Actually, I had hit him before.

“Anyway, Luc basically freed us. He helped set us up with Luxen who knew what we were. That’s how I met my uncle,” she said. “And the rest is history.”

I had a feeling there were huge parts of that history left out. “So your move to Columbia was coincidental?”

Her head tipped to the side. “Nothing about Luc is coincidental. He wanted me in Columbia, and I owed him a huge favor.”

“A lot of people seem to owe his favors.”

“A lot of people do, and Luc likes to collect on them.” Zoe inched closer. “I owed him my life, though. There was no favor he could’ve called that would’ve made up for that.”

“Seems like to me that owing a favor is a lot like having someone owning you.”

“You would think that, because you’ve never been owned.”

Flinching, I knew I couldn’t argue with that. I didn’t know what that felt like.

“I knew you before and I know that’s a weird thing for you to hear, but when Luc asked me to come here to keep an eye on you, because he couldn’t, I agreed. Not just because I owed him a favor, but because I’ve always liked you, and I was happy to do so.”

I thought about how, when Luc had told me he’d never truly left . . . left me, he hadn’t been lying. He’d had Zoe in his place. I still had no idea what to think about that.

“I didn’t pretend to be friends with you. I was a friend to you. I am a friend of yours.” A moment passed. “I am an Origin, but I’m still Zoe. I’m still the same person who’s obsessed with HGTV.”

My lips twitched as I glanced over at her. We both said, “Jonathan,” at the same time, referencing one of the Scott twins.

A hopeful look filled those odd, beautiful eyes that were so strange to see now. “My favorite food is still chicken tenders—extra crispy. I still think April is totally a test run for having a child who’s a constant disappointment.”

I laughed, but then I blurted out, “Can you have kids?” Immediately my face turned beet red. “I’m sorry. That’s kind of a rude question—”

“It would be if you didn’t know me.” She sat down next to me on the bed and nudged my foot with hers. “We can have kids . . . if we’re with another Origin. I don’t think we can with a normal human. At least, no one has as far as I know, but it’s not like most Origins have been out in the wild long enough for us to know.”

I glanced over at her. Zoe was . . . Well, she was Zoe. She looked the same. “I can’t believe I never noticed it. I’m super-unobservant.”

“Well . . .”

Rubbing wearily at my arms, I lifted my chin. Honestly, I had no idea what to think about that, about any of this. It was like my brain was short-circuiting, only processing everything that was happening in bits and pieces. I blew out a rough breath as my gaze drifted around the dim room.

“Evie?” she said, and I looked over to her. Zoe’s eyes were glossy as they searched mine. “Do you . . . Do you hate me now?”

My breath caught. “I don’t hate you.” And that was the truth. “I don’t think I’m even mad at you. I was. A lot. I’m just . . . I don’t know. My head is in a thousand places. I’m irritated one second and just confused the next and—” I cut myself off. “I don’t hate you.”

Zoe’s shoulders relaxed. “Thank God, because I was prepared to, I don’t know, make you dinner in order to beg for your forgiveness.”

My nose wrinkled. “I don’t think that would work. You can’t even pop popcorn.”

She laughed, the sound a little lighter. “That’s true. I would get Luc to cook it.”

Surprise flickered through me. “Luc can cook?”

Zoe nodded.

“Is there anything he can’t do?”

That faint grin appeared again. “Not many things.”

“Wow,” I murmured. “Are you going to tell Heidi the truth now?”

She nodded. “I think so. There’s no point keeping what I am secret. I don’t think we should tell James, though. I mean, we’d have to explain exactly what I am, and as I’m sure Luc has told you, Origins aren’t a known thing.”

“He did.” I didn’t think James would care or breathe a word of it, but I trusted Zoe on this. “Does Emery know . . . about me?”

“She does,” she told me. “I don’t know if she knows all the details, but she knows you’re important to Luc.”

That statement made me all squirmy, so I looked away.

Zoe was quiet for a moment. “You and Luc doing okay?”

I snorted. “I don’t know about that.” In the next second, I felt his mouth against mine again, his chest pressing down, his hips . . . Oh God, I needed help, like, therapy - until - I - was - thirty kind of help. “Luc and I aren’t anything.”

“Huh.” Zoe bent over, picking something off the floor. “Then I guess Luc’s shirt just got left on the floor via dark magic.”

I froze. Sure as hell, she was holding the shirt Luc had been wearing. “I . . .” I blinked. “This is his apartment. He would have clothes lying around.”

She widened her eyes and cocked her head to the side. “So he came home last night with his shirt on, stayed in here with you, took his shirt off for reasons, and then stormed out of said home last night without a shirt.” She waited a moment. “Because, yeah, I saw him shirtless . . . and his pants half unbuttoned, and while I admired the view, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to see.”

“I . . . I don’t know what to say about that,” I said lamely.

She dropped the shirt on the bed and then crossed one long leg over the other. “I heard you guys last night.”

My face burned. I felt it. It was on fire, as if the sun had kissed my cheeks. She heard us?

Her brows flew up. “I heard you guys arguing, but I’m assuming you think I heard something else. Something far more interesting than the random bits and pieces I heard across the hall. What happened last night?”

I wanted the bed to swallow me whole. “I guess if I said ‘nothing,’ you wouldn’t believe me?”

“Unless nothing involved Luc getting naked.”

“Oh my God,” I groaned, tipping over onto my side. “Luc wasn’t naked. Not completely. He just had his shirt off and I—” I rolled over, face-planting onto the bed. “I had my shirt off . . . and yeah.”

Zoe didn’t respond for a long moment and then she said, “Did you guys . . . ?”

“Do it?” My voice was muffled and my arms were limp at my sides. “No, we didn’t do it. He stopped, saying he couldn’t.”

“He couldn’t . . . ?”

“It sure seemed . . . and felt like he could, but it was a mistake. Seriously.” I flopped my limp arms. “I initiated it, because I started to think about everything, and I just . . . I just didn’t want to think anymore.”

“And making out with Luc comes into play how?”

I flopped again. “Because I wasn’t thinking . . .”

“Oh.” Zoe went quiet.

“That’s bad, isn’t it?”

She nudged my dead arm. “Well, I mean, if that was the only reason why you initiated it. No judgment, but if he was . . . um, feeling it more, he probably didn’t want to be, you know, used as a distraction.”

“Him being used? Me using him?” I lifted my head. “Him feeling it more? He stopped, Zoe. And left—left the room like it was on fire.”

“Maybe because he’s a good guy?”

I looked at her. “For real?”

Her lips pursed. “Luc is . . . different. He’s not someone anyone wants pissed off at them, but he is . . . He is a good guy.”

“Ugh.” I flopped again.

“You look like a seal,” Zoe commented.

“Shut up.” My neck started to hurt, so I rolled over onto my back.

“Do you like—”