My mouth dropped open and my legs almost gave out on me. “Are you saying . . . are you saying you purposely became friends with me so you could watch over me? That—”

“No,” she was quick to insist. “We knew each other before. We were friends. Not extremely close, but you liked me.”

Luc nodded. “You liked her. You . . . you liked everyone. Even Archer. You don’t remember this, but you met him the first time he was out in the real world, and was incredibly socially awkward. You ate breadsticks with him.”

I remembered Archer from the club. Not the Archer I . . . ate breadsticks with.

“I don’t think that’s helping, Luc,” Zoe said.

There were several long moments where I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry. Or scream. Screaming until my voice went hoarse sounded like a good plan at this point.

“When you called me today, while you were at school, you . . . you knew what happened today?” My voice shook.

“Luc called and gave me a heads-up,” she admitted. “I should’ve said something right then. I was going to. I swear. But I didn’t want to do it over the phone.”

“Yeah, because doing it in person is easier.” I took a breath, but it didn’t help the sudden dizzy feeling. “This is why you never came around my house when my mom was home, isn’t it?”

She had the decency to look sheepish. “I couldn’t risk her realizing what I was.”

“Because you always knew she was a Luxen?”

Zoe nodded.

Staring at them, I didn’t really see them. Not anymore. “I . . . I need space right now.”

“I understand that, but—”

“You don’t understand that,” I cut Zoe off. “How could you possibly understand this—any of this?”

She started to speak, but I couldn’t be in that room any longer. I couldn’t be around either of them. This was too much. My legs stared moving, and I pivoted, relieved when I found that the door was open for me.

I bumped into the couple, drawing them apart. I murmured an apology and hurried through the hall. My heart was racing as I went down the spiral staircase, and I felt—oh my God, I felt sick. Like I might hurl.

Hurt brimmed to the surface as I pushed past the dancing bodies, making a beeline for the door. I couldn’t deal with this. It was too much. Disappointment curled low in my stomach, slushing through my veins like muddy water.

Zoe was my most logical friend. She was the one who I always trusted to stop me from doing something stupid, and she was the last person I’d ever expected to be lying to me.

Skirting the edge of the packed pool, I ignored my name being called out and kept walking. I pushed open the gate and stalked down the driveway, my hands curling into fists yet again. Reaching the road, I drew up short and ended up staring at the dark houses across the street. “Where in the hell did I park?”

Way down the block.

I had no idea where I was going. I was just going. Maybe get on the interstate and head west, keep driving until I ran out of gas. I figured—

Evie . . .

Tiny hairs rose all over my body. My name. I heard my name, but it hadn’t been—It didn’t sound like it had been out loud. More like it had been in my head, but that made no sense.


I had been through a lot in the last twenty-four hours. Attacked. Had my arm broken and healed. Found out I wasn’t even Evie. So I shouldn’t be surprised that I was hearing voices. That seemed like the most expected thing to be happening.

Evie . . .

There it was again. I stopped, frowning. What in the world?

Slowly, I turned around even as every part of my being screamed that I should hightail my behind right back to the party, but that wasn’t what I did. I stepped out onto the sidewalk. “Hello?”

I scanned the street and sidewalk, seeing nothing but cars. I walked toward the corner, sticking close to the large retaining wall. I reached the corner and looked around. Nothing. Nothing at all . . . My gaze dropped.

Something was lying there. Like a bundle of clothing. I stepped closer, squinting. The streetlamps cast a dim glow, and I knelt down. The clothing looked rumpled, but there was a shape to it. I breathed in sharply and there was the scent of . . . of burnt flesh.

I jerked back and stumbled to the side. That wasn’t just clothes. Oh my God, that wasn’t just clothes at all. Two legs were stretched at an awkward angle. A torso twisted to the side, and a mouth gaped open, skin charred at the corners. Burnt sockets where eyes should’ve been. The entire face was charred.

I dragged in gulps of tainted air as I pinwheeled backward. Horror seized me. Oh God, that was a body—a body like Colleen’s and Amanda’s, and the bodies of that family. I spun around, blindly reaching for my phone and stun gun, but I’d left both of them in my car.

Because I was an idiot in the middle of an utter breakdown—

The streetlamp popped, exploding in a shower of sparks. I whirled as the one across the street blew out too. One after the other, all the way down the street, lamps burst, pitching the entire block into darkness.

My mouth dry, I backed up and then turned. Darkness blanketed the sidewalk, blocking out the cars parked along the road. It was so dark, it was like I’d lost my vision. I exhaled roughly, and my breath puffed out as a misty cloud in the air. Goose bumps spread across my flesh. The temperature felt like it had dropped twenty or more degrees.

He was back—oh God, I was such an idiot, and I was going to get myself killed.

The darkness suddenly shifted and it—it pulsed, expanding and deepening, reaching out toward me in thick tendrils. Icy air stirred around me, lifting the hair off my shoulders and sending it flying across my face. A startled scream burst out of me as the thing took shape right before my eyes.

Oh crap.

That wasn’t a shadow or darkness. I didn’t even think it was the psycho Origin. This was something straight out of nightmares. Was it an Arum? Emery and Kent had said they looked like shadows, but hearing about them and actually seeing something like them were two very different things.

Instinct flared to life once more, demanding I listen to it, and this time I gave in. I spun around and took off, running as fast as I could. I darted into the right, utterly blind in the cloaking darkness. Panic dug in, but I kept going—

My legs and hips slammed into something hard—something metal. The impact knocked the air out of my lungs and my legs out from underneath me. I screamed as I lost my balance, falling backward. I threw out my arms, but there was nothing to grab on to except cold air.

I went down fast, my back and shoulders slamming into the sidewalk a second before the back of my head collided with cement. Raw pain exploded all along the base of my neck and skull, shooting stark white-hot pain down my lips. Light burst behind my eyelids and then . . . then there was nothing.


For the second time in I don’t even know how many hours, I woke up and had no idea how I’d gotten where I was, but I recognized the damn brick walls.

Luc’s place.

Jackknifing upright, I scanned the dimly lit room. For a moment I thought I was alone until I saw Luc rise from the couch like a wraith.

“You’re awake,” he said, his voice flat. Distant.

I scooted to the edge of the bed. “Why am I here?”

“Well . . .” He walked around the couch but stopped at the edge of the raised platform. “I believe you might’ve knocked yourself out by . . . running into a parked car.”

“I did?” A brief image of running panicked into the darkness surfaced. I sighed. “I did.”

“You took a pretty nasty hit to the head.” He leaned against the back of the couch, staying to the shadows of the room. “You weren’t seriously injured, but I . . . I fixed it.”

“With your special magic healing fingers?”

“Something like that.”

I pushed my hair back. I couldn’t believe I’d actually knocked myself out by running into a car. God officially hated me.

“I once knew of a girl who walked out in front of a speeding truck,” he said. “Well, that’s the story I heard.”

Walking out in front of a moving truck sounded a lot better than running into a parked car and knocking myself out. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”