Astonishingly, things were sort of...normal now. My trace did fade in a week and a half.

Daemon had acted like he'd been released from a twenty-year jail sentence, and he was never around when I was with Dee anymore.

September and most of October passed without anything happening. Mom continued to work both jobs, and she had a couple more dates with Mr. Michaels. She liked him, and I was happy for her. It had been so long since I'd seen her smile not tinged with sorrow.

Carissa and Lesa both had been to my house, and many times we'd gone to the movies or the mall in Cumberland with Dee. Even though I'd grown close to the two human girls and had a heck of a lot more in common with them, I was closer to Dee. We did everything together - everything except talk about Daemon.

She tried, several times.

"I know he likes you," she'd said once while we were supposed to be studying. "I see the way he looks at you. He gets uptight if I even bring you up."

I'd sighed and closed my notebook. "Dee, I think the reason why he stares at me is because he's planning on ways to kill me and hide my body."

"That is so not the look he gives you."

"Then what's the look, Dee?"

She knocked her book off the bed and climbed to her knees, placing her hands over her chest. "It's the 'I hate you but I want you' look." I giggled. "That was terrible."

"It's true." She lowered her hands. "We can date humans if we want to, you know. It's kind of pointless, but we can. And he's never paid attention to any other human."


"He's been forced to pay attention to me, Dee." I flopped onto my back on my bed. My stomach tightened at the thought of Daemon secretly wanting to be with me. Granted, I knew he was attracted to me. I felt it, but lust didn't have anything on like. "What about you? What's up with Adam?"

"Absolutely nothing at all. I don't know how Ash is attracted to Daemon. We grew up with them, and Andrew is like a brother to me. I don't think he feels any differently, either." She paused, her lower lip trembling. "I don't like any of my kind."

"Is there a...human boy you like?" She shook her head. "No. But if there was, I shouldn't have to be afraid to like him. I have a right to be happy. It shouldn't matter if it's one of your kind or ours that does it."

"I completely agree."

Dee had lain down next to me, snuggling up.

"Daemon would freak if I fell for a human." I almost smiled at that, but then I remembered their brother. Damn right, Daemon would freak. Maybe rightfully so, because if his brother hadn't fallen for a human, he'd still be alive.

I hoped for Dee's sake she never fell for one. Daemon would most definitely go nutso.

As it approached mid-October, it seemed like we'd gone backward in time. I was going to find that pen of his and destroy it. I'd lost count of how many times I was poked in the back long after the trace had faded from me. It seemed he lived to get under my skin.

And there was a part of me that kind of looked forward to it, only because it was entertaining...until one of us seriously got mad, especially when he was being downright antisocial.

Like Friday in class, Simon had asked if I wanted to study for our trig exam. Before I could even respond, Simon's backpack had flown off his desk, scattering its contents across the floor as if someone had swept his arm across his desk. Red-faced and confused, Simon had been successfully distracted by the laughing class while he gathered up his notebooks and scattered pencils.

I'd glanced back over my shoulder at Daemon, suspecting he was behind the flying backpack, but all he did was smile lazily at me.

"What's your deal?" I asked in the hallway after class. "I know you did that." He shrugged. "So?"

So? I stopped by my locker, surprised to find that Daemon had followed me there. "That was rude, Daemon. You embarrassed him." Then I lowered my voice to a whisper, "And I thought using your...stuff would draw them here."

"That was barely a blip on the map. That didn't leave a trace on anyone." He lowered his head until the edges of his dark curls brushed my cheek. I was caught between wanting to crawl into my locker and crawl into him. "Besides, I was doing you a favor." I laughed. "And how was that doing me a favor?"

Daemon smiled at me and then lowered his gaze so his thick, dark lashes shielded his eyes.

"Studying math wasn't what he had in mind." That seemed debatable, but I decided to play along. I wasn't backing down from him, not even when he could toss me in the air with a single thought. "And what if that's the case?"

"You like Simon?" His chin jerked up, anger flashing in his emerald eyes. "You can't possibly like him."

I hesitated. "Are you jealous?" Daemon looked away.

And I seized the opportunity to finally have one thing to rub in his face and stepped forward.

He didn't move or breathe. "You're jealous of Simon?" I lowered my voice. "Of a human? For shame, Daemon." He sucked in a sharp breath.

"I'm not jealous. All I'm trying to do is help you out. Guys like Simon want to get between your legs."

My cheeks flushed as I stared at him. "Why?

You think that's the only reason why a guy might like me?"

Daemon smiled knowingly as he slowly backed up. "Just saying."

He left after that, disappearing into the crowded hall. Which was good, because if he'd stayed a moment longer I would have socked him. When I turned around, I saw Ash standing outside her class. Her look pretty much fried me on the spot.

No one was talking about Sarah. It wasn't that the school had for-gotten her. It was just that they'd moved on, like most did. Knowing how and why she died was something I tried not to think about. When I did, my stomach soured like curdled milk. She died because Daemon saved me and the Arum had needed someone to take his anger out on.

And at night, I dreamed about the parking lot behind the library. I saw his face, the coldness and rage in his eyes as he squeezed the life out of me. Those nights, I woke with a scream stuck in my throat, covered in a cold sweat.

Other than the nightmares and the occasion alien-bully move on Daemon's part, there was nothing else that was out of the norm. It was like living next to normal teenagers.

Teenagers that didn't need to get up to change the television channel and got a little uptight after meteorite showers.

Dee had explained that the Arum used those atmospheric displays as a way to come down to Earth without being detected by the government. I didn't understand how, and she didn't explain, but for a few days after a shower or even a falling star, the siblings were on edge.

They would also disappear, sometimes taking a three-day weekend or missing a Wednesday without any warning. Dee eventually explained that they'd been checking in with the DOD.

They continued to tell me that the Arum weren't a problem, but I didn't believe them. Not when they took such great lengths to avoid discussing them.

But Dee was on edge for a whole different reason in class on Thursday. Homecoming was next weekend and she hadn't found a dress. She had a date with Andrew. Or was it Adam? I couldn't tell the incredible blond duo apart.

Everyone was excited about homecoming, it seemed. Streamers hung from the hallways.

Banners announced the game against the other school and the dance. Tickets were selling left and right. Lesa and Carissa also had dates.

Neither of them had dresses, from the sound of yesterday's lunch conversation.

I, on the other hand, didn't have a date.

They tried to convince me yesterday that going stag wasn't the height of social disaster, and I knew that, but standing along the wall all night or playing third wheel wasn't my cup of tea.

Everybody knew each other in a school as small as PHS. Couples had been together their entire high school stint. Friends were shacking up with one another to go to the dance. And I, having no real connection to anyone, seemed dateless. Total killer for the self-esteem.

After spending math class ignoring Daemon's attempts to tick me off, Simon appeared by my locker while I switched out one heavy, useless book for another heavy, useless book.

"Hey," I said, smiling. I hoped Daemon was nowhere nearby, because God only knew what he'd do. "You looked like you fell asleep in class today."

He laughed. "I kind of did. And I was dreaming about formulations. It was all very frightening."

I laughed, shoving the textbook into my backpack as I nudged my locker door shut with my hip. "I can imagine."

Simon wasn't bad looking. Not if you had a thing for big, burly jocks who looked like they tossed bales of hay during the summer. He had arms the size of tree trunks and a charming-enough smile. Pretty blue eyes, too, and when he smiled, the skin around those baby blues crinkled. But his eyes weren't green, his lips not poetic.

"I've never seen you at any of our games," he said, his skin doing that crinkly thing. "Not a fan of football?"

Simon was the starting fullback or lineback.

Honestly, I had no clue. "I went to one," I told him. And I'd left at halftime with Dee. Both of us had been bored out of our minds. "Football isn't my thing." I expected him to leave after that because football was like a religion around here, but he leaned against the locker next to me, folding his arms over his chest. "So, I was wondering if you had plans next Saturday." My eyes went up to the red and black banner above his head. Next Saturday was homecoming. My throat dried like a cornered animal, and my eyes got all buggy. "No. No plans at all."

"You're not going to the dance?" he asked.

Do I say I don't have a date or does that sound way too lame? I settled on shaking my head.

Simon looked relieved. "Would you like to go? Together?"

My first thought was to say no. I barely knew the guy, and I thought he'd been dating one of the limber cheerleaders, and I wasn't interested in him. But going with Simon didn't mean I was going to marry him. Or even date him. I would be going to a dance with him. And a horrible thought popped in my head. I couldn't wait to see Daemon's face when he learned I had a date.

I told him yes, and we exchanged numbers and that was that. I was going to the homecoming dance, and now I also needed a dress. Mom would be thrilled by this. At lunch, I broke the news to Dee, thinking she'd be excited.

"Simon asked you to the dance?" Dee's mouth had dropped open. She even stopped eating for five whole seconds. "Did you say yes?"

I nodded. "Yeah, so what?"

"Simon has a reputation," Carissa said, eyeing me over the rim of her classes. "Like he wants to be the PHS bicycle."

"He wants to give everyone a ride," Lesa clarified with a shrug. "But he is cute. I like his arms."

"Just because he has a reputation, that doesn't mean I'm going to add to it." I poked my salad around my plate. Meatloaf had been on the menu today. So was not braving that. "And he was kind of cute when he asked."

"Him and Kimmy broke up a week or so ago," Carissa said. "Supposedly, he was cheating on her with Tammy."

Ah, Kimmy. That was the limber cheerleader's name. "Does he have a thing for girls' names that end in Y?"

Lesa snorted. "Aw, just like you. It's a match made in heaven."

I rolled my eyes.

"Well, whatever. You got a date. Now all of us can shop for dresses this weekend." Carissa clapped her hands. "Oh! And maybe we can carpool together. Sounds fun, right? How about you Dee?"

"Huh?" Dee blinked. Carissa repeated her question, and Dee nodded with a faraway look in her eyes. "I'm sure Adam would be okay with that."

We made plans to go to Cumberland on Saturday, and Lesa and Carissa were practically bouncing in their seats. Dee didn't look excited.

She didn't even look happy. And strangest of all, she didn't finish her lunch or eat half of mine.

When I left school that day, I had to walk all the way to the back of the parking lot since I'd been late that morning. The lot lined up with the track and football field, which was empty. It was a total bitch to park there. Cold wind whipped down from the mountains, blasting that entire area of the gravel lot.


I turned around, recognizing the deep voice.

My heart leapt in my throat. I didn't feel the wind anymore. Squeezing the strap on my bag, I waited for him to catch up to me.

Daemon stopped in front of me and reached out, fixing the twisted strap on my bag. "You know how to pick a parking spot." Caught off guard by the gesture, it took me a moment to respond. "I know."

We made it to my car, and while I threw my bag in the backseat, Daemon waited beside me, his hands shoved into his pockets. There was a dark look to his gaze, a tightness to his lips.

My stomach dropped a little. "Is everything okay? It's not...?"

"No." Daemon ran a hand through his hair.

"Nothing...uh, cosmic-related."

"Good." I breathed a sigh of relief, leaning against the car next to him. "You scared me there for a second."

He twisted toward me, and like that, there were only a few inches between us. "I hear you're going with Simon Cutters to the dance." I pushed back a strand of hair that blew across my face. The wind knocked it right back.

"News travels fast."

"Yeah, it does around here." He reached out again, but this time he caught the piece of hair and tucked it back behind my ear. His knuckles brushed against my cheek. The slight touch brought that weird tingle, along with a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold. "I thought you didn't like him."

"He's not bad," I said. Kids were rolling out on the track, stretching and getting ready to run.

"He's kind of nice, and he asked me."

"You're going with him because he asked you?"

Isn't that how things worked? I nodded. He didn't immediately respond while I fiddled with my car keys. "Are you going to the dance?" Daemon inched closer, his knee brushing my thigh. "Does it matter?"

I bit back a string of curses. "Not really." His body angled toward me. "You shouldn't go with someone just because he asked you."

I glanced down at the keys, wondering if I could stab someone in the eyeball with them. "I don't see why this has anything to do with you."

"You're my sister's friend, and therefore it has something to do with me."

I gaped at him. "That is the worst logic I have ever heard." I started around the car, but stopped at the hood. "Shouldn't you be more concerned with what Ash is doing?"

"Ash and I aren't together."

A stupid part of me liked the idea of them not being together. Shaking my head, I went for the driver's door. "Save your breath, Daemon.

I'm not backing out because you have a problem with it." Cursing under his breath, he followed me. "I don't want to see you get into any kind of trouble."

"What kind of trouble?" I yanked open my car door.

He caught the door. One dark eyebrow arched. "Knowing you, I can't even begin to imagine how much trouble you'd get in."

"Oh yeah, because Simon's going to leave a trace on me that attracts killer cows instead of killer aliens. Let go of my car door."

"You are so frustrating," he snapped, eyes flaring with irritation. "He has a reputation, Kat.

I want you to be careful."

I stared at him for a moment. Could it be that Daemon was genuinely concerned about my well-being? As soon as that thought popped into my head I pushed it out. "Nothing is going to happen, Daemon. I can take care of myself."

"Fine." He let go of the door so fast that I yanked it back. "Kat - "

Too late. The door caught my fingers. I yelped as pain shot over my hand and up my arm. "Ouch!" I shook my hand, trying to ease the pain in my fingers. The pointer finger was bleeding. The rest would definitely be bruised and look like sausages by morning. Tears were already streaming down my cheeks. "Christ!

That hurt." Without warning or saying a word, his hand shot in, wrapping around my palm. A flash of heat went through my hand, tingling, spreading to the tips of my throbbing fingers and down to my elbow. In an instant the pain was gone.

My mouth dropped open. "Daemon?" Our eyes locked. He dropped my hand as if I'd burned him. "Shit..."

"Did there another trace on me?" I wiped the blood away from my finger. The skin was pink, but already sealed up. "Holy crap." He swallowed. "It's faint. I don't think it will be a problem. I can barely see it, but you might - "

"No! It's faint. No one will see it. I'm fine.

No more babysitting." I drew a shallow breath.

Knots formed in my belly. "I can take care of myself."

Daemon watched me for a moment. "You're right. Obviously you can as long as it doesn't involve car doors. You've lasted longer than any human that's known about us."

Daemon's parting words hung over me like a thick, foreboding cloud the rest of the night and well into Saturday. I'd lasted longer than anyone else that had known the truth about them. I couldn't help but wonder when my time would be up.

I left with Dee, and we picked up the girls after lunch. It didn't take long to get to Cumberland and find the dress shop they'd wanted to go to. I'd expected there to be nothing left to pick from when we walked into the Dress Barn, but their racks were full.

Carissa and Lesa already had an idea of what they wanted: something tight. Dee seemed to navigate toward the pink and frilly. I wanted a dress that didn't look like it'd been bedazzled by a grandmother or swallowed by a bow factory.

Dee ended up picking out a red Grecian-style dress for me that cinched under the waist and hung loose around my hips and legs. It had a scallop neckline, a little daring but nothing like what Lesa and Carissa strutted out in.

"What I wouldn't do for a chest like that," Lesa muttered, looking disgusted as she stared at Carissa's chest spilling out of her dress. "It's not fair. I have an ass and no boobs." Carissa eyed herself in the wall mirror while Dee tried on a pink knee-length dress she'd found. Twisting her hair up off her shoulders, Carissa grinned at her reflection. "What do you guys think?"

"You look hot," I told her. And she did. She had the perfect hourglass figure.

Dee stepped out, looking absolutely stunning in pink. Her dress had tiny straps and hugged her willowy frame. She took one look at herself, nodded, and went back in to change.

I exchanged a grin with Lesa. "Our opinion was not needed."

"Yeah, cause there isn't anything in this world that Dee doesn't look good in." She rolled her eyes, grabbing her dress to try on.

When it came my turn to try my dress on, I had to give it to Dee. She had a remarkable eye for style. The dress fit my body like it'd been made for me. With its built-in bra, it also made me feel like I could stand beside Carissa and not feel like a little girl. I twisted in front of the mirror, checking out the back. Not too bad.

"You should pull your hair up," Dee said, appearing beside me. She reached up, artfully twisting my long hair atop my head. "You have such a long neck. Show it off. I can do it for you if you like and your makeup, too." I nodded, thinking it would be fun. "Thank you. I would've never thought I'd look good in this dress."

"You'd look good in any of these dresses." Dee let go of my hair. "Now you need shoes." She nodded over to the shoe racks. "Anything red or clear would work. The more strappy the better."

I poked around the shoes, thinking of a pair of strappy heels I had at home. God knows this dress was going to cost every last cent my mom had happily handed over this morning. I picked up a pair of red heels, though. They were divine.

A skeevy feeling coursed over me as I stood there. I glanced around. The girls were in the back, looking at clutches, and the clerk was behind the counter. The door opened, making a wind chime sound. No one was there.

The clerk looked up, frowning. Shaking her head, she returned to reading her magazine.

I shivered as my gaze crawled past the door to the windows in the front of the store. Beyond the garbed mannequins, a man stood on the sidewalk, looking in. His dark hair was combed back from his pale face. Most of his features were covered with a pair of oversized sunglasses that seemed out of place on such an overcast day. He was wearing dark jeans and a leather jacket.

And he gave me the creeps.

I moved behind the racks and pretended to be checking out another dress. Causally, I lifted my head and peeked over the rack.

He was still there.

"What the hell?" I muttered. Either he was waiting for someone in here or he was a total creeper. Or an Arum. I refused to consider the last one. Glancing around the near-empty store, I was going to go with creeper.

"What are you doing?" Lesa came out, tugging on the zipper to a pink trumpet dress that gave her boyish figure curves. "Hiding behind racks?"

I started to point out the stalker, but when I looked at the window, he was gone. "Nothing." I cleared my throat. "You guys ready?" She nodded, and I darted back to the dressing room and quickly changed. The whole time we checked out, I kept glancing at the window. That eerie feeling was still there, following us back to where Dee had parked. I expected the dude to jump out and scare the living crap out of me at any moment.

We folded up our dresses carefully and placed them in the trunk while Carissa and Lesa climbed in the backseat. Shutting the trunk, Dee turned to me. A small smile was on her face. "I didn't tell you this because I'm sure you would've changed your mind about the dress."

"What?" I frowned. "Does it make my butt look big?"

She laughed. "No. You looked stunning in it."

"Then what's the deal?"

Her smile turned downright mischievous.

"Oh, you know, just that the color red is Daemon's favorite."

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