She blinked once and then twice. “Nothing. Leave the butter where it belongs.”

“All righty then.” I closed the door and headed toward the living room. Mom was still at the island, though, staring down at the bowl of popcorn like it held the answers to life. I set the bottles on the end table. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course.” Lifting her chin, she picked up the bowl and smiled, but as she drew closer to me, there was a forced quality to the smile. She placed the bowl next to the water and then picked up the remote. “Haunted dolls, here we come.”

* * *

I was editing photos on my laptop, trying not to think about haunted dolls or what I’d seen at school today, when a soft glow of light seeped into my bedroom.

Frowning, I looked over at the window. The curtains were drawn, but they didn’t block the light from the motion detector. I waited for the light to flip off, which it did pretty quickly whenever there was an animal like a deer in the front yard.

The light stayed on.

I set the laptop aside and tossed the covers off. I got out of bed and made my way over to the window, drawing the curtain back as I peered outside. There was a small roof outside my window, more like a two-or three-foot ledge, and that was where the motion detector was. It cast a bright spotlight down onto the driveway and part of the front yard. I saw nothing out there beyond the tree. Wind was moving the limbs, but that wouldn’t set the light off.

There had to be an animal out there.

Or a creepy-as-hell haunted doll.

Or a psychotic, killer Luxen.

Probably a deer.

My phone suddenly dinged from somewhere. I let go of the curtain and went back to the bed. Didn’t see the phone anywhere. Groaning, I lifted the blanket and spied it halfway under a pillow.

Snatching it up, I saw there was a number on the screen. My stomach dipped as I immediately forgot about the motion detector. It was Luc. I knew it was, because I hadn’t saved his number. I opened the text and my stomach tumbled even more.

Come see me tomorrow.

* * *

Sometimes I wondered if I ever made good life choices. As Clyde let me into Foretoken on Saturday, that was the question I was asking myself.

At least it wasn’t a half-naked Luc answering the door.

Though a very bad part of me was kind of disappointed.

Kent was waiting for me on the center of the gloomy, quiet dance floor.

“You came back!” He clapped his hands as he strode forward.

My steps slowed. “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

“I try not to be too hopeful.” He threaded his arm around mine and started walking toward the back hallway. “Luc will be happy.”

I didn’t know what to say to that.

“And I mean, he’ll be really happy.”

I shot him a look.

He chuckled. “Hey, it’s a good day for us when boss man is happy.”

“Luc is your boss?”

“In a way,” he said, and that was all he said.

Kent basically escorted me to Luc’s apartment, knocked on the door, and then skedaddled, disappearing back into the stairwell before Luc even answered the door.

My heart rate was all over the place while I waited for Luc, and it had nothing to do with the walk up the stairs.

Before I had the chance to have deep thoughts about my actions, the door opened and there he was.

Wearing a shirt.

That deep violet gaze flicked over me as he stepped back, holding the door open. “Come on in,” he said, running a hand over his damp hair. “Want something to drink? Eat?”

Nervous, I shook my head and walked toward the couch. A three-wick candle burned on the end table, and it reminded me of mahogany and spice. I could feel his gaze on me as I sat on the edge of the couch and as I looked around the room.

I couldn’t help it. I thought about what Chas had said to me, and look where I was?

“What did Chas say to you?”

My head swung in his direction. It took me a moment to process the question. “You’re reading my thoughts!”

He stepped toward me. “You were practically screaming them at me.”

I shot up from the couch. “You shouldn’t do that, Luc. Seriously.”

“Okay. I’m sorry. My bad, but he . . .” His head tilted to the side. “He told you to stay away from me?”

I threw up my hands, feeling terrible that Luc now knew what Chas had said to me. I wasn’t even sure why I felt bad about it. “Obviously you know that answer.”

“What the hell?” he muttered, thrusting his hand through his hair.

Crossing my arms, I stared at him. “Do you happen to know why he would say that to me?”

He dropped his hand. “Not exactly, but I’m going to find out.”

“I don’t think he was trying to start something—”

“You don’t know him well enough to make that assumption.”

“And I don’t know you well enough to know if I should’ve listened to him,” I snapped back.

Luc was quiet for a moment. “But I think you do. You’re here. Are you regretting that?”

“I . . .” How could I answer that? I sat back down. “I don’t know. Some really crazy stuff has been happening and I make bad life choices.”

His lips twitched and the line of his jaw softened. A moment passed. “The next time someone says something like that, tell me.”

“You think it’s going to happen again?”

“I hope not.”

“Well, you seemed busy, and I—”

“Didn’t want to get Chas in trouble? And no, I’m not reading your thoughts to pick up on that.” He sighed as he pulled his phone out of his back pocket and placed it on the kitchen counter. “Chas won’t be in trouble. You don’t need to worry about that. He and I will just have a chat.”

“You really have no idea why he’d say that to me?”

Luc was quiet for a long moment. “Do you know what I’m doing here?”

I had a good idea of what went on here. “Uh, well, I guess you’re hiding Luxen—unregistered Luxen.”

“I’m not just hiding them. I arrange for them to leave, to go someplace safe. The guys who were here on Saturday? Daemon and Archer? They help transfer the Luxen.”

“So ‘the package’ is the unregistered Luxen?” I rubbed my palms over my bent knee. “Why . . . why are you moving them someplace safe? Does it have to do with the changes the president wants to make to the registration program?”

“I think you know that history has proven that anytime a certain group of people has been placed in their own communities, bad things come from that.”

History had proven that. Knots twisted up my stomach. “Do you think it will go through? Those changes?”

“I think anything is possible when the public is being fed nothing but fear,” he said, and I thought about Colleen and Amanda. What had happened to them surely wasn’t helping how humans viewed Luxen. “We want to be prepared for if and when those changes are implemented.”

I stopped moving my hands and clenched my knees. “How can I help?”

Luc’s brows lifted in surprise. “You want to help Luxen?”

Did I? “The Luxen have been here forever, right? Most of them just want to live their lives like we do.” I thought about what my mom had said. “And there’re bad Luxen just like they’re bad humans. That doesn’t mean all of them are bad.”

“Right,” he murmured, tilting his head.

“And I . . . I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, you know?” I felt my cheeks warm.

Those odd eyes fixed on mine. “You can help by doing what you’re doing. Keeping what I am a secret. Keeping what I do here a secret.”

I thought there was way more I could be doing. “I’d never tell anyone about this.” I lowered my gaze and thought of something. “Do the task forces know what you are? Do they know about Origins?”

“Very few do. Higher-ups? Yes. The ones who do the raids? Most likely not.”

I was weirdly reassured about that and I didn’t want to look too closely at the whys. “So, something went wrong with the moving of the Luxen?”