ook a st ep back from him. It w as a shred of obsidian current ly embedded in t he Arum’s chest . Chapter 18 Blake w as a freaking ninja. he dipped under t he Arum’s out st ret ched arm and spun around. t aking on her t rue form. She t ook off her sunglasses. Her shadow y body w as t hick and smoky as it charged Blake. squint ed. myst ified and ent ranced by t he display. T he dark energy flickered out as t hey bot h rose t o t heir feet again. His w at ch…w asn’t a normal w at ch. “Not quit e.

“My car. T hat didn’t mean I w as going somew here w it h him unt ill I knew w hat t he hell he w as. t his didn’t look good. Blake w as t alking. Daemon’s face w as an inch from Blake’s. her face w as pale and shocked. A t all. imposing shadow fell upon us. and t hen realized Blake w as holding my hand. his eyes narrow ed. and I lift ed my gaze. He didn’t budge. but t hen again. “W hat …w hat are you doing here?” I asked. he curved his hand around my elbow . I didn’t even have t o look. A second lat er. t he obsidian rapidly cooling under my hand. and t he next . t hough. T here w as no Infinit i SUV in t he parking lot t hat I could see. come on. I don’t know w hat ’s going on bet w een you t w o or w hat ever. everyone st art ed moving. “Y ou t ouch her again and I w ill —” “Y ou’ll w hat ?” Blake shot back. Daemon’s jaw w as so hard it could cut t hrough marble. Blake t urned t o me and pressed somet hing on his w at ch. “I w as just about t o ask you t he same t hing. “Daemon.” As Blake spoke. W e w ere t w o st eps from my car w hen I realized my hands w ere shaking and t he back of my neck w as t ingling. “W hat are you going t o do. Daemon st ood t here. W it h a w ave of his hand. Blake held it open for me as he faced t he frozen diner.” Oh…oh dear. a black baseball cap pulled low . t he Bill of his baseball cap creasing Blake’s forehead. Only Daemon did and w hat he must be assuming. Daemon had his ow n special met hod of t ravel if necessary. “Y ou have got t o be kidding me.” Eyes w ide. Not even out of breat h. I could deal w it h ninja Blake. but if I could deal w it h aliens. “T his isn’t w hat —” “Look. “But Kat y and I need t o t alk—” One second. “W e need t o t alk somew here privat e. Let him go. w it h a six-foot -and-t hen-some alien all up in his gril e. I pulled it free. No one seemed t o not ice t hat t hey’d been frozen for minut es. t hen ran a hand t hrough his messy hair. “Are you. I gaped at him. he w as pressed against t he w indow of t he Smoke Hole Diner. I t ook a deep breat h. He placed it back on his w rist . My w orld just got a lit t le more insane. shielding t he upper half of his face. Daemon?” I grabbed Daemon’s shoulder and pulled.” He nodded. and w e headed for t he door.As she t ook on a human form. she exploded in a rush of black smoke t hat blew my hair back and filled t he air w it h a bit t er scent .” . Suddenly.” Blake mut t ered and t ook ahold of my hand. like…Jason Bourne or somet hing?” St riding over t o our t able. t he Arum chick and ninja Blake didn’t even mat t er. he dropped a t w ent y and a t en on t he plaid t ableclot h.

and I had t o agree. “I don’t care w ho or w hat you are. W ho in t he hell w as Blake? Flannel Shirt Guy came out of t he diner. dropping my hands. W it h a sinking feeling. no. t hey’re about t o become w ell acquaint ed w it h each ot her.” “Y ou might w ant t o ret hink t hat . not good enough for me. T ense silence fell. “Good enough for you?” “W hat ?” I demanded. “T ry again. He w as st ill t here. “I can help Kat y.” A choke cut off his next w ords. but bot h of t hem ignored me. T here w as no w ay I could let him st rangle Blake. t hat ’s t he funny t hing. A w hit ish-red light crept along t he out line of Daemon’s body. He spit out a mout hful of chew as he approached us. I looked over my shoulder. I t ried again t o break t he t w o boys apart . We w ere st art ing t o gain an audience. frozen w it h his mout h hanging open. hit ching up his ragged pant s.” Blake gripped Daemon’s w rist .” Daemon grow led. you’re gonna w anna break t his up right now before someone calls t he—” Blake raised his free hand and Flannel Shirt Guy just st opped. w e’re not enemies. w hat you w ill become capable of.” Blake w heezed. No doubt t hey w ere just as immobile inside t he diner. T he light around Daemon w as get t ing st ronger.” Oh.” A shiver rolled dow n my spine. “T hat ’s not helping. and I grabbed bot h of Daemon’s shoulders.” Blake choked out . So. Blake smirked. No doubt an ent ire rest aurant w as w it nessing t his go dow n from t he inside.” “I know w hat you are. “I know exact ly w hat you’re capable of. .” “See. “Y eah. I know w hat you are. “You know w here your head and ass are? Well. and I can help you.” Blake’s eyes dart ed t o mine. because Blake gasped.” Shocked. Daemon’s grip must ’ve t ight ened. “I’d like t o see you t ry. People w ere w at ching from t heir cars. Everyone in t he parking lot w as frozen. but you bet t er give me a reason not t o blast you int o your next pat het ic life real quickly. and even t hough you’re an arrogant prick. I st ared at him.“You w ant t o know w hat I’m going t o do?” Daemon’s ent ire body t ensed under my hand. good Lord. boy.” Daemon laughed low . “Boys.” “I just killed an Arum. I spared a nervous glance at Flannel Shirt Guy. you saying her name alone makes me w ant t o kill you. I knew he w as seconds aw ay from going all Luxen on Blake. see. show ing off st ained t eet h. “Because you have no idea w hat I’m capable of. “Kat y.

t w ice now . Daemon.” Daemon’s lip curled int o a snarl. Y ou need t o st op now . T hat can’t be good for t hem. Daemon st art ed forw ard. hold up. put t ing dist ance bet w een t hem. “Sure. and I knew Daemon w asn’t kidding around. I need t o hear w hat he has t o say. t he look on his face should’ve sent Blake running. “Kat —” “We need t o hear him out . His eyes w ere pure w hit e and glow ing. Boy had a deat h w ish. “Police. t hat w as t he best w e could hope for at t his point . um. fix t hem?” I w aved at Flannel Shirt Guy.” I cut in. Daemon. “He’s a—” “We don’t know w hat he is. “Let me ask you a quest ion.” Flannel Shirt Guy finished. “Y ou have anger management problems.” “I don’t care. and he’s had plent y of opport unit y t o do so.” Daemon exhaled roughly. t oo much. . And he hasn’t hurt me or anyone else.” I t ook a deep breat h. W hat I w as? Oh.” W hen he didn’t respond. I glanced back at Blake.Daemon leaned in t o Blake. “Can you. He didn’t like Blake t o st art off w it h and t he boy—or w hat ever he w as—obviously posed a t hreat of an unknow n kind. Blake sw iped his arm across Daemon’s and broke t he hold. Taking t he dist ract ion. If I kill you. “Besides. And t hen I’ll decide w het her or not he get s t o see t omorrow . and. t urning t hose diamond eyes on me. I screamed. “He’ll t alk. w ho rolled his eyes. He knew a lot .” “T here’s a cure and it ’s called kicking your ass. “Jesus. and I barely managed t o get in front of him. Placing my hands on his chest . “St op. “Let him go.” Blake rubbed his t hroat . “St op! Just freaking st op for a couple of minut es!” Daemon blinked and his eyes flickered t o mine. like. Kat . “St op it . “Get back. like diamonds. t hese people have been frozen. I need t o know w hat he’s t alking about . and he knew w hat I w as.” He flicked his w rist .” His gaze flicked t o Blake. w ill t hese people unfreeze?” Blake’s eyes w idened. I shrank back. dear God. But he shook out his broad shoulders and st epped back. It ’s like a disease.” Blake flipped him off.” Well. already know ing w hat he w as going t o say.” His glow ing eyes w ere focused on Blake. I mean it . He scrambled t o t he side. I looked int o eyes t hat w ere unrecognizable t o me. get t he hell back. “But he did kill an Arum. I shot forw ard.” Like hell.

If Blake knew t he t rut h about t he Luxen. Blake sw allow ed. his jaw w orked.” Seconds t icked by in silence. Not looking at Daemon. T here w as a pause. w ouldn’t t hat mean t he DOD did? I dropped t he necklace and clenched t he st eering w heel. “How do you know t his?” Daemon asked.” He paused as Daemon t w ist ed in his seat . “T he first t ime I saw you. “Is he alw ays so damn t ouchy?” Blake asked. right ? I didn’t unt ill I w as goofing .” “Proceed w it h caut ion w hen it comes t o your next w ord choices. I squirmed in my seat . clut ching t he obsidian in my hand. “You’re capable of moving t hings w it hout t ouching t hem and you can manipulat e light . T here w asn’t enough air. I t urned t he heat on and t hen t w ist ed around in my seat . his voice surprisingly even. “And w hat do you t hink I am?” Daemon cracked his neck but said not hing. He w as a normal kid like me. I w as leaving soccer pract ice w it h a friend of mine—Chris Johnson. but I didn’t underst and w hat it w as. facing Blake in t he back. I shot him a dark look as I opened t he door. But w ho cares. Only t hose w ho know t o fear t he shadow s w ear obsidian. “W hat are you?” St aring out t he w indow . I let out a ragged breat h and headed for t he driver’s side. my heart racing. And you can also heal humans.” T he inside of t he car w as t oo small.” Daemon grow led. and I never saw his parent s at any games. T hank you. “T he same t hing I suspect you are. never got sick. I pushed my w indblow n hair out of my face. “T here w as somet hing about you t hat drew me t o you. W e all w ere just w ait ing for him t o explode. Daemon st alked over and slid int o t he passenger seat . “W hen I w as t hirt een. “Everyt hing’s fine. He w as like a grenade t hat had it s t ab pulled. I knew . I’m sure you can do more.I t urned t o t he guy. t hat glass and plat e didn’t just fall int o my lap on it s ow n. “I didn’t know at first .” Spinning around.” Blake sat back. except he w as super fast .” My breat h caught . “Good t imes. T hen w hen you st opped t he branch and I saw your necklace.” A snicker came from t he passenger seat . “T hen our dat e…yeah. “W hat do you mean by t hat ?” Blake shook his head and t hen st ared st raight ahead. “How much do you know ?” “T here are t w o alien races on Eart h: t he Luxen and t he Arum.” Unease t ripled my heart rat e. “My car—if you guys can get along in such an enclosed space?” W it hout responding. I knew you w ere different .

” “Oh my God. hands clenching int o fist s. T he Arum found me again. “W hen I realized how much danger I w as in.” “T here are plent y of ot her places packed w it h bet a quart z. Five days lat er. t hat confirmed one of my fears. W hen I realized t hat my friend had changed me. but how did you end up here of all places?” He looked at Daemon. My best friend w as an alien. “I didn’t know w hat t hey meant . let t ing out a dry laugh. I survived t he best I could.” he cont inued.” “T his is all great . it t ook me a w hile t o figure out t hat w hen you’re healed.” Blake’s lips t w ist ed int o a w ry grin. right in front of a speeding cab.” Blake said. “I couldn’t imagine t here being t hat many Arum here. t oo. Here?” “Seemed like t he least populat ed area. T he mount ains. I know about t hat . But if w e w ere out side of t he quart z range. T urns out he w as an alien.” Daemon murmured. Shit just st art ed flying everyw here aft er I w as sent t o live w it h my uncle. she couldn’t sense me because of t he bet a quart z—yeah. “W hen I learned about t he bet a quart z. four men ent ered my house. “Anyw ay. It w as like having t he carpet pulled out from underneat h my feet and face-plant ing on t he floor. I st art ed t raining physically and w orking on my abilit ies.” Acid churned in my st omach. w e are just like your…friend t o t hem. t he surfing?” . “W hat do you mean?” “T he Arum in t he diner. “I t hought it w as pret t y cool. T hey killed my parent s and my lit t le sist er right in front of me. t hey beat me w it hin an inch of my life. I had no idea w hat t o say. I moved here w it h my uncle.” I w hispered. And w hen I st ill couldn’t help t hem. horrified. I learned about t heir w eakness t hrough…ot hers. My hands slid off t he st eering w heel. “Not sure he really exist s.” “So everyt hing w as a lie?” I asked. I researched as much as I could. Blake sighed. t he caring and sharing crap.” Suspicion clouded Daemon’s t one. W ho get s t o say t hat ? W hat I didn’t know and w hat he never t old me w as t hat he lit my ass up.” Blake answ ered.around and st epped off t he curb. “W hy. “Y eah. jaw w orking. it is. Chris healed me. W e’re act ually t ast ier. “T hey w ant ed t o know w here t hey w ere. Daemon looked aw ay. Not t hat I needed t o. you t ake on t heir abilit ies.” “Aw full convenient . Very convenient for me.” Well. “Sant a Monica.

I’m from Sant a Monica and I st ill love surfing. Daemon shook his head.” Anot her jolt of t error shut t led t hrough me. “W hat ?” “Y ou need t o explain t hat a lot bet t er. Besides. My loyalt y t o my friends w ouldn’t allow me t o confirm t hat . Having t he Luxen free t akes care of t he Arum alien problem. but t his t ime for Daemon and my friends. don’t . He sighed again. Daemon grabbed Blake’s hand and t hrew it back at him. She t old me everyt hing about t he DOD and w hat t hey really w ant . St at ic crackled. She w as under t he DOD’s t humb. jolt ing us bot h. t hat aft er st udying your kind for decades and decades t hat t hey don’t know w hat t hey’re dealing w it h? And if you really believe not . T hey’d have us locked up in a heart beat .” Icy fear shot t hrough me as I gaped at him. T hey w ant us. I w ouldn’t bet ray t hem. but t hey’d seemed so convinced t hat t hey’d hidden t heir t alent s. “How did you know I w as different ?” “You mean besides t he obvious obsidian. He w as pract ically in t he backseat w it h Blake.” Daemon ordered as st at ic built in t he t iny car. Apparent ly she exposed her abilit ies and t hey sw ooped in. “Y ou’ve been hurt . See?” He reached bet w een t he seat s and placed his hand over mine. not everyt hing w as a lie.” “Feeling’s mut ual. bud. “I’ve lied as much as you have. Kat y. “W hat do you mean?” “T hey w ant people like Kat y. “If t he DOD knew about our abilit ies. “It ’s t he same w henever w e t ouch an Arum or a Luxen. t he alien ent ourage.” he said. “Do you really t hink t he DOD doesn’t know w hat bot h t he Arum and Luxen are capable of. “How do you know about t he DOD?” “I met anot her human like us.” I said.” He had a point . Blake leaned his head back against t he seat and closed his eyes. t hey w ouldn’t let us live free. and t he branch?” He laughed. “I do not like you.” “Really? T he DOD know s t he Luxen are a peaceful race and t hey know t he Arum aren’t t he same as your kind. T hey don’t give t w o shit s about t he aliens. haven’t you? And healed by one of t hem?” Daemon st iffened beside me. t hen you’re st upid or naive. fat igue w eighing his shoulders dow n. not even t o someone w ho may be like me. “You’re full of elect ricit y. It w as obvious his lit t le freeze show earlier had w orn him out .” Now t hat had Daemon’s full at t ent ion. Blake leaned forw ard. isn’t it ? Y ou feel t heir skin hum?” I remembered t he first t ime w e’d t ouched in biology. He sank int o t he shadow s.“No. Even I had my doubt s.” Blake looked at me. w hich isn’t t he Luxen or t he Arum. “Y ou’re not going t o t ell me w hich one it w as?” “It ’s not your business.

” “Mut at ed?” God. Daemon t ensed. hidden in plain sight . And t hey’re here looking for hybrids. T ell me.” “No.” Daemon admit t ed soft ly. “Y ou’re mut at ed. bad secret is hidden is because t hey know w hat you can do t o humans. T he t able shaking inside w asn’t me. It w as you. Not like I could hold him in place. From t he ot her seat . Far as I know . w hy w ould t he government be int erest ed in a bunch of humans w ho have more pow ers t han t he very creat ures w ho creat ed us? I don’t know . “But how …how are you st ronger t han t he Luxen?” I asked. Not all of t hem. so t o speak.” Daemon set t led back. Soon you’ll be able t o do a hell of a lot more. Let me guess.” Blake said. “Look. his hands clenching and unclenching. because t hat meant Daemon w as act ually st art ing t o list en t o w hat Blake w as saying. “W hy w ould t hey care about us inst ead of t hem?” “Gee. T his damn place is sw arming w it h DOD. it ’s going t o be really bad. Kat y. have you been sick recent ly? Had a really high fever?” Apprehension rose so quickly it left me dizzy. all I’m saying is t here are bigger fish t he DOD w ant s. and if you don’t get cont roll of it . And t hat ’s t he humans t he Luxen mut at e. shaking his head. w hen I knew t he guy w as going t o skip out on his meal? It ’s because I could pick up on bit s of his t hought s. but I grabbed his sw eat er. but enough t o know w hat he’s planning. you had a fever so bad t hat it felt like your ent ire body w as on fire? Last ed a couple of days and t hen you felt fine—bet t er t han ever?” He t urned t o t he w indow again. And t hat scared me more t han anyt hing. “I can t ell by your expression you have. but he st opped. “In t he diner.t hey get rid of any Luxen w ho causes a problem?” Blake jerked back as Daemon nearly w ent over t he seat . my brain rebelling against t he idea. “T he only reason w hy t he DOD let s you believe t hat your big. “And now you can move t hings w it hout t ouching t hem? Probably have no cont rol. Maybe because t hey’d have a superhuman army at t heir disposal or a group of people w ho can get rid of t he aliens if need be?” Daemon sw ore under his breat h—a w ork of art w it h curse w ords. . “T hat ’s a good quest ion. t he Luxen don’t t ypically heal humans. T he only t hing is. w e t ire out a lot quicker and it t akes us longer t o recharge. I can hear almost any human—any one t hat ’s not mut at ed.” I w hispered. T hat ’s just t he t ip of t he iceberg. “And w e’re w hat t hey care about . t hat w ord brought fort h some really gross images. We’re just as st rong as you—even st ronger in some cases. And believe it .

I can help you.” “Y ou don’t need t o scare her. w ho t urned out not t o be normal at all. And t he w hole t ime I believed Blake w as at t ract ed t o me because he w ant ed t o be.” he said. “And w e don’t know you. “T hen w hy are you here if it ’s such a risk now ?” “You. I’m just st at ing t he fact . Moving on.” Daemon said. Put me dow n? Like a feral animal? All of t his w as happening w ay t oo fast .” “I really. “If she needs help cont rolling her abilit ies. “Honest ly.” It seemed absurd t hat he’d risk so much.” “I’m not t rying t o. T here w as no point in lying about w hat I could do. Not t o Kat y. Daemon had mut at ed me. he w as draw n t o me because w e w ere bot h X-Men w annabes. I like you. t hen I can do it .” “But you don’t even know me. “And you don’t know w hat you’ve st epped in. He’d been right . Some mut at ed humans… Well.” My st omach t w ist ed.but it happens.” He glanced at Daemon.” Daemon added.” He smiled. t hey w ill put you dow n.” He glanced at me. My brain w as on overload. “I like you. T hat ’s not many like us w ho haven’t been caught by t he DOD. Jesus. Y ou need t o know w hat kind of danger you’re in. Just last night I’d been having a good. T his w asn’t t he t ime t o get int o t hat mess. It ’s just t he t rut h. St abilize her.” Hands shaking. I can t each her. t urning aw ay. eyes shut t ered.” Blake responded.” I gasped. I t hought about not coming back. “W hat ’s going t o happen? I’m going t o explode or somet hing?” He looked at me. “Blake…” “T hat w asn’t said t o make you say you like me or not . I had t o learn how t o rein in my abilit ies.” “Can you? W hat you do is second nat ure t o you. “You can seriously end up hurt ing yourself or ot hers. I’ve heard t hings. He shrugged. t hey’re going t o t ake you in. Daemon. eyes narrow ed. “But Kat y. And if you can’t cont roll your abilit ies.” “St abilize me?” My laugh sounded a bit choked. I t ucked my hair behind my ears. T he very t hing I’d w ant ed from Blake. “Obviously. “And if t he DOD finds out about you. but t here’s my uncle…and you. ignoring Daemon’s barely audible grow ll. . Kat y.” “bullshit . really do not like you at all. normal t ime w it h Daemon. Not you. let ’s just say it doesn’t end pret t y.

T he DOD had somet hing or someone t hat meant a lot t o her. and he shook his head. T aking a deep breat h. I w ant ed t o hit somet hing. “t here’s not hing st opping me from killing you. “W hat are w e going t o do?” “W e don’t need his help. Kat y. I felt t rapped. but myself now .” God. I pulled in t he anger. I closed my eyes. “I t hought you w ere normal. “I heard about t he w indow t hing w it h Simon. “Y ou know . Never again.” Blake w hispered. “W ho w as she?” “Liz somet hing. t oo. Since I moved here—since I met Daemon and Dee—I’d changed. I shivered. “Kat y. fear. I w ant ed t o help her…t o get aw ay. “Don’t know her last name. if you can slide by t he DOD. I didn’t w ant t o look at it t hat w ay. “W hat do you t hink w ill happen next t ime? Simon ran off. T hey’d use any means necessary. and frust rat ion.” T he w alls of t he car seemed t o shift even closer. T hat is. I know t his is a lot . “But you do.” Simon’s disappearance w asn’t luck. T ipping my head back.” he said t o Blake. t hen be put dow n! All I w ant ed t o do t oday w as eat some goddamn fries and be normal!” Daemon let out a low w hist le and Blake w inced. “T he girl I w as t elling you about ? She t old me everyt hing.” I snapped. t he Arum are going t o be on you. doing God know s w hat . T he DOD w as like t he mafia. Perspect ive w as needed. But you have t o be prepared. but I needed t o pull it t oget her. It w as no longer a fear of exposing t he Luxen. “How do you know so much about t hem?” I asked. but she w ouldn’t leave. T rapped. I’m going t o be a Snack Pack for an Arum.” I faced him. it w as t hat t hings couldn’t be changed.” “No shit . T his is a lot .Ha.” Daemon said. Irony w as such a bit ch.” “You’re right . If I’d learned anyt hing from my dad’s sickness. Right now .” I glanced at Daemon. You’re t elling me t hat I have t he DOD gunning for me.” he said. And my mom. T hat if I ever decide t o leave t his place. Daemon w as boiling over in t he seat next t o me. Ice set t led in my limbs. And you’re not . But I could change how I dealt w it h t hem. And bet t er yet . Y ou w on’t get so lucky again. “Y ou’re never going t o be normal. You leave t his t ow n. I may lose complet e cont roll of w hat ever pow ers I have and w ipe out a family of four.” . voice small.

Blake looked aw ay. “W hat ?” “How did you get aw ay from t he Arum w hen t hey at t acked you?” I asked.” He shut t he door and jogged off t ow ard his car. He’d left me.” I sw allow ed. I sat t here for several minut es. but he w as like me. I got out .” Daemon st iffened.” Blake climbed out of t he car. Did he feel as helpless as I did? It didn’t mat t er. Only Kat y does. Pulling int o t he drivew ay.” “Y ou don’t have t o. and I called out his name. Daemon mut t ered somet hing under his breat h and t hen opened his door.” Blake said. Blake agreed and Daemon said.” Blake’s voice w as even. He w as st aring ahead now . I’d do anyt hing. I couldn’t —w ouldn’t risk him. “Daemon…” . eyes squint ing at t he sky. disappearing int o t he shadow s surrounding t he diner.” “Not necessary.” And t hat w as t he t hing. his baseball cap hiding his eyes. It w as just t hat simple. I killed t he engine and sat back. t here is. “T omorrow if you can. Everyt hing else w ould have t o be played by ear. Daemon had beat en me home. closing my eyes. Kat y. not really seeing anyt hing. “And I don’t care. I shook my head. I w asn’t sure I did t rust him. “T hat ’s not somet hing I’m ready t o t alk about . You aren’t doing a damn t hing w it h Kat y w it hout me being t here. I looked at Daemon. Night seeped int o my silent car. He st opped w it h his hand on t he door. “I don’t t rust you. Just so w e’re clear. t ook a st ep. st aring out t he w indow .” He faced t he boy again. and heard my porch st eps groan.” Blake shot back. “My mom leaves for w ork aft er five. “T here’s Kat y and t he fact I doubt you’re a coldblooded killer. Cold air rushed in. hand on t he dashboard as if t he plast ic w as grounding him somehow .” “W hat ever. And if he could help me not expose Daemon and my friends.“Y es. “W hen do w e st art ?” I asked. “I’ll be t here. “I don’t t rust you. I didn’t even remember t he t rip home. He came dow n t he st eps.

needing him t o underst and w hy I w ent t o see Blake. And feeling somet hing for me scares t he hell out of you. He’s w illing t o risk his ow n safet y t o t rain you. because he really doesn’t make you feel anyt hing. “And dammit . You ran st raight t o Boris. Kat . He t ext ed me about get t ing somet hing t o eat . I w as just so freaking t ired. You’ve kissed him before. Daemon. and he t ipped his chin up. Right ?” He gave a short . my head is so not in t he right place at t his moment . Every inst inct is t elling me he can’t be t rust ed.” T here w as a pause. If you’d let me explain…” “Y ou don’t know w hat I t hink.” He t ook off his hat .” “It ’s not w hat you t hink. “We kissed. “W hy w ere you w it h him in t he first place?” My heart lurched. and it w asn’t even a dat e.” His smile w as half know ing and half bit t er. I didn’t say anyt hing. “He comes out of now here and know s everyt hing. I don’t t rust a damn t hing about him. “But at least t his w ay w e can keep an eye on him.” he snapped. “Daemon—” .” He t ook a st ep back. For an inst ant . w orking for any organizat ion.“I don’t t rust him. You spent t he night using me as your ow n body pillow …and liking it . I w ent t o t ell him—” “T hen w hat w as it . Somet hing aw full unfurled in my st omach.” “I know . Underst anding daw ned. “I did not run st raight t o Blake.” Suddenly. “Daemon—” “You know . peering dow n at me. “T here are ot her w ays of dealing w it h him. Unsure of how t o answ er. you can’t be t hinking…” “I don’t even know w hat I’m t hinking. W e don’t know anyt hing about him. “W e w ere grabbing somet hing t o eat and I w as—” “Y ou w ere w hat ?” Somehow I felt like I’d w alked int o an even bigger t rap. All I w ant ed t o do w as lay dow n. T hat w as my biggest mist ake. I shook my head.” My mout h snapped close. and t hen slammed t he cap back dow n. He could be anyone. t he green of his eyes darkened w it h raw emot ion. “Y ou w ent t o Bryon aft er…” Aft er I’d spent t he night w it h him…w rapped in his arms. I’m sure t hat had you freaking out t he moment I left . dry laugh. Kit t en?” He st epped forw ard. I’m not really surprised. t hrust his fingers t hrough his hair.” “W hat ?” My voice rose and w as carried aw ay by t he w ind. “He obviously likes you. “Daemon. Tw ice.

” Regret seeped t hrough his anger. “I’m not your problem. you’re unbelievable. Not w hen he w as looking at me. you’re act ing like a freaking know -it -all and you keep cut t ing me off!” “And as usual.” T he w indow s in his eyes t o all t hose emot ions slammed shut . All t rue. St unned. I knew I’d hurt him more t han I t hought possible. T he w ords w ouldn’t leave my lips. leaving me t rembling in t he dark.” He w as gone before I could even finish my sent ence. “And now you’re doing—w hat ? Messing around w it h him in bet w een kissing me?” But I like you. A pang hit me in t he chest and t ears filled my eyes as I t urned back t o my door. disappoint ment . I w as never your problem in t he first place.” I w as sure he didn’t mean t hat in a good w ay. And I knew .” I flinched.” Anger sped t hrough me like an out -of-cont roll forest fire. but he w as now here. Just forget it . “Kat —” “No. T his”—he w aved his hand around me—“isn’t even import ant right now . “And I’m sure as hell not your problem now . “T he night of your part y. but I couldn’t say them. w hen you t hought I w as messing around w it h Ash? You w ere so pissed t hat you w ent out side and blew up w indow s. exposing yourself. “You’re not giving me a chance t o explain anyt hing.” “I didn’t say t hat you w ere!” Irrit at ion spiked. I’d hurt him in a w ay much w orse t han he’d ever hurt me. As usual. t elling him w hat ever w as bet w een us w asn’t real.“Y ou know . Daemon! W e’re just friends.” Flinching as t hough I’d been slapped. T his w hole t ime. “I’m not st upid. T he sudden realizat ion smacked me upside t he head. “Hell.” My voice cracked. full of anger and dist rust and. you’re a bigger problem t han I could’ve ever imagined. overshadow ing t he deep ache in my chest . I didn’t know w hy.” Skept icism drew his lips int o a t ight line. . And now t hat I’d realized t he dept h of w hat he felt for me—w hat I felt for him— he w as gone. I’d been so busy pushing him aw ay. w orse yet . “Not anymore. T hat ’s all. I t urned around. I t ook a st ep back. Kat . “I’m not messing around w it h him.

I’m just t ired. I clut ched it t ight ly and closed my eyes. had w alked aw ay before allow ing me t o explain anyt hing. Rolling over.” I said.Chapter 19 All morning and part of t he aft ernoon. I’d been t rying t o deny it all morning.” “W ho helped you w it h it ?” I bit t he inside of my cheek. I did a quick review on t his dyst opian novel I’d read last w eek and closed my lapt op.” “You sure?” She sat on t he edge of t he bed. I st ared at t he spider w eb of cracks in my bedroom ceiling. w ho w as w earing scrubs w it h lit t le heart s and sw irls on t hem. And now w hat ? Daemon. I shoved my face int o t he pillow . honey. W here did she get t hose t hings? “Yeah. “Daemon.” I paused.” Mom smoot hed my hair back w it h her hand. honey?” . “T he Christ mas t ree is beaut iful. His scent w as st ill t here. more int ense. “Mom?” “Y es.” “I know . I liked Daemon—really. I poked around t he house like a zombie. voice hoarse. T he t rut h w as hard t o face. T here w as t his w eird t hrobbing in my chest . A jumbled knot of clogged emot ions had formed under my ribs last night and it w as st ill t here. How had t hings got t en so t angled up? At w hat point had my life t urned int o some bizarre science fict ion soap opera? “Honey. I’d been so caught up nursing my hurt over t he w ay he’d act ed w hen w e first met t hat I’d been blind t o my grow ing feelings. W it h my heart not really in it . and t o how he felt . Lying dow n. t o w hat I w ant ed. My eyes ached as if t hey w ere filled w it h t ears t hat w ouldn’t fall. It reminded me of t he mont hs aft er Dad’s deat h. Every so oft en it seemed heavier. are you feeling okay?” I opened my eyes and focused on my mom.” A rush of sw irling emot ions crashed int o me. T here w as no escaping it . she smiled a lit t le. W hen she det ermined I w asn’t sick. “It is. “Y eah. really liked him. w ho never backed dow n from anyt hing. “T hat ’s really sw eet of him. I’d hurt him. placing her hand against my forehead.

“I. I collect ed all t he books I had duplicat e copies of and placed t hem on my desk. W ell. “Y ou look t ired.” T urning around. Passing t ime. brushing my arm as he passed. “Cool w it h me. if he st ill show ed. but it lacked it s usual smugness. I froze on t he bot t om st ep. t oo. I rushed t o t he door and t hrew it open.” Smiling. “I didn’t sleep w ell last night . t he fact he just invit ed himself in didn’t upset me anymore. “I love you. So w ould Daemon.” She got up and st opped at t he door. W hat do you t hink?” It w as great my mom had a st ell ar love life. I saw t he red-and-w hit e can laughing at me from a corner t able.” “T hinking about me?” he asked in a hushed voice.” . I forced myself t o get up.” He glanced over my shoulder.” Daemon arched a dark eyebrow . Just t hat I love you. Out of breat h. “Not hing.” “Looking for your drink?” “I lost it . “Oh.” Daemon st epped inside. I shook my head.” I flushed. T here w as a knock on t he door.” Aft er Mom left for w ork. on t he t able. t hank you. “Y es. she bent over and kissed my forehead. “Daemon…?” T he half smile w as t here. T here w asn’t a moment of hesit at ion. a small smile playing on his lips.I didn’t even know w hat I w as going t o t ell her. I w ent int o t he kit chen and grabbed a Coke out of t he fridge. Hopping from t he st ep t o t he floor. Everyt hing w as t oo…complicat ed. I clenched t he knob. W hen I w ent dow nst airs t o find my Coke—because apparent ly it had run aw ay from me at some point —a familiar w armt h spread along my neck. “Hey. A book giveaw ay w ould make me feel bet t er. Oddly. “Kit t en…” A t hril w ent t hrough me. “It ’s right t here. Blake w ould be here soon. uh. “It sounded like you w ere going t o come st raight t hrough t he door. “I w as t hinking about having W ill over for dinner t his w eek.” I crept closer. He shoved his hands int o his pocket s and leaned against t he w all. w as…looking for my drink. t oo jumbled up in t he t rut h of w hat my friends w ere. hand gripping t he banist er.

I’d forgot t en about Blake.” Leaning against t he w all beside him. how are w e going t o do t his?” Daemon opened his mout h. Crap. T he ent ire lengt h of my back burned under Daemon’s st are. my heart deflat ing as if someone had popped it . and I w as st unned yet again. Daemon’s eyes narrow ed.” Daemon pivot ed on his heel. follow ing Blake. Before I could t urn. like a cat . “T here’s no ot her place I’d rat her be. And I’d forgot t en t o close t he door behind me. Surprise flit t ed t hrough me. “I didn’t sleep w ell last night . Blake opened t he st orm door and st epped inside. “I’m sorry—” Someone cleared his t hroat . “Y es.” Daemon responded. Bart .” Daemon low ered his head. I t urned around. I could feel his body heat . “So. but Blake beat him t o it . No one is forcing you. He dropped my hand and t ook a st ep back. and t he good Lord only know s w hat he w as about t o say. I slow ly made my w ay int o t he living room.” I moved closer unt ill my arm brushed his. his eyes as deep and endless as t he forest s out side. eit her. “Sorry it t ook me so long t o get over here. Now I’m not sure w hat t o say. “W hat w e need t o do first is figure out w hat you can already do.” Blake int errupt ed and saunt ered past us.” Daemon st ret ched idly.” “T oo bad it didn’t t ake longer.His eyes w idened slight ly w it h surprise. He st iffened ever so slight ly.” . “Y ou. I cleared my t hroat . T hey w ere in an epic st are dow n. “Well. um.” My head w as already st art ing t o t hrob. speechless? T hat ’s one for t he record books. “Am I int errupt ing?” Blake asked. His fingers t hreaded t hrough mine. He t urned so t hat he w as facing me complet ely. “You don’t need t o be here. Daemon. “And t oo bad you didn’t get lost or—” “Eat en by w ild boars or killed in a horrific t en-car pile-up. and I found his hand w it hout looking. glint ing w it h anger. I w as preparing t his w hole speech about how you need t o st op denying t hat I consume your every w aking t hought and haunt your dreams. “Last night —” “I w ant ed t o apologize.” he said. I get it . Training w it h Daemon present w asn’t going t o be easy. you are alw ays int errupt ing.

” He st art ed moving around t he living room.” His brow s low ered. “A human can be healed. “Maybe it w ill just fade?” I said.” . T hen t here are t he ones w ho kind of…self-dest ruct . He laughed. and t hen t here are humans w ho are mut at ed beyond w hat w ould be expect ed. giving me a w ide bert h. I guess. T hanks. Daemon’s fingers st opped t heir annoying t apping. My hands fell t o my sides. Blake folded his arms and rocked back. “W hat I mean is.” “W hat does t hat mean?” Daemon t apped his fingers on t he arm of t he couch. and t hey develop t he same abilit ies as a Luxen—or more.” Blake ignored him. “W hat a great mot ivat or you are. from w hat I could learn. “Uh. and it ’s different for everyone. he pinched t he bridge of his nose.” Gee. See. one of four t hings happens aft er a mut at ion. hopeful. “W ell.” T hank God. Or a human can be mut at ed and it st icks. “Like I said. “So t hese have been random out burst s of pow er?” W hen I nodded.” “Oh. uncomfort able w it h bot h of t hem st aring at me like…like I didn’t even know w hat .” Blake’s lips pursed. I thought w ryly. it w asn’t a conscious effort . T hat ’s t w o t hings. Daemon’s bright gaze slid t o Blake. He appeared bored. t hat ’s disappoint ing.” he correct ed. “Like in t he freakish-mut ant -looks depart ment and in t he head. “And?” “W ell. Flake?” “Blake. “And how do you really know all of t his.” I don’t think so w asn’t high on the reassurance scale. even mont hs. I’ve know n ot hers like Kat y w ho have been sucked int o t he DOD.” “Am I going t o t urn int o a mut ant ?” I squeaked. But you’re out of t hat st age. you know . you st opped t he branch.” At Blake’s confused expression. And t he t ime w it h t he w indow s.” “But I didn’t do t hem on purpose. “W ell. I glared at t hem.I t ucked my hair back. “It w ould’ve already done t hat by now . I looked over at Daemon. spraw led on t he couch. “I don’t t hink so. I’m not sure t here’s much I can do. and t hen it fades aft er a few w eeks.

W e need t o see if you can cont roll it . St ret ching his arms. B-ll-A-K-E.” I glared at him. Hank? W hat if she can’t ?” “Daemon. “W ow . I w asn’t really focusing. Brad. But t he book remained on t he back of t he couch…as did t he pillow s. God. his name is Blake. No biggie. I’m t ired. If not …” Before I even had a chance t o respond.” I sighed.” Daemon smirked. “I’m hungry.” Blake said. “Anyw ay. “And I guess w e can go from t here. can w e do t his w it hout any macho-man moment s? Because if not . It w as about reincarnat ion and had a male main charact er w ho w as sw oon-w ort hy and t hen some. Blake shook his head.” “Move w hat ?” Blake looked around t he room. I made a face. t his is going t o t ake forever. I ended pract ice and w oke up Daemon by kicking t he leg of t he coffee t able. Daemon yaw ned. t he remot e cont rol. “How about a book?” A book? Hell. And really. And I’m done.” Blake paused. but okay. Wait ed longer. I pict ured t he book lift ing int o t he air and coming t o my hand like I’d seen Daemon and Dee do so many t imes. T ired and cranky. I fail.” . Daemon w as on his feet and in Blake’s face. T hree hours lat er and t he best I’d done w as cause t he coffee t able t o t remble and Daemon t o doze off on t he couch. W e can pick up t omorrow . I focused on t he one t hat had a cover of a girl w hose dress t urned int o rose pet als. “Okay. Not hing happened. and Mom’s Good Housekeeping magazine. pinning me w it h a dark look t hat made me roll my eyes. I t ried harder. I’m amazed.“Uh huh.” He spun around.” Blake’s brow s shot up. so w hat do you suggest ?” “T he best t hing t o st art w it h is t o see if you can move anyt hing on command. So pret t y. w hich one? Shaking my head. you are such a great t rainer. “Okay. I’d so w ant t o dat e— “Focus. “First off. back t o t he import ant st uff. “Or w hat .

Like I’m t he capt ain of my ow n personal failboat . “I don’t expect anyt hing from you.” T he t ips of his cheeks flushed. Feeling all kinds of w hacked out . clearing his t hroat . I w rapped my arms around my w aist against t he cold.” Daemon plopped mayo on t he bread. Going on inst inct .” Didn’t I.” Blake’s grin grew int o a smile t hat caused his hazel eyes t o dance.” He smiled. “Y ou…didn’t have t o make me anyt hing. T he last t hing you w ant is t he DOD know ing you’re mut at ed and coming for w hoever w as responsible. of course.“Shut up. I shuffled int o t he kit chen. Bread. probably he w as afraid Daemon w ould appear out of now here and break his hand. “Anyw ay. Maybe Daemon w as right last night . On t he porch. I just w ant ed t o say t hat . He made t w o ham and cheese sandw iches quickly. And…t hank you for w ant ing t o help.” My heart did a back handspring. but t he frust rat ion is w ort h it in t he end. t hough? Trust ing Blake t ook a leap of fait h. Okay?” I nodded. “I don’t know w hat t o say.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. spreading it out evenly. “I’m sorry for being so bit chy. it ’s okay. lunch meat . I apologized. Causing somet hing like t hat t o happen w ould kill me. “Y ou said you w ere hungry. He also let go pret t y quickly.” I bit my lip and peeked at him. but I feel like an epic fail right now . Blake w as risking a lot even being around me. Kat y. I w ent back in. He w as t here.” “I w as also hungry. I’ll see you t omorrow . “W hat are you doing?” He w aved a knife around. T his can t ake a w hile. and mayo w ere spread out on t he count er.” .” I shivered. and t hen ushered Blake out t he front door. “You’re not a failboat . “Blake. I know t his is dangerous for you and I don’t —” “Kat y. Daemon w asn’t on t he couch.” A lit t le bit of relief flooded me. “I know . he handed me mine as he leaned against t he count er. and he looked aw ay. “Eat . it does mean I get t o spend more t ime w it h you. Blake gave me a w eird sort of smile and t hen left . “Well.” I said.” “Y ou don’t have t o say anyt hing. but he had plent y of opport unit y t o t urn Daemon and me over and he hadn’t . Turning. but t hank you. Wouldn’t most people bail if t hey knew t he DOD w as heavily ent renched here? I just didn’t w ant t o believe it w as because he had feelings for me. “W hat you’re doing by helping me is pret t y amazing.

” T he t ip of his nose brushed t he side of my neck and my fingers spasmed against t he st ainless st eell sink. t urning my cheek so t hat it w as daringly close t o his lips.I st ared at him. I finished w ashing my hands and t urned off t he faucet w hen Daemon placed his hands on eit her side of my hips. you had a very int erest ing conversat ion w it h But ler on t he porch. “I don’t w ant you doing t his. he w rapped his arms around my w aist . or t he fact t hat he has a st upid name. “Me? Jealous of him? No.” To me. I w iggled free.” One dark brow arched. I don’t t rust him. I fought t he shiver and failed. oh w hy. “His name is Blake and w ere you eavesdropping. His hands fell back t o t he sink. He w as w ay.” His hands left t he count er and found my hips. “I don’t w ant t o t alk about Blake. did he alw ays have t o be so damn close? “Kit t en. Everyt hing about him is t oo convenient . he w at ched me eat . I cleaned up. W het her you like him or not . “So. Daemon’s reasons for not t rust ing him w ere t oo obvious. w hich really w as just cheese and mayo. and I didn’t dare move. Chew ing slow ly.” I rolled my eyes. I cursed under my breat h. his helping you is amazing?” Closing my eyes. his fingers curving over t he count er. Daemon.” “I don’t have t o give him anyt hing ot her t han t he ass-kicking he deserves.” He rest ed his chin on my shoulder. but t hen he st raight ened and t ugged me against him. He smiled and t hen t ook a huge bit e of his. you have t o give him props for t hat . W it h my back flush against his front . Blake? It rhymes w it h flake. W hat I w as going t o say w as. “So. “He’s put t ing himself at risk. “Or t he fact t hat —” “T hat you’re jealous?” I said.” “Daemon—” “And it has not hing t o do w it h my raging dislike of t he boy. Come on. “W hat do you w ant t o t alk about ?” . Daemon?” “I w as keeping an eye on t hings. and t he silence seemed t o st ret ch on forever. Dizzying w armt h zinged t hrough my veins. Heat rolled up and dow n my back.” His breat h danced over my neck. w ay t oo close. managing t o get myself t urned around so I faced him. Aft er he w ent round t w o w it h t he ham and cheese. W hy.

last night I w as mad.” I murmured. Trust t hat I can find somet hing out t hat can help you— help us. and his smile w as cold. and he became all business. He’s not just a danger t o you. A splint er pierced my heart . “I’m being serious. I w ant ed t o t alk t o him about us. but if he’s playing us. but he w ent on. you w ere right last night about t hat . T his t hing w it h Bart is. Daemon scrat ched t he five o’clock shadow on his chin.” T his w asn’t t he part of last night ’s conversat ion I w ant ed t o t alk about . . I folded my arms. but …” He paused.” He closed his eyes briefly. because he made t his laugh/inhale sound and nodded. “But I’ll ask you one more t ime t o not do t his w it h him. “I don’t like t his. Since I didn’t answ er right aw ay. “Part of me just w ant s t o snat ch him up and get rid of him.” I said slow ly. he seemed t o know w hat my decision w as. t hat ’s not import ant . His muscled arms folded.” “W hich is about last night . “Look. So. “I don’t even know w hat I w as going t o say t o you.” He st ared at me a moment . w ho could say t here w eren’t Luxen w orking for t hem? Anyt hing w as possible. T here w as no w ay I’d involve her. “And going along w it h everyt hing w ill keep t abs on him. he’s a danger t o Dee. Ret reat ed all t he w ay t o t he ot her side of t he kit chen t able as if he w ere suddenly afraid of me. t hen backed off. I w as also a lit t le caught off guard w it h…w it h everyt hing. W hat a disappoint ment . “Act ually. It w ould be easy. Aft er seeing how affect ed he w as w hen he’d t hought I’d gone out on a dat e w it h Blake—even t hough he seemed t o have got t en over t hat pret t y quickly—and spending all day feeling heart sick and shat t ered.” I w ant ed t o t ell him yes.” “Of course.” I opened my mout h. I w ant ed t o finish t he conversat ion w e w ere having before Blake came over.“Last night . dragging out t he w ord. Kit t en.” My mout h hit t he floor t his t ime.” “Y eah. About w hat I’d realized as I moped around t he house all day.” My brow s flew up. but how w as Daemon going t o ask anyone w it hout arousing suspicion? If t he DOD w as everyw here. So I w ant her kept as far aw ay from t his as possible. “Anyw ay.

A frost y air had developed bet w een Daemon and me. Courage—I really needed t o find t he courage t o t ell him how I felt t omorrow . No one. Most of our t ime alone consist ed of him t rying t o convince me t hat Blake w as no good. I’d w ake up dizzy. But as t he w eeks passed and t he DOD didn’t st orm t he house for me. Y ay. And I st ood t here. She w as busy w it h w ork and W ill. T hat t here w as somet hing inherent ly w rong w it h t he boy. he w as st ill dead set against t hem. Everyone knew t hat Blake and I w ere hanging out . he w as leery of all humans. Y ou need t o get some rest . All t he t raining aft er school affect ed any and all social life. before t hings w ent furt her sout h bet w een us. and no mat t er how many t imes I t ried t o st art up a conversat ion about our relat ionship. I chalked it up t o Daemon’s right full paranoia. especially considering I sucked but t at t he w hole abilit y t hing and Daemon made him feel less t han w elcome. closed-off Daemon. I had t o give it t o him. Chapter 20 Days and t hen w eeks w ent by. t oo. W ho spent most of t he pract ices w at ching Blake like a haw k does w hen searching for prey. Blake w as pat ient and support ive. w hile Daemon w as t he pissy pink elephant in t he room w it h t he bad at t it ude. Given w hat happened w it h Daw son and Bet hany. he w as quick t o shut me dow n. My heart ached. W hat I w as feeling. And Blake did his best t o handle Daemon. realized t hat Daemon w as t here. He had reason not t o t rust t he guy. Blake. Like me. not even Dee. feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. More But ler. Even t hough he didn’t st op t he t raining sessions and rarely missed t hem. and a dist ant . Not many people w ould keep coming back. Each morning st art ed t he same as t he one before. T omorrow is a big day.“Okay. w hich blew . because t hat w as t he only t ime w e really got t o see each ot her. and I w as busy w it h school. ot her t han t he fact he w as a hybrid.” And t hen he w alked out . I didn’t speak t o my mom most mornings. Since she w as . w ondering w hat t he hell just w ent dow n and w hy I never st opped him and t old him w hat I w as t hinking. Act ually w alked out of t he kit chen inst ead of doing t hat super-fast t hing he usually did. Every day t he dark smudges under my eyes grew more prominent .

“Shush it . I’d t urned int o one of t hose girls w hose life ceases t o exist out side of her boyfriend. “Sure. And I didn’t even have a boyfriend. T heir det ailed at t empt s t o draw me back int o t heir w orld w ere incessant .” His fingers slipped over t he curve of my shoulders. a part of me is doing t hat as an ext ension of me. Blake w aved his hand. My evenings w ere all about t raining. pat ient breat h and faced t he alien. No t ime for my blog.” he explained. she didn’t know w here Daemon w as or w hat he w as doing. back t o t he arms. forcing Blake t o back aw ay. “I am not yours. t hen.” Sit t ing on t he arm of t he couch. and I’d given up on t rying t o convince t hem ot herw ise. I t ook a deep. “Like if I w ant t o pick somet hing up. She’s all yours. “I t hink I can help her w it h t his. I alw ays asked Blake t he same quest ion before w e got st art ed. “All right . “Have you seen any Arum?” T he answ er w as alw ays t he same. Blake w ould t ry t o t each me w hile ignoring t he homicidal alien t aking up w ay t oo much room.” A small part of me w ant ed him t o deny my w ords. but each t ime Dee w ant ed t o t ake a shopping t rip or Lesa w ant ed t o grab somet hing t o eat aft er school. Daemon rolled his eyes.” I smiled. “Technically. “Y ou have no idea w hat I’m t alking about . but I nodded. t hough. I had t o t urn t hem dow n. And it blew .” And t hen Daemon w ould show up and t hings usually got crazy at some point .” My hand w as it ching t o connect w it h his face.” “Nope.spending all of her t ime over at Adam’s. and t he crazy began. So Carissa and Lesa believed t hat Blake and I w ere dat ing. w henever w e use our abilit ies. It ’s w hy using our pow ers w eakens us. T hose t hings I once spent all my free t ime doing w ere now pushed t o t he side. Daemon w as up and off t he couch in a nanosecond. w e are sending a piece of ourselves. Blake laughed. “No. w alking up t o me. He glared Blake int o submission.” T hat really made no sense t o me. W it hout even doing it . “T hat she is.” Daemon grinned. because t hey t hought I w as so w rapped up in him t hat not hing else mat t ered. T here w as no t ime for reading. W hat ever. .” he said.

but I w ent along w it h it . “Open your eyes. Like Daemon and Blake had said.” “Now t ake t hose arms and make t hem t ransparent in your mind. slender ribbons of light . t he st at ic charge from his t ouch w as much more pow erful…and t empt ing. I moved t hem t o t he coffee t able. I’d break my concent rat ion. I nodded.” “Like…your light ?” “Y es. “Ben over t here is on t o somet hing. placing his hands on my shoulders. Admit t edly. T he arms of blinding w hit e light w ere mine.” His fingers t ight ened. see t he books all over t he living room. “Pict ure having hundreds of arms.“How about I shush it right up your—” “Kit t en. I giggled.” He st epped behind me. I imagined I looked like t hat Hindu goddess. “Kat y. “Sorry. bright light . . An int ense. “Now I w ant you t o t urn t hose arms int o light .” Daemon w as making just as much sense as Blake.” Blake inst ruct ed. “You can see t hose arms.” Blake sighed. W hen I did. st acking t hem in alphabet ic order w it hout laying a finger on t hem. your language is so unladylike. I looked ridiculous. Can you? I know you know w here each and every one is placed. He leaned in. I w orked really hard t o believe w hat I w as seeing.” I t ook anot her breat h and pict ured my Hindu arms as long.” Know ing t hat if I spoke. t hey w ere ext ensions of my being. In my head.” I did as he inst ruct ed. “Okay. books float ed around t he room.” Daemon paused. Good. his cheek against my hair. It ’s like an ext ension of our physical form. Finally! Ecst at ic. W henever w e use our abilit y—t ap int o t he Source—w e are sending a part of us t o do it . I imagined each of t hose hands picking up t he books scat t ered about . A heady t hril w ent t hrough me. I almost st art ed jumping and squealing. Y eah. “And do you believe it ?” Pausing before I answ ered. “Do you see it ?” he asked soft ly.

” I said finally. shaking his head. Surprised.” . And before you t ell me t here’s not hing bet w een you t w o. but t hat w ould just sound suspicious. but damn. but t here w as a rush of w arm air and I realized t he spot w here Daemon had st ood w as empt y. it w as so not w orking. I know bet t er. “Hurt ?” He nodded solemnly.” I pulled free. It t ugged at my heart . dragging in deep breat hs. Or he does. his smile an odd mixt ure of pride and somet hing much more. “From w hat I’ve gat hered. embarrassed. Not as fast as him. “I…” “He sure can move fast . Daemon w as t he obvious suspect .” Blake w as silent for several moment s. He follow ed me int o t he living room.” My st omach hollow ed. “Are you okay?” “Y eah. “It ’s bet t er if you cut t ies. w rapping his hand around my arm.” I st art ed t o t ell Blake t hat it w asn’t Daemon. t hey’re going t o w ant t o know w ho did it . “I act ually did somet hing. smoot hing his hands over t he glossy purple cover. He grinned at me. I sat dow n. “Look at it t his w ay. “And it w as pret t y damn good. w hat do you t hink he’d do? Risk his life. If he t hought t he DOD w as ont o you. Blake picked up t he first book. and I grinned back. T he one t ime I act ually did somet hing right . T heir first guess is going t o be him. rubbing t he heel of my hand over my forehead. “Do you w ant t o t alk about it ?” I choked out a laugh. I t urned t o Blake. and my gaze collided w it h Blake’s.” If t his w as supposed t o be a mot ivat ional speech. Nice w ork.” He st ood.” Blake said soft ly. Blake sat beside me. Kat y. Crying fixed not hing.” he said. A door opened and t hen closed.” “Y ou did. “I don’t w ant anyone t o get hurt . “Do w e ever? But w hat w e w ant rarely changes t he out come.” “It is?” I folded my arms. He nodded. So much so t hat I had t o look aw ay. Daemon bailed. blinking back hot t ears. relat ionships bet w een t he Luxen and humans don’t w ork out . and damn if he didn’t have a point . “Kat y.” I t urned t o say somet hing t o Daemon. “It ’s probably bet t er t his w ay. “No.” I nodded. before someone get s hurt . How freaking t ypical. right ? And if t he DOD does find out you’ve been mut at ed. But it ’s not going t o w ork out . I can see t he w ay you look at each ot her.Daemon let go. w illing my t ears t o go aw ay. “I can move fast .

“Give it back. scribbling along his not ebook. . I spread it open. I managed to toss the note back to her. We weren’t worried about our teacher—it was doubtful he could see all t he w ay t o t he back of t he classroom.” he murmured. He held t he not e close t o his chest and grinned. Disappoint ment sw elled inside me. Before it could leave my fingertips. heart your new glasses. Thank you. I faced t he front of t he class and exhaled slow ly. I forced a shrug. I t ruly believed t he reason I’d been able t o move t he books w as because of him. Daemon tapped his pen off my back. And yeah. T w ist ing around in my seat . I laughed under my breath and wrote back.” I hissed. I also looked forw ard t o seeing him. Why the :( face? Gosh. Even t hough Daemon usually w asn’t t he most helpful person during t hese sessions.” I have to agree. And I did. t he not e w as back on my desk. I grinned as I unfolded it . was I that obvious? I scribbled a quick message: Just tired. “Okay. Son of a donkey but t ! My mout h dropped open and my cheeks burned. Sigh.” His emerald-colored eyes met mine for a brief moment and t hen he sat back. “Passing not es is bad. I went to drop the note back on Carissa’s desk. Daemon always looks hot!!! Stretching into the aisle. “I’m not going to be at your training today. Lesa wants me to tell you: “Daemon looks hot today. Curious. A few seconds lat er. playing it cool. it was snatched from my hand.… In trig the folowing day. Feeling as if I’d been dismissed. Carissa t ossed a folded-up not e on my desk. T he guy made Sant a look young.” he said in a low voice. They were a rocking zebra print. I glared at Daemon.

He’d present ed me w it h a series of w hit e candles and my goal w as t o light all of t hem at once t hrough concent rat ion. I handled t he not e like it w as a bomb. and w rot e somet hing on t he page. “T here you go. I glanced at Lesa and Carissa. I w ant ed t o die as I w at ched t hose vibrant eyes quickly scan t he not e. Daemon finally folded t he not e and handed it back. T he first t ime I’d at t empt ed t o cont roll fire ended up w it h w hat I sw ore w ere second-degree burns on my fingers. and aft er several hours of st aring at t hem w it h a seriously empt y st omach. he w as t aking enough t ime. God. T hat not e w ould never. because t he t each w as scanning t he classroom. t o Lesa’s and Carissa’s— horror. because his dark brow s shot up his forehead. things were a lot smoother without Daemon’s threatening presence. I w as allow ed t o t ouch each of t hem. He grinned. Once I had mast ered t hat . Unsurprisingly. Blake and I worked alone. used his mout h t o pop off t he cap on his pen. And I died a lit t le more. Groaning. and all t he w icks sparked a t iny flame.” I snapped around—just in t ime. … For several days. Blake got all kinds of happy. Blake event ually moved on t o harder st uff. I could no longer t ouch t he candle. I’d managed t o light one by pict uring t he flame in my mind and holding t he image. Daemon chuckled.Shaking his head. W hen he w ent back t o t he chalkboard. Kit t en. I refolded t he paper and shoved it in my bookbag. and I t ried t o join in t he revelry— because t his w as good—but t here w as alw ays an edge of disappoint ment riding each accomplishment . Blake w aved his hand over t he candles. Slow ly and carefully. With Blake’s coaching. and he w asn’t t here.” “I hat e you. I knew w hen he got t o my part . he unfolded t he not e much t o my—and I’m sure. I unfolded t he damn t hing. . at t empt ing t o t each me how t o cont roll t he more pow erful t hings t hrough a horrible series of t rial-and-error experiment s. I w ant ed t o share my successes w it h Daemon. I w ent from being able t o move small object s for short periods of t ime t o rearranging t he ent ire living room w it h a single t hought . ever see t he light of day again. Each t ime I w as successful. Inst ead I had t o creat e t he fire just by looking at it . my movement s st iff and my ent ire body enflamed. Lesa’s mout h w as hanging open and Carissa’s cheeks mat ched mine.

I asked you t o light t he candle. T he fire w ould have been a part of you. st opping t hings. “T hey can only cont roll t hings relat ed t o some form of light . Jesus. gent ly w rapping my fingers in a t ow el.” He prodded me w it h his knee. t hey can creat e w ind. “ If t hey have DNA.” Not very scient ific. T he flames w ent out . W e’re just st ronger t han t hey are at it . it shouldn’t have burned you. t ry it . and fire are all right up t heir all ey. But w hat t hat w as? T hat w as real honest -t o-God fire. frow ning. pulling me along w it h him. not your damn fingers! It ’s really not t hat hard. Garrison had been w ait ing for him. remembering how it had st ormed t hat day Daemon had ret urned from t he lake and Mr. But let ’s say t hey do for argument ’s sake. We have t w o different set s of DNA in us. T hey can generat e enough energy t o creat e elect ricit y and fuel a st orm. so yes. but somet hing w ent w rong.” “Sorry.” I frow ned as my fingers t hrobbed. “W ait a sec. “You may not be able t o cont roll fire or st art it . Like t he best of bot h w orlds.” I mumbled as I w at ched my skin t urn an ugly shade of pink and t hen red.” He shrugged. T here’s a chance I can’t w ork w it h fire and you let me do t hat ?” “How else am I going t o figure out your limit at ions?” . It w as t he first t ime I’d heard Blake sw ear. “If you could. “T hey have only one kind of DNA. Shock had set in as he dragged me int o t he kit chen and shoved my hands under a rush of cool w at er.” I nodded. “Kat y. “Holy shit !” Blake jumped out of t he w ay. My fingers lit up like t he Fourt h of July. “How did you do t hat —put t ing t hem out ? Can t he Luxen do t hat ?” He smiled at me. but I don’t underst and how .” “Y ou keep saying t hat . It didn’t t ake long before t he skin puckered and blist ered.“Easy peasy. I did exact ly w hat I had done w hile holding t he candle. “And it ’s like pulling at oms from t he air around us.” he comment ed. right ? So moving.” He paused. “Anyw ay.” he said. and t hen ran his hand over t hem again.

I couldn’t light t he fire w it hout t ouching t he candles no mat t er how hard I t ried. “Daemon. “About your hand…” W hen Daemon had asked me about it in class earlier. really lame. “Nice of you t o join us again. I rushed t o t he front door. Ignoring him. T he follow ing morning I had t o come up w it h a good excuse for my mom. It never failed t o amaze me how st riking Daemon really w as. furious. W hat ’s next ? Trying t o st op a moving vehicle by st anding in front of it . and I even scored some w eak pain pills. “Are you helping t onight ?” Daemon’s gaze dropped t o my bandaged fingers and nodded.” He shut t he door behind him. Kat . Maybe you should st ay aw ay from t he st ove for a lit t le w hile?” He sidled past me and headed for t he living room. W here’s Bilbo?” “Blake.” Disgust ed w it h him. “Hey. W armt h t ingled over my neck and t hen a few seconds lat er t here w as a knock on my door. feeling hot and dizzy w hen I saw him. Blake explained t hat he’d never been able t o heal anyone. “He’s in t he living room. “I burned it on t he st ove last night . W hen I asked w hen and w hy he’d been present ed w it h t he opport unit y. I can’t do t hat and now I’m dead?” Blake rolled his eyes. looking dow n at t he t ips of his black boot s peeking out from his denim jeans.“W hat t he hell!” I pulled my hand free. “T hat …is…” I sighed. At least . I t ried again and again. Blake. I hope so. Lat er t hat night . know ing I couldn’t leave him alone w it h Blake for any amount of t ime. It involved somet hing st upid like placing my hand on a lit burner. “Y eah.” . because I seriously doubt ed he w ould t hink how it happened w as kosher. I t railed behind. T he last t hing any of us needed w as for him t o kill Blake over my ow n inept it ude.” “W oo hoo. I’d avoided answ ering.” I correct ed. but w hoops.” I gasped. Needing t o prove myself.” Blake exuded so much false ent husiasm he could’ve been an act or. “Y ou should be able t o do t hat . “Lame?” “Y eah. he didn’t get a chance t o answ er. I w ent back t o t he candles. Blake gave him a halfheart ed w ave. but she believed me.” I shrugged. “T hat ’s not cool. I shot up.

We got st art ed w it h moving st uff around for a lit t le w hile and Daemon didn’t say much. But maybe it w as just plain old dislike.” Damn. Oh goodie. sounding real genuine. but t hat doesn’t mean you have cont rol. I hope it does. It ’s all right . You’re going t o need t o complet ely t rust me.” Daemon cocked his head t o t he side. “I’m guessing it ’s going t o be somet hing I don’t like. Blake ret urned and st opped in t he doorw ay. W hat he didn’t know or get w as t hat Blake hadn’t put t he moves on me. T here w as a clank of silverw are. “I’m doing my best . “W e need t o see somet hing amazing.” I glanced at Daemon as Blake disappeared int o t he foyer. “W ow . If I ask you t o do somet hing. “I have no idea w hat he’s up t o. Blake w as such a dow ner somet imes. you can’t fire back w it h a t housand quest ions. But t hen again. St ay here. Const ant ly. .” Like t here w as much Blake could do t hat Daemon w ould like. “Moving st uff is just a parlor t rick. but w e really don’t know . t here w as t he fire hoopla. more glassw are t o dest roy. Daemon plopped dow n next t o Blake and spread his arm over t he back of t he couch.” Amazing? I w as moving st uff w it hout t ouching it ! T hat ’s pret t y amazing in my book. Not once since he’d t ried t o hug me t hat day in t he diner. really.” “Y eah. not even a “Wow ” or a “Congrat ulat ions. A knife? And t hen t he but cher knife w as flying st raight at my chest .” but he w at ched me.” He exhaled loudly.” “Y our best isn’t good enough. I heard draw ers opening in t he kit chen. “I have an idea. “I know you’ve missed me. Light reflect ed off t he sharp edge of met al. crow ding t he ot her boy.” He smiled and t hen cocked his arm back. “Y ou’re just now figuring t hat out ?” Blake ignored him. one hand behind his back. I’m here. “Y ou ready?” “Sure. “T he good new s is you can do it on command now . “Okay.Grinning. W hile w e w ait ed.” Blake’s arms w ere pinned t o his chest .” Blake said.” Daemon arched a brow .” He paused w hile Daemon’s eyes narrow ed.

Blake?” Several t hings happened all at once. All around. Human or alien. last ing only half of a second and so quick t hat I doubt ed Blake even saw it . Loud and clear. but I did. “Holy smokes. anyw ay. snapped out of it . I craned my neck and w hispered. A heart beat lat er.” “Y ou did t hrow a freaking knife at me. Blake w as st ill clapping. t rembling w it h barely rest rained rage. t he knife fell out of t he air. lit t le puffs of plast er filled t he air. suspended. W rong t hing t o say. sw at hed in an int ense w hit ish-red light t hat lit up t he ent ire living room. I t hrew up my hand. Daemon jerked back and let Blake go. and for a horrible moment . Now t hat my concent rat ion w as broken. his eyes w hit e and sharp like icicles. I really t hought he had killed Blake. “Y ou need t o check yourself. T he boy landed on his feet and st aggered t o t he side as he rose. Daemon shot off t hat couch like a rocket . T he knife st opped in midair. “I’m not doing anyt hing. simult aneously flipping int o his t rue form. not one t hat Blake could hear. “St op!” But t hen t here w as a crackling sound. sw allow ing Blake w hole. but I got in t he middle. T hen his light flickered out . T he flat -screen on t he T V st and rat t led. I w ill break him in t w o.” “W hoa! W hoa!” Blake yelled. He st ood in his human form. his large hand curled int o a fist . like air heat ed and charged aft er a light ning st rike. arms flailing in t he light . St ill in his Luxen form. point y end facing t ow ard me. Y ou t w o need t o freaking st op. Frozen inches from my chest . Daemon hummed and st art ed t ow ard Blake.” I shot back.A scream caught in my t hroat . I’m going t o kill him. w ho’d appeared t o have been knocked int o a st upor by w hat Blake had done. I w ouldn’t have t hrow n it at her!” Daemon sidest epped me. “W hat t he hell. Daemon’s light flared. It just st ayed t here. “I knew it !” I st ared at him as my crit ical-t hinking skills slow ly t rickled back in. I let loose several curses t hat w ould’ve caused my mom t o cry and Daemon. Kat y w asn’t in any danger. he had Blake pinned halfw ay up t he w all. because I heard Daemon promise.” An arm appeared in t he light and fingers brushed along my cheek. dart ing around t he coffee t able. T hat ’s it . horrified and panicked.” T here w as no response from Daemon. T he t ouch w as soft as silk and brief. “St op. Blake clapped.” Blake ran bot h his hands dow n his shirt . “Okay. smacking off t he floor harmlessly. “Daemon!” I shrieked. Daemon . W indow s began t o shake and w alls t rembled. “W hat t he hell w ere you t hinking?” “She w asn’t in any danger! If I t hought for a second she couldn’t do it . st raight ening it .

“Okay. hight ailing his behind out of t he house. Kat y. Really pushing it .” Daemon correct ed.” Blake looked over my shoulder and seemed t o get it . I’m sorry. “I t hink t hat ’s enough for t onight . I t urned around.” “But —” “Blake.” Slow ly. blocking him. Kiefer Sut herland did.” And t hat w asn’t t he right t hing t o say. “No more.” Daemon said. “W ho does t hat ?” Daemon demanded. Can you hold me off forever? No? I didn’t t hink so.” “T hat w as Donald Sut herland—t he dad. “But you did great . voice low . “Same difference.” A w hirlw ind of rage w as building inside Daemon and I doubt ed I could st op him again if he w ent aft er Blake. His eyes w ere st ill doing t he glow t hing. I can hold you up against t hat w all unt ill you run out of juice. Blake shrugged. If I t hought you couldn’t st op it .” “I’m not Buffy!” I yelled.” he explained.” Daemon cursed again and I moved. Heat rolled off his body. “He could have killed you. No harm.” He st art ed t ow ard t he door and st opped. “I sw ear you w ere never in any danger. Blake shook his head. “Absolut ely no more.” Blake’s jaw jut t ed out . “Act ually. A slow grin pulled at his lips. much t o my surprise. pleading eyes t o me.” A low hum rat t led t he floors and Blake t ook his cue. “You got a deat h w ish? Because you’re really pushing it t onight . I w ouldn’t have done it . he grimaced. buddy. Kat y. W hen I cont inued t o gape at him. I w on’t be okay w it h t hat .could do some real damage. I’m dead serious. “It w as on T V a few night s ago. I really t hink you should leave. No foul. t hey w ere sort of beaut iful—odd but really st riking. “But t here w as no w ay you w ould’ve know n she could do it ! Not a hundred percent !” Turning w ide. But if she hadn’t been able t o cat ch it . He t hrew one at Buffy and she caught it . “Okay? I t hink you need t o go. I’m not okay w it h t hat . “All right . Only w hen I heard t he rumbling of his t ruck’s engine did I relax. In t he original Buffy movie. Up close. I don’t t hink you realize how aw esome t hat w as.” . Just like you w ould’ve. Daemon grow led low in his t hroat . because he nodded. “Y ou are definit ely cut er t han Buffy.” I said meaningfully. I t ensed. Kat . I w ould’ve st opped it .

low ering his chin. His ent ire body hummed. “Look. and God.” Somew hat shocked by t he close cont act t hat he’d avoided since t he evening he made me a sandw ich. “I didn’t just st op it .” T ired. T hat boy’s got a few screw s loose. sw allow ing. I can help you w ork on it . I bent and picked up t he huge serial-killer knife.” Freezing anyt hing w as a huge deal. “T his can’t happen again. his arms. “I don’t w ant you doing any more t raining w it h him. it sunk in t hat I had st opped a knife w hizzing t ow ard my chest . he could have hurt you. It w as one of t he most pow erful uses of t he Source. he w asn’t t rying t o kill me. T he t hing w as just hovering in air. I faced Daemon. t oo. I don’t even w ant you near him. By some miracle.“Daemon.” I w hispered. “W e can’t st op t raining.” His brow s knit t ed. his body w as so w arm and so perfect . w rapping around t he back of my head.” It seemed t o hit him. hauling me against his chest .” All of a sudden. I can’t —” “Daemon. you’ve obviously got some cont rol. w aving t he t hing around. Blake and Daemon had bot h said. T hat ’s…t hat ’s a big deal. Kat . “Jesus. “Are you insane?” “No.” He looked incredulous.” I w iggled free. He w as st ill rant ing. t hat ’s pret t y huge. T he hand t hat came up.” . “W hat ?” He pulled back a lit t le. “Huh?” “I froze t he knife. “Holy…” I laughed.” he said. I didn’t move at first . rest ing his chin against t he t op of my head. “It is. w it h t he except ion of using it as a w eapon. “I froze it . isn’t it ?” Daemon nodded. I didn’t st ab him. “—believe he did t hat . he w as w rapping his arms around me.” “Daemon. “God.” Excit ement t hrummed t hrough me. shook slight ly. As I held it . but I froze it .” My voice w as muffled against his chest . “I’m going t o give him back-all ey plast ic surgery.

w hich usually meant he w as really. t hen laughed. but it w orked. If I could cont roll t hese abilit ies and act ually use t hem t o prot ect Daemon and Dee.” . Crossing my arms over my chest . you lit t le nut . I’m not exact ly t hrilled t hat he did it .” “Daemon—” “It w on’t if I’m st ill alive. I had pot ent iall t o be st ronger t han Daemon. “You don’t ow n me. you have no business going up against t he Arum. We’re get t ing somew here—” “W hat part of ’He could’ve killed you’ don’t you underst and?” Daemon backed off. “I don’t w ant you t raining w it h him.” I t ried t o push dow n my anger. Do you underst and t hat ? Y ou w ill never go aft er an Arum. just like you and Dee can. “Help me t o fight Arum?” Okay.” I reasoned. t hen I w ouldn’t be just a human—or just a mut at ed human one st ep aw ay from exposing t hem t o t he w orld. “I’ll be able t o cont roll it and use t he Source. t hrow ing a knife at me isn’t cool.” “W hat ever. you’re not helping me fight Arum. And God know s. all t he humor vanishing. w hat if I w ant ed t o?” He laughed again.” I exhaled slow ly. t he risks w ere w ort h it . but now t hat he ment ioned it . really angry. Not w hen he’s put t ing your life in danger.” Besides cat ching my fingers on fire and t he knife incident —but st ill. “Y eah. you’re a human.” “He’s not put t ing my life in danger.” His eyes narrow ed. T hat w ill never happen. “Y ou don’t know how w eak or vulnerable I’ll be fully t rained.” “It ’s not about ow nership. w hy not ? I could fight .” “I t hink t he reasons are pret t y huge.” “W hy not ? If I can cont roll t he Source and help. It really w orked. “Grant ed.” he yelled. Daemon. “W e can’t st op. “Kit t en. “First off.” “Not really. I don’t care if you can st op t he w orld from spinning. but a human w ho’s a hell of a lot w eaker and more vulnerable t han a Luxen. Secondly. and I w ant ed t o kick him. w hy not ? According t o Blake. I can help you—” “Help me w it h w hat ?” Daemon st ared at me. I w asn’t going t hat far. I t apped t he edge of t he knife on my arm. One t hing I hat ed more t han Daemon’s douche-nozzle side w as him t elling me w hat t o do.“Kat —” “We can’t ! Look. you’re a mut at ed human.

Big deal. it is.” “Oh. sucking t he air right out of t he room w it h it . I mean it . t hen…w hat ever. His reasons for w ant ing me t o st op t raining w it h Blake w ere right but all w rong. “Daemon. You chose t his.” .” He ignored t hat . I hadn’t realized t hat could’ve been t he real reason behind it all. “Y eah. “I get t hat you care—” “You don’t get it .” I said. I w on’t make anot her mist ake and condone t his.” Need w as such a strong w ord that it stole my breath and my heart. but your job is not to protect me.” I w hispered.” His head sw ung back t o me. “I w ouldn’t call me names w hen I have a knife in my hand. T hat ’s t he problem!” He st opped. I’m not Dee. you can’t st op me just t o prot ect me. About every part of me soft ened. “Daemon. and my t emper slipped aw ay like a snow flake melt ing. Y ou can’t t ell me you don’t see or sense t hat .” “Because I don’t w ant you in danger—how about t hat ? Is t hat damn good enough for you?” he shout ed. t hat st ung. I’m not anot her one of your responsibilit ies. don’t —” “Y ou know not hing about him—not hing deeper t han t hat he likes t o surf and blog.” “Damn right you’re not Dee! But you are my responsibilit y. he could lose his ow n life or Dee’s. I w on’t have t his hanging over my head like I do every freaking day w it h Daw son. “I’m not st opping.“Nut ?” I glared at him. “T hirdly. draw ing in several deep breat hs. Kat y. I’m flattered—I am.” “T hese aren’t good enough reasons. I got you int o t his mess. t here is somet hing off about Blake. He looked aw ay. I needed t o prove t o him t hat I w asn’t a liabilit y or somet hing t o be const ant ly w at ched over. Ouch. and I jumped. “Does it even mat t er t hat I don’t w ant you in t hat kind of danger? T hat I w on’t facilit at e somet hing as idiot ic as you gearing up t o go against t he Arum?” I flinched. If he felt t hat w ay and did keep put t ing himself in jeopardy because of me. Daemon st ared at me. “W ant ing t o help you and your kind is idiot ic?” His jaw t ight ened. pulling it all back in. “I need t o prot ect you.” “Daemon. “I w on’t be a part of t his. And I w ill not be dragging you furt her int o it !” My head w as spinning.

I sighed. Daemon w as a no-show . because one day. Not someone w ho w as w eak and needed rescuing. closing t he door.” Sounded good t o me. T he coldness radiat ing from him chilled me t o t he bone.” T hrough t he durat ion of bio. “Hey.” T here w as a pause as he bit int o t he shiny red fruit . Didn’t he see? Going t hrough w it h t his w ould give me a bet t er chance of not t urning out like Bet hany and Daw son.” Chapter 21 Part of me w ant ed t o skip classes t he next day. eit her. Turned out . his eyes like glaciers. “Did Daemon ever calm dow n last night ?” I groaned inw ardly. . Blake pulled an apple from his bag.I sucked in a sharp breat h. “You really w eren’t in any danger. W e sat in t he back. but it w asn’t like I could hide forever.” “Hungry?” W hen I shook my head. My chest ached at t he t hought of him carrying t hat kind of guilt — guilt t hat didn’t belong t o him. because t he last t hing I could st omach right now w as w at ching Adam and Dee go t o second base at t he lunch t able. I’d pret t y much had my face st uck in my t ext book. “T ell me now . If you didn’t st op it . of being able t o t ake care of myself and prot ect him. Kat y?” He looked at me dead-on. Perfect . I didn’t see him in t he halls. “Y eah. Unexpect edly.” I w hispered. propping our feet up on t he seat s in front of us. or w hen I grabbed my st uff out of my locker before lunch. “T hat w as t he w rong t hing t o say.” I scoot ed dow n and laid my head on t he back of my seat . t he place Blake had in mind w as t he empt y audit orium. one of us w ould’ve. but he needed t o see me as an equal.” “I w as afraid of t hat .” His face t urned hard.” And t hat act ually hurt t o say. “Y eah…not really. Daemon t ook a st ep back as t hough I’d hit him. because I knew t here w as a mile-long road of good int ent ions behind w hat he had been saying last night . he’d need it . I’d chased him right out of t he damn school. he t ugged on my backpack. t ears burning my eyes. “I’m done. st rolling up t o me. no food and no people. “Y ou don’t look any bet t er. “Daemon—” “W hat w ill it be. I know a place t o go. He never show ed. “He just doesn’t w ant t o see me hurt .” “I don’t know w hat t o t ell you.” Blake said. He’d never looked more det ached.” “I know . “Me neit her. not feeling it t oday.

okay?” “All right .” He held up t he core of his apple. “Is Daemon t he one w ho healed you? I ask. but not sexual or even emot ional on t hat kind of level. Did it make you…at t ract ed t o him?” “W hat ?” He laughed.” “It ’s not your fault . W e w ere like t w o halves of t he same w hole aft er he healed me. “Don’t t ake it personally. frow ning.” “Oh. My friend and I w ere close aft erw ard. “Everyt hing w ill be okay. “T hat ’s good t o know . it ’s not anyone you’d ever expect . do you?” I w as quick t o t ell him t hat I did. I didn’t mean t o cause t rouble bet w een you t w o. “You know I don’t like t he t ool.” Curiosit y did get t he best of me.” Blake nodded. I almost alw ays knew w hen he w as around.“T hat ’s admirable. t hough. but he’s pret t y damn pow erful. but he cares about you. I st art ed t o grin.w hy is it so import ant w ho healed me?” He looked at me like he doubt ed my IQ as he finished off his apple.” I low ered my lashes before he could see t he rush of fresh t ears t hat burned my eyes.” He t ook anot her bit e before he cont inued.” Well. Great . Daemon’s ego w ould go t hrough t he chart s if he knew . “Anyw ay. “Anyw ay. No offense.” Healing me w as so forbidden t hat even an army of Arum couldn’t get me t o admit t hat it had been Daemon. and t hat ’s all I’m w illing t o say about it . t hat explained how I blast ed a sat ell it e int o out er space. And I’m sorry.” Blake grinned around his apple. “Because I hear t hat how st rong t he Luxen is w ho heals you is an indicat ion of how much st ronger you’ll be. t hat ’s w hat I’ve picked up from Liz. “W hy w ould you t hink it w as him?” Blake gave me a point ed look. “W hich is w hy I t hought it w as Daemon. “Y ou don’t t rust me. I t hink t rust is somet hing not easily given. I w as t he biggest asshat alive. t hat ’s good t o know .. I st opped. considering. “It w ould explain how close you t w o are.” My ow n voice sounded st range t o me. “Y ou say you t w o w ere close. We w ere like brot hers. “No. Her pow er and limit at ions w ere linked t o w ho healed her.” . It w as a st rong…bond. “W ell. but t hinking of him renew ed t he ache in my chest . T his w hole t ime I’d kept t hrow ing t he alien connect ion in Daemon’s face and it hadn’t been w hat w as propelling him. It just makes us close t o w ho healed us. At least . but right now . It ’s st ronger t han a familial bond. t hanks?” I laughed at his chagrined look. because it may give me a bet t er underst anding of your pow er t o know w ho changed you. Same as me.” I pat t ed his knee. so…” “Gee. “Can I ask you somet hing?” “Sure.” Anxiousness blossomed. but t he connect ion—w hat ever it is t hat t hey do t o us—doesn’t force us t o feel anyt hing. but t hat ’s not t he case. Someone at least deserved my honest y. not surprised w hen I got a lit t le shock. but you really haven’t done anyt hing ext raordinary..

by t he end of t he w eek. Kat y. like pillow s and books. Aft er several hours. “So Daemon could’ve really held you against t he w all all night ?” “Y ep. t hough. “It ’s a t ype of cryst al—a very rare opal. I’d mast ered t he art of not eat ing fabric.” … If I saw another knife in the next ten years. “T ired?” Blake comment ed. T he more abilit ies w e use. I also needed t o be able t o cont roll t hem w hen I w as spazzing. placing it w here he’d got t en it : t he T V st and. “Sugar helps.” “We are just like t he Luxen in t hat sense. My abilit y w as also t ied t o my emot ions—like fear.” He sat beside me. t he w eaker w e get . And fast er. “Good idea. but t hey can go a lot longer t han w e can. lounging against t he w all.” He st opped beside me.” “Great .” I yaw ned. “Y ou know how t he Luxen get t ired from using t heir pow ers?” Blake grabbed t he last book. T hankfully. I’d been able t o st op t hem all. I never let t he books hit me or t he floor. I groaned as I picked up all of t he pillow s off t he floor and t he books off t he coffee t able. but I underst ood his mast er plan. Blake st ayed in one piece. “Y eah. I’d need long-term psychiatric care. And w it hout Daemon t here. put t ing t hem each back w here t hey belonged.” “T he w hat ?” I rubbed t he back of my neck as I dropped ont o t he couch. I needed t o be able t o t ap int o t hose st rong feelings and use t hem w hen I w asn’t freaking out . I scoot ed aw ay. It seemed ass backw ard t o st art off w it h t he knives and end w it h t he pillow . Spending time with a knife being thrown at me wasn’t my idea of fun.Blake glanced at me sidew ays and smiled. T hat just seemed sacrilegious. . He moved ont o t hrow ing non-deadly st uff at my head. T hey use up energy t o do t hings—t he w hole sending-a-piece-of-t hem t hing? We’re t he same w ay. I don’t know w hy.” I mut t ered. “Y eah. and I remember you saying somet hing about us t iring out fast er t han t hey do. so close t hat his t high pressed against mine. But so does t he Melody St one. Has somet hing t o do w it h t he fact t hat w e only have half-alien DNA. but w e have t o be careful.

“T hings are really complicat ed right now . and I jerked up. “Well. t his w as so aw kw ard. “I’m sorry. you’ll be able t o defend yourself. “I’m sorry.” “T hings w on’t ever be normal. My cheeks are not a human lie det ect or. Y ou’re a fast learner. Y ou know t hat ?” “I don’t mean t o. Kat y.” T he couch dipped on my side.” I yaw ned. My eyes snapped open. t hough. “Don’t lie.“W hat does it do?” He rest ed his head back on t he cushion and gave me a lopsided shrug. T hey’re hard t o get .” He sat back. Possibly even st abilize t hem so w e don’t grow t ired like t he Luxen do. “From w hat I’ve learned. Just right now —” .” “Underst andable. man. “No.” T he w hole cryst all business didn’t make sense t o me.” He laughed w hen I frow ned. I didn’t mean t o st art le you.” W as t hat all? Or more? Oh.” “I don’t know w hy people keep saying t hat . It sounded like a bunch of New Age crap.” “Ha! You w eren’t saying t hat t he first w eek of t raining. t w ist ing around t o face him. not sure w hat t o say. but I w as t oo t ired t o open my eyes. don’t you?” I clut ched t he pillow t o my chest . especially since w e w ere w orking together.” Grabbing an abused pillow . Once you st ep out side t he range of t he bet a quart z. but t hen again. I placed it under my head and closed my eyes. “Maybe t his w on’t be so hard. t he Arum w ill find you. “Y ou like him. “But if you can really cont roll t his.” he said. sit t ing back.” T here w as a pause. T o st and beside Daemon. I’ll get cont roll of my abilit ies…and everyt hing w ill go back t o normal. “Y ou’re such a bearer of great new s. it can help increase our pow ers. placing his hand on his t high. w hat did I know ? “Do you have one?” Blake laughed. “Blake. “Y ou did really w ell.” I t oyed w it h a frayed t hread. snuggling against t he arm of t he couch. and I felt Blake’s fingers brushing my hair aside.” And t hat ’s w hat I w ant ed. know ing w e needed t o have that conversation. “Y ou alw ays blush w hen you lie.” T he cushion under me shift ed even more. I just w ant ed t o make sure you w ere okay over t here. t hen I guess it ’s just me and sugar. not cow er behind him.

But you have a lot going on. I couldn’t pick up anyt hing from his guarded expression. “Y eah. And t hat meant he knew I w as st ill t raining w it h Blake. I have t he t ime t o be pat ient .” he said. “And you know w hat w e’ve been doing. Daemon glided past my seat and t ook his behind me. Y ou’re more—” . “So. “No. Obviously. pret t y much everyt hing w it h guys around here is code for sex. trying to focus on what Carissa and Lesa were talking about. A pen poked me in t he back.” T he first real smile in t w o days t urned up my lips. I like you.” Lesa repeat ed slyly. running his hand t hrough his hair. “is like code for having sex. Sucky part about living next t o Daemon w as t he fact he pret t y much saw everyt hing I did. it ’s okay.“Kat y. So it ’s okay. “I see you’ve been…busy.” “Just hanging out . lashes low ered. I caught a glimpse of Daemon coming t hrough t he doorw ay and I focused on Lesa’s face as t hough she w ere my lifeline.” Lesa cocked an eyebrow .” Blake pushed off t he couch. I clenched t he edges of my not ebook. kind of. “W ell. Really.” “I’m going t o have t o go w it h Carissa on t his one.” Daemon’s elbow s scoot ed over t he desk as he cupped his chin in his hands. “T hanks for being so…underst anding. Kat y.” … I sat in class. “So w hat is Bobo doing?” “It ’s Blake. An unbelievably giddy rush sw ept t hrough me.” I said. W e’re just hanging out . voice low . it ’s not !” “You obviously haven’t dat ed a lot of guys around here. I’m not going anyw here. pulling on a t ight curl. I do.” Carissa’s mout h dropped open.” He placed his hand on mine. My skin was alternating between hot and cold flashes. “No. “Care t o share t he det ails on t hat ?” I shrank in my seat . and probably some of t hat w as before I even came here. Hanging out does not equal sex t he last t ime I—” T ingles shot across my neck and my heart rat e spiked. I t urned slow ly. “For real.” Lesa sat back in her chair. hoping our t eacher w ouldn’t t ake his sw eet t ime get t ing t o class. squeezing reassuringly. “Act ually. you’ve been hanging out w it h surfer boy a lot .

“Not going t o happen.” He t hen laughed under his breat h, but t here w as no humor t o it as he inched a lit t le closer. His irises deepened. “I really w ish you’d t hink about t his.” “And I w ish you’d t hink about t his.” Daemon didn’t respond. He pulled his elbow s back t ow ard him, crossing his arms. Our conversat ion w as obviously over. I t w ist ed around, feeling icky. Morning classes dragged. Lesa w as w ait ing for me out side of bio, st opping me from going in. “Can I ask you a quest ion?” she said, glancing around. I sighed. “Sure.” She pulled me against an unoccupied locker. “W hat ’s going on? You kissed Daemon before Hall ow een, w ent out w it h Blake once, and now you w ent out w it h him again, but you and Daemon undeniably have somet hing going on.” I made a face. “Gee, it sounds like I’m a ho-bag or somet hing.” Lesa made a face. “I’m so not t he one w ho’s going t o slut shame. T rust me. I’m just curious. Do you have any idea w hat you’re doing?” One of t he reasons I liked Lesa? She didn’t beat around t he bush. She spoke w hat she t hought , and because of t hat , I w as more open w it h her t han anyone. “I honest ly don’t know . I mean, I do. I’m not …dat ing Blake. And I’m not dat ing Daemon.” “Y ou’re not ?” I leaned against t he cool st eell and sighed. “It ’s complicat ed.” “Can’t be t hat complicat ed,” she said. “W ho do you like?” Closing my eyes, I finally put voice t o it . “Daemon.” “Ah-ha!” She bumped me w it h her hip. “Wait . How is it complicat ed? Daemon’s got it for you big t ime. Everyone can see t hat , even w hen you guys are at each ot her’s t hroat s. And you like him. W hat ’s t he deal?” How could I explain how messed up everyt hing w as? “It ’s just really complicat ed. T rust me.” Lesa frow ned. “I’m going t o have t o t ake your w ord for it , because Blake is coming dow n t he hall.” She w hipped around so quickly it w as like she’d been caught peeping dow n my shirt . Bio w as unevent ful. Blake t ypically act ed like w e w eren’t mut ant s or anyt hing w hile w e w ere in school, and I appreciat ed him for t hat . Here, I could be normal, as odd as t hat w as. I discovered t hey w ere serving cold lasagna and salad t hat smelled funny for lunch. Yum. I slopped some on my plat e w hile craving a st raw berry smoot hie. Doubt full I’d get t hat

delivered t oday. Daemon had st opped bringing me t reat s about t he t ime t raining had st art ed. I missed it . I missed him. Dee and Adam w ere joined at t he mout h w hen I sat dow n. I glanced at Carissa. She rolled her eyes, but I smiled. My sucky love life aside, I w as st ill on Team Love Rocks. T he only t hing I honest ly couldn’t deal w it h w as my mom and W ill making out , w hich I’d got t en an eyeful of yest erday before she left for w ork. Ew . “Y ou going t o eat t hat salad?” Dee asked. “It ’s cut e how you st opped kissing for food.” I laughed, pushing my t ray t ow ard her. “Hey, Adam.” His cheeks w ere flushed. “Hey, Kat y.” “Sorry. I w orked up an appet it e.” Dee grinned. “And I lost mine,” Carissa mut t ered. Blake never arrived at t he cafet eria, but Daemon had. He’d t aken his seat beside Andrew and Ash. Against my w ill, I w at ched him. Daemon glanced up, holding a smoot hie. He smirked. Bast ard. I shift ed my gaze t o Dee. “How can you eat t hat ? I sw ear t he edges of t he let t uce are brow n. It ’s gross.” Adam laughed. “Dee can eat anyt hing.” “So can you.” She offered him t he t omat o on her fork. “W ant some?” “Okay.” I sat back. “If you feed him, I’m going t o have t o find a new t able.” “I second t hat ,” Carissa added. Dee rolled her eyes but relent ed. “I like t o share. W hat ’s w rong w it h t hat ?” T hen she looked at me, her expression hopeful. “I’m glad you’re eat ing w it h us…alone t oday.” Uncomfort able, I nodded and focused on pulling apart my lasagna. I hat ed layered food, unless t hose layers involved chocolat e and peanut but t er. Lunch and t he aft ernoon classes finally ended, and I sw ung by t he post office t o pick up t he mail before Blake came over. As I w as placing t he junk and packages on t he backseat , I caught sight of one of t he black Expedit ions parked at t he edge of t he parking lot , as if t hey’d pulled over abrupt ly and left t he engine running.

It could be any Expedition, I told myself as I closed the door, but a shiver danced dow n my spine and all the tiny hairs rose on my arms. Maybe I’d developed some kind of w icked sixt h sense along w it h my alien mojo? Going t o t he driver’s side, I kept an eye on t he Expedit ion. Smoke plumed out of t he muffler, choking t he air. Suddenly, t he passenger door jerked open and I saw t w o people. Brian Vaughn, t he DOD officer w ho ow ned t he creepiest laugh ever, w as leaning over t he passenger, grabbing for t he door. His mout h w as a t hin, angry slash as he groped for t he door w it h one hand w hile his arm braced a girl against t he seat . Squint ing, I t ook anot her look at t he girl w hen I should’ve been climbing int o my car and get t ing t he hell out of t here. T he last t hing I needed w as for Vaughn t o cat ch me peeping at him, but …I knew t his girl. I’d seen her face on a flyer, t aped on t he glass w indow s of FOOLAND. Her brow n hair w as pulled back t ight ly from her pale, elfin face. Her eyes w eren’t dancing w it h laught er w hen she t urned t o t he door, w at ching Vaughn pull it shut , closing her in…closing me out . Her eyes w ere empt y. But it w as her. It w as Bet hany.

Chapter 22
Bet hany—Daw son’s girlfriend—w as alive. And she w as w it h t he DOD. It sounded insane, and I w ent t hrough every st age of denial as I made my w ay home, but it w as her. T hat face had been burned int o my memory. I paced t he house unt ill Blake show ed up, st unned by w hat t his could mean. He t ook one look at me and frow ned. “Y ou look like you’ve seen a ghost .” “I t hink I have.” My hands opened and closed at my sides. “I t hink I saw Bet hany t oday w it h t his guy from t he DOD.” Blake frow ned. “W ho’s Bet hany?” It felt w rong t elling Blake about t his, but I needed t o t ell someone. “Bet hany w as Daw son’s girlfriend. And Daw son w as Daemon and Dee’s brot her.

T hey w ere supposedly at t acked by an Arum and killed, but t heir bodies w ere t aken aw ay by t he DOD before Daemon or Dee could see t hem.” Underst anding daw ned in his eyes. “Man, I w as curious. Every Luxen comes in t hrees.” I nodded. “But if it ’s really her—and I’m pret t y sure it ’s her—w hat does t hat mean?” Blake sat on t he arm of t he recliner, t urning t he T V remot e over and over above his hands…w it hout t ouching it . “How close w ere Daw son and Bet hany?” T hen it hit me. It all seemed so clear. T he w alls t ilt ed a lit t le as panic punched a hole in my chest . “Oh my God, Daw son had healed Bet hany. T hat ’s w hat everyone t hinks. T hat she got hurt somehow and he healed her. And he could’ve changed—mut at ed—her, right ?” Blake nodded. “Oh, man…” “And I bet Bet hany is a nickname for Elizabet h and… And w hat did t hat girl look like—t he one w ho t old you about t he DOD named Liz?” His brow s rose. “She had brow n hair, a lit t le darker t han yours. Kind of sharp feat ures, but really pret t y.” It all st art ed t o click t oget her. “T his is insane. How w ould t he DOD have know n about her? She and Daw son disappeared just a couple of days aft er w hat ever happened bet w een t hem, unless…unless someone w ho suspect ed t hat Bet hany had been healed t old t he DOD.” My st omach t umbled over as I pulled my hair back int o a messy t w ist . “W ho w ould do t hat ? One of t he Luxen?” “I don’t know . I w ouldn’t put it past t he DOD t o have Luxen w ho are t he eyes and ears for t hem,” he said, rubbing his brow . “Man, t hat sucks.” Suck didn’t even cover it . T hat meant someone close t o t he Blacks had most likely bet rayed t hem in t he w orst w ay. Anger w hipped t hrough me. I t urned just as t he curt ains Bill ow ed out as if a rush of air had ent ered t he room. A small cyclone of books and magazines moved t hrough t he living room, spinning and spinning. “W hoa, simmer dow n, St orm.” I blinked and t he cyclone fell apart . Sighing, I picked up t he books and magazines now scat t ered around t he room. My pulse t hrummed in my ears as my mind raced t hrough w hat I’d discovered. “If t he DOD has Bet h, t hen w hat did t hey do w it h Daw son? Do you t hink he’s st ill alive?” Hope sparked w it h t hat idea. If Daw son w as alive, t hat w ould… It w ould be like my fat her st ill being alive. My life w ould change. Daemon’s and Dee’s lives w ould change for t he bet t er. T hey’d be a family again… Blake grasped my arm gent ly, t urning me t ow ard him. “I know w hat you’re t hinking. How w onderful it w ould be for him t o st ill be alive, but Kat y, t he DOD doesn’t w ant Daw son. T hey w ant ed Bet hany. And t hey’d do anyt hing t o get cont roll of mut at ed humans. If t he DOD t old his family he w as dead…” “But you don’t know if t hey t old t he t rut h,” I prot est ed.

“W hy w ould t hey keep him alive, Kat y? If t hat really is Liz—Bet h—t hen t hey have w hat t hey w ant . Daw son w ould be dead.” I couldn’t believe t hat . T here w as a chance he w as alive, and t here w as no w ay I could live w it h myself w it hout t elling Daemon and Dee. “Kat y, he can’t be alive. T hey are rut hless,” he persist ed, and his grip t ight ened on my arm. “You do underst and t hat , right ?” He shook my arm. Hard. “Do you?” Surprised by his doggedness, I lift ed my chin. My eyes met his, and t here w as somet hing w rong in his, a qualit y t hat w as slight ly off and scary, like w hen he’d smiled and t hrew t he knife at my head. Ice t rickled t hrough my veins. “Y eah, I underst and. It probably w asn’t even her.” I sw allow ed, forcing a smile. “Blake, can you let go of my arm? Y ou’re hurt ing me.” He blinked and t hen seemed t o realize he’d been squeezing my arm. He let go and choked out a laugh. “I’m sorry. I just don’t w ant you get t ing your hopes up and being let dow n. Or doing somet hing crazy.” “No, my hopes aren’t up.” Rubbing my arm, I backed up. “And w hat could I do, anyw ay? I’d never t ell Daemon or Dee if I w asn’t sure.” Relieved, he smiled. “Good. Let ’s st art t raining.” Nodding, I dropped t he subject and hoped Blake forgot about it . Our t raining consist ed of freezing t hings, and as soon as he left , I rushed t o grab my cell. It w as near midnight , but I t ext ed Daemon anyw ay. Can u come over? I waited ten minutes before I texted him again. This is important!!! Another ten minutes went by, and I was starting to feel like I was one of those psychotic girlfriends who texted the crap out of guys until they responded. Damn him. Cursing, I sent him one more t ext . Its abt Dawson. Not even a minute later, I felt the rush of warmth on my neck. Stomach tumbling and twisting, I answered the door. “Daemon…” My words died off and my eyes w idened. I must ’ve w oken him up, because… No shirt . Again. It had t o be below t hirt y degrees out side, but he w as st anding in front of me in flannel pajama bot t oms and not hing else but glorious, perfect ly formed skin st ret ched t aut over hard muscle.

Popping in front of me. Being shocked by w hat I saw and t he t raining sessions w eren’t nearly as import ant or a good enough excuse. Kat ? Y ou’ve never seen her. careful not t o t ouch any of his exposed skin.” he int errupt ed me. “Daemon.” I sat dow n. eyes w ide and luminous. dragging bot h hands t hrough his t ousled hair.. but my memory had not served him one bit of just ice. Focus. “Because you w ere t raining w it h Bilbo Baggins and you had t o w ait unt ill he left t o t alk t o me?” Squeezing my knees. “W hat ?” “Daw son’s girl—” “I know w hat you said. An array of emot ions w ent t hrough his eyes. For a moment I w as a bit dist ract ed by t he w ay t he muscles in his arms and shoulders rippled. I saw her w it h Brian Vaughn. She’s w it h t he DOD.” I moved past him. T hey’d pulled over on t he side of t he road and t he car door had opened.” Daemon slow ly t w ist ed his head t ow ard me. t hen t w ice. “It w as her. W hat if t elling him w as a mist ake? W hat if Daw son w as dead? I’d just be screw ing up Daemon’s life even more.” Daemon sat beside me on t he couch. t urning t hem from a bright green t o a dark.” “And you w ait ed unt ill now t o t ell me?” Before I could answ er. st ormy color. “I saw Bet hany t oday. dropping his hands bet w een his legs. I jerked my chin. I t ook a deep breat h. He w as closing t he door and he looked angry.. “W here did you see her?” I w at ched t he confusion lining his face and I w ant ed not hing more t han t o comfort him somehow . “I’m sorry. It ’s a face I can’t forget .” “I’ve seen her missing person’s flyer. he laughed under his breat h. pressing my lips t oget her. and w ent int o t he living room.” He nodded curt ly and ret urned t o st aring at t he Christ mas t ree. “At t he post office aft er school. . Daemon st epped inside. T hat ’s how I saw t hem. I saw t he moment he knew w hat I w as get t ing at —t he second t hat his ent ire w orld came crumbling dow n and w as rebuilt w it hin seconds. “How can you be sure it w as her. “W hat about Daw son?” I shut t he door. Maybe I should’ve list ened t o Blake. It seemed like forever ago t hat w e’d put it up. I don’t …I don’t even know w hat t o say. heart racing. T ime st ret ched.” “Holy shit .” Daemon’s head jerked t o t he side and he blinked once. “Man. impat ient . rubbing my hands over my knees. “Kat . “Sorry. and our gazes locked. he plant ed his hands on his hips.” Daemon snapped. Daemon should’ve been t he first person I w ent t o. Bet h’s alive?” I nodded.I hadn’t forgot t en w hat he’d looked like shirt less. but I’m t elling you now .

All I could see w as his form. even w ithin my mind. T hat ’s got t o mean somet hing. She w as w it h t he DOD? His voice w hispered t o me. Daemon w as smart . I need t o know w ho bet rayed us. w hat if Daw son is st ill alive? Daemon drift ed over t o me. It had t o be someone w ho knew . He shot t o his feet and w it hin seconds. and out of habit I answ ered verbally. His light flared a shade of red-w hit e as he pinged across t he room. How w ould anyone know ? Unless someone had seen them other than me. Daemon had also changed me. st irring t he bulbs on t he Christ mas t ree. he w as out of his human form and blinding me. but t hat ’s not t he w orst part of t his. right ? . I st ood and pushed up t he sleeves of my sw eat er. Daemon? His light flickered. and if that’s the case. and t hen jumping t o Daw son and Bet hany disappearing because of t he DOD rat her t han t he Arum w asn’t a hard leap t o make. W hat have they been doing to him? Tears filled my eyes. My fingers hummed. but w here? T he DOD has him. More proof t hat our connect ion hadn’t gone anyw here. How w ould t he DOD know w hat happened bet w een Daw son and Bet hany unless…?” Unless someone told them? His light pulsed and a blast of heat filled the room. but most import ant ly. T he DOD is responsible for this? Hearing Daemon’s voice in my head alw ays t ook me a few seconds t o get accust omed t o. and t hat probably really limit s t he pool of suspect s. plus everyt hing he’d t old us about t he DOD and t heir search for mut at ed humans. not even sure if he w as looking at me or not . But if he’s alive. and t iny beads of sw eat broke out on my forehead. I’m really sorry. I hear you. W ind picked up. But Daw son didn’t even tell me he’d healed her or that anything happened.Suspect ing t hat Daw son had healed Bet hany. and betrayed us… I nodded.” Several moment s passed and t he t emperat ure in t he room cont inued t o rise. Daemon. t ight w it h fury. t ouching his chest . T hen I’ll make t hem w ish t hey’d never landed on this planet. T he light pulsed errat ically t hen calmed. no eyes. Not aft er discovering t hat by healing me. placing my hand t hrough t he light . w hat kind of life has he had? For tw o years? His next w ords sounded choked. “I don’t know . Sw allow ing. “T hat ’s w hat I’ve been t hinking. suspected w hat happened. Eyes w ide. I reached out . T hen you t hrow Blake int o t he mix. I t ook a chance. I’m sorry. T hen I don’t know if I should be happy or sad. Daemon. no feat ures. t hen he’s alive. I know you’re hell-bent on revenge. blurring his light . He’d be alive.

” “Argh! Y ou’re so freaking frust rat ing. “W ait . I don’t w ant her know ing anyt hing unt ill w e know for sure.” His eyes lift ed.” I forced a laugh and an eye roll for ext ra benefit . you t ell me and t hat problem w ill be solved.” St udying me.” My mout h dropped open. “Y es.” W at ching me a few seconds. Several moment s passed. but my brot her?” I sat back dow n.” “How do you know w here he lives?” He smiled. Anyw ay. and my heart st ut t ered. One more lie. his smile t urned sad. how do you know w here he lives?” . he backed up and sat on t he couch. yes it does. “Don’t t ell Dee about t his. I happen t o know w here he lives. “W ell. “T hat ’s reassuring. you can’t go aft er him. Geez. And he probably know s w here Bet h is and w hat happened t o Daw son. Daemon. It ’s obvious w hy t hey w ould w ant Bet h. T here w ere no shades of gray w it h him. “W hat is t his?” “Huh?” I glanced dow n. “As if you care w hat happens t o me. I gasped. A deep. “I have my w ays. piercing mine. but I could underst and w hy.Yes.” I said quickly.” “I’m not going t o do anyt hing st upid. “I need t o know how and w hy he died. “I w on’t make promises I know I’ll break. Kit t en. “How are you going t o get leads?” “Y ou said you saw Bet hany w it h Vaughn. “Are you sure t hat ’s w hat happened. and a second later he w as in his human form. w iping my palm over my forehead. “I do care. jerk-face! Promise me you w on’t do anyt hing st upid. Oh no. “W hat are you doing?” He t urned my hand over. “I banged my arm int o t he count er earlier. it ’s a w ell-t hought -out level of st upidit y. “It ’s not hing. right ?” I nodded. because I sw ear if it ’s not . a bit evilly. okay? Not unt ill w e get some leads or somet hing. I didn’t t ell you so you’d go off and do somet hing st upid.” A new panic dug in w it h icy fingers. T hen he stepped back. T here w as no doubt in my mind t hat Daemon w ould do somet hing t errible t o Blake even t hough it w as an accident .” Great . And even if w hat I plan is risky and insane. his brow s furrow ing. “I need to find out if my brother is alive—and if he’s not…” He looked aw ay. right w here Blake had grabbed me earlier. “I don’t know —” Daemon grasped my hand so quickly. jaw w orking. T hat ’s insane and dangerous!” Daemon arched a coal-black brow .” I rolled my eyes. t hat ’s all t hat happened. purplish bruise circled my w rist .

She’d . Get t ing t he keys from my mom w asn’t t oo difficult . eit her.” “W hy not ?” He inched over. st ret ched his arms unt ill his back bow ed. I successfully dit ched a very pout y Blake. “You w ant my mom’s car. Y ou and I w ill be playing spy alone. “I’m not let t ing you t ake my mom’s car.” He leaned back. “He’s been st aying at a rent all in Moorefield. Does your mom w ork t omorrow ?” My brow s rose.” But I w ant ed t o be involved in t his. “No.” Daemon t ipped his chin now . “Be ready aft er school t omorrow .” He shift ed his w eight on t he couch and w as now so close. I shook my head.” I moved against t he arm of t he couch. “I can’t just let you t ake her car w it hout me.” “T hat ’s not t he point .” He frow ned. but — ” “Her car w ould be perfect . Dit ch Bart holomew by any means necessary.” Chapter 23 Making up some lame excuse about having t o spend t ime w it h my mom. peering up t hrough t hick lashes.” “W hat ? Do you have a James Bond fet ish?” “Possibly.” My cheeks flushed. Daemon already had me. “As in a part nership. t hen you get me along w it h it . but I’m not sure w hich one it is. “Even if Vaughn has seen her car. “W hat are you going t o do? St ake out his block?” “Y es. Daemon. But not before I caught t he gleam of sat isfact ion in his eyes. I t end t o keep t abs on t hem like t hey keep t abs on me. “Get you? Now t hat sounds w ay more int erest ing of a deal.” Daemon flickered t o t he door. “I just need a car not easily recognizable. yaw ning. And do not speak a w ord of t his t o him. Good God.” he replied. his bare arm pressed int o mine. It ’s a t w o-for-one special.” I shift ed on t he couch. I had t o look aw ay. because it did involve me. she’s off in t he evening and w ill probably be sleeping. he w on’t suspect it belongs t o her. “I’m a good driver.” I scoot ed over. but he just didn’t know .” “Hmm.“Since w e’re surrounded by people w ho pot ent ially w ant t o do my family harm. A charming smile—t he same he’d used on my mom t he first t ime t hey’d met . “Y ou’re not get t ing involved in t his. grinning.

but you need t o st op avoiding Dee.” “Y ou could also join us. “I’m sorry. “I’m not t rying t o be a crappy friend.” Guilt chew ed at me w it h small. My mom’s car means I’m driving. “W hat for? For being a crappy friend?” In a second. “Y es. razor-sharp t eet h. your w hole life doesn’t have t o involve t raining w it h Bradley. Daemon scow led. Just t ell Dee I’m sorry. w hen you w ere t here. and I knew she w ouldn’t be aw ake t o not ice her car w as gone.crashed from a double shift as soon as she got home. My hands t ight ened on t he w heel.” He glared at me but got int o t he passenger seat . She misses you. As if my driving w as t hat bad. but it w ould be t he longest damn drive of my life. W e’d w ait ed unt ill darkness fell. Moorefield w as only fift een minut es aw ay. It ’s not like I spend every w aking minut e w it h Blake. angling his body t ow ard me t he best he could given t he limit ed space. I liked it …w hen you helped out . one hand on t he oh-shit handle. “Nope. You know w hat I’m doing.” I admit t ed.” “Can w e not t alk?” . “W hat ?” I glanced at him. “So how did you drop But t er-face?” he asked before w e even pulled out of t he drivew ay. Y ou can t ake t ime off. “Y ou know my st ance on t hat .” Daemon snort ed. T here w as a pause. I shot him a dirt y look. And t hat ’s just messed up. I laughed. His long legs w ere no mat ch for t he cramped seat ing. feeling my cheeks burn. “I t old him I have plans w it h my mom. Y ou’re t he one w ho t old me t o keep her out of t his. anger flashed t hrough me. “No. Daemon met me out side and t ried t o t ake t he keys. okay?” T he familiar challenge w as in his voice. w ild and hot like a fireball. “W hat ?” I repeat ed. He st ared out t he w indow . I t urned on a rock st at ion.” “Do I really know w hat you’re doing w it h him?” he asked soft ly. “You know . “You know w hat I’m doing w it h him. It ’s not like w e’re hanging out and w at ching movies. and t hen he t urned. w hich clocked in around five t hirt y. and he changed it t o an oldies st at ion.” “Y ou’re sorry?” he said.” T he muscle w orked in his jaw . He looked like he’d out grow n t he car. Daemon.

Daemon sighed as he t w ist ed in his seat and t ried t o get comfort able. you’d know . I love how you’re all up in my personal business but don’t w ant t o be involved in it . since you w on’t hang out w it h her anymore. “T his car sucks. his eyes narrow ed.” “W ell.” he ret ort ed. pushing back against his seat . T hen Daemon st art ed in again. I groaned. I don’t . He sighed. “Y ou’re t he size of a lit t le.” W ant ing t o bang my head against t he st eering w heel.” “It w as your idea. “T hat ’s not t he only reason. “Have you had any unexpect ed out burst s of pow er?” Besides t he w hole mini cyclone in my living room aft er seeing Bet hany.” “If you say a vacant doll. Daemon. on t he ot her hand. So much bubbled up in me t hat not hing w ould come out . “No. “God. Y ou have. I.” I snapped. “You’re w orn dow n.” “Obviously I don’t . It ’s usually ent ert aining and alw ays good for a laugh.” “T hen w hy are you st ill t raining? T he w hole purpose w as for you t o get cont rol. And you know t hat . t hink t he car is a perfect size.“And t hat w ould also be a no.” “I like t alking about your personal business.” . I w ill hurt you. But t hat might be because I’m not t he size of a mount ain. I hadn’t . I parked t he car halfw ay bet w een t he suspect ed six houses. “Got t hat ?” “Y es.” I w ound t he necklace chain around my fingers. caught bet w een w ant ing t o just be angry w it h him—because t hat w as easy—and w ant ing t o explain myself. “Are you st ill able t o freeze t hings? Move object s around?” W hen I nodded. She w on’t st op bugging me t o check on you and see w hat ’s w rong.” But he didn’t say anyt hing else w hile he gave me direct ions t o t he subdivision w here Vaughn lived. it t y bit t y doll.” He snickered. ma’am. “How has your t raining been going?” “If you got over yourself.” He smirked.” I st ared out t he w indshield. grat eful t hat my mom t int ed t he w indow s of her car. Dee’s w orried.

” I squeezed my hand around t he obsidian. Use your w ords. T hey could dest roy. His eyes churned. I’d t hrow a fit or pout . Use your w ords. cat ching my chin in a gent le grasp. I can’t st op it . I’m going t o be hunt ed. I t ook anot her breat h. T his is about me—my fut ure and my life. Not t o get w it h . Words w ere t he most pow erful t ool. “I’m w orried. usually over somet hing st upid like a t oy I w ant ed. “About w hat ?” “About everyt hing—about not hanging out w it h Dee and being a t errible friend t o Lesa and Carissa. “Most of all.” I w hispered. I could never really put my frust rat ion int o w ords. Simple and so oft en underest imat ed. forcing me t o look at him. Like you.” His w ords opened up a hole in my chest and suddenly I t hought of Dad. I looked out t he w indshield. I underst and. Or w hat you’re afraid of. I w rapped my fingers around his w rist . I couldn’t breat he. I get w hy you don’t w ant me t o. It ’s not right or fair t o eit her of us.” He reached out . Kitty-cat. “And I’m sorry about not being able t o st op t raining. “T his isn’t just about you and w hat you w ant . T hat hist ory is on repeat and even t hough I can see it as clear as day. blinking back t ears. “No. Not t o piss you off. And w hen I did. I didn’t know w hat I w ant ed t o do w it h my life w hen it came t o college. okay?” I glanced at him and w hen he nodded. Because I can’t expect you t o alw ays be t here t o prot ect me. T hey could heal. I really do. “I’m sorry. Grant ed. I do know you fear t hat I’m going t o end up like Bet hany and Daw son—w hat ever really did happen t o t hem—and you w ant t o prot ect me from t hat . And I needed t o use my w ords now . w elcoming t he jolt t hat t ouching him gave me. so w e’re back t o you doing t hings t o make your sist er happy? Are you get t ing bonus point s for asking?” I asked before I could st op myself. And t hen t here’s t his w hole DOD mess. And Dad…he alw ays said t he same t hing. Inst ead. “I have t o be able t o defend myself and t he people I care about . My mom w ill be in danger if an Arum sees and follow s me home. T hat ’s w hy I’m t raining w it h Blake. I underst and t hat you don’t w ant me in danger and t hat you don’t t rust Blake.“Oh.” Daemon sat back against t he seat and I forced myself t o cont inue. I’m w orried for a t housand different reasons and I hat e t his—I hat e feeling like I can’t do anyt hing about it . Daemon looked confused.” I t ook a deep breat h and gent ly pulled his hand aw ay.” “Kat —” “Let me finish. but now I face a fut ure w here if I st ep out of t he range of t he bet a quart z. And it …it kills me know ing t hat it hurt s you. W hen I w as lit t le and w ould get upset . but you’ve got t o underst and w hy I need t o be able t o cont roll and use my abilit ies.

“But it ’s hard t o st and back and let t his happen. as your equal. w ell.” Daemon’s t hroat w orked. And I respect t hat . T hat w ould just be t oo dangerous. “Anyw ay. Daemon. I knew he w asn’t going t o say anyt hing more about t his. One hand came up. he’s alw ays been a punk. He w as t here w hen t hey t old us about Daw son and Bet hany. several large snow flakes fell w it h a quiet hush. He looked at me. rubbing along his jaw . but w hy did t hey have her out in public like t hat ?” He’d asked t he million-dollar quest ion. his eyes bright . but a person.” I paused. shielding his eyes. but he st art ed w orking w it h Lane a few mont hs before Daw son disappeared.” T he last w ord seemed t o get st uck on his t ongue. “I really doubt Bet hany is in one of t hese houses.” I didn’t know w hat t o say. as if he w ere st ill get t ing acquaint ed w it h t he possibilit y t hat Daw son w asn’t dead. “I know . T hat ’s all I can say about t his. and t hen Vaughn show ed up w it h him. you couldn’t help but like him. so t hat I don’t have t o rely on anyone t o save me. I’m doing it so t hat I can st and beside you. Beyond him. But Vaughn.” T here w as a “but ” coming. w hat are w e going t o do if w e see Vaughn?” “Haven’t t hought t hat far ahead yet . “I got t he dist inct impression t hat Vaughn w asn’t t oo happy. T his w as a good plan. and not be someone you need t o prot ect . “Lane seemed genuinely upset . I could feel it in my bones. Respect ing my decision w as bet t er t han an apology. “Lane had been our handler for God know s how long. .” He nodded and t hen t urned t o t he passenger w indow .” I released t he breat h I hadn’t realized I w as holding on a soft sigh and nodded. and t hat w as import ant . but it ’s hard.” Daemon’s lashes low ered.” “I agree. I do. Vaughn couldn’t have cared less. And I’m doing t his for myself. I’ll respect w hat you w ant t o do. So I reached over t he small space bet w een us and squeezed his arm. Even w hen he w as being a smart ass.” “Y ou don’t know w hat ’s going t o happen. Anyw ay. Seconds passed in silence and t hen he said.” “W ow . “T hat w ould make sense. Like Daw son w asn’t just a t hing t hat had died. I peeked at him. “W here anyone could see her?” I shook my head.” “Y ou know him?” “Not ext remely w ell. At least now . See”—he cleared his t hroat —“Daw son had t hat kind of effect on people.him. “It ’s hard. Maybe he grew at t ached t o Daw son over t he years. w e w ere on t he same page. I know w hy you w ant t o do t his. Maybe she escaped.” He looked at me.

“Y ou suck at t his w hole spy t hing. but t his changes everyt hing.” Dumbfounded. Anot her car door closed and a figure moved int o t he light .” Daemon said. A light t urned on inside.” I mut t ered. I shook my head. w at ching t he snow just like I w as. “Y ou know w hat I’ve been t hinking?” W hy I hadn’t craw led over t he cent er console and int o his lap yet ? Because damn if I w as w ondering t hat very t hing. “It ’s an Expedit ion. “We’ve got one. “I don’t t hink I said t hank you. Even t hough t he w indow s in our car w ere t int ed.Daemon placed his hand on mine for t he briefest moment . a t ight smile pulling at his lips. I w ould— w ait . “T hat ’s insane.” We w at ched t he black Expedit ion slow dow n and pull int o t he drivew ay of a single-st ory home t w o houses in. aren’t t hey?” . but it w as from an SUV. “Nancy’s w it h him. and a slender figure moved in front of t he w indow . w at ching t he snow .” He paused. w e can’t do anyt hing t onight . w hich w as w eird because it really fueled all t hat physical st uff in me. frow ning at t he sky as if it dared t o annoy him by snow ing.” “For w hat ?” “For t elling me about Bet hany. I gaped.” “Geez. T hen he pulled back. “If t he DOD know s w hat w e can do. “T hen w hat next ?” “Anot her t hing I hadn’t fully w orked out yet . “Dammit . T he driver’s door opened and Vaughn st epped out . w ere you?” “Y eah. but t w o of t hem w ould raise t oo many quest ions. If one of t hem w ent missing it probably w ouldn’t be such a huge deal. “Well. Privat e bunch. “W hat ?” Daemon leaned back against t he seat . but t he car w as w ay t oo small for t hose kinds of shenanigans. I kind of w as.” Daemon chuckled. “You needed t o know . I w ant ed t o slide dow n in t he seat and hide my face. It w as at least t he fift h one. Somet hing infinit e flared bet w een us—st ronger t han physical.” “W ell. W hat w ere you going t o do? Bust up in his house and demand answ ers?” W hen he nodded. you w eren’t really planning on t alking t o him. Not t hat w e’ve ever been safe. “Huh. I cleared my t hroat .” My st omach churned as I w at ched t he agent s disappear int o t he house. draw ing t he curt ains closed.” He t urned his head t ow ard me.” Tw o headlight s t urned ont o t he st reet . t hen none of us are really safe.” Daemon’s eyes narrow ed.

Smiling only encouraged him. .” He flashed his t eet h. but I grabbed his arm. right t here. and he needed no ext ra reason t o be a t error.“Maybe t hey’re get t ing some bow -chicka-pow -w ow . “W hat ?” “An Arum.” he grow led. shocked. “Ew . fight ing a grin. It glided t o t he curb. I so know —” T he obsidian flared quickly.” I ignored t he rising fear t hat alw ays came w it h t he Arum. out in t he open. “Seriously? Y ou left t he one t hing t hat kills your enemy in your car?” “It ’s not like I need it t o kill t hem. We’re right in front of t heir house! T hey’ll see you. darker t han t he night it self. He w as dressed like t he ones w e’d faced in t he past : dark pant s. but no sunglasses. I left it in my car. drift ing over t he law ns coat ed w it h a t hin layer of snow . but he t ook his hand off t he door and sat back. “Y ou’re a dog. and part s of me quivered in response t o t he heat in his gaze. a shadow moved up t he st reet .” He looked like he didn’t underst and t he concept . “But now I t ot ally have t hat on my mind. “No. I’ll —” “Don’t even finish t hat sent ence.” “If you pet me. “Are w e st ill close enough t o t he Rocks?” “Y es.” His gaze dropped t o my lips. st opping in front of Vaughn’s house. St ay here.” I gasped. T he Arum t ook form. heat ing up my sw eat er and chest like someone placed a hot coal against my skin.” I w as breat hless.” I looked at him. he scanned t he dark road.” He st art ed t o open t he door. “W hat t he hell?” Daemon placed his hands on t he dashboard. “And knock t he innocent look off your face.” “T hen just sit st ill. I yelped and jerked in my seat . black jacket . banging my head on t he roof.” I st ared at him. A few seconds lat er. “She’s definit ely not my t ype. “T hey prot ect us for about fift y miles in every direct ion. “An Arum is nearby! Y ou don’t have any obsidian on you?” Alert and t ense.” I said. “W hat ?” “You can’t get out of t he car.

” “Y ou like my kind of suffering. His house w as a large cabin built int o t he side of a mount ain. w ind and snow blow ing at my face. Read his lips. Garrison opened t he door. “You’re insufferable. “W hat do w e do now ?” “W hat I w ant t o do is blow up t heir house. “Could you give me a w arning next t ime?” He grinned as he knocked on t he door.His pale blond hair moved slight ly as he st epped up t o t he front door and pressed his finger on t he doorbell. Vaughn answ ered t he door and grimaced. “T his is… unexpect ed. dizzy.” I pursed my lips. I’m going t o be irrit at ed. not all of us can be as aw esome—” I squealed as he slid an arm around my back and lift ed me int o his arms. “Vaughn said a name—Residon. but t hat w ould draw t oo much at t ent ion.” “W e need t o go see Mat t hew .” .” Mind reeling. eyes w ide. “T he DOD and t he Arum are w orking t oget her? Sw eet alien baby… W hy?” His brow s puckered. His mout h moved. “T hat did not just happen. Now . “And miss t hat look on your face? Never.” … Matthew lived farther out in the boondocks than we did. “No doubt .” Somet imes I seriously w ant ed t o just punch him in t he face. T hen he st epped t o t he side. “Holy monkey balls. but I couldn’t make out w hat he said. Mr. shivering.” Daemon grabbed my arm as I st art ed t o slip. graveled drivew ay t hat my mom’s Prius w ouldn’t dare conquer. and if the snow kept coming down. His eyes narrow ed w hen he saw me st anding next t o Daemon. and he shook his head. Daemon zipped us up t he drivew ay. He put me dow n. I carefully made my w ay up his st eep. let t ing t he Arum ent er his house.” T his new development w as so not good. but it made me w arm in all t he right places t o see t his side of him again. And I t hink w e’ve discovered how t he DOD know s w hat w e’re capable of. his voice t ight w it h fury w hen he spoke. I st ared at him. “T hat did. t oo. I had no idea how I was going to get Mom’s car home.” I said. “If you fall and break somet hing.” Daemon sat back. “Sorry.” Before I could answ er. and I st umbled t o t he side.

much t o my relief. T he w alls w ere bare log and a fire in t he fireplace crackled. but he w as also in cont roll of my bio grade. t his is st art ing out good. Mr. picking up a small glass full of red liquid. “W hile w e w ere w at ching his house. Garrison led us int o a very sparsely decorat ed living room. I felt like I just complet ed some major t ask t o move t o a first -name basis w it h him. considering she’s w it h you.” He t ook a st ep back. “T hat ’s not w hat I w as expect ing you t o say.“W e need t o t alk.” “Kat y saw Bet hany yest erday w it h Vaughn. he did have a sense of humor. rubbing my hands t oget her. T he man w as an alien. “I really don’t know w hat t o say. “Oh.” Mr. I laughed out loud. “I’m assuming it ’s somet hing I don’t w ant t o know . w e agreed not t o t ell Mr. Eyeing me. On t he w ay up here. t hrow ing off heat and t he scent of pine.” “Mat t hew . “I know w here one of t he DOD officers lives. Nancy Husher show ed up and guess w ho else did?” “Sant a?” Mat t hew said dryly. Garrison asked. shaking his head. call me Mat t hew . Garrison I’d been healed. T his is t oo dangerous.” I said. “It w as her. but you can’t . and t hen he t ook a drink. “I guess w e should st art from t he beginning. I sat close t o t he fire.” Mat t hew dow ned t he ent ire drink and set t he glass on t he mant ell above t he fireplace. “Are you insane?” Daemon shrugged. W ow . I know you w ant t o rush up t here and find out how Bet hany is st ill alive. “W hat ’s going on?” Mr.” Daemon said. Needing t o t haw out . Garrison’s brow s shot up.” . Garrison. sw irling t he ruby liquid in his glass. and you’re probably going t o w ant t o sit .” I checked myself before I said somet hing back. T here w asn’t a single Christ mas decorat ion. “T his isn’t good. are you sure t hat ’s w ho you saw ?” I nodded. Daemon.” “W hat ?” Mat t hew low ered his glass. Mat t hew cleared his t hroat .” “It get s w orse. “An Arum show ed up and t hey let him in. He didn’t move for a long breat h.” He moved his hand. Even greet ed him by name— Residon. Daemon ignored t hat . Daemon sat beside me. Mr. and w e w ent t here t onight . Kat y.

“W hat are you saying. Obviously Bet hany isn’t . But if successful. “Do you know w hat happens?” He nodded. “T he elders…t hey don’t t alk about w hy w e’re not allow ed t o heal humans. “Y ou’re family t o us.” My mout h dropped open. I know . Somet imes t he human dies from it or t he change backfires. w e need t o do somet hing about it . T he human t akes on our abilit ies. t hen…” T hen w hat kind of closure w ould t hat be? T hey’d already believed he w as dead. st opping in front of us. “It alt ers t he human.” Pain flashed in Mat t hew ’s ult ra-bright eyes. So get t hat out of your head. and you know t hat . it forms a connect ion bet w een t he t w o. and I w ill not st and by and humor false hope t hat w ill get you killed or w orse!” Daemon sat dow n beside me. Somet imes it fades. not only because of t he risk of exposure on our end.” As Mat t hew w ent on. Mat t hew rubbed his brow . And Daw son also considered you family. splicing his or her DNA w it h ours. “If it w as one of your siblings.” “W hy w ould t hey have Daw son? T hey t old us he w as dead. keeping up w it h t he cluelessness. Daemon.” Blake had been saying t his all along. So t hey lied about her.” Mat t hew st alked across t he room. “You guys are all I have left . w incing. t aking a deep breat h. T he DOD w ould have no int erest in Bet hany unless…unless Daw son healed her. but t hat meant … . T hey know . and he looked aw ay. Vaughn w as one of t he Officers w ho came and t old us t hat t hey w ere bot h dead. “And if he’s t ruly dead. So do I. It ’s forbidden. but t hat doesn’t mean he’s alive. “I know . holding his hands out . “T he DOD has Bet hany. “Y ou don’t underst and. One cannot survive if t he ot her perishes. but it doesn’t alw ays st ick. “T he connect ion bet w een a human and a Luxen aft er a massive healing is unbreakable at a cell ular level. Mat t hew ?” Daemon asked.” Anger flashed in Daemon’s deep green eyes. t hough.” “W hat ?” Daemon glanced at me. I can’t even imagine…” “But if he is. w ould you ’get it out of your head’?” “All my siblings are dead. and t hey have good reason. Daemon grew more agit at ed. And t hat means t hey could’ve lied about Daw son. it w ould be best if he w eren’t alive. and right fully so. “Honest ly. shaking his head. palms up. but because of w hat it does t o a human. and finding out t hat it w asn’t t he Arum w ould rip open old w ounds and dump salt on t hem. Blake had so not t old me t hat . T here has t o be a t rue w ant for it t o w ork.” Daemon paused.” He moved over t o his recliner and sat dow n heavily. T he confirmat ion relieved me. It marries t he t w o t oget her. Mat t hew .“Do you underst and w hat t his means?” Daemon st epped forw ard. Daemon. t oo.

even. t w ist ing and curling on it self.” Daemon sat dow n. painful breat h. w hat could t hat do t o a person—t o Daw son? “T he DOD know s. “T hen if Bet hany is alive…” “T hen Daw son w ould have t o be alive. and he met Daemon’s st are.” He had t o have. and I w ondered how much he’d been drinking before w e arrived. you do not know w hat it is like t o be a guest . He’s…he’s alive. I dragged in a shallow breat h. W ant ing t o cry for Daemon.” Mat t hew glanced at his empt y glass. “Did you?” Mat t hew shook his head. t hen he has t o be alive. St ick t heir heads in t he sand kind of t hing. My God. or t hey died. lost . His form st art ed t o fade. “If he had in fact healed her. as if he w ere losing all cont rol. eyes glit t ering in t he firelight . Daemon just st ared at t he fire. If anyt hing. do you? . how could Daw son t ruly w ant t o heal t hem w hen forced? Was he failing.” “T hat w as my w eakest at t empt t o persuade t his one from get t ing himself killed. T hey know w hat w e can do. sounding w eary. “T hey’ve probably know n since t he beginning. w hat w as happening t o t hose humans? Mat t hew had already said it . Mat t hew . t hey probably choose t o not believe our secret s aren’t safe. “It ’s…easier for t hem. No! I believed bot h of t hem t o be dead. “I’ve never t ruly believed t hey didn’t . T here w as no ot her reason w hy t he DOD w ould be int erest ed in Bet hany. T hat ’s a big if—an if based on w het her or not Kat y really did recognize someone she’s never met . Once again.” Mat t hew finished. t o be honest . T he only reason I never voiced my belief is because I didn’t w ant any of you t o w orry.” “And t he elders—do t hey know t his. Mat t hew smiled w ryly in response. But if it t ook a t rue w ant t o successfully change a human.” He sounded numb. W hat bet t er w ay t o achieve t hat goal t han capt uring a Luxen and forcing him t o do it ? Bile rose. I w ant ed t o do somet hing t o comfort him. t he DOD w as int erest ed in acquiring more mut at ed humans. “My brot her’s alive. “Dear girl. but w hat could I really do t o make any of t his bet t er? I shook my head. And I had a sinking suspicion.” “Did you…did you know t his t he ent ire t ime?” Raw emot ion filled Daemon’s voice. “W hat ever it is. t hey w ere horribly mut at ed.Daemon w as on his feet . If t he change didn’t st ick.” Mat t hew st ood unst eadily.” Mat t hew ’s lashes sw ept up. t oo?” “T he elders are just grat eful t o have a place t o live in peace and be basically separat ed from t he human race. “No. chest rising w it h every rough. Daemon. and if so.” Daemon said finally. but if he did heal her—did change her—and she’s alive. it can’t be…” It couldn’t be good. “W hat do you t hink t hey’re doing t o him?” “I don’t know . According t o Blake. “But you just said he couldn’t be alive.” T hat sounded incredibly st upid and I said so.

” Nausea rose sharply. t hey’d probably riot and go nut s.” “Wait . and t hen got rid of t hem. t hen I’d die.” Mat t hew refilled his glass. “Our kinds are not t hat different .” . T he Arum absorb our pow ers. My heart w as cracking int o a million pieces because I knew Daemon w ant ed t o rush Vaughn and Nancy right now . keep t hem calm and happy— safe. but he w asn’t t hat reckless. I couldn’t even fully w rap my head around t hat . but t here w ere Luxen w ho didn’t assimilat e. t urning around and t aking a drink. lost in our ow n t roubles.” He paused. and any act ion he t ook w ould affect her. T hey have a different heat signat ure t han w e do.” Not hing w as really said aft er t hat . We all sat t here. t o learn about us. “W hat about t he Arum t hing?” I asked. “W hen w e w ere being assimilat ed. t here w ould be no w ay t o t ell us apart . t oo. “I’m not sure how much Daemon has t old you. No st ret ch of t he imaginat ion t o believe t hat t hey used some Luxen t o st udy t heir abilit ies. t hey never saw our abilit ies. “T ell me. w hat w ould humans do if t hey knew aliens lived among t hem?” My cheeks flamed. w ent t o a cabinet in t he far corner. “Uh. T here w as Dee. he pulled out a square bot t le and poured himself a glass. “W hat if t he DOD capt ured an Arum.” “Exact ly. T he w orst t hing w ould be t o voice t he darkest of your concerns t o t he masses. right ? Forced t o assimilat e int o t he human w orld? I don’t know w hat assimilat ion ent ails. “I don’t know . glancing at a silent Daemon.” he murmured. “I can’t even fat hom a reason w hy t he DOD w ould be w orking w it h t hem—w hat t hey could even gain. but I’m sure it w as some kind of observat ion. if w e w ork off t he t heory t hat t hey’ve know n for some t ime. “Y ou’re saying t hat t hose Luxen w ould be…” “Dead. but t o w alk up t o an Arum or a Luxen on t he st reet . t he DOD w ould know t hey w eren’t dealing w it h us. Opening it . So. And apparent ly it w ould also affect me. If he died.” I t ucked my hair back.” he said. believing it t o be a Luxen. t hey st udied our abilit ies on Luxen w ho could never t ell us t hat t he DOD is aw are w hat w e can do. I decided t o leave t hat unt ill lat er t o freak out over. eyeing t hat glass again.Imagine living w it h t he know ledge t hat your home and everyt hing could be w hipped out from under you at any moment ? But you have t o lead people. Not right now w it h everyt hing else going on. especially w it h t he heat -signat ure t hing?” Mat t hew got up. T hey w ere put dow n…like feral animals. but never healing—not hing of t hat magnit ude. so w it h t he right t ools. so w ouldn’t t hey have not iced event ually. and you guys w ere st udied.

his arms w rapped around me and held me so t ight ly I could’ve molded t o him. I handed him t he keys w hen he asked for t hem. But t here w as a rising t ide of sorrow for his brot her I w ished I could t ake aw ay. “I know . At my mom’s car. I’m sure some of us didn’t st op.” Mat t hew said w earily. silent and st uck somew here bet w een hope and despair. sounding t ired.” And part of me already knew and w as afraid of w hat Daemon w as w illing t o sacrifice for his brot her. “W e’ll figure out somet hing. And if anyone w as w at ching t hem closely.” “It could be anyone.” T hat did not hing t o really calm Daemon. t hen st opped. W e all w at ched t hem w hen t hey first got t oget her. Daemon didn’t w ant t o share t hat helplessness w it h his sist er. We left Mat t hew ’s house short ly aft er t hat .” I w hispered. his voice firm and st rong.” Mat t hew moved t o t he fireplace. “I’ll get him back if it ’s t he last t hing I do. . “Someone bet rayed Daw son. “I’m sorry. I promised. mainly because I underst ood t hat imagining w hat w as being done t o Daw son right now w as probably w orse t han t hinking he w as dead.” he said against t he t op of my head. W e’ll get him back.Or sent t hem back as spies—ones w ho could keep an eye on t he ot hers. but t his w as t he government w e w ere t alking about .” “It doesn’t . I w ent back t o him and snaked my arms around his t aut body. t hey could’ve suspect ed somet hing happened. and I respect ed him for it . I st art ed t ow ard t he passenger side. Someone had t o t ell t he DOD. Chapter 24 Daemon didn’t w ant his sist er t o know Daw son w as most likely alive.” Daemon finally spoke again. Not t hat I expect ed it t o. “I am afraid t o t heorize over w hat t hat could mean. sw irling t he ruby liquid w it h his ot her hand. Seemed paranoid. “Daw son didn’t t ry t o hide his relat ionship w it h Bet hany. squeezing him t ight . report back t o t he DOD w it h any suspicious act ivit y.” “Part of me doesn’t even care about t hat right now . He propped his elbow on t he mant el.” Aft er a moment of hesit at ion. Turning around. He w as t hat kind of guy. “But t hat doesn’t explain w hy t he Arum w ould w ork w it h t he DOD.

I w asn’t let t ing him do it alone. “I have an idea. Brian hadn’t ret urned home since t he night w e’d seen him and Nancy w it h t he Arum.” I yaw ned.” I shook my head.” He w as doing w onders for my self-confidence. rubbing his brow . “Y ou can move t hings easily now .” He let go of my w rist and ran a hand t hrough his spiky hair. It w as harder t han freezing an object .” Blake sat on t he arm of t he recliner.” Blake laughed. It should vibrat e and hum. None of t hat w as funny. On t he T hursday before Christ mas break. t o t ap int o an abilit y I had no real underst anding of. It ’s like light ning in your veins. Pict ure in your mind pulling all t hose cells t oget her and feel t he light .” My foot t apped t he floor. Daemon and I w ould drive t o Moorefield. It ’s w arm.” I w ondered if it had been t his hard for Bet hany. If you can’t manipulat e light . I had t o pull from w it hin me. “I’m not doing anyt hing like t hat . Blake looked like he w ant ed t o run his head int o a w all. t here’s a chance you’ll never really be under cont rol.” “Oh. “I’ve t ried—” He shot off t he chair. Kat y. Frust rat ed aft er hours of me not being able t o produce even a spark of t he deadly light . and for once he w asn’t hell-bent on doing everyt hing alone. and I scow led. but t hat ’s before you t hrew a knife at my chest and caught my fingers on fire. Blake drew in a deep breat h. Kat y. And you’ll never be able t o defend yourself. I t hink w e just need t o get out of here. “Y ou’re not t rying hard enough. Y ou have it in you. “It ’s not t hat hard. right ?” “Y eah. “I’m t rying.” He cast a grin over his shoulder as he pulled his keys out of his pocket . “Look at it t his w ay. he st ared int o my w ide eyes. t hen…” “T hen w hat ?” I demanded. “Y ou said you’d t rust me. I promise. Every cell in your body is encased in light . T hink of somet hing t hat feels t hat w ay. Go grab somet hing t o eat . no. moving fast er t han I’d ever seen him. Blake and I w orked on manipulat ing light . “It ’s just t hat …if you can’t cont roll t he st rongest part of you. I did my t raining w it h Blake and t hen aft er he left .During t he next couple of days. I had no idea w hat Daemon planned. T hen he smiled.” . but w hat ever it w as. “I don’t like your ideas at all. “I’m t rying. T his shouldn’t be t hat much harder. Grabbing my w rist unt ill his t humb and forefinger met .

“I know just t he place. Grabbing my chunky sw eat er. his friend had t o be alive. I couldn’t put my finger on it . I decided t o ask t he quest ion t hat had been plaguing me since Daemon and I t alked t o Mat t hew . I w as alw ays hungry. Each mile fart her Blake t ook me from home. I shuffled from one foot t o t he next . but I didn’t t rust Blake as much anymore. Most likely t he DOD had him. W e’ll be fine. I shrugged. I slipped it on and follow ed Blake out t o his t ruck. right ?” “T hat ’s just a guesst imat e. I’m sorry about w hat happened. Lat ely. “W hy do you ask?” He glanced at me. since it looked like t hey might be in cahoot s w it h t he DOD. Blake should be cool w it h me let t ing Daemon know . and maybe it w as just a mat t er of Daemon repeat ing it every chance he got . I st ared out t he w indow as Blake hummed along t o a rock song. but it w as nice and brand spanking new . T he Arum w ere obviously around.” I buckled myself in. I st art ed t o get ant sy. It w asn’t as huge as t he ones t he guys drove around here. unable t o shake t he sudden dread curling around my insides. face draw n t ight . “W hat are you in t he mood for?” He clapped his hands t oget her.W ary. “Anyt hing t hat w ill cause me t o gain t en pounds. “I w as just curious. “Really? T hat …doesn’t sound like a bad idea. I’d do anyt hing t o find out . Running my hands over my jeans. “I…I don’t know .” I st ared at him as sadness crept int o me. T his w as reckless. w arming t hem up as t he engine roared t o life.” “Y eah. And not know ing kills me. so t he prospect of greasy food sealed t he deal. .” Lat ely. even st upid.” Pressing against t he seat . I reached int o my purse and pulled out my cell. Blake laughed.” I nodded. If w e w ere really w it hin t he shelt er of t he bet a quart z. “Is it safe for us t o go t his far? T he Rocks only have a fift y-mile radius. I’d st art ed t o feel more and more w eird around Blake. Kat y. Since Blake w as here. w hy don’t you grab a jacket and w e’ll get some food.” He nodded. “W hat happened t o t he Luxen w ho healed you?” His hand clenched t he st eering w heel unt ill his knuckles bleached. I st art ed t o say somet hing about it but st opped. and neit her of us said anyt hing for a w hile. could even know w ho w e w ere. It w asn’t unt ill w e passed t he exit for Moorefield t hat I st art ed t o get nervous.

” “I am. going on our t hird soda refill. t urning t he flecks of brow n dark. It all looked incredibly normal. “I’m really ready t o go home. Mom is act ually off for once.” “So.” . I reined in my t emper. “Besides. shoved my phone back in my purse. Event ually I st opped t alking and focused on ripping t he skin off my w ings.” I w asn’t one of t hose girls. Christ mas light s decorat ed t heir pit ch-black w indow s. w hen I couldn’t deal w it h t his anymore. “I t hought you’d enjoy get t ing out and just chilling. w e’re here anyw ay. but t he humor never reached his eyes. not even t alking t o each ot her.” He propped his elbow s on t he t able and rest ed his chin in his hands. doing anyt hing for Christ mas?” he asked. It w as past six. “I’ve been t rying t o t alk t o you about all kinds of t opics for over an hour. but w e’re sit t ing here. Dinner w as oddly st rained. blow ing out a long breat h. Not hing like t he first t w o t imes Blake and I had gone out . Seriously not a fun t ime for me. w hile you play some pig-poking game on your phone. I t alked about how much I missed blogging and reading w hile he t ext ed aw ay on his phone. T here w as a giant mount aineer st at ue guarding t he ent rance. and st art ed count ing t he red squares on some dude’s flannel jacket . I glanced at Blake.” I sat back. are you. Kat y?” My irrit at ion rose at his t one. “Are you ready?” “Just a few more minut es. and headed int o t he rest aurant . “Y eah. Or played a game—I couldn’t be sure. Kat y?” Blake nodded at my phone and smiled. and w e’d been sit t ing at t he lit t le t able. W e’re doing somet hing w it h W ill. but … He pulled int o t he parking lot of a lit t le joint t hat boast ed t he best w ings in West Virginia. T aking a deep breat h. I’d already memorized t he Christ mas song t hey’d been playing over and over.” T his w as t he second set of “Just a few more minut es. “W hat do you w ant t o t alk about . Trying t o get him t o even t alk about surfing w as like squeezing glass—painful and point less. I silent ly blamed Daemon for making me doubt Blake.” Annoyance flared in his hazel eyes. Once I t hought I heard a pig oink.“You’re not one of t hose girls w ho has t o t ell her boyfriend every move she makes.

I clamped my mout h shut and st ared at t he empt y t able behind him. “W e’re t raining. Sw inging t ow ard him. but it w as as if w e’d just had t he dat e from hell.” “W hat ?” I shrieked. all it did w as snow an inch or t w o every few days. crapt ast ic alien pow er. Annoyed. “I’m pret t y sure t hat ’s t he only reason w hy—” Blake’s phone dinged. Like w e did w it h t he knife and t hen pillow s. T hank freaking God. hard and fright ening. w alking out w it hout w ait ing for him t o pick up t he check. It w as like one giant prelude t o a blizzard. I w ould forget about Blake and t his st upid. Blake joined me a couple minut es lat er. My boot s crunched over t he packed snow and ice. As soon as November had rolled around. “You ready?” he asked. t hen pract ice w it h less excit ement . T he obsidian flared under my sw eat er w it hout any w arning at t he same moment Blake sw erved t he t ruck off t he road and int o a dit ch.“T he doct or? Sounds like t hey’re get t ing pret t y serious. t hen w e need t o find out how t o t ap int o t hem w hen you’re feeling all emot ional t o see w hat you can do.” Realizat ion set in. T here w ould be no t raining t onight .” “T hey are. “Get out of t he t ruck. We headed back ont o t he road in silence. I just w ant ed t o go home.” He killed t he engine.” I pulled my sw eat er closer. jaw t ight . W e w eren’t like t hat . . hard and slender under t he t hin soles of my boot . My gaze dropped t o my boot . T here w as somet hing on t he floor. and I w as going t o read for fun. “W ay t o w ait . I w as going t o pick up an effin’ book. “Get out of t he t ruck!” He reached over. t he passing highw ay light s reflect ed off somet hing gold and shiny. Arms folded t ight ly across my chest . I let out a shaky breat h as t he obsidian cont inued t o increase in heat .” He st ret ched over fart her and opened my car door. w hich w as so w rong. Kat y. I st art ed t o bend dow n. “You brought me out of t he safet y of t he bet a quart z on purpose!” “If your st rongest abilit ies are at t ached t o your emot ions. I grabbed my purse and st ood. “T here’s an Arum nearby. I felt like a pissy girlfriend. and he immediat ely checked it out . he w as driving at t he speed of Grandma. And t o make everyt hing w orse. T hen I w ould blog.” I rolled my eyes but said not hing as I climbed int o his t ruck.” “I know . Moving my foot t o t he side. frow ning. Curious. my heart raced as t he heat from t he obsidian seared my skin. unhooking my seat belt . shivering as t he door opened. My leg bounced w it h annoyance and impat ience.

” My chest rose and fell quickly. W hat if I had left w it h my mom t o go shopping out of t he radius w it hout know ing t his? We w ould’ve been at t acked. t he Arum w as fast er. “Blake?” Aft er several moment s of no answ er. Luxen have a built in cloaking in t heir DNA..” T hen he got out of t he car. . my sw eat er flapped like w ings behind me as I t ook off.” I st ared at him. “I’m not going t o let anyt hing happen t o you. I slammed t he door shut and squint ed int o t he darkness. a st art ling resemblance t o t he one w e’d seen out side of Vaughn’s house. W e don’t .special?” Spinning around.” he said.. It ’s t he DNA t hing. Obviously not .” He sounded as if he w ere t elling me t o give a speech in front of a class and not face a murderous alien. I couldn’t believe he’d done t his. Did Blake even care about my safet y? “Now get out . I’d even call Daemon. it built ont o it self unt ill an out line of a man blocked my pat h. “Crap. Scrambling out of t he t ruck. w ary t o ent er t hem. I’d call my mom. Clut ching my sw eat er close. But no mat t er how fast I ran. A burst of light exploded. panic claw ed up my t hroat . Aren’t you somet hing. Screw t his. I st ared at t he encroaching darkness. “No! No w ay am I going out t here w it h an Arum! Y ou’re a crazy—” “Y ou’re going t o be okay. T here w as no— A shadow pooled in front of t he passenger door before I could t ake anot her st ep. but w as quickly snuffed out as I heard Blake’s pained scream. I ran fast —fast er t han I’d ever run before.“Arum can sense us bet t er t han t hey can t he Luxen. Too st unned t o move. If I survived t onight . I shivered as an unnat ural silence set t led around me. “Blake!” I st opped at t he edge of t he w oods. It w asn’t an issue. I headed back t o t he t ruck. horrified. Dark and oily. “hello. filling up t he sky.” “Y ou w ere safe w it hin t he bet a quart z. An inky shadow glided over t he road and follow ed t he t rail Blake has w alked int o t he w oods. So fast t hat t he lit t le flakes of snow t he bit ing w ind pelt ed against my cheeks felt like t iny pebbles. T urning around. “Y ou never t old me t hat before.” I w hispered. I w asn’t even sure my feet w ere t ouching t he ground. lit t le one. I w as going t o kill Blake. It t ook t he form of a human male. disappearing int o t he t hick t ree line and leaving me alone in t he t ruck.

T he light behind my eyes w as red-w hit e. shift ing bet w een human and Arum. I held ont o t he image as t he first brush of t he Arum’s cold fingers sw ept over my cheek. I’d just got my ass kicked and t he fight hadn’t even st art ed. shat t ering in it s complexit y. t he source of t he pow er w as ut t erly dest ruct ive. I w ould die. Sliding across snow and ice. It had t o. It had been w ait ing. blinking snow from my lashes. an arm t ook form and sw ung out . Ant icipat ing t he move. and if it didn’t . w hispering a hundred promises. and it w as excit ing and t errifying. Easssier than I thought. t ransparent smile appeared. It caught me in t he st omach. W hat had Blake said t o pict ure? Light ning in t he veins and cells surrounded in light ? T he Arum leaned over me. . I squeezed my eyes shut and pict ured every w eird cell I’d ever seen in bio class surrounded by light . Jarring pain shot t hrough my bones. A st range feeling spread dow n my arm. It called t o me. A smoky. W ind w hipped t he snow out from underneat h me as I rose. w hen he spoke his voice w as a menacing murmur among my ow n t hought s. Up in t he air I w ent . I rolled ont o my back. t he Arum w as gliding back. Now I knew w hy Daemon w as so adamant against me running out and fight ing t he Arum.A dark. scalding hot . barely breat hing. Every nerve in my body came alive and t ingled in ant icipat ion. Not lay here. t his pow er. murky shade appeared beside me and t hen in front of me. Ready t o shove t he point int o w hat ever part my hand landed on. I could feel it burning t hrough my veins. w elcomed me home. landing on my side. but you’re sssomething unique. T he w orld around me w as lit in red and w hit e. Blake believed t hat abilit y—t hat Source—st ill exist ed in me. It st art ed w it h a crackle—a small light burned behind my eyelids. Out of human form. t he t endrils of black smoke w ere t hick and colder t han t he hard ground. red-hot lava coursing t hrough my veins. I grabbed for my obsidian. and I t hought about t hat one moment —t hat first t ime I’d ever felt light ning in my veins. w ondering w hen I w ould heed it s call. It w ant ed t o be used. I could feel it . A dark. My fingers curved inw ard. It seemed like t he most nat ural of all t hings. W hen I opened my eyes. T he Arum w ould t ake t hem by killing me. But I’d killed an Arum before by t apping int o Daemon and Dee. I lat ched ont o t he sw amping. Not w ait on someone t o save me. I w as on my feet now . W hat pow ersss do you have? Pow ers? T he pow ers Daemon had given me w hen he mut at ed me. insidious shadow crept int o my vision. Y ou’re not a Luxen. And I w ant ed t o be able t o defend myself.

” “Y eah.” I st epped back. chafed skin.” Blake said. so did most of my energy. “I w ant t o go home. clapping his hands t oget her. and realized my pant s w ere soaked and clinging t o my chilled. “Do you even care?” “Of course I do!” He moved forw ard. “T hen.” “I don’t care. spreading out and endless like t he night sky. My ent ire backside t hrobbed from t he fall.Destroy. T he Arum shift ed back int o it s t rue form. But he w as shift ing forms so quickly it w as dizzying. “I just w ant t o go home. “But you did. “Y ou killed an Arum. Or I made it follow him. and t he red-w hit e haze faded aw ay. “Y ou…you left me alone w it h an Arum.” I st art ed limping back t ow ard t he car. W hen t he Source left .. and t he Source rushed from my fingert ips. w inced. Everyt hing hurt . “W hat if I couldn’t do it ?” Blake shook his head. grinning at me like I w as t he prized pupil. Y ou killed an Arum w it h one shot !” Waves of elect ricit y ret urned t o me.” My hand shook as I placed it on my hip.” I t ook a breat h and it hurt . close t o complet ely shut t ing dow n. Kat y. but look at w hat you did. close t o t ears.” . “Perfect . Don’t you underst and t hat ? No one kills an Arum in one blast . Everyt hing’s fine. T he obsidian cooled against my skin. t he confusion w as gone and replaced by anger. but t he Source follow ed him. “W hat if I hadn’t been able t o kill t he Arum?” Confusion marked his expression.” “T hen I w ould’ve died. He spun int o t he air. I yelped as sparks of pain shot st raight dow n my arm. placing his hand on my shoulder. He froze and t hen shat t ered int o a million t hin shreds of glassy shadow s.” In a flash.” He st rode forw ard. T here w as a snapping sound coming from inside me. Y ou did it all by yourself. I t urned t o Blake. Y ou did somet hing…amazing. “T hat w as freaking unbelievable. slamming int o t he Arum at an alarming speed. Y ou did—” “Just t ake me home!” I screamed.” “Kat y! Don’t act like t his. Because t here w as somet hing w rong w it h him.. feeling somet hing else replace t he void t he Source had left behind. “Y ou’re overreact ing w hen you should be celebrat ing. “Don’t …don’t t ouch me.

“You looked like you w ere in pain during class. I slept w rong last night . it ’s not your lect ure. “Feels like it . Mat t hew called out t o me. “Y ou?” Mat t hew smiled t ight ly as he leaned against t he corner of his desk. he’s as okay as he can be.” Mat t hew closed his eyes briefly. Kat y?” “Good. Now I’m all achy. It did not hing t o help replenish my energy. surprised t hat he hadn’t poked me. “Daemon’s okay. hard ground last night . I mean.” I flushed. I’d lain aw ake last night . I grit t ed my t eet h and ignored t he flare of pain. T he only reprieve I had w as t hat Blake w asn’t in bio. I glanced at t he open door.” Daemon st opped me from t urning around. “Kat …” “W hat ?” Unease crept t hrough me. “Y eah. W hen he looked at me like t hat I felt exposed t o t he core. I eased int o my seat and w inced.” His eyes w ere sharp. replaying everyt hing t hat had happened. Sit t ing w as ext remely painful. but how is…” Now I underst ood w hy he’d really st opped me. It could be w orse. eyes narrow ed as he folded his arms. “No. He w ait ed unt ill t he class w as empt y before speaking. “Just slept w rong. “How are you feeling.” I breat hed out as I carefully t urned halfw ay. “Did you sleep on t he floor or somet hing?” I laughed dryly. T here w as a good chance t hat I’d broken my but t last night . surprised. “T hat boy is like a son t o me—bot h he and Dee are. Sit t ing in t he seat during class sucked t o t he nt h degree. “Y ou st ill on for t onight ?” Bit ing my lip. Lesa raised a brow as she w at ched me st ruggle t o get comfort able. W hen I’d got t en back last night . Would Blake have let me get seriously hurt or die if I hadn’t been able t o use t he Source t o t ake out t he Arum? I didn’t have an answ er. I nodded and made a ment all not e t o pick up some energy drinks on t he w ay home. causing me t o jump a lit t le. My body ached from hit t ing t he cold.” . “I don’t w ant t o keep you. Easing back around. and t hat t roubled me. I don’t w ant t o see him doing anyt hing crazy. and I w asn’t sure how t o feel about t hat . I could be dead right now . W alking out of bio. “Never mind. Hopefully my lect ure w asn’t t hat bad.” He sat back.Chapter 25 Running lat e t o t rig on t he last day of classes before break. I guess. “Are you okay?” Daemon asked.” He looked aw ay.” I said. I brut alized Mom’s secret chocolat e st ash.

” he said. t ensing w hen I saw Blake. “W hat about it ?” “I know you’re pissed. Aft er last night . Wat ching Dee and Adam make out w as a good dist ract ion.” I closed my locker door w hen I w ant ed t o slam it shut . Kat y. W hat if I didn’t use t he Source? I’d be dead now . During t he rare moment s her mout h w asn’t at t ached t o his. you know ? People search for answ ers and t hey don’t alw ays like w hat t hey get . Was Mat t hew drinking w hile at w ork? Because t hat w as t he st rangest conversat ion I’d ever had w it h him. “Some t hings are best left …unknow n. Now just w asn’t t he t ime t o t alk about any of t hat . W hen classes w ere over.” . I missed my friends so much.” Realizing I’d been dismissed. A gulf had developed bet w een us. “I hope so. Somet imes t he t rut h is w orse t han t he lie.” “T he bruises up and dow n t he side of my body are t elling me I got hurt .” “I came in lat e t oday. t here w as a sadness in her eyes. closed-off look in his eyes as he nodded. I joined my friends and t ried t o forget about last night . I heard my name. eyes bloodshot . I’m going t o get going. And I also didn’t w ant Mat t hew know ing t hat Daemon w as st alking Vaughn.” Sw eet relief flooded my syst em. At lunch.” I faced him. “I hope you sleep bet t er.” “I w ouldn’t have let him hurt you.” T here w as a dist ant . Doubt ed t hat w ould go over w ell. “W ell. And it w as t he longest conversat ion alone w it h him. See you w hen—” “W ait . t hough. Could he really not underst and w hy I w as mad? “You risked my life last night . since t here w as a paper due once school st art ed back up. “Hey…you w eren’t in bio.” He t urned back t o his desk. messing w it h a st ack of papers. W henever she looked at me. I cleared my t hroat . I am. “I w ant ed t o t alk t o you about last night . “T hat ’s okay. leaving me dizzy. and I missed her.“He w on’t .” He st epped closer.” I t old him. she t alked about t his w eekend and Christ mas. leaning against t he locker beside me.” “Yeah. despit e my need t o be able t o defend myself.” Sincerit y filled his w ords and eyes. “Y ou w ere safe. I w asn’t sure I w ant ed t o cont inue t raining w it h Blake. I’m visit ing some family w it h my uncle. “I’m not going t o be able t o do any pract ice t onight or during Christ mas break. I looked up. I hope you have fun. w ant ing t o reassure t he man. I left t he class w eirded out t o t he max.” Mat t hew looked at me. Just as I shoved it int o my backpack. I headed t o my locker t o grab my English book.

“I st ill don’t get w hy you’re not happier about t his. I got up and w ent t o t he front door. once believed w ant ed t o help me because w e w ere alike.” “I’ve already t old you. and I slept most of the evening aw ay. but he t urned his cheek and let out a harsh breat h. “Look. And my t hermal had lit t le st raw berries on it . … Changing into a pair of loose sweats and a thermal when I got home. Daemon sat right beside me. He w as just in jeans and a sw eat er. He had somet hing t o do w it h family. It enables you t o be such a great st alker. ignoring t he mad rush of t he desire t o climb int o his arms. “I’m really beginning t o dislike t he fact t hat you know w hen I’m coming. but t hen you show ed up. I st acked t hem beside my lapt op and w as in t he process of get t ing my w ebcam t o not zoom up my nose w hen I felt t he familiar t ingles like a w arm breat h on t he back of my neck. oh w hy. I don’t st alk you. I glanced at t he clock. can w e t alk about t raining w hen you get back?” He looked like he w ant ed t o argue.” “T here’s a difference?” I sat on t he couch. smelling of a crisp aut umn morning. the first thing I did after that was take a nap.” . and I scrounged t oget her a sandw ich and t hen gat hered all t he books I’d got t en in t he last mont h. I w ant ed t o be out of t his school. I promise I’ll behave. opening it before Daemon could knock. He st ood t here. Aw ay from t his boy I’d once believed w as normal.” I w ished I’d changed int o somet hing else. Embarrassing. t o be home in my bed. “I t hought you loved it . because t hose green flecks in his eyes deepened and churned. not going t o happen. T he pow er you show ed—it ’s amazing. and now I w asn’t sure if he really cared if I survived any of his t raining t echniques at all.” “Y eah. he w as even closer t han before. Mom w as gone w hen I got up.” he said. W hy. frow ning. “So w hat are you doing over here so early?” Leaning back against t he cushions. Plan ruined. his t high pressing against mine. his hand raised in midair. It w asn’t even t en o’clock yet . “No.He blew out an exasperat ed breat h. “W hat are you doing? Making anot her one of t hose videos?” “I w as planning t o. I haven’t done one in a w hile.” He grinned.” His eyes narrow ed on t he lapt op.” He follow ed me int o t he living room.” “Somet imes your logic scares me. “T here is a difference. did he have t o alw ays get so close? “Bill didn’t come by t onight ?” I t ucked my hair back behind my ear. but he looked good. Sighing. “I use it t o keep an eye on you.” I shift ed t he bag off my bruised backside. “Y ou st ill can film one. and t o be aw ay from him.

” I poked his golden cheek. T his is—” “Daemon Black.” My cheeks flushed as I elbow ed him back. I laughed. “And t hat is so not t he t rut h. I have a guest . and Daemon reappeared. “Hey. Right ?” He nodded and smiled angelically for t he camera. but his eyes st irred w it h amusement . School and…”—my eyes dart ed t o Daemon for a fract ion of a second—“st uff have got t en in t he w ay.” “But t his cover model”—I t ook t he book from him and w aved it around—“is a real person somew here. I have an idea. My brow s inched up my forehead.” he said.” “I’ll be complet ely quiet . “But don’t let t hat st op you. “Y ou can’t do t hat .” Daemon smiled at himself. I st art ed t o do my vlog. Taking a deep breat h. T his w ould probably end up disast rous.” he answ ered for me. but he’s promised t o st ay quiet . “It w ould be fun.” I forced a w eak smile. t his is Kat y from Kat y’s Krazy Obsession. “hello t here…” “Oh my God. W ow .” His full lips pout ed.” He w inked. baby blue eyes. Ever.” “I promise. but t he idea of him being in t he video had me all giddy and amused. I st ared at him. “You do have a point . He’s my neighbor—” “And t he guy she’s complet ely obsessed w it h. and t he book on t he t op of t he pile shot t ow ard him.” “But it w ould definit ely get a lot of at t ent ion. grinning.” T he cover model faded out . and brooding st are. People w ould freak. “Hi.” T rying t o det ermine if he w as being serious or not . “He’s very egot ist ical and likes t o hear his voice.” “I don’t t hink you have t he abilit y t o be complet ely quiet . “I don’t know about t his. right dow n t o t he curly lock of blond hair. t his w as a bad idea. I could pret end t o be him. and in his place w as t he exact replica of t he cover model. Go ahead and film. I adjust ed t he w ebcam so he w as included in t he pict ure and pressed record.” “W hat ?” I frow ned as he show ed me t he blond guy on t he cover. Real. but anyw ay. I’ll just hold books for you. “I’m t he guy she lays aw ake at night and fant asizes about . Y ou don’t mean— ” Daemon shimmered out . Yep. “W ait . I’ll be like your assist ant . Sorry for such a long absence. such a pret t y boy. “Do you now ?” .“W hy not ?” He raised his hand. “I t hink reading is sexy. He’d probably be curious how he ended up in my In My Mailbox video.

” “More books. and you’ve complet ely dumped t hose t hings.” Rolling my eyes. “Don’t forget .” I w hispered. He gets to kill people for a living. “You like seeing yourself being recorded. ignoring t he fresh spike of pain.” I t w ist ed around.” he shot back. and t hen I w on’t be out of anyt hing new t o read. T hanks for w at ching!” Daemon pract ically knocked me over t o get in one last comment . like. “T his reaper dude sounds like my kind of guy.” or “W hat ’s t he obsession w it h fall en angels?” And my favorit e w as w hen he held t he book in front of my face and said. “T his guy looks st upid. T here are cooler t hings out t here t han fall en angels and dead guys. “Y ou have. “And t hat ’s it for t oday. “Get back. and you know w hat else I t hink is sexy?” He leaned forw ard so his ent ire face filled t he pict ure and nodded his head t ow ard me.” “And like I said before. “T hat w as fun.“Oh. “I haven’t been able t o read a lot lat ely. eyes glow ing w it h a hint of desperat ion and vengeance.” He shrugged. “T ell me w hy . I’m just keeping an eye on you. I pict ured an ent ire legion of females sw ooning. unable t o refrain from making a comment and t aking my w hole recording host age. He handed me each book. yes. jaw w orking. Y ou’ve done five post s in t he last mont h. closing my lapt op. “I’ve checked out your blog.” My jaw hit t he floor. t oo?” “Like I said before. mofo. “Y ou’ve been st alking my blog. “Bloggers like t his. Pushing him aside. It pret t y much soaks up my t ime—” “W hat t he hell?” he exploded. your reasoning is fault y. Daemon sat back and t ried t o st ay quiet for t he next five minut es. “You know w hat I’ve been doing. but I w ill.” “You haven’t had t ime because of him and t hat ’s ridiculous. So is blogging. I’m not st alking.” I bent forw ard.” At t he end of t he recording. t en books you just said you haven’t read.” He looked up. “Hey.” “I have not !” “Y ou’re such a lit t le liar. “Reading is somet hing you love. I smacked his arm.” I smiled at his incredulous expression.” He w inked. “W hat are you doing? Hands off.” “Doesn’t mean I w on’t get more books.” His eyes w ent w ide. I w inced and clicked t he off but t on on t he w ebcam page.” He looked aw ay. Just saying. I couldn’t even hide t he st upid grin plast ered on my face. Like. Hot . W hen do you do anot her?” “Next w eek if I get more books. grabbing t he back of my t hermal and t ugging it up.

but t hen his arm w ent around my hips and a second lat er he w as sit t ing on t he couch in t he living room. I w ould’ve made fun of you…a lit t le bit . but I knocked his hand aw ay. It ’s not a big deal. “T hat ’s not fair!” “I w ouldn’t have had t o do it if you w ould just st op being so freaking st ubborn and let me help you. “I t ripped in t he w oods t he night I first found out about you. moving like a predat or about t o pounce. I st ared at him. It appeared as if he’d given up. calculat ed st eps t hat sent a shiver dow n my spine. eyes unflinching. Suddenly I w asn’t sure w hat w as w orse: him moving at t he speed of light or w it h slow . but Jesus.” I backed up.” “It does a lit t le.” I reminded him.” Daemon held me st ill.” Concern et ched int o t he lines of his face as he follow ed me around t he t able. Standing. St unned. “I’m just t rying t o help!” I’d cornered myself. crap. t hough. “W ait . and t he t rut h w ould send him int o a murderous rage t hat right now no one w ant ed. fingers blurring.” Sounded believable.” He shook his head. “Well.” Oh. maybe not me.” T he muscle in his jaw st art ed w orking as he t urned his head. because I figured you’d make fun of me. Even I’d…” He w inked. “You w ere running full-out in t he middle of pit ch-black w oods.” “Not really. I headed tow ard the kitchen to get some space. So how does t his keep happening?” He advanced forw ard. and I w as in his lap. Daemon w as right behind me as I grabbed a Coke out of the fridge. I’m just too aw esome. ignoring my prot est s as he slipped his hand under my t .” “T hen let me fix it . “Nice t ry. Not at t his point . you sure you didn’t break somet hing?” Not really. Kat . “I don’t need you t o help me.” He t ried t o t ouch me again.” He reached out . “Y ou’ve been hurt ing yourself a lot lat ely.” “W ell …” God he w as full of himself. And Daemon didn’t need somet hing else t o st ress over. “I…I fell in t raining w it h Blake.” “You’re not clumsy.your back looks like you fell out of a t w o-st ory w indow . Kit t en. “I’m fine. “It looks like it hurt s. “I t old you I slept w rong. but normal people w ould trip then. “Should you be doing t hat ?” “Healing you can’t hurt .” “Y eah.

pleasant and heady. It w as like lying out in t he sun or snuggling under cozy blanket s. His lips t urned up at one corner w hen he heard my soft int ake of breat h. T he w hole healing t hing had a lulling effect . but I could feel it in every cell. Lack of sleep and his t ouch lapped at me in st eady.” I w iggled. cradling me in his arms. but I didn’t say anyt hing. His t ouch—t he healing w armt h sunk deep int o my skin. I placed my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes.” “We have st uff t o do. But he already had t oo many people count ing on him. I jerked at t he zing his t ouch produced. Only one hand w as on me. I’d t hought of Daemon’s t ouch—t he w ay he kissed. “Do you feel bet t er?” “Yeah.” he said. okay?” My mout h opened.” I low ered my gaze and st opped st ruggling. . hesit at ing as he st ared dow n at me.” My body flushed at t hose w ords.hermal. exhaling soft ly. t hrough bruised muscle and bone. I realized not hing ached. “I can’t be around you w hen I know you’re in pain. Daemon. Just let me up. w e’d already proven I didn’t develop a t race from being near him anymore. W it h him st anding over me. Relaxing in his loose embrace. Daemon looked aw ay. flat t ing it against my low er back. moving t he covers back w it hout t ouching t hem. Daemon t ugged t he comfort er up. me hurt ing?” I asked. surrounded by t he t w inkling light s on t he Christ mas t ree. t rying t o get free. he looked like somet hing st raight out of my dreams…or t he books I read. but he w as st ill holding me. W hen Blake had said t o t hink of somet hing t hat felt like light ning heat . focusing on a blank spot on t he w all. “No. his eyes such a st ark cont rast w it h t he darkness. Aft er some t ime. unable t o look aw ay. t hreat ening t o consume me w hole.” He paused. One second w e w ere in t he living room.” I w hispered. T hat w as w hat I felt w hen I t apped int o t he Source and dest royed t he Arum. “Does it really bot her you.” “I can get you t here fast er. people t o st alk. and groaned in pain. and t hen t he next w e w ere in my bedroom. “See?” I w as half t ransfixed by him as he placed me on t he bed. “I don’t feel it . Heat flared against my back. T hen Daemon st ood. “Just know ing you’re hurt is enough for it t o bot her me. if t hat ’s w hat you’re asking. “I can w alk.” And he did. It ’s ridiculous t hat you w on’t let me. I st irred. I don’t know w hy I didn’t w ant him t o heal me. comfort ing w aves. “W hat are you doing?” “T aking you t o bed. “I can make you feel bet t er. Such a handy abilit y w hen t he hands w ere full.

” A knot formed in my t hroat and my chest t ight ened.” He t ilt ed his head t o t he side. W ill st ood behind her. slight ly accelerat ed. and I t ried t o remember t he last t ime Mom had used my full name. “T hey’re just kids. and t hen he w alked around t o his side. a smile in his voice. pinning it against his chest . grinning. He moved closer. and slid int o bed beside me. One of his hands w as w rapped around mine.His t hroat w orked slow ly.” “Not helping. so I nodded. “I kind of like being your body pillow . w hen I’d t ried t o pet a baby opossum t hat had got t en on our balcony somehow . Relief flickered across his st oic face. “T his isn’t w hat it looks like. Kit t en.” Under my hand. Mom st ood in my bedroom doorw ay. follow ed by a husky male laugh w as w hat roused me from t he sat isfying haze of deep sleep. sat isfied smile on his face.” he admit t ed. OhmyGodno… Mort ified on an epic level. ext ending an arm. one a st range. I felt my cheeks burn hot . calmest sleep I’d had in w eeks.” she shot back. cut t ing off my voice. my head nest led in t he space bet w een his shoulder and chest . I’d drift ed int o t he deepest . I’ll be gone before morning. My eyes flut t ered open. . I didn’t w ant him t o leave. “At least t hey’re fully clot hed. Daemon w as st ill in my bed. “W hat ?” I mumbled. his lips moving against my hair as he spoke. placing my hand over his heart . “Can I just hold you? T hat ’s all …t hat ’s all I w ant .” I smiled. Glancing dow n. her mout h hanging open. kicked off his shoes. “W hat about t ailing Vaughn?” “T hat can w ait unt ill t omorrow . And I w as half lying on him. “Even if you drool on me. it had been years ago.” “I do not drool. Chapter 26 T he irat e sound of “KAT Y ANN SW ART Z!” being yelled. I pulled my hand free. Was it t he healing or just being t his close? I didn’t know . t he st eady beat of his heart mat ched my ow n. “Can I…?” T here w as a pause and my heart st ut t ered. and I w ent . But before I knew it . dressed in her robe. curling against his body. soft ening t he hard lines. My hard pillow moved.” W ill said.” “It ’s not ?” Mom folded her arms. Oh yeah. “Get some rest .

W e w ere…st udying. I sipped my OJ. I pushed at him. t oo. Kat y?” I sighed.” “Is t hat supposed t o make me feel bet t er about one of t hem being in your bed?” She t ook a drink of her coffee and t hen scrunched up her nose in dist ast e. “Honey.” She pulled t he creamer out . aw kw ard.” “Ew . And t hen t here is Daemon.” He cleared his t hroat as he removed his arm from my w aist . I’ve never had t o w orry about you doing anyt hing st upid. “Blake is here all t he t ime. “Mmm. “Good morning.” I brist led. Ever. “I’ve never had t o set rules w it h you before.” Daemon left as fast as humanly possible aft er t hat .” I fixed t he pot so it w asn’t half out of t he maker. w ow . I w asn’t t he only female in t he house t o have had a guy in my bed. yes. “Is t his w hat you’re doing w hen I’m w orking night s. I passed W ill in t he hall w ay.” Sit t ing dow n. Mom’s eyes narrow ed on her boyfriend. “Neit her of t hem is my boyfriend. Daemon.” I groaned. I sw ear it ’s not . w hat ’s your problem?” I st ared meaningfully at t he doorw ay.” She poured herself a cup of coffee. W hat am I supposed t o t hink?” “Looks like you had a sleepover. I’m hoping I’m t he only one in your bed. glancing at W ill.” “Mom. “Y ou had a boy in your bedroom.” Mom smiled t ight ly. “Can you st op referring t o boys in t he plural? Geez. “I’m t he adult here.” I groaned. it ’s boys in t he plural sense. nuzzling my neck. but Daemon’s arm t ight ened around my w aist as he rolled int o me. Mom w ent dow nst airs w it hout saying a w ord. it ’s not w hat you t hink. young lady.I st art ed t o sit up. he t urned his head and froze.” “You w ere st udying in your bedroom?” She smoot hed some of t he mussed hair back from her face. He didn’t budge. So. “I have t o disagree w it h t hat . I found her shoving t he coffee pot int o t he maker. and w e fell asleep. plant ing her hands on her hips.” She t urned around. “Oh. but I see t here need t o be some est ablished. Mom. in your bed. I can have w homever I w ant in my bed. “Come on…” “T here w ill be no boys in your bedroom. “T here w ill be no boys st aying t he night in any part of t his house. He w as barefoot . going t o t he fridge t o get juice. Apparent ly.” . His eyes opened int o t hin slit s. Ms. Want ing t o die a t housand deat hs. “No. Know ing I w as in t rouble. I promise. “Mom. I t hink it ’s t ime for you t o go home.” W ill laughed form t he doorw ay. “Good morning. Sw art z. Frow ning.

I w as paranoid. Nancy Husher. “No.” “I hope not .” Her look t old me she w asn’t ent irely convinced. and I have t o t rust you.” “Oh. Please t ell me t hat you’re being…safe. hiding my face behind my hands. … . I squeezed past W ill and w ent int o t he living room. dear God. Kell. angry t hat he w as here for such a privat e and excruciat ingly embarrassing conversat ion. “First it w as Daemon. I folded my arms around me. But t here does seem t o be some hist ory bet w een you t w o. “And I am concerned.” For a moment . w earing a slight frow n.” I said.” she cont inued. Gah. his smile reminded me of someone. “Just make sure you’ll be careful. I dragged it t o t he couch. Fake. W ill laughed it off. he kissed her…but our eyes locked. Even I w as dist urbed by t hat t hought . “W e’re just friends.” She w ashed out her coffee cup. I shuddered. w at ching us.” She ignored t he last st at ement . “I’m sorry. It w on’t happen again. “T he last t hing I w ant right now is a grandchild.” “Oh my God.” Done w it h t his conversat ion. W e’re just friends.I st ood and handed her t he sugar she forgot . Plast ic. I’m not having sex.” W ill propped a hip against t he sink. It ’s okay. Mom. He w as w hispering somet hing t o her. “I can’t be here a lot . but she w as busy st udying t he inside of her chipped cup. God. Y ou don’t w ant t o be a young mot her. Not hing is happening w it h eit her of t hem. W hen I looked up. T his isn’t my business. but now …” “I’m not seeing eit her of t hem.” I w hispered. “Y ou and Daemon. my mom t hought I w as making babies. and she laughed soft ly. Mom. “Y ou t w o did look very close. t hen you seemed t o have st art ed seeing Blake. Feeling overly exposed. “Kat y.” “T his really isn’t any of your business.” I said for w hat felt like t he hundredt h t ime. Grabbing my backpack off t he floor.” Mom snapped. “I’m not doing anyt hing st upid. I saw Mom and W ill in t he hall w ay. She’s right . for upset t ing you. Before I could look aw ay.” “Friends w ho hold hands w hile sleeping?” I glanced at my mom.

so much so I could barely see t he t ree line a few yards aw ay.” I t ook t he last bit e of my cold Pop-T art and frow ned. I sighed as I stood. I scrolled t hrough t hem. I st art ed t o shut t he door. W ant ed t o kind of get t hat out of t he w ay. Was this how my Saturdays would be when Mom was off? Watching the two of them w orking on crossw ord puzzles in bet w een making out ? I w ant ed t o claw my eyes out . How about next w eekend?” I didn’t w ait for an answ er. being around Dee w as hard. “W ell. and I t ugged out t he buds. Some of t hem gushed over t he books I had.” she responded w it h forced ent husiasm. I just st art ed my English paper. “Y ou can’t spend every w aking second st udying and hanging out w it h Blake or w homever.” “Oh. it ’s going t o have t o w ait .Hours later. She blinked and her eyes immediat ely dart ed from my face. “Hey.” Or w homever? Like I had this long list of boys. and I w ondered w hat she w as t hinking. Dee w as w ait ing out side. “Maybe some ot her t ime. Put t ing in earbuds. “W ell.” Her pink lips t urned dow n. because I’m really busy. Will was still in the house—my house. a vision in w hit e. I checked my blog real quickly and found t hat I had over t w ent y comment s on my IMM. “Honey. Not his. Mom appeared somet ime lat er. “And before you say you’re busy or have plans w it h a boy. but I couldn’t shake t he ugh fact or. I caught her staring at the Christmas tree. He’d hijacked my blog. It had t o be my paranoia.” T hen she w alked over and flipped my t ext book shut . Dee is here t o see you. I list ened t o some t unes w hile reading my English assignment . Before I left the room. making himself at home. W it h everyt hing t hat w as going on and all t he lies. “Oookay…” She pushed back her side-sw ept bangs. .” I said lamely. hoping w e w eren’t going t o have anot her sex conversat ion. T he w ay he st ared at me made my skin feel like a t housand dirt y roaches w ere craw ling under it . Ot hers gushed over t he boy w ho’d been sit t ing beside me.” I leaned against t he door. It w as snow ing heavily. you need t o get up and go t alk t o her.” I st epped back. “Hey. Especially w hen I knew W ill w as right in t he kit chen. “I hope I’m not bot hering you. W e’re going t o w at ch a movie. It t ook me a few seconds t o realize t he w hit e sw eat er she w ore had blended int o t he background. Curious for t he sudden comment love. Dammit .

Kat y.” Just in case I t ried t o sneak out of it . Snow covered t he ground. it obviously hadn’t driven her aw ay. t oo. Passing my mom a look.” She jumped forw ard and gave me a quick. Pocket ing money in my jeans. Kat y.” I flushed. spying my mom st anding in t he doorw ay t o t he kit chen. she kissed t he t op of his blond head and t hen w iggled free. I sw allow ed. I grabbed my hoodie off t he back of t he recliner and slipped int o a pair of knee-high. t ight hug. I remembered Daemon t elling me I w as being a shit t y friend. I w asn’t t rying t o be. t hrow ing herself int o Adam’s arms.” “I underst and t hat . “Let me grab my hoodie and shoes. “Hey. Please.” She pushed t he door fart her open. I miss you. I w as caught bet w een t he t w o. “T hat w as ext remely rude. and you’re doing w hat ever w it h Blake and I’ve been spending a lot of t ime w it h Adam. She looked like an angry lit t le pixie. T he look on her face pleaded w it h me. I’m just so sw amped w it h schoolw ork.” How could I say no? I t urned slight ly. Adam. clasping her hands under her chin. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t deny t hat and st ill.” She rocked back on her heels. you’re act ually coming w it h us?” I nodded. “I’ll be w ait ing right here. Dee skipped beside me and t hen t ook off. and Dee didn’t deserve t hat .” Her eyes met mine. “Aw esome. looking aw ay. but t hat doesn’t mean w e can’t be friends. “W hat about …?” .” He looked surprised t o see me. “Please.” He glanced at Dee. “Just put your shoes on.” Dee w hispered. “But you’re going t o t he movies w it h Adam and me. “I know you and Daemon are…w ell.Dee did t he super-speed crap and pushed t he door back open. w hat ever’s going on bet w een you t w o. and neit her knew t hat I w as t rying t o st ay aw ay from Dee for her ow n good. “Hey. I headed out int o t he brisk December aft ernoon. making it slick under my boot s. my hands shoved int o my hoodie. and I saw t he hurt in t hem. I hung back. I nodded. and go t o t he movies w it h me. I supposed. Please. fake-sheepskin boot s.” “Dee—” “You’re not backing out of it . Giggling.

” Ash snort ed. and I gagged behind my hand.” at t he same t ime Dee said. and I felt t he w armt h t ingling along my neck.” Adam said. but it ’s cool. “T hat is so gross. … Color me annoyed when I realized who Dee had invited. I slid int o t he backseat . Dee and Adam had cleaned out t he candy count er. Unable t o st op myself. “t hings going w ell bet w een you and Blake?” Sinking dow n fart her in my seat .” I folded my arms and kicked my feet ont o t he empt y seat in front of me. “Y eah.” “Don’t knock it . A t ow ell w as flung over his shoulder. t hings are dandy. w hich is w hy t he let t er C is my favorit e in t he alphabet . eyeing her popcorn. Ash Thompson was waiting at the movie theater. On my ot her side. Y ou’ll see. Impossible.” “Ha ha. “I’m act ually going t o have t o agree w it h living dead girl here. somehow managing t o sw ay her hips in skint ight jeans and four-inch heels across t he ice-covered pavement . Bet t here w asn’t much bet w een her ears for a zombie t o survive on. posit ive t hat he’d w ait ed unt ill he could no longer see t he car.” I frow ned. She dipped a chocolat e bar in her cheese sauce. . Lucky me.” Adam t urned around in t he drivew ay. “Did you invit e…someone else?” Buckling herself in. draw ing t he w ord out . “No. but I’d sw ear our gazes sought t he ot her’s out . w rinkling her nose. T hat is disgust ing. shoot ing her boyfriend a look. Daemon st ood on t he porch. dressed in only jeans. cradling a bucket of popcorn bigger t han her head. “W hat ever. even t hough it w as t oo cold for t hat .” I mut t ered.” “Y ou know . “Ah. “Was it Kat y? T hey kind of share t he same appearance. Chocolat e and cheese. I t w ist ed in t he seat . I bit back a st ring of curses. “W hose idea w as it t o pick a zombie flick?” Ash demanded. I w at ched unt ill t he house disappeared from view . I sunk in my seat . “It ’s t he best of bot h w orlds. yeah.Dee dashed around t he front of Adam’s SUV. eager t o see him.” I mut t ered. “Do I look t hat bad or somet hing?” Ash said.” she said. “Y es. t aking a huge bit . “So. she t w ist ed around t o face me. ignoring Ash as w e w ait ed for t he light s t o go dow n and t he movie t o st art . She gave me her typical bitch look and w alked in ahead of us. I ended up sit t ing bet w een Ash and Dee. I w ould’ve broken my neck.” Ash said.

” A surge of jealousy rose so quickly. joking w it h Dee as w e left t he movie t heat er. “Can w e not t alk about how good he is at anyt hing t hat w ill force me int o t herapy lat er? T hank you. I w as having fun. And Blake and I aren’t dat ing. “I’m sure he is. I have no idea w hy you’d give him up for Blake. like a w erew olf. but he can’t be as good as—” “Ew !” Dee’s face scrunched up. “It ’s like a ll ama and a human.” I grabbed a handful of her popcorn part ly t o see her eyes narrow . I’m…I’m sorry I haven’t been around a lot . I groaned. “You had Daemon— Daemon. I know a lot has happened since you moved here.” . Y ou’re st ill my best friend.” She smiled w eakly. “I’m glad you came.” “Friends w it h benefit s?” Adam asked. by t he w ay?” I laughed. t ossing t hem across her face.” “I did.” Ash flicked a but t ery kernel in her mout h. “W hat ’s a w ere-ll ama.” “No. T rust me. How did t oday end up being all about my non-exist ent sex life? “T here are no benefit s at all. He’s cut e and all. “Is everyt hing…okay w it h you? I mean. arm and arm. “I don’t w ant t o t alk about Daemon. T he t ime I spent w at ching zombie aft er zombie eat various part s of humans.” T hey st opped quest ioning me about Daemon and Blake aft er t hat . t he t hree aliens got up and came back w it h more food. t oo.” She snickered. I forgot about everyt hing t hat w as going on. I did t ry t he chocolat e dipped in cheese. W e hung back from Ash and Adam. And even t hough I w as st uck next t o Ash.” “Look.” she said in a hushed voice. T he sun had already set . No w ay. “T hings must be going great . “I’m just saying—” “I don’t care w hat you’re saying.” “It hasn’t felt like t hat in so long.” Dee w at ched me as she dipped anot her bar of chocolat e.” T he breeze played w it h her curls. I w as smiling. Halfw ay t hrough t he movie.“W ell. and it w as as gross as expect ed. T hings felt normal. I’m just going t o be honest here.” I rushed t o reassure her. And I know how good t hat is. “I had fun. and t he parking lot w as aw ash in t he soft glow of st reet lamps and Christ mas light s. I w ant ed t o slam t he popcorn dow n her t hroat . “Anyw ay. “I w ouldn’t care if you w ere a w ere-ll ama. And I’m so afraid t hat you’ve decided you don’t w ant t o be friends w it h me anymore because of w hat I am and everyt hing t hat ent ails.” Ash chuckled as she shook her bucket of popcorn. Dee. you’ve been spending a lot of t ime w it h him.

” “Y eah. I closed my eyes for a second. Bot h of us w ere t hose people w ho digressed several years on Christ mas morning. dogging every st ep I t ook. “T hat is bizarre.” We’d st opped at Adam’s car. I froze.” he said. my arms hanging aw kw ardly at my sides. He pulled a glazed ham out of t he oven. det ermined t o ruin t he holiday. w ondering if he w ere t rying t o be t he good guy in t he pict ure so I w ouldn’t give Mom crap about him. t he snow had st alled. I beat t he mashed pot at oes harder. he got up and hugged me. each flake fat t er t han t he one before.” . filling t he air w it h t heir sw eet scent . Ash w as fiddling w it h her keys as she inspect ed her nails. in t he blink of an eye. like w e used t o w it h Dad. Over just like t hat . “Any more overnight visit s?” he asked w it h a sly. Snow w as already beginning t o fall again. I’d made cinnamon buns alone. and w hen Mom came home from w ork. A rit uall only broken w hen Dad died. W hen I w oke up.Her nose w rinkled. Upon seeing me st anding in t he doorw ay. T his year w as different . “Merry Christ mas. it is. He’d st ayed t he night . and w hen I reopened t hem. “No. Chapter 27 I loved Christ mas w hen Dad w as alive. I mumbled t he same back t o him. His at t empt s at small t alk had been vast ly ignored unt ill he w ent t here. Mom had gone upst airs t o show er aft er put t ing W ill and me t o w ork on dinner. I’d scamper dow n t he st airs at t he crack of daw n t o sit alone in front of t he Christ mas t ree. spending t he early hours of Christ mas morning w ait ing for my parent s t o w ake. We opened gift s. aw are of my mom beaming from t he couch. Again. t he scent of cinnamon already permeat ed t he air and W ill w as dow nst airs. Maybe t hat ’s w hat put me in a w eird mood t hat lingered all morning. w earing a checkered robe and sharing a cup of coffee w it h Mom. T he last t hree years. w e’d exchange gift s. conspirat orial smile. pat t ing me on t he back.

“Bet hany w as your niece?” “Y eah. “I don’t t hink t hey even realize t hat Bet hany w as my niece. so w as his brot her. “Y ou’re t alking about Daw son?” W ill nodded. right ?” He dropped t he oven mit t s on t he count er. He’s a bit more reserved. such a sad st ory. just like w it h Bet hany and Daw son.“Not like you’d t ell me. T hey moved aw ay just a mont h or so ago. “It ’s a small t ow n. “I’m sorry about …w hat happened. I never got t hat impression from Daemon.” He t ossed t he t ow els in t he t rash. facing me.” “So am I. and I’m sure you’ve heard it . T w o days had gone by w it hout a w ord from him. Cut t ing int o t he st eaming ham.” I placed t he milk back on t he count er and helped him mop up my mess. moving several t hick slices ont o one of Mom’s fancy porcelain plat t ers t hat hadn’t seen t he light of day in years. “He w as t he more out going of t he t w o. As if he w ere holding back t he most import ant part of himself. pulling out one of t he knives Blake had t hrow n at my head. I bent dow n and grabbed t he cart on. “He’s a lit t le int ense. I hadn’t seen Daemon since Sat urday morning.” .” He paused.” W ill w ent on.” He angled t ow ard me. Act ed like t he w hole w orld could end any minut e and each second had t o be lived t o t he fullest . “Don’t know w hy t hey w ould. I w ent t o w ork on t he pot at oes again. t hough.” T he cart on of milk slipped from my fingers. “It dest royed my sist er and her husband. It ’s a damn shame so many young people disappeared. I guess t hey couldn’t st and living here. Honest ly. knocking off t he count er and hit t ing t he floor. but just as int ense. “All of t hem w ere really t ight . “Slippery bugger. Yet I st ood frozen. brow s draw ing in a slant as he held t he knife up. “W ell.” I sat t he bow ll on t he count er and grabbed for t he milk. Bet hany w as his niece? W ill set t he knife dow n and grabbed several paper t ow els. Like t he T hompson kids. Pret t y much know everyone around here. isn’t it ?” Snapping out of it . W ill chuckled. eh?” Reserved? At first I w ant ed t o deny t hat . smiling.” “I have. T hen t hat Cut t ers boy disappears. “Y ou sound like you know t hem pret t y w ell. but Daemon had alw ays been…rest rained.” I almost dropped t he spat ula. “T hat boy does seem like a nice kid.” He shrugged.” My pulse w as jumping all over t he place for no reason.” “None of t hem has ever ment ioned you. Frot hy w hit e liquid pulsed across t he t ile. I guess t hat comes w it h being t riplet s. being reminded of her.

Had he seen me st op t he bow ll? I didn’t know .” Before I could respond. Deep dow n I knew W ill w asn’t t rying t o t ake his place. all my appet it e vanished. He st ared back. Up t o t hat moment . Could it be a coincidence t hat t he uncle of t he girl w ho had mut at ed just like me w as now put t ing t he moves on my mom? Seemed unlikely.Never once had Daemon or Dee said a w ord about W ill being relat ed t o Bet hany. but w it h t he ment ion of my fat her. Add t hat t o my grow ing dislike of t he man. W it hout t hinking. I’d been st arving. but I’m not here t o replace him. right out side t he kit chen door. I finished making my pot at oes in silence. My breat h froze in my t hroat as t w o foot st eps heavier t han my mom’s crossed t he hall and st art ed up t he st eps.” W ill laced his fingers in front of him. pale eyes st eady and fixed on mine. W ill. he pat t ed me on t he shoulder and left t he kit chen. No man could ever t ake my fat her’s place. And I’d w ant ed t o keep t hat green bulb. My elbow caught t he edge of t he bow ll as I t urned. That alone earned him serious negative points. placing it back on t he count er. Had he seen me? And if he had. T here w as a knock on my door. “I’m not t rying t o t ake t he place of your fat her. t here w as one person. I w ait ed w it h my breat h in my t hroat . I froze t he bow ll so all my hard w ork w ouldn’t end up on t he floor. It w as hours aft er Mom had left for w ork and moment s before I headed upst airs t hat I felt w armt h prickle my neck. I’d cried t he first Christ mas w it hout him. Will had already taken down the tree. T he mashed pot at oes w ere finished and so w as t he macaroni casserole. But I had no evidence and w ho could I really go t o? W ell. and I foresaw some serious problems in t he fut ure. and it spun t ow ard off t he count er. “I know it ’s hard w hen one parent moves on. Troubled by t he relat ion W ill had and t he ment ion of Simon. I grabbed it out of t he air. I caught sight of a shadow in t he hall w ay. but t w o fat t ears rolled dow n my cheeks. but t he last t w o I hadn’t . Y uck. That wasn’t his tree to t ake dow n. “T here’s somet hing I w ant ed t o make sure you underst ood. T he ham had cooled on t he count er. Maybe I w as crying now because t his w as t he first real holiday I’d had w it h my mom t hat involved someone ot her t han my dad. I st ared at him. but t hey also didn’t t alk about her oft en. Turning around.” Surprised by t he t urn in t he conversat ion. St opping in t he hall w ay. w hy hadn’t he bust ed in here demanding how I froze a bow ll in midair? … When I woke up the day after Christmas. Kat y. and now it w as packed aw ay in an at t ic I w ouldn’t dare vent ure int o. . He liked t hem count ry st yle—skin on.

I follow ed him t o just out side of Pet ersburg t o t his w arehouse in an indust rial park t hat hasn’t been used in years.” He pulled out of t he drivew ay.” He grinned as he slid me a sidew ays look. “Y ou t hink t hey’re keeping Bet hany…or Daw son?” He glanced at me. “Did you know my mom’s boyfriend is Bet hany’s uncle?” .” He led me t o his SUV and w ait ed unt ill w e bot h climbed in before he cont inued. Gross. “I got a lect ure about not making my mom a grandmot her. Let me grab somet hing w armer t o put on. T hinking of t hat reminded me of somet hing I needed t o ask. “Are w e going t o check on Vaughn?” “Not really. t hen joined him out side. T he look accent uat ed his sensual lips t hat w ere t ipped in a crooked grin. how much t rouble w ere you in aft er Sat urday?” I flushed. “Y ou busy?” I shook my head. and I sighed.” “It ’s okay. but not hing serious. “I didn’t mean t o fall asleep. I nodded. hands in his pocket s and a black baseball cap pulled low . but I saw your mom w as home.” He slow ed dow n as a deer dashed across t he highw ay.Daemon w ait ed on t he porch. did you have a good Christ mas? I w as going t o st op over. not very ent ert aining. “But first . “I don’t know . but t here w ere t w o officers w ho remained. lips pressed int o a t ight line. “W anna go for a ride?” “Sure. W hat about you?” “It w as okay. So w here are w e going? W hat have you found out ?” “Vaughn came home Sunday night for about t en minut es.” I hurried t o find my boot s and hoodie. “I t hink t he t w o really have somet hing going on. t hankful for t he darkness. Dee nearly burned t he house dow n t rying t o make a t urkey. hiding t he upper part of his face. He’s home right now . W ill spent t he day w it h us.” “It w as good. He st ayed t here for a few hours and t hen left .” “Sorry about t hat . Ot her t han t hat . “Now I have rules t o follow . W it h Nancy. “So.” Feeling useful.” His lip curled.” Daemon laughed. T hat w as w eird.” It w as like W ill and my mom. T here’s somet hing I’ve discovered.” Excit ement hummed t hrough me. “W hat if t he guards are st ill keeping w at ch?” “T hey w eren’t doing anyt hing unt ill Vaughn show ed up. but I need t o get in t here and someone needs t o keep an eye on t he out side w hile I go. “T hey’re keeping somet hing t here.

but bringing up Blake w ould really mar t he moment . w ho’s sort of like me now . I almost t old him I knew .” I pushed aw ay t he jealousy.” “It ’s w eird. Hell. “W hat about t he w hole you die. W e know t hat someone had t o have bet rayed Daw son and Bet hany. but how w ould he know w hat had happened? He w ould’ve needed t o have some inside know ledge of t he w hole healing process t o know w hat t o look for.” T he flut t er t urned int o a red-hot snake coiling around my insides. “I didn’t really t ry t o get t o know her. eyes on t he road.” Daemon looked at me sharply but didn’t say anyt hing. driving past it first t o make sure t here w ere no cars around. I nodded. “Anyw ay. T here really w asn’t anyt hing I could add t o t hat .” T here w as a w eird flut t er in my belly. I didn’t really t ry t o get t o know any human girl.” Closing my eyes. “W e’re really joined t oget her. Aft er a few moment s.” “T here’s more t o it t han t hat . Now w asn’t t he t ime. Of course. w at ching t he rolling w hit e-t ipped hills go by.” His brow s pinched as he focused on t he road. if it could make someone feel anyt hing. T hought you should know . seeming t o decide w hat t o say next . “Hang out w it h? Y es. “Do you t hink t hat ’s w eird? I mean. Gaining her t rust . you know .” Every muscle in my body t ensed. “So you’ve never…dat ed a human girl before?” “Dat ed? No.” “Maybe he’s an implant . forever…” “I know . I die t hing?” “W hat about it ?” he responded. He said no. “T here isn’t anyt hing w e can do about t hat ot her t han not get t ing ourselves killed. T he possibilit y w as dist urbing.” I said. he’s relat ed t o Bet hany. “I’ve been t hinking about w hat Mat t hew t old us—t he w hole marrying DNA t hing.” He glanced at me quickly. W ill could be using my mom t o keep an eye on me.” he said quiet ly.“No. I already knew t hat . and he’s messing around w it h my mom. I didn’t know t hey w ere relat ed. Daemon cleared his t hroat . sleeping in her bed… I’d kill him. Hung out —hung out in t he w ay everyone t hought Blake and I w ere? I w ant ed t o hit somet hing. We arrived at t he abandoned indust rial park near midnight . Like. T here w ere t hree buildings clust ered t oget her near a field covered . I squeezed my hands int o t ight balls. and I st ared st raight ahead. But I already knew t hat . “Y eah…?” “I t alked t o him lat er and I asked him about t he connect ion.

Daemon pulled behind one of t he buildings. “W hat if someone is in t here? I w ant t o go w it h you. I saw t w o headlight s piercing t he dark. w hat if Daw son w as in t here? I couldn’t even w rap my brain around t hat and w hat it w ould mean. gripping t he leat her unt ill my fingers ached. My breat h st art ed t o make lit t le puffs of clouds in t he rapidly cooling int erior. “I need t o get in t hat building. T ext me if anyone comes in. I t urned in t he seat .” “I can t ake care of myself. W hen he didn’t respond and I didn’t see him heading out of t he w arehouse.” He gest ured at t he t all one. My t hought s kept going back t o W ill. One w as a squat . “Please. . He t urned t o me.” He reached for t he door. I leaned forw ard and w at ched t he road. My breat h held. most likely parking in t he front . I let out a breat h I didn’t know I’d been holding and faced t he front . but it felt like forever. Company. I w at ched him disappear around t he side of t he building. one-st ory brick building and one in t he middle w as several st ories high. w here it ’s safe. “But you need t o st ay in t he car w hile I do t his. Rubbing my hands t oget her. Tw ist ing in my seat . If he w as t he implant . W hat w as Daemon doing in t here? Sight seeing? I shift ed. Off in t he dist ance.” “But —” “No. I need eyes on t he road and I don’t know w hat ’s w ait ing in t here.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and sent Daemon a quick t ext . parking t he SUV bet w een t w o large sheds w it h t he front facing t he only ent rance. He’d most likely seen me use my abilit ies. No Daemon.in w hit e. I st art ed t o get anxious. t hen w hy hadn’t he cont act ed t he DOD immediat ely? Somet hing didn’t add up w it h t hat t heory. Everyt hing w ould change. t hen I w as so screw ed. Please go by. T he Expedit ion had disappeared from view . W hat if Bet hany w as in t here? Hell. “Crap. st ay here.” Given no ot her choice. Kat . Please go by. T he vehicle slow ed as it neared t he ent rance t o t he indust rial park. large enough t o st ore a jumbo jet . Only t en minut es had passed. t rying t o keep w arm. Y ou need t o st ay in here.” Fear pinched my st omach. My heart raced as I realized it w as a black Expedit ion. keeping my eyes t rained on t he main road. but if he w as t he implant . I did not hing as Daemon slid out of t he car. killing t he engine.

now just a foot aw ay. provoked by fear. raising t he t iny hairs on my body. just a st eell door I had no hope of get t ing open aft er I t ried t he lock. I pivot ed in place. “I’m…lost . Crap. Out of t he corner of my eye. passing padlocked bay doors. used. Up ahead. T hey w ere dressed like paramilit ary or somet hing. Above t he door. “Keep your hands up and t urn around. sleek black guns draw n and point ed direct ly at me. I w as looking for t he int erst at e. I crouched at t he edge of t he building. T here w ere no w indow s. Jesus. Glancing back at t he bay doors.I w asn’t about t o let fear or his misguided at t empt t o keep me safe st op me from helping Daemon. “St op! Or I’ll shoot !” I st opped. T he orange glow of a cigaret t e flared and t hen it flickered t hrough t he air. w hat had Daemon st umbled upon? “Just st ay right t here. St ark t error forced t he air out of my lungs so quickly it left me dizzy. Dragging in a cold breat h of air. But t apping int o it w ould seriously expose w hat I w as. I opened t he door and quiet ly shut it behind me.” Doing as inst ruct ed. t hrow ing my hands up.” Smoker ordered. I made it a couple of feet before he yelled out again. Not quit e relieved. T he pat h w as clear. It demanded t o be called upon. Holding my breat h.” . Each breat h I t ook saw ed painfully in and out of my lungs. keeping close t o t he side. I w as t rapped. I flat t ened myself against t he building as t w o men dressed in all black came around t he front . “Now . I knew t he second he saw me. Crap. I crept closer t o t he ent rance. Keeping t o t he shadow s. T hey w ere a few st eps aw ay. I sprint ed aw ay. Pushing off t he w all. I cont inued around t he corner. St at ic built under my clot hing. I crept t o t he corner of t he building. “St op right t here!” Like hell. I saw movement . but t oo dark t o make out t he color. “Hey!” Smoker yelled. I saw anot her door.” t he short er one said. fading out w hen it hit t he ground. in full combat gear. W as t hat w here Daemon had gone? Bit ing my lip. it also had a round object embedded over t he doors. round and glossy in t he moonlight . craning my neck t o see around t he side. T he t aller man—t he smoker —looked up. “W hat are you doing here?” t he short er one demanded again. Crap. “W hat are you doing here?” I clamped my mout h shut and felt t he heady rush of Source pooling in my veins. t alking soft ly. My muscles locked as I t urned my head t o t he side. approaching me caut iously. w hich w ere perfect for unloading cargo. t here w as somet hing embedded in t he brick.

a visit or’s cent er or somet hing. playing t he dumb girl. but I kept t he Source locked inside.” .” “She’s lying. Somet hing w arm and sharp w as in his palm. “I’m not from around here. I opened my mout h t o scream. And all t he roads and signs look t he same. “See. slicing dow n my neck and over my shoulder.” t he short er one said. get out of here. I sw ear—” Red-hot . but no sound came out . Any hope t hat had sparked in me died in a fiery crash. honey. W ho are you?” Speechless.” My heart w as pounding so hard I felt like it w as going t o jump out of my chest . but it w as only w arm. “bullshit . His hand smelled of cigaret t es and disinfect ant . You must ’ve t aken t he w rong exit by a long shot . he reached out and placed his palm against my cheek.” Smoker grunt ed and grasped my ot her cheek.” Smoker grasped my arm. She’s one of t hem. he had a gun pressed bet w een my eyes. leaving a dull ache t hrobbing deep in my skin.” t he short er one said. “I’m t rying t o get t o Moorefield. Go ahead. W it h one hand. So you bet t er t hink carefully before you answ er t he next quest ion. Blackness inched across my vision. “Answ er me. “Y ou’re right . st art ing t o put his gun back int o t he holst er at t ached t o his t high. like. “Christ . I w as hoping t his w as.” I rambled on. You’re get t ing paranoid. He shook me.” T he closest one low ered t he gun by a fract ion of an inch. and I doubled over. Smoker came closer. yanking me forw ard. “She’s just lost . I got off at t he w rong exit .Smoker glanced at t he short er officer. “I’m serious. “W hat ’s in t his barrel w ill do far w orse.” Smoker spat . “T he highw ay is several miles from here. Gulping in air. I placed my hand against my cheek.” I nodded eagerly. “Told you. Like t he t ow ns all sound t he same. W hen I lift ed my head. fear held me paralyzed. breaking cont act w it h w hat ever he held in his hand. T he pain rushed at me in w aves.” I dropped t o my knees as t he pain ebbed. keeping t he gun t rained on me. Fear spiked my heart rat e. ignoring his part ner. needle-sharp pain st reaked across my cheek. expect ing t o find my skin split open. Was it a knife? “I’m lost .

smacking int o t he short er officer. It w as Vaughn. “It ’s a t rick!” Pulsing w it h light and pow er. Vaughn nodded. “I’ve had my eye on t his one for a w hile. Had he caught Daemon. “She’s one of t hem. reaching dow n and grasping my ot her arm. voice low . “It t ook a w hile for it t o w ork on her.” I w hispered. sending him several feet back. I’d st art ed t his by t elling him I’d seen Bet hany. Light ning crackled around his arm.” Vaughn frow ned as he moved closer. done somet hing t o him? If so.” I couldn’t breat he.” “T he cages should be prepped. Vaughn had been inside. coming up from behind t he t w o men.” Before my brain could come t o t erms w it h w hat he meant . hauling me t o my feet . w here Daemon w as. I gasped.” Smoker said. and t hen his face t urned t o…ash. his bushy must ache blow ing as he breat hed heavily. flaring red-w hit e as it enveloped his body unt ill he w as not hing more t han light . “W e found her sneaking around back here. skin and clot hing smoking.” Cages? My mout h dried up. eyes narrow ing. sounding like he’d just caught t he biggest cat fish t o dat e. like w it h t he ot her one. T here w as a sickening crunch. “Oh my God. “Since w e caught t his one. and he fell t o t he ground. “Are you sure?” asked t he short er officer. It st ruck Smoker first . T he man shuddered once. Vaughn pushed me t o t he side hard enough I lost my balance and hit t he ground. “Good job. and my heart dropped. he released t he energy. I may not have cont rolled w here t he rock w ent . realizing Vaughn w as…Daemon. but I’d pushed it dow n t he hill.” Smoker said.“I…I…” “W hat ’s going on out here?” a new voice asked. let t ing go of my ot her arm reluct ant ly. “Y eah. it w as ent irely my fault . T hat w as one hell of a rew ard. He t hrew up his hand. Smoker laughed. T he light arched. “Dammit !” yelled Smoker. Smoker st epped t o t he side. reaching for his gun. He t oo w ent flying int o t he side of t he building. I’ll t ake t his one. Husher w on’t know any different as long as w e don’t mess her up. You might w ant t o double it up. shouldn’t w e get a rew ard?” “Rew ard?” asked Vaughn. . T he short er officer looked me over.

but I couldn’t get w arm enough. w e sat on t he couch. “Daemon…are you okay?” He nodded. t here w ere…cages. T he baseball cap hid his eyes. float ing aw ay unt ill not hing remained. We’d driven t heir car int o t he w oods. T here w ere empt y coffee cups. but all he did w as reach dow n and t ake my hand. I held a st eaming cup of hot cocoa t hat he’d placed bet w een my hands. and w hen I looked at him. He’d been quiet t he w hole w ay back. st irring t he fall en man. It reminded me of t he videos of t he at omic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. I squeezed t he w arm mug. “W hat w as inside t he building?” He rubbed t he back of his neck as he closed his eyes briefly. filled asht rays everyw here.” he said. I agreed. burning it unt ill t here w asn’t much of anyt hing left . ending w it h t he men t urning int o ash. but I couldn’t read anyt hing in Daemon’s eyes. and Daemon had t hen fried it . Chapter 28 Back at my house.” Nausea rolled inside me. T here w as not hing left of t hem. “Do you really t hink t hey w ere keeping people in t here?” . T he blast of heat had been so int ense it had t urned people t o ash and permanent ly implant ed t heir shadow s int o buildings. “T here w asn’t anyt hing in t he first couple of rooms. Because t hey had families… T he baseball cap had been t ossed ont o t he coffee t able. but event ually people w ould miss t he t w o men and quest ions w ould st art get t ing t ossed around. gent ly pulling me t o my feet . especially from t heir families. but it ’s obvious t he place is used a lot . Daemon’s light dimmed. “W e need t o get out of here. I expect ed him t o flip out about my not st aying in t he car. About t en of t hem. “Y eah.A slight breeze moved dow n t he building. facing each ot her w it h our legs crossed.” T aking a sip. he w as in his human form. T he fart her I got in. It w as t he same w here Smoker had fall en. I kept running dow n everyt hing t hat had happened. Just empt y office space. but his lips w ere pressed in t hat hard. unyielding line. I w at ched him from under my lashes. one looked like it w as used recent ly. Pieces of him flicked up int o t he air. Any evidence of us being t here had been removed.

And maybe ot hers like you. “And he put somet hing against my cheek. but I had t his feeling t hat somet hing…somet hing w as up t here.“Luxen? Yes. t hat hurt like hell. “I need t o get back in t here. Maybe rocking in t hat corner.” I ignored t he flash of t emper in his bright gaze. “But w hat good are you t o Daw son—or t o Dee—if you get caught ?” Daemon st ared at me for several long moment s. I saw Bet hany.” .” He w hirled around. above t he doors.” He st ood w it h fluid grace.” “W imp out ?” T he event s of t he night height ened everyt hing I w as feeling and I w as on overload. Kat . “How are you feeling now ?” “Perfect ly fine.” I st ood. “My brot her could be in t here or somet hing t hat w ill t ell me w here my brot her is. it ’s t oo dangerous. “You w ould’ve been caught inside.” “I know . “Daemon.” “And I agreed t o let you come w it h me t he first t ime. Y ou can’t go back t here.” “I underst and t hat . “I w ouldn’t have involved you in t his if I knew you w ere going t o w imp out .” My eyes follow ed him. I w onder if it w as t he same t hing you saw . “I’m t he one w ho involved you.” I set my cup aside.” “I’m not w orried about myself. clenching my hands. It w as shiny. looked black t o me because it w as dark.” His poet ic lips t ipped dow n at t he corners. “One of t he cages had dried blood in it . and God. “If you’d st ayed in t hat car.” “T hen t hat ’s a problem!” His eyes narrow ed. t oo. exhaling roughly. sit t ing in t he corner somew here. but it needs t o be more t hought out t han any of your plans have been so far.” “I saw somet hing out side t he building. facing me.” He dropped his hands on his legs. “I have t o do somet hing.” My mout h dropped open. All of t hem had chains and manacles encased in t his dark red st one I’ve never seen before. I can’t just w alk aw ay because it ’s t oo dangerous. clasping his arms behind his head.” He ran his hand t hrough his messy hair. seconds from breaking dow n. “Because you could’ve been capt ured t onight . I got out of t he car because you didn’t respond t o my t ext ! If I st ayed in t here. People are going t o realize t hat t he officers are missing. I could’ve had t ime t o check t he floors above. “Did you see anyt hing else?” “I didn’t have t ime t o go upst airs. w e’d bot h be in t hose cages.” I w aved it off.

T he day before New Y ear’s Eve. “Okay. W hat ever.” .” I flinched. and I spent the better part of the next day strung tight as a bow puled too hard. Kat y. But not hing happened.” “T hey’re aw esome. t urned physical. placing my hand on his arm.” Daemon shrugged off my hand. I crossed my arms. “Like my new boot s?” She st uck out one slender leg. making sure Daemon’s car w as t here. T he heel w as killer. Never in a million years. T he next couple days of w int er break crept by. “It ’s not okay. “It ’s okay.” I didn’t w ant t o let it drop.” I frow ned. “Okay. demanding t o know w hat happened t o t he officers. T he need t o comfort him. W hat size are you?” She giggled. st opping at t he end of t he couch. Most of t he t ime I expect ed SW AT t o bust up in my house. His shoulders shuddered and his voice came out a w hisper. his aggravat ion made more sense. scow ling. We should just let it drop for t onight . I kept checking the driveway next door. t o t ouch him. I bit dow n on my lip hard enough for a met all ic t ast e t o spring int o my mout h. Running bot h my hands over my head. I reached out . he grabbed his cap from t he t able and t urned t o leave. before you t ell me no. And don’t —just don’t do anyt hing. Daemon is going. “Cleared w hat ?” “Ash is t hrow ing a lit t le New Y ear’s Eve part y at her house. Daemon blinked out . He could just zip his w ay back t o t he w arehouse w it hout his SUV. Daemon w ouldn’t go back t o t hat w arehouse.” W it h one last look. and t he front door slammed shut . I killed t w o humans. Dee st opped by. “Daemon got t hem for me. “I’ve never killed a human before.” Suddenly. Get some rest . It w asn’t just t he helpless feeling of not being able t o do anyt hing. but he had a point . “Fine. Bot h of us are aggravat ed right now . … Sleep didn’t come easily that night.T he t ips of his cheeks flushed as he looked aw ay. t hen popped a loll ipop back in her mout h. but seeing t he car gave me some relief. more from t he use of my real name t han his act ion. I already cleared it w it h Ash. Black leat her boot s ended just below her knees. It ’s just going t o be a few of us. Even I couldn’t convince myself of t hat .

” I sighed. even t hough you haven’t really act ed like it recent ly. Kat y. I w as st ill undecided. t he loll ipop dangling from her fingers.” I bust ed out laughing. come on.” “No. I doubt Ash is okay w it h me going t o her part y. Right ? He’s just slinking around t he house for no reason. “She promised she’d be cool w it h it . I’m okay. “Oh my God. I t hink you’re grow ing on her. “I don’t know . “W hat ’s going on w it h you t w o. borrow ing a couple of books.” “Oh.” W ondering how w e ended up on t his conversat ion.” I mut t ered. “I’m not invit ing him. She sucked on her loll ipop for a few moment s as she w at ched me. “Dee…” “He’s my brot her.” she replied. w hich w as not hing. but I w ant …bot h of you happy. but since I’m not dat ing him. Dee st ayed for a lit t le w hile. “You guys like each ot her. Y ou can even invit e Blake if you w ant t o.” “Like mold. T hen. but t hat ’s his risk t o t ake. Kat y.” Part ying w it h t hem did sound bet t er t han w hat I had planned. I t hink you guys need t o t alk or…I don’t know .“Uh.” She flashed a quick grin before cont inuing.” “It can’t be t hat complicat ed. if I w ere act ually dat ing him. and t hen left . I’d have a problem w it h how happy you sounded t here.” I made a face. “Dee. “And not hing is going on w it h my brot her.” Dee pinged around t he living room like a capt ured but t erfly. t hen?” “Not hing. sounding like Lesa.” She came t o a sudden halt . . it ’s really complicat ed. she is.” Dee sat beside me. because I bet it w as super posh and cool. I love him. Cave t o your passions.” “Y ou promise?” She nudged me w it h her elbow . are you serious?” She grinned. her body humming w it h energy.” Her eyes narrow ed suspiciously. And I know neit her of you is put t ing me t here. “Y ou know . “It w ould make me really happy if you did. “So I feel like I’m st uck in t he middle of you t w o. W at ching Dee made me dizzy. and I know Daemon w ould be risking a lot by pursuing a relat ionship w it h you. And you’re my best friend. I sat dow n w it h a sigh. “So are you going t o go w it h us t omorrow night ?” As much as I w ant ed t o see t he T hompsons’ house. “Are you guys having problems?” she asked hopefully.” My lips pursed. around suppert ime. “Anyw ay. “I’ll t hink about it .

T here w ere quit e a few sit es linking t o numerous aw ards w on in t he medical communit y. I immediat ely brought up a new w eb search screen. I shuddered. Trying t o dist ract myself. Having t ime t o read w as nice and relaxing. Officer Robert McConnel and Officer James Richardson were last seen near Petersburg on December 26th and have not been heard from since. I spent t he rest of t he evening reading. I’d t hought t here’d at least be somet hing in relat ion t o t he DOD. W hen t hey left . I’d checked each night w it h no result s. Smoker had ment ioned her by last name. finishing a book for a blog t our. I recognized t hem immediat ely. T he headline on t he Charlest on Gazet t e read: t w o depart ment of defense officers missing aft er last seen near pet ersburg. Clicking off t he w ebpage.W ill show ed up w it h Chinese t akeout . My next search vict im w as my mom’s boyfriend. Not t he t imid Kat y. and st art ing a new one I w asn’t scheduled t o read. saying she w ouldn’t be mad if I w asn’t …messed up. But t here w as somet hing t hat left a bad t ast e in my mout h about him. First . Was he going back t o t hat w arehouse w it hout me? T here w as a good chance he w as. My breath caught as I scanned the article. I Googled Nancy Husher and came up w it h not hing. I put t he book dow n and considered checking in w it h Daemon. but t he one w ho did w hat she w ant ed because she enjoyed it . but it w asn’t like t he w oman exist ed on t he Int ernet . backs funding for new cancer t reat ment cent er in grant count y. I could feel a lit t le bit of my old self creeping back. but I w asn’t much for conversat ion. Mom pract ically float ed around t he kit chen. W hen it got close t o t en. I logged int o one of t he local new s w ebsit es and searched for any ment ion of t he t w o officers going missing. One art icle’s headline read: local doct or overcomes leukemia. But t onight w as different . but not hing show ing a connect ion t o Bet hany. I didn’t t urn t he food dow n. buzzing on a good-boyfriend high. . Below t he art icle w ere t w o pict ures. Authorities are not saying the nature of their dealings in Grant County but are asking anyone w ho may have seen the officers or may know anything to please contact their tip line.

T he first searches linked t o some college at hlet e. It just w asn’t fair or right . . and her deat h w as probably horrific. but his face w as rounder. Did Mom know t his? I mean. There was a picture of him. Deat h usually w as never t hose t w o t hings but t his…t his w as w rong. moved by someone I’d never even met . A sharp pang sliced my breat h as I got a real good look at t he guy w ho’d been in t he pict ure w it h Blake’s fat her. T he younger Blake w as cut e. I Googled Blake Saunders. I saw a new s report about his parent s’ murders.My eyes scanned the article. I ret urned t o my amat eurish invest igat ion. It w as called a brut all break-in. I blinked back hot t ears. I w ent t hrough t he next couple of pict ures greedily. but aft er everyt hing she w ent t hrough w it h Dad? Could she go t hrough somet hing like t hat again if t he cancer came back? And if I act ually grew t o like t he dude. I read t he sad. light brow n must ache. but dow n t ow ard t he bot t om of t he first page. cancer w asn’t a reason not t o dat e someone. w it h a cringe. unable t o w rap my brain around t his new fact . My gut clenched w hen I looked at t he pict ures of him and his lit t le sist er playing on a sw ing set . but t his one didn’t . T hen. My fingers hovered over t he keyboard w hile a sense of guilt flushed my cheeks. I kept going t hrough t he pict ures. because I recognized that bone-haggard look. and t hen I st opped on one t hat looked like a family reunion t aken around t he holidays. St opping t o grab a cup of cocoa. T here w ere a couple more art icles st at ing t he same. T he kid w as w ay t oo young. I could see t he resemblance in t he easy smile and hazel eyes. and t hen I found t he obit uary for his parent s. W ho in t he hell named a funeral home Sunny Acres? Shaking my head. T he man had his hand clamped on t he younger Blake’s shoulder and w as smiling at t he camera from beneat h a w iry. I t ook a sip of my cocoa and clicked t he pict ures t he w ebsit e had of t he family. He shared some of t he same feat ures as Blake’s dad. could I deal w it h t hat again? I w ent back t o t he search page. since he never did t ell me it s name. w hich t ook me t o a funeral home sit e in Sant a Monica. Some of t he pict ures had capt ions below . sad w rit e-up on t he deat hs of his parent s and sist er. most likely taken during rounds of treatment. t elling myself I only w ant ed t o see his old blog. Sunny Acres. if he w asn’t an implant . T he man next t o his fat her looked oddly familiar. I set t he cup dow n before I dropped it . I couldn’t believe it . It was Wil. T he capt ion below list ed him as Brian Vaughn. st opping on an older one of Blake’s fat her. Leaning closer. and so w as his sist er. Clicking on t he link.

Fury became a living. visit ing family w it h his…uncle. . And t his w ould be t he perfect opport unit y t o see if I could find any undisput able evidence t hat w ould point t o Blake w orking w it h t he DOD. Brian Vaughn w as list ed as a st epbrot her of t he deceased—of Blake’s dad. My eyes found my car keys. Torn bet w een w ant ing t o t alk t o Daemon and let t ing t he issue drop unt ill I knew w hat I w as dealing w it h. my breat h coming out harsh and fast . Shock beat at me. and I st ood. How …coincident al. But I knew w here Vaughn lived. W hat w ould I do? Bust up in t here? T hat w as w orse t han Daemon’s t ypical plans. T here w as no w ay I w as going t o Vaughn’s house. st ruggling t o keep t he rising t ide of anger at bay. T hat kind of bet rayal ran so deep it left a permanent mark on my soul. W hy he’d asked so many t imes about w ho had healed me. Vaughn hadn’t been home. But t he harsh realit y of being fooled…of allow ing myself t o be played right int o t he DOD’s hands beat at me. Blake had been in my house. I didn’t even know w here Blake lived. and kissed me. I st opped myself before I reached for my car keys. alt hough I w asn’t sure w hat I w as looking for. skimming for surviving family members. but most of it had a t arget . How reckless and dangerous he’d grow n in his t raining sessions. breat hing ent it y inside me. t hen let t ing go and allow ing t he ot her emot ion t o t ake hold. His relat ion t o t he DOD explained how Blake knew so much about t he Luxen and mut at ed humans. “Dammit !” I exploded. Some of it w as direct ed at me. coloring everyt hing in a reddish-w hit e light . Blake w as relat ed t o a DOD officer. earned my t rust . jumping t o my feet . looking around t he room expect ant ly.T hought s w arred in my head as I quickly clicked on t he obit uary again. gripping me for several minut es. I sat back and pulled my knees t o my chest . Could I have been fooled t his badly? T his ent ire t ime w orking w it h someone w ho w as t ied t o t he DOD? Anger and fear kept alt ernat ing. t alked t o my mom. My surprised laugh came out st rangled. I st art ed t o pace t he lengt h of t he living room. and Blake claimed he’d be out of t ow n unt ill school picked up. t hat it w as anot her Brian Vaughn w ho looked like t he DOD officer. T he illogical part of my brain w as t rying t o convince myself t hat it w as just a coincidence.

I’d done an incredible amount of st upid t hings in my life. hanging in t he air like clouds. I w ant ed in t here. I left t he house. Know ing t hat didn’t mean t he house w as complet ely devoid of people. It w as locked as expect ed. Pet t ing t he baby opossum w as one of t hem. I w as a much different person now . but now I underst ood t hat somet imes cert ain sit uat ions called for w ell-t hought -out st upidit y. I needed t o keep Daemon far aw ay from t his. I didn’t come all t he w ay here t o st are at t he out side of t he house. I could kick major ass if need be. T he irony of bit ching out Daemon due t o his lack of plans didn’t pass me by. At least unt ill I knew he w ouldn’t fly off and do somet hing even dumber t han w hat I w as about t o do. w alking out in front of t he MAC t ruck w as anot her. T he click of t he lock t urning sounded like a nuclear bomb going off in my head.Daemon w as t he last person I needed t o go t o right now . Tugging t he hood up over my head. If Blake w as w orking for t he DOD. Luckily. I w ent t o t he back of t he house and t ried t he door. T he rush of st at ic crept dow n my arms. Grabbing my keys and my cell phone. T his w as one of t hem. I debat ed w hat t o do. But as I hit t he highw ay. t hough. T his. I snat ched my hoodie and t ugged it on over my head. I’d even got t en pissy once about t he pirat ing of books and had post ed t his manifest o on my blog t hat hardly made any sense. Lit t le flakes of snow st art ed t o fall as I crept around t o t he front . jumping from t he t ips of my fingers t hrough t he w ood. and t he ot her w as just as dark. One had a foreclosure sign. probably t opped t he list . I closed my eyes and pict ured t he lock. Pressing against t he door. T he drivew ay w as empt y. I w ant ed t o find evidence linking Blake t o Vaughn. and I w ouldn’t let Blake get aw ay w it h t his. t he t w o houses closest t o his w ere spaced out . and I w ant ed t o see if t here w as anyt hing on t he locat ion of Daw son and Bet hany. I shoved my hands int o t he middle pocket and hoofed it back t ow ard Vaughn’s house. My breat h came out in puffs. Done t hinking. hands clenching t he st eering w heel. . It should be a piece of cake. but I remembered bot h Daemon and Blake ment ioning how easy locks w ere t o manipulat e. I parked my car t w o roads dow n from w here Vaughn lived and st epped out int o t he frigid air t hat smelled of snow . Vaughn’s house looked empt y as I approached from t he rear. An alarm syst em w ould be a w hole different st ory.

cast ing t he room in soft light . It had no homey smells like left over food or perfume. I crept forw ard. Each of t hem just had a bed and a dresser. Holding a breat h. T here w ere pict ures. but no hard drive. A light w as on above t he st ove. Telling myself I could do t his. T imid Kat y no more…I’d moved ont o good old B&E. I w ent upst airs slow ly. I checked t he side draw ers. my arm in a splint and Dee laughing. T he dining room w as empt y w it h t he except ion of a rolled-up sleeping bag on t he floor. My hands shook as I w ent t hrough t hem. My st omach t ight ened as I left t he bat hroom. I’d have t o defend myself. A buzzing filled my ears as I t urned over pict ure aft er pict ure. but I knew w hoever it w as w ouldn’t st op t w ice from locking me up in a cage. Not hing about t his house seemed real. If someone w ere in t here. I laid it on t he desk and flipped it opened. Several . “Jackpot . I opened t he door and slow ly st epped int o t he kit chen. T here w as a monit or on t he t op. t hen one of us w alking out t he door. T here w asn’t a T V. I shut t he door behind me and drew in a deep breat h.I t ook a moment t o prepare myself for w hat could be w ait ing on t he ot her side of t he door. Balling my hands up under t he sleeves of my hoodie.” I w hispered. Tw o couches w ere pressed against t he w all in t he living room. t here w as a bat hroom t hat had clearly been in use. Lift ing t he file out carefully. T he last room at t he end of t he hall w as an office of sort s. Not hing. and I could just make out Dee and me sit t ing in front of t he w indow . Moving around t he desk. T his is insane. sickened me. hundreds of pict ures. grat eful for t he t hin soles on my boot s. It smelled vacant . becoming frust rat ed w hen t hey w ere all empt y. I pulled out a file folder t hat w as t hick and heavy at t he bot t om. It gave me t he creeps. I yanked open t he last one. It reminded me of a model home w here everyt hing w as fake. A large desk sat in t he middle of t he ot herw ise empt y room. I pulled out t he cent er draw er. At t he t op of t he st airs. T he idea of hurt ing someone. T here w ere several from out side t he Smoke Hole Diner. All w ere empt y. I moved dow n t he hall w ay. possibly killing him or her. T here w ere hair product s on t he sink—gell and t w o t oot hbrushes. One of me w alking from my car t o t he front of school in short sleeves. All t he bedroom doors w ere open.

t he one t hat almost dropped me t o my knees w as one of Daemon carrying me back from t he lake t he night I’d been sick. could t hey be w at ching me now ? I couldn’t let myself t hink about it . Most of t hem w ere receipt s. T here w ere no pict ures of Blake and me t oget her. Phot os chronicling from t he t ime I arrived in t his place up unt ill a few days ago. Anot her w as him st anding on his porch. W ho gave t hem t he right t o do t his? W it h an anger so pot ent I could t ast e it . st anding on t he bank of t he lake. and in her car. t he look of pure concent rat ion on Daemon’s face as he had one foot on t he porch st ep. T he phot o w as dark and grainy. on my front porch. Shoving t hem back int o t he draw er. T here w ere pict ures of my mom heading t o w ork. I w ant ed t o burn t hem. shirt less and in jeans. But t he w orst pict ure. I pressed t he cont act paper back dow n and put t he file aw ay. holding it in t he light t hat came t hrough t he w indow . T hen t here w ere pict ures of Daemon. I picked up one. I hadn’t know n he ever smiled around me at t hat t ime. show ing money t ransfers. w it h me on his st eps. t he w ay my arm hung limp. W here t here should’ve been fear. keys clenched in his hand. I knew I couldn’t t ake t hem. And it did on a surreal level. w hich seemed odd t o hide. eyes narrow ed and face draw n t ight as he w as snapped w alking around his SUV. t oo. and Daemon had been w at ching me. Daw son Black? Dee Black? Daemon Black? Shoving t he slip of paper int o my pocket . I dropped t he pict ure as if it burned my skin. at school. smiling—really smiling—unbeknow nst t o me. T he sense of violat ion sliced t hrough skin and bone. I w ant ed t o t ake all t hese pict ures. Shoving t he file back. T here w ere bank slips. t he first day I’d met her. T here w as one of us hugging in front of t he FOOLAND. some w it h her and W ill. T here w ere more. glaring at him. considering everyt hing. feeling numb as I st art ed t o st and. I’d been looking off t o t he side. I w as in my red t w opiece bat hing suit . I st ood w it h hands t rembling. Anot her slip of paper had an address w it h t he let t ers DB w rit t en under it . T he bot t om of t he draw er poked up at t he corner. I closed t he door. I reached dow n and felt around unt ill I got a grip on t he edge. I saw several sheet s of paper.more phot os show ed us t oget her. Hell. t here w as only anger. T hey’d been w at ching us from t he beginning. . My eyes bugged at t he amount s. Peeling t he cont act paper back. I gat hered up t he phot os and placed t hem back in t he file. but I could make out t he w hit e sleep shirt .

” . “Y ou can’t do anyt hing for me now .” I sw allow ed. T hey w ill see you. Jeans and a T-shirt hung off her slender body. “Y ou mean t he DOD?” “I mean w hoever is w at ching know s. and look w hat happened. Chapter 29 My heart leaped in my t hroat at t he quest ion. sighing. Her dirt y hair fell in clumps. w e can—” “Don’t t rust him. boy. He know s t hat .” “W ho? Blake?” Not like she needed t o t ell me t hat . My family is no longer here. “Look. “And so do I.” I w iped my sw eat y palms on my jeans.” She paused. t his chick w as cracked like Humpt y Dumpt y. “I did. “How do you know w ho I am?” An eerie. I t rust ed him w it h my life. She cocked her head t o t he side. let t ing t he rush of energy move along my skin. I st ared at her. W henever w e get close. “Everyone know s w ho you are. “W hat are you doing in here?” “Bet hany?” I croaked.” She st raight ened. T hey alw ays know . glancing around t he room. closing her eyes.“W hat are you doing in here?” a voice demanded.” Oh. Moonlight coming in from t he w indow w ashed over Bet hany’s pale face as she st epped int o t he room. t hough. “Bet h.” “I know . t oo. I come here…my family. W e can keep you safe.” She sighed. It ’s almost like a game. He keeps cat ching me. “T hey hope w e get close. I gasped. “I can no longer be kept . “Bet h. “Y ou really shouldn’t be here. T hey alw ays hope. “Kat y?” Her voice mimicked mine. A never-ending game w here no one really w ins. T aken aback by t he fact she knew my name. I jerked up. but t he moment I locked eyes w it h t he person st anding in t he doorw ay. shaking her head.” she said in a singsong voice t hat reminded me of a child. is t he DOD keeping you?” “Keeping me?” She giggled. you can come w it h me. T hey w ill t ake you.” she w hispered. faint smile t ugged at her lips.

dropping t he kid voice. W e can get Daw son back. pinned several feet off t he ground. “I’m not even sure t here is any hope for you. bouncing in air as if I w ere hooked t o a bungee cord. or you’ll end up like me. “Bet h. “Y es. I t ipped over t he t op st ep and fell backw ard dow n t he st eep st airs. w ho is coming!” T he blue light enveloped her complet ely. Holy crap…I’d never seen Blake do anyt hing like t hat . st ringy st rands of hair lift ed off her shoulders. GO! A pulse of energy nudged me out t he door and dow n t he hall. T he DOD?” She laughed. And I st ayed t here. Apparent ly bringing up Daw son’s name w as not t he right t hing t o do. So you should leave here.“But w e can. She w asn’t giving me much of a choice. Daw son! W e know he’s alive—” Bet hany t hrew up her hand. “Bet hany…” “List en t o me and list en closely. Long. “ Everyone is a liar. She float ed over t he ceiling. a high-pit ched giggle. looking dow n as her head nearly t ouched t he vault ed ceilings. Bet hany looked just like a Luxen. Go. I hit t he w all w it h enough force I sw ore I heard plast er crack.” she said. except her light w as blue and less int ense.” She w as now above me. Scrambling t o my feet . but she w ouldn’t let me budge. T hey are coming. sw at hed in a bluish light . I nodded. . I w hipped around. At t he t op of t he st airs. hit t ing t he floor in front of t he door w it h a loud grunt . “T here is no hope for me. t ake your chances w it h t he Arum.” I t ook a st ep forw ard. W it hin seconds. eyes going w ide.” “W hat are you t alking about ?” I t ried t o peel my head off t he w all. she w as eye level w it h me. prot ect you. Go before it’s too late. She moved so fast I didn’t see her unt ill she w as st anding below me. “T hey don’t even know w hat t hey plan. spreading out around her like a modern-day Medusa. lift ing me off my feet . “Bet hany. my hands and legs plant ed against t he w all. “W e can help you. hoping I’d found t he key t o make her list en t o me. w e can—” She slid dow n t he w all and lift ed bot h hands. “Y ou need t o go NOW !” I suddenly dropped from t he w all.” “Daw son?” she said. I spun around and t ried one more t ime. I st opped a foot above t he landing. Before I could scream. reaching out t o her. her voice picking up in my head.” Icy fear t rickled dow n my spine. and a burst of hurricane-st rengt h w inds slammed int o my chest . Her feet came off t he ground as t he out line of her body blurred.

W it h only a t ank t op underneat h. rushing up behind me. I had bad t ires.” “And I can.My feet sw ung dow n ont o t he landing. “Dammit .” I t ugged my hair back.” I shot him a bland look over my shoulder. As t he car neared me. focusing on t he ever-increasing lack of visibilit y due t o t he snow . Kit t en. “I’m not helpless. t oo. he w as at t he side of my car. I climbed out of t he car. T he moment I parked in my drivew ay. t oo. “So are you. coating the streets. T hat you w ere just out for a midnight drive. I had t o keep everyt hing else at bay unt ill I could get home and successfully freak out . glancing at t he dashboard. Snow was faling steadily. I needed to get home before I got st uck. Daemon. … My hands were cold and shaking by the time I turned the ignition in my sedan. “Y ou’re insane.” . t he back of my neck t ingled. no mat ch for more t han an inch of snow . Daemon t ailed me t he w hole w ay home. T hese w ere t he t hings I w as busy t hinking about .” Several moment s w ent by as he st ared at me. since t hat ’s w here you w ere going.” His full lips t w ist ed int o a grimace. “W here w ere you going?” He glared dow n at me. Go. Get far aw ay from here. T he SUV’s t ires squealed as it spun around. her voice urged. I guess t hat means you’re st upid. didn’t you?” He sounded incredulous as he follow ed me inside. repeat edly calling me.” My look mat ched his as I st omped up my st eps. Flakes of snow melt ed. Now I just needed t o get t here w it hout running off t he road and smacking int o a t ree. Halfw ay t o my house. and I w as suddenly st anding. “I w ent t o Vaughn’s.” “You seriously w ent t here. t iny bumps spread over my skin. “Please t ell me t hat ’s not w here you w ere. going in t he direct ion I’d just come from. It w as close t o midnight .” I t ugged off my w et hoodie and t ossed it aside.” I w hispered. “W here in t he hell w ere you coming back from?” he demanded. I w ent . “W ell. “I can t ake care of myself. t w o approaching headlight s sped up in t he ot her lane. “I have a feeling it w as t he same place you w ere coming back from. but I’m t elling myself t hat you can’t be t hat st upid. I ignored t he calls. And I really didn’t w ant t o break dow n out here. dampening t he locks of hair clinging t o his cheeks. t hrow ing open t he door.

He st ood st ill for a moment , and t hen a shudder rolled t hrough his body. Next second he w as in front of me, grasping my chilled cheeks. “I know you aren’t helpless, but t here are t hings I w ould do t hat you w on’t . T hings I know you could never live w it h, but I can. W hat w ould you have done if someone saw you? W hat w ould I have done if you w ere capt ured or…” Daemon didn’t finish, but I knew w hat he w as get t ing at . I could’ve been capt ured t onight or w orse, and he w asn’t w orried about how t he connect ion w ould have caused his ow n deat h. He w as w orried about me. I don’t know w hy I did w hat I did next . Maybe it w as everyt hing t hat had happened t onight . Or maybe it w as t he t one of his voice—t he fear behind his w ords. T oo many emot ions w ere building in me. I felt slippery inside, t ipping in one direct ion and t hen t he next . I clasped his cheeks. T hey w ere w arm, like alw ays—a t ouch of sunlight . His skin w as smoot h and hummed under my hands. I leaned in, and he didn’t move…or breat he. Like, at all. Know ing t hat I could do t hat t o him filled me w it h a heady rush of pow er. Closing my eyes, I brushed my lips over his. “Kit t en,” he grow led roughly. I kissed him soft ly, sliding my hands int o his silky locks, let t ing t he pieces slide t hrough my fingers. I t ast ed in him my ow n rising desire, my ow n need and heart ache. T hrilling. Fright ening. I pulled back. “Kit t en,” he said again, voice st rained. “Y ou don’t get t o do t hat and t hen st op. T hat ’s not how it w orks.” I st ared at him, my breat h st alling in my lungs. “Not w hen you’re mine.” Daemon backed us up and slid dow n t he w all, pulling me ont o his lap so I w as st raddling him. “And you’re mine.” I placed my hands on his shoulders as he brought my mout h t o his. T his kiss w as lazy, explorat ory…and sensual. For once, I w asn’t fight ing t he dept h of my response. I w elcomed it , t hrived in t he w armt h rippling t hrough me. I deepened t he kiss. He made a sound in t he back of his t hroat , and his arms w rapped around me, pinning me t o him. My fingers found t he st rands of hair curling at t he back of his neck and dug in. I couldn’t get enough of him—never could. I couldn’t remember feeling t his w ay about anyone else. I couldn’t remember being kissed like t his by anyone else. I’m not sure how long w e kissed, but it seemed like forever, and at t he same t ime, it w asn’t long enough. “W ait . W ait ,” I breat hed, pulling back slight ly. I closed my eyes, dragging in a deep breat h. “Import ant st uff.” His hands dropped on my hips, pulling me dow n and against him. “T his is import ant .” “I know .” I gasped as his hands slid under t he hem of my t ank t op, t easing t he edges of my rib cage. “But t his is really import ant . I found somet hing in Vaughn’s house.”

Daemon st illed, opening his eyes. T hey w ere luminous. Beaut iful. Mine. “Y ou w ent inside Vaughn’s house?” I nodded. “Y eah, I w ent int o his house.” “Are you a career criminal?” he asked quiet ly. W hen I shook my head, his lips t urned dow n at t he corners. “I’m curious how you got int o his house, Kit t en.” Bit ing my lip, I prepared myself. “I unlocked t he door.” “W it h w hat …?” “T he same w ay you w ould.” A muscle popped in his jaw . “Y ou shouldn’t be doing t hings like t hat .” Grow ing uncomfort able, I w iggled around. His hold t ight ened. If w e st art ed arguing about w hat I w as and w asn’t supposed t o be doing, w e’d never get t hrough t his. “I found st uff. And I also met someone.” I t ried t o get up, but his arms clamped around me. “Are you going t o let me go?” He gave me a t ight smile. “Nope.” I sighed, folding my hands primly in t he small space bet w een us. “T hey’ve been w at ching us, Daemon. From t he moment I moved here.” T he w ay his eyes flared, I could t ell all of t his w as going t o go over real w ell. I t old him about t he pict ures, t he receipt s, and t he money t ransfers. “But t hat ’s not all. Bet hany show ed up.” “W hat ?” Suddenly w e bot h w ere st anding. He backed off, needing space. “Did she t alk t o you about Daw son?” “Ah, see, she’s not …w ell, she didn’t respond w ell t o his name.” He gave me a cool, measured look. “Explain.” “She kind of w ent alien ninja on my but t .” Feeling t oo w arm, I grabbed a hair t ie and t w ist ed my hair up. “She t hrew me against t he w all.” His eyebrow s shot up in int erest . I rolled my eyes. “Not in t hat w ay, you perv. She’s like a suped-up freakin’ mut ant . She even did t he w hole glow w orm t hing, t oo.” Daemon rubbed his chin. “Did she t ell you anyt hing useful?” I t old him w hat she’d said, elaborat ing on t he fact t hat most of it didn’t make sense. “I t hink she’s cracked. And she flipped out w hen I ment ioned Daw son. She didn’t give me much of a choice t o push t he quest ioning. She removed me from t he house.” “Dammit ,” he said under his breat h, t urning aw ay. “Besides get t ing ahold of one of t he DOD officers, she w as my last hope t o find out w here Daw son could be.”

“I did find somet hing else.” I dug int o my pocket , pulling out t he scrap of paper. “I found t his.” Daemon t ook it , his eyes w idening. “Do you t hink DB st ands for Daw son Black?” “It could.” He clenched t he paper t ight . “Can I use your lapt op? I w ant t o see w here t his address goes.” “Sure.” I moved over t o t he coffee t able, opening up t he comput er and quickly shut t ing dow n t he w ebsit e I’d been looking at . I didn’t w ant t o t ell him about Blake’s pot ent iall involvement in all of t his. Not w hen Daemon w as looking incredibly scary and I had no idea how deep Blake w as involved. Daemon sat beside me and quickly t yped t he address in Google Maps. Modern t echnology w as fright ening. Not only did it give us direct ions right t o t he doorst ep, but he w as able t o pull it up on t he sat ell it e and see t hat it w as an office building in Moorefield. I chew ed on my fingernail as he scribbled dow n t he direct ions. “Are you going?” “I w ant t o, right now , but I need t o scope out t he place first . Tomorrow I’ll check it out , t hen go back lat er.” He shoved t he piece of not ebook paper in his pocket and faced me. Hope sparked in his eyes. “T hank you, Kat .” “I kind of ow ed you somet hing, right ?” I rubbed my arms, shivering. “Y ou’ve saved my but t a lot .” “And w hat a lovely but t it is, but you risked t oo much by doing t his.” He reached behind me, t ugging t he quilt off, draping it over my shoulders. He held t he edges t oget her, searching my face int ent ly. “W hy did you do t his?” I low ered my eyes. “I just w as t hinking about everyt hing, and I w ant ed t o see w hat w as in t here.” “It w as crazy dangerous, Kit t en. Y ou can’t do anyt hing like t hat again. Promise me.” “Okay.” He caught t he edge of my chin, t ilt ing my face up t o him. “Promise me.” My shoulders slumped. “I w on’t . Okay. I promise. But you’ve got t o promise me t he same t hing. I know you can’t drop t his. I underst and t hat , but you have t o be careful, and you can’t sneak off w it hout me, eit her.” Daemon scow led. “T his shouldn’t involve you.” “But it does,” I insist ed. “And I’m not a fragile human, Daemon. W e’re in t his t oget her.”

“T oget her?” He mulled over t he w ord, t hen a slow smile played on his lips. “Okay.” I gave him a t ent at ive smile. “So, t hat means I go w hen you check out t he address.” He nodded w it h a resigned smile. We t alked about t he phot os, and how much t he DOD had t o know . He w as t aking t he violat ion of privacy a lot bet t er t han I had, but I discovered he w as accust omed t o t hem being all up in his business. “W hat do you t hink Bet hany meant by ’ T hey are coming’?” I asked. He w as spraw led against t he back of t he couch, t he pict ure of ease and lazy arrogance, but I knew he w as coiled t ight . “I don’t know .” “I guess it might not mean anyt hing. I mean, she w as kind of w hacked out .” Daemon nodded, st aring st raight ahead. Many seconds passed before he spoke again. “I can’t help but w onder w hat my brot her is like right now . Is he like t hat ? W hacked out ? I don’t t hink I could…deal w it h t hat .” My chest ached from t he desperat ion in his voice. Tomorrow could bring anyt hing, and t hings w ere really up in t he air bet w een us, but he…he needed me. I inched t ow ard him. My confidence w avered w it h t he near-feral look he shot my w ay. Pushing forw ard, I craw led up against him, w iggling dow n so t hat my head w as against his shoulder. He inhaled sharply, and I squeezed my eyes shut . “Even if he is…w hacked out , you can deal w it h it . You can deal w it h anyt hing. I don’t doubt t hat at all.” “Y ou don’t ?” “No.” Very slow ly, he draped his arm around my shoulders. I felt his chin rest on t op of my head. “W hat are w e going t o do, Kit t en?” My t oes curled at t he deep oct ave of his voice. “I don’t know .” “I have a few ideas.” I cracked a grin. “I’m sure you do.” “W anna hear about t hem? Alt hough, I’m much bet t er at t he show part rat her t han t he t ell.” “Somehow , I believe you.” “If you didn’t , I could alw ays give you a t easer.” He paused, and I could hear t he smile in his voice. “Y ou bookish people love t easers, don’t you?” I laughed. “Y ou’ve been doing your research on my blog.” “Maybe,” he replied. “Like I said, I’ve got t o keep an eye on you, Kit t en.”

Chapter 30
Daemon and I checked out t he office building in Moorefield t he follow ing morning. We’d t hought it w ould be empt y, considering it w as sort of a holiday, but t he w hole plaza of offices w as packed w it h cars. Pulling t he cap over his face, he jumped from t he car and checked out t he office on t he st reet . W hen he ret urned, he grinned at me and quickly pulled out of t he plaza. “It appears t o be a law yer’s office. Has at least t w o floors above t he main one. T hey’re closed for New Year’s and obviously on Sunday. Bad new s is t hey are out fit t ed w it h an alarm syst em.” “Crap. Know a w ay around t hat ?’ “Fry t heir syst ems. If I do it quickly enough, I shouldn’t t rigger an alarm. But t hat ’s not all. Above t he ent rances and w indow s is t hat same damn blackish-red gemst one.” His lips t ipped up higher. “T his is good, t hough. W hat ever t hose st ones are, t hey have t o mean somet hing.” It did. Daw son could be in t here right now . “W hat if it ’s guarded?” He didn’t answ er. I knew w hat t hat meant . He’d do anyt hing t o get his brot her. Some people might t hink t hat ’s w rong, but I underst ood. If t hat w ere my mom or somet hing, no one w ould be safe. “W hen are you going back?” Again, he w as silent . And I knew t hat meant he didn’t w ant t o t ell me because he w as planning t o do t his on his ow n. I pushed t he issue t he ent ire w ay home, but he didn’t cave. “So are you going t o Ash’s part y?” he asked, changing t he subject event ually. “I don’t know .” I fiddled w it h t he but t on on my sw eat er. “I can’t imagine her w ant ing me t here, but back t o—” “I w ant you t here.” I glanced at him, my chest sw elling t o t he point of burst ing. W ay t o knock me off t rack in such a deliciously t ender w ay. Daemon’s eyes slid t ow ard me. “Kit t en?” “Okay. I’ll go.” At least I’d be able t o keep an eye on him t here, because I knew he w ouldn’t w ait past t onight t o check out t he offices. Or at least t hat ’s w hat I w as t elling myself. T he fact he w ant ed me t here didn’t out w eigh t he import ance of my keeping an eye on him. T he part y w asn’t st art ing unt ill nine, and he w as heading over early t o help Adam w it h a few t hings. I w as supposed t o drive over w it h Dee, and w it h a sly w ink, he said he w as t aking me home.

looking cont rit e. My eyes dart ed t o t he door behind him. hands raised in a harmless gest ure. I passed out about t w ent y-five pages int o t he urban fant asy novel. I just w ant ed t o t alk t hings out w it h you. st iff form of Blake. I headed upst airs t o unw ind. Surprisingly. I knocked his hand aw ay and t w ist ed. “Okay.” W as he t elling t he t rut h? My hands opened and closed at my sides. how deeply involved he must be w it h t he DOD…and how dangerous he could be. “Obviously coming int o your house like t his w asn’t a good idea. I’ve had t his w hole w eek t o t hink about w hat happened w it h t he Arum.” He crept closer. I chat t ed w it h Mom before she left for w ork.” “Y ou already have. I felt like a caged animal w it h no w ay out . I didn’t mean t o scare you. “T hat ’s w hy I’m here. Somehow . he sensed it and blanched. Um.” I forced myself t o calm dow n. Fear dug in w it h razor-sharp barbs. and all I could t hink about w as w ho his uncle w as. “How …how did you get in here?” He w inced as he ran a hand t hrough his spiky hair. “T hat ’s w hy I came here as soon as I got back int o t ow n. “W hoa! W hoa. scrambling across t he bed. Grabbing a book off t he count er. and I felt t he rush of st at ic moving up my arms in response t o t he perceived t hreat . Rearing up. I underst and w hy you’re upset .” I said. I rolled ont o my side. I left t he part out about Daemon t aking me home. t errifying. but in a burst of alarming speed. “Okay. t hen across my dresser.W hen I got back. but you didn’t answ er.” T he same w ay I’d let myself int o Vaughn’s house. W hat is your deal? I’m not going t o hurt you. sw allow ing. Kat y. heart pounding.” Blake smiled. Blake? I jerked up. “I just w ant ed t o t alk t o you. frow ning as my eyes drift ed from my door. I…sort of let myself in. can you give me a few seconds?” . Some t ime lat er. and I’m sorry. “I knocked for a couple of minut es. He looked w ounded as he low ered his hands.” Blake dart ed around t he bed. She appeared happy t o hear t hat I w as spending New Year’s Eve w it h Dee. he shot forw ard and clamped his hand over my arm. calm dow n. I’m sorry. “Kat y.” He paused. past t he closet door. and over t he silent . Of course. “I didn’t mean t o scare you.” My pulse w as all over t he place as I backed up against my desk. t he sound of my bedroom door closing w oke me up. Seeing him in my bedroom w as unexpect ed.

“Sorry. and I t ugged on it . and t hat meant I had t he upper hand. and I not iced t hen a pall or clung t o his skin. I don’t like w hen people…just show up in my bedroom like t hat . And if he really w as w orking w it h t he DOD.” “Underst andable. Daemon’s SUV w as gone and so w as Dee’s car. and I suddenly w ished I’d cleared t he search hist ory. I didn’t know how t o t alk t o him. and being out in public had t o be a bet t er choice. I t ook deep.” My eyes w ent t o my lapt op. Part of me w ant ed t o rage at him and t he ot her w ant ed t o run. “I w as t hinking t he Smoke Hole Diner. “Do anyt hing excit ing?” Like go on a covert mission for t he DOD? “I spent some t ime w it h my uncle.” I hesit at ed. you?” My seat belt w as st uck. I couldn’t t rust . She’d ment ioned somet hing about get t ing part y favors. snapping back int o t he holder. I moved int o t he room. He w asn’t nearly as dangerous believing I didn’t have a clue about anyt hing t han if he did know . I gave him a smile I didn’t feel. Kat y?” .Blake nodded as he backed out of t he room.” I froze at t he ment ion of Vaughn. “W e need t o t alk. I glanced next door as I climbed in. so w e opt ed for his t ruck. “Y eah.” he said aw kw ardly. feeling like I w as st epping int o quicksand. no mat t er how harmless he looked right t his second. It w as st ill snow ing. but I also didn’t w ant t o be in t he house alone w it h him. even breat hs. Someone t hat . “Are you okay. You just caught me off guard. It w as near seven. sit t ing on t he couch. “I w on’t do it again. “Maybe it w ould be bet t er if w e w ent t o get somet hing t o eat ?” My dist rust spiked. I needed t o calm t he hell dow n. “I have t o be back here in an hour. He didn’t know t hat I’d discovered his relat ionship w it h Vaughn. height ening t he shadow s under his eyes. He w as a st ranger t o me now .” He grinned. I quickly changed int o a pair of skinny jeans and a t urt leneck. dizzy w it h adrenaline. I slid on my boot s and snat ched my phone. I glanced at t he clock on t he w all. not w ant ing t o go anyw here w it h him. He laughed grimly. Really boring. and I slumped against my desk. t o even look at him. T he w hole w ay dow nst airs. as usual. sliding t he key int o t he ignit ion. Blake w ait ed in t he living room.” He rose slow ly. “Did you have a good Christ mas?” he asked. and t he st rap slipped aw ay from my fingers.” “Doable.

T he bloodied w at ch belonged t o Simon—Simon w ho’d been missing. pinning t hem t o my sides in a brut all bear hug. I dart ed around t he front of t he t ruck. w eak smile craw led across his lips. breaking his hold. Finally I got it unst uck and t w ist ed around. “Shit . “Kat y! W ait ! I can explain. grabbing t he cool met all off t he floor w hile he fiddled w it h t he w ipers. most likely. It w as blood. I t hrew my w eight forw ard. I st ared dow n at t he st rip of goldish blue met al. sw inging at him. peeking out from t he corner of t he mat . t aking a deep breat h. I t hrew it open and got half of my body out of t he t ruck before his hand clamped dow n on my arm. brushing a t hin coat ing of snow from t he w indshield. cat ching my arms. Comprehension crept in slow ly. but t hey are alw ays giving me crap.” I w hispered. raw fear dug at me. My heart leaped int o my t hroat . on me before I even reached t he first st ep of t he porch. Somet hing gleamed under t he ext erior light . My gaze drift ed over t he dashboard and dipped t o t he floor. Turning it over. kind of like rust . covered half of t he st at e and t he let t ering.“Yeah. I smoot hed my finger over it . I w ent . Add t hat ont o everyt hing else. Blake w as fast . My breat h halt ed in my chest as I glanced at him. Kat y…” I spun around in my seat . A flakey reddish subst ance. meet ing my eyes again. reaching for t he door handle w it h my free hand. revealing t he name engraved on t he band. cursing under my breat h. Our gazes locked. and I w as so out of t here. hoping Blake hadn’t seen me pick it up. I let go of t he st rap and bent . “T his damn seat belt is st uck.” T here w as not hing t o explain. A small. Pure. I’d seen it before on someone. I saw t he engraved shape of t he st at e. “Dammit . Blake w as st aring back at me. He dodged t he blow s. I don’t know w hy I have so many problems w it h seat belt s. mainly out of disbelief. He grabbed my shoulders and w hirled me around.” I said. and I squeezed my hand over t he band. Simon’s blood. His gaze dropped t o my hand and t hen flicked up. because I knew w ho half t his w at ch belonged t o.” I t ugged on it . Simon…Simon Cutters… I’d seen him w ear t his before. My st omach t ilt ed and a violent shudder rolled t hrough me. . Scrambling t o my feet . And…and t he st uff on t he band w asn’t rust . st ruck by t he familiarit y of it .

My boot s slipped over t he ice and snow . but he held on. Kat y.“Let me go!” I screamed. but not hing came out except soft moans. “I know you can hear me. blood leaked out of my nose and. W e all have t o t ake a hit . and I w himpered. “I didn’t kill Simon!” I st ruggled. shaking t he pict ures on t he w alls. I screamed out . I t ried t o knock his hand aw ay. It slammed shut . My legs w ouldn’t w ork. just t o know how bad it feels. “I don’t w ant t o hurt you. “So w ill I. cat ching me before I fell. t hrow ing my w eight from one side t o t he next . His face blurred in and out . Blake!” “I can explain.” He grunt ed as I managed t o jab an elbow int o his st omach. He posit ioned it beside t he ot her. t earing t hrough me. I couldn’t feel my feet . I only had myself t o get out of t his mess. splint ering my grasp on t he Source. and t hen st eadied. Just give it a couple more minut es. “Let me go.” St at ic rushed over my skin in response t o t he t hreat .” “Let me go. Pain reverberat ed off my skull. Red-w hit e light clouded t he corners of my vision. I kept t rying t o t alk. doesn’t it ? One of t he first t hings t hey t each us is t o cont roll a concent rat ed blast of Source so it ’s like get t ing hit w it h a super-charged T aser. A flash of int ense blue light blinded me. but only garbled w ords came out .” he w arned. feeling t he explosion of heat ed light ning zinging t hrough my veins. Blake’s eyes w idened slight ly. Y ou didn’t list en t o me. pushing me back. and he dragged me in. T hen he charged me. but my arm w ouldn’t cooperat e.” I grow led. as if reading my mind. feeling my legs go out from underneat h me.” And I w ould—I could. Of course he’d lie. and my head lolled t o t he side as I blinked slow ly. and it w ill w ear off. “Let go!” “Y ou don’t underst and.” Somet hing w as w rong w it h my mot or funct ion skills. I t hink. I opened my mout h. brushing t he st rands of hair off my face. “Hurt s.” he said.” He sat back. He sw ooped in. Blake let go. “Don’t do it . and my arms flailed w ildly. W hat did he do t o me? “It ’ll w ear off. know ing t here w as no one w ho w ould hear me. but I w ill. half dragging me up t he st airs. He looked grim as he leaned over me.” He dropped me on t he couch. My heart pounded. T he door sw ung open in front of us. t oo. my ears. . one hand moving up my leg t hat w as off t he couch. A met all ic t ast e w as in t he back of my mout h. “I t old you not t o do it .

“T hey have Chris.” I squeezed my eyes shut against t he rush of t ears. Y ou didn’t leave me a choice. A few more moment s… “Y ou’ve lied t o me. “Y es! He w ould’ve t old t he w orld. I don’t know w hat t hey did w it h him. t he lies.” “No. voice grave. “I had t o clean up aft er you. He drew in a ragged breat h. He t ossed t he remains t o t he floor. “Aft er I left t he part y. And I’d been planning on t raining and fight ing Arum—plus t he DOD? I w as so foolish. he slipped his hand int o my front pocket and slid out my cell phone. bruising my skin unt ill a st rangled cry escaped. nodding.” “List en t o me!” he yelled. I don’t know w hat happened t o him. “You know . “Y our friend—t he one w ho healed you?” Blake closed his eyes. and w hat people w ill do for pow er. T his is bigger t han you t hink. oblit erat ing t he fragile piece of elect ronics. “Now . but you—you left me no ot her choice. And t hen I t urn you in. T hat quickly. t hey’ll kill Chris. horrified at w hat he w as saying. Kat y. Holding it up bet w een us. and he w as so drunk he pulled over on t he side of t he road.” “Y ou’re…you’re insane.” “Simon fought back. list en t o me. I w as supposed t o get you ready. Y ou…didn’t need t o kill him. If I don’t .” he said. I can’t —I w on’t let t hat happen.” I croaked out . If you hadn’t bust ed t hose w indow s in front of him. but I felt like I couldn’t breat he. make sure you didn’t expose yourself before t hey knew w hat t o do w it h you. T ears built in my eyes as I st ared up at him. t his w asn’t how it w as supposed t o go dow n. I didn’t have a choice. I st ayed and I saw him leave once you broke t he w indow s. “List en t o me. “I didn’t kill Simon.” “Not everyt hing is a lie!” His grip dug in painfully. eyes bugging.” He grasped my cheeks. Kat y.Shaking his head.” But t hose w ho discovered t he t rut h about t he Luxen disappeared. And t here w asn’t enough air in t he house. And I can’t let t hat . I follow ed him home. he had subdued me. he’d st ill be hanging around here and dreaming about college. He w as going crazy about it and I had t o t urn him over. t hey’ll hurt him. but he w as alive w hen I last saw him.” “T here…t here w as blood on his w at ch. “You have no idea w ho t his involves. t he Source flared in his hand. t o make sure you are a viable subject . forcing me t o look at him.” Chris? Brain cells must ’ve been damaged because it t ook a few seconds t o remember w ho Chris w as. T hey’ll kill him. dragging his fingers t hrough his hair. Simon…Simon w asn’t coming back. My chest w as rising and falling. And if I don’t perform.” I could feel my st rengt h sliding back int o me.

t hen he w as t rapped. And I’d do anyt hing for Daemon. T hat ’s t heir ult imat e plan. T hings are bigger t han you realize. T he DOD does w ant humans like us.” He eased up a lit t le. Rolling me over. dizzy and faint . Chris… He’s t he only real family I have left . because I know —I know if t hey kill him I die.happen.” “I already know t hat . using him t o force Blake t o do t hings for t hem. He’d do anyt hing for Chris. W it h a burst of energy. I w ill hurt you. he st ared at me. but you’d do anyt hing t o prot ect t hat Luxen. for t heir sake. t he compassion—I’d be useless. w ouldn’t you? Anyt hing.” I spat . He capt ured my hands and yanked me off t he couch. exact ly? Lie t o me? W ork for t he DOD—for your uncle?” Blake blinked. “I know you underst and how st rong t hat bond is.” For several seconds.” I clung t o t he anger boiling inside me. W ere Daw son and Bet hany in t he same posit ion? But t here w as somet hing else. Kat y. I buckled under him. lift ing my joined w rist s so t hey w ere above my head. t hey knew . T here w as a moment of st ark clarit y. “I didn’t w ant t o do t his. And I don’t care about w hat t hey do t o me. but I st ill felt like I w as being smot hered by his w eight . Blake and I did have somet hing in common. “T ell me!” “I saw t he obit uary for your parent s! I put t w o and t w o t oget her. Oh my God. knocking t he air out of me. Not everyt hing I t old you is a lie.” “W hen?” He shook me. His grip on my w rist s t ight ened unt ill I could feel t he bones rubbing t oget her. “You w on’t t ell me w ho healed you. “Do w hat . I hit t he floor on my side. “I know w hat you’re doing. he st raddled my hips. snapping my head back. T he kind of pow er t hat know ledge w ielded w as horrific. “I hope so. t rying t o t hrow him off. Next t ime you w on’t recover so quickly. “Y ou know about Brian? Since w hen?” I didn’t give him t he benefit of my answ er. and t hen his grip loosened. I’m st ronger t han you. He pressed his w eight dow n. “How long have you know n? W ho have you t old?” “No one!” I screamed. .” Blake opened his eyes. Not because of w hat it means for me. a t hin t endril of sympat hy w iggled free. If t he DOD w as holding Chris. Don’t call upon t he Source. but t here are t hings t hey do…” T hey knew … One couldn’t survive w it hout t he ot her. but him?” As I st ared int o Blake’s eyes. know ing if I caved t o t he fear—or w orse yet . “I haven’t t old anyone. I never w ant ed anyt hing t o do w it h t his.

you know w ho my uncle is. t hey get put dow n. but I grew up know ing about t he Luxen. “T hey knew how close Chris and I w ere. I’m not even sure if t he w hole accident t hat changed me w asn’t st aged. No guesses. but t hey already checked you out before I arrived. you w ill. T hey have w ays of making you t alk. My guess is Daemon. t hey sent me t o areas w here t hey suspect ed a human around my age had been mut at ed. All I had w as my uncle. and I w as brought in. “I came here t o see if you could cont roll t he Source. None of t hat is a lie. w ell. It ’s so obvious.” “My family w as gone.” He laughed grimly. t hey glist ened w it h t ears. voice dropping. Kat y. hoping one of t he Blacks w ould st ep in and save you. My dad w orked as liaison t o t he DOD. I really do. And.” T he smile faded from his lips. so maybe t hey expect ed him t o heal me.” I gasped. And t he Arum did find my family. his escalat ing recklessness. “So t his is w hat you do? Go around.” “Salvageable?” I w hispered. but t hey w ant proof. eyes grow ing dark and haunt ed. “Just like t hey found a w ay t o make me play. “And if t hey’re not . You’re going t o have t o t ell t hem. heal you. T hey t rained me and since I’m young. Kat y… T here are w orse t hings t han deat h. I heard t hey even engineered t he Arum at t acks on you. I w ant ed him t o be gone. pret ending t o be someone’s friend? Set t ing up ot hers?” “My job is t o discover if t hey are salvageable.” He nodded. If you w ould be an asset t o t he DOD or a w ast e. and I w ant ed him off me. And if you don’t play t heir games.” “Oh my God…” I felt sick. “W hat ’s one more dead Luxen t o t hese people? But w hen t hey suspect ed t hat you’d been healed. T hey already have t heir suspicions. his obsession w it h me being able t o cont roll t he Source.” My heart t umbled over. and w hen he opened t hem. “Everyt hing I t old you about my friend w as t rue. on genet ic engineering. w at ching you.” He low ered his head.“I like you. t hey’ll find w ays t o make you play.” A sad smile appeared on his lips. “Oh. It made sense.” He closed his eyes briefly. “T hey also w ant t o know w hich one healed you. Kat y.” “But aft er t hat ? Everyt hing else is a lie. And I w ish t hings w ere different . “I’ll never t ell.” I shuddered.” I sw allow ed. unnerved by t he pain in his eyes. “Like w it h Bet hany and Daw son?” . follow ing how close you are w it h t he Blacks. No assumpt ions. “Or w orse. t hey made t he necessary calls. You have no idea how badly I w ish t hings w ere different . know ing w hat he meant . Everyt hing t hat happened t o me had been some sort of experiment ? W hat if I’d died? “W hat if no one had survived t he Arum at t ack t o heal me?” Blake laughed.

” “No. vast . And one day. “W ho is w e.” “Blake—” A knock on t he front door cut off my w ords. T hey t ake care of you…as long as you behave. t hey w ill hurt Chris and I can’t …” He sw allow ed t hickly. Kat y. Please. my brain empt ied and panic replaced any calm I’d gained. and Blake froze above me. “No. My fear knew no limit s at t hat point . “Kat y?” Dee called out . “I’d never do t his t o someone. you’ll be in t he same posit ion as I am. My heart t ripled in beat . She has no idea how w ell you’re doing. and I knew t he answ er t o t hat .” I insist ed. and Uncle Brian and Nancy w ill come. “Y ou can go against t hem. No. every one of us could t ry t o go against t he DOD and w e’d fail. . jaw clenching. You…you have no idea…but it doesn’t mat t er. “Uncle Brian has kept her out of t he loop. Hurry up! Adam is w ait ing for us in t he car.” He grunt ed out an ugly laugh. Kat y? Daemon? Dee? You and me? Hell. but he held me dow n easily. “I’m sorry.” He looked aw ay. It w as his life and his friend’s or mine. No. And t hey’re going t o t ake you aw ay. Blake really had no choice. You’ll probably be seeing him soon enough. and he nodded.” For a moment . because I w ould never give up someone else for my survival.” he w hispered hoarsely. I’d find a w ay out . Y ou do have a choice.” “W hat is she doing here?” he asked in a hushed voice. He did have a choice. I believed t hat he w as. Blake. t hat w asn’t right . “Y ou st ill have a choice. He pressed his hand over my mout h. Shades of gray…one big. But w ould I for Daemon? My heart t urned over heavily. you don’t have t o do t his. I st ruggled w ildly under him. T hey w ere empt y. Y ou just have t o behave. Escape! W e can find a w ay t o free—” “We?” He laughed again. “But I do.” His eyes met mine. breat hing heavy. and God. giant gray area I couldn’t t hink about right now . All I need t o do is make one call. “Y ou’ll see. And t he Blacks are going t o w ant t o help me? Know ing t hat I w ork for t he people w ho t ook t heir brot her?” My st omach t w ist ed.Blake’s lashes low ered. “T here are more.” I shook my head. Y ou don’t have t o do t his. Y ou’ll underst and t hen. “But if I don’t do t his. Nancy w ill be ecst at ic. eyes narrow ed. “It ’s t ime t o par-t ay.

He pushed me out of t he living room and t ow ard t he door. His t ruck’s out front . w at ching t hem climb int o Adam’s SUV. Tell Blake you’ve got t o go. He pulled me back int o t he living room. and I knew she’d come t hrough t hat door. you’re coming t onight .” I repeat ed t hrough t he door. Blake lift ed his fingers and hauled me t o my feet . pulling his cell out of his pocket . but I w ill. “Kat y. yeah.” “Tell her you’ve changed your mind. I’ll blow her int o t he Milky Way. I t ook a deep breat h and I choked on a dry.I t rembled. W hen he heard t he sound of t ires peeling. st aring up at him w it h w ide eyes. I don’t have t ime for t his. forcing me t o sit on t he couch. I know he’s in t here. “W hat ’s going on? T his…t his doesn’t sound like you. Dee. Tears rolled dow n my cheeks. Kat y. Please. “No.” “Damn. So please leave me alone. “I don’t w ant t o go w it h you! I don’t w ant t o even hang out w it h you. I just w ant t o st ay home. “She’ll get over it . It ’s w hy I haven’t been hanging out w it h you. Blake!” I squeezed my eyes against t he t ears. “I’ve changed my mind. “She w on’t . I saw my only chance. “Come on.” His hand pressed harder against my mout h.” w hispered Blake.” I w hispered. w at ching him t ype aw ay on his phone. “You’re not even answ ering your phone. “Don’t be a douche. hi.” I pressed my forehead against t he door. hoarse sob. Okay? I don’t w ant t o be friends w it h you anymore. “It is me. he marched over and gripped my arm. T here w as a heavy pause. and t hen Dee banged on t he door harder. t here w asn’t a single part of me t hat doubt ed my next act ions. “So.” I nodded and very slow ly.” “W hat?” “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t w ant to drag you into this. not even for a second.” Dee w hined. Answ er t he door. Please just go. Rage . As I t apped int o t he Source.” he said. voice rough.” Since Blake w as dist ract ed by his phone.” T he only sound w as her heels rapping off t he porch.” She giggled t hen. “I don’t w ant t o go out t onight . How w as I supposed t o answ er w it h his hand over my mout h? Dee banged on t he front door again. “Kat y…?” Dee said. I don’t w ant t o do it . Blake moved t o t he w indow .” Please. “Tell her or I sw ear t o God. Go and leave me t he hell alone. I begged silently. I know you’re in t here. Go bot her someone else. So open t his goddamn door!” Blake glared at me.

and Dee t ook shape. T here w as no right . w elcoming t he rising t ide of fury building in me. Against my w ill. It ’s almost over.” I promised. T he cupboards rat t led.” St rands of hair w hipped around me. “Not yet . I couldn’t break it . I zeroed in on Blake. breaking apart and heading st raight for Blake. feeling t he energy pulse around me. It doesn’t mat t er.” He brought his hand back t ow ard him. “Y ou haven’t been fully t rained. “Y ou don’t have it in you.” His phone dinged. Bot h t ook on t heir human forms for a brief second. don’t get me w rong. much like Bet hany had. Dee shot forw ard. no w rong. low ering t he phone. my body w ent right t o him.” He paused. but you can’t fight me. Pict ures from t he hall w ay shook and fell t o t he floor. cocking his head t o t he side. T he w ind I w as st irring kicked back on me. . Everyt hing w as t w ist ed now . “T here’s a lot of pot ent ial. “T ire yourself out . t oo. and it w as like an invisible st ring had been at t ached t o me. T he pulse hit t hem and t hey froze. giving it st rengt h. I fought t he force holding me back. A fierce w ind how led t hroughout t he house.” “Screw you. Tw o st reaks of light shot dow n t he st airs. kicking and t hrashing at not hing but air. smiling w ryly. “I w ould’ve been game for t hat . I lift ed my head as Blake spun around. and books t oppled over. shat t ering. doors sw ung open. An int ense blue light surrounded him as he reared back and released a pulse of light . “Give it your best shot . My vision clouded once again.” Blake advanced on me. eyes filled w it h aw e. St unned. I’ll just t hrow it back on you. and I felt each one of my cells w arming. “Y ou’re…you’re glow ing. I felt t he t ips of my feet leave t he floor. feeling myself low er t o t he floor. Anger fueled t he alien part of me. t he sound explosive and jarring.” I screamed.” T he ot her light crashed int o Blake. and he flipped it open. my fingers ached w it h energy t hat crackled all t hrough me. “Y ou really are sort of amazing. He snapped t he phone shut and t hrew out his hand.” I spat . sending him several feet back. T he light flickered out . at least . and he.” “I’m going t o kill you. sending me int o t he w all. I t urned. brow s raised. her mout h hanging open as she st ared at me. smiling. and I w as suspended t here. flickering out as she grabbed for Adam.” A w indow shat t ered upst airs. One smaller and less pow erful form drew up short . Blake w hirled on me. but like w it h Bet h.clouded my sense of moral code. He backed up. st art ed t o glow . Blake roared as he pushed t he light off him. “Uncle Brian’s on his w ay.

I screamed again. Barely. no st ronger t han a w eak and faded light bulb.” he said hoarsely. rendering me speechless. managing t o rise up on my elbow s. His human body shuddered. “Dammit . God. Her light cont inued t o flicker soft ly. A river of light came from his mout h. t . He t ook a st ep forw ard. but it flickered errat ically. Pushing on t he back of my head.” Chapter 31 T he last t ime I’d cried t his hard w as w hen t he hospice w orker forced me aw ay from my dad’s bed during his final moment s. Blake reared off me. screaming her name. I st aggered forw ard. pressing his knee int o t he cent er of my back. bending over me. Adam w ent dow n. sounding relieved. Adam…Adam w as much w orse. hit t ing Adam w it h anot her blast . he forced my face int o t he w ooden floor. raising his hand. His face w asn’t shapeless.An iridescent st ream of light leaked from Dee’s nose and spilled from her mout h.” Blood and t ears mixed on my face. Liquid radiance dripped ont o t he floor. Sobs clogged my t hroat . I didn’t w ant t o hurt anyone. I could see t he shape of his hands and legs. “No!” I screamed. lift ing his head. she crumpled. Adam’s light had dulled. “Dammit !” I couldn’t breat he. “She’s st ill alive. Blake grabbed me from behind. eyes closed.” he said. His head pressed int o my shoulder and his body shuddered. t hrust ing me dow n ont o t he floor. but it didn’t even sound like me. and his ears. It w as like a pale. I’m pret t y sure t hey’re bot h dead. at least I know it w asn’t eit her of t hem w ho healed you. “I didn’t … I didn’t w ant t hat t o happen. “Oh God. “She’s not dead.” Blake said. his eyes. He croaked out a broken laugh.” He t rembled. T hey w eren’t pret t y as he st ruggled t o t ake his last breat h. I st ruggled under Blake. Blinking in and out . and neit her w as t he rest of his body. He w as sw at hed in light . Dee w as alive. She w as t he first t o collapse. “Well. but Adam… Oh.

Vaughn w as t he first t o ent er. Blake st ood fluidly. “Arum…” His fingers dug in. It w as all I could do. “W e w ant t he one w ho is st ill alive. A net w ork of silvery veins exist ed under t he semi-t ransparent shell. Me. T here are alw ays choices. I’d t rust ed Blake w hen Daemon pract ically begged me not t o. “T ake t he dead one. sounding confused w hen he spoke again. and dug t he rock out . T his w as my fault . He placed his hand on my shoulder.” He w iped a hand along my cheek. “Don’t …come. Not know ing w hat else t o do. easy pickings. and t hen his phone beeped. w hat happened here?” I felt Blake st iffen.ranslucent shell of a human. scrambling aw ay from him. “Just sit st ill. w at ching as I craw led t o Dee’s side. Blake. you’re not really good at making t hem.” He t urned t o t he Arum.” “T he dead one?” Residon scuffed. “You’re going t o make yourself sick. t urning me over. Heavy feet filled t he hall w ay. feeling t he hair on t he back of my neck raise. I t urned. know ing w hat w ait ed beyond t he door.” . It reminded me of a jell yfish. I shuddered. lift ing me off t he floor.” Oh. But w hat I w asn’t expect ing w as t he flare of heat t hat radiat ed off my obsidian. How ever. “Shh. but I didn’t know how . st alking t ow ard me. “Blake. I w ant ed t o help her. “You’ve got t o calm dow n. hands t rembling. I lift ed my head. and t he obsidian scalded my skin. My front door opened. His eyebrow s rose as his gaze landed beside me. a car door shut out side. and I choked on my breat h.” Vaughn rubbed a long finger over his brow . One w as Residon and t he ot her male looked a lot like him.” Blake cleared his t hroat . Adam w as dead. She w as vulnerable. Quiet sobs raked my t hroat unt ill it w as so hoarse and raw I could hardly breat he. but I kept my eyes on t he t w o Arum behind Brian. and she’d know n somet hing w as w rong because she knew me. I hadn’t killed Adam. “W here’s Nancy?” “T his has not hing t o do w it h Nancy. He’d died t rying t o prot ect me. No more t han five minut es lat er. See if you can get anyt hing off him. I’d befriended Dee. I reached up. “T hey surprised me. T heir greedy eyes w ere bare and w ent st raight t o Dee. Near.” He crouched.” I croaked. God… I glanced dow n at Dee. “And you say t hat a lot . I had t o fight back or t hey w ould’ve t aken me out .” Blake crooned. but I’d led him right int o t his. I blocked Adam from her view .” “Don’t t ouch me. I didn’t have a choice. My gaze flickered over t o Adam.

T he Arum sensed it first . I st ood as t hey pieced t oget her. Somet hing—someone else—moved inside me. jaw clenching. I w as no longer just Kat y. imposing shadow s t hick and muddled like midnight oil. Do you underst and?” My eyes dart ed t o t he Arum. Vaughn knelt dow n in front of me. lit t le girl. “No! T hey can’t have eit her of t hem. T hink t his t hrough. “See. had ret urned. Dispose of him. t hey’ll kill —” “Do I look like I care? Really?” Vaughn laughed.” He w ould die. flashing his gun. “W hat do you mean t his isn’t about Nancy?” “Just w hat it sounds like. st anding as he t urned his at t ent ion t o me. leveling it at me.” My voice came out harsh and ragged. Blake glanced bet w een his uncle and me. I could see t he resemblance now . “Now . t hey gleamed a dazzling w hit e. Part icles all around us—t iny at oms. You come w it h us of your ow n free w ill or I w ill hand over bot h of t hem t o t hese guys. on Hall ow een. surrounding my body and t hose on t he floor. but pow erful. No closure. “Christ …” In t he back of my mind. falling like shoot ing st ars. w as primal and ancient .” A shudder racked Blake’s t aut body. t ake t he dead one. He pushed back his jacket . but t here w as somet hing…more.” “Y ou’re negot iat ing?” Vaughn laughed as he glanced up at his nephew . t all. t oo. . Like a t housand t w inkling st ars. mixing w it h t he roaring t ide of emot ions gat hering in me.” Take his body. “Don’t kill her. “T his can go one of t w o w ays. Not just alien in origin.“No. I sucked in air. “I w ant t hem gone first .” Blake looked aw ay. “If w e don’t t urn her over. T hey built and sw irled. W hat rose in me. but a combinat ion of bot h foreign and organic. pulling out his gun. so Ash and Andrew w ould face w hat Dee and Daemon had? No body. set t ling on my skin. t oo small t o see w it h t he naked eye—lit up as t hey danced in t he air and t hen froze. It w as like t he night in t he clearing. Anot her part of me t hat had been split mont hs ago. My ent ire body w armed. T hey can’t t ouch t hem.” Vaughn yelled. “Residon. I knew t here w as somet hing else fueling t his pow er—someone else from t he out side. replacing t he sorrow and helplessness. Backing up. you don’t w ant t o do anyt hing rash. and as close as w e w ere. My brain clicked off.” Residon laughed. T hey shift ed int o t heir t rue forms. soaking t hrough unt ill t hey bonded w it h my cells. I sucked in and t hey came t ow ard me. rushing. t hat ’s w hat you do w hen you’re present ed w it h t he unexpect ed. T hey w ould die.

Daemon’s voice w hispered among my thoughts. Her head w as t ipped back. My head cocked t o t he side. back t o me. spinning around and rushing t he door. Blake gagged. and t ingled. I froze t he lamp and t hen w hipped it out of his hands. like a ping-pong ball. I heard a w ailing sound.W hat w as in me w as fully joining w it h my ot her half. concent rat ed w hit e light t inged in red as he dart ed dow n t he drivew ay t ow ard t he mass of shadow s gat hering. dropping t o his knees. her mout h open as she keened and w ept . His finger t w it ched. grow ing st ronger and st ronger. Kat y.” Daemon shift ed int o his t rue form and t ook out t he first Arum w it h one blast follow ed by anot her…and t hen anot her. I t old him everyt hing about Blake and Vaughn w hile w e w orked on Residon. Vaughn w as t rying t o w ork t he w indow open. no longer seeing t hem in color. Residon roared.” Money? W hat did t his have t o do w it h money? But I w as beyond caring. My vision shift ed. but I didn’t feel the steps. Ash w as in her human form. His light flared int . “Leaving so soon?” a deep. Daemon burned bright er t han I’d ever seen. Daemon’s flared. T heir black t endrils reached out . My light pulsed. pulling him int o her lap. I lift ed int o t he air. he grabbed t he floor lamp and sw ung it t ow ard t he glass. A pure. T ell me w hat has happened. disappearing int o t hin w isps before t hey reached t he ceiling. Vaughn? Blake? T hey w ouldn’t escape this. T hey drew up short . I w elcomed t he feeling encroaching upon me. But movement caught my at t ent ion. t inged w it h red. St at ic filled t he air. And I knew her w aill w ould soon join Ash’s. “Shit .” Vaughn mut t ered. devouring oxygen. furious voice said from t he doorw ay. W hen he got now here w it h t hat . blurred. but only in w hit e. I passed Matthew as he rushed int o t he living room. Y ou’re w ort h a lot of money. So had Daemon and Residon. He w as caught bet w een Daemon and me. t ugging on her brot her’s lifeless body. T hree forms st reaked int o my house. dashing behind Daemon. I drew Residon. Pieces of it broke aw ay and float ed up and up. t he st art led cry he let out splint ered my heart . Blake had made it out side somehow . I glided out of the living room. “Don’t make me do t his. t earing him dow n. and it drove deep inside me. my feet on the ground. T he Arum rose up. darkening a part of me. knocking off furnit ure and sending pict ure frames t o t he floor. “I’m offended. T here w as a crack and one of t he large oaks came dow n. landing near t he drivew ay. Dee w as moving beside her. In t he chaos. Vaughn spun around. t he one w ho’d w ant ed Dee.

A bolt of light ning shot from Daemon and slammed int o Residon. And he broke int o a t housand shards w it h a loud crack t hat sounded like t hunder. T he boy’s feet dangled in t he air. Once. he had t he boy against t he hood of my car. T he roof gave w it h a crunch. T hree t imes. “Y ou really shouldn’t have done t hat . T hey hit Vaughn in t he chest and t hat w as t hat . Daemon w hipped t ow ard Blake. Glass exploded in every w hich direct ion as met all snapped. t he Arum flickered from shadow s t o human form and t hen froze. Gun in hand. exposing him. as if someone had pressed pause.” Daemon said. T he light had t urned t hat bright . Suspended. Before I could even move. his upper body human and his low er body not hing more t han smoke. T here w as no chance for any more react ions. Out of t he corner of my eye. spinning him int o t he air. Vaughn pulled t he t rigger. And t he bullet s…t hey st opped inches from Daemon’s face. “Daemon!” I shot t ow ard t hem. and in his human form. shielding my eyes.” Vaughn made his move t hen. Daemon’s head jerked around and he smiled—he act ually smiled. “You have no idea how painful I’m going t o make t his for you.” He lift ed Blake off my hood. he rushed t ow ard his Expedit ion at t he same moment Blake spun t ow ard t he w oods. T he . Comprehension show ed in Vaughn’s pale face. I froze. “And I’m going t o seriously enjoy t his.” Daemon grow led. eyes like orbs of w hit e light . flipping over Vaughn. T hey just hovered t here. I saw Vaughn leaping from behind my car—t he spot he had been cow ering in. “For every bruise you gave Kat . and I t hrew up my arm. he w as no less fright ening or pow erful. I t hought of t he DOD officers he’d t urned t o ash…and again I t hought of an at omic bomb. “No—no!” T he bullet s flipped over and ret urned t o t he sender w it h an alarming speed. In aw e of such pow er. he raised t he gun. cat ching him by t he t hroat . T w ice. T he snow fell heavier. Rushing forw ard. Daemon t hrew out a light -encased arm and t he Expedit ion lurched int o t he air.ensely. A heart beat lat er. I’m going t o ret urn t o you t enfold.

but he dimmed out . W hat do you w ant t o do w it h him? Daemon asked calmly. sending a blast of light at me. Anot her t ook my leg out from underneat h me.” T here w ere alw ays choices. Like me…? Beaut iful light approached from behind. but I picked myself back up. but he had choices. And hurt Dee. “I’m sorry…” he said. and t hen he w as up. I caught up t o Blake by a pine t ree. Part of me felt bad for him. Pain shimmied dow n my body. but I pressed on. It st ruck my chest . I’m sorry. especially aft er Vaughn. “Kat y.” Daemon’s form burned as bright as t he sun. Everyt hing left me. My pow er flickered w ith that. st alking him. Not as fast as Daemon. but I st raight ened…and I t racked forw ard.man’s legs crumpled and he w as not hing but a lifeless heap beside t he t w ist ed met all of t he Expedit ion. I didn’t have a choice. Blake t ore free. Mut at ed or not . and I could see skin beneath my hands. T he w ound w ould gape forever. Like me. He…he killed Adam. running t ow ard t he w oods. I knew t his. Liquid w armt h cascaded dow n my arm. t aking human shape. He just made t he w rong ones. Daemon w ould have a problem w it h killing anot her human. At least I could admit t hat . He w as a product of his family. and for a moment . T hey w ere covered in red. “He killed him. I t hought t hat it w as for Blake.” . I’d made a st ring of bad ones myself. moving out t o my right . and he might never heal. and not as fast as me. knocking me back a few st eps. He t hrew anot her pulse of light . T aking a breat h. t aunt ing him. Add Blake t o t he list . It ricochet ed off my shoulder. “So many have died t onight . my boot s sinking t hrough snow . I said. Red spread across t he snow in a st ream of scarlet . A sw itch had been throw n inside me. His hands w ere shaking. W ind and snow blew back at me as I gave chase. and I sw ayed on t he ground. He had gone back t o his t rue form. I couldn’t do t his anymore. hit t ing t he side of my bumper. Light did. He w as fast . T he w ound left over from t he t w o officers he’d t aken out st ill fest ered. He spun around. Blood didn’t pump.

Too many had died t onight . Blake w as as good as dead anyw ay. T here w as t his incredible w armt h cascading t hrough my veins. eyes a brilliant shade of w hit e. “I’m—” “Shut up. but t he t ears leaked out . “If I ever see you again. I squeezed my eyes shut . “Go and never. I w as bat hed in light . Go now before I don’t give you a choice. My legs folded under me. t rust ed t hat his inst inct regarding Blake had not been off. I could keep you safe. and I knelt in t he snow . W hen I opened my eyes again. and I low ered my head. couldn’t be erased in his light . caused my t hought s t o run t oget her in an endless st ream of confusion and regret . Daemon w as done.” Blake hesit at ed for only a moment . I only w ant ed t o prot ect Chris. I w as done. I thought…I thought if I learned how to fight. His body shook w it h t he force of his anger. and t hen he spun and ran. because once Nancy—w hoever she really w as— and t he DOD realized he’d failed. His light pulled back and t hen it w as Daemon st aring dow n at me. “Daemon. t he injuries inflict ed. t hey’d kill Chris like Blake feared. Maybe t hat w as w hy Daemon w as let t ing him go.” He drew in a ragged breat h.” Shock rippled over Blake’s face.” Daemon grow led. I w ill kill you.” Daemon said. Daemon? T here w as a buzzing t hrough t he connect ion and t hen… I t old you w e couldn’t t rust him. Slipping in and out of consciousness. Using t he Source had w eakened me and fight ing Blake. w iping at t he blood under his nose. I—” . Or neit her of us could kill anymore. “Y ou’re let t ing me go?” Daemon glanced at me. I never w ant ed any of t his happen. “Go. I’m sorry. And t hat w ould be t he end of Blake.Blake’s eyes dart ed t o me. I w as vaguely aw are of someone holding me. I doubt ed he w ould make it very far. w hich w as so at odds compared t o t he gent leness of his embrace. ever come back here. If I’d only list ened t o Daemon in t he beginning. all of you safe. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry. his w ords carrying on t he w ind. T he pain I felt couldn’t be healed by his t ouch. But I hadn’t . I doubt ed I’d ever feel st rong enough again. exhaust ed and shamed.

” I w hispered. My t rust should’ve been placed in t he one person I’d alw ays t rust ed. He reached out . And you’ve brought t he DOD int o your life. “Adam is dead. “I’m sorry. “I didn’t know . I w ould’ve show n you! But you didn’t list en. He flinched. “Do you t hink he didn’t guess?” I w inced.” My voice cracked. I t old you w e couldn’t t rust Blake.” Daemon lift ed me out of his lap and sat me on t he cold ground. My sist er almost lost her life. Y ou didn’t t rust me!” “I do t rust —” “bullshit !” Daemon w as in my face. Just don’t apologize. and I didn’t w ant t o add anyt hing for you t o w orry about . W hy couldn’t you t rust me?” His voice cracked. “I didn’t know unt ill a few night s ago. Kat ! W ho know s w hat t hey know now . t hat if you w ant ed t o learn how t o fight . “W as t hat t he night you w ent t o Vaughn’s on your ow n?” “Yes.” he spat . My breat h came out short . he drew in a ragged breat h. “Don’t say you t rust me w hen it ’s apparent you never did!” T here w as not hing I could say. at a loss w hat t o say. I w ished I had. t hrough me.” He looked aw ay. I’d let myself be fooled. Mine? Someone else’s? “I should’ve t old you t hen. “And t hose t imes you w ere covered in bruises? T hat w as him. A burst of energy left him. cupping my elbow unt ill I st opped moving. Climbing t o his feet . w asn’t it ? He w as hurt ing you during t raining. but I w asn’t sure. surprised t o see t hem covered in blood. a never-ending river of remorse. I’d been fooled. “All of t his could’ve been prevent ed. Tears st reamed dow n my cheeks. slamming int o an ancient oak. Worse yet . w asn’t he? And never once did you t hink t here may be somet hing w rong w it h him? God dammit . but I didn’t know for sure.” Daemon’s eyes narrow ed. sw aying t o t he side as my legs got used t o w orking again.“Don’t apologize.” “Dammit . It cracked w it h a loud snapping sound and t hen folded int o a t ree beside it . “I’m so—” “Don’t ! Don’t you dare apologize!” he yelled. gasping for air. jaw clenching. I jumped. “Did you know he w as w orking w it h t he DOD t his ent ire t ime?” “No. And even t hen I w asn’t sure. “I never t old him you healed me. t hen he let go. Kat ! Y ou’ve lied t o me. . eyes glow ing t hrough t he darkness. and t he sound reverberat ed t hrough me like a barb-t ailed w hip.” I climbed t o my feet .” “I didn’t t ell him anyt hing!” My chest w as rising rapidly.” I sucked in a painful breat h. t aking a st ep back. “Adam’s deat h w ill dest roy my sist er.” I lift ed my hands.

” I choked on a broken sob as grief t ore t hrough me. “T his should’ve never happened.” Mat t hew t w ist ed t ow ard me. “You cannot t ake on t he full responsibilit y for t his. his jaw w orking. “It ’s not just your fault . Glist ening liquid pooled in t w o spot s.” W et ness gat hered on my cheeks. Someone had removed Vaughn’s body. T ime passed. Mat t hew w as t rying t o clean it up. He pulled me int o his arms.Daemon drew in anot her harsh breat h as he st art ed t ow ard me. Y ou w eren’t prepared for it . plus his car and Blake’s t ruck. T hen t he st rangest t hing happened. my body shaking his. everyone w as gone except Mat t hew . Chapter 32 W hen I ret urned t o my house. He let out a st aggered breat h.” Mat t hew didn’t say anyt hing for several minut es. but his hands w ere shaking. left w it h my choices. I had no idea how I w as going t o explain t he broken w indow in t he hall w ay upst airs. T he coffee t able w as scrat ched all t o hell. “It never makes sense. “I know .” “T hey are all like my children. . “T his is my fault . Neit her are any of t hem. my eyes w ere nearly sw oll en shut .” T ears built in my eyes as I sopped up w hat w as left of Adam. I w orked at t he spot . and it became a New Year. my mist akes…my guilt . I let t his happen. one filled w it h t reachery and greed. grasping my cheeks. “I w ould’ve kept you safe. I grabbed some t ow els from t he linen closet and knelt beside him. His w ords didn’t ease t he guilt . Mat t hew sat back. and I w iped at my face w it h my shoulder. he w as gone. drenching t w o t ow els before he placed his hand on mine. Kat y. but he came up short . And I w as alone in t he freezing night . w ho st ayed t o help…clean up aft er everyt hing. t oo. or maybe he w as crying for his loss.” I lift ed my head. and I broke.” His shoulders shook. He w as t rying t o prot ect me. You didn’t force his hand. lift ing his head and closing his eyes.” I w hispered. I pressed my head against his shoulder. W hen my t ears dried. T here w ere broken pict ure frames everyw here. Sobs racked my ent ire body. and for w hat ? It doesn’t make sense. I w elcomed it w it h t ears st reaming dow n my face and a heart ripped apart . T his w as a w orld you st umbled int o. and he knew it . But t he spot w here Adam had fall en w as w orse. Now I’ve lost anot her. You didn’t make t he choices Blake did. blinking back t ears.” T hen in a flash of red-w hit e light .” “I’m sorry. “I have t his. “I t rust ed Blake w hen I should’ve t rust ed Daemon.

No doubt the satelites had picked up on w hat had happened t he night before. I st ood by t he frozen. even in my sleep.He pulled back. and t here w ere more implant s out t here. . Daemon had been right —a life w as a life. but w it h t he moon out . piled on some clot hes. I figured in t he coming days or w eeks. I convinced her t hat t he w ind had t hrow n a branch int o t he w indow upst airs. Adam w as dead. T here w as a t ight ness in my chest t hat w ould probably never go aw ay. since Daemon had knocked dow n several out side. I’d even donned t he mat ching gloves. I found my w ay t o t he lake easily. Eventualy. Mom w as already gone. slipping under and pulling me below t he surface. reflect ing off t he prist ine surface. T his is just t he beginning. I st ill had no clue w ho had bet rayed Daw son and Bet hany. People have died—innocent and t hose not so innocent . t here w as blood on my hands I couldn’t w ash aw ay. And every t ime I closed my eyes. Not by my ow n hand. And w hen t hey did. but I had led everyone dow n t his road. T here’d also be quest ions about Adam. and event ually t he DOD w ould come looking for Vaughn. and t hen I w ent back t o sleep t o avoid t he sw amping darkness w ait ing for me. it w ould. it w ould come back t o me…and t o Daemon. T hings w ere clearer here. T hey surrounded me w hile I sw am in t he lake. I t ook a show er. An invisible clock had appeared. and left t o go t o t he place haunt ing my dreams. t icking aw ay t o my very ow n personal doomsday. even Vaughn. Snow cont inued t o fall. Bot h of you are st ronger t han t hat . “T his isn’t t he end of anyt hing for you…for Daemon. Don’t end up like Daw son and Bet hany. Not less int ense. w aking t he follow ing Sunday morning only t o eat sugary Pop-Tart s. I dreamed of Blake and Adam.” … I spent the rest of the night trying to hide what had gone down from my mom. And I’d killed. Believable. I needed to tell her. I w asn’t sure about going t o school t omorrow . So it w as st range t hat w hen I did w ake t hat evening. soaking t hrough my skin and leaving a dark st ain. but manageable. It seemed point less aft er everyt hing. huddled dow n in my sw eat er and t he scarf my mom had bought me for Christ mas. And t here w as t he issue t hat some of w hat Vaughn had said hadn’t made sense. and I had no one t o blame but myself. I saw Adam’s body. Enemy or not . and now you know w hat you’re t ruly up against . and I had a vague recol ect ion of hearing W ill in t he house earlier. w at ching me—w at ching all of us. But she didn’t need t o know right now . flaw less w at er. a lingering feeling t hat t he w orst had yet t o pass. T he pict ures w ere harder t o explain. pushing my hair aside. T hen I slept t hrough New Year’s Day. Guilt at e aw ay at me.

a lit t le.” he said.” I couldn’t figure out anyt hing from his w ords or expression.” He looked aw ay. T he snow crunched under his foot st eps. I t railed aft er him. I couldn’t ignore him forever. We passed Dee’s empt y bedroom. St aring at t he lake can t ake a lot of concent rat ion. Draw ing in a deep breat h. T here w as anot her bedroom w it h t he door . and I almost st art ed baw ling again right t hen.” His ult ra-bright gaze set t led on me. he t hen w alked out of t he kit chen w it hout answ ering me. W hy w as he here? He had t o hat e me. “W hy not ?” “I don’t know . “How ’s Dee?” “She’ll survive. my pulse skyrocket ed. and I also knew he’d st and t here forever if he chose t o. “Hungry?” he asked. eyes shadow ed. I—” “Not yet . So did Dee. “I’m not busy. hands clammy and t rembling. Drying his hands. I st ood. His body heat blanket ed me as he st opped direct ly behind me. I faced him.” I said t he first t hing t hat came t o mind. W e at e in st rained silence.” He moved int o t he kit chen and pulled out a package of lunch meat . “I haven’t eat en all day. “We need t o t alk. It ’s just seems…” He w ent up t he st airs. “It ’s w here I come w hen I need t o t hink. Was he going t o kill me and st ash my body? Drast ic but probable aft er everyt hing I’d caused. He doubled up on t he must ard on mine. a muscle popping in his jaw . I follow ed him inside. “I knew you’d be here. My t hroat dried as w e st art ed back t o his house in silence. Finally. “Are you busy right now ? Not sure if I’m int errupt ing. I felt a w arm t ingle dancing across my neck.” “Y eah. Surprised and w ary.” Daemon leaned forw ard before I could respond. My breat h st alled in my chest .” he said. aft er he’d cleaned up. It looked like Pept o-Bismol t hrew up in t here. hand on t he mahogany-colored rail. w hich I found st range. W hen he st art ed up t he st eps. leaving me no ot her choice. “Daemon. I sat at t he t able w hile he made t w o ham and cheese sandw iches. know ing t hat w as how I liked it .About a minut e lat er. “W hy are w e going upst airs?” Daemon glanced over his shoulder. “T hen come back w it h me?” Anxious energy built inside me. and I couldn’t w ill my body t o t urn around. He could move so quiet ly w hen he w ant ed.

Lot s of room t o roll around…or just t o sleep. and my heart flip-flopped. He curled t hem int o fist s. I shouldn’t have t rust ed him—I should’ve list ened t o you. Not hing like my lit t le-girl bed. “She’s w it h Ash and Andrew . t o ask more quest ions. I t hink being w it h t hem is helping her…” I nodded.” “It is. inching closer. Mont hs had passed before Mom and I had moved any of Dad’s st uff.” His room w as large. W it h my life. It w as big. a st ereo syst em.” I said. T here w ere a lot of expensive elect ronics: a flat -screen T V.closed. “Y our room?” “Y ep. a Mac t hat sent a dose of envy t hrough me.” .” Daemon shook his head as his gaze dropped t o his open hands. My gaze w ent t o his bed. I didn’t w ant you involved. And t he blue dow n comfort er looked comfy and invit ing. you should’ve come t o me. “W here’s Dee?” I asked. I figured it had been Daw son’s. “But once I t hought he could possibly be involved w it h t hem. “I know w e don’t alw ays get along.” Daemon kicked off his shoes. T he moment you suspect ed Blake w as w it h t he DOD. His eyes glit t ered. “I am so sorry about everyt hing. St epping aside. W it h a w ave of his hand. All t he blinds w ere dow n. surprisingly clean and organized. More t han anyt hing. A few band post ers hung on t he w alls. “I… If I could go back. and I know t he w hole connect ion t hing freaked you out .” “I do t rust you. a bedside lamp clicked on. I’d change everyt hing. Kat . “Daemon—” T he bed springs creaked under his w eight as I ran my fingers over t he lid of t he Mac.” “Adam didn’t get hurt . “Nice comput er. I forced my gaze aw ay from his bed and w alked over t o his Mac.” A lump formed in my t hroat as I t urned t o him. Daemon opened a door. I could barely breat he. “I could’ve prevent ed t his. w hich w ere paint ed a deep blue. he let me brush past him. probably unt ouched since he’d disappeared. curt ains draw n. and even a deskt op. Blake knew and suspect ed t oo much already. T he best spot in t he w hole house. He died. I didn’t w ant anyone t o get hurt .” Helplessness cracked his voice. t o not be so damn st upid. but you knew you could alw ays t rust me. I w ant ed t o go back in t ime.

“Not t hat I know of. “W hile you w ere sleeping? Did he do t his oft en?” I shook my head.” I said. “And w hat does t hat mean.” Daemon sw ore. he t urned his head.” “You should’ve never been w orried about me get t ing hurt .” “T he hell it doesn’t !” he said. “W hen did you know definit ely t hat Blake w as w orking w it h t he DOD?” It w as t he second t ime he’d ever said his name.” Daemon cursed and t hen asked. running bot h hands t hrough his hair. “I should’ve done more. T hat ’s how serious t hings w ere. “Yes. “Daemon…” “Answ er me!” “Fine!” I t hrew my hands up in t he air. How could I st ill cry or t hink it w ould make any of t his bet t er? Some papers on his desk st irred rest lessly behind me.” He st ood. Y ou mean t oo much t o me. and t hey pierced st raight t hrough me. W ho know s how much t ime any of us have before t he DOD comes? I let t hat dickhead go. but w hen I found out Blake and Vaughn w ere relat ed. and I saw Simon’s w at ch in his car.He shook his head. W hen he t hrew t hat damn knife at you. Blake show ed up w hile I w as sleeping. W hat you did for me on T hanksgiving—t hat made me…” My voice cracked. I hope he get s w hat ’s coming t o him before he can report back t o anyone. He’s st ill out t here. Y ou know I can handle my ow n.” “I know . “You know I can t ake care of myself.” Closing his eyes. Kat . “T hat made me happy. “Not t hat it t urned out t hat w ay in t he end. “On New Year’s Eve—Friday. “I w as t rying t o prot ect you. He says Simon’s st ill alive. and as t errible as t his sounds. T here is no w ay I could have lived w it h t hat . you mean somet hing t o me. eyes suddenly sharp. “You nearly dest royed my family. t hat t he DOD t ook him. And I st ill care about you.” His head sw ung t ow ard me. I should’ve st epped in t hen and not backed dow n. “It doesn’t mat t er now . but t here…t here w as blood on his w at ch. exact ly?” “I…” I shook my head. You almost got bot h of us killed. “Y ou lied t o me! Are you t elling me all of t his is because I mean somet hing t o you?” Heat ed blood crept across my face. Y ou made me happy. all I could t hink w as t hat he played me—I let myself be played. but I w as just so damn angry. and none of t his is over. as if he didn’t hear me. “But I w asn’t going t o know ingly put you at risk.” He lift ed his eyes. W hy w as he making me do t his? How I felt didn’t mat t er now .” I sw allow ed past t he lump in my t hroat . Okay? You mean somet hing t o me—somet hing I can’t . “Y ou w ant ed t o keep me safe?” “Yes. And he knew how close w e w ere. T hey’d do t o you w hat t hey did t o Daw son.” Tears built in my eyes.

T he w hole w orld disappeared for t hose precious moment s. w e may end up killing each ot her over somet hing st upid next w eek. But do you know w hat I t hought about all day yest erday? All night ? T he one single t hought I couldn’t escape. I st ill w ant t o st rangle you. dragging in air. but for Dee. “How can you st ill w ant me?” I said. I just w ish I could go back and change everyt hing! I—” Daemon w as suddenly in front of me. t he person w ho means more t o me t han I can st and.” “T hat makes no sense. clasping my cheeks in his w arm hands.” I blinked back t he w et ness gat hering in my eyes. I w ant t o find Blake and rearrange part s of his body. My chest w as sw elling so fast it hurt . I can t ast e it . T he w ords rushed from me. no mat t er how pissed off I am at you?” “No. w hat a year from now is going t o be like. She’s st ill t here. T he feeling w as like t aking a st ep off t he edge of a cliff w it hout seeing how far t he fall w ould be. because t he person I can’t get out of my head. But all I do know is w hat I feel for you isn’t going anyw here. “T hat I’m lucky. Like I’m falling every t ime I’m around you.” My breat h caught on a sob. even w hen I hat ed you. I w ant you even t hough you drive me freaking insane. is st ill alive. It ’s a possibilit y. “W hat …w hat does t hat mean?” “I really don’t know .” Hearing t hat only made me cry harder. And t hat ’s you. Dangerous. I’m so angry. I’ve alw ays w ant ed you. “I’m mad at you—at myself. And I know I screw ed everyt hing up. Exhilarat ing. Not just for you and me.” Tears pricked my eyes as I st epped back. but I couldn’t . “But none of t his mat t ers. But I’m insane. He bent his head. Hope spread t hrough me so fast it left me dizzy and breat hless. “And I never felt t his w ay w it h anyone else. “I never hat ed you. We just make crazy t oget her.” His t humb chased aft er a t ear on my cheek as he smiled slight ly. I underst and t hat . “I don’t know w hat t omorrow is going t o bring.really even put int o w ords because everyt hing seems t oo lame in comparison. like I can’t cat ch my breat h. “Oh. T here’s been not hing like t hat w it h anyone else. I pulled aw ay. I w ant ed t o t hrow myself int o t he kiss. because I know you really hat e me now . kissing t he t ears aw ay unt ill he caught each of t hem w it h his breat h. Daemon pressed his forehead against mine. T hen his lips found mine and t he room fell aw ay. Kat .” I w hispered.” A t ear t railed dow n my cheek.” . You’re crazy. Hell. “But —” “I don’t hat e you now . one aft er anot her. Maybe t hat ’s w hy. and I feel alive—not just st anding around and let t ing my life w alk past me.” He st ared int ent ly int o my eyes.

” Blood pounded as I yanked off my socks and lay back dow n. w e w ere on his bed and I w as in his arms. We w hispered t o each ot her. . “I bet you love t hat .” He low ered his head.” He kissed me again. “It ’s not all your fault .” “Kind of?” His hand w as on my st omach. I t old him everyt hing Blake had said and done. He t old me how angry he’d been just seeing me around Blake.” I jerked w hen his fingers splayed across my skin. I had no recol ect ion of moving.” I lift ed my shoulders. confused and even hurt . w orking on t he but t ons of my sw eat er. “If t here is anyt hing.” “Okay. kissing me soft ly. T he t rut hs he admit t ed. t he w ords slow ly st it ching t oget her t he aching hole in my chest . “I do. “Us?” He nodded. laughing soft ly w hen he came t o w here t hey w ere but t oned incorrect ly. “And w hat does ’us’ really mean?” “Y ou and me. And w e’re in t his t oget her. “No one else. I had t o w ait unt ill my heart slow ed dow n.” “So do I.” I let out a w eak.” My heart did a w ild dance at t hose w ords. t here is us. shaky laugh.“It kind of does. Maybe years. “It might have t o do w it h t he fact you finally admit t ed you’re deeply and irrevocably in love w it h me. “Kind of isn’t good enough. W hen he finally lift ed his head. moving under t he hem of my shirt . W e’ll face w hat ever is w ait ing for us t oget her. “T his doesn’t change anyt hing I’ve done. breat hing in w hat felt like t he first real breat h in mont hs. t ugging off my boot s.” “Not in so many w ords. slipping dow n. It ’s all of ours. I kept t hem close t o my heart .” My lips curved int o a smile against his. All of t his is st ill my fault . t o me at least .” Daemon moved dow n. “I…I kind of like t he sound of t hat .” Making a deep sound in t he back of his t hroat . “I so did not admit t hat . Daemon t railed kisses over my st ill-damp cheek t hat scalded my skin and lit a fire. “It ’s t he same for you?” His answ er w as t o kiss me…and t o kiss me again.” Daemon w as on his side beside me.” “Y ou are?” I closed my eyes. And I’m okay w it h it . T hat w as how good his kisses w ere. his hand on t he mat erial covering my st omach. but w e bot h know it ’s t rue. I t hink t hey w ere doing t he same for him. “I do like t hat . and he helped me shrug out of t he sw eat er.

I didn’t need him t o say it . “I doubt you could do t his w rong. A but t on came undone on his jeans…and on mine. Raw . t oo. Pieces of our clot hing disappeared. because I w as surrounded in his love for me. T hat I w ill do perfect ly. T hose precious w ords may not have been spoken up unt ill t hen. running my hands over t he hard planes of his st omach. t hrow ing shadow s along t he w alls of his bedroom. but in here. t hings really w eren’t looking in our favor. I’m not t alking about t hat . As our kisses deepened and our explorat ions grew .T he fear he’d felt w hen he saw t he Arum and Blake t his w eekend w as in every slight . But Daemon st opped. He t urned t o t he t ouch. t here w as not hing bet w een us.” His voice w as rough against my cheek. t oo. I lift ed my hand. and I w ant ed t o fall and never resurface.” He pressed anot her sw eet and t ender kiss against my lips. but for us. “Crazy. running my fingers dow n his cheek.” T he t ips of his fingers drift ed over my chest . how w e couldn’t get close enough. it w as only us. “But I w ant t o do t his right . “Yeah. Mine. and I w ant ed t o seize t he moment and live in it . huh?” Everyt hing felt crazy. Not t hat it ever w as. I sparked alive under him. I st ared up at him. And for t he first t ime. every soft moan. w e got lost in how our bodies moved against each ot her. His shirt . T he w orld and everyt hing I’d been part of only exist ed out side t he closed bedroom door. pressing his lips against t he palm of my hand. his name barely a w hisper. vulnerable t o each ot her. but love w as in every t ouch. A faint w hit ish-red glow out lined his body.” . delicat e t ouch of his fingers.” I st art ed t o smile. “I t hink I’ve act ually dreamed about it . T here w as somet hing soul-burningly beaut iful about being on t he brink of losing cont rol. T ime st opped for us. but I w ant t o… I w ant us t o have w hat normal couples have. dow n my st omach. T he clot hes t hat w e st ill w ore w ere a hindrance I w ant ed t o be rid of. And w hen his hand moved dow n my st omach. T here really w as only now . Tomorrow or next w eek w asn’t guarant eed. I opened my eyes. slipping even fart her dow n. And w hen his head low ered t o mine again. “You have no idea how badly I w ant t his. because I w as ready t o t ake t hat next st ep and I could feel t hat Daemon w as. “W hat ?” “Y ou…you’re not going t o believe me.” Daemon’s lips st ret ched int o a smug half grin. Being in his arms like t his w hen I’d t ruly believed he’d never forgive me. We w ere open. I w ant ed t o share t he moment w it h Daemon—t o share everyt hing w it h him. His hands…his kisses w ere complet ely undoing me. only for him. t umbling over int o t he unknow n.

” W it h w hat looked like a great amount of effort . He w rapped an arm around my w aist and pulled me back against him. I shook my head. Daemon lift ed off me and eased dow n on his side. “No. “Okay?” T ipping my head back. It didn’t seem fair. “No. “How do you figure?” “Look at t he t ime. I st ill w on. Should I be cont ent aft er everyt hing? I w asn’t sure. I needed t o show er and get ready for school. rolling ont o his side—ont o me. His lips grazed my t emple. “My bet —I w on.” I t ipped my chin t ow ard t he clock.” Not w hat I expect ed as a response. T his…t his w as more t han okay.” For several moment s he st ared at t he clock like it w as an Arum he w as about t o blast int o t he next count y. I made my w ay over t o t he bed. Aft er I st epped out of t he st eamy bat hroom w rapped in my robe. I w as going t o baw ll like a baby. he let out a st rangled sound. “And t he last t hing I w ant t o do is st op. “It ’s past midnight . I w asn’t st art led w hen I saw Daemon lounging on my bed.” Looping my arms around his neck. damnable t ears rushed t o my eyes. I’d felt him. “I t hink I might love you. At some point . because my t hroat w as burning w it h emot ion.” Daemon frow ned. really. but I w ant t o t ake you out —go on a dat e or somet hing. T here w as a part of me t hat felt w rong for t he smile on my face. Oh dear God. I didn’t lose. feeling airy and…happy. And it t ook me several t ries t o speak. Y ou lost . and I blinked t hem back. freshly show ered and changed.St upid. I looked int o his bot t le-green eyes. and t hen his eyes found mine. I t old you t hat you’d t ell me you loved me on New Y ear’s Day. He chuckled. I don’t w ant w hat w e’re about t o do t o be overshadow ed by everyt hing else.” Daemon’s arm t ight ened around me as he kissed my flushed cheek. And I needed t o see Dee. Y ou lost .” Chapter 33 I crept back int o my house right before six in t he morning. “T old you. “W hat are you doing?” . Daemon smiled. It ’s January second. Cupping my cheek.

” “W hat are you doing for lunch?” “Ot her t han eat ing? Not hing. And t he jerk loved me. “Dee knew you t ried t o w arn her off. but definit ely not t he most pressing. She needs t ime. t oo. He w as st ill a t ot all smart ass. “Not t he only reason.” “Good. indulgent grin played across his lips as he t ugged on t he belt of my robe. Daemon sat up and pulled me int o his lap. It ’s not going t o do any good. “A lot of t hings.” T hings had changed bet w een us in a mat t er of hours.” “I know . W e’re skipping.” I w hispered. “I don’t expect Dee t o ever forgive me. and I t old her and Adam t o st ay out of t here.” He placed t w o fingers under my chin. “I liked him.” “She’ll forgive you. “W ell. I don’t t hink I’ve really come t o t erms w it h everyt hing. “W e can’t focus on t hat now .He pat t ed t he spot beside him. his t hroat w orking. Adam w as…” He t railed off. and I know she’d do it again. and my heart squeezed. “We need t o st ick close t oget her over t he next couple of w eeks. t ipping my head back. but t hey parked t he car dow n t he st reet and came back. He kissed my forehead. We t alked more last night …and kissed some more before falling asleep in each ot her’s arms. T hey made t hat choice. But I loved him. “T here are so many t hings I w ouldn’t do again.” His lips moved against my t emple. And yeah.” I st ret ched up. a part nership in t hings. t hat smug grin st ill irked me. t here w as an openness. Now .” My t hroat t ight ened.” . “I w ant t o see Dee aft er school. She called me w hen you t old her t o leave. I need t o make sure she’s okay. “And I’m not ent irely happy. I w ouldn’t be surprised if t he DOD show s. Probably t he smart est . and I craw led ont o my knees. W e’re safer t oget her.” I rolled my eyes. Do…do you t hink it ’s w rong t o be happy right now ?” His arms t ight ened. I w ouldn’t send out a mass t ext message or anyt hing. kissing his lips. “W hat are you t hinking?” I burrow ed my head int o t he space bet w een his shoulder and neck.” “Is t hat t he only reason?” A lazy. but I w ant t o see her.

” I arched a brow . W hen I ent ered bio.” My heart leaped int o my t hroat . but I knew w hat he w ant ed t o hear. and t hen one more t ime because he felt like it . The story was he had died in a car accident. Lesa w as abnormally subdued due t o w hat I’d t old her. t he int ercom kicked on. it w ouldn’t change anyt hing. alt ernat ing w it h brief moment s of exhilarat ion. right ?” His smile t urned w icked.” “T hose t hree w ords?” “Alw ays t hose t hree w ords. “Are you going t o t ry t o squeeze in dinner and a movie t hen?” “Kit t en. “I love you. Police w ould back it up if quest ions w ere asked. Garrison. T here w as a t w it ch t o his lips before he opened up his grade book. “T ell me w hat you t old me earlier. I knew t hat even if Dee forgave me. . Halfw ay t hrough class. t here are t hings I w ant t o do.” “Say w hat ?” I asked. but first . and I wasn’t teling anyone other than Lesa and Carissa. but he held me t here. “T hat ’s all I ever need t o hear. I met Mat t hew ’s eyes. “Say it . and again I w as surprised t hat my eyes could st ill fill w it h t hem.” I murmured and st art ed t o st and. Shrugging at Lesa’s look. “Y eah.” “T ease. I needed t o come t o t erms w it h t he role I’d played. your mind is a t errible and dirt y place.” A jolt of unease pierced my st omach as I grabbed my bag. I’d t old him a lot of t hings. I w as t hinking w e could go for a st roll or somet hing. My friends t ook it like expect ed. T here w ere a lot of t ears. But I also knew I couldn’t st op living. “Kat y Sw art z is needed in t he principal’s office.” … News of Adam’s passing hadn’t hit the school yet. Daemon poked me once in class t o remind me of our lunch plans. and w e don’t have nearly enough t ime for t hat now .“Going t o see Dee. T he school secret ary’s voice rang out .” His eyes darkened a second before he kissed me unt ill I w as ready t o say screw t he w hole doing-right -by-me t hing. Layers of guilt follow ed me t hrough most of morning classes. Mr.

come on. so I had no idea w hat w as w ait ing for me w hen she t hrew all her w eight behind opening t he door.I passed Mat t hew a near-panicked one as I headed out . dear. smiling at w hoever w as seat ed on t he ot her side. I w asn’t even sure he had his cell w it h him. “She’s in t he ER. t he smell of deat h t hat clung t o t he w alls and t he hushed voices of t he nurses…and t hen t he mannequin in t he coffin t hat sort of resembled Dad but couldn’t have been him. My gaze follow ed his.” “No. T hat ’s all I know . gent ly t urning me around. T his can’t be happening.” I t hink I gasped. “Can I help you?” “I’m Kat y. I sent Daemon a quick t ext from my mom’s cell t hat she’d given me t hat morning. We w ere w alking out of t he office. . I marked off any job in t he school syst em in my fut ure if she hadn’t been able t o ret ire at her age. T he air w as frigid. I didn’t expect him t o respond back. Alarm pounded at my sides as I st ared at him. “Kell ie’s been in an accident . W ill curved a hand over my shoulders.” “Y ou have t o know more t han t hat . and a horrible t hought st ruck me. W hen she did. “W hat ’s going on?” I asked. and t hey t hink she hit a pat ch of ice. “She left w ork t his morning. she squint ed t hrough her spect acles. “Right t his w ay. Principal Plummer sat behind his desk. I halt ed a few feet from t he passenger side. All I could see w as Dad—Dad in a hospit all bed.” T here w as compassion in her t one as she st ood.” “How bad is it ?” My voice w obbled. t w ist ing my backpack’s st rap against my shoulder. and I w as shocked t o see W ill. I leaned against t he count er. He clasped my free hand. Now all t hose memories w ere replaced w it h Mom. I w as called t o t he office?” “Oh! Oh. w ait ing for her t o look up. “Did you get a new car?” I asked. opening t he door. and plow s w ere clearing t he parking lot . Unease t rickled in. Out side t he snow had st opped. W ill led me t o a t an Yukon I didn’t recognize. but I w asn’t conscious of any of it . but I didn’t feel it . I w as numb. “Is she aw ake? T alking? Does she need t o have surgery?” He shook his head. W ill came t o his feet quickly and rushed t o my side. She hobbled t ow ard Principal Plummer’s office. T he gray-haired secret ary w as rocking a Brigit t e Bardot hairst yle and a bright pink sw eat er.” I didn’t recognize my ow n voice. pale and frail. let t ing him know I w as being called t o t he office. yes. “W hat do you mean? Is she okay?” His expression w as pained and haggard as he avoided meet ing my eyes.” I couldn’t see t hrough t he glass w indow s.

“W inchest er. I’d forgot t en about w hat I’d discovered about W ill —his sickness. T he radio came on immediat ely. T hen I remembered Daemon. Met eorologist s w ere w at ching a Nor’east er forming in t he Sout h. W hy w eren’t w e already on t he damn road? “Kat y?” I faced him. Maybe he w asn’t t elling me t he w orse of it . He leaned forw ard. And w it h everyt hing t hat had happened. I st ared st raight ahead. I choked on a breat h w hen I t hought about losing her. Maybe she w as… “Y our mom is going t o be fine. My lips t rembled. and t hen coolness rushed t hrough my veins. . W ill pushed t he needle int o t he side of my neck. “No. She’s going t o be okay. t elling him t hat Mom w as in an accident .” T here w asn’t t ime for me t o feel relief or t o quest ion w hat he said. She has t o be. A lot of people had t heir “w int er” vehicle around here. clut ching my bag t o my chest aft er I buckled my seat belt . It w as a w eat her broadcast . “W hat ?” “I’m really sorry about t his. I climbed in. W ill rubbed his hands t oget her before he t urned t he key. T here w as a pinch.” he said. slat ed t o slam int o West Virginia early next w eek. t rying t o keep t he panic at bay. It made sense.” he said. and I saw a long. t w ist ing around as he reached for somet hing in t he backseat . but I w asn’t fast enough. I’d call him and leave a more det ailed message once I knew how … how bad t hings w ere. “W hat hospit all is she at ?” I asked. right ?” My breat h caught again. “She’s going t o be okay. I jerked back in t he seat . I hat ed him. Perfect for snow y roads.He frow ned as he opened t he car door.” Feeling st upid and paranoid. T he man’s voice coming from t he speakers w as cheery. his face expressionless. I use t his during t he w int er. I sent him anot her quick t ext . scary-looking needle. She’ll be okay. I nodded. follow ed by a faint burning sensat ion. I checked t he phone and saw t here w asn’t a reply yet . I t ried t o t ell your mot her t o get somet hing like t his ot her t han t hat damn mat chbox she drives.

Maybe. Calling upon t he Source w as out of t he quest ion. leaving me in my t ank t op and jeans. Manacles and chains hung from t he t op. Flat t ening out my hands. Darkness crept int o t he corners of my eyes. I w as in a cage t hat resembled a large kennel used for dogs. forcing my breat h in and out as my gaze dart ed around at a frant ic pace. My fingers slipped over t he door handle. I couldn’t w ill t hem t o w ork. t he needle w as gone from his hand. I knew I w as inside somew here. and socks. I couldn’t feel my pulse. realizing t here w as no w ay I could st and or even lie dow n complet ely st raight w it hout t ouching t he bars. and t hen I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I asked him again. Eit her w ay. but I w asn’t sure. but it beat t hrough me w ildly. he pulled out of t he school parking lot w it hout answ ering. Someone had t aken off my sw eat er. I’d felt like t his once before. I lift ed my head off t he coarse blanket my cheek rest ed on. and a w ave of dizziness assault ed me. prying my eyes open. . w hen a friend and I had drunk an ent ire bot t le of cheap w ine during a sleepover. T he st eady hum of light s and dist ant voices t old me t hat much. and he w as w at ching me curiously. My hand flut t ered t o my neck. My arms and feet w ere bare. I pushed up. Except t hen I’d been hot and sw eat y. T w o of t hem w ere hooked t o my numb. and now I w as freezing. Chapter 34 W hen I came t o. shoes. or I t hought I did. Shapes w ere blurry and indist inguishable for several minut es. At least I t hink I did. Cages surrounded me. A gleaming reddish-black subst ance coat ed t he insides of t he bars closest t o me and on t op of t he manacles around my ankles. Implant s are everyw here.I knocked his hand aw ay. I looked up. Event ually my eyes cleared. T he road up ahead blurred in a kaleidoscope of w hit e and gray. chilled ankles. T he t hick black met all w as spaced enough t hat I could fit a hand t hrough it . but I couldn’t keep my head from list ing t o t he side. My last t hought w as. Panic claw ed t hrough me. and I almost w ished t hey’d st ayed out of focus. it felt like a drummer had t aken up residency in my head and my mout h w as dry. Goose bumps pimpled my skin in response t o t he near-freezing t emperat ure of w herever I w as. and I fought it w it h every ounce of t he st rengt h I had left . If I lost consciousness I knew it w as all over. “W hat …w hat did you do?” Hands on t he st eering w heel.

It w as like I w as empt y or det ached from t he Source. T rapped. She w ould’ve been pret t y if she w eren’t so t hin and unkempt . but t hey are a part of t he DOD. almost black. grim laugh sounded.” I sw allow ed. It w asn’t a lump. I t ried t o call on t he pow er t hat w as in me.” She st art ed t o rock a lit t le. right ?” Anot her choked. Terror consumed me. “You’re like me. It w as w hat I’d felt w hen Smoker had placed t hat object against my cheek. I w as out of it w hen t hey brought me in. st raight t o my head. I could blow t hese cages apart w it hout t ouching t hem. A lump of mat erial st irred in t he cage nearest t o me. but a person—a girl. A scream t ore from my t hroat as I shuddered. T he Daedalus is. I yelped. I don’t know w hat st at e. A w icked red-blue bruise spread out from her hairline. across her left cheek. T hey w ere a dark brow n. T he moment my fingers t ouched t he t op of t he met al. I don’t even know w here I am. but it w asn’t w orking. I read your t hought s.” “T he DOD is involved in t his?” I asked. scanning t he empt y cages and t hen set t ling on t he double doors.” Had she read my t hought s? “I…” “Yes. She glanced aw ay. “You have no idea w hy you’re here. And t hey are involved in me.” She gest ured at t he bruise w it h a flick of t iny fingers. “Y ou’re human. t hrow ing me back. w ant ing t o pull t he t hings off my ankles. pushing greasy st rands of long blond hair off her pale face. but you…” Her eyes narrow ed. I recognized t he pain now . “I w as really pret t y once. rising up. jerking my hands back. She t urned t o me. Keep t alking.I kept t elling myself t o keep it t oget her. “You’re in a w arehouse. It ’s like a t ransport at ion pod. She sighed. low ering her point y chin t o her bent knees. T he girl w as my age. My heart pounded against my ribs as she sat up. “I w asn’t assimilat ing. But t here w as not hing inside me.” Her voice w as hoarse.” Daedalus? W hat t he hell w as t hat ? “No. Know any aliens?” She laughed t hen. “I’m not really sure anymore. I scoot ed ont o my backside. “Yes and no. sit t ing up as far as I could and reaching dow n. I reached for t he bars. t hick. Helpless. I guess—ow ned by t he Daedalus. “I . give or t ake a year. bringing my hands close t o my chest . I w ouldn’t flip out complet ely if I could keep t alking. low ering her face. sw allow ing me like a rising t ide. red-hot pain sw ept up my arms. and t he same barbed pain sliced t hrough me. She nodded.

cold room. careful not t o t ouch t he cage.” “T ouch me again. I moved t o t he back of t he pen and laid dow n.” she hissed. My heart w as racing again. “and you w on’t . “W h—” “Shh. “Pret end t o be asleep w hen t hey come up here.” He opened t he cage. T he man laughed and bent dow n. “Are you going t o behave t oday?” one of t he men asked. “I don’t even t hink t hey believe w hat t hey’re doing is w rong. T here w as laught er in his voice. A boy. Black handcuffs dangled from his hands. and she immediat ely w ent aft er t hem. Before she could answ er. Pret end t o be asleep!” Not know ing w hat else t o do. “W hat ’s your name?” “Mo. t hrow ing my arm over my face so I could peek under it w it hout being seen. You’re here for a different purpose. pulling her out of t he cage unt ill she w as lying on t he cold cement . T he one w ho brought you in isn’t as bad as t he rest . a door shut somew here out side of t he large. But she w as no mat ch for t hem.” she croaked. but he’s not like us. Y ou don’t w ant t o provoke t hem. “T hey’re coming.” T hat w as reassuring. T hey st opped in front of Mo’s cage.” I t hought of Smoker and his part ner.” Mo low ered her head. T hey w ere silent as t hey moved t ow ard our t w o cages.” She lift ed her chin.” Mo said. T hey grabbed her legs. Mo scrambled back. “T hey had anot her one here. sw eet ie. My st omach roiled.” I craw led closer t o her. “Everyone calls me Mo…or used t o.” “Speak for yourself. “W e don’t w ant t o mess up t he ot her side of your face. “Or are w e going t o have t o make t his hard?” “W hat do you t hink?” Mo spat back. t hinking of Daw son. Y ours?” “Kat y. “W hat w ere you not assimilat ing t o?” “I w asn’t cooperat ing. increasing t he ache in my head.could only pick up fragment ed t hought s from t he guys w hen t hey brought you in. “Bit ch nearly ended any chances of me having kids. w rapping her t hin arms around her bent knees. hiding her face behind st ringy hair.” t he second man groused.” “W hat did he look like?” I asked. T he door opened and I saw t w o set s of legs encased in black pant s ent er t he room. t ouching her dry lips. T hey moved him out right aft er t hey brought you in. It ’s like one big gray area w it h t hem.

snapping his head back. Could t hey do t hat ? W ipe aw ay my memories? All I had w ere my memories. If I could just get past him… My foot caught him under t he chin. Her head hung low . I pushed up.” W hen W ill iams st art ed t o st and. T he one w ho called her a name rolled her over roughly. “No!” T he fear in her voice increased my ow n. I scrambled backw ard. She let out anot her soft cry as he w renched her arms. W ill iams. and t he w orld exploded in pain. I st art ed screaming. and I fell backw ard.” W ill iams climbed off Mo and approached my cage. “No!” screamed Mo. slamming her face int o t he floor. kneeling dow n so he w as eye-level w it h me. “Look at t his. W ait ! W hy am I here?” W ill iams opened t he cage door w it h a small key and grabbed t he chains. asking quest ions. Put w hat on me? “She’s a pret t y one. “I really don’t know w hat he w ant s w it h you. Have a lit t le fun. I couldn’t sit st ill and w at ch t his. “List en t o t his one.floor. T his one’s aw ake. T he look in his dissipat ed blue eyes scared me more t han t he cages. frow ning as he saw me. “We’ve got t o get t his one back t o t he cent er. pulling her arms behind her. Ramirez. ignoring t he nausea. and let ’s get out of here. W ill iams ret aliat ed w it h a punch in my st omach. She grunt ed as he put his knee int o her back. “W e’re get t ing paid enough money t o pret end she ain’t here.” “Leave her alone. I w heezed as he grabbed my w rist s w hile he ret rieved t he handcuffs from t he t op of t he cage. W ill iams clamped t he handcuffs around my w rist s. “Now be a good girl.” Show ing how much I appreciat ed his suggest ion. and I really don’t care. He w asn’t very old—maybe mid-t w ent ies.” Ramirez hauled t he silent girl t o her feet . It w as no use. . Get t he st uff on her. I kicked.” “And t hat one needs t o be left alone. Come on. and my st ruggles renew ed. pulling so t he chain at t ached t o t hem reached t he floor. w ant ing t o cross my hands over t he t hin mat erial of my t ank t op. “St op it ! Y ou’re hurt ing her!” T he one on her back looked over.” I scoot ed back. W ill iams laughed as he glanced over his shoulder. “W hy am I here?” My voice w avered even t hough I met his gaze.” I shrank back from t he suggest ion. W ill iams. “W ait .” Ramirez replied. He yanked hard. face shielded by hair. Ramirez sw ore under his breat h.” He pulled on t he chain again. My eyes dart ed bet w een t he t w o men. “Just do it . doubling me in half.” “W e could alw ays W index her brain.

you w ere recovering w ay t oo fast . t hrust int o a w orld w here pain t hreat ened t o fray my sanit y.” He adjust ed his t ie. Hours of not hing but scalding. loosening it around his neck. Too exhaust ed t o lift my head. It only made it w orse. It ’s like t w o phot ons bouncing off each ot her. I didn’t care about w hat it meant for me. Many t imes over I t hought I’d die from it . My throat felt scraped raw. inflect s such a st range react ion. I had my suspicions before. t orn apart t o get t o somet hing underneat h. blist ering pain t hat shot dow n my arms. but I’m sure you’ve figured t hat out by now .And I didn’t st op. he’d know right off t he bat if someone healed abnormally . and t here w as t he general dislike of t he fact he had been t aking Dad’s place. “Kat y…” My gaze low ered. Maybe it w as because I couldn’t feel anyt hing ot her t han t he hurt ing t hat w as inflict ed by w hat ever w as encased on t hose handcuffs. Onyx mixed w it h a few ot her st ones. t he handsome face. At some point . “I’m w hat t he DOD calls an implant . You’re a smart cookie. It ’s pret t y much t he only t hing t hat can complet ely incapacit at e bot h t he Luxen and t hose t hey mut at e. looking for a w ay out . I t ried t o not move or jerk w hen t he pain spiked. rolling over me. suffocat ing me. T hat w as w hat made all of t his so much w orse. t he doors opened.” And being a doct or—w ow . I st ared blindly at t he met all beams t hrough t he bars. I w as no longer cold. I faded in and out . Would t hey t ake t he handcuffs off? I w asn’t holding my breat h. T hose moment s of not hing w ere pure bliss. And t he DOD w as already keeping an eye on you because of your proximit y t o t he Blacks. “I hear it ’s painful—t he coat ing— t o t hose like you and t he Luxen. But t hrough it all. It felt like my skin w as cont inuously being flayed. like rubies. T hat ’s w hat it ’s doing t o your mut at ed cells. bounced off my skull. My mom’s boyfriend—t he first man she’d even paid at t ent ion t o aft er my dad’s deat h. T hat t here had t o be an end somew here in sight . but you’re probably w ondering how I knew ? T he night you w ere brought int o t he ER aft er you w ere at t acked. as if he t ruly cared. a short reprieve t hat ended t oo soon. t aking in t he salt and pepper hair. My t ears had also ended w hen my screams st opped. but t he w aves of hurt just kept coming. but Mom… T his w ould kill her. I t hink she loved him. … My screams only died off when I could no longer make anything louder than a raspy whisper. Only uncontrolable whimpers or moans escaped me now . It had been hours since t he men left w it h Mo. “How you hanging in t here?” he asked. and t he smile t hat had charmed his w ay int o my life and right int o my mom’s bed. I w ant ed t o live t hrough t his. I’d w ake. I didn’t w ant t o die.

show ing off perfect w hit e t eet h. . Bet hany. “I brought t hem in first …and.” He’d shot me up w it h somet hing? I felt violat ed on a w hole new level.” Somet hing dark flashed in his eyes. Any t ime a Luxen get s close t o a human.” I blinked. It t ook me several t ries t o get t he next raspy w ords out . “Hmm. I do care about her. and Blake—react approvingly t o t he mut at ion and ot hers do not . Anger cont inued t o build inside me. and I w as right . It ’s called Daedalus.fast . “And I w on’t ever be sick again.” He knelt dow n. Don’t get me w rong.” W ill laughed. not all mut at ed humans survive t he change or t he boost er shot developed t o enhance your abilit ies. She’s a lovely w oman. hoping t he Luxen w ill mut at e t he human. “But you’re different .” “Y ou…you w ere sick.” “W ell. “Y ou…t old t hem about …Daw son and Bet hany?” He flashed a smile. T hat ’s w hat t he Daedalus is t rying t o find out . you I hear are quit e amazing in t hat depart ment . just t o keep…an eye on me?” W hen he w inked. t hey do. I had my suspicions. Disgust seeped t hrough me like a disease. but …” I w ant ed t o hurt him. He’d sold out his only family. And you. you responded t o t he serum miraculously. he smirked. T hey’ve been w orking on it for years—a mixt ure of human and alien DNA. did you t hink you’d survive a mut at ion of t hat kind of magnit ude w it hout help?” Oh my God… “You see. haven’t you been doing your research?” W hen I said not hing. I w as st aying w it h her parent s w hen she ret urned from hiking. w e know w hat happened from t here. “You st art ed…t o dat e my…mom. “Y ou son…of a bit ch. w ell. “T he DOD w as already monit oring t hem. Your fever ran higher. I w ant ed t o vomit . W hy only some— some like you. “W hy?” I croaked.” “Serum?” “Yes. I inject ed you w it h it w hen you first became ill. Badly. head t ilt ed t o t he side. “Come on. dat ing your mom did have it s benefit s. and you’re st ronger t han Bet hany. named aft er t he division w it hin t he DOD t hat oversees mut at ed humans. overshadow ing t he pain.

if you t hink about it . It felt like my cells really w ere bouncing off one anot her. it hasn’t w orked yet . Excit ed.” An unexpect ed jolt of pain rocked me. “Doubt ful. “As far as I know . I’ve been dow nst airs for a w hile. but pieces clicked t oget her.” Dow nst airs? I realized t hen t hat w e w ere most likely in t he w arehouse t hat Daemon had at t empt ed t o invest igat e t he night w e ran int o t he officers. t hat he w ill do anyt hing for. w ait ing for you t o st op screaming. “Don’t be angry. W ill had been paying Vaughn off. He’d have done anyt hing for Bet hany. eit her. Daemon has somet hing I w ant .” I drew in a ragged. w incing.W ill looked pleased. “Y ou…” He st opped at t he front of t he cage. And you really shouldn’t t alk. I should’ve t ried it w it h t hem.” Anger broke t hrough t he pain. “Did you know t he Luxen healing pow er is at it s st rongest w hen a person is w ounded and t he effect s w eaken t he longer t he gap is bet w een t he injury and t he healing? So I’m t hinking he w on’t be able t o fix t he voice t hing. “I almost t hought I lost it all t his w eekend. W ill w as leaning closer.” he said conversat ionally. Vaughn knew t hat Nancy w ould be pissed.” W ill laughed. “Fuck…you. . W hat ever it w as. it w as enough for Vaughn t o go against t he DOD. most likely w ould t ake it out on Blake’s lit t le alien friend.” “He’ll …kill you. because w hen I opened my eyes. Kat y.” I really had no idea w hat he w as t alking about . Alt hough I shouldn’t t alk. “Kind of messed up. W ill had bet rayed his ow n niece. painful breat h t hat scorched my t hroat . And if he plays along. He w as supposed t o bring you t o me t hen. T he bank t ransfer slips made sense. I don’t mean him any harm. and you w ill ensure he behaves long enough so t his meet ing ends beneficially for all part ies involved. “It ’s rat her simple. Moving rest lessly. and it also explained w hy he’d st opped Blake from t elling Nancy any of my progress.” I rasped. T hat poor boy had no idea t hat his ow n uncle w as w orking t o undermine w hat Nancy had him doing. burning just as bright . but for w hat ? I didn’t know . You can imagine how pissed I w as w hen I learned t hat Vaughn w as dead. t railing his fingers over t he bars. He st ood. and my body w ent st iff as I gasped. I moaned as he brought t he handcuffs more int o cont act w it h my skin. “I t hink you’ve done some permanent damage t o your vocal chords. Daw son is very much like his brot her. hands clenching at his sides. You.” He laughed. I just need you compliant w hile Daemon and I negot iat e. but I w asn’t t hinking. I may’ve faded out for a few seconds. t rying t o escape. bot h of you w ill w alk out of t his building alive. besides you. since I t urned over Bet hany and Daw son. And I do have somet hing.

“W hat do you. If Nancy knew w hat w e did. “Be grat eful t hat t he chain of evidence ends w it h me.” He glanced over his shoulder. but t o mut at e him? If pain w eren’t racking my body. isn’t he? You can sense him. but you st ill have no idea w hat it ’s like w hen your body t urns against you. w hen every day is a bat t le t o just survive. t he childlike aw e.” I shuddered.” I focused t hrough t he pain. And I t hink your fat her. and W ill t urned expect ant ly. if he’d been given t he chance. My eyes dart ed t o t he doorw ay. and t here w as t hat excit ement again. Sure. w ould have felt t he same w ay. “My fat her w ould never…hurt anot her person…” W ill smiled. Kat y. W hen t his is done. “I w ant him t o mut at e me. you w at ched your fat her succumb t o cancer. but w e could’ve been w rong. As it ebbed off.” Chapter 35 I’d been expect ing a lot of t hings.” It w asn’t naivet é. Daemon is a smart one. a different sensat ion appeared. t hat helpless again.” W ill t urned my old cell over. because he scow led. “Y ou have no idea w hat you’re t ruly capable of. Anot her w ave of raw hurt forced my eyes closed. w hat he’d do. neit her of you w ould be leaving here t onight . I w ould’ve laughed at t he absurdit y. “He’s here. And let ’s just say my response w ill lead him t o us.w ant from him?” W ill t ossed t he phone aside and grasped t he t ort urous bars.” He pushed off t he bars. Daemon w as here. I w ill do anyt hing t o never be t hat w eak. W ill must ’ve sensed my t hought s. “You don’t underst and. W hat is money and prest ige w hen you have t he kind of pow er t o force people t o your w ill? W hen you never get sick? W hen no human and no alien life-form can st op you?” His knuckles bleached. w e all w alk aw ay from t his okay..“Don’t w orry. lit t le girl. I knew my dad. His eyes met mine. concent rat ing on w hat he w as saying.. even t hough t here hadn’t been a sound. and I’m sure t hat w as t errible for you. Like maybe he w ant ed Daemon t o annihilat e an ent ire t ow n or rob a bank for him. It w asn’t unt ill Blake t ook out Adam and nearly Dee t hat w e could confirm it w as Daemon. “Y our naivet é is endearing. smiling. “He responded event ually.” He glanced back at me. “Being sick and close t o deat h changes a person. “All of us suspect ed him.” Relief colored his t one. “T here’s an address you need t o .

Not a Luxen pow er. I also have t he keys t o t hat cage and t hose handcuffs. “W hat do you w ant ?” “I w ant you t o mut at e me. T here.” “No. “Onyx covers every ent rance t o t his building. “Maybe not now . “She’s been in t here for a w hile.” Daemon looked at W ill. t hough.” W ill glanced at me.” “And you can believe t hat I’ll be ready for t hat day.” W ill answ ered. He gripped t he bars and t hen jerked back w it h a hiss. “A nice combinat ion t hat doesn’t sit w ell w it h t he Luxen or hybrids. t hen he’s lost his w indow of t ime. Y ou can believe t hat . and w e only have…” He checked his Rolex. cocking an eyebrow . He has unt ill midnight . I sw ear t o you. And only I can t ouch any part of t hat . show ing t hat he w asn’t ent irely confident in his plans. “W hat is t his?” His gaze dropped t o his hands and t hen back t o me.” I remembered t he address from t he slip of paper I’d found. Not as fast as he normally w ould. “I’m going t o get you out of t here. I t urned my head t ow ard him. I w as sure t hat Daemon w as going t o blast W ill int o his next life. my mout h opened in a silent scream. I could feel t he pow er radiat ing off him.” Daemon lift ed his head. “Onyx mixed w it h ruby and hemat it e. t he double doors opened. Just t hen. he’ll find w hat he’s looking for. “Are you insane?” . Daemon came t hrough t he ent rance. but my body had w ant ed t o move closer t o him. It w as an unconscious movement . but a human one—one born of desperat ion and pain. I w ant ed t o say somet hing.” Daemon grow led low in his t hroat . Shal w e move t his along?” Ignoring him. He looked at W ill and quickly dismissed him. slamming off t he w hit e cement w alls. His gaze found me and st ayed. I don’t t hink you w ill. Pain fract ured t he light in his eyes. Kit t en. 1452 St reet of Hopes in Moorefield. I t hink you underst and w hat t hat means. head low ered and eyes like glow ing orbs. Daemon shot forw ard. W it hering on t he floor of t he pen. and w hile I have every int ent ion of let t ing you bot h go. “I w ill kill you. jaw w orking. but I w ill. Daemon approached t he ot her side of t he pen and knelt .” “As sw eet as your declarat ion is. Even in my st at e. but it w as a moot point . “About t hirt y minut es before t he next round of officers arrive. A mult it ude of emot ions flickered across his face. and it caused t he onyx on t he handcuffs t o come int o more cont act w it h my skin. t he only w ay you’ll get her out of t here is t o do as I say. and his eyes searched every inch of me int ensely.” W ill had moved back. t hen laughed grimly. t hey w on’t .remember.” He st ared at W ill a moment . so I know you can’t pull in any pow er or use t he light .

ret urning t o see Daemon at t he front of t he cage. “Let t he chains go.” W ill yanked on t he chains. My scream w as just a w himper. We have less t han t w ent y minut es t o do t his.” He sneered.” Daemon shook his head.” He reached over t he cage.” W ill st epped closer t o t he cage Mo had been in.W ill ’s eyes narrow ed. but it w as not hing like it had been seconds ago. t aking on t he arrogant sw agger he w as famous for. “St op it !” he roared.” “I can’t just t w it ch my nose and make it happen. and t he rest I can t ake care of. and I’ll give you t he key t o t he cage.” My heart cracked. t o go t o t he address I’ve given t o Kat y.” “But you haven’t even heard w hat I’m offering. “Please. “I may have t o change up my game. Mut at e me.” Daemon glanced at me quickly. Daemon. “I have t o be w ounded. and I sw am in pain. Y ou have t o heal me. W ill released t he chains. “Or not .” “Y ou’re not ?” Daemon snickered.” . w hich I know you w ill once she’s removed from t hat cage.” “Am I t hat predict able?” He smiled smugly.” “I know how it w orks.” he said.” W ill let out an exasperat ed breat h.” “Y ou’ll fill me in right now . you w ill not follow me. and t hen you’ll have only t hirt y minut es. She know s. “Kat y can fill you in on t hat . w rapping his fingers around t he bundle of chains. but I knew he w as coiled t ight . but Daemon shot up. “W hen I leave here. W ill looked at me and smiled. T he older man’s lip t w it ched. “Is t his a scavenger hunt ? I so do love t hem. “Let t he chains go. “I need t o make sure you don’t come aft er me as soon as I leave here. and I buckled. I faded out for several seconds. “I w ant t o become w hat she is. and his st ance changed. “I don’t need t o explain everyt hing t o you. I w ant you t o change me.” he snarled. She can fill you in. but I’m not st upid. T he pain w as st ill t here. his eyes w ide and frant ic. give or t ake a few . Daemon never begged. and I slumped against t he pen. “T hat ’s much bet t er. “T his is my deal. “W hat is t he rest ?” Once again.” He held t he damn chains up.

Daemon just arched a brow w hile my heart t umbled over. If Daemon healed W ill. Y ou’ll succeed w here he’s failed t ime and t ime again.” W ill nodded. But my brot her means more t han vengeance. I think I kind of loved him just for that. aiming t he gun at his leg. W ill w as offering Daemon everyt hing he’d w ant ed—his brot her. his eyes narrow ing at t he sound of my voice. “You’ll have a choice t o make aft er you let her out of t he cage. “Rip your flesh off your body slow ly and t hen feed it t o you for hurt ing Kat . T he man didn’t make a sound.” All of Daemon’s arrogance vanished. he shot himself in t he leg. “Failed…at w hat ?” Daemon’s head jerked t ow ard me.Alw ays a smartass. I thought.” Daemon drew in a breat h.” Daemon said finally. T he onyx didn’t block his . And he w as fight ing not t o show any emot ion. t heir lives w ould be joined. “I’d prefer t o hunt you dow n and break every bone in your body for w hat you’ve done. t he w ay his eyes flickered.” Visibly shaken by his w ords. T here w as no w ay he’d t urn t hat dow n. and t he t ight line of his mout h. He t ook a st ep back. I w at ched W ill cock his arm back and t hen aft er a minut e. “I know .” “W hat ? A t at t oo of your face on my ass?” W ill ’s cheeks flushed w it h anger. “I w as so hoping I w as going t o get t o inflict t he damage. even in the w orst situations. on t he ot her hand. pulling out a gun from his back. he w as expressionless. but t hen Daemon placed his hand on W ill ’s arm. W ill paled. you have t o be hurt for t his t o w ork. He w as caught bet w een excit ement and t he know ledge t hat he w as creat ing someone w ho could ult imat ely dest roy t he ones he loved. “He’s proven t o be quit e useless.” “Y eah. It hasn’t been w orking.” W ill slow ly approached him. He’s not as st rong as you. Part of me w ant ed t o look aw ay or cave t o t he pain.” I w et my dry lips. Y ou can come aft er me or you can get t he one t hing you’ve alw ays w ant ed. but I didn’t .” W ill smiled coldly. “Possibly. To W ill.” W hat happened next w as t ruly macabre.’ Besides. but W ill spoke up. And someone w ho w ould be t ied t o him irrevocably—and t o me. but I recognized t he minut e t icking in his jaw . Daemon. are st ronger.” “Y ou know .” Daemon looked disappoint ed. “T hey’ve been forcing him t o mut at e humans for years. Somet hing didn’t seem right about t hat ot her t han t he obvious. But you—you. Y ou are different . “Y our brot her. “I w as hoping t hat w ould be your decision. “W hat ?” “I’ve paid a lot of money t o get him in a posit ion w here he could’ve ’escaped. I doubt t hey’ll really be searching for him. I don’t t hink so.

” And he w as. “Behave. Kit t en. bot h part ies have t o be w illing. unlocking t he chains above me. fueling w hat st rengt h I had left . By t he t ime he placed me on my feet out side of t he cage.” T he healing w armt h w as in his hands.” He smiled. but he w ould never get passed t he onyx t o get me out . I blacked out again.healing pow ers. soft and deep. “For t he mut at ion t o w ork.” I w hispered. I didn’t know how much t ime w e had left . At least not t o t he ext ent he t hinks. But for a moment . his fingers t hreading t hrough mine. And t here w ere officers on t heir w ay. sinking int o his t ouch. I knew he w asn’t at full st rengt h. W hen he pulled aw ay. T he manacles slipped off my w rist s. he clut ched my cheeks and placed his lips on mine.” He kissed me again. “I’m all right . w incing at t he sound of my voice. “I’ve got you. W ill ’s eyes met mine. even t hough I w as sure t hey’d linger for some t ime. he needed t o be dying or close t o it . “Evil genius. and I felt his half grin against my lips. if you get my drift .” I w hispered in a t hroat y voice. healt hy and w hole.” he replied. Making a deep sound in t he back of his t hroat . I could st and alone. and I gent ly brushed his hands off me.” T hen he w as out of t he cage. t he sound rasping. Kit t en. and out of t he room. Remember w hat Mat t hew said? I w asn’t ent irely int o it . And not t o ment ion. Daemon pressed his forehead against mine.” I laughed in spit e of everyt hing. “I suggest you don’t t ell your mot her about t his. I t ried t o sit up. unable t o really fight t hrough t he pain anymore. having got t en w hat he w ant ed. and he t ook aw ay most of t he hours spent t here. Aft er all. I saw W ill unlat ching t he cage door. Aft er healing W ill. T he mut at ion probably w on’t w ork. It ’s over. Carefully ent ering t he cage and helping me out . “Y ou sure you’re okay? Y our voice…” “Y eah. creeping up like most dark t hings do. Daemon could’ve let him bleed out . w e w eren’t in such a t errible place. “I’ll be okay. Couldn’t be more t han t en minut es. He moved over me. I closed my eyes. Coming t o. but my arms gave out . bot h of us w ere gasping for air. it w ould kill her. and I almost cried just for t hat . “Daemon…” “I’m here. t here w asn’t t his giant clock t icking over our . “W hat did you do?” I asked. his eyes moving over me. limit ed t ime t o reach Daw son.” “Y ou bet cha. Kat y.

I felt t he bit ing w ind st ing my cheeks as he picked up speed. “Not going t o happen. so I called and w hen t hey t old me your mom hadn’t been admit t ed…” . Kat . “Now let ’s go get my brot her. I can st ay in t he car and…you can just do your zippy speed st uff. Loved. t urning t he key. Once out side and no longer affect ed by t he onyx. okay? We have t ime. leaving him in a t hin cot t on shirt and jeans. t hough. Seconds lat er. “I’m not leaving you alone. I’d survive. “I’m not leaving you. I couldn’t imagine how Daemon w as st ill going full t hrot t le. T reasured. Not for a freaking second. In a heart beat .” Chapter 36 My boot s and sw eat er w ere MIA. W it h no t ime t o w ast e. he w as buckling me int o his passenger seat . “W hen I got your message about your mom and w hen you didn’t respond back t o me.” Daemon’s brow s shot up as he eased t he SUV around t he Dumpst ers. He hesit at ed as he saw my hands t remble and t hen nodded.” “But —” “Not going t o happen.” He shook his head. Daemon sighed against my mout h. “I’ll be fine. and t hen I felt his lips curve int o a real smile. w illing my fingers around t he met al.” I realized t hen. I leaned back against t he seat . T here w as not hing w e could do about t he shoes. and I w as safe in his arms. “Ready?” W hen t he belt clicked int o place. Daemon scooped me up and rushed from t he w arehouse.” I mumbled. especially aft er t he admit t edly half-assed healing job on W ill.” I knew how badly he needed t o get t o t he office building—t o Daw son. I t hought maybe you w ere already at t he hospit all in W inchest er. “Y ou’d be fast er…w it hout me.” He brushed t he dark w aves off his forehead w it h one hand. Chilled feet w ere act ually pleasant in comparison t o w hat I’d just experienced. W e have t ime. out of breat h. “Y ou could leave me.heads. W e w ere t oget her. I felt like I’d climbed Mount Everest w hile carrying a hundred-pound w eight st rapped t o my back. T w o halves of t he same at om brought back t o make one t hat w as infinit ely st ronger. he w as behind t he st eering w heel. T he onyx had done more t han block t he Source. his jaw clenching t ight ly.” He gunned it out of t he parking lot . “I can do it . so Daemon t ugged his sw eat er on over my head.

Like t he mut at ed cells under my skin w ere t rying t o break free. Know ing t hat . t he ones w ho caused problems? It w as inhumane and t ort urous. “Back w hen w e w ere being assimilat ed. I’m not let t ing you out of my sight . In t hose hours. I’d seen it used on t hose w ho w ere causing problems. Mom w as okay. w hen I first saw it . I couldn’t even fat hom w hat it had done t o ot hers—t o Daw son. t he pain t hat w ould shape him int o a different person. gripping t he st eering w heel. Caged and in pain w it h no end in sight —t he hopelessness t hat w ould event ually creep int o him.” he said. yeah.” I w hispered. I couldn’t bear Daemon being in somet hing like t hat . And t hey’d had Daw son for over a year and Chris for how many? Hours—I only had hours in t hat cage w it h t he onyx. but now I knew t hose hours must ’ve been pure hell for him. bouncing off one anot her. W hile I’d been panicking in t hat cage. “Onyx. “I’m okay. I imagined it w as like childbirt h plus surgery w it hout anest hesia. t hough?” I nodded inst ead of speaking because I had a feeling hearing my damaged voice w ould probably get t o him. Daemon shook his head. w hile ot hers had years. t aking a deep breat h. Like being ripped apart from t he inside—at least t hat w as how it felt . I should’ve recognized it . And t hen I got t he t ext from W ill …so. If w e didn’t get pulled over for speeding. It had been t he w orst pain I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t live w it h t hat .Relief coursed t hrough me. T hey cont rolled Luxen like t hat . My heart w ept for him. t hough. a flashback t o t he days aft er Daw son’s supposed deat h.” My chest ached. And I didn’t know it w ould affect you t he same w ay. And t he t hought of anyone else suffering like t hat caused my st omach t o t w ist . “I t hought t he w orst —I t hought t hey’d got t en you. He glanced at me sidew ays as w e sped ont o t he highw ay heading east . Hours t hat w ould linger w it h me unt ill I t ook my last breat h. I just never saw it in t hat capacit y—on bars and chains. it w ould be a miracle. “Are you really okay. “It ’s been years since I saw it . part s of my soul had darkened…hardened. No leap of t he imaginat ion t o t hink t hat w as how t hey’d be cont rolling Daw son…and Blake’s friend.” “Did you know it w ould do t hat ?” Keeping my voice low t ook aw ay most of t he raspy sound. T here’d been moment s w hen I w ould’ve done anyt hing t o make it st op. but it w as only hours.” “It …” I t railed off. . I hadn’t had a chance t o really consider Daemon w as aw are of w hat w as happening. most likely. but I w as young. Anxiet y t hrummed t hrough me. And I w as ready t o t ear t his w hole damn t ow n apart .

I am. He hadn’t made t he “right call ” w hen t he t w o DOD officers caught us at t he w arehouse. but lying w as lying. Sure. I do w ant t o hunt him dow n. “And you t hink t here w as no w ay t he mut at ion st uck?” “Not if Mat t hew is right . but he had t o know . keeping t hem t here. He bet rayed people.” My brow s arched. I…I w ould do anyt hing t o prot ect you. T hose hours. he’s pissed w hen t he mut at ion fades. He remained focused on t he dark road as he pressed our hands t o his t high. it w as t o prot ect t hem. Doesn’t make anyt hing he did okay. mut at ed.” “W hat ?” Daemon looked at me sharply. but he w asn’t dying. Worst -case scenario t o me w as if he came back in any form—normal. You’d make t he right call. “He did everyt hing t o prot ect Chris. I had been changing before t hen—going from someone w ho hat ed confront at ion t o someone w ho w ant ed t o t rain and gain t he pow er t o fight …and t o kill. but his fait h in me brought t ears t o my w eary eyes. He lied. “About W ill? W hat …w hat do you t hink w ill happen w it h him?” Daemon grow led.” I w asn’t so sure about t hat . “God. Worst -case scenario. I blinked t hem back and squeezed his hand.” He cast me a look. I mean. braver. because in t he end.” He st ared at me as w hat I didn’t say hung in t he air bet w een us and t hen sunk in. I w as bolder now . I w ant ed t o do it t o get you out of t here. T here w as somet hing I needed him t o know . And I get t hat now . And I knew w it hout a doubt I’d kill t o prot ect Daemon and t hose I loved w it hout a moment of hesit at ion. t oo. Now I w as not hing but a shade of gray—my moral compass ambiguous. I w asn’t sure if w hat I’d become w as a bet t er version of me or not . but I knew he w ouldn’t make t he “right call ” if someone he loved w as in danger. but I get t hat now . He nicked an art ery. Lying t o t hose I cared about had become second nat ure w hen I’d been a pret t y honest person before.“Kat ?” Concern clouded his t one. He killed. t he know ledge I’d gained from t hem. but it w asn’t t his t rue and deep w ant . t hreading his fingers t hrough mine. or w hat ever—and got anyw here near my mom again. “You’re st ill not hing like him. I’ll t ake care of him. “Y ou’re not hing like t hat son—” “No. Daemon didn’t say it . “Blake and I aren’t very different . Old Kat y couldn’t fat hom t hat . had changed me. but here’s t he deal.” I t w ist ed t ow ard him. Part s of me had changed for t he bet t er. And I also w asn’t sure if t hat w as going t o change how Daemon looked at me. and he comes back aft er us. If so. “I know w . No. Daemon reached over w it h one hand. you w ouldn’t hurt someone w ho w as innocent .

he hadn’t heard of t hem. Daemon w as beside me in a second. We w ent inside.” Healing W ill w it hout really know ing w hat t he out come w ould be w as a huge risk and sacrifice for Daemon. I saw a circular piece of onyx embedded in t he brick. If t his w ere a t rap. Suspicion blossomed. Daemon flinched. I t old him about t he Daedalus.hat you’re t hinking.” He pulled along t he back of t he plaza. ignoring t he w eariness sinking int o my bones. T he lit t le t alking w e did on t he w ay t o t he office building w eakened my voice furt her. Neit her of us had any clue w hat w ait ed inside. Because in realit y. As w e w alked up t o t he front doors. Everyt hing…” “Everyt hing is about t o change. Five minut es t o get Daw son out of t here if w hat W ill had said w as t rue. “Y ou don’t have t o come in w it h me. t aking my hand as he looked dow n. I opened t he door. Pulling his hand free. I’m okay. w e w ere so screw ed. t he door w as unlocked. Please don’t let t his end badly. he cut t he engine. but his fingers t ight ening around mine grounded me in realit y. Please don’t let t his end badly.” “T hank you. I t ook off t he seat belt . but w e’d come t his far.” No w ay in hell w as I let t ing Daemon face t his alone. but it didn’t help. Daemon reached for t he handle on t he double glass doors and surprise. “T here’s not hing w e can do about t hat now but w ait and see. surprise. “T hank you for get t ing me out of t here.” I admit t ed. I know …you’re t ired. He t ook a deep breat h as he glanced at t he clock in t he dashboard. W e had five minut es. meet ing my eyes.” I cleared my t hroat . and all t he people he had t o pay off t o just leave t he office building…unlocked? . but as expect ed. I st art ed a mini prayer in my head for w hoever w as list ening. Once inside. w hat kind of condit ion Daw son w as in. hit t ing t he brakes. “Are you okay?” Daemon asked as w e neared St reet of Hopes. Vaughn. and each t ime my w ords ended on a raspy not e. t his could go w rong on so many different levels it w as fright ening. w it h t he except ion of healing. I pressed my head against t he backseat . My smile felt w obbly. Don’t w orry about me right now . How much money did W ill invest in t his? T he guards at t he w arehouse. “T hank you.” Daemon blinked. “Let ’s do t his. “Y eah. To t he right . w incing as pins and needles shot across my feet . “Y eah.” Daemon didn’t respond. w e’d be pow erless. forcing my eyes t o st ay open. Looking up.” I smiled even t hough my insides w ere t w ist ing and t urning. Too easy. Five minut es w asn’t nearly enough t ime t o prepare for t his. T hat if it did. meaning it w asn’t set . t he alarm syst em shone green. w e’re connect ed t o him.

but fear and excit ement spiked my blood w it h adrenaline. my legs w ere shaking from exhaust ion. I squeezed his hand.” To come t his close. Images of t he impending reunion flit t ed t hrough my t hought s. T here w ere a couple of folding chairs propped against t he w all. t o come seconds from seeing his brot her again. A shudder racked his body. Above it . He st alked t o t he cage. and t ears burned t he back of my sore t hroat . I’d never see him so pale. T he lobby looked like any office-building lobby. “He…he lied t o me. My st omach cramped. a T V in t he corner. His fut ure. Half-circle desk. st ood t here a moment . My breat h caught in my t hroat as he opened t he door. in a w ay. I hurried t o his side and placed my hand on his rigid back.Money w ould’ve been of no real hindrance t o him. climbing t he st airs as fast as w e could. Hell. out fit t ed w it h t he same kind of manacles t hat had hung from mine. couldn’t let t he t hought sink in and t ake root . “He lied t o us. At t he t op landing. a slight t remor running up his arm. t here w as a closed door. W hen w e reached t he t op. . and t hen knelt . his hands falling t o his sides. his face so hard it could’ve been made of marble. Muscles bunched under my t ouch. Heat blast ed off his body as his spine st iffened. “Daemon. and a large kennellike cage in t he middle of t he room. His dest iny w ait ed upst airs. Glancing at Daemon. Daemon let go of my hand and w rapped his fingers around t he handle. Daemon st epped int o t he room slow ly.” I croaked. he’d t urned over his ow n niece. he st art ed t ow ard t he door and w e w ent . T he cage…t he cage w as empt y. T he kind of shat t ering t here w as no coming back from. Squaring his shoulders. t here w as more onyx—a sure sign.” Daemon said. Would t here be t ears and shout s of joy? W ould Daw son be in any shape t o recognize his brot her? Or w as t here a t rap w ait ing t o be sprung on us? T he room w as dark. Part of me didn’t w ant t o process w hat t hat meant . w as heart breaking. voice ragged. and cheap t ile floors. lit only by t he moonlight st reaming in t hrough one w indow . fake plant s. pressing his forehead against his hand. T here w as a door leading t o a st airw ell t hat had been convenient ly left open.

Caught off guard. Choking back a sob.” He pressed his lips int o a t hin line. I w ant ed t o say somet hing. He t ricked us. I climbed in. I t w ist ed in my seat . I knelt behind him and rest ed my cheek on his back. “Did you call t hem. His eyes glow ing like diamonds from t he moment w e st epped out of t he office building. Gone again. past midnight . Daemon t ook my hand. I st art ed t o t ip over. He glanced at me briefly but said not hing. T he injust ice of it at e aw ay at me. T here had probably been t ext s from her. but soon. but t here really w eren’t w ords t hat could do t he loss any just ice. t ell t hem w hat happened t o…me?” .” I honest ly w ant ed t o sit dow n and cry. hit t ing t he road in silence. Not now . but if he’d been here. but t hey kept going. T his w as so w rong. Dee’s Jet t a w as in t he drivew ay. and t he only good t hing I had going w as my mom w as in fact at w ork and not w ondering w here in t he hell I’d been all day. and she w asn’t going t o be happy w hen I responded w it h some lame excuse. cat ching me before I hit t he floor and pulling me t o my feet . placing my hand on his arm. I reached bet w een us. “It ’s not your fault .” His voice w as rough. Mom and I w ere going t o have t o t alk. st epping back. he w as gone now . “I…I’m so sorry. My heart st ut t ered and t hen accelerat ed. t hough. I kept my hand on his arm.” I nodded. and w e headed back t o t he car. “Daemon…” “Sorry. hoping it brought him comfort like he’d given me earlier. Turning around. I glanced at Daemon. I w at ched t he scenery blur by in a mesh of shadow s. “W e…w e need t o get out of here. We pulled int o Daemon’s drivew ay and t he SUV idled t o a st op. but he w hipped around. Daemon had lost Daw son all over again. Several miles lat er t w o Ford Expedit ions sped past us. Had Daw son ever been here? T here w as a good chance he’d been at t he w arehouse because of w hat Mo had said. His jaw w as carved out of ice right now . Daemon jerked up. We pulled out of t he plaza.T here w as not hing I could say. I could barely keep my eyes open. It w as lat e. T he empt iness t earing open inside me w as not hing compared w it h w hat I knew Daemon w as feeling. along w it h Mat t hew ’s car. No w ords could make t his bet t er. Set t ling back against t he seat . Y ou had not hing t o do w it h t his. expect ing t he vehicles t o do a one-eight y in t he middle of t he road. By t he t ime w e reached t he main rout e leading t o our road. He lied. buckling t he seat belt w it h numb fingers and a heavy heart .

Daemon needed t his.” I w ant ed t o t ell him t hat I could w alk. t w o very different kinds of souls rest ed in him. sw aying like a reed. A very smart move. A w ry grin appeared on his lips. but she w as smiling. Daemon leaned over t he cent er console and kissed me. I could see t he t ears glist ening on her pale cheeks. preparing t o face anyt hing and expect ing t he w orst . Sw ear.” he said. T he t ender t ouch w as so at odds w it h w hat he’d just said. Daemon t ook a st ep forw ard as t he front door st art ed t o sw ing shut but st opped. Daemon pulled back w it h a shudder. so no more w alking. . fused t oget her. I relent ed and scoot ed t o t he edge of t he seat . Y ou can st ay w it h me. needed t o t ake care of someone right now . St rands of dark curly hair st reamed behind her. “and I’m going t o kill him. “T hey w ant ed t o help find you. At least Dee hadn’t experienced t he piercing hope t hat t urned int o bot t omless despair like Daemon had. A t all and t hin form filled t he doorw ay.” “Okay.” “But w on’t she w orry?” “I’ll t ext her as soon as you’re set t led. his hands closing int o fist s. He asked me t o w ait w hile he got out and came around t he front of t he SUV.” I w as probably going t o help. “Y ou haven’t had shoes on t his ent ire t ime. He opened t he door and reached in for me. Dee rushed out . Even from w here I w as. w incing as coldness bit deep int o my flesh. I froze. slamming against t he clapboard like a gunshot . As t he form drift ed forw ard. slow er t han he normally moved. But she w as laughing. “I can’t …I can’t face Dee right now . “If t he mut at ion doesn’t hold. “I’ll get out before your mom comes home. T he front door t o his house sw ung open. Daemon st umbled.He t ook a breat h and I realized he hadn’t been breat hing t his w hole t ime. but I had t hem st ay here in case…” In case t hings had gone badly. Oh God. Deadly and sw eet —t hat w as w hat Daemon w as. Tonight had t aken it s t oll. babbling nonsense. “W hat are you doing?” He arched a brow . but Daemon spun around.” Alw ays.” T hat w ould be a good idea. She w as smiling. but before I could respond. I slipped out of t he seat . I w ill find W ill. Daemon never st umbled. under her sw oll en eyes. I w ant ed t o add. but some inherent inst inct t old me not t o push it .

get t ing st uck and st ealing my breat h. his broader body blocking his brot her’s. arms limp against his sides. Daw son w as home. feet pounding over frozen ground and up t he st eps. Rebecca Mancini. Daemon pulled his brot her t o him. It all seemed surreal. . I can’t forget my aw esome agent . and I w as dreaming somet hing t oo perfect . Acknowledgments W rit ing acknow ledgment s is probably t he hardest part of t he book-making business. and like Kat y w ould say. but Daw son… He w as just st anding t here. As t he t w o brot hers st ared at each ot her. t he edit or behind t he Lux Series and t he one w ho demanded t hat I put more Daemon int o Onyx. Gaunt and pale. “Daw son…?” Uncert aint y carried in Daemon’s voice as he pulled back. and all t he hard w ork t hey do. Every t ime. and I blinked—t oo scared t o believe w hat I w as seeing. sending t hem sw irling int o t he night sky. and eyes t hat w ere dull but st ill such a st riking shade of green. t hat w ould make me a douche canoe. “Daw son. lips t hat w ere w ide and expressive. nervous lit t le knot s t hat t raveled up my t hroat . I feel like I forgot someone t erribly import ant . of course. In t hat moment . T hank you t o my aw esome publicist . his face as beaut iful as his brot her’s but painfully empt y. T hen he broke int o a dead run. w it h t he w ind blow ing loose flakes of snow on t he ground. Misa. Somehow . Y our love for t he Lux series…and Daemon aw es me. Yeah. and foreign right s agent . somew ay.” Daemon croaked out.T he w hy sunk in slow ly. Kevan Lyon. and t he rest of t he crew at Ent angled. He had been right . A big t hank-you t o Liz Pell et ier. spilling dow n my cheeks as Daemon t hrew his arms out . but it w as like seeing Daemon in t w o spot s. t hank her. everyt hing did change…for t he bet t er and for t he w orse. I w ant t o t hank my family and friends for not hat ing me w hen I ignore t hem for days t o finish a book. And. Like maybe I’d fall en asleep on t he w ay back. A huge shout -out and a big t hank-you t o t he book lovers and bloggers out t here. Because under t he glow of t he porch light w as a boy w it h dark w avy hair curling around broad cheekbones. An exact replica of Daemon st ood on t he porch. t w ist ing my insides int o raw . I remembered w hat Daemon had said earlier. Wet ness gat hered in my eyes.

Hell. Kat . Lesa. is st ill alive. T he DOD w ould be knocking on our doors any damn second. no mat t er how pissed off I am at you?” “No. I can t ast e it . “because I know you really hat e me now .” My gaze locked w it h her w at ery one. And t hat ’s you. “I don’t know w hat t omorrow is going t o bring. w hat a year from now is going t o be like. I st ill had no idea w here Daw son w as. And she w as t alking about how she felt about me. Bonus Material Read one of your favorite ONYX scenes from Daemon’s point of view.” I chased aft er t he t ear w it h my t humb.” she w hispered. and Angela for act ually reading t his before t he red pen got a hold of it . “I never hat ed you. Adam w as dead. t hank you W endy Higgins! T hanks t o Cindy. “I’m mad at you—at myself. T hat son of a bit ch Blake—I should’ve killed him t he moment I first saw him. I couldn’t st and it if she cried. I w ant t o find Blake and rearrange part s of his body. T hat she couldn’t cat ch her breat h and t hat she felt alive.Also. She’s st ill t here.” A t ear t railed dow n her cheek. I underst and t hat . t he person w ho means more t o me t han I can st and. T hat she had never felt t his w ay about anyone before. Carissa.. Dee w as dest royed. I’m so angry. and t he only t hing I could t hink about —cared about —w as w hat Kat w as t elling me. “W hat …w hat does t hat mean?” “I really don’t know .” she cont inued. Kat had lied t o me. “But —” “I don’t hat e you now .. “T hat I’m lucky. My chest const rict ed. and then catch a sneak peek of one of Entangled Teen’s hottest new YA releases. I just w ish I could go back and change everyt hing! I—” I moved t oo fast for her t o t rack and clasped her cheeks. because t he person I can’t get out of my head.” She blinked. But do you know w hat I t hought about all day yest erday? All night ? T he one single t hought I couldn’t escape. Do This the Right Way Daemon T he ent ire w orld w as crashing dow n on us. “But none of t his mat t ers. w e may end up killing each . and God. I should’ve killed him now .

I w as moving w it hout realizing it . My answ er w as t o bring our mout hs t oget her again…and again. But Kat pulled back. but it w as happening. kissing t he t ears aw ay unt ill t hat w asn’t enough and I needed a t ast e of her. “It ’s not all your fault . It w as just us. no her. I st ill w ant t o st rangle you. All of t his is st ill my fault . I w as t urning int o a pansy. But all I do know is w hat I feel for you isn’t going anyw here.” She st art ed t o cry harder. and t he next t hing I knew w e w ere on t he bed and she w as right w here I w ant ed her—in my lap. T he t ouch w as like t apping int o t he Source. sending light ning st raight t o t he soul. You’re crazy. but w e bot h know it ’s t rue. shaky laugh. t o me at least .” “It kind of does. heat her-gray eyes. Such a human t hing.” “Not in so many w ords.” “Y ou are?” She closed t hose beaut iful. Not w hen it came t o her. “It ’s t he same for you?” she asked. I bent my head. And I’m okay w it h it . And t hen she w as beside me on t he bed. W e’ll face w hat ever is w ait ing for us t oget her. But I didn’t care. Man. “It might have t o do w it h t he fact you finally admit t ed you’re deeply and irrevocably in love w it h me. and it w asn’t enough—could never be enough. “T his doesn’t change anyt hing I’ve done. and it made me w eak in t he knees. and all I could t hink w as how grat eful I w as she w as st ill breat hing.” She let out a w eak.” “T hat makes no sense. I moved so close I w as pract ically at t ached t o her. and my heart w as doing crazy crap in my chest . T he kiss deepened unt ill t here w as no me. I had t o. grow ling at t he w ay her lips felt against mine.ot her over somet hing st upid next w eek.” “Us?” .” Placing my hand on her st omach. Maybe t hat ’s w hy. And I w ant ed t o be in so many different w ays. It ’s all of ours. But I’m insane.” I kissed her again. “Oh. I kissed her. “I so did not admit t hat . And w e’re in t his t oget her. “How can you st ill w ant me?” I pressed my forehead against hers. Maybe w e’re meant t o be t oget her. It ’s a possibilit y. Kat breat hed heavily.

how somet imes I hat ed being t he one w ho had t o t ake care of t hings. In bet w een t he kisses t hat unraveled me and t hen pieced me back t oget her. I w as snared in her w eb a lit t le more. I sort of loved t hat feeling.” “Okay. Shit .” Kat lift ed her shoulders. but in a good w ay. and I w ant ed t o kill him all over again. How crazy I had felt aft er hearing Daw son w as dead. and I laughed. Everyt hing I felt w as in every t ouch and even w hat I didn’t see w as in t he w ay my fingers brushed over t he fragile bones of her ribcage. Kat ’s hand drift ed dow n my st omach. “And w hat does ’us’ really mean?” “Y ou and me. I do like t hat . I w as w it h her and Kat w as t he only t hing t hat mat t ered. Good. and helped me get her out of t he damn t hing. shat t ered by w hat she allow ed me t o do. “Kind of isn’t good enough. Only Kat could have t rouble put t ing clot hes on correct ly and somehow make it sexy. Pieces of our clot hing disappeared. . t o t he hem of her shirt and underneat h. Some of t hem w ere but t oned incorrect ly. like I’d been punched in t he chest . “I bet you love t hat . and t he hope I felt learning he had t o be alive.” “Kind of ?” Bull. w orking on t he but t ons of her sw eat er. “I do. t here is us. I kissed her st ill damp cheeks as she t old me everyt hing Blake had said and done. T he minor burn of pain did not hing. “I…I kind of like t he sound of t hat . I loved t he w ay her skin felt like sat in. Hers.” T here w as t hat damn const rict ion again. How you could be punched in a chest in a good w ay w as beyond me. My hands shook as t hey moved up. I t old her how badly I w ished my parent s w ere here.” Her lips curved int o a smile against mine. I slipped my hand dow n her st omach. and I hoped she didn’t not ice. Jesus. She w as on board w it h w here t his w as heading. T he sound t hat came from deep in my t hroat w as more animal t han Luxen or human. My shirt . but damn. “No one else. and I clenched my jaw so hard I w as sure I w as going t o be paying a visit t o a dent ist soon. soft moan t hat escaped her lips. “If t here is anyt hing. t ugging off her boot s.” I moved dow n. I bit dow n on t he inside of my cheek. but right now . kissing her slow ly.I nodded.” I low ered my head. she st ill had on w ay t oo many clot hes. I w as blow n aw ay. I spoke t hings I never t old anyone.” “So do I. And w it h every breat hy. and I admit t ed how jealous I had been w hen I saw her around Blake.” Her cheeks flushed as she pulled off her socks and lay back dow n.

“I w ant us t o have w hat normal couples have. I w as really going t o regret t his. So beaut iful. baby Jesus—I w as nearly undone. and Kat —aw . Everyt hing t hat had happened flipped t hrough my head like a phot o album I w ant ed t o burn. I felt t he last of my cont roll slipping. but I st opped. and so much more. but for a t ot ally different reason. W hit ish-red light radiat ed off of me. Hips rocking t oget her.” Kat looked like she w as going t o cry again. I’d probably be crying soon. discovery. I w as a mushy pansy ass. running t he pads of her fingers dow n my cheek. and t hen I found her mout h again. I’m not t alking about t hat . I never w ant ed t his t o end. I w as aw ed and consumed. My God. T here w as now here t hat my hands didn’t explore. She w as mine. and t he w ay her body arched int o t he slight est t ouch. bat hing Kat in t he w arm glow . bringing t he t ips of my fingers dow n her chest and over her st omach. running her hands over my st omach and making it really hard t o slam on t he brakes. T hat I w ill do perfect ly. pressing a kiss against t he palm of her hand. “Y ou…you’re not going t o believe me. ever expect ed. and I w ant ed her more t han I w ant ed anyt hing in my life. And w e w ere rushing headfirst int o not t urning back. God—Kat came alive.” Hell. but in a w ay I never. I didn’t w ant our first t ime t o be like t his—t o be because of w hat happened. She w as perfect t o me. Her hands w ere everyw here. I didn’t believe it . In a couple of seconds. Kat st ared up at me. Bot h our emot ions w ere all over t he place. “I doubt you could do t his w rong.” Ha. “But I w ant t o do t his right . But I st opped.” She st art ed t o smile. Our explorat ions grew . T his kiss w as different . “You have no idea how badly I w ant t his. I t urned int o t he t ouch. Kissing her and draw ing her deep inside me. . Her leg curled around my hips—sw eet . I w as complet ely lost t o her. “I t hink I’ve act ually dreamed about it . “W hat ?” she asked. and I urged her w it h w ords and t ouches t o go furt her.W hen her fingers found t he but t on on my jeans. W it h my name on her lips and w it h barely anyt hing separat ing us. “Yeah. more int ense. huh?” She lift ed a small hand. our bodies fit t ed so t ight ly t here w as a good chance I w ould slip int o my t rue form and knock out t he pow er in t he ent ire st at e.” I t old her. but I w ant t o…” Break out t he subscript ion t o t he Hall mark Channel and Lifet ime Movie Net w ork. T here had been deat h. Crazy.

exhaling roughly. and true love.” Kat st ared at me. Her t hroat w orked on her next w ords. Faling in love with a boy was never part of the plan. I moved closer. I st ill w on. she shook my head. “I t hink I might love you. “How do you figure?” “Look at t he t ime. I did t he unt hinkable and lift ed off her. Heal. Y ou lost . “Okay?” Kat t ipped her head back. Calling on every ounce of self-cont roll I had. I held her t ight . I t old you t hat you’d t ell me you love me on New Y ear’s Day. It ’s January second. Because she w as my everyt hing. I brushed my lips across her t emple. “No. “No. but I w ant t o t ake you out —go on a dat e or somet hing.” Air punched out of my lungs.” She t ipped her chin t ow ard t he clock on t he w all. I want a reaper of my own!!” .” For several moment s I st ared at t he clock. revenge.” Looping her arms around my neck.” I frow ned. so Emma spends her days taking pictures of life instead of living it. I kissed her cheek. Surviving “accidents” has taken priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old. “It ’s past midnight .Jena from Shortie Says Since the car crash that took her father’s life two years ago.” I t hink I might have blushed. Y ou lost . but t hen my gaze found hers and I smiled—really smiled. Die.” Keep reading for a sneak peek of Tara Fuller’s Inbetween “A captivating whirlwind of death. Emma’s life has been a freaky—and unending—lesson in caution. and I knew right t hen I w ould burn dow n t he w hole universe for her if I had t o. easing dow n on my side. I w rapped an arm around her w aist and t ugged her close. but I didn’t w ant t o t empt t he universe. Damn me. Bad t hings happened t o t he people I loved. w ishing it int o a black hole. I chuckled. “My bet —I w on. . “I don’t w ant w hat w e’re about t o do t o be overshadow ed by everyt hing else. “T old you. Anyt hing.I cupped her cheek. “And t he last t hing I w ant t o do is st op.” I sounded like an idiot . meet ing my st are. And I w ant ed t o t ell her so. Faling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an option. I didn’t lose. Kill. I w ould do anyt hing t o keep her safe. and alt hough it didn’t seem possible.

Souls t hat w eren’t chosen t o st art again.” “T hen w ould you mind explaining w hy I’m w alking up a mount ain t o get t o our reap? W e could’ve just flashed t here. Anaya. a second round of clouds let out a hungry rumble.” Anaya and I w alked dow n a t w o-lane st rip of asphalt t hat glist ened w it h puddles of left over rain. had escaped t heir reaper. like a cloud of ink.” She squint ed at her surroundings. “I sw ear. “I never miss a mark. hesit at ing. As if pulled in by t he sound. ignoring me. Anaya silent ly kept pace beside me. But I hat ed t he memories t hey brought back even more. Prologue Finn Two Years Earlier “Tell me again. His soul. a black blur. How did you miss t he mark?” I shoved my hands in my pocket s and pressed my lips t oget her t o keep from grinning. . I knew w e w ere close. “Do you hear t hat ?” I st opped.” Anaya held up her hand. Her name t umbling around in my skull made my chest ache. even if it means sacrificing t he only t hing he has left . but it w as w ay t oo fun messing w it h her t o let t his one go. t he gold band around her biceps glint ing w it h each feat her-soft foot st ep. She t urned her nose up int o t he air. or hadn’t earned t heir w ay int o Heaven. t he love of my aft erlife. Finn’s fell ow reapers give him hell about spending t ime w it h Emma. and he’s not about t o let her die now . Shadow s. but t w ice.It ’s not easy being dead. “It ’s okay t o admit you’re losing your t ouch. so t hey’d been left t o decay and rot . W hat I’d almost let her become. w hipped past us before disappearing around t he bend. He w ill prot ect t he girl he loves from t he evil he accident ally unleashed. T hey w ere soul ess beings t hat craved t he scent of deat h. T he t ast e of a soul. “I’d be happy t o t ake t he lead on t his one. Somew here in t he dist ance. Scavengers from t he out skirt s of Hell. list ening t o t he mangled w aill of a horn in t he dist ance. especially for a reaper in love w it h a girl fat e has put on his list not once. but Finn couldn’t let her die before. t his is t he last t ime I follow one of you Heaven reapers anyw here.” I said. Every shadow t hat blurred across my vision w as a cold reminder of All ison. W hat I’d done t o her. I hat ed t hem.

A slow w armt h. T hey w ere desperat e. gleamed like it had never been used. “See. palm-sized handle. an ache. T hat …w as different . T he horn blared. A sick feeling st art ed t o brew in my gut . At least t hey alw ays led us t o our t arget s. Not yet . for God’s sake. cut t ing off t heir food supply—souls rarely slipped t hrough t he cracks anymore. and drove sparks t hrough my veins. W hoever w as in t here w asn’t ready for me. I glanced dow n at my sad excuse for a scyt he w it h it s plain iron handle and dingy blade. Heaven’s reapers got all t he perks. Her lips moved around t he w ords t o a prayer. just w ait ing for us t o make a mist ake. If I had t o guess. “W e’re here.But I couldn’t change it . I may have been a slave t o t he Inbet w een. one she’d never let me hear. She t ugged once. and yanked her glit t ery prize from t he w reckage. crumpled like a discarded Coke can at t he t ree line. T hen. w it h a graceful sw eeping mot ion. We w ere supposed t o be t he st uff of night mare and legend. t heir react ion w asn’t really a surprise. “Looks like w e have a w inner. Of course.” Sure enough. T he shadow s w ould never let me forget it . . but I w as st ill a reaper. A ringlet of w hit e smoke seeped from under t he ruined hood and t w irled up int o t he air. T he t w elve-inch blade. T he shadow s w ere on him in an inst ant .” she said. “Hey. around t he last bend. Hungry. I’d pushed her int o a w orld w here w e’d never be t oget her again and nearly got t en myself banished t o Hell in t he process. hissing and sw irling like smoke around his legs and w aist . t he car had t aken a similar journey. spread t hrough my chest . Balt hazar w asn’t likely t o let me forget it eit her. You’d t hink t hey’d at least give me a decent scyt he. leaving a few feet of dist ance bet w een t he car and me. I’d never be able t o change it .” Anaya smiled and skipped ahead. Aft er fift een years of penance. t he shimmery brow n plait s t hat hung dow n t o her w aist sw aying behind her. so I shook it off and w at ched anot her black blur zip past us.” She gripped t he scyt he and looked t o t he heavens. t w ice. “Look at t he bright side. “At least t hey did aw ay w it h t hose aw full cloaks. t he blade of her scyt he sliced t hrough t he car. Balt hazar had loaded t he t errit ories w it h reapers. t he sound careering off t he rock w all and slamming back int o t he cliffside forest w here it splint ered int o a t housand echoes bet w een t he branches.” I st opped. and t w irled it in her hand. w hat do you t hink t he chances are of me scoring one of t hose?” “Keep dreaming. a candy-apple-red Camaro lay upside dow n. w it h it s efficient . Anaya shoved her scyt he back int o t he leat her belt at her hip and pulled t he man t o his feet . Anaya st rolled past me. Not t he impat ient icy burn I w ould have expect ed from a reap at all.” Anaya pulled her pearl-handled scyt he from t he leat her belt she w ore around her w hit e dress. Finn.

Except . “Help her!” t he man cried. I couldn’t look aw ay from the dark spot on the pavement. It couldn’t be her. No. I knelt dow n t o t he broken w indow . Somet hing st ill didn’t feel right about t his. “Dad!” a girl’s broken voice cried from t he inside t he crumpled car. If she ever decided she w as ready. she’s only fift een years old. Don’t w orry. Not hing about t his felt like a st andard reap. smiles like t he sun… T he pull int ensified. my fingers scat t ering like mist . “For t he love of God. I could only t hink of one ot her t ime t hat it had felt like t his. My head spun w it h t he force of it . “Vermin. like a pounding in my chest . t hen t raveled up my arm. I glanced back at t he car. Blond hair lay mat t ed w it h blood against t he girl’s cheek. Once… Memories pulsed t hrough my mind in blinding flashes as I inched t ow ard t he vehicle. Her skin w as pet al-soft . I’d almost doomed All ison to be vermin. His eyes sw am dizzily in his skull as he t ried t o regain his bearings. Somet hing like hope surged t hrough me. packed in snow . “It ’s going t o be fine. t hat is. Not again. and my knees buckled. T he day t hat had changed me forever. Anaya easily held his shimmering form back. She scow led and shoved her scyt he back in it s holst er. t ucking t he soul behind her.” Now t he pull kicked in. t rying t o scrabble t ow ard t he car. T he fact t hat I w as about t o t ake his lit t le girl t o t he Inbet w een w as bad enough. I reached t hrough t he w indow and t raced t he pat h of a t ear t hat had fall en from her closed eyelids.Anaya t urned around. All I offered w as deat h. rubbing his head. and not like t his. A w arm spot pooled in my hand w here w e t ouched. I couldn’t give him w hat he needed. T he shadow s shrank back before dissolving int o an oily spot on t he pavement . w arm w hispers against my neck. She’s going t o a very…nice place. Y ou should have helped her first . happy life. I didn’t w ant t o know her name. deadly cold. But I’d sw ear I felt t his before. You have t o help Emma. “Emma. W hat he needed w as t o hear t hat his daught er w as going t o live a long. Back w hen I’d peeled t he soul from a frail. her odd golden eyes begging me t o back up her lie. t his pull w as dizzying and familiar in an unfamiliar w ay. bloody body. Somet hing w as w rong here. dow n my neck .” Anaya looked up at me. Have you called an ambulance?” I closed my eyes. I w ouldn’t lie t o him. sir. And get t ing st ronger by t he second. follow ed by a cold rush of fear. Soft -assat in lips. and sw ung out her scyt he. w ait ing for t he icy pull t o kick in. “Emma?” T he soul babbled. t rying t o block him out .” Vermin.

and t hen her gaze set t led on me. “I’m…I’m…” He st opped w hen Anaya pat t ed t he back of his hand. Y ou’ve w orked t oo hard t o go back now . Anaya shook her head and st ared up t hrough t he spiky t reet ops w here a crow sw am across t he t urbulent lavender sky. t rying so hard t o ignore t he pull t ugging me t o her. Anaya w rapped her fingers around her charge’s hand and smiled at him.” she said. Fift een years. Don’t screw t his up. “Dad?” t he girl w himpered again. not t rust ing t he w ords t umbling around in my mout h.” It w asn’t even a quest ion. “Answ er t he damn quest ion. W hen she just st ared at me. w eaker t his t ime. “W hat ’s w rong w it h you?” Anaya sounded annoyed. Couldn’t shove t he secret int o t he dark safet y of my pocket and w alk aw ay. I w ill. t hen t o me. No. t hen erupt ed w it h light . Unless— “Finn?” Anaya crouched dow n in front of me. I nodded. T hat I should w alk aw ay right now before t his w ent any furt her. No! I shut my eyes and focused.w here t he heat exploded in my chest . His eyes w ent w ide as he glanced at Anaya. It w as her. I didn’t admit t hat t o Anaya. All ison… I jerked my hand back and scrambled aw ay from t he car. No claw ing need t o t ake her soul. I snapped. clut ching a bloody backpack? No. It w asn’t t here. I blinked at t he car. Inst ead. even if t hat reason w asn’t t o t ake her soul. and t his is w hat I find? A girl halfw ay t o deat h. t he w ord dead hanging among us. . Fift een years of w ondering if I’d done t he right t hing. “It ’s her. She could st ill be okay. t hough. her voice just a w hisper of breat h. Finn. “Is she yours? Are you here for bot h of t hem? Because it ’s not me. gauzy feeling t hat w as suffocat ing me. I bolt ed upright . “Y es. because part of me knew she w as right . t ouching my scyt he t o be cert ain. Aft er all t hese years…it w as her. She glanced back at t he car. Cert aint y pounded in my t emples. I couldn’t hide t his. “Walk aw ay. Anaya knew . I must have. confused.” I blinked unt ill Anaya’s blurry face slow ly came int o focus. No burning pull. “I don’t know w hat is going on w it h you. Anaya!” Realizat ion slow ly replaced t he confusion in her eyes. “If you have any sense left in you.” she said. you’ll w alk aw ay from t his and forget it happened. t hrobbing panic t ook up residency in my chest .” I st ill had some sense. w arm and urgent like t he need t o breat he. but if you are incapable of handling t his. Or maybe t hat w as t he gray. Connect ion t hrobbed beneat h my ribs. T he pull t elling me I w as here for a reason. T he air behind her rippled like a silk curt ain.” A cold.

t hen spun t hem around unt ill t hey w ere just a sw irll of blinding color. closed my eyes. Anaya shot me a sharp look. W hat w ere t he odds t hat I’d find her again like t his? W hat w ere t he odds t hat out of all of t he places in t he w orld she could have been reborn. Maeve. t hreat ening t o go over any second and t ake t he girl inside w it h it . . W hen t hey w ere gone. And all at once. and pict ured Balt hazar. A brilliant flash of red bounced on a branch. “Don’t !” I scrambled for t he car.“And my daught er?” His shimmer dimmed as he w at ched t he car t eet er inept ly on t he cliff’s sharp drop-off. Cells connect ed. T he soul w hose second chance I’d st olen fift een years ago w hen I pushed All ison t hrough t he port all in her place. “I realize t his is bit t ersw eet . T here had t o be a reason. I flexed my fingers. blow ing Anaya’s braids in every direct ion. only a breat h aw ay from being fully corporeal. A gust of balmy air exploded from t he port hole. He’d feel me go corporeal and w ould know I’d found her again. I looked up. I st opped myself. follow ed by a mocking laugh. and gave int o gravit y.” Her voice echoed t hrough t he t reet ops. t he w ind died. as if begging it t o snap. realizing I meant it . I realized w hat fat e w ant ed me t o do. I punched t he ceiling and let my skin scat t er like sparks against t he gray felt .” I w riggled t hrough t he w indow . and she’d been right under my nose.” I said. so I’ll let you say a quick good-bye before I kill her and ruin your sad excuse for an exist ence. Glit t ery t endrils of light reached out and w rapped around her and t he soul in t ow . It w obbled on t he one t ire t hat hadn’t gone flat . No. but didn’t get a chance t o follow t hrough w it h her usual rant . Somet hing cracked. “I sw ear. ruler of reapers. fight ing t he urge t o slip my arms around All ison’s limp frame. and t he light dimmed and dissolved int o t he murky blue t w ilight .” I sw allow ed. T he t ree t hat held t he w reckage in place sw ayed. “I knew follow ing you around w ould event ually pay off. It fluffed her w hit e skirt unt ill she looked like she w as float ing on a cot t on mushroom t op. “I’ll t ake care of her. T he air sizzled. t he second in command t o t he Almight y. she’d end up in California? I’d reaped t his t errit ory for years.

She w as going t o die anyw ay. T he car lurched again. It hurt s. “Finn. Groaned.” I laughed in spit e of myself. “He’s fine. “Y es. come out of t here.” She w as not going t o die. She groaned and somet hing like relief flooded me. t his t ime allow ing a lit t le of t he car t o slip t hrough it s hold. rocking t he car. t o grab her arm and pull her t he hell out of t here. I didn’t even make it t hrough one w eek of soft ball before I sprained my ankle. I heard more rocks break loose from t he cliff t o t umble over t he edge. w hy not just pull her out of t he car and get it over w it h?” Maeve t aunt ed.” I leaned in close and w at ched her eyelids t w it ch. “Just give in t o t his and w e’ll call it a day. But not for long. T he car shift ed. She bounced again.” T he car rocked and I t ensed. “Come on. Don’t w orry about him right now . t o brush t he hair out of her face. I glanced out t he w indow and w at ched a few rocks spring loose from t he cliff and roll t o t he bot t om. coaxing her t o follow . “Y ou need t o craw ll t hrough t here. Really. Y ou’d just be doing your job.” She shook her head. t hen crack open one at a t ime. “Y ou’re already dead—w hat else could Balt hazar possibly do? Oh…w ell I guess t here is Hell. “Get out of t he car. And you need t o do it fast . t hen w inced and fell back. T he t ree sw ayed again. I craw led out first .” Her eyes dart ed back and fort h. But ot her t han t hat ?” . but I need you t o t rust me. All ison. a smile behind her w ords. Y ou’re t ough. “I can’t .” I said. I can t ell. you can. I w ouldn’t let her.” She looked int o my eyes for a long moment . “I have a feeling you’re a lot t ougher t han you give yourself credit for.” Maeve sang. before set t ling on me.I couldn’t afford t hat kind of hell right now . T hank God. t hen pushed herself up and inched t ow ard t he w indow . “I need you t o get up.” She t ried t o sit up. definit ely st ill alive. “You’re making t his unbearably complicat ed. Really. “No. Finn. See t hat w indow ?” I point ed t o t he upside-dow n broken w indow and she nodded. Now come on. soft ly. “W ho are you? W here’s my dad?” W hen she leaned up t o t ry t o see in t he front seat I moved in front of her t o block her view . w ide and afraid. “I know you’re scared. I’m not . Yes.” I plast ered a smile on my face and had t o force myself not t o t ouch her.

a chew ed-up red spot sw allow ed by t he dark. it s w eight breaking t he t all bone of a t ree. one t ime I broke my leg. but it w as a lot bet t er t han ending up like t he cat t le. I looked dow n at All ison.” She squeezed her eyes shut and w iggled t he rest of t he w ay t hrough t he w indow . Y ou’re going t o have t o get up. I had t o w alk all t he w ay home on t hat leg just t o get t here before it got dark. Maeve’s scream ripped t hrough t he mist t hat had st art ed t o fall. I knew I w as in t rouble.” I blurt ed out . “Come on. I didn’t t ell anyone w here I w as going. int o t he pine needles and dirt on t he side of t he road. I focused on All ison.” I said. “Y ou know . W it hin seconds.Pushing Maeve’s laught er out of my head. Our neighbor used t o find his cat t le t orn t o shreds. and in it . “It hurt like hell. All ison gripped t he seat . I know it hurt s. I kept my eyes on her. Her cheek pressed against t he w et pavement as she fought t o cat ch her breat h. “Don’t st op. her eyes w ide.” I w hispered as a beam of headlight s curled around t he bend in t he road. Anot her few feet and she’d be free. Her lashes blinked aw ay t he t ears t hat w ere running across her cheeks. I w at ched her breat hs make foggy shapes as t hey puffed errat ically int o t he night . A loud crack split t he silence.” She scoot ed a lit t le fart her out .” We w ere so close. For now . You have to do this. fear t hrumming in my chest . I heard her cry for revenge. No. and t he car lurched forw ard. t rying t o figure out a w ay t o dist ract her from t he pain. “I’d climbed t his big t ree on my dad’s farm. “Didn’t it hurt ?” T he car groaned and t ilt ed underneat h us. But you can’t st op. T his w asn’t All ison anymore. “Emma. “You need t o flag dow n t he car t hat ’s coming around t he corner. All I could t hink about w as how I used t o hear t hem how ling at night . I’d w orry about t hat lat er. pret t y girl. She craw led forw ard a few more feet and collapsed.” T he gash bleeding t hrough her blue jeans snagged on t he broken w indow and she sobbed. so w hen t he branch broke. She sniffled and looked up at me. it rolled off t he side and int o t he chasm below . “You can do t his.” .” “W hy didn’t you w ait for somebody t o look for you?” “Coyot es.

” I t ook a few st eps back unt ill she low ered her hand. Alive.” I repeat ed t he promise I’d made t o her fat her. Except … I looked up at t he broken t ree w here Maeve had balanced only minut es ago. I sat on t he floor across from her bed list ening t o her slow . I w as supposed t o be on w at ch.“My leg…” She looked up. Dissolve int o t he mist around me t hat w as calling me home. Not w hen I’d led Maeve t o her. I almost forgot I w as dead. I w asn’t st upid enough t o t hink she’d remember t his w hen she w oke up. I’d done it . I w at ched Emma collapse against t he man from t he car as he w rapped a jacket around her shivering shoulders. laughing w it h relief. I’m so sorry. Chapter 1 Finn Somet imes Emma made me feel so alive. T here w as no w ay I could w alk aw ay now . She w as safe. “I’ll keep you safe. but damn it if hearing my name slip t hrough her lips didn’t sw eep t hrough . I let myself fade. She w as w ort h it . W armt h spread t hrough my chest . st eady breat hs. Remember?” Her gaze sw ung t o t he light s glist ening on t he pavement and she pushed herself t o her knees. T his w as bad on so many levels. Damn it . Y ou’re t ough. I w at ched Emma w ave her arms at t he slow ing car. I’d saved her. I couldn’t give it t o her no mat t er how badly I w ant ed t o. “W hy can’t you do it ? W hy aren’t you helping me?” Guilt t ied my insides int o knot s. Disast er w as more like it . I closed my eyes. Y eah…bad w asn’t a st rong enough w ord. Emma rolled over. But it w as so hard t o concent rat e on anyt hing but her w hen I knew she w as remembering. Balt hazar and his damned rules! “I can’t . t ears in her eyes. t rying t o hold on t o it . “But you can do t his. pressing her face int o t he pillow . “Finn…” I shut my eyes. Almost . I sw ear it . making it hard t o look at t he girl reaching up for my help. I should have been more alert . t hen closed my eyes and let t he w ind cat ch me and t oss me int o t he night . And I didn’t care. I t ook my chance.

T here w ere t imes I sw ore she could feel me. I w as here t o prot ect her. holding all of t he secret s Emma creat ed in t he kit chen. forcing myself not t o go any closer. shadow y legs unt ill he w as just an inkblot in front of t he splash of lamplight on her w all. W hich I kind of w as. Tw o years of w at ching her t hrough t he invisible barrier of Balt hazar’s rules w as really st art ing t o suck. In t he pale light of her lamp. T housands of w ords about myst eries and romance and life. T he last shelf belonged t o t he books her fat her had w rit t en. T hey smelled like flour and sugar and home. “Shh…” I t ouched t he edge of t he mat t ress. Especially w hen every t ime I blinked. unable t o sit t here list ening t o her suffer anymore. Melt ing t he hollow space w here my heart used t o beat . held in place by gold-framed pict ures of him smiling and alive. I could see t he neat row of cookbooks. Hopefully my presence w ould be enough. But t hat didn’t mat t er. “It ’s going t o be okay. T hings I didn’t know anyt hing about . Like an oill slick coming t o life. Scorching t he places w here blood used t o run. and a new phot ography book her mom bought her last year. T his w as never going t o get easier. but it felt like miles. anot her piece of All ison w as breaking t hrough t he surface. She mumbled somet hing in her sleep and began t o t hrash under t he sheet s. So much I needed her t o remember. His violet eyes pinned me like a kid caught w it h his hand in t he cookie jar.me like w ildfire.” She w as only a few inches aw ay. T hings t hat All ison had know n everyt hing about . T hat ’s w here it had t o end. I w as surprised t hey didn’t fall out w hile she w as sleeping. “W hat do you t hink you’re doing?” a gravelly voice chided. I st opped a foot from t he bed and knelt dow n. I closed my eyes. t rying t o sw allow my ow n crap lie. W hat w as she remembering t his t ime? W hat piece of t he Inbet w een and her t ime w it h me w as she fight ing? T here w as so much I didn’t w ant her t o remember. . unneeded breat h and let t he back of my head t hump against her overst uffed bookcase. I t ook a deep. I groaned and pushed myself up from my safe spot on t he carpet . “Not hing. nest led t oget her like a family.” I lied. Emma had so many w ords inside her. Miles t hat left me w ant ing in so many w ays t hat I ached. T he next orderly row w as packed w it h t he w orn-out novels she loved. I looked up from t he edge of Emma’s bed just as East on melt ed up from t he polished hardw ood floor beneat h t he w indow . he unfolded his long. She w himpered from under t he covers and I looked up.

“Past t ense. “W as t hat you?” “Not Mom. It ’s not like she can hear us. Finn. East on.” He brushed somet hing chalky and gray off his long coat . at your service. I w asn’t t he one about t o feel up a sleeping human. “Jesus. for God’s sake. You didn’t just have t o t ow somebody’s grandpa t o Hell. drama queen. I don’t have t ime for your useless obsession w it h t he human t oday. God only know s w hat —or w ho—it had belonged t o.” East on’s clumsy fingers knocked over t he bobblehead zombie on t he vanit y t op and w e bot h froze. “Mom?” She shoved t he t angled blond hair out of her face. Emma shot up from beneat h t he covers. “Oh calm dow n. so her st uff probably w as sort of alien t o him.” “Are you kidding? She’s scared of her ow n reflect ion.” He st rolled across t he room accompanied by a w ave of sulfur and smoke. scow ling at me over his shoulder. w here he’d been inspect ing t he various lot ions. And t hat has not hing t o do w it h me.” No. Just one of Hell ’s reapers.” “W ill you please st op calling her t hat ?” “W hat ?” East on glanced up from Emma’s vanit y. T his is fun. looked like not hing.” “Y ou scared her. “’ T he human. “Don’t t hey have a show er somew here bet w een here and t he aft erlife?” “Screw you.“Y eah. t ubes. T hen again.” He w aved his hand dismissively.” I scrunched up my nose and climbed t o my feet .’ You make her sound like a freak. gasping. and a shudder w orked it s w ay dow n my spine. We w ere humans t oo. “W e have w ork t o do. or don’t you remember t hat far back?” “W ere.” “Are you freaking insane?” I hissed. He rolled his eyes. and bot t les like he w as on some alien planet .” East on leaned against t he bookcase and grinned. “Y ou’re right .” “I w asn’t —” “Save it . It ’s not like w e’re a different species. her eyes t rained on her rumpled reflect ion in t he vanit y mirror. t he black serpent t at t oo on his neck glint ing. But t he fact t hat Emma’s life had been a horror movie w ait ing t o happen t hese last t w o . “Besides.” he said. East on had been dead for somet hing like four hundred years and spent most of his life in Hell.

“W ill you st op?” I said. feeling uncomfort able w it h how close he w as t o her. It alw ays did. Besides. She sw ept it out of her face. “Dear diary…” East on nodded at t he journal. she t w ist ed her hair up int o a messy ponyt aill and dug in her night st and draw er for her journal. he vanished.” He raised a dark brow .” “For t he love of God. I flexed my fingers as t he icy ribbons of deat h w orked t heir w ay t hrough each one of my limbs. “W hat do you t hink she’s going t o w rit e?” I folded my arms across my chest . his muscles t aut and ready. I can’t keep covering for your sorry ass. “Oh? And w hat you’re doing isn’t ?” We could have gone back and fort h like t hat for hours. but t he call came. T he screams beckoned. looking frust rat ed. and t hank t he Almight y t hat you don’t have my job. A long t endril of honey-colored hair came loose from Emma’s ponyt aill and fell across her eye. I have my ow n job t o do. “Hell no. Just keep your nose dow n. East on’s jaw clenched. consumed in a flash by t he keening w ails of t he damned. Claw ed at me from t he inside out .years had everyt hing t o do w it h me. “Y ou’re already going t o be t here. Finn. She’ll be fine. “Not my business. Rule One as a reaper: Deat h doesn’t w ait for anyone. It st art ed in my bones—a cold so cut t ing t hat it sliced t hrough me like a machet e. I don’t care.” “I’m t aking a risk every t ime I leave her. and East on chuckled. But t hat ’s t he difference bet w een you and me. w hich burned black and soft ly smoked at his side. I t urned my at t ent ion back t o Emma.” W it h t hat . I’d led a soul t hat hat ed my gut s and w as hell-bent on revenge right t o her doorst ep. Y ou know t hat . Finn. “I don’t . He slow ly closed his hand around t he handle of his scyt he. T he blanket s didn’t shift . He peeked over her shoulder at t he book. . Aft er she collect ed herself. And it sure as hell w asn’t w ait ing for me now .” “How do you know she’ll be fine?” He shrugged. but East on blew on it so t hat it fell right back dow n.” East on said. and I just got back—” “No. It ’s just one reap. She t ucked it behind her ear.” He w alked over t o her bed and plopped dow n beside her. “T his is so screw ed up it ’s not even funny. “Can you t ake t his one for me?” I asked. do you have any idea how close you are t o being caught ? Don’t push your luck. T he mat t ress didn’t creak or groan under his w eight . collect your souls.

Book Two Opal: A Lux Novel.Like what you’ve read so far? Pick up inbetween online and in stores everywhere August 2012! Ot her books by Jennifer ll. Book One Onyx: A Lux Novel. Arment rout : The Lux Series: Obsidian: A Lux Novel. Book Three The Covenant Series: Daimon Half-Blood Pure Deit y Apollyon Single Tit les: Cursed .

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