Page 23

“You’re my brother. The only one I have, so I am stuck with you.” He hugged Dawson back. “I do want you happy. And if Bethany makes you happy, then so be it. I’m not going to lose you over some girl.”

Three days later and Bethany’s trace was still as bright as the day on the cliff. And they had the same amount of answers to what happened as they had then. A big fat nothing. They’d gone around and around, trying to figure out what happened. Short of confiding in Daemon or Matthew, Dawson didn’t know if they’d ever find an answer. The whole not-knowing and constant discussing it was driving them both crazy.

So tonight, they were doing something normal. Going to the movies like any other normal, teenage couple would. They were even doing dinner. And at home, sitting on his dresser, was a fresh bouquet of roses he planned on surprising her with. Maybe even a few candles…

But Bethany had only picked at her dinner.

He glanced at her as he pulled into the parking lot. Her cheeks were flushed, eyes bright when they were open. Right now, though, she had them closed as she rested in the seat.

“Hey,” he said, patting her leg. “You okay over there?”

Her lashes fluttered up. “Yeah, I’m just tired.”

Dawson parked the car and twisted toward her. “We can call it a night if you want.”

“No. I’m good to go.” She reached out, placing her hand on his cheek.

He watched her and the words bubbled up before he could stop them. “I can’t believe how lucky I am. You’ve been so accepting of everything. I almost can’t believe it.”

“I love you, Dawson. I love who you are, what you are. And I don’t think love recognizes differences. It just is. And we really aren’t that different.”

Damn if he didn’t start to feel his eyes burning. If he started crying, he’d kick himself, but he would never grow tired of hearing those three words, through their bond or spoken out loud.

“We have different DNA. I don’t even have to breathe if I didn’t force myself to, Bethany. I’m an alien—total ET over here. That’s definitely different.” But he placed his hand over hers anyway.

A faint smile appeared on her lips. All of her smiles were beautiful. “So? That doesn’t change the fact that I love you. And I know it doesn’t change that you love me.”

“You’re right.”

“And, yeah, we are different on a superficial level.” Bethany leaned over, kissing his lips. His fingers curved around hers tightly. “But we are the same. We laugh at the same stupid jokes. Neither of us has a clue what we want to do after school. Both of us think Hugh Laurie is a genius even though we hate TV. And we’ve both seen Dirty Dancing at least thirteen times, although you’ll never admit it.” She winked.

He pulled her hand from his cheek, pressing his lips against the center of her palm. “And both of us are going to fail gym.”

She giggled, because it was true. “And we have a love for all things sugary.”

“And stupid nicknames no one else gets.”

Nodding, she placed her other hand on his chest. “And our hearts beat the same. Don’t they?”

God, they did. Like two halves that were split but somehow still joined. He bent his head, brushing his lips along hers. He was in awe of her—no, enthralled by her. She was his. He was hers.

Dawson found her lips, feeling his heart pick up and race, matching Bethany’s equally pounding beat. He shivered as a pleasant rush bloomed over his skin. “I love you.”

Bethany smiled against his mouth. “Ditto. We’re going to miss the movie.”

He’d rather stay in the car and see how fogged up they could get the windows, but he nodded and opened the door. The sweet, tangy spring air swallowed him. Summer wasn’t too far away. Funny. Three months had changed his life.

Heading around to her side, he draped his arm over her shoulders, steering her across the parking lot.

She grinned up at him. “Everything is sort of perfect, you know?”

Damn if it wasn’t. He pulled her closer and—

A cold chill snaked down his spine, exploding over his nerve endings. The feeling was recognizable. Arum.

Spinning around, he wrapped his arm around Beth’s waist and pulled her against him. “When I tell you to run, you run.”

“What?” She struggled in his grasp and then stilled. “It’s them, isn’t it? Oh my God…”

They were on the cusp of the protective beta quartz, but her trace was definitely visible to any Arum. His eyes scanned the dark sky and then dropped over the surrounding woods. Everything was cast in shadows.

He wanted to send her into the theater, but that would require them splitting up, and he wasn’t leaving her anywhere. “We’re going to get back into the car,” he said quickly. “And then—”

The shadows pooled in front of them, taking shape and form.

Without saying a word, he swooped Bethany up and headed for the thick tree line. Part of him hoped he wasn’t making a huge mistake, but they’d never make it across the parking lot. And he needed to be where he could defend and keep an eye on her.

Rushing through the woods, he swore he could hear her voice in his head, saying his name, but that couldn’t be possible. It had happened when he healed her, but in his human form, it shouldn’t be. But he had to table that.

Once they were deep enough in the woods, he set her down. Her eyes were wide and panicked as she stepped back.

“Everything’s going to be—”

The Arum came from the sky, slipping through branches like a dark, tumultuous cloud. Grabbing Bethany by her shoulders, he pushed her to the ground and then switched into his true form.

Her startled gasp propelled Dawson forward. He would die before he let anything happen to her.

He leaped into the air, crashing into the Arum. The thunderous impact rattled the trees, and they crashed through the leafy branches. Several yards away, they skidded across the ground, grass and dirt streaming into the air and leaving a rough trench behind.

The Arum’s dark laugh slithered through Dawson. Don’t worry, he said. I won’t kill you yet. I’ll leave you alive ssso you can watch the life bleed out of your human.

Rage pounded through him, and he rose up, feeling energy crackle along his arms. Gathering the energy into a tight ball of anger until he was taut with the pressure, he let go and a stream of bluish-white light blasted into the Arum’s center.

With a roar, the Arum reared up and expanded, tossing Dawson into the air as though he were nothing but a child. If you give up, it will be lesss painful.

Dawson’s shoulder slammed into the ground. He rolled onto his back and popped up in his human form before the Arum reached him. Spinning out of his grasp, he avoided the thick tendrils stabbing at him.

Damn, he’d been drained once before, and he wasn’t going through that again.

The Arum shifted into his human form, letting loose a series of blasts that Dawson barely avoided as he raced toward the bastard. The matter the Arum wielded left craters in the ground, destroyed the ancient oaks it came into contact with.

He hadn’t heard Bethany make a sound for so long, the thought that something had happened to her made him falter without even meaning to. He took his eyes off the Arum, searching for her. The minute distraction cost him. Letting out another chilling laugh, the Arum threw his hand out.

In the last possible moment, Dawson switched to his true form. The dark matter hit him in the chest, and he absorbed it the best he could. The blast still knocked him off his feet but would’ve incinerated a human. Over the red-hot, slicing pain shooting through his body and the buzzing in his ears, he heard Bethany’s horrified scream.

A split second later, he sprang to his feet and took off after the Arum. The Arum was nothing more than a shadow, but he was heading straight for Beth. It was like all his nightmares were becoming reality. The terror was worse than when he’d seen Beth topple over the edge.

All he could see was Beth’s pale face, her wide eyes. It became his whole world. A part of him, probably the one that held all of his humanity, switched off. His vision sharpened and purpose filled him. Beth was threatened.

And the Arum was going to die.

Shifting into his true form, he rushed the Arum and tackled him from behind. He heard a soft gasp, but he rolled the Arum onto his back. The air around them became charged. Reaching down, he unsheathed the obsidian blade from around his lower leg.

The Arum struggled wildly under him, but Dawson clamped a hand around the SOB’s throat and pinned him there. Without saying a word, he plunged the blade deep into the Arum’s center.

There was a flash of golden light and then the Arum broke into pieces that hovered in the air for a few seconds, like an irregularly shaped puzzle. And then they simply fizzled out.

Dawson stood and swayed to the right. Pain arced up his leg. He looked down and noticed it seemed off. As if his left leg was going the wrong way, bent at an odd angle. Broken. Slipping the obsidian into his back pocket, he sighed and changed into his Luxen form so he could heal. It would take a couple of minutes to repair the damage, but at least he wouldn’t feel it now. And anyway, he had more important things to worry about.

He faced Beth.

She was standing under one of the scorched trees, her arms wrapped around her waist. Trembles ran through her body, and he hated that she’d seen this—seen him kill.


Her head cocked to the side and she blinked. Are…are you okay?

Hearing her voice again in his thoughts was a heady, unexplainable feeling. Coming back to her, he knelt and cupped her cheeks. His light enveloped her as he pressed his lips to against hers. Through their bond, he heard her saying his name over and over again. Dawson. Dawson. Dawson.

It’s okay. It’s over. He slipped back into his human form, pulling her against his chest, resting his cheek against hers. Their pounding hearts beat in unison. I’ll never let anything happen to you. I promise. You’re safe with me.

Bethany’s fingers dug into his shirt as she shivered. I know. I love you.

He would never grow tired of hearing those three words, through their bond or spoken out loud.

Dawson? A shudder rolled through her body. A moan was muffled against his neck. I don’t feel…I don’t feel good.

He let go, stepping back. Beth—

She didn’t trip, but it seemed like her legs gave out on her. He reached for her, but she hit the ground, face pale as she pushed up to her knees. Her skin looked damp and clammy.

Fear tripped up his heart as he shot toward her. Was she hurt? The Arum hadn’t reached her, he was sure. “Bethany, what’s wrong?”

A shudder rolled through her body. “Dawson…”

Kneeling beside her, he grasped her shoulders. Her moan sent his heart racing. His eyes darted around quickly. “Baby, talk to me. What’s going on?”

“I don’t feel good,” she said, her voice weak. And then he heard her as clear as day in his head. I think I’m on fire.

Placing his hands on her cheeks, he found her skin to be hot. Too hot. Her lids were heavy, hiding her eyes. “Bethany, tell me what’s wrong.”