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Her stomach did a twisty motion. “You’re…that old?”

“No. No!” Dawson laughed, lifting his eyes. “I’m sixteen. We—my family—came here when we were children, very young, and we age the same way you do.”

“On a spaceship?” She almost laughed again, but managed to keep it down. A spaceship—a freaking spaceship. Dear God, that was a word she thought she’d never utter. This was…wow.

Dawson shifted, clasping his hands in his lap. “We don’t have spaceships. We travel in our true form. Uh, we travel as light. And in that form, we don’t breathe like you would. So different atmospheres, yeah…” He shrugged. “When we got here, we…picked our human forms, melding our DNA in a way, but we can look like anyone.”

Bethany sat straighter. This had just gone from bizarro land into Twilight Zone territory. “You can look like anyone?”

He nodded. “We don’t do it a lot; only when we need to.”

Trying to wrap her brain around this, she tugged on her hair with both hands. “Okay, so what you look like now, that’s not real?”

“No, this”—he tapped his chest—“this is real. Like I said, our DNA adapts quickly to our environment. And we are always born in threes—”

“Andrew and his siblings—they are Luxen, too?” When he nodded, she was almost relieved. “Andrew did melt the ping-pong ball!”

“Yeah, see, we control things related to light, which is heat and at times fire.” He still hadn’t looked at her, not directly. “I don’t know why he did that. The general population can’t know about us. So, it’s important that we don’t do anything stupid. And that was stupid. Hell, what I just did was colossally stupid.”

She watched him. Now that the shock was ebbing away, her mind was starting to put things together. At least now she knew how such a small town could have six insanely gorgeous people. Go figure they weren’t human in nature. Then it struck her—the whole episode in the icy parking lot. “What else can you do?”

His features pinched. “I really shouldn’t—”

“But I already know, right?” She slid off the bed, sitting in front of him so her knees pressed into his. He jerked as if surprised by the contact but didn’t move. “What harm can it cause now?”

His brows shot up. “It can cause a lot of problems.”

Dread inched up her spine, sending shivers over her shoulders. “Like what?”

He opened his mouth but shook his head. “It’s nothing. Uh, you want to know what else we can do? We can move fast. That’s how I caught you in the parking lot. We can also harness energy—our light. It’s pretty strong. A human wouldn’t survive a hit from us.”

Her eyes widened. That wasn’t good news, but she couldn’t picture Dawson hurting anyone. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t afraid. Or she was just naive. “What else?”

“That basically covers that side of things.”

She knew there was more to it, and she wanted to push the topic, but there were just so many more questions. “How many are here?”

“A lot,” he said, watching his hands. “Most of our kind live in colonies. The government is aware of us—the Department of Defense, that is. They monitor us.”

Okay, now she was getting visions of Men in Black. Sitting back, she let it sink in. A whole other world had just opened up in front of her. One she suspected not a lot of people were aware of, even if the government had something to do with it. Crazy as it sounded, she felt…privileged somehow.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m just soaking this up.” She paused. “Why Earth?”

Dawson’s smile was faint. “Our kind has been coming here since humans walked the Earth, or maybe longer than that. In a way, it’s familiar to us, I guess.”

“And your parents—”

“My parents are dead,” he said in a monotone. “So are the Thompsons’ parents.”

Her chest squeezed. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” She wanted to reach out, comfort him, but right now, he acted as if he was afraid of her, which was odd, all things considered. “I really am sorry.”

“It’s okay.” His chest rose unevenly. “They died when we were babies.”

“How…how do you get by without parents, though? Wouldn’t people suspect something?”

“That’s when the changing shape is handy. One of us pretends to be the parent,” he explained. “And the DOD keeps a roof over our heads and stuff.”

Fascinated, she started spouting off more and more questions. Hours went by as she practically interrogated him in-between her mom checking in on them. What about the colony? He wouldn’t talk about it, so she moved on. Did any other humans around here know? The answer was no. How involved was the DOD? From what she could gather from Dawson, heavily involved. They monitored every aspect of the Luxen’s lives, from where they chose to live, what colleges they went to, down to when they applied for a driver’s license. Another fun fact was they didn’t get sick. No flu. No common colds. No cancers or nerve diseases. There was no need for a doctor. If they were injured in their human form, they only needed to resort back to their true form to heal “most” injuries.

“Let me get this right,” Bethany said, leaning toward him. “You can’t be hurt, then? Not really?”

Dawson shook his head. “We can be hurt. The Arum are our greatest enemies.”

“The who?”

He rubbed the heel of his hand against his temple. “They are like us, sort of. Instead of three born at the same time, there are four. They are from our sister planet. And they are mostly comprised of shadows, but their DNA adapted like ours. They look human most of the time.”

“And they’re dangerous?”

“They hunted us into near extinction, destroyed our planet. They followed us here.”

Her throat felt dry. “Why do they hunt you?”

“For our abilities,” he explained. “Without them, they are weak. The more Luxen they kill, the more abilities they absorb.”

“That…that is messed up.”

He looked up then, meeting her eyes. “They are only one of the reasons why we have to be careful around humans.”

Knots formed in her stomach. She thought of the light—the intensity and heat. “Can you harm people in your true form?”

“No—I mean, we distort electromagnetic fields when we use our abilities. That increases them. Too much of it can make a human sick or nauseated and nervous, but nothing permanent. And sometimes we vibrate…or hum.”

“I’ve felt that before.” She smiled a little, remembering the way his hand had thrummed beneath hers.

Dawson’s eyes glittered. “But whenever we use our abilities or go into our true form, we leave a trace behind on the human. Like right now, you have a faint glow around you.”

“A trace?”

“Yes,” he said. “We stay here and in places like Petersburg, because there is a large concentration of beta quartz in the rocks. It disrupts the fields around us, blocking our detection from the Arum, but it doesn’t block traces.”

Her breath caught, somehow knowing where this was leading. “So, these Arum can see the trace around me and…and find you through that trace?”


“Oh, God.” She placed a hand over her heart.

“Your trace is very faint. I don’t think it will be any problem.” Relief flooded her, and he seemed to try to smile. “I feel stupid for even saying this, but you can’t tell anyone about this, Bethany. No one must know.”

She laughed then, knowing she surprised him. “Dawson, no one would believe me.”

“It doesn’t stop people, though. There have been some who have discovered the truth. Who have seen a Luxen in his or her true form and tried to tell other people.” His eyes were doing that shiny thing again, like there was a white light behind the pupils. She guessed there was. “Those people disappeared.”

Ice covered the knots in her stomach. “What do you mean?”

“The DOD takes care of them. How? I don’t know. But their main job is to cloak us in secrecy and make sure no one threatens that objective.”

Kind of scary to think of that, but she also understood why. Humans would freak if they knew aliens were running around. Aliens who could change identities, move as fast as light, and harness whatever energy.

And on the flip side, a human holding that kind of knowledge wielded a lot of power, didn’t she? Money would probably be involved, if one went public with details.

Bethany shook her head. It wouldn’t be right, though, for several reasons. “I won’t say anything, Dawson. I know promising I won’t doesn’t mean much, but…I really don’t want to disappear, and I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

He exhaled loudly. “I do believe you. Thank you.”

Heartbeats passed in silence as she studied his downturned face. God, he was beautiful. His features perfectly pieced together. Should’ve known some kind of foreign DNA was somehow involved. Then she remembered their first phone call and how he’d said he was from far away. Funny thing was he hadn’t lied to her then.

Bethany really didn’t know what to say or think. Obviously she wasn’t crazy. Dawson was…an alien, but she had a hard time seeing it. Not that she didn’t accept what he was, but as she stared at him, all she saw was Dawson.

Dawson who spoke to her the first day here, who followed her out into the hallway, and who skipped class to spend lunch with her. Dawson who devoted hours on the phone with her, talking until they both fell asleep like goobers.

All she really saw was Dawson—a boy she was falling for.

He’d stayed still while she’d been staring at him, but he looked away now, a muscle flexing in his jaw.

Bethany rose to her knees suddenly. “Can I touch you? When you’re in your…true form?”

His eyes snapped to hers, the green churning with a mixture of hope and panic, relief and sorrow. There was also this oddly tender look on his face that pulled at her heart, made it thump harder. “Why would you want to?”

She bit her lip, wondering if she’d somehow insulted him. Was touching in their true form uncouth? He had jumped away from her awfully fast. “I don’t know. I just do.”

Shock splashed across his face. “You really want to?”

Holding her breath, she nodded.

“It shouldn’t make your trace worse, but...” He rose to his knees anyway, and closed his eyes. A second later, he faded out. His clothes, the shape under them, everything just faded away but

was quickly replaced by white light edged in blue.He extended one arm and fingers formed. Five of them. Just like hers. Beth’s gaze darted up and his head tilted to the side, waiting.

His light illuminated the entire room. Warmth radiated from him. As strange as it was seeing this, he was beautiful. So beautiful there were tears in her eyes, which had nothing to do with the intensity of the light.