Of course that didn't mean he was coming right here, but there was a chance - a big chance - that he was. Enough so that Dee prowled the length of the living room like a caged tiger. She wasn't afraid, but ready to do battle.

"If Baruck comes here, can you fight him?" I asked.

Dee passed me a steely look. She was a totally different person, morphing into a badass warrior princess. How come I'd never seen this side of her? "I'm not as quick or as powerful as Daemon, but I'll be able to hold my own until Daemon gets here." My stomach dropped. Hold your own wasn't enough. What if Daemon didn't get here in time? Dee stopped in front of the window, her slim shoulders squared. It hit me all at once. Everything Daemon had been worried about was coming true. I was a weakness - a liability to Dee. I couldn't - I wouldn't let that happen.

"Is my trace strong enough that he'd see me inside your house?"

She paused. "Not really."

"What about from the main road? The woods?"

There was a pause. "I don't know, Katy, but I'll stop him before he gets to you."

"No. I have an idea." I stepped forward, almost knocking over the stack of DVDs. "It's kind of crazy, but it could work." Her eyes narrowed. "What?"

"If you make my trace stronger, I can definitely lead him away from here. Then he won't come here and Daemon - "

"Absolutely not," she said, whirling around.

"Are you insane?"


"Maybe," I said, biting my lip. "Look, it's better than sitting here with me when I could very well lead him right back to your house!

And then he'll know where you guys live! What then? You won't ever be safe. I need to lure them away from your home."

"No." Dee shook her head. "I can't do that. I can fight - "

"There's nothing else I can do! I can't fight him and what if he escapes? What if he tells others where you live?" Daemon's words came back to me. You would b e a weakness to me.

Except I wouldn't be his weakness, I'd be Dee's.

I couldn't live with that. "And I'll be a liability.

Baruck will know that. You have to stay here. If Baruck finds us together, he'll use me to destroy you. The best plan is for me to lure the Arum away and let the guys meet me in the field and take him down together."

"Katy - "

"I'm not taking no for an answer! We don't have much time." I moved to the door, grabbing my keys and cell phone. "Light up. Do the crazy balls of light thing. That seems like it worked last time. I'll head...I'll head to where the field party was! Tell Daemon that's where I'm going." When she stood there, staring at me, I yelled, "Do it!"

"This is insane." Dee shook her head, but she stepped back and started to blur out. A second later she was in her true form, a beautiful silhouette of light. This is insane, her voice whispered in my thoughts.

I'd stopped thinking. "Hurry." Two balls of crackling light formed in her outstretched arms. They shot around the room, blowing the lights and the TV, but ended up bouncing off the walls harmlessly. The fine hairs on my body stood as static filled the air.

"Am I glowing?" I asked.

Like the sun.

Well, that worked. Taking a deep breath, I nodded. "Call Daemon and tell him where I'm going."

Be careful. Please. Her light began to fade.

"You, too." I turned and raced out of the house toward my car before I could think twice about what I was doing.

Because this was absolutely insane - the craziest thing I'd ever done. Worse than giving a one-star review, scarier than asking for an interview with an author I'd give my firstborn to eat lunch with, more stupid than kissing Daemon.

But this was all I could do.

My hands were shaking when I shoved the key into the ignition and backed out of the driveway, narrowly missing Dee's Volkswagen.

I hit the gas, squealing out onto the main road. I was clenching the steering wheel like a granny, but driving like I was trying out for NASCAR.

I kept glancing in my rearview mirror as I flew down the highway, expecting to find Arum chasing after me. But every time I checked, the road was empty.

Maybe this hadn't worked? Oh God, what if Baruck continued to the house and found Dee?

My heart leapt into my throat. This was a stupid, stupid idea. My foot faltered on the gas pedal. At least he wouldn't be able to use me to get to Dee.

My cell rang from the passenger's seat.

Unknown Caller? Now? I almost ignored it, but I grabbed it and answered anyway. "Hello?"

"Are you out of your freaking mind?" Daemon yelled into the phone. I winced. "This has to be the stupidest thing - "

"Shut up, Daemon!" I screeched. The tires swerved a little into the other lane. "It's done.

Okay? Is Dee okay?"

"Yes, Dee's okay. But you're not! We've lost him, and since Dee said you're glowing like a goddamn full moon right now, I'm betting he's after you."

Fear spiked my heart rate. "Well, that was the plan."

"I swear on every star in the sky, I'm going to strangle you when I get my hands on you." Daemon paused, his breath heavy on the phone.

"Where are you?"

I glanced out the window. "I'm almost to the field. I don't see him."

"Of course you don't see him." He sounded disgusted. "He's made of shadows - of night, Kat. You won't see him until he wants you to." Oh. Well. Shit.

"I can't believe you did this," he said.

My temper snapped under the fear. "Don't you start with me! You said I was a weakness.

And I was a liability back there with Dee. What if he came there? You said so yourself he'd use me against her. This was the best I could do! So stop being such a damn jerk!" There was such a gap of silence I thought he'd hung up on me, but when he spoke, his voice was strained. "I didn't mean for you to do this, Kat. Never something like this."

His voice sent shivers through me. My eyes darted over the blurred shapes of trees. I drew in a deep breath, but it got stuck. "You didn't make me do this."

"Yeah, I did."

"Daemon - "

"I'm sorry. I don't want you hurt, Kat. I can't -  I can't live with that." Another stretch of silence passed while his words sunk in and then,

"Stay on the phone. I'm going to find a place to ditch the car and I'll meet you there. It won't take more than a few minutes to get there. Don't get out of the car or anything." I nodded as I pulled the car to a stop inside the field. The moon rolled behind a cloud, turning everything pitch black. I couldn't see anything. A horrifying, sick feeling settled in my stomach.

Reaching down, I grabbed the obsidian blade and held it tight. "Okay. Maybe this wasn't the strongest idea." Daemon barked a short, harsh laugh. "No shit."

My lips twitched as I glanced in the rearview mirror. "So, um, the not living with your - "

There was a shadow there that

looked...more solid than the rest. It moved through the air, thick like oil, slipping over the trees, spreading along the ground. Tendrils reached the back of the car, sliding over the trunk. My throat dried, lips parted.

The blade warmed in my hand. "Daemon?"


My heart thudded. "I think - "

The automatic locks unlocked and my driver's door flew open. A scream came out.

One second I was holding the phone and the next I was flying to the ground, my fingers almost losing their grip on the blade. Pain shot through my arm and side as I hid the blade behind me.

I lifted my eyes. My gaze traveled over black pants and the edges of a leather jacket.

Pale face. Strong jaw and a pair of sunglasses covered the eyes even though it was night.

Baruck smiled. "We meet again."

"Shit," I whispered.

"Tell me," he said, bending down and lifting a strand of my hair. His head swiveled to the side as he talked, moving back and forth like a bird. "Where is he?"

I swallowed thickly as I scrambled back across the ground. "Who?"

"You're going to play dumb with me?" He stepped forward and removed his sunglasses, slipping them inside his jacket. His eyes were black orbs. "Or are all humans just so stupid?" My chest rose and fell sharply. The blade was only good in his true form. And it was burning through the leather, stinging my hand.

"I want the one who killed my brothers." Daemon. My entire body was shaking. I opened my mouth but nothing came out.

"And you...you killed one of them, protecting him." He flickered out. There was my chance, but before I could move, he solidified in front of me. "Take me to him or I will make you beg for death." I shook my head, tightening my hand. "Screw you."

He faded out, becoming a mass of dark and twisted shadows. Lunging to my feet, I let out a battle-worthy scream and swung my arm around, aiming for the center of the black goo. The blade burned bright, the color of hot coals.

My jab never landed.

A smoky hand caught my arm. The touch was bone-chillingly cold. His voice was an insidious whisper among my thoughts, like a snake slithering inside my head. Do you think I'd fall for that? Pleassse...

He twisted. I heard the CRACK before I felt the pain. My fingers twitched and the blade fell to the ground, shattering into a dozen shards like nothing more than fragile glass. I screamed as a wave of pain crippled me.

That wassss for my b rother.

A shadowy hand circled my neck and lifted me off my feet. And thisss isss b ecaussse you annoy me.

Baruck threw me backward. I hit the ground hard and then slid several feet through trampled corn. Stunned, I stared up at the pitch-black night sky.

Tell me where he isss.

Gasping for air, I rolled onto my feet and took off for the trees. I ran. Holding my arm protectively against my chest, I ran as fast as I could, my sneakers slapping against the hard-packed ground and crushing grass and fallen leaves. I didn't look back. Looking back would be b ad. I tore through the woods, smacking at the low-hanging branches. Deja vu floated through me as I stumbled over exposed roots and the uneven ground.

Baruck came out of nowhere, moving past in a blur of shadows. He solidified right in front of me, throwing me off. I skidded to a stop, spinning around. He was there, too, and he knocked me to the ground.

"Did you get it out of your system, yet?" A cruel smile formed on his pale lips. "Or do you want to run more?"

I scrabbled across the dirt as I gulped in every ragged breath I could. The horror made it hard to gain any sense of control. I was out of time.

Baruck lashed out. His arm didn't hit me, but I flung back and landed with a dull thud on the ground. The air knocked out of my lungs.

Small rocks dug painfully through my jeans.

He reached down, sinking his hand in my hair and coiling it around his fist. I bit down on my lips to stop from crying out as he dragged me behind him. Material around my knees tore open. Pain radiated through me, threatening to consume me. I was sure he would pull every strand of my hair while ripping the skin off my knees.

He gave another painful yank, and I yelped.

"Oops." He stopped. "I always forget how painfully frail your kind is. I don't want to accidentally pull your head off." He then laughed at his own remark. "Not yet, at least." I grabbed his arms with my good hand, trying to lessen the pull, but it wasn't much help. He brought me into the path of branches, roots, and boulders. My muscles were screaming in protest and I hunched over, beginning to feel dizzy and moments away from succumbing to the pain.

"How are you doing down there?" he asked conversationally. Baruck abruptly pulled my head up. Sharp pain shot down my neck and back. "Doing well, I see." He stopped, and I fell the small distance to the ground. We were near the edge of the woods again. He loomed over me. "Tell me where he is." I put my skinned up hand on the ground, panting. "No." His booted foot jerked up, slamming into my side. I knew something broke. Something pretty damn bad, because there was wet warmth running under my shirt.

Tell me.

Wincing, I curled up. The coldness of his true form chilled my very soul.

He came closer. There are worssse things than what isss physisscal. Perhapsss that will motivate you.

Baruck grabbed me by the throat again, lifting me onto the tips of my toes. He leaned in and roughly pulled me against him. His face was inches from mine, consuming my world.

I can take your esssence; drain you until your heart ssstopsss. It does nothing for me, b ut jussst imagine the ssslow unending pain. Tell me where he isss.

I wasn't brave, but I wasn't going to turn Daemon over to him. If Baruck defeated him, he'd go after Dee next. I'd never be able to live with myself. I wasn't that weak of a person. I wasn't a liability out here.

I said nothing.

He pulled back and shoved his hand into my midsection. I could feel it - his shadowy hand inside me, turning every cell cold. The small space of air between us constricted and pulled.

The air in my lungs came out in a painful rush.

Just like that, I could no longer breathe.

My lungs seized as he continued to breathe in my air. The burning in my throat and lungs turned quickly to a scorching fire as sharp pain radiated out over every limb. Every cell in my body screamed, begged for relief, and in protest as my heart stuttered abnormally. It wasn't precious oxygen that he stole from me, but the very energy that kept me alive. I was losing strength fast, and the panic that was consuming me hadn't helped. My hands were numb and my one good arm hung limply at my side.

Everything slowed and the pain dulled a little. I vaguely felt his hand leave my throat, but I could not move. His powers had me hooked to him as he fed.

He said something, but I could no longer distinguish the words. I was so tired, so heavy, and only the fiery pain in the pit of my stomach kept me from slipping away. My eyes drifted shut of their own accord, and I felt him take another heavy inhale and the pain flared again.

Something snapped within me, like a cord stretched too thin. It broke and recoiled with relentless speed. A flash of bright pale blue light exploded behind my closed lids, and I was momentarily blinded. A roaring sound invaded my ears. Death had come for me.

Death sounded painful, angry, and desperate. Not peaceful. I thought that was unfair. After all that had happened, couldn't death have welcomed me with warm arms and visions of my dad waiting for me?

Without warning, a figure crashed into us and sent me spiraling to the ground in a messy heap. With intense effort, I peeled my eyes open and saw him crouched like an animal in front of me.

Daemon growled in fury as he rose, standing over me like an avenging angel, swathed in light.

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