“My boy toy?” She giggled. “He’s perfect.”

I managed to keep the conversation on Chad and how close they’d come to doing it. Of course, Lesa wanted to know about Daemon and me, and I refused to go there, much to her dismay. She admitted to wanting to live vicariously through me.

After bio, I stopped by my locker as usual and took my sweet old time changing out books. I doubted Dee wanted to see my face. The seating arrangements in the cafeteria were going to be super awkward, and I was still annoyed with Daemon. By the time I’d finished grabbing books, the hall was empty and the hum of conversation was distant.

I closed the locker door and twisted halfway, closing the flap on the messenger bag my mom had gotten me for Christmas. Something moved at the end of the once-empty corridor, coming out of what seemed like nowhere. A tall and slender form at the end of the hall, obviously male by the quick look, and he was wearing a baseball cap, which was odd, because that was in violation of the school dress code. It was one of those God-awful trucker hats that guys found cool once upon a time.

Drifter was written in bold black and behind the words was an oval shape…that looked a lot like a surfboard.

My pulse spiked and I blinked, taking a step back. The guy was gone, but the door to the left was slowly swinging closed.

No…no, it couldn’t be. He’d be crazy insane to come back here, but… Holding my bag tightly to my side, I started walking and then I was jogging before I knew it. I hit the door, throwing it open. Rushing to the railing, I peered over it. Mystery Dude was on the bottom level, as if he were waiting at the door.

I could see the trucker hat more clearly. It was definitely a surfboard.

Blake had been an avid surfer when he lived in California.

Then a golden-toned hand, as if the person spent his life under the sun, wrapped around the silver doorknob, and a wave of familiarity raised the tiny hairs on my arms.

Oh, crap.

Part of my brain clicked off. I went down the steps three at a time, my breath locked in my chest. The hallway was more crowded on the first floor as people headed for the cafeteria. I heard Carissa call my name, but I was focused on the top of the trucker hat moving toward the gymnasium and the back entrance, leading to the parking lots.

I darted around a couple totally getting into hallway PDA, slipped between friends talking, and lost sight of the hat for a second. Dammit. Everyone and their mother were in my way. I bumped into someone, mumbling an apology, and kept going. When I reached the end of the hall, the only place he could’ve gone was out the door. I didn’t think twice. Pushing the heavy double doors open, I stepped outside. Overcast skies turned everything dreary and cold, and as my eyes scanned the common area and, beyond that, the parking lots, I realized he was gone.

Only two things in this world could move that fast: aliens and humans mutated by aliens.

And I had no doubt in my mind that I’d seen Blake, and he’d wanted me to see him.

Chapter 8

Finding Daemon wasn’t hard at all. He was lounging against the painted mural of the school mascot in the cafeteria, talking to Billy Crump, a boy from our trig class. A carton of milk was in one hand and a slice of pizza folded in the other. What a gross-as-hell combination.

“We need to talk,” I said, interrupting boy time.

Daemon took a bite of his pizza while Billy glanced down at me. There must’ve been something in my stare, because his smile faded and he lifted his hands, backing up slowly.

“Okay, well, I’ll talk to you later, Daemon.”

He nodded, eyes trained on me. “What’s up, Kitten? Come to apologize?”

My eyes narrowed, and for a brief moment, I entertained the idea of body slamming him in the middle of the cafeteria. “Uh, no, I’m not here to apologize. You owe me an apology.”

“How do you see that?” He took a drink, appearing naively curious.

“Well, for starters, I’m not an ass. You are.”

He chuckled as he glanced to the side. “That’s a good start.”

“And I got Dawson to heel.” I smiled victoriously when his eyes narrowed. “And— Wait. This isn’t even important. God, you always do this.”

“Do what?” His intense gaze swung back to me without a trace of anger. More like amusement and something really inappropriate, given that we were standing in the lunchroom. Dear God…

“Distract me with the inane. And in case you don’t know what that means, it’s silly—you always distract me with something silly.”

He finished off his pizza. “I know what inane means.”

“Shocker,” I retorted.

A slow, cat-got-the-canary grin pulled at his lips. “I must be really distracting you, because you still haven’t told me what you need to talk to me about.”

Dammit. He was right. Ugh. Taking a deep breath, I focused. “I saw—”

Daemon cupped my elbow, spun me around, and started down the aisle. “Let’s go somewhere more private.”

I tried to yank my elbow from his grasp. I really hated it when he went all He-Man on me and ordered me around. “Stop dragging me, Daemon. I can walk on my own, Doofus.”

“Uh huh.” He led me down the hall, stopping by the gym doors. He placed his hands on either side of my head, caging me in as he leaned down. His forehead brushed mine. “Can I tell you something?”

I nodded.

“I find it incredibly attractive when you’re all feisty with me.” His lips brushed against my temple. “That probably makes me disturbed. But I like it.”

Yeah, it kind of was wrong, but there was something…hot about how quickly he defended me whenever something happened.

His nearness was tempting, especially when his breath was tantalizingly warm and so near my lips. Summoning my willpower, I placed my hands on his chest and pushed lightly. “Focus,” I said, not sure who I was talking to, me or him. “I have something more important to tell you than what disturbing things get you hot.”

His lips quirked into a grin. “Okay, back to what you saw. I’m focused. My head’s in the game and all that.”

I laughed under my breath but sobered up pretty quickly. In no way was Daemon going to respond well to this. “I’m pretty sure I saw Blake today.”

Daemon cocked his head to the side. “Say what?”

“I think I saw Blake here, just a few minutes ago.”

“How sure are you? Did you see him—his face?” He was all business now, eyes as sharp as a hawk’s and his face set in grim lines.

“Yeah, I saw—” I hadn’t seen his face. Biting down on my lip, I glanced down the hall. Students piled out of the cafeteria, pushing into one another, laughing. I swallowed. “I didn’t see his face.”

He let out a long breath. “Okay. What did you see?”

“A hat—a trucker hat.” God, that sounded lame. “That had a surfboard on it. And I saw his hand…” And that sounded even worse.

His brows arched up. “So, let me get this right. You saw a hat and a hand?”

“Yeah.” I sighed, shoulders slumping.

Daemon smoothed out his expression and placed a heavy arm around my shoulder. “Are you really sure it was him? Because if not, that’s okay. You’ve been under a lot of stress.”

I wrinkled my nose. “I remember you saying something like that to me before. You know, when you were trying to hide what you were from me. Yeah, I remember that.”

“Now, Kitten, you know this is different.” He squeezed my shoulders. “Are you sure, Kat? I don’t want to get everyone freaking out if you’re not sure.”

What I’d experienced was more of a feeling than a true sighting of Blake. God knew that a ton of boys around here broke the dress code with atrocities such as trucker hats. The thing was, I hadn’t seen his face and looking back, I couldn’t be 100 percent sure it had been Blake.

I looked into Daemon’s bright gaze and felt my cheeks burn. There wasn’t judgment in his eyes. More like sympathy. He thought I was cracking under the pressure of everything. Maybe I was imagining stuff.

“I’m not sure,” I said finally, casting my eyes down.

And those words soured in my stomach.

Later that night, Daemon and I did babysitting duty. Although Dawson had promised not to do his own search-and-rescue mission, I knew Daemon wasn’t comfortable leaving him alone and Dee wanted to get out tonight, go to the movies or something.

I wasn’t invited.

Instead, I was sitting in between Daemon and Dawson, four hours into a George Romero zombiethon, with a bowl of popcorn in my lap and a notebook resting against my chest. We’d been making plans to look for Beth, getting as far as listing the two places that we knew to check before deciding to do surveillance this weekend to see what kind of security they had going on now. By the start of Land of the Dead, the zombies got uglier and smarter.

And I was having fun.

“I had no idea you were a zombie fan.” Daemon grabbed a handful of popcorn. “What is it—the blood and guts or the in-your-face social undertones?”

I laughed. “Mostly the blood and guts.”

“That’s so un-girlie of you,” Daemon commented, brows knitting as a zombie started to use its meat cleaver to break through a wall. “I don’t know about this. How many hours do we have left?”

Dawson raised his arm and two DVDs shot into his hand. “Uh, we have Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead.”

“Great,” Daemon muttered.

I rolled my eyes. “Wussy.”

“Whatever.” He elbowed me, knocking a kernel of popcorn between my chest and notebook. I sighed. “Want me to get that for you?” he asked.

Shooting him a look, I dug it out and then tossed it in his face. “You’re going to be grateful when the zombie apocalypse occurs and I know what to do because of my zombie fetish.”

He looked doubtful. “There are better fetishes out there, Kitten. I could show you a few.”

“Uh, no, thank you.” But I did flush. And there were a lot of images that suddenly polluted my brain.

“Aren’t you supposed to go to the nearest Costco or something?” Dawson asked, letting the DVDs float back to the coffee table.

Daemon turned to his twin slowly, face incredulous. “And how would you know that?”

He shrugged. “It’s in the Zombie Survival Guide.”

“It is.” I nodded eagerly. “Costco has everything—thick walls, food, and supplies. They even sell guns and ammunition. You could hole up there for years while the zombies are getting their nom nom on.”

Daemon’s mouth dropped open.

“What?” I grinned. “Zombies got to eat, too, you know.”

“Very true about the Costco thing.” Dawson picked up a single kernel and popped it in his mouth. “But we could just blast the zombies. We’d be fine.”

“Ah, good point.” I rooted around in the bowl for a half-popped kernel—my favorite.

“I’m surrounded by freaks,” Daemon said, looking dumbfounded as he shook his head, but I knew he was secretly thrilled.