Stunned, I stayed quiet and listened.

“It blew the door off what was possible when they learned that the Luxen could mutate humans, turning that human into a hybrid of sorts.

“Sometimes the human wouldn’t mutate. They’d become normal again. Other times they . . . sort of self-destructed. There’s some . . . mysticism involved in the mutation of a human, so the Daedalus studied that, coming up with treatments to insure that the mutations took hold. The Daedalus was dedicated to improving human life. They were doing some good. For a while.”

I had a feeling things were going to take a sharp turn.

“Studies turned into experiments, the kind that violated probably every level of ethics that ever existed. It didn’t take long for them to realize that a Luxen could breed with a human he’d mutated, producing children that were in many ways more powerful than a Luxen.” He paused. “And the Daedalus experimented on them—many generations of those children. Keeping some around. Destroying others who didn’t meet their expectations.”

Revulsion rolled through me as I leaned forward, placing my can on the floor. “Oh my God.”

“Many of those children never met their parents.” Luc’s features sharpened like a blade. “Then . . . the Daedalus was partnered with the Defense Department. It became more about creating soldiers than about curing diseases. Entire generations of those children grew up in labs and hidden facilities. Some never stepping outside. Many died in the same twelve-by-twelve room they were raised in. Others were planted into the military, government positions—billion-dollar companies.”

My jaw was practically in my lap. This was . . . This was wow.

He put his hand on the couch beside my thigh and leaned in. “Whatever passion some of those doctors had in the beginning became twisted.” Slowly, he lifted his gaze to mine, and I sucked in an unsteady breath. “Especially when they started forcing the breeding.”

Sick to my stomach, I wanted to look away from Luc, but it felt like that was like looking away from the truth, from what I knew he was going to say.

Luc lifted his arm and slowly began rolling the sleeve of his shirt up, exposing a powerful forearm. He looked over his shoulder, raising his other hand. Something flew off the kitchen countertop and landed in his hand. I realized it was a knife, a very sharp one.

I tensed.

“When you cut a Luxen, they will heal in a couple of minutes, sometimes longer, depending on how deep.” The sharp point hovered over his taut skin. “When you cut a hybrid, they, too, will heal. Not as fast, but definitely quicker than a human.”

I clasped my hands together. “Luc—”

Too late.

Pressing down, he dragged the knife over his skin, slicing deep. Bluish-red blood beaded on his flesh. Before I could launch myself off the couch to grab towels, the skin closed over the wound, sealing up.

“Holy crap.” No blood. No cut. It was like he hadn’t just sliced his skin open. My gaze shot to his.

“But a child of a Luxen and a hybrid—an Origin—heals immediately.”

Understanding flared to life as I glanced down at his arm and then back to his striking face. “You . . . You’re one of those kids?”

He nodded and then leaned to the side, placing the knife on the end table. “Watch.”

I was so watching.

A faint white glow appeared over his pointer finger. Leaning away, my eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Don’t—”

“It’s okay.” The light washed over his hand, licking down his arm. “Origins aren’t transparent. . . .” He grinned. “Like jellyfish.”

I could see that. His arm was fully formed underneath the intense light.

“Origins’ eyes are like mine. Same color. Same kind of pupils.”

I forced my gaze to his. Who had eyes like his? They guy I’d seen with Chas. “Archer. He’s an Origin?”

As Luc nodded, the glow warmed his features like he was leaning over a candle. That explained the weirdness of his pupils, something I’d never seen on a Luxen. “There used to be more Origins. There aren’t . . . many left.”

I bit down on my lip. “What happened to them?”

Luc didn’t answer for a long moment. “That’s another story for another day.”

My gaze flicked up his face and then back to the whitish glow humming over his hand. Some bizarre, innate urge to touch him—the light—woke up inside me.

“You can,” he said, voice low and deep. “You can touch it. You won’t be hurt.”

My heart skipped a beat as I lifted my hand. “Can . . . can Origins read minds?”

A secretive smile played over his lips. “Some of us can.”

Oh hell no. I froze. “Can you?”

“I can.”

I started to draw back. I’d been right all along. Good Lord, the kind of stuff I thought around him? The bad? The really bad? The really embarrassing?

“I try not to do it. Like, I don’t go peeping in people’s thoughts. Sometimes I can’t help it, especially when a person is broadcasting loudly.” His gaze met mine. “You are . . . quiet most of the time. I’ve only picked up a few things unintentionally. Just parts of thoughts.”

“Why would I believe you’re not reading my mind on purpose?” If I had that ability, I’d totally be doing it every five seconds.

The light around his hand pulsed. “Because if I did read your mind, I probably wouldn’t like what I found.”

Startled by his blunt honesty, I was at a loss for words. Part of me wanted to apologize.

“Touch the light,” he coaxed. “I know you want to. And it’s not from reading your mind. It’s written all over your face.”

Luc was right.

I wanted to.

Probably a sign of insanity.

Swallowing hard, I reached out. Time seemed to slow as my fingers neared the glow. The air was warm around his hand. Not hot. Tensing, I tipped forward. My fingers parted the light, and a jolt of electricity danced over my skin. The light spread from Luc to me. It felt like a soft hum.

My breath caught.

Touching the light didn’t hurt. Not at all. It felt like I was running my fingers through sunbaked air. Little tendrils of light flicked out, curling around my hand.

This wasn’t just light, though. It was power—pure power that could be harnessed into a weapon—a weapon that had killed my father.

I pulled my hand free, pressing my palm into my leg.

The light dimmed until Luc’s hand and arm looked normal. His pupils looked weird once more, as if they were stretching.

I cleared my throat. “What else can you do?”

Luc didn’t answer for a long moment. He just looked at me in a way that made me feel like I was some kind of jigsaw puzzle he couldn’t piece together. Our gazes collided and held. My breath caught. Something . . . something hot and unwanted flared to life between us.

His throat worked on a swallow as he looked away. “We’re susceptible to the same weapons as the Luxen—Tasers and electric pulse guns are not our friends. Anyway, everything that a Luxen can do, we can do better.”

“Wow.” I laughed, pushing the odd feeling aside. “That’s extremely modest of you.”

A small grin appeared. “I knew someone once who said modesty was for saints and losers.”

My brows lifted. “That sounds like someone who was very grounded. And likable.”

Luc chuckled. “If you only knew . . .”

Silence fell around us, and I had so many questions. Like an entire night’s worth of them. “So you . . . you never met your parents?”

Luc shook his head. “Nope. Pretty sure they’re both dead.”

“I’m sorry.”

He raised a shoulder as he rolled his sleeve back down.

I was staring at him, at the planes and angles of his face. I knew I shouldn’t ask this, but kind of couldn’t help myself. “Did you grow up in one of the labs?”

“I did.” His lashes lifted.

“What . . . was that like?”

He looked away, and I didn’t think he’d answer. “It was like nothing. There was no sense of . . . self.” His jaw worked as his gaze trekked over the bare walls of his apartment. “There were no friends. No family. No worth beyond what we were created for. An Origin was just a single entity, but at the same time, all Origins were the entity. We were kind of like computers in a way. All of us. Programmed from birth to obey until . . .”