I tried paying attention in my classes, but my mind was on Daemon and what he wanted to talk to me about tonight. Thankfully, I only had to muscle through half a day before it was time to go get my splint removed.

As expected, my arm was completely fine.

On the way home, I stopped at the post office. There was a ton of junk mail in our box, but also a few yellow envelopes, which brought a big ole smile to my face. Media Mail was stamped across them. Gathering my goodies, I headed home and piddled around the house.

Anxious energy jolted through my system like I'd chugged one of those cheap energy drinks.

I changed several times, settling on a little sundress after going through my closet and finding nothing I wanted to wear. Changing didn't get rid of the anxious feeling.

What did Daemon want to talk about?

I ended up rearranging my entire blog design trying to pass time. And that only made me more anxious about everything, because I was sure I'd screwed up my header and the banner at the bottom. Only when a book release countdown widget had completely disappeared, lost to the realm of the Internet, did I force myself away from the computer.

Turned out I had a while to wait and see. It was after eight when Daemon showed up at my door, a few minutes after my mom left for Winchester. He was leaning against the railing, staring up at the sky like usual. With the moonlight slicing over half of his face and the rest cast deep in shadows, he didn't seem real.

Then Daemon zeroed in on me, his gaze sliding over my dress and then back up. He looked as if he were about to speak but thought twice.

Gathering up my courage, I walked over and stopped beside him. "Is Dee home?"

"No." He returned to staring at the night sky.


There were a thousand twinkling stars. "She went to the game with Ash, but I doubt she will stay long." Daemon paused, glancing down at me. "I told her I was going to hang out with you tonight. I think she'll come home soon to make sure we haven't killed each other." Looking away, I hid my grin. "Well, if you don't kill me, I'm sure Ash will be more than glad to do so."

"Because of the spaghetti-gate or something else?" he asked.

I shot him a sidelong look. "You looked mighty comfy with her in your lap yesterday."

"Ah, I see." He pushed off the railing, coming to stand beside me. "It makes sense now."

"It does?" I held my ground.

His eyes gleamed in the dark. "You're jealous."

"Whatever." I forced a laugh. "Why would I be jealous?"

Daemon followed me down the steps until we were standing in my driveway. "Because we spent time together."

"Spending time together isn't a reason to be jealous, especially when you were forced to spend time with me." I realized how lame it was that I was sort of jealous. Ugh. "Is this what we need to talk about?" He shrugged. "Come on.

Let's take a walk."

Watching him, I smoothed my hands over my dress. "It's kind of late, don't you think?"

"I think and talk better when I walk." He held a hand out to me. "If not, I turn into the dickhead Daemon you're not very fond of."

"Ha. Ha." I stared at his hand. There was a fluttering in my stomach. "Yeah, I'm not holding your hand."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm not going to hold hands with you when I don't even like you."

"Ouch." Daemon placed his hand over his chest, wincing. "That was harsh." Yeah, he needed better acting classes.

"You're not going to take me out in the woods and leave me there, are you?"

"Sounds like a fitting case of revenge, but I wouldn't do that. I doubt you'd last very long without someone to rescue you."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." He tossed me a brief grin, and we walked in silence for a few minutes, crossing the main access road. The night air was definitely chilly compared to when I'd first put the dress on, and I was beginning to wish I put tights on, too. Fall was well on its way.

Soon we had moved deep into the woods, where the moonlight struggled to make it through the thick trees. Daemon reached in his back pocket and pulled out a thin flashlight that gave off a surprisingly large amount of light.

Every cell in my body seemed to be aware of how close he was while we walked in a cocoon of darkness, the light bouncing in front of us with each step. And I hated each of my traitorous cells with a vengeance.

"Ash isn't my girlfriend," he said finally.

"We used to date, but we're friends now. And before you ask, we're not that kind of friend even though she was sitting on my lap. I can't explain why she was doing that."

"Why did you let her?" I asked, wanting to smack myself afterward. It wasn't my business and I didn't care.

"I don't know, honestly. Is being a guy a good-enough reason?"

"Not really," I said, staring at the ground. I could barely see my feet.

"Didn't think so," he replied. I couldn't see his expression and I needed to, because I could never tell what he was thinking and sometimes, well, his eyes were at war with his words.

"Anyway, I'm...I am sorry about the whole lunch thing." Surprised he apologized, I stumbled over a rock. He caught me easily, his breath warm on my cheek before he backed off.

My skin tingled, but I pulled back. Daemon apologizing for the lunch debacle was like being doused with cold water. I wasn't sure what was worse: him not knowing he'd been a jerk or fully aware of what he'd been doing to me.

"Kat?" he said softly.

I glanced at him. "You embarrassed me."

"I know - "

"No, I don't think you do know." I started walking, hugging my elbows. "And you pissed me off. I can't figure you out. One minute you aren't bad and then you are the biggest ass on the planet."

"But I have bonus points." He caught up with me, always shining the light far enough ahead of me so I could easily make out exposed roots and rocks. "I do, right? Bonus points from the lake and our walk? Did I get any from saving you that night?"

"You got a lot of bonus point for your sister." I shook my head. "Not for me. And if they were my bonus points, you've lost most of them by now."

He was quiet for a few moments. "That blows. It really does."

I stopped. "Why are we talking?"

"Look, I am sorry about that. I am." He let out a long breath. "You didn't deserve the way we acted."

I didn't know what to say to that. He sounded genuine and almost sad, but it wasn't as if he didn't have a choice in how he acted.

Searching for something to say, I settled on what probably wasn't going to take well. "I'm sorry about your brother, Daemon." He came to a complete stop, nearly hidden in the shadows.

There was such a long gap in silence I wasn't sure he'd ever respond. "You don't have any idea what happened to my brother." My insides were tight. "All I know is that he disappeared - "

Daemon's hand opened and closed at his side, the other dangling the flashlight straight down. "That was a while ago."

"It was last year," I pointed out gently.


"Oh, yeah, you're right. Just seems longer than that." He looked away, half of his face coming out of the shadows. "So how did you hear about him?"

I shivered in the chilled air. "Kids were talking about it at school. I was curious why no one ever mentioned him or that girl."

"Should we have?" he asked.

Glancing at him, I tried to gauge his expression but it was too dark. "I don't know.

Seems like a pretty big deal that people would talk about."

Daemon started walking again. "It's not something we like to talk about, Kat." That was understandable, I supposed. I struggled to keep up with him. "I don't been to pry - "

"You don't?" His voice was tight, movements stiff. "My brother is gone. Some poor girl's family will probably never see their daughter again, and you want to know why no one told you? " I bit my lip, feeling like a jerk.

"I'm sorry. It's just that everyone is so...secretive. Like, I don't know anything about your family. I've never seen your parents, Daemon. And Ash hates my guts for no reason.

It's weird that there are two sets of triplets that moved here at the same time. I dumped food on your head yesterday, and I didn't get in trouble.

That's plain weird. Dee has a boyfriend she's never mentioned. The town - it's odd. People stare at Dee like she's either a princess or they're afraid of her. People stare at me. And - "

"You sound like those things have something in common."

I could barely keep up with him. We were moving deeper into the woods, almost near the lake by now. "Do they?"

"Why would they?" His voice was low and taut with frustration. "Maybe you're feeling a little paranoid. I would be if I'd been attacked after moving to a new town."

"See, you are doing it now!" I pointed out.

"Getting all uptight because I'm asking a question, and Dee does the same thing."

"Do you think maybe it's because we know you've been through a lot and we don't want to add to it?"

"But how can you add to it?"

He slowed in his pace. "I don't know. We can't."

I shook my head as he stopped near the edge of the lake and flipped off the flashlight. In the night, the water gleamed like a shined onyx. A hundred stars reflected off the still surface like the night sky, but less infinite. It seemed as if I could reach out and touch them.

"The day at the lake," Daemon said after a few moments. "There were a few minutes when I was having a good time."

My breath caught hearing that. There were a few minutes that I'd enjoyed it, too. I tucked my hair back. "Before you turned into Aquaman?" Daemon was quiet, his shoulders unnaturally tense. "Stress will do that, make you think things are happening that aren't."

Looking at him, his striking features lit by the pale moonlight, he didn't seem real. The exotic eyes, the curve of his jaw, all of it seemed more defined out here. Daemon stared at the dark sky, a brooding and pensive look to his face.

"No, it doesn't," I said finally. "There is something...odd here."

"Other than you?" he said.

Several responses lined up, but I pushed them away. Arguing with him in the middle of the woods at night wasn't on the top of my list of things to do. "Why did you want to talk, Daemon?"

He clasped a hand on the back of his neck.

"What happened yesterday at lunch is only going to get worse. You can't be friends with Dee, not like the kind of friend you want to be." A hot flush crawled down my cheeks, spreading over my neck. "Are you serious?" Daemon lowered his hand. "I'm not saying you have to stop talking to her, but pull it back.

You can still be nice to her, talk to her at school, but don't go out of your way. You're only going to make it harder on her and yourself." Every hair on my body rose all at once. "Are you threatening me, Daemon?"

Our eyes locked. His were full of... what?

Regret? "No. I'm telling you how it's going to be. We should head back."

"No." I dug in, staring at him. "Why? Why is it wrong if I'm friends with your sister?" A second passed, and his jaw tensed. "You shouldn't be out here with me." He drew in a harsh breath, his eyes wide. He took a step forward. A warm breeze kicked up, scattering fallen leaves and tossing my hair back. The gust seemed to come from behind Daemon, almost as if it were fueled by his mounting anger. "You aren't like us. You are nothing like us. Dee deserves better than you, people that are like her.

So leave me alone. Leave my family alone." It was a smack in the face, only worse. Out of everything I was expecting him to say, he went for a doozy. I drew in a deep breath, but it hitched in my throat. I took a step back, blinking away the rush of angry tears.

Daemon didn't take his eyes off me. "You wanted to know why. That's why." I swallowed thickly. "Why...why do you hate me so much?"

For a brief second, the mask cracked and pain contorted his features. It was so quick, I couldn't be sure I'd actually seen it. He didn't answer.

The tears building in my eyes were about to spill down my cheeks. I refused to cry in front of him, to give him that kind of power. "You know what? Screw you, Daemon."

He looked away. "Kat, you can't - "

"Shut up!" I hissed. "Just shut up." I headed around Daemon and started walking. My skin felt hot and cold, my insides burned with fire and ice. I was going to cry. I knew it. That was what that choking feeling was in the back of my throat.

"Kat," Daemon called out. "Please wait up." I picked up my pace until I was almost running.

"Come on, Kat, don't walk so far ahead.

You're going to get lost. At least take the flashlight!"

As if he cared. I wanted to be free of him before I lost it. There was a good chance I'd hit him. Or I'd cry, because whether I liked him or not, what he had said hurt. Like there was something wrong with me.

I stumbled over a few branches and rocks on the ground I couldn't see, but I knew I could find my way back to the road. And I could hear him behind me, his feet snapping twigs as he kept up with me.

Raw hurt opened up in my chest. I stomped ahead, needing to get home, to call Mom and somehow convince her that we needed to move, like, tomorrow.

Run away.

My hands curled into fists. Why should I run away? I hadn't done anything wrong! Angry and disgusted with myself, I tripped over a root sticking out of the ground. I nearly fell flat on my face. I grumbled.

"Kat!" Daemon cursed from behind me.

I gained my footing and rushed forward, relieved to see the road up ahead. I nearly broke into a dead run. I could hear his footfalls now, echoing in the distance. I reached the dark road, wiping the back of my hands over my face. Shit.

I was crying.

Daemon yelled, but his voice was drowned out by the twin headlights of a truck racing toward me, no more than fifty feet away. I was too shocked to move.

It was going to hit me.

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