When the first cracks of light came through the windows, I rolled onto my side, still half asleep.

I groaned.

I had to hang out with Daemon today. And I'd tossed and turned all night, dreaming about a boy with shocking green eyes and a bikini that kept coming undone. Grabbing the latest novel I was reviewing from my nightstand, I spent the morning lounging in bed and reading, desperately trying to think of anything but our upcoming adventure.

When the sun was nearly high in the sky, I set the book aside, threw off the covers, and headed to the shower.

A few minutes later, I was standing in a towel and staring at my swimsuit options.

Horror filled me. Daemon had been right. The idea of being half naked around him did make me want to spew my Tater Tots. Even though I couldn't stand him, and I actually think he might be the first person I ever hated, he was...he was a god. Who knew the kind of girls he was used to seeing in bathing suits.

Even though I wouldn't touch him for all the money in the world, I was big enough to admit there was a part of me that wanted him to want me.

I only had three bathing suits that could be considered acceptable: a razorback one-piece.

Plain and boring. A two-piece that was a bikini top and boy shorts, and a third that was a red two-piece bikini.

I could have chosen a tent and I'd still feel uncomfortable.

Throwing the one-piece back into the closet, I held up the other two. My reflection stared back at me, a suit on each side, and I took a hard look at myself. Light brown hair fell to the middle of my back, and I was nervous of ever cutting it. My eyes were a plain gray - not magnetic or compelling like Dee's. My lips were full but not as expressive as my mom's.


I spared a glance at the red suit. I was always reserved, more cautious than my mom would ever be. The red bathing suit was anything but cautious. It was flirty, sexy even.

Something I clearly was not and, well, that bothered me. Reserved, practical Katy was safe and boring. That was who I was. Why my mom felt okay to leave me alone all the time, because I would never do anything that would make her blink twice.

The kind of girl Daemon expected he could easily boss around and intimidate. He probably expected me to wear a one-piece and keep my shorts and top on since he'd taunted me. What had he said when he first met me? That I looked like a thirteen-year-old?

A red hot feeling sparked inside me.

Screw him.

I wanted to be exciting and bold. Maybe I even wanted to shock Daemon, prove him wrong. Without a second thought, I threw the plain suit into the corner and laid the red one on my small desk.

My decision was made.

I put on the tiny scraps in record time, and a pair of denim shorts and a tank top that had pretty flowers on it over the top to hide my audacity. Once I found my sneakers, I gathered up a towel and headed downstairs.

My mom was lingering in the kitchen, the standard coffee cup in hand. "You slept late. Did you sleep well last night?" she asked expectantly.

Sometimes I wondered if my mom was psychic. Shrugging, I shuffled by her and grabbed the orange juice. I concentrated way too hard on making toast while she continued to stare at my back. "I've been reading."

"Katy?" she said after what seemed like forever.

My hand shook a bit as I buttered my toast.


"Is...is everything working out for you here? Do you like it?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it's nice."

"Good." She took a deep breath. "Are you excited about today?"

My stomach dropped as I faced her. Part of me wanted to throttle her for helping trap me in Daemon's plans, but she didn't know any better.

I knew she worried I was going to hate her for yanking me out of everything I loved and insisting we move here. "Yeah, I guess so," I lied.

"I think you will have a good time," she said. "Just be careful."

I shot her a knowing glance. "I doubt I'll get into any trouble swimming."

"Where are you guys going?"

"I don't know. He didn't say. Somewhere nearby I'm sure."

My mom made her way to the door. "You know what I mean. He's a good-looking boy." Then she gave me the I've b een there so don't try anything look before she left.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I washed out her coffee cup. I didn't think that I could sit through another birds and bees conversation, especially not now. The first one had been traumatic enough.

I shuddered at the memory.

I was so caught up reliving that horrible mother-daughter bonding moment, I jumped when someone banged against the front door.

My heart flipped as I looked at the time.

11:46 a.m.

After taking a calming breath, I stumbled over my own feet to get to the door. Daemon stood with a towel thrown casually over his shoulder.

"I'm a little early."

"I can see," I said, voice flat. "Change your mind? You could always try lying." He arched a brow. "I'm not a liar." I stared at him. "Just give me a second to grab my stuff." I didn't wait for his reply. I swung the door shut in his face. It was childish, but I felt like I'd scored a small victory. I went to the kitchen and grabbed my sneakers and stuff before returning and opening the door again.

Daemon was right where I'd left him.

Nervous excitement fluttered in my belly as I locked the front door and followed Daemon down the driveway. "Okay, so where are you taking me?"

"What fun would it be if you knew?" he asked. "You won't be surprised then."

"I'm new to town, remember? Everywhere is going to be a sur-prise for me."

"Then why ask?" He cocked a smug eyebrow.

I rolled my eyes. "We aren't driving?

Daemon laughed. "No. Where we're going you can't drive. It's not a well-known spot. Most locals don't even know about it."

"Oh, I'm special then."

"You know what I think, Kat?"

I peeked at him and caught him watching me with such serious intensity I flushed. "I'm pretty sure I don't want to know."

"I think my sister finds you very special. I'm starting to wonder if she's onto something." I smirked. "But then there's all kinds of special now, isn't there, Daemon." He seemed startled to hear his name. After a beat the intensity was gone, and he led me down the road and across the main highway. He had me curious when we entered the dense tree line on the other side of the road.

"Are you taking me out to the woods as a trick?" I asked, half serious.

He glanced over his shoulder, lashes hiding his eyes. "And what would I do out here to you, Kitten?"

I shivered. "The possibilities are endless."

"Aren't they?" He made his way easily around the thick brush and vines tangled together on the floor of the woods.

I was having a hell of a time not breaking my neck on the many exposed roots and moss-covered rocks. "Can we pretend we did this?"

"Trust me, I don't want to be doing this either." He jumped over a fallen tree. "But bitching about it isn't going to make it any easier." Turning around, he offered me his hand.

"You're such a joy to talk to." I briefly considered ignoring it, but I placed my hand in his. Static passed from his skin to mine. I bit down on my lip as he helped me over the downed tree before dropping my hand. "Thank you." Daemon looked away and continued walking. "Are you excited about school?" What? Like he cared? "It's not exciting being the newbie. You know, the whole sticking out like a sore thumb. Not fun."

"I can see that."

"You can?"

"Yeah, I can. We only have a little bit more to go."

I wanted to question him further, but why put the effort into it? He'd give me another vague answer or innuendo. "A little bit? How long have we been walking?"

"About twenty minutes, maybe a little longer. I told you it was fairly hidden."

Following him over another uprooted tree, I saw a clearing ahead beyond the trees.

"Welcome to our little piece of paradise." There was a sardonic twist to his lips.

Ignoring him, I walked into the clearing. I was amazed. "Wow. This place is beautiful."

"It is." He stood next to me, one hand cupping his eyes against the glare from the sun bouncing off the smooth surface of the water.

I could tell from the stiff set of his shoulders, this place was special to him. Just knowing that kind of made my stomach flutter. I reached up and put my hand on his arm, and he turned to face me. "Thank you for bringing me." Before Daemon could open his mouth and ruin the moment, I dropped my hand and deliberately looked away.

A creek divided the clearing, expanding into a small, natural lake. It rippled in the soft breeze.

Rocks erupted from the middle, flat and smooth-looking. Somehow, the land had been cleared in a perfect circle around the water. Large patches of flat, grassy land and wildflowers blossomed in the full sun. It was peaceful.

I went to the water's edge. "How deep is it?"

"About ten feet in most parts, twenty feet on the other side of the rocks." He was right behind me, doing that creepy, quiet walking thing. "Dee loves it here. Before you came, she spent most of her days here." To Daemon, my arrival was the beginning of the end. The apocalypse. Kat-mageddon. "You know, I'm not going to get your sister in trouble."

"We'll see."

"I'm not a bad influence," I tried again.

Things would be much easier if we could just get along. "I haven't ever gotten into trouble before."

He slipped around me, eyes on the still waters. "She doesn't need a friend like you."

"There isn't anything wrong with me," I snapped. "You know what? Forget this." He sighed. "Why do you garden?" I stopped, hands clenching. "What?"

"Why do you garden?" he asked again, still staring at the lake. "Dee said you do it so you don't think. What do you want to avoid thinking about?"

Was this caring and sharing time now? "It's none of your business."

Daemon shrugged. "Then let's go swimming."

Swimming was the last thing I wanted to do.

Drowning him? Maybe. But then he kicked off his sneakers and took off his jeans. Underneath, he had on swim trunks. Then he whipped his shirt off in one quick motion. Dayam. I'd seen guys without their shirts on before. I lived in Florida, where every guy felt the need to walk around half-dressed. Hell, I'd seen this half-naked guy before. This shouldn't be a big deal.

But man, I was so wrong.

He had a great build, not too big but more muscles than any boy his age should have.

Daemon moved with a fluid grace to the water, his muscles flexing and stretching with every step.

I wasn't sure how long I stood staring after him before he finally dived into the water. My cheeks were warm. I exhaled, realizing I'd been holding my breath. I needed to get a grip. Or a camera to memorialize this moment, because I bet I could make money from a video of him. I could make a fortune... As long as he never opened his mouth.

Daemon broke the surface several feet away from where he went under, water glistening in his hair and on the tips of his lashes. His dark hair was slicked back, bringing more focus on his eerie green eyes. "Are you coming in?" Recalling the red bathing suit I'd decided to wear, I wished I could run away. My earlier confidence had evaporated. I toed off my shoes with slow, deliberate movements, pretending to enjoy the surroundings while my heart threw itself against my ribs.

He watched for a few moments, curious.

"You sure are shy, aren't you, Kitten?" I stilled. "Why do you call me that?"

"Because it makes your hair stand up, like a kitten." Daemon was laughing at me. He pushed back farther, the water lapping at his chest. "So?

Are you coming in?"

Good God, he wasn't going to turn around or anything. And there was a challenge in his stare, as if he expected me to chicken out.

Maybe that's what he wanted - expected. There was no doubt in my mind that he knew he had an effect on girls.

Practical, boring Katy would've gone into the lake fully clothed.

I didn't want to be her. That was the whole purpose of the red bathing suit. I wanted to prove to him I wasn't easily intimidated. I was determined to win this round.

Daemon looked bored. "I'm giving you one minute to get in here."

I resisted the urge to flip him off again and took a deep breath. It wasn't as if I was getting naked, not really. "Or what?"

He moved closer to the bank of the lake. "Or I come and get you."

I scowled at him. "I'd like to see you try that."

"Forty seconds." He watched me with an intense, piercing gaze as he drifted closer.

Rubbing my hand down my face, I sighed.

"Thirty seconds." He taunted from an even shorter distance.

"Jesus," I muttered, yanking my shirt off. I thought twice about throwing it at his head. I raced to shed my shorts when he called out the last taunting reminder.

I stepped toward the edge with my hands on my hips. "Happy?"

Daemon lost his smile and stared. "I'm never happy around you."

"What did you say?" My eyes narrowed on his blank expression. He did not say what I thought he did.

"Nothing. You better get in before that blush reaches your toes."

Flushing even more under his scrutiny, I turned and walked toward the edge of the lake where the drop-off wasn't steep. The water felt great, easing the uncomfortable heat prickling my skin.

I stumbled for anything to say. "It's beautiful out here."

He watched me for a moment and then thankfully disappeared under the water. Water dripped down his face when he popped back up.

Needing to cool my face off, I went under. The cold rush was invigorating, clearing my thoughts. Resurfacing, I pushed the long clumps of hair out of my face.

Daemon eyed me from a few feet away, his cheeks above the waterline and his breath blowing the occasional bubble to break the surface tension. Something in his gaze beckoned me closer.

"What?" I asked after a stretch of silence.

"Why don't you come here?"

There was no way I was going near him. Not even if he dangled a cookie in his hand. Trust and his name didn't go together. I twisted around, dipping under the water, heading for the rocks I'd seen in the middle of the lake.

I reached them in a few strong strokes and pulled myself out of the water, onto the warm, hard surface. I started squeezing the water out of my hair. He treaded water in the middle of the lake. "You look disappointed." Daemon didn't respond. A curious, almost confused look crossed his face. "Well...what do we have here?"

I dangled my feet into the water and made a face at him. "What are you talking about now?"

"Nothing." He waded closer to me.

"You said something."

"I did, didn't I?"

"You're strange."

"You're not what I expected," he said in a hushed voice.

"What does that mean?" I asked as he made a grab for my foot, and I moved my leg out of his reach. "I'm not good enough to be your sister's friend?"

"You don't have anything in common with her."

"How would you know?" I shifted again as he reached for the other leg.

"I know."

"We have a lot in common. And I like her.

She's nice and she's fun." I scooted back, completely out of his grasp. "And you should stop being such a dick and chasing off her friends."

Daemon was quiet, and then he laughed.

"You're not really like them."

"Like who?"

Another long moment passed. The water lapped around his shoulders, tiny ripples echoing from his chest as he pushed away.

Shaking my head, I watched him disappear under the water again. I leaned back and closed my eyes. The way the warmth of the sun fell against my upturned face, and the way the heat from the rock seeped through my skin, reminded me of dozing off at the beach. Cool water tickled my toes. I could stay here all day, basking in the sun. Minus Daemon, it would've been perfect.

I had no idea what he meant by the whole not like them or needing a friend like me. It had to be more than him being a psycho overprotective brother. Pushing up, I expected to see him floating on his back, but he had disappeared. I didn't see him anywhere. I stood up, careful of the sloping rock, and scanned the lake, studying the twinkling surface for a mass of black, wavy hair.

I made another turn on the rock as unease bubbled in my stomach. Did he leave me here as a joke? But wouldn't I have heard him?

I waited, thinking that any second he would break out of the water, lungs gasping for breath, but seconds turned into a minute, and then another. I kept searching the calm surface for any sign of Daemon, growing more frantic with each sweep of my eyes.

I dragged my hair behind my ears, cupping my hand against the harsh sun. There was no way he could've held his breath this long. No way.

My breath hitched, then turned to ice in my tight chest. This was wrong. I scrambled across the rock and peered down into the still water.

Had he hurt himself somehow?

"Daemon!" I screamed.

There was no response.

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