“I lied,” she cut in, opening her eyes again and meeting my wide-eyed stare. “I lied because I didn’t want you to know the truth about him. And yes, it was a necessary lie, one I hoped you would never have to learn was a lie, but with Luc here, I’d rather you hear it from me than him.”

“What . . . what does Dad have to do with him?”

Mom rubbed her hands down her face. “Jason wasn’t very kind to the Luxen he worked with. He could . . . often be very cruel to them.” She paused, and I thought perhaps she was telling a lot by saying very little. “He and Luc had a past. It’s not a good one.”

What Luc had said to me in the club rose to the surface. He’d said I didn’t belong there. I thought maybe he was just being a jerk, but what if it was bigger than that? What if he meant I shouldn’t be around him, because of whatever my dad had done to him or his family?

But if that was the case, then why had he kissed me?

I scooted to the edge of the chair. “Mom, what did Dad do?”

“He made sure that Luc lost someone very dear to him,” Mom answered, and I jerked at the unexpected response. “And that is something Luc will never forget nor forgive. Because of that, Luc can be very dangerous.”

My heart started thundering again. “Because he’s obviously not a registered Luxen?”

“Because I used to fear that Luc would seek retribution for what Jason had done to him.”

My eyes widened. “Retribution? Holy crap. Dad is—He’s dead. What did he do to Luc—”

“Jason was responsible for a lot of things and he made a lot of enemies and he . . . made a lot of bad choices,” she said quietly, almost as if she were afraid she’d be overheard. If Dad had enemies, then I guessed that was why we had shotguns under couch cushions? “None of that matters. I just didn’t want you to learn from someone else that the man who so many people look up to wasn’t a very good person.”

My head felt like it was going to implode. “Should we be worried about . . . Luc coming after us?”

Her gaze held mine. “I said I used to fear that. The truth is, if he’d wanted to hurt you or me, he would’ve already done that.”

“Wow. That’s reassuring.”

“It’s not meant to be,” she replied. “It’s just the truth. If he wanted to use me to carry out some sort of vendetta, it would’ve already happened.” She rose, fiddling with the sash on her robe. “Luc would never hurt you.”

I opened my mouth, but my tongue got all tied up. That didn’t make sense. Luc didn’t know me, and if my dad had done terrible things that involved Luc losing someone, I doubted he wanted to be my best friend forever. It didn’t require a leap in logic to assume that “losing someone” meant someone dying. “Are you sure we’re safe?”

Mom smoothed a hand over her forehead. “Oh, honey, we are,” she was quick to reassure me. “It’s just always good to be prepared.”

I wasn’t sure if I believed her. “Are there other methods of being prepared stashed around the house?”

Another smile formed as she placed her hand on my knee. “I wouldn’t mess with the pillows too much in the window seat upstairs.”

“Mom.” I drew in a deep breath. “Are there any more people Dad might’ve pissed off who we’ve got to worry about?”

“We are safe, but just like anyone, we have to be careful. There are bad people out there, Luxen and human, you don’t want to draw attention from. The same kind of rules that applied before the invasion, you know?”

I nodded slowly. “Stranger danger kind of stuff?”

“Yes.” She moved over, sitting on the edge of the ottoman so she was directly in front of me. She picked up my hands. “What are you thinking?”

A lot of stuff. “I never should’ve gone to that club.”

“Glad we’re in agreement on that.” She squeezed my hands. “Right now I’m more concerned about what I told you about Jason. I know that’s a lot to process.”

It was.

She brought my hands up. “I’m going to be really honest with you. Okay?”

“Okay,” I whispered.

“I’m not sorry I lied about who Jason really was. You deserve to believe what everyone else does,” she said, her eyes searching mine. “Sometimes the truth is worse than the lie.”


“I thought Mom was going to straight up murder me,” I said, dragging my fork through what I thought might be spaghetti but had the weird consistency of soup. “Like, for real.”

Lunch had just started on Monday, and Heidi sat across from me, beside James, who was brown-bagging lunch because he was obviously smarter than the rest of us.

We were waiting for Zoe to join, but she was still in the lunch line, looking like she’d rather throw herself out the nearest window.

Heidi handed my camera back to me. She’d been looking through my pictures. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” I told her, placing the camera next to my tray. “You didn’t make Luc show up at my house.”

I’d told them about what had gone down, leaving out the part where my mom had pulled out a shotgun and I’d thrown a candleholder. I also didn’t tell them all the secret stuff Mom had told me. Didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that I needed to keep that to myself. James had also kept quiet about Saturday morning, which I appreciated.

Mom had shut down any further conversation by sending me to my room, where I stayed, the rest of Sunday.

Which sucked, because I still had so many questions. Like, for example, how did Mom, once upon a time, work for an organization responsible for assimilating Luxen, which was how she and Dad—aka former national hero, now apparently a really bad dude—met Luc, but Luc remained an unregistered alien? And if Mom knew he was unregistered, then why hadn’t she reported him? We all were required to do so, especially her, considering Mom still worked for the military. What would happen if someone found out she knew him and that he was unregistered?

Was it guilt? Guilt for what my dad did to Luc?

I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was so much more than what Mom had told me.

James picked up his peanut butter sandwich, and envy filled me. That looked so much tastier than what was on my plate. “I can’t believe he just showed up like that. Man, my dad would’ve called the police in a heartbeat.”

That sounded like the reasonable thing to do.

“How did he find out where you lived?” Heidi asked, fiddling with the lacy collar of her shirt. “Because I so did not tell Emery anything like that.”

Unsure of how to answer her question, I shifted in the uncomfortable plastic chair. “I really don’t know.”

Her brows lifted. “That’s kind of creepy.”

“How long are you grounded?” James peeled the crust off his sandwich, dropping a long section of brown bread on his bag.

I sighed as I fantasized about knocking James out of his seat and stealing his sandwich, but that would be kind of mean. “Here’s the bizarre thing: I’m not.”

“You’re not what?” Zoe dropped into the open chair beside me as a teacher shouted at someone in the back of the cafeteria. Zoe had a slice of pizza on her tray. I shuddered. I hated pizza. James said that meant I had no soul, but whatever. It was just gross.

“Evie is somehow not grounded,” James answered, now pulling his sandwich into tiny pieces. He literally had the eating habits of a three-year-old.

Zoe’s dark, naturally curly hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail today, highlighting her cheekbones. Those suckers were high and sculpted. “Not grounded?” She sounded confused. “Is that a problem?”

James finally popped a piece of sandwich into his mouth. “I’m wondering the same thing.”

“It’s not. It’s just weird.” Truthfully, I thought Mom felt so bad about the whole Dad Is a Monster speech that she decided not to ground me after sending me to my room. Or she’d forgotten, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to remind her. I glanced over at Heidi. She was tapping away on her phone, and I was nosy. “Are you texting someone?”