As I sat up and threw my legs off the bed, I couldn’t stop a horrible thought from forming. If something did happen to her, it could’ve . . . it could’ve happened to Heidi or me. I’d been in that dank, dark alley on Friday night.

I’d fallen into it, actually.

It could’ve happened to me when I went back to the club to get my phone. It felt like I’d tempted fate twice.

And who knew where Heidi had been until she made it to the car to wait for me? Another shudder rolled over me. That was scary to think about.

“That club is such bad news,” I muttered as I made my way to the bathroom.

Colleen would probably show up to school Monday morning. The days of people simply vanishing without trace were long over. People just didn’t go missing like that. Not anymore.

I kept telling myself that the whole time I was in the bathroom and while I changed into a pair of leggings and a long shirt. Hopefully the power of positive thinking was a real thing.

I snatched my poor cell phone off the nightstand and then made my way downstairs. Mom was already awake, in the kitchen, wearing a cream-colored robe and fuzzy kitten slippers that I swore were the size of her head.

Despite her poor clothing choices, Mom was gorgeous. Her short, sleek blond hair never looked frizzy like mine. She was tall and slender, carrying an innate gracefulness even when she wore giant kitten heads as slippers that I figured hadn’t been passed down to me yet.

I had a bad habit of comparing myself to Mom.

She was like fine vintage wine, and I was the watered-down stuff that came in boxes and was sold at pharmacies.

“There you are.” She held a monster-sized coffee cup between her palms as she leaned against the kitchen island. “I was wondering if you were ever going to get up.”

Grinning, I shuffled into the kitchen. “It’s not that late.”

“I was lonely.”

“Uh-huh.” Walking over to her, I stopped and stretched up, kissing her cheek. “How long have you been awake?”

“I’ve been up since seven.” She turned, watching me walk to the fridge. “Figured I’d spend Sunday in my pajamas. You know, not wash my hair or brush my teeth.”

Laughing, I pulled out a bottle of apple juice. “That’s hot, Mom. Definitely the not-brushing-your-teeth part.”

“That’s what I thought,” she replied. “We didn’t get a chance to chat last night. You were already asleep when I got home. You girls get into anything fun Friday night?”

Making a face, I kept my back to her as I grabbed a glass. “Nothing really. We just watched movies and ate cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes.”

“Sounds like my kind of Friday night.”

As I poured the apple juice, I smoothed out my expression before turning to her. “I ate so many cupcakes.” Which was completely true. I probably gained five pounds on Friday night. I headed into the living room and plopped down on the couch, setting my glass on a coaster on the coffee table. Then I checked my phone. Zoe and James both had texted already. They wanted to grab lunch, but after Friday night and Saturday morning, I kind of wanted to hibernate safely in my house.

For about a month.

“You’re heading to Frederick today? Right?” I asked as I walked into the living room. Even thought it was Sunday, Mom worked a lot. There were some days I didn’t even see her, but before she got married and decided to become a mom, she traveled to places all over the world, investigating outbreaks of diseases. Now she did more research type work, overseeing a group of medical researchers in the infectious diseases part of the medical compound.

Her job was kind of gross.

The things I’d sometimes heard her talking about gave me nightmares. Boils and pustules. Vessels hemorrhaging all over the place, eyes bleeding and bursting. Intense fevers that killed people in hours.


“I brought some paperwork home to get caught up on, but I don’t have any plans to head out today.”

“Damn,” I said, picking up the remote and clicking on the TV. “I was planning to throw a party. A massive one. With drugs. Lots of drugs.”

Mom snorted as she sat perched on the edge of the chair, placing her mug on another coaster. Mom was big on coasters. They were everywhere in the house.

She asked me about school as I flipped through the channels. There wasn’t much to tell her as I mindlessly continued to scroll, stopping when I saw the president was on one of the news channels.

“What’s he doing on the TV? It’s Sunday.” That was kind of a dumb question. The president, fair-haired and somewhat young—at least compared to other presidents—seemed to always be on the television, giving press conference after press conference or addressing the people.

“I think that’s a speech from Friday.”

“Oh.” I started to turn the channel, but I noticed the banner along the bottom of the screen: PRESIDENT MCHUGH DISCUSSES BILL TO CHANGE ARP POLICIES.

ARP stood for Alien Registration Program, a system that required all Luxen who stayed behind after the war to be identified and monitored. There were even websites dedicated to informing people if a Luxen was registered as living in a neighborhood or working at a certain business.

I had never actually checked out one of those websites.

“What is this about?”

Mom lifted a shoulder. “There’s talk about changing some of the laws surrounding the registration.”

“I figured that,” I replied dryly.

When President McHugh spoke, he did so staring directly into the camera, and no matter what he said, there was always a slight tilt to his lips, like he was a few muscle twitches away from actually smiling but never fully committing. I always found that a bit unnerving, but everyone seemed to love him. I imagined his age helped, as did his appearance. I guessed he was handsome, in a rugged sort of way. Coming from a military background, he was elected in a landside the past year, campaigning on the promise to make our country safe for all Americans.

I had a feeling he didn’t include the Luxen in the whole “all Americans” pitch.

Flipping the remote in my hand, I asked, “Any details on the changes?”

She sighed. “There’s a push for more separation, moving the Luxen to communities where they will be safer, which, of course, is safer for us.” She paused. “Also cracking down on unregistered Luxen. They have to pass the changes to existing laws to implement some of the programs he’s wanting to do.”

I thought about the raid at the club and the Luxen hidden in the room—the Luxen who’d seemed terrified of me. I promptly changed the channel, settling on a show about people who hoard all kinds of things in their home.

“I cannot watch this.” Mom shook her head. “It makes me want to start organizing things.”

Rolling my eyes, I looked around our living room—at our painfully organized living room. Everything had a place, which usually involved a basket—a white or gray basket. The entire house was that way, so how could Mom organize more? Baskets by size? Color?

But Mom was totally going to watch this. Just like me. We couldn’t help ourselves. These kinds of shows were like crack.

Picking up a drink, I stilled when I heard a weird sound, something I couldn’t quite place. I put my drink aside, looking over my shoulder and into the foyer. The whole bottom floor was open, one room flowing into another with the exception of Mom’s office, which was a closed door accessed from the entryway. Sunlight filtered in through the narrow windowpanes on either side of the front door.

Not seeing anything, I started to face the TV again when I thought I saw a shadow move in front of a window. I frowned. “Hey, Mom.”

“What, hon?”

The shadow by the window appeared again. “I think . . . someone is at the door.”

“Huh.” She rose. “We shouldn’t be getting a delivery. . . .” She trailed off as the handle turned left and then right, as if someone were trying to open the door.

What the . . . ?

My gaze shot to the security keypad on the foyer wall, confirming what I already knew. The alarm wasn’t set. It rarely was during the day, but the door was locked—

The bottom lock turned, unlocking as if someone had used a key.