My conversation failure with April pecked away at me for the rest of the day, only sliding into the back of my mind when I walked out to my car and saw Luc was waiting for me, leaning against the car, ankles crossed and hands resting on the hood.

There was a small group clustered together across from him, openly checking him out. He was grinning like a maniac when I walked up to him, and somehow, thirty minutes later, he was at my house again.

“Do you want something to drink?” I asked, walking into the kitchen. “I don’t have any Coke.”

“Whatever you have is fine.” He lingered by the dining room table as I grabbed two fruit punch Capri Suns. Turning, I tossed one to him. He easily caught it. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” I pulled the plastic off my straw.

“Is there trouble at your school?”

I stabbed my straw through the little hole in the Capri Sun and looked up. “There’ve been protests. You’ve heard about that?”

“I’ve heard some things.”


His smile turned secretive.

“Why do you always do that?”

“Do what, Peaches?”

“Seriously. That.”

He bit down on his lower lip and then let it pop free. “You’re going to have to be more detailed.”

I slurped up a good portion of the Capri Sun in one gulp. “You’re always evasive. Like, when you talk, it’s only ever half the story. You still haven’t told me anything you promised you would.”

“I’ve told you a lot.” He finished off his drink. From where he stood he tossed the empty container, and the damn thing actually landed in the garbage. I hated him. “And I’ve actually told you something pretty major that has nothing to do with what I am.”


Luc shrugged. “You just haven’t been paying attention.”

“That’s not true.” Irritated, I fought the desire to wing my packet at his head. “I’m super-observant.”

He laughed. “That is not true.”

“You know, you can leave.” I sucked my drink dry and then tossed it at the trash. It smacked off the trash can and plopped onto the floor. I sighed. “I have homework to do and you’re annoying.”

“If you actually wanted me to leave, I wouldn’t be here.”

I picked up the damn packet and placed it in the trash. When I straightened, the movement tugged on the tender skin of my stomach, causing me to suck in a sharp breath.

“Are you okay?”

Straightening more carefully, I nodded. “Yeah.”

His head tilted to the side. “You’re lying.” There was a pause. “What happened to your stomach?”

My mouth dropped open. “Get out of my head, Luc.”

He moved too fast. A second later his fingers had a fistful of my shirt, and the next thing I knew, he was pulling the fabric up.

“Luc!” I shrieked, grabbing his wrists, but it was too late.

Waves tumbled over his forehead as his chin dipped. “What the hell, Peaches? What happened to your stomach?”

I tried to pull his hands away, but it was no use. “I don’t know. It’s—”

“You think this happened at the club, when I took you to the floor?” His gaze shot to mine. “I did this?”

“Luc! Seriously. Stay out of my head. It’s rude.”

His jaw hardened. “I didn’t know I hurt you.”

“I . . . I didn’t know either. I didn’t notice until later. It’s not a big deal.” I tugged on his wrists again. “They’re just scratches.”

“Scratches?” His gaze dropped to my stomach, and I sucked in a shallow breath. “Peaches, I think they’re burn marks.”

“What?” I temporarily forgot about the fact that he was staring at my belly.

“Burn marks. Like you touched a flame for too long. I must’ve done it when I grabbed you.” He let go of my shirt, but whatever relief it brought was short-lived, because he placed his palm just below the fading scratches.

I gasped.

The contact, flesh against flesh, took the air right out of my lungs. The touch was intimate and unnerving. My gaze shot to his, and I thought I saw his eyes widen just a fraction, as if the feeling of his skin against mine had the same intense effect on him. His palm was warm, almost too warm against my skin.

Luc’s throat worked on a swallow as his lashes lowered halfway. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“Hurting you,” he said, his voice deeper, rougher, as he lowered his head. “I should’ve been more careful.”

“It’s okay.” I shivered as his forehead touched mine. It wasn’t a shiver of fear. It was something else. Anticipation? Yes. And it was more. Tension built in the space between us. I closed my eyes. “You were trying to stop me from getting blown up.”

“Yeah. There was that.” His head tilted just the slightest, and I felt his breath against . . . against my lips. Was he going to kiss me again?

Would I let him?

His hands slipped away, and Luc backed off a good foot, but the tension was still there, crackling in the air between us. Slowly opening my eyes, I pressed my lips together, unsure if I should feel grateful or disappointed that he hadn’t kissed me.

The corners of his lips tilted up.

Oh no. “You’re not reading my thoughts right now, are you?”

“I would never do such a thing.”

Yeah. Right. “I don’t even know why I let you come home with me.”

That smile of his was really starting to concern me. “Oh, you know.”

Luc stepped toward me again, and I tensed. His gaze never left my face, and I had the distinct urge to run away from him and . . . and run toward him. The latter made no sense. He stopped, his brows pinching as he reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his phone. He looked down at it. The frown turned into a scowl as he glanced up. “Do you mind if I turn on your TV?”

“Uh, sure.”

As he walked into the living room, Luc extended his arm and the remote flew off the coffee table and landed in his hand.

My brows lifted. “That’s handy and also incredibly lazy.”

Luc winked and, of course, looked good doing it. The TV came on and he quickly turned it to one of the local channels. The moment I saw the reporter standing out in front of a brownstone, a somber expression on her face, I knew this was going to be bad news.

The reporter was speaking and it took a few moments for my brain to catch up with what she was saying. “All four victims, the youngest three years old and the oldest thirty-two years old, lived in this home. Neighbors are saying that they were a quiet family and very hardworking. I’ve learned that the children were close in age, and it is believed that all four of them were murdered sometime last night.”

Dread filled me as the screen switched to a male reporter behind the news desk.

“This comes on the heels of the murders of Colleen Shultz and Amanda Kelly, two seniors from Centennial High School. Ms. Shultz was found in the school restroom last Tuesday, and Ms. Kelly was found in her car in the school parking lot on Friday,” he added. “Early reports indicate that all four victims have been murdered in the same manner as Ms. Shultz and Ms. Kelly. It is also believed that an unregistered Luxen committed these horrific crimes. I’m learning that these types of incidents are not isolated to Columbia, or even Maryland. Over the last two months, there have been suspicious deaths in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Attacks by unregistered Luxen are on the rise, and many people are asking what, if anything, will be done? How can we be safe—”

Luc turned off the TV and cursed under his breath. A muscle popped along his jaw. “There’s no way.”

I sat down on the edge of the couch, horrified by the news and terrified by the implication. “What do you mean?

When there was no answer, I twisted away. The living room was empty. I shot to my feet and spun around.

Luc was gone.

And my stomach didn’t hurt with the sharp, careless movement. I looked down and pulled my shirt up, exposing smooth, unblemished skin.