A photo album.

I found myself staring down at a freaking photo album.

There supposedly hadn’t been any that had survived the invasion. That was what I’d been told. That was what I’d believed to be the truth. Surprise, surprise. That was also a damn lie.

I dropped the hammer onto the floor and then snatched up the photo album and carried it over onto the window. I sat down and yelped. I stood and ripped the cushion back.

Another shotgun.

“Are you freaking kidding me?” I picked it up and propped it against the wall. Then I sat back down. “Geez.”

Drawing in a deep breath, I cracked open the photo album and there, right on the first page, was photo of my mom and who I knew immediately to be Jason Dasher. They were younger, probably in their twenties. He was in full military uniform with awards and shiny things on his breast and shoulder. She wore a pretty white dress and had flowers in her hair.

She wasn’t wearing contacts.

Her eyes were as blue as they’d been this morning.

Hands shaking, I flipped the glossy pages. There were more pictures of them, in places that appeared to be far from here. Tropical, I was guessing, based on the palm trees. There were a few of her in what appeared to be army greens. Candid snapshots taken of them both, and it was evident that there had been a relationship between them. I didn’t know how many pictures I’d flipped past before I saw her.

Evelyn Dasher was real.

It was the three of them.

Jason and Sylvia Dasher stood behind a girl who had to be about nine or ten, give or take a year or so. Both had their hands on her shoulders. Peeling back the clear film, I pulled the picture out.

She had a cherub face—round with big cheeks. Freckles like me. Long blond hair. Brown eyes.

“Holy Christ,” I whispered. She looked like me. That was like climbing the Mount Everest of messed up and sticking a freak flag on the top of it.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Was this why the door to her office was always locked?

I put the picture aside and kept turning the pages. There were more pictures—a birthday party with a cake. There was a number eight candle in the middle of it. There were first-day-of-school pictures—photos with her in a frilly blue dress and black shoes. In between the pages, there were blank sheets—sheets where there had to have been photos once, because perfect square white marks stood out in stark contrast against the faded yellow of the rest of the page.

I came upon another birthday picture. She had this little cone-shaped hat on and she was smiling so brightly at the camera. There was another cake, and the man crouched next to her was him: the man whose face I couldn’t remember, whose voice I couldn’t hear. But that wasn’t the part of the picture that was an undeniable stab to the chest.

Behind her, hanging from the ceiling, was a sparkling banner. It had unicorns on either side of the words—words that spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EVELYN.


That wasn’t me.

She looked like me, like we could be cousins, but that wasn’t me.

All these photos, and none of you as a kid.

Luc had said that to me. Luc had said so much. My hand trembled as the picture blurred. How was I supposed to . . . How was I supposed to process this?

How was I supposed to understand this?

That I was holding a picture of Evelyn Dasher and she wasn’t . . . wasn’t me.


“Here.” James thrust a red cup in front of my face. “Looks like you could use this.”

Catching the strong scent of alcohol, I frowned. “What’s in this?”

“Just try it.” James plopped down on a lounge chair, stretching his legs out. “Trust me. Whatever you got going on right now that you absolutely refuse to talk about, this will definitely take your mind off of it.”

My mind was off of it, because I just wasn’t going to deal with at this moment. Nope. I was Captain Nope at the moment.

I’d left the photo album and that picture of the three of them on the window seat and walked out of the house. By then, school was over and I called the one person who I was rarely tempted to confide in.


I’d forgotten all about Coop’s party until James told me to meet him there.

So here I was, sitting by a pool like my entire life hadn’t blown up this morning, pretending I hadn’t seen Grayson in my rearview mirror as I parked. I ignored him and he ignored me. Perfect.

I had no idea what I was going to do tonight, but I didn’t want to go home. I peeked at James. He’d probably let me stay at his place, sneak me in right under his parents’ noses.

But that would be kind of weird.

Hearing the laughter and shouts and the steady thump of music coming from inside the house was also kind of weird after everything that had happened.

I took a drink and immediately regretted it. Fire poured down my throat and hit my nearly empty stomach.

“What’s in this drink?” I asked again, flapping one hand in front of my face.

James chuckled as water splashed over the pool patio, drawing my attention. It didn’t feel warm enough to swim, but that hadn’t stopped anyone. Neither did the lack of bathing suits. I was seeing waaay more than I ever needed to.

I sat beside his legs, to stay out of the reach of the cold water.

“A little of this and a little of that.”

I frowned. “It tastes like gasoline—gasoline on fire.”

“It’s not that bad.”

Pressing my lips together, I shook my head and then leaned over his legs, placing my cup on the table. “It’s bad.”

“You’re such a lightweight.” He knocked his foot against my hip. “Drink up.”

“Nah. I think I’ll pass.” I folded my arms in my lap. “I’m driving.”

“You could always crash here,” he suggested. “Half the people here will.”

I shook my head as my gaze crawled back to the pool. I saw April standing on the other side, her arms across her chest as her mouth appeared to be moving a mile a minute. A small group surrounded her, obviously enraptured by whatever hateful crap she was spewing.

I dragged my gaze from her, to those in the pool. So many smiling faces. It was almost like Colleen and Amanda hadn’t died. Okay. Maybe that wasn’t fair.

Or maybe they were just having fun, letting loose to remind themselves that they were very much still alive. My gaze dropped to the cup, but whatever the hell devil mix that drink was wasn’t going to prove that I was alive—that I was real and not a fraud. If I drank, it would probably make it worse.

What was I going to do?

Could I go home and go to bed, wake up tomorrow and pretend everything was okay? How could I?

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” James replied.

I exhaled roughly. “What would you do if you found out you weren’t really James?”

“What?” He laughed.

It sounded stupid. “Never mind.”

He stared at me a moment and then sat up. “Like if I found out I was adopted or something?”

Yeah, no. That was not what I was going for, because this was nothing like finding out you were adopted. I would’ve been cool with that. Shocked. But cool. I lifted a shoulder.

“That’s not what you’re asking.” He dropped his feet to the patio next to mine. “You mean if I found out I wasn’t me?”

“Yeah,” I whispered.

His brows furrowed in the flickering light from a nearby tiki torch. “Why are you asking something like that?”

“I don’t know.” I feigned casual indifference. “Just something I read about online earlier. You know, one of those . . . kidnap stories.” Man, I was proud of how fast I’d come up with that. “Where a kid was taken at a young age and was basically given a whole new identity.”

“Oh.” He scrunched his fingers through his hair. “I guess I would want to figure out who I was and why I was taken. I’d hope there’d be a good reason for it. Not something creepy.” He paused. “Though I doubt there’s ever a non-creepy reason for taking a child.”

I hadn’t been taken.

I’d been given away . . . to be saved.