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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… Cops were everywhere over the next couple of days. glazed doughnut s on T hursday. He’d been so against me mont hs ago and now he w ant ed t o be w it h me. And t hat had t o be all. 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. Nice. And I also got t he dist inct impression t hey suspect ed I knew t heir secret . and I honest ly don’t t hink I t ook my eyes off it . She mout hed. One day he brought me a pumpkin spiced lat t e—my favorit e—t hen an egg and bacon breakfast croissant . As if w e w ere a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. T hey lit erally couldn’t keep t heir hands off each ot her…or our food. going against t he w ishes of his race? Maybe he had a secret drug habit . T hey lift ed and his lips spread int o a grin. 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. His brow s w ere low ered in concent rat ion. I looked up. But t he cops didn’t t reat us like suspect s. Well. Aft er my first and only quest ioning w it h t hem in t he principal’s office. I w at ched him scribble along a blank piece of not ebook paper. Part of me act ually felt bad for Ash. cat ching Lesa’s gaze. especially since Daemon had become t he bearer of gift s. right ? Hat red t urned t o lust . W hen Daemon had said he w asn’t giving up. 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. He did not hing t o hide his int ent ions. I placed t he rose on my desk. I w as in so much t rouble. my bet s w ould be on Ash or Andrew . plot t ing t o t ake out jocks everyw here. Cheeks flaming. . Daemon and I ended up being some of the first people t hey t alked t o. I w ondered if someone had let t he alien out of t he bag. soot y lashes hid his eyes. Ash w as t he most likely suspect . She’d spent her w hole life expect ing t o be w it h Daemon.Daemon’s t hroat y chuckle w armed my chest . If I ended up being found in a dit ch somew here. T he light caught t he moist ure on t he rose. W hy w ould he? Maybe he just w ant ed t o have sex w it h me. and a lily on Friday. asking students and teachers questions about Simon. T hick. 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 det ermined t hat t w o of t he st at e t roopers w ere aliens. t he fact t hat Daemon had beat en t he crap out of Simon didn’t look good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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