“And really psychotic? Is that your excuse? Is that why every last one of you turned into miniature serial killers in training?”

“It definitely had something to do with it, I imagine. You freed us and then you left us.” He looked over his shoulder. “For her. Then you came back and you gave up on us.”

Luc flinched. “I didn’t give up on you. I let you go. I let you escape, because I thought I was doing the right thing.”

“You killed all of them and you did let me go.” The Origin stepped away from me, his attention fully on Luc. “You didn’t look for me. You didn’t even take a second to find me. You rushed back here for her.”

Luc said nothing for a long moment as he stared at me. “I did look for you. You were gone.”

“Did you? You must think that. Just like you think you destroyed the Daedalus.”

The breath I took got stuck.

“Where do you think I’ve been this whole time?” he asked, and Luc didn’t show a single reaction to the suggestion the Daedalus was still operational. “Took me long enough to get here, but you don’t know that. You’ve had other, more important priorities. But I’ve been here. Shadowing you. Watching. I’ve been so close, trying to figure out how you could just”—he looked up to the sky and shrugged—“let me go. But then I saw her at the club and I knew.”

“I let you escape, because I was operating under the false belief that you weren’t a sociopath. That out of all those little creeps, you were the one who was going to make it. Obviously I was wrong. You’re just as psychotic.”

My eyes widened slightly.

“So, what’s the point of all of this? You came and you found me, then you waited, and now what? We’re here. You and me. That’s what you wanted,” Luc continued. “Let her go, and then you and I can work this out.”

“If I let her go, I don’t think she’ll make it very far,” he replied. “And I’m not talking about what I did to her. I’m talking about what you had them do to her.”

I jolted.

Luc turned his head just the slightest. “What does that mean?”

“I’ve seen some things. Learned things,” he said, and I could hear the taunt in his voice. “You have no idea what’s coming. I do.”

Luc raised a single brow. “Well, that’s incredibly vague.”

“It’s really not.” He paused. “By the way, looked into her thoughts. She thinks I killed that family and that guy at some party. That wasn’t me.”

“And I’m supposed to believe that? Because you’re obviously a trusting and sane individual?”

“Perhaps I would be trusting and sane if you just paid attention. If you tried with me like you—”

“You’re right.” Regret tightened the lines of Luc’s face. “Maybe if I had done something differently, you would’ve turned out differently.”

“Maybe,” the Origin agreed, but then dipped his chin and smiled. “Then again, I was always smarter than the rest, wasn’t I? I hid it better. Even from you, the great and powerful Luc. The most powerful Origin ever created. The prize and ultimate disappointment of the Daedalus.”

“You’re starting to sound like a fan,” Luc replied, his tone bored.

“But I know the truth.” He circled Luc, coming to his back, and Luc still didn’t take his eyes off me. “There was one fatal flaw the Daedalus didn’t engineer out of you.”

“Is that so?” Luc murmured, his gaze dropping to my hands.

“Humanity,” he answered. “They didn’t eradicate that from you. That’s why you let me escape.”

Luc fell quiet as the Origin made it to his side, standing only a few feet from him.

“I want you to say it.” The Origin cocked his head, solely focused on Luc. “Say my name.”

I let go of one side of my shirt and reached over, placing my hand in the loose, rocky soil. I dug until I found a decent-sized rock.

“Your name no longer matters.” Then Luc looked at the Origin. “And you’re wrong about the humanity thing. It comes and goes. I just hide it better.”

I gasped as Luc struck.

Luc spun, grabbing the Origin by the collar of his shirt. For a second they were eye to eye, and then the Origin was flying backward. He slammed into the tree, the impact sending several branches to the ground. The Origin fell, shaking the ground.

Within an instant Luc was in front of me, his fingers splaying around my cheeks. “Peaches. God.” He tilted my head back as I clutched the rock. Warmth radiated from his fingers, easing the throbbing in my jaw.

He was healing me.

“I need you to get up and get out of here,” he said as the warmth poured down my spine. “It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be hard, but I need you to run as fast as you can—”

Luc shifted suddenly, covering my entire body with his, shielding me as something bright and hot hit him in the back. His entire body shuddered as the smell of burnt clothes and flesh stung my eyes. Pain tightened the lines of his striking face. I dropped the rock.

“Luc,” I whispered, realizing he’d been hit—hit with something bad. Panic blossomed in my chest as I reached out, grasping the front of his shirt.

He let out a roar of rage that would’ve sent anyone running, and he spun around, throwing his arms up. A terrible rumble shook the ground, knocking me onto my side. Tiny pieces of rock and clumps of dirt lifted up in the air. Trees all around us rattled as what was left of their leaves floated to the ground. A loud crack reverberated through the trees.

The Origin was standing several feet in front of Luc. “There it is. The great and powerful Origin known as Luc. I’m so scared.”

When Luc spoke. His voice was deep and booming, shaking my rib cage. “Oh, you should be.”

I slid backward off the ground without being touched.

He stalked toward him, skidding to a stop as the trees trembled with fury. Several of them snapped and lifted, their gnarly roots dripping clumps of soil as the rich scent of earth filled the air.

My God . . .

I made it to my knees just as one of the trees whipped out. I couldn’t see the Origin. I had no idea if the tree had hit him or not, but another one flew out. Several kept coming, piling on top of one another, shaking the ground every time they landed.

Luc lowered his arms and started to twist at his waist.

Trees exploded, sending rock and bark shooting in every direction. I didn’t even see Luc move. I was suddenly flat on my back and his body was over top mine as the jagged, sharp pieces rained down. He jerked, and his hands slipped from my shoulders as he fell to the side.

“Luc. Luc!” Confusion gave way as horror as I could see the dark stains spreading all along the front of his shirt at a rapid clip. “No. No!”

His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. Under my hands, his chest felt still—too still. Bitter panic exploded. “Luc!”

“Oh, I think I might have broken him.” The Origin laughed softly. “Just a little.”

With my hands shaking, I cupped Luc’s cheeks. Blood trickled out of the corner of his lips. “Please. No. God, no.” Acute horror choked me. “No. No. Please.”

“I don’t think God is listening.” He was closer. The air heated around me. “I think God stopped listening a long time ago.”

Luc’s skin warmed under my palms. Faint white lines appeared, a soft glow in the darkness, and I cried out, remembering what the Luxen had looked like as they died. Was it the same for an Origin? I didn’t know.

Hatred rose from deep inside me, as fierce and bright as the brightest star in the night sky as I stared down into Luc’s face. No. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t fair. He saved me years ago, and now he would die because I couldn’t fight back. He was going die trying to protect me—dying and taking all the memories of us with him. Memories I suddenly, desperately knew I needed to learn, to know if those good memories he’d talked about had included me.

“This would’ve happened eventually,” the Origin said. “You’ll see.”