* * *

I ran into James as I walked to my car after school. “What are you up to?” he asked. “I’m starving, so I thought I’d do you a sweet favor and let you accompany me on my excursion to find the juiciest and thickest hamburger this fine town has to offer.”

I laughed as I pulled out my sunglasses, I slid them on. “I’d love to, but I have something I have to do. Maybe tomorrow? Or Saturday? I heard Coop canceled his party.”

“I heard the same. He’s doing it next weekend instead. Guess he wasn’t . . . in the mood after what happened.”

Dead and missing classmates kind of dampened the whole party vibe.

“I also heard you have plans today after school,” he said as we stopped by my car. “You’re going to that club.”

Dammit. “Which one of them blabbed?”

He folded his arms. “I’ll never tell.”

I’d told both of them I’d been planning to go to the club, and now I was regretting it. “If you knew what I was doing, then why did you ask me to do something?”

“Thought I could possibly woo you with hamburgers instead.” He stepped aside as I moved toward the driver’s-side door. “Do you think it’s smart to go back there?”

No. I didn’t think it was smart at all.

“I mean, you know I don’t have anything against the Luxen, but there were a ton there unregistered. Then there’s what happened to Colleen, and Amanda is still missing. . . .” He cleared his throat. “And that Grayson dude freaked me out.”

If he thought Grayson was freaky, which he really was, it’s a good thing he hadn’t met Luc.

“And when that blue-haired dude took me home, I thought you were being kidnapped or something.”

My lips pursed. Luc had tried to kidnap me, which made the fact that I was going back to the club willingly seem even more idiotic. “Aw, are you worried about little old me?” I teased, punching him lightly on the arm. “I’ll be fine.”

“Uh-huh. Fine. I’ll go eat juicy grilled hamburgers all by myself.” James started to turn and then stopped. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” I opened up the car door.

He seemed to consider what he was about to say. “Are you, like . . . getting involved with someone there?”

“What?” I tossed my bag onto the front seat and then turned back around to face him. “Like, am I interested in someone? Luc?”

James nodded.

I laughed, but it sounded weird to my own ears. “You haven’t had a chance to meet him, but if you did, you would know how ridiculous that question is.”

That was partly true. How could I be into Luc? I wasn’t, but . . . I was. And while I should be worried about going to that club, I wasn’t, and I couldn’t even explain why. It made no sense, especially when I’d promised my mom I wouldn’t go back there, made Heidi swore she wouldn’t, and I hadn’t even wanted to go there in the first place. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was this weird sense of—of what? Safety? Familiarity?

There was a good chance I was losing my mind.

He raised a brow. “He’s a . . . He’s a Luxen, right?” When I nodded, he looked away and then refocused on me. “Just be careful, Evie. Colleen was at that club when she went missing, and now Amanda is gone? It feels like, I don’t know, they are the beginning of something.”

Walking up to the red doors of Foretoken, I felt like I was seconds away from stealing something pricey at a ritzy department store. Like I was about to shove a car payment’s worth of perfume under my shirt.

Not that I knew what it felt like to do that, but I imagined a shoplifter felt the same mix of anxiety and excitement I was currently drowning in.

A huge part of me couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. I hadn’t told Luc I would last night. For all I knew, he might not even be here.

Knowing that, I was still here.

Drawing in a shallow breath, I lifted my hand, but before I could touch the red doors, one of them inched open. Gasping, I took a step back. I’d expected to see Clyde. That wasn’t who I got an eyeful of.

Luc stood just inside the entryway to Foretoken.

He wasn’t completely dressed.

As in, he was shirtless.

And there was a whole lot of naked chest in front of me—naked chest and stomach.

My brain sort of shorted out on me. I didn’t even know where to look. I shouldn’t look at all, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to look and I wanted my camera in my hand, to take a photo of those . . . angles.

His jeans were zipped but unbuttoned, and they hung indecently low—like, so low, they had to be held up by alien superpowers. He had those muscles on either side of his hips, the kind that formed indents. I didn’t even know what they were called, but boy, oh boy, did he ever have them. There was a faint dusting of hair that disappeared below the jeans.

A flush of warmth hit my cheeks as I dragged my gaze up, over his abs—he had abs for days, each one cut and defined. His chest was sculpted, and as he lifted an arm, clapping his hand over the doorframe above him, I watched, sort of dazed, as the muscles along his ribs moved and flexed in interesting ways.

Luc was . . . holy crap, he was ripped.

I’d figured he was in shape based on the few, brief times I’d accidentally touched his stomach or chest, but thinking about what he had was nothing compared to what he actually had.

This wasn’t real.

That was what I kept telling myself as my gaze flickered south again, to that interesting trail of hair. His body wasn’t real. It was just a mask the Luxen wore. Luc really looked like a human-shaped jellyfish. This . . . very beautiful body wasn’t real.

Thinking that didn’t help.

At all.

Because his body looked totally touchable and real.

“Do you want me to take one of those creepy, self-indulgent selfies of my stomach and send it to you?” Luc asked. “Then you can check me out whenever you want, even when I’m not around.”

Oh my God.

Heat filled my cheeks as my gaze snapped to his face. He’d obviously just gotten out of the shower. Damp hair teased his forehead and temples. No contacts today. Eyes back to that weirdly beautiful purple. “I wasn’t checking you out.”

“Really? Because you were staring so hard, it felt like an actual touch. Not a bad touch. You know, not the kind with the dolls and years of therapy.”

Oh my God . . .

“A good touch. The welcomed kind that puts you in therapy for a whole different reason,” he added as he moved aside, holding the door open. I noticed then he was barefoot. “But we can pretend like you weren’t checking me out.”

“I wasn’t,” I seethed, refusing to look at him at all.

Luc stepped around me. “Whatever makes it easier for you to sleep at night, because checking out someone you think is an alien? Oh, the horror.”

I blew out a long, steady breath. “You are an alien.”

Luc widened his eyes at me. “You know nothing, Evelyn Dasher.”

“Did you just quote Game of the Thrones?”

“Maybe,” he murmured.

“And why aren’t you wearing a shirt? Did you forget how to put one on?”

“Putting on clothes is haaard.”

“Apparently buttoning your pants is too,” I muttered, flushing again.

He laughed as he opened the second door. “Why are you wearing a shirt?”

Slipping past Luc, I shot a glare at him as we walked into the dimly lit, quiet club floor. “Are you seriously asking that question?”

He raised a shoulder as he brushed past me. “I thought it was as valid as your question.” He looked over his shoulder as he walked ahead of me. “You know. As valid as asking any other stupid question.”

My eyes narrowed on his back—his really nice back. He had these muscles all up and down his spine. I stopped by the dance floor, briefly closing my eyes. What was I doing? “This was a mistake.”

He turned to me, and I sort of wished he didn’t, because the struggle was real when it came to focusing north of his shoulders. Not that that was any easier. “Why would you think that?”