“Sure,” Zoe drew the word out. “Good luck with that.”

I closed the locker door and then hitched my bag up on my shoulder. “What are you up to?”

She lifted a shoulder. “Need to study, but I’m probably going to just sit on the couch and marathon old episodes of Family Guy.”

I laughed as we headed down the hall toward the parking lot. Zoe’s parents, both of them, had died before the invasion in some kind of freak plane accident, so she had been shipped off to live with her uncle, who was never home. I only saw him once from a distance. They used to live closer to DC, but had ended up here after everything.

“So, I only heard bits and pieces about your trip with Heidi to that club.” Zoe caught the door, holding it open as we stepped out into the bright afternoon sun. “She was telling me it got raided while you guys were there?”

I pulled my sunglasses out of my bag and slid them on as we followed the mass of people going toward the parking lot. “Yeah, it was wild. I’ve never seen anything like that. At all.”

“There’s a reason why Heidi didn’t ask me to go with you guys. I would’ve told her no.”

“I couldn’t tell her no. She’s been going there by herself for a while now, and I just wanted to, you know, for her not to be alone.” I stepped around a couple who looked seconds away from either making out or screaming at each other. “I didn’t even get a chance to meet Emery.”

Zoe was quiet for a moment and then she nudged me with her elbow. “So I heard there was this guy there. . . .”

Groaning, I rolled my eyes as we climbed the small hill. What did Heidi not tell her? “There was a Luxen guy there who was a complete ass. Is that who you’re talking about?”

“That’s the guy who showed up at your house?” When I nodded, she let out a low whistle. “I bet your mom freaked.”

“You have no idea,” I muttered dryly. Out of all my friends, Zoe was the most . . . logical one, the calmest one. There was very little we kept from each other, so keeping everything from her felt wrong.

Honestly, she should’ve been at the club Friday night. She would’ve made sure I didn’t end up in that hidey-hole with Luc. “So, I didn’t tell anyone else this, but when he showed up at my house, Mom pulled a gun on him.”

“What?” She let out a shocked laugh.

“Yep.” I kept my voice down as we neared Zoe’s car. Since I hadn’t gotten to school super-early that morning, I had to trek all the way to the back of the parking lot, near the football field.

“Wow,” she said, laughing again. From the field, a whistle blew. “What did he do?”

“He melted the barrel.” I shivered at the reminder. To have that kind of unchecked power was unbelievable.

“That . . . was all he did?” Zoe reached the door of her car.

“I think that was enough.” Of course that wasn’t all that Luc had done. “He actually . . .”


My cheeks started to burn. I wanted to tell her—tell someone—but at the same time, telling someone felt like that meant I was thinking about it. That I cared about it.

I wasn’t thinking about the non-kiss. Well, except for last night, when I couldn’t sleep, and the night before that.

Zoe nudged my arm.

“He wasn’t wearing a Disabler,” I said instead, shoving thoughts of kissing aside. “I don’t think he’s registered.”

Leaning against the back door of her car, Zoe crossed her arms. “I think there probably are a lot of them who aren’t registered.”


She was quiet for a moment. “Anyway, what April brought up at lunch was so wrong.”

“Which part?”

She rolled her eyes. “All of it, but especially bringing up your dad like that. It was messed up.”

“It was.” I dug a thick bobby pin out of the pocket of my jeans, then bent over and gathered up my hair. “But that’s April.”

“I don’t know.” Zoe squinted as she stared out over the football field. “Sometimes she worries me.”

Twisting my hair into a bun, I managed to keep my sunglasses on and shove the bobby pin into the thick mass. “She always worries me.” I straightened. “There are days when I don’t even know why I’m friends with her.”

“There are days I wonder how I haven’t pushed her in front of a bus,” Zoe admitted.

My smile faded as I thought about the conversation with Mom. If April had known my dad had done bad things, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything she’d said, because my father’s death fit her narrative—her agenda when she talked about the Luxen.

“You okay?” She moved several curls out of her face.

“Yeah.” I smiled. “Why?”

Her brows lifted. “You had a pretty interesting weekend.”

And she didn’t even know all of it. “Yeah, I did, but I’m okay. Totally.”

She studied me a moment and then pushed away from the car. “All right, I’ve got to run. Text me later?”

“Yep.” I waved good-bye to her, then headed behind her car and started rooting around for my keys. I made a promise that I would get to school earlier from now on, because this hike sucked. I found my keys just as my car came into view. I unlocked it, opened the back door, and tossed my bag onto the seat.

I didn’t even know how it happened.

I must’ve left my bag half unzipped, because the next thing I knew, a rainbow of notebooks slide out, slipping onto the gravel. My camera inched out next. Gasping, I dropped my keys and lurched forward, catching the camera before it hit the hard ground.

Closing my eyes, I let out a ragged breath. “Oh, thank you, baby Jesus.”

“Here you go.”

Startled by the deep voice, I lost my precarious balance and fell backward, plopping onto my butt. My head jerked up as I clutched my camera to my chest. A guy stood next to my car. Brown hair brushed dark sunglasses. A warm smile curved his lips as he picked up my notebooks. My gaze flew back to his face.

“These are yours, right?” he asked.

I eyed the notebooks. “Yeah. They are.”

His head tilted to the side. “Do you . . . want them back?”

For a moment I didn’t move and then I snapped forward, onto my knees. I grabbed the notebooks. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” He stepped back as I got up. A dimple appeared in his right cheek. “See you later.”

Holding my notebooks, I watched him pivot. Some type of leather messenger bag thumped off his thigh as he cut around the back of my car, walking through another row of cars.

“Huh,” I murmured. I didn’t recognize the guy. Granted, the sunglasses had shielded half his face, but he had to be a student. From what I could see of his face, he looked pretty cute. I really needed to start paying more attention to who I had class with.

Shaking my head, I shoved my notebooks back into my bag, zipped it up, and then shoved the door closed. I bent over, snatching up my keys. Still holding on to my camera, I opened the driver’s-side door and the came to a complete stop. A weird feeling hit me. The tiny hairs along the back of my neck rose.

It felt like . . . like someone was watching me.

Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I scanned the parking lot. There were people, lots of them, and no one was paying any attention to me, but the feeling didn’t go away. Even when I got into my car and turned it on, the sensation lingered like summer’s heat.

As I was walking the path along the still waters of Centennial Lake, I lifted my camera and stepped back. Composition of a photo pretty much came down to the rule of the thirds. Of course, it didn’t work for all photos and I didn’t follow the rule for outdoors ones. I always liked photos where the object was slightly off-centered.

I snapped a picture of one of the largest trees, loving the contrast of its leaves against the deep blue of the sky. Then I zoomed in on the burnt gold and red leaves.

I didn’t like to look at my pictures until I got home and was able to load them onto my computer. If I got caught up in checking them out, I’d end up just focusing on one image and miss everything else around me.