Fear rose so quickly it left me dizzy, almost numb. And how could I be so numb when surely I should be feeling a dozen emotions?

Daemon reached down and yanked up his pants leg. There was a ripping sound, like Velcro. He held something long, dark, and shiny. Only when he shoved it into my shaky hands did I realized it was some kind of black glass shaped into a dagger, sharpened to a fine point on one end and a leather binding on the other.

"This is obsidian - volcanic glass. The edge is wicked sharp and will cut through anything," he explained quickly. "It's the only thing on this planet, besides us, that can kill the Arum. This is their kryptonite." I stared at him as my fingers wrapped around the leather sheath.

"Come on, pretty boy!" yelled the Arum in the front, his voice sharp as razors and guttural.

He had a thick, foreign-sounding accent. "Come out and play!"

Daemon ignored them and grabbed my cheeks, his hands steady and strong. "Listen to me, Kat. When I tell you to run, you run and you don't look back no matter what. If any of them -  any - chase you, all you have to do is stab them anywhere with the obsidian."

"Daemon - "

"No. You run when I tell you to run, Kat.

Say you understand."

There were three of them and only one of Daemon. The odds weren't good. "Please don't do this! Run with me - "

"I can't. Dee is at that party." His eyes met mine for a second. "Run when I tell you." And then he turned, letting out a resigned sigh, and opened the car door. Daemon's shoulders squared, and his swagger was full of confidence. That cocky smile, the one I'd wanted to smack off his face many times, appeared on his lips.


"Wow," Daemon said. "You guys are uglier as humans than in your true form. Didn't think that was possible. You look like you've been living under a rock. See the sun much?" The one in the front, presumably their leader, snarled. "You have your arrogance now, like all Luxen. But where will your arrogance be when we absorb your powers?"

"In the same place as my foot," Daemon replied, hands balling into fists.

The leader looked confused.

"You know, as in up your ass." Daemon smiled and the two Arum hissed. "Wait. You guys look familiar. Yeah, I know. I've killed one of your brothers. Sorry about that. What was his name? You guys all look alike to me." Their forms started flickering in and out, turning from human to shade and back again. I reached for the door handle, clenching the dagger in my hand.

Blood pumped through my body so fast, everything slowed down.

"I'll rip your essence from your body," the Arum growled, "and you will beg for mercy."

"Like your brethren did?" responded Daemon, voice low and cold. "Because he begged - he cried like a little girl before I ended his existence."

And that was it. The Arum bellowed in unison; the sound of howling winds and death.

My breath caught in my throat.

Daemon threw up his hands and a great roar started under the car, shaking the road, and the trees thrashed outside. A loud crack sounded, like a blast of thunder, quickly followed by several more in succession. The earth seemed to shake and rumble.

I turned to the window and gasped. Trees were being ripped from out of the ground, their thick and gnarled roots dripping clumps of moist dirt. An earthy scent filled the air.

Oh my God, Daemon was uprooting trees.

One smacked right into the back of an Arum, taking him several feet down the road.

Trees toppled over. Some landed in the road, cutting off the potential for any innocent driver to happen upon the scene. Branches broke off, flying through the air like daggers. The other two Arum avoided them, blinking in and out as they advanced on Daemon, the branches shooting through their shade form without resistance.

The ground under the SUV trembled. All along the side of the road, chunks of the shoulder broke free from the road. Huge sections of asphalt spun into the air, turning bright orange as though heated from within, and zinged straight at the Arum.

Good God, I was so going to reconsider pissing Daemon off next time.

The Arum dodged the asphalt and trees, throwing back what looked like globs of oil.

Where the murky stuff landed, the road smoked.

Burnt tar filled the air.

Then Daemon was nothing but blinding white light, a being that was not human, but otherworldly, beautiful and frightening in the same breath. The glow heightened around his outstretched limbs, forming a crackling ball of energy that snapped. Light dripped onto the road. Power lines overhead snapped and then exploded. The Arum blinked out, but their shadows couldn't hide from Daemon's light. I could see them moving toward him still. One darted out to the side, rushing him.

Daemon brought his hands together and the blast that followed shook the car. Light erupted from him, zinging straight into the one nearest, sending the Arum spinning up into the air, where for a moment he was in a human form. Dark sunglasses shattered. Pieces floated in the air, suspended. Another clap followed and the Arum exploded in an array of dazzling lights that fell like a thousand twinkling stars.

Daemon threw out his arm, and the other Arum flew back several feet, spinning and tumbling through the air, but he landed in a crouch.

Run. The voice came in my head. Run now, Kat. Don't look b ack. Run!

I threw the car door open and stumbled out.

Falling to my knees, I scrambled down the ditch, wincing at the sound of the Arums' howls. I made it to the first tree that was still standing and stopped. Instinct told me to keep running, to do as Daemon instructed, but I couldn't leave him there. I couldn't run away.

With my heart leaping into my throat, I turned around. The two remaining Arum were circling him, fading out to nothing more than shadows and then reforming back into the tall, imposing figures.

Thick globs of midnight oill shot past Daemon, narrowly missing the halo of light surrounding him. One of the dark streams smacked into a tree on the other side of the road, splitting it in two.

Daemon retaliated by throwing balls of light at them, wicked fast and deadly. They whizzed through the air, forming walls of flames that fizzled out when they didn't hit one of the Arum. The Arum were not as fast as Daemon, but they managed to avoid each of his missiles.

After about thirty were lobbed, I could tell Daemon's light form was slowing down, the time between bombs stretching longer and longer. I remembered what he'd said after he'd stopped the truck. Using his powers wore him out. He couldn't keep this up.

Terror trickled through me as I saw them close in on Daemon, their darkness nearly enveloping his light. A ball of bright red flames formed and shot out toward the Arum, but Daemon missed. The ball of fire skidded across the road, fizzing out harmlessly.

One of the Arum flickered out completely, while the other kept throwing oily bombs at Daemon over and over, never slowing down.

Daemon flickered in and out, reappearing a few feet away from each projectile. He was moving so fast, the entire scene started to look like I was watching it unfold under strobe lights.

Daemon was focused on the one Arum lobbing oill bombs and he didn't see the other reappear behind him. The shadowy arms wrapped around what appeared to be Daemon's head, bringing him down to his knees on the side of the road. I cried out, but the sound was lost in the Arum's laugh.

"Ready to beg?" the Arum in front of him taunted, taking human form. "Please do. It would mean a lot to hear the word 'please'

leaking from your lips as I take everything from you."

Daemon didn't respond, but his light was crackling and intense.

"Silence to the end, eh? So be it." The Arum stepped forward, lifting his head. "Baruck, it is time."

Baruck forced Daemon to stand. "Do it now, Sarefeth!"

A part of my brain clicked off. I was moving without thinking, running toward the very thing Daemon had ordered me to run away from. The obsidian grew warm in my hand as I rushed up the gully, burning like coals. A heel on my shoe snapped off when it became tangled in the downed branches, but I kept going.

I wasn't brave. I was desperate.

Sarefeth turned into a shadow, thrusting an arm forward, into the center of Daemon's chest.

Daemon's scream tore through me, heightening the fear, flipping it into anger and desperation.

Daemon's light flared, blinding and concentrated. The ground shook with a giant tremor.

Only a few feet behind Sarafeth now, I threw my arm back, obsidian in hand, and jumped forward and brought it down with every ounce of strength I had. I expected to meet resistance, flesh and bone, but the obsidian cut through the shadow, like Sarefeth was made of nothing more than smoke and air, and I stumbled to my knees.

Sarefeth jerked back, pulling his arm free of Daemon's light. He spun around, his shadowy arms reaching for me. I scrabbled backward, falling down. The obsidian glowed in my hand, humming with energy.

And then Sarefeth stopped. Pieces of him broke free from his form, clumps of darkness drifting into the sky, obscuring the stars until all of him was there one minute and floating away the next.

Baruck released Daemon, taking a step back.

For a moment he was in human form, dark jeans and a jacket, his expression horrified, gaze locked on the glowing obsidian in my grip. His eyes met mine for only a second. Vengeance had been promised in that minute stare. And then he was a shadow, pulling the darkness into him, fleeing toward the other side of the road like a coiled snake and disappearing into the night.

I scuttled over branches and cracked pavement in a mad dash to reach Daemon's side.

He was still nothing more than light, and I had no idea where to touch him or how badly he was hurt.

"Daemon," I whispered, dropping to my bleeding knees in front of him. My lips, hands - everything - trembled. "Daemon, please say something."

His light flared, throwing off a wave of heat, but he made no sound or movement, not even a whisper of words in my thoughts. What if someone came by? How in the world could I explain any of this? And what if he was injured, dying? A sob rose in my throat.

My cell phone! I could call Dee. She'd know what to do. She had to. I started to stand when I felt a hand on my arm.

I whipped around and there was Daemon, in human form, kneeling on the ground, his head bowed but grip strong. "Daemon, oh God, are you okay?" I knelt, placing my hand on his warm cheek. "Please tell me you're okay?

Please!" He slowly lifted his head, placing his other hand on mine. "Remind me," he paused, drawing in a stuttered gasp, "to never piss you off again. Christ, are you secretly a ninja?" I laughed and sobbed in the same breath.

Then I threw my arms around him, almost knocking him flat on his back. I buried my face in his neck, inhaling his earthy scent. He didn't have a choice but to hug me back. His arms swept around me, a hand delving deep into the curls that had fallen loose.

"You didn't listen to me," he murmured against my shoulder.

"I never listen to you." I squeezed him hard.

Swallowing, I pulled back a little, searching his weary but beautiful face. "Are you hurt? Is there anything I can do?"

"You've already done enough, Kitten." He stood, bringing me along with him. Drawing in a breath, he looked around. "We need to get out before anyone comes."

I wasn't sure how that would help. It looked like a tornado had come through here, but then Daemon backed off and waved his hand. All down the road, trees were lifted off the road and rolled to the sides, clearing the path. The action barely fazed him.

"Come on," Daemon said.

On the way back to the car, I remembered I still had the obsidian in my fist. The car started as soon as Daemon turned the key, much to our mutual relief.

"Are you okay? Hurt in any way?" he asked.

"I'm okay." I was shaking. "It's just...a lot, you know?"

He gave a short laugh, but then he hit the steering wheel with his fist. "I should've known there would be more coming. They travel in fours. Dammit!"

I held his obsidian closer, staring straight ahead. The adrenaline was fading and I was trying to process everything that had happened tonight. "There were only three of them."

"Yeah, 'cuz I killed the first one." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. "And I'm sure they were pissed about that."

We'd killed two more, so I figured that meant the one remaining would be really pissed.

Angry aliens. A small, hysterical laugh bubbled up, and I clamped my mouth shut.

He called his sister then, ordering Dee to get the Thompsons and to stay with Mr. Garrison until it was daylight. Whereas the Arum were stronger at night, using the darkness to move undetected and feeding on the shadows, the Luxen were opposite, stronger during the day.

Daemon gave them bare details of what had happened, and I heard him tell Dee I was okay.

"Kat, are you okay? Seriously?" he asked after he hung up, concerned.

I nodded. I was alive. He was alive. We were okay. But I couldn't stop shaking, couldn't forget the sound of Daemon's scream.

Daemon wanted me to stay the night at his place. His reasoning was the bare truth. There was another one out there, and until they knew where the Arum was, it was safer being with him. For the second time that night, I didn't argue. I didn't kid myself his invitation was out of concern for me. It was more from necessity.

After I called my mom and told her I was staying the night with Dee, which she protested but eventually relented to, Daemon took me up to the guest room I'd woken up in the morning after finding out about them. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Daemon had been quiet since we arrived at his house, his thoughts a million miles away. He left me in the guest room with a pair of worn flannel pajama bottoms and a shirt that looked like it belonged to Dee. In the guest bathroom, I quickly stripped off the ruined dress, rolling it up and tossing it into their wastebasket. I never wanted to see it again.

The hot water couldn't soothe the ache in me. I'd never felt the way I did now. Every muscle screamed, and my mind was weary with exhaustion. I stepped out of the shower, my legs shaking, and even in the heat of the steamy bathroom I felt cold.

I slowly wiped the steam off the mirror, shocked by the reflection that peered back at me.

My eyes were wide. My cheeks were ghastly pale and drawn tight over my cheekbones. I looked more like an alien than my friends did.

I laughed and then immediately cringed. It sounded choked and ugly, shocking in the quiet room.

Baruck would come back. Wasn't that why Daemon had been quiet? Knowing that the Arum would seek revenge against his family, there was nothing he could do. Or I could even hope to do.

"Are you okay in there?" Daemon called through the closed door.

"Yeah." I quickly ran my fingers through my damp hair, pushing thick sections off my face. "Yeah," I whispered again. I changed into the clothes he'd brought me, and they felt warm, smelling faintly of laundry detergent and crisp leaves.

He was sitting on the edge of the bed when I came back, looking tired and young. He'd already changed into a pair of sweats and a shirt.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

He nodded. "Whenever we use our powers, it's like...losing a part of ourselves. It takes a bit to recharge. Once the sun comes up, I'll be fine." He paused, meeting my eyes. "I'm sorry you had to go through any of this." I stopped in front of him. Sorry wasn't something that was in his vocab often. Neither were his next words, I suspected.

"I didn't say thank you," he said, staring up at me. "You should've run, Kat. They would've...killed you without thinking twice.

But you saved my life. Thank you." Words stalled on my breath. I stared at him.

"Will you stay with me tonight?" I rubbed my arms. "I'm not coming on to you. You don't have to, but - "

"I know." He stood, his brow wrinkling.

"Just let me check the house again, and I'll be right back."

I climbed into the bed, tugging the covers up to my chin while I stared at the ceiling. Closing my eyes, I counted silently until I heard Daemon's footsteps. When I opened my eyes, he was standing in the doorway, watching me.

I'd scooted to the far edge of the bed, leaving him plenty of room. A strange thought ran through my brain as I watched him watching me. Had he ever been in a bed with a human girl? Seemed like such a stupid thing to even think about. Relationships with humans weren't prohibited. They just make little sense. And after everything that had happened, why would I be thinking about that?

Daemon locked the door, checked the large bay windows, and then wordlessly settled into the bed, his arms crossed over his chest, much like mine. We lay there, staring up at the ceiling.

And my heart was racing. It could've been everything that had happened or the fact that Daemon was here, so close and alive, but I was hyper-aware of everything. Of his slow, steady breaths. The heat radiating off of his body. And my own need to be enveloped in that warmth.

A strained silence descended as I ran my fingers over the edge of the blanket. Then, against my will, I looked at him. Daemon stared back, a lopsided grin on his face.

A laugh bubbled out of me. "This...this is so awkward."

The skin around his eyes crinkled as his grin spread. "It is, isn't it?"

"Yes." I gasped for breath, giggling. It seemed wrong to laugh after everything that had happened, but I couldn't help it. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I'd faced down a possible date rapist and an alien horde hellbent on sucking up Daemon's essence. Crazy sauce.

His laughter joined mine until tiny tears tracked down my cheeks. The sound of his laughter faded as he reached over, chasing the drops with his finger. I stilled, staring at him.

His fingers left my cheek, but his gaze remained locked on me.

"What you did back there? It was sort of amazing," he murmured.

A sweet thrill jolted me. "Right back atcha.

Are you sure you're not injured?" Damon's crooked grin returned. "No. I'm fine, thanks to you." He shifted, turning off the lamp beside the bed before settling again.

I searched for something to say in the darkness. "Am I glowing?"

"Like a Christmas tree."

"Not just the star?"

The bed moved a little, and I felt his hand brush my arm. "No. You're super bright. It's kind of like looking at the sun." Now that was odd. I held up my hand, faintly able to see the outline of it in the darkness. "It's going to be hard for you to sleep then."

"Actually, it's kind of comforting. It reminds me of my own people."

I turned my head, and he was lying on his side, watching me. A flutter formed in my chest.

"The whole obsidian thing? You never told me about that."

"I didn't think it would be necessary. Or at least I'd hoped it wouldn't be."

"Can it hurt you?"

"No. And before you ask what can, we don't make a habit of telling humans what can kill us," he replied evenly. "Not even the DOD knows what's deadly to us. But the obsidian negates the Arum's strengths. Just like the beta quartz in the Rocks throws off a lot of the energy we put off, but with obsidian, all it takes is a piercing and...well, you know. It's the whole light thing, the way obsidian fractures it."

"Are all crystals harmful to the Arum?"

"No, just this type. I guess it has something to do with the heating and cooling. Matthew explained it to me once. Honestly, I wasn't paying attention. I know it can kill them. We carry it on ourselves whenever we go out, usually hidden. Dee carries one in her purse." I shuddered. "I can't believe I killed someone."

"You didn't kill someone. You killed an alien - an evil that would've killed you without thinking twice. That was going to kill me," he added as an afterthought, absently rubbing his chest. "You saved my life, Kitten." Still, knowing that the guy had been evil didn't change how it settled in my stomach.

"You were like Snowbird," Daemon said finally.

His eyes were closed, face relaxed. It was possibly the first time I'd seen him so...open.

"How do you figure?"

A small smile played across his lips. "You could've left me there and ran, like I said. But instead you came back and you helped me. You didn't have to."

"I...I couldn't leave you there." I averted my gaze. "It wouldn't have been right. And I would've never been able to forgive myself."

"I know. Get some sleep, Kitten." I was tired, exhausted, but it felt like the bogeyman was waiting outside the door. "But what if the last one comes back?" I paused, realizing a new fear. "Dee's with Mr. Garrison.

He knows I was with you when they attacked.

What if he turns me in? What if the DOD - "

"Shh," Daemon murmured, his hand finding mine. His fingers brushed over the top of mine.

Such a simple touch, but I felt it all the way to my toes. "He won't come back, not yet. And I won't let Matthew turn you over."

"But - "

"Kat, I won't let him. Okay? I promise you.

I won't let anything happen to you." The fluttering was there again, but now it felt like a dozen butterflies had taken flight at once. I tried to stamp down the feeling. Alien business aside, Daemon and I...well, we were like magnets that repelled one another. Feeling anything other than annoyance toward him wasn't possible, but that damn fluttering was there.

I won't let anything happen to you.

My chest swelled. His touch seared me.

Those words filled me with a longing that was overwhelming, unexpected. And it felt good being next to him. My body relaxed. Seconds, maybe minutes later, I drifted off to sleep beside the one boy I couldn't stand.

Just before sleep claimed me, my last thought was whether I would wake up in the morning beside this Daemon or the jerk Daemon.

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