I peeled myself off the wall and inched my way to the bed. “Talk.”

A wry grin appeared as he rubbed a hand along his chest, above his heart. “Connor didn’t find the Origin who attacked you, but he did give the same description that you gave me, and even though it’s impossible, what that Origin said to you reminded me of one I once knew.”

I sat on the bed, keeping a healthy distance between us. “Once knew?”

He nodded as he dropped his hand. “There’s something I feel like I need to tell you.” He bit down on his lower lip. “I probably shouldn’t, but I think you need to know this. It’s not something Grayson or Kent knows. Or Emery, who you’ve figured out by now is a Luxen.”

“Yeah, I’ve figured that out.” I picked up the Coke he brought and popped the tab. “What do you have to tell me?”

His shoulders stiffened. “When I said there weren’t many Origins left, I know this because . . . I’m the reason.”

“What? How?”

Luc’s gaze slowly lifted to mine. “Because I . . . I killed most of them.”

My lips parted on a sharp inhale. “I . . .”

“You don’t know what to say? Most wouldn’t.” He rose from the bed. “When I told you that I was created in a lab, that all Origins were, it wasn’t an exaggeration. We were engineered from embryo to adulthood. It took the Daedalus countless batches to perfect what they were designing, and even then, they weren’t satisfied. They continued doing experiments, changing the serums and injections. Most of us don’t even know what was given to us.”

The horror from when he first told me about the Origin resurfaced. I watched him walk to the window he’d climbed through.

“Only a very small percentage of Origins were considered stable.” He pulled the curtain back, and moonlight peeked in, slicing across his cheekbones. “Some didn’t make it to their first year. Others lasted longer before whatever was given to them went bad. And there were some who were extremely violent, dangerous to everyone and everything around them, and they were . . . they were put down in the labs, usually through lethal injection.”

“Dear God.” I set my soda aside and pulled my legs up onto the bed. “Luc, I’m—”

“That’s not the worst part.” There was a quick twist of his lips as he let the curtain go. “There was a new batch of Origins, ones who the Daedalus were particularly excited about. I learned of them right before the invasion. There were being kept in a facility in New Mexico, and after the Daedalus collapsed, I freed them. I freed them, because I knew if I didn’t, they would either be terminated or shipped off to someplace else.”

Luc turned to me. “You see, I thought I was doing the right thing. I brought them all to a place where I believed they would be safe. They were young, Peaches. No more than five years old.”

My heart squeezed. I had a feeling this was going somewhere very bad.

“I left them with people I trusted, people I knew would take care of them because I couldn’t stay. I had other things I had to take care of, and those people did take care of them. They tried.” Luc walked back toward the bed. “Except those kids . . . I should’ve left them in the lab.”

“What happened, Luc?”

A muscle flexed along his jaw. “It started with small things—things that would be normal dealing with any child. They’d want something and when they couldn’t have it, they’d throw tantrums. Except their tantrums resulted in houses catching on fire and people getting thrown into walls.”

My eyes widened.

“I don’t know why I thought of them as normal kids. Origins are highly intelligent, and I am not saying that to pat myself on the back. Even at five years old, they could outsmart any adult. They could plot and work together to get what they wanted, whether it was a bowl of ice cream or to stay up late. The people I left them with realized quickly that socializing them was going to be issue, especially when their intelligence became manipulation and their manipulation became violence.”

Luc sat down, closer than before. Close enough that I caught the outdoorsy scent, the mix of pine and burning leaves. “Two of them attacked someone—someone who cared for them all—because she wouldn’t let them have an extra cookie. A cookie, Peaches. They threw her through a third-story window over a cookie.”

Stunned, I stayed quiet and listened.

“She was okay in the end, but only because she’s a hybrid—you know, a human who has been mutated. If she hadn’t been, they would’ve killed her. That was when I went back.” He paused. “I thought I could, I don’t know, change them, because there was one of them who was . . . stable. I thought he was a good sign, and that since they were like me, I could instill patience in them, and empathy and, you know, basic humanity. I didn’t want to accept that it was hopeless. I couldn’t.” A harsh laugh parted his lips. “If anything, my presence made it worse. It was like putting two beta fishes in front of each other. Nothing I did worked. Separating them. Punishing them. Rewarding them. I couldn’t lock them up. They were way too smart and powerful for that.”

I remembered what he’d said about being a realist before. That some people were lost causes, and I was thinking I was about to find out why he believed that.

Luc’s features sharpened like a blade. “Then they attacked again, and this time, they killed someone. A Luxen, and they couldn’t be with the people I left them with. Then they came at me, all of them except one. They sure as hell couldn’t be out in society, running amuck. As much as I hated it, I realized that freeing them had been a big mistake.”

He put his hand on the bed beside my bare feet and leaned in. “I had to take care of them, Peaches.” Slowly, he lifted his gaze to mine, and I sucked in an unsteady breath. “Do you understand what that means?”

Stomach churning, I wanted to look away, but I didn’t. “I think I do. You had to . . . terminate them?”

Pain filled those beautiful eyes. “I did, and it was possibly the worse thing I’d ever had to do. I had no choice, Peaches. They were hurting people. They were killing, and they were only children. I couldn’t fathom what they would become as they grew older.”

I slowly shook my head. “That’s . . . Luc, I don’t want to say. I really don’t.”

He held my gaze for a long moment and then looked away. “Daemon and Archer were two of the people I left them with.” His jaw worked as his gaze trekked over the corkboard of pictures. “It was Daemon’s wife who had been thrown through the window. It was one of their friends who was killed. They knew what I’d done. It’s . . . it’s one of the reasons why I haven’t gone back to see them since then. I don’t like being reminded of all that.”

I remembered Daemon asking about why Luc hadn’t visited, and of course, Luc had given some vague-as-hell answer. Now I understood why. How could he have explained that to me before?

How was he able to do it now?

“The one who I thought was okay? He . . . he got away. His name was Micah.” A wry twist pulled at his lip. “That kid was like a brother to me. No idea where he is now. It’s probably a good thing, but what that Origin said to you today reminded me of Micah. He was always trying to get people to play with him. He was just in desperate need for attention or something.”

My brows knitted. “The Origin I saw today was a teen.”

“I know. It can’t be Micah. He’d only be about ten now, but it’s obviously an Origin who knows what I did. Perhaps one who has come across Micah or something, but I . . . I’m not surprised. When Chas was attacked, I knew it had to be an Origin to get the upper hand on him. I think that’s why he tried to warn you away.”

Holy crap . . .

“And I began to suspect that one was around. We can sense one another, but that isn’t always perfect, especially when other Origins are around.”

“Like Archer?”

He was still for a moment and nodded. “I didn’t think what happened to the girls had anything to do with what happened to Chas. Not at first, but when I saw you in the park, I sensed an Origin.”