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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. Our chest s t ouched.” I hissed. “T his isn’t manhandling or w hat ever t he hell t hat is. Kit t en. I shook my head. Part s of my body t ingled. Wow zers.” But he dropped my hand.” He reached out . t ugging on t he sleeve of my cardigan. Daemon pulled me up against his chest and low ered his head. so not a good sign. but he kept my w rist secured in his hand. Not somet hing I expect ed t o see on a Monday night . It ’s not nice. someone is going t o see us.” 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. Nice look. His scent w as on my t ongue.” Heat crept over my cheeks. and I didn’t get a real good look dow n—” I came off t he desk sw inging. “Oh my God. 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. he w as fast . “Oh. I must prot ect myself. I w asn’t affect ed by t his. “It ’s not like I haven’t seen t he upper part before. so I did go sw imming in t he lake?” He pushed off t he desk and t ook one st ep forw ard. but t his st upid connect ion hasn’t ?” “Nope.” “Y ou’re not nice. Not by how close w e w ere or how his fingers w ere sliding under t he sleeve of my cardigan. “T he lake…it w asn’t a dream?” Daemon shook his head. “So my t race has faded.” “I’m not sure I can do t hat . eyes snapping w it h rest rained anger. “And you w ere soaked…in a w hit e T-shirt .” Disappoint ed. but I’m not complaining. t hen?” .” I t ried pulling back.” T he smug st ret ch of his lips spread. I smacked his hand aw ay. “Don’t be embarrassed.” “So?” He gent ly picked up my hand. Oh. really. Body said yes. I saw a lot .” “Shut up. Very nice. “W hat does t hat mean. “Let me go. I t ouched you…and you w eren’t w earing a lot of clot hes. “Not like anyone is going t o say a t hing t o me. “Daemon. “Don’t hit . “You did.” I drew in a deep breat h. My knuckles only brushed his face before he caught my hand. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Y eah.” Passing Lesa a grat eful smile.” Mr.” He smiled. Lesa shot t he blonde a look.” Kimmy said from behind her hand. “Y ou are t he same cheerleader w ho forgot t o w ear her undies during t he pep rally last year. And besides. I st art ed replaying t he door incident over and over again in my head. chat t ing about t he part y on Friday and w hat w e w ere going t o w ear. eyes narrow ing. 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. .” We headed dow n t he hall. I t ook my seat next t o Blake and yanked out my t ext book w hile Mr. Garrison really believed it had been a draft ? And if he didn’t . Garrison said. Had Mr.” I t hought about elaborat ing for a second. making small sw ipes w it h his favorit e red pen. but it looked forced. “T hat ’s real funny coming from you. w hat w as st opping him from cont act ing t he DOD and handing me over? Unease squirmed in my belly. Garrison flipped off t he light s and launched int o a st imulat ing lect ure on t ree sap. 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.“Skank. I w as sure it w as on purpose. Kimmy calling me a skank probably had somet hing t o do w it h Simon.” she said. Blake nudged me w it h his elbow . Forget t ing about t he boy beside me. “Can I just go home?” I asked as I sw it ched my t ext books. Several more giggles erupt ed from her side of t he class. “Having a bad day?” “You could say t hat . I’m perfect . aren’t you?” Kimmy’s face t urned blood red. “T hat ’s enough. figuring I’d just w ear jeans and a shirt . “Class. but w hat could I t ell her? “I w as running lat e t his morning. I really hadn’t put much t hought int o it . He skipped my name. Mr. “Are you doing okay over t here?” I nodded. You know how t hat just screw s your day up from t here. w hich w asn’t even w ort h my anger right now . Garrison began reading off t he at t endance. but before I could say anyt hing. She laughed.

“Carissa t old me I had t o w ear a dress on Friday night . and I launched int o my ow n t irade t he moment I sat dow n. Her eyes w idened and face paled. “You’re going t o run out of t ime. Somet hing w as not right w it h her. .” she insist ed as she grabbed a plat e of w hat appeared t o be Salisbury st eak.” “W e’re not six. Y ou can borrow one of my dresses. Most of t he st udent s w ere applying t here. T he pict ure in my brain w as equally hilarious and fright ening. and w hat ever she w as going t o say died on her lips.” I groaned. “If I w ore one of your dresses.” Dee’s gaze dart ed over my shoulders. “Pret t y princesses?” “Y es. We get t o be pret t y princesses for t he night and dress up for t he part y. “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. I w as afraid t o t urn around. “Y ou don’t have forever.” she explained. I have enough. I don’t t hink I’d fit in one of your dresses. “You should w ear a dress.” Lesa snort ed and repeat ed.” she said.” “W e just had homecoming. “Kat y.” Dee picked up her fork and pushed t he food around on her plat e. you really need t o st art applying. I’d look like a t ight ly packaged sausage. “since w e don’t get a lot of reasons t o act ually w ear somet hing nice around here. I hear it from my mom every day. She w as hoping I w ould send an applicat ion int o W VU. Dee w as already at our t able.” I st ared at her. half expect ing t o find a set of DOD officers st rolling t hrough our school cafet eria in black suit s. Don’t be silly. “I have plent y of dresses you can w ear. lips t urned dow n at t he corners. know ing I didn’t have anyt hing dressy. dumbfounded.” 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.” “You know . I w ill w hen I decide w here I w ant t o go. I didn’t really plan for t hat . Carissa launched int o t he rout ine conversat ion about w hat colleges I w as going t o apply t o.“Everyone is dressing up. quick t o remind me. “Dee. pret t y princesses. She w asn’t eat ing and w as now suggest ing I could w ear one of her dresses.” Dee poked at her green beans.” She t urned her angelic face t o mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like it w as suspended for a few seconds. Simon w as beet red as he sw iped t he book off t he floor. relieved at t he change in t opic. “No. “I don’t know . T he branch—” “Scared you?” he said. 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. rest ing my cheek on my fist . He placed it in t he middle of his desk and cont inued st aring at it . Sorry. t hough.” I smiled faint ly. “Look.” He let out a loud sigh. “It ’s no big deal. Maybe t he w ind caught it or somet hing.” .” His eyes narrow ed as he w at ched me. Deny. “W ell. “Mr. I knocked my book off t he desk. and t hen his eyes set t led on t he book. It shocked me. Our t eacher’s eyes narrow ed as he searched for t he source of t he disrupt ion. eyes narrow ed. Playing it cool w asn’t somet hing I w as part icularly skilled at . 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…” W hat w as I supposed t o say? Deny. “You look…” “Like crap?” I supplied. Cut t ers. W ould it be t hat easy? Damn. but I’d sw ear t hat branch st opped. eyes locked ont o mine. t hen pick it up. Daemon poked me w it h his pen.” He t ilt ed his head t o t he side.” “Y eah. shirt today. “Are you okay?” I nodded. maybe. “Y ou coming?” “I w ouldn’t miss it for t he w orld. “I w as going t o say t ired. “Very bad kit t y…” … Blake arrived to bio minutes before the bel. He looked around frant ically. I w as a bet t er liar t han Daemon gave me credit for. I t w ist ed around. I had no idea how t o prepare myself for seeing him aft er t he branch issue. “W hat w as t hat ?” he w hispered. t oo. Deny. He was wearing a vintage Super Mario Bros. It all happened quickly. T here w as no mist aking t he amusement in t he t ilt t o his lips.Jumping up. Aft er t he class set t led dow n and t he t eacher t urned back t o t he chalkboard. t he big part y is coming up. about yest erday? I’m sorry I freaked out . “W -w hat ?” Simon st ut t ered. Anyw ay. bored voice.” T here w ere a few scat t ered chuckles from t he ot her st udent s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

off so fast . I kicked off my heels and t ossed t hem aside. W hat w as w rong w it h me? Dazed. I st epped out ont o t he crow ded front porch. Hell. I w ant ed t o scream. 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. My breat h shuddered in my chest . I didn’t like Daemon—I didn’t . 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. I didn’t st op unt ill I st ood beside t he empt y house at t he end of t he road. I did care. but it st ill seemed like t he w orld had st opped spinning. T here w as no w ay I w as jealous. But t hat hot feeling w as t here. I st art ed w alking. Jealousy I had no right t o coursed t hrough my veins. Daemon st epped out of Ash’s embrace w hile scrat ching a spot above his heart . He caught my eyes. I felt like I w ant ed t o explode and everyt hing w as hot and cold at t he same t ime. Daemon spoke. I w ant ed t o run back in t here and pull out every st rand of Ash’s hair. Images of Ash kissing him sucked t he air out of my lungs. I squeezed my eyes shut and sw ore. T here w as no w ay I cared t hat Daemon and Ash w ere doing w hat ever. but it w as lost in t he crow d of people. My ent ire body w as shaking. My palms w ere sw eat y and t hey felt foreign and cold. . 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 my blood w as boiling. and I’d just kissed Blake. He could make out w it h t he Pope for all I cared. And I had a dat e coming up w it h a hot . I had t o search t he ent ire upst airs for you. t his w as w orse. W hat I w as feeling w asn’t right . I kept w alking. my feet bare against t he cold grass and gravel. clean air. Needing air and dist ance. normal human boy. 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. Oh my God. My head spun. st ealing t hrough my veins. I st ood t here. At some point . 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. I couldn’t figure out w hat w as going on. T hen it st ruck me as I headed dow n t he st eps. I t urned aw ay before I said somet hing t hat w ould embarrass me lat er. 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. I t ried t o get cont roll of my overexposed emot ions. Taking several gulps of fresh. Part of me knew w hat I w as feeling w as ridiculous. T hat so w asn’t w hat I w as feeling. He w ant ed t o be w it h me? Y eah. It w asn’t reasonable. I had no idea w here it w as coming from or w hy I felt t hat w ay. and I raised my brow s expect ant ly. seemed like it …in bet w een w hat ever he w as doing w it h Ash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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 hispering somet hing. My head snapped back t o Blake.” In st unned silence. “Somet imes. “So do you have lucky guesses a lot ?” He shrugged. It ’s just int uit ion. His gaze met mine. “T hat ’s some spot -on int uit ion.” I w hispered.” He shrugged.” . He has so many t imes before. “And he t hinks he’s get t ing aw ay w it h it . “I t hink t hat guy’s about t o skip out on his bill.” “Int uit ion. “Hey! Did you pay for t hat ?” T he man st opped and fumbled in his pocket s.frow ning again as his eyes narrow ed on a middle-aged man near t he bar w ho w as looking around nervously. T hat t ot ally sucks. I w at ched t he man t ake one last drink and st and w it hout get t ing his check. T he man leaned t ow ard t he w oman. w ere also w at ching t he cust omer about t o flee. but every inst inct w as t elling me t here w as somet hing more. I heard about t hat kid going missing. Blake w asn’t an alien—at least I assumed he w asn’t . Her heavy face t w ist ed int o a scow ll. It could’ve been a lucky guess. t hat w as…uncanny. but t hat w as just t oo w eird. and she slammed her hand dow n on t he t able. bot h in flannel shirt s and w ell-w orn jeans.” Doubt bubbled up.” “Anyw ay. He mut t ered an apology and hast ily t hrew several crumpled bills on t he t able. “Someone is alw ays w at ching.” Blake added w it h a slight smile. I munched on t he fries. A couple sit t ing behind t he man.” “Huh. “No-good bums.” I said. really?” Blake nodded. nodding. “W hoa. “It w as just a lucky guess. He t urned t o face t he st art led man.” “bullshit . I w ait ed unt ill t he w ait ress ret urned w it h our order and left . “How did you know he w as going t o do t hat ?” Blake blew on his spoonful of veget able soup. “A good guess. 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. my unease grow ing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It w as like having t he carpet pulled out from underneat h my feet and face-plant ing on t he floor.” Blake said. T he mount ains. I survived t he best I could.” Daemon murmured. 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. “I didn’t know w hat t hey meant . but how did you end up here of all places?” He looked at Daemon. Here?” “Seemed like t he least populat ed area. she couldn’t sense me because of t he bet a quart z—yeah. w e are just like your…friend t o t hem. t he surfing?” . “T hey w ant ed t o know w here t hey w ere. “W hat do you mean?” “T he Arum in t he diner. I know about t hat . Blake sighed.” Suspicion clouded Daemon’s t one. T urns out he w as an alien. Five days lat er. it t ook me a w hile t o figure out t hat w hen you’re healed.” “Aw full convenient . My best friend w as an alien. Chris healed me.” “So everyt hing w as a lie?” I asked. “I t hought it w as pret t y cool. I moved here w it h my uncle. I st art ed t raining physically and w orking on my abilit ies. jaw w orking. T hey killed my parent s and my lit t le sist er right in front of me. t he caring and sharing crap. W hen I realized t hat my friend had changed me.” “T his is all great . t hey beat me w it hin an inch of my life. My hands slid off t he st eering w heel. T he Arum found me again.around and st epped off t he curb. Very convenient for me. Not t hat I needed t o. “Anyw ay. right in front of a speeding cab. let t ing out a dry laugh. “W hen I realized how much danger I w as in. “Y eah. Shit just st art ed flying everyw here aft er I w as sent t o live w it h my uncle.” I w hispered. I learned about t heir w eakness t hrough…ot hers. it is. I had no idea w hat t o say. t oo.” Well. “W hy. you t ake on t heir abilit ies. And w hen I st ill couldn’t help t hem. “I couldn’t imagine t here being t hat many Arum here. “Not sure he really exist s. I researched as much as I could. “W hen I learned about t he bet a quart z. four men ent ered my house. “Sant a Monica. But if w e w ere out side of t he quart z range.” Blake’s lips t w ist ed int o a w ry grin. t hat confirmed one of my fears. horrified. W e’re act ually t ast ier.” he cont inued.” Acid churned in my st omach. Daemon looked aw ay.” “Oh my God.” Blake answ ered. hands clenching int o fist s.” “T here are plent y of ot her places packed w it h bet a quart z.

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

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. We’re just as st rong as you—even st ronger in some cases. “But how …how are you st ronger t han t he Luxen?” I asked. w e t ire out a lot quicker and it t akes us longer t o recharge. 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 . all I’m saying is t here are bigger fish t he DOD w ant s. T ell me.” Daemon admit t ed soft ly. 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 t hat scared me more t han anyt hing. And t hey’re here looking for hybrids. Daemon t ensed. . It w as you.” “No.t hey get rid of any Luxen w ho causes a problem?” Blake jerked back as Daemon nearly w ent over t he seat . “And w e’re w hat t hey care about . Soon you’ll be able t o do a hell of a lot more. so t o speak. “T hat ’s a good quest ion. From t he ot her seat .” I w hispered. “Look. “In t he diner. “I can t ell by your expression you have. t hat w ord brought fort h some really gross images. And t hat ’s t he humans t he Luxen mut at e. bad secret is hidden is because t hey know w hat you can do t o humans.” Daemon set t led back. Far as I know . and if you don’t get cont roll of it .” “Mut at ed?” God. but he st opped. Not like I could hold him in place. hidden in plain sight . T he only t hing is. Kat y. t he Luxen don’t t ypically heal humans. 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. have you been sick recent ly? Had a really high fever?” Apprehension rose so quickly it left me dizzy. T he t able shaking inside w asn’t me. T his damn place is sw arming w it h DOD. “And now you can move t hings w it hout t ouching t hem? Probably have no cont rol. 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. “W hy w ould t hey care about us inst ead of t hem?” “Gee. but I grabbed his sw eat er. but enough t o know w hat he’s planning. because t hat meant Daemon w as act ually st art ing t o list en t o w hat Blake w as saying. his hands clenching and unclenching. I can hear almost any human—any one t hat ’s not mut at ed. Let me guess. “Y ou’re mut at ed. it ’s going t o be really bad.” Blake said. And believe it . T hat ’s just t he t ip of t he iceberg. Not all of t hem. shaking his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Given w hat happened w it h Daw son and Bet hany. Y ou need t o get some rest .“Okay. and no mat t er how many t imes I t ried t o st art up a conversat ion about our relat ionship. before t hings w ent furt her sout h bet w een us. 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.” And t hen he w alked out . w hile Daemon w as t he pissy pink elephant in t he room w it h t he bad at t it ude. But as t he w eeks passed and t he DOD didn’t st orm t he house for me. No one. T hat t here w as somet hing inherent ly w rong w it h t he boy. Every day t he dark smudges under my eyes grew more prominent . Blake w as pat ient and support ive. Courage—I really needed t o find t he courage t o t ell him how I felt t omorrow . My heart ached. A frost y air had developed bet w een Daemon and me. And I st ood t here. ot her t han t he fact he w as a hybrid. I’d w ake up dizzy. I had t o give it t o him. he w as quick t o shut me dow n. He had reason not t o t rust t he guy. I chalked it up t o Daemon’s right full paranoia. Like me. Blake. All t he t raining aft er school affect ed any and all social life. not even Dee. Not many people w ould keep coming back. he w as st ill dead set against t hem. Each morning st art ed t he same as t he one before. W hat I w as feeling. Most of our t ime alone consist ed of him t rying t o convince me t hat Blake w as no good. w hich blew . he w as leery of all humans. because t hat w as t he only t ime w e really got t o see each ot her. Chapter 20 Days and t hen w eeks w ent by. realized t hat Daemon w as t here. 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. Everyone knew t hat Blake and I w ere hanging out . She w as busy w it h w ork and W ill. closed-off Daemon. t oo. I didn’t speak t o my mom most mornings. Act ually w alked out of t he kit chen inst ead of doing t hat super-fast t hing he usually did. T omorrow is a big day. W ho spent most of t he pract ices w at ching Blake like a haw k does w hen searching for prey. Even t hough he didn’t st op t he t raining sessions and rarely missed t hem. and a dist ant . and I w as busy w it h school. And Blake did his best t o handle Daemon. feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. Y ay. Since she w as . More But ler.

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

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

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

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

I knew w hen he got t o my part . 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 . Unsurprisingly. I handled t he not e like it w as a bomb. 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. and aft er several hours of st aring at t hem w it h a seriously empt y st omach. because his dark brow s shot up his forehead. Inst ead I had t o creat e t he fire just by looking at it . I glanced at Lesa and Carissa. 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. With Blake’s coaching. T hat not e w ould never.” “I hat e you.Shaking his head. Blake and I worked alone. and w rot e somet hing on t he page. Slow ly and carefully. I w ant ed t o share my successes w it h Daemon. I unfolded t he damn t hing. I refolded t he paper and shoved it in my bookbag. 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 all t he w icks sparked a t iny flame. he unfolded t he not e much t o my—and I’m sure. Once I had mast ered t hat . my movement s st iff and my ent ire body enflamed. I w ant ed t o die as I w at ched t hose vibrant eyes quickly scan t he not e. Blake got all kinds of happy. t o Lesa’s and Carissa’s— horror. Daemon chuckled. And I died a lit t le more. he w as t aking enough t ime. Blake event ually moved on t o harder st uff.” I snapped around—just in t ime. 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. He grinned. and he w asn’t t here. W hen he w ent back t o t he chalkboard. things were a lot smoother without Daemon’s threatening presence. God. … For several days. . used his mout h t o pop off t he cap on his pen. I’d managed t o light one by pict uring t he flame in my mind and holding t he image. Groaning. I could no longer t ouch t he candle. “T here you go. Daemon finally folded t he not e and handed it back. because t he t each w as scanning t he classroom. Kit t en. ever see t he light of day again. I w as allow ed t o t ouch each of t hem. Lesa’s mout h w as hanging open and Carissa’s cheeks mat ched mine. Each t ime I w as successful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

She’s w it h t he DOD. “W hat about Daw son?” I shut t he door.” Daemon sat beside me on t he couch. “It w as her. “How can you be sure it w as her. I t ook a deep breat h. impat ient . 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. I saw her w it h Brian Vaughn. he laughed under his breat h..” I moved past him. It ’s a face I can’t forget . and w ent int o t he living room. Daemon should’ve been t he first person I w ent t o. An array of emot ions w ent t hrough his eyes. Maybe I should’ve list ened t o Blake. Popping in front of me. but I’m t elling you now . dropping his hands bet w een his legs. t urning t hem from a bright green t o a dark. Kat ? Y ou’ve never seen her.” I sat dow n. dragging bot h hands t hrough his t ousled hair. “Sorry. “W hat ?” “Daw son’s girl—” “I know w hat you said. pressing my lips t oget her.” he int errupt ed me. T ime st ret ched.” “I’ve seen her missing person’s flyer. Bet h’s alive?” I nodded. “Man. I jerked my chin. eyes w ide and luminous.. “I saw Bet hany t oday. he plant ed his hands on his hips.” Daemon snapped. “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. T hey’d pulled over on t he side of t he road and t he car door had opened.” Daemon’s head jerked t o t he side and he blinked once. “I’m sorry. but my memory had not served him one bit of just ice. It seemed like forever ago t hat w e’d put it up. He w as closing t he door and he looked angry. Focus. 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. st ormy color. and our gazes locked. “At t he post office aft er school. careful not t o t ouch any of his exposed skin. I don’t …I don’t even know w hat t o say.” Daemon slow ly t w ist ed his head t ow ard me.” “Holy shit . rubbing my hands over my knees.” He nodded curt ly and ret urned t o st aring at t he Christ mas t ree. . heart racing. T hat ’s how I saw t hem. t hen t w ice. 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. Daemon st epped inside.I hadn’t forgot t en w hat he’d looked like shirt less. “Kat . 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.” “And you w ait ed unt ill now t o t ell me?” Before I could answ er. “Daemon. “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 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

” Daemon finally spoke again.” 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.” I w hispered. “Someone bet rayed Daw son.Or sent t hem back as spies—ones w ho could keep an eye on t he ot hers. At my mom’s car. “Daw son didn’t t ry t o hide his relat ionship w it h Bet hany. Someone had t o t ell t he DOD.” T hat did not hing t o really calm Daemon. his voice firm and st rong. sw irling t he ruby liquid w it h his ot her hand. Turning around. his arms w rapped around me and held me so t ight ly I could’ve molded t o him.” “It could be anyone.” “Part of me doesn’t even care about t hat right now . I st art ed t ow ard t he passenger side. I promised. Chapter 24 Daemon didn’t w ant his sist er t o know Daw son w as most likely alive. “I’m sorry. silent and st uck somew here bet w een hope and despair. And if anyone w as w at ching t hem closely. He w as t hat kind of guy. We left Mat t hew ’s house short ly aft er t hat . t hen st opped. W e’ll get him back.” “It doesn’t .” he said against t he t op of my head. “I’ll get him back if it ’s t he last t hing I do. I’m sure some of us didn’t st op. but t his w as t he government w e w ere t alking about .” Aft er a moment of hesit at ion. t hey could’ve suspect ed somet hing happened.” Mat t hew said w earily. “I am afraid t o t heorize over w hat t hat could mean. I w ent back t o him and snaked my arms around his t aut body.” Mat t hew moved t o t he fireplace. squeezing him t ight . 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 propped his elbow on t he mant el. Seemed paranoid. “But t hat doesn’t explain w hy t he Arum w ould w ork w it h t he DOD. Daemon didn’t w ant t o share t hat helplessness w it h his sist er. . Not t hat I expect ed it t o. “I know . I handed him t he keys w hen he asked for t hem. report back t o t he DOD w it h any suspicious act ivit y. sounding t ired. and I respect ed him for it . “W e’ll figure out somet hing. W e all w at ched t hem w hen t hey first got t oget her. 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 had no idea w hat Daemon planned.” “Oh. “I’m t rying. None of t hat w as funny. It should vibrat e and hum. Kat y. moving fast er t han I’d ever seen him. Blake drew in a deep breat h.” I shook my head. I t hink w e just need t o get out of here.” Blake laughed.During t he next couple of days. “I don’t like your ideas at all. T his shouldn’t be t hat much harder. he st ared int o my w ide eyes. Blake and I w orked on manipulat ing light . I w asn’t let t ing him do it alone. If you can’t manipulat e light . right ?” “Y eah. and I scow led. I did my t raining w it h Blake and t hen aft er he left .” Blake sat on t he arm of t he recliner. “I’m t rying.” He cast a grin over his shoulder as he pulled his keys out of his pocket .” My foot t apped t he floor. Blake looked like he w ant ed t o run his head int o a w all. On t he T hursday before Christ mas break. no. T hink of somet hing t hat feels t hat w ay. Frust rat ed aft er hours of me not being able t o produce even a spark of t he deadly light . It ’s w arm. and for once he w asn’t hell-bent on doing everyt hing alone.” . Grabbing my w rist unt ill his t humb and forefinger met . Kat y.” He let go of my w rist and ran a hand t hrough his spiky hair. Pict ure in your mind pulling all t hose cells t oget her and feel t he light . Daemon and I w ould drive t o Moorefield. “I’m not doing anyt hing like t hat . “I’ve t ried—” He shot off t he chair. “It ’s just t hat …if you can’t cont roll t he st rongest part of you. Brian hadn’t ret urned home since t he night w e’d seen him and Nancy w it h t he Arum. “It ’s not t hat hard. Go grab somet hing t o eat . I had t o pull from w it hin me. rubbing his brow . And you’ll never be able t o defend yourself. t hen…” “T hen w hat ?” I demanded. T hen he smiled. Every cell in your body is encased in light . “Y ou said you’d t rust me. Y ou have it in you. It w as harder t han freezing an object .” He w as doing w onders for my self-confidence. t o t ap int o an abilit y I had no real underst anding of.” I w ondered if it had been t his hard for Bet hany. It ’s like light ning in your veins. “I have an idea. t here’s a chance you’ll never really be under cont rol. “Look at it t his w ay. but w hat ever it w as. I promise. “Y ou can move t hings easily now . but t hat ’s before you t hrew a knife at my chest and caught my fingers on fire.” I yaw ned. “Y ou’re not t rying hard enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

everyone w as gone except Mat t hew . my mist akes…my guilt .” Mat t hew t w ist ed t ow ard me. I w orked at t he spot . “It never makes sense.” T ears built in my eyes as I sopped up w hat w as left of Adam. grasping my cheeks. Now I’ve lost anot her. But t he spot w here Adam had fall en w as w orse. I pressed my head against his shoulder. one filled w it h t reachery and greed.” “T hey are all like my children. T hen t he st rangest t hing happened. And I w as alone in t he freezing night .” W et ness gat hered on my cheeks. Kat y. I let t his happen. T his w as a w orld you st umbled int o. “I know . “I w ould’ve kept you safe. w ho st ayed t o help…clean up aft er everyt hing.” T hen in a flash of red-w hit e light . and he knew it . 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. I grabbed some t ow els from t he linen closet and knelt beside him. Y ou w eren’t prepared for it . blinking back t ears.Daemon drew in anot her harsh breat h as he st art ed t ow ard me. Glist ening liquid pooled in t w o spot s. left w it h my choices. He pulled me int o his arms. I w elcomed it w it h t ears st reaming dow n my face and a heart ripped apart . “I have t his. and I w iped at my face w it h my shoulder. He let out a st aggered breat h. but he came up short . my body shaking his. W hen my t ears dried. and it became a New Year. “You cannot t ake on t he full responsibilit y for t his.” His shoulders shook. His w ords didn’t ease t he guilt . he w as gone. or maybe he w as crying for his loss. T here w ere broken pict ure frames everyw here. “T his is my fault . You didn’t make t he choices Blake did. lift ing his head and closing his eyes. drenching t w o t ow els before he placed his hand on mine.” I choked on a broken sob as grief t ore t hrough me. his jaw w orking. You didn’t force his hand. “T his should’ve never happened. and for w hat ? It doesn’t make sense. Mat t hew sat back. He w as t rying t o prot ect me. but his hands w ere shaking. and I broke. .” Mat t hew didn’t say anyt hing for several minut es. my eyes w ere nearly sw oll en shut . Mat t hew w as t rying t o clean it up. T he coffee t able w as scrat ched all t o hell. plus his car and Blake’s t ruck. Someone had removed Vaughn’s body. “It ’s not just your fault . Sobs racked my ent ire body. “I t rust ed Blake w hen I should’ve t rust ed Daemon.” I w hispered.” “I’m sorry. t oo. T ime passed. Neit her are any of t hem. Chapter 32 W hen I ret urned t o my house.” I lift ed my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and I fought it w it h every ounce of t he st rengt h I had left . Manacles and chains hung from t he t op. and he w as w at ching me curiously. t he needle w as gone from his hand. At least I t hink I did. I’d felt like t his once before. Chapter 34 W hen I came t o. Maybe. and a w ave of dizziness assault ed me. Someone had t aken off my sw eat er. I lift ed my head off t he coarse blanket my cheek rest ed on.I knocked his hand aw ay. Panic claw ed t hrough me. Calling upon t he Source w as out of t he quest ion. My last t hought w as. and socks. 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. If I lost consciousness I knew it w as all over. w hen a friend and I had drunk an ent ire bot t le of cheap w ine during a sleepover. but it beat t hrough me w ildly. Goose bumps pimpled my skin in response t o t he near-freezing t emperat ure of w herever I w as. and I almost w ished t hey’d st ayed out of focus. I couldn’t feel my pulse. My fingers slipped over t he door handle. I looked up. I w as in a cage t hat resembled a large kennel used for dogs. I couldn’t w ill t hem t o w ork. Shapes w ere blurry and indist inguishable for several minut es. I knew I w as inside somew here. he pulled out of t he school parking lot w it hout answ ering. 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. . T he road up ahead blurred in a kaleidoscope of w hit e and gray. and now I w as freezing. Event ually my eyes cleared. shoes. but I w asn’t sure. it felt like a drummer had t aken up residency in my head and my mout h w as dry. I asked him again. My hand flut t ered t o my neck. T he st eady hum of light s and dist ant voices t old me t hat much. “W hat …w hat did you do?” Hands on t he st eering w heel. My arms and feet w ere bare. Except t hen I’d been hot and sw eat y. leaving me in my t ank t op and jeans. and t hen I couldn’t keep my eyes open. but I couldn’t keep my head from list ing t o t he side. Eit her w ay. prying my eyes open. T w o of t hem w ere hooked t o my numb. or I t hought I did. I pushed up. Cages surrounded me. chilled ankles. T he t hick black met all w as spaced enough t hat I could fit a hand t hrough it . Darkness crept int o t he corners of my eyes. Flat t ening out my hands. Implant s are everyw here. forcing my breat h in and out as my gaze dart ed around at a frant ic pace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Three The Covenant Series: Daimon Half-Blood Pure Deit y Apollyon Single Tit les: Cursed . Book Two Opal: A Lux Novel. Book One Onyx: A Lux Novel. Arment rout : The Lux Series: Obsidian: 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.

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