“It’s not a joke.” His voice turned hoarse. “I made a deal with them to save your life. It was the worst and the best decision. Worst because I am incredibly selfish. And best because I had to do something incredibly unselfish.”

“I don’t—”

“You don’t remember. I know. But I remember. I remember everything every damn day of my life.”

I stared at him. “Don’t say that.”

His eyes burned bright. “Did you come here, hoping I’d lie to you now?” He rose then. “I’m done lying. You want the truth? Here it is. I never stopped thinking about you. I never forgot. I never stopped looking out for you. You forgot me, and that’s okay, because you had no choice, but—”

“Stop it!” I shouted. “I know who I am. My name is Evie. That has always been my name.”

Luc shot forward, gripping my shoulders. “Listen to me. You are Evie now, but you’ve only been Evelyn Dasher for about twelve hundred and seventy-eight days and about roughly eight hours, and yeah, I could tell you the seconds if you want to get really detailed.”

My lips parted.

“But you were Nadia for nearly thirteen years prior to that.”

“Stop saying that.” I wiggled my arms free, stepping back. “The memories I have right now aren’t fake.” I curled my hands into fists. “They are real—”

“You prefer Coke over Pepsi. How do you think I knew to give you one?”

The image of Mom—of her reaction when I’d asked for a Coke—formed in my thoughts, as did what she’d said earlier. I always drank Pepsi, because . . . that was what had always been in the house. . . .

“That’s the funny thing about what they did to you. They wiped your memories, but there are still these innate personality traits there. There are still parts of you.” He crossed the distance between us. “I know you like horror movies and hate the ones that make you cry.”

“Congrats, did you look at my Facebook profile?” I snapped.

Luc grinned, undaunted. “You were always interested in photography, even before. You used to whine until Paris would take you to the Potomac River so you could take pictures.”

“I don’t even know who Paris is.”

“You did, though. He was like a father to you.” Luc kept going. “You have the same nervous twitch.”

I drew back, scowling. “I don’t have a nervous twitch.”

“Yeah, you do. You rub your hands on your hips and knees when you’re anxious.” He arched a brow. “You’re doing it right now.”

I pulled my hands off my hips and then folded my arms across my chest.

“Do you still want me to keep going? You constantly mess with your hair. It’s another thing you do when you’re nervous or don’t know what to do with your hands” He stepped in, tilting his head to the side. “I know you don’t like pizza.”

My heart flopped over as I stared at him. “Heidi told you that.”

“No.” Bending so his cheek brushed mine, he said, “But I’m right, aren’t I?”

He was, but I couldn’t answer.

Luc lingered close, too close, his cheek just touching mine. “Here’s something you don’t remember and Sylvia couldn’t have known.” A heartbeat passed. “You were my first kiss.”

I gasped.

“Granted, we were kids, so it wasn’t much of a kiss.” He drew back, the bridge of his nose dragging over my cheek. “It was my favorite kiss.”

I squeezed my eyes shut.

Luc’s voice was low. “And I stayed away like I promised Sylvia, because I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to walk away. I stayed close, but I never went near you. I never went looking for you. You were why I left those Origins with Daemon and them. I couldn’t leave you here by yourself. Not for years,” he continued. “You have always been the only priority to me that mattered.”

The floor felt like it was shifting under me.

I remembered moving into the house in Columbia, and I remembered my first sleepover and the first crush I had and those memories—

Those memories were all wispy and smoky, existing on the fringes of my consciousness, and as I tried to pull them forth, they slipped out of my grasp.

Had they always been like that?

Oh my God, I didn’t know, because I never really thought back in detail. I didn’t think beyond the invasion—

I remembered that, though. I remembered the fear and I remembered the way things were before, but . . .

Panic dug in deep, and I sidestepped Luc.

“You don’t have clear memories because they aren’t real memories,” he said softly. “And you never questioned it, because you had no real reason to.”

“Stop it,” I hissed, spinning toward him. “Stay out of my head.”

“Kind of hard to right now.”

I dragged my hands over my hips and then stopped when he shot me a pointed look. What Luc was saying was too much to believe—having this entire life I couldn’t remember, dying and being given a second identity.

I lifted my chin. “So I’m your long-lost BFF forever and I was given some kind of super-serum that not only healed me, it wiped my memory and implanted false impressions but somehow doesn’t stop me from breaking out in pimples at least once a month?”

He frowned. “Well, yeah and no. The fever stole your memories. Not the serum.”

“But why did you leave me?” I cried out, surprising myself with the rawness behind the question.

“Do you think I wanted to?” he shouted back, startling me. His features sharpened. “I never trusted Sylvia or Jason and they didn’t trust me, but I . . . I was desperate, and you had agreed. ‘One more chance.’ That’s what you said to me, because I’d already given you all these other serums and they didn’t work. Then you made me promise to let it go if it didn’t work. You made me promise to let you go so the end would be peaceful.” His voice caught, broke a little. “And I agreed.”

Hearing him say these things, talk about decisions I’d supposedly made as this . . . this Nadia girl was beyond unnerving.

“Jason knew I was coming after him. So he came to me first. He bartered for his life. He offered to heal you, but I had to stay away. I had some big issues with Jason, as he did with me, but it was more than that. The cure came with a deal. . . .” A muscle began to tick along his jaw. “I would have to give you up. Walk away from you, from the only real friend I had, from the only person I’d ever truly trusted. The only person I ever . . .” Trailing off, he shook his head. “I made the deal. I would walk away and I would stay away if you were safe. I agreed. You agreed to it, but you . . . didn’t know you wouldn’t remember me or anything. I knew if I told you that, you wouldn’t do it.”

I moved backward and then shook my head again, not wanting to hear what he was saying but knowing I couldn’t stop him.

“I agreed to their terms, but I stayed close to make sure you were okay and that nothing strange was happening to you.”

“And yet you still left me with people you didn’t even trust?”

Luc flinched—actually flinched. “Like I said, I was desperate, but that wasn’t part of the original agreement.”

“What was supposed to happen to me once they wiped my memory and healed me?” I laughed harshly.

“You were supposed to be placed with a family, but as I left the house the day you woke up from the fever, the esteemed Jason Dasher tried to renege on the deal. He attempted to kill me.”

My breath caught as the trembling throughout my body picked up. “Did you . . . Did you kill him?”

His jaw hardened. “That’s what some think. I might’ve even let people believe it, but I didn’t.”

I couldn’t look away from him. My mind leapt to the conclusion. “Are you saying . . . ?”

“Sylvia killed him. She was there when he tried to do me in. She took him out. That’s why I let you stay with her.”

Holy crap.

“This is too much.” Lifting my hands halfway, I stopped, because I had no idea what I was doing with them.