He couldn’t be serious. The chairs at the top wobbled, and I knew I was seconds away from being buried under the damn things.
“Without me, you’ll never find her and all you’ll do is walk right into Daedalus’s hands.” He took another step back. Over his shoulder, the air was distorted in waves. The kind of power he was throwing off…
“You need me,” he said. “And yeah, I need you guys. I can’t get to Chris alone.”
Okay, he was being for real. “Why in the world would we trust you?”
“You don’t have a choice.” He cleared his throat and the chairs rattled. My gaze dropped. The legs of those on the bottom bent toward him. “You’ll never find her, and Dawson will end up doing something crazy.”
“We’ll take our chances.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.” Blake picked up my bag and placed it on the teacher’s desk. “Either you all help me or I go to Nancy Husher and tell her just how powerful you are.” At the sound of her name, I sucked in a sharp breath. Nancy worked for the DOD and most likely Daedalus. “I never reported back to her and since Vaughn was working with Will Michaels, neither did he,” he continued. “She thinks your mutation wore off. And handing over that kind of information might save my ass. It might not, but either way, they will come for you now. And before you think getting rid of me fixes this, you’re wrong. I have a message that will be delivered to her if anything happens to me, which tells what you’re capable of and exposes Daemon as the one who mutated you. Yeah, I’ve thought of everything.”
Anger raged inside me and the chairs really started to shake. In seconds, he’d stripped away whatever power I truly gained, leaving me helpless. “You rat bastard…”
“I’m sorry.” He was at the door now, and dear God, I was an idiot, because he looked and sounded sincere. “I didn’t want it to come to this, but you understand, right? You even said it yourself. You’ll do anything to protect your friends. We really aren’t that different, Katy.”
Then he opened the door and slipped out. The wall of chairs crumbled, spilling out across the floor. Kind of ironic how they fell upon themselves, just like my whole life was collapsing onto itself.
In a daze, I stepped out of the demolished classroom and made it halfway through the hall before the stairwell door swung open and Daemon burst through.
His eyes were an incredibly bright green when his gaze landed on me, and he took about four ground-eating steps before he was in front of me, grasping my shoulders. Behind him were Matthew and a slightly-confused-looking Dawson, but Daemon…I’d never seen him so furious, and that was saying something.
“We’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said, jaw clenched.
Matthew appeared at our sides. “Did you see where he went? Blake?”
Like I needed the clarification. Then I realized they didn’t know I’d been with him. How much time had passed in that room? It felt like hours but could’ve only been minutes. And if Blake had frozen everyone outside the room, the other Luxen would’ve known, because it wouldn’t have affected them. So Blake must not have affected anything out of the room.
I swallowed, knowing Daemon’s reaction was going to be epic. “Yeah, he…wanted to talk.”
Daemon went rigid. “What?”
I glanced nervously at Matthew. His expression was serene compared to the rage boiling from Daemon’s gaze. “He’s been watching us. I don’t think he ever left.”
Daemon dropped his hands and backed off, thrusting his fingers through his hair. “I cannot believe he’s here. He has a death wish.”
Confusion slipped from Dawson’s expression, replaced by curiosity as he inched around his twin. “Why was he watching us?”
And here comes the kicker, I thought. “He wants us to help get Chris.”
Daemon whipped around so fast he would’ve pulled a muscle if he were human. “Come again?”
As quickly as I could, I told them what Blake had said, leaving out the part about turning Daemon and me over to Nancy. I figured that was something best communicated in private. Good call, because Daemon almost went full Luxen mode right there.
Matthew shook his head. “He…he can’t think we would trust him.”
“I don’t think he cares if we do,” I said, tucking my hair back. All I wanted to do was sit down and eat a box of sugar cookies, my hands beginning to shake from exhaustion.
“But does he really know where they are keeping Beth?” Dawson’s eyes were feverish.
“I don’t know.” I leaned against a locker. “There’s no telling with him.”
Dawson shot forward, suddenly in my face. “Did he say anything—anything we can use to find her?”
I blinked, surprised by his sudden animation. “No. Not really. I—”
“Think,” Dawson ordered, head lowered. “He had to have said something, Katy.”
Daemon clasped his brother’s shoulder, wheeling him away. “Back off, Dawson. I mean it.”
He shrugged Daemon’s hand away, body coiled tight. “If he knows—”
“Don’t go there,” Daemon interrupted him. “He was sent here by the DOD to determine if Kat was a viable subject. To do to her what they are doing to Beth. He killed Adam, Dawson. We are not working with—”
My legs had started to wobble, and I swayed a little to the left. I really couldn’t even begin to figure out how Daemon knew, but he spun toward me before I could straighten. Strong arms went around my waist, tucking me to his side.
Daemon’s brows were dark slashes above his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
My cheeks burned. “I’m okay. Really, I am.”
“You’re lying.” His voice dropped low, dangerous. “Did you fight him?” And then his voice went even lower and a chill ran down my spine. “Did he try to hurt you? Because I swear right now, I will tear through this state—”
“I’m okay.” I tried to wiggle free, but his arm was like a vise grip. “I used more of the attack first, ask questions later approach. I tired myself out, but he didn’t hurt me.”
Daemon didn’t look convinced, but he turned his attention back to his brother. “I know you want to believe that Blake can help us somehow, but he can’t be trusted.”
Dawson looked away, a muscle ticking in his jaw. Frustration rolled off him in waves.
“Daemon’s right.” Matthew planted his hands on his hips. At the end of the hall, the door opened and two teachers entered, carrying steaming cups and papers. “But this is not the place to discuss any of this. After school, your house.”
And with that, he spun in the other direction and stalked off.
“I know what you’re going to say,” Dawson said sharply. “I’m not going to do anything reckless. I promised both of you I wouldn’t and I’m keeping my end of the deal. You better keep yours.”
Daemon wasn’t relieved as he watched Dawson head in the opposite direction. “This isn’t good,” he said.
“You have no idea.” I glanced up at him and waited for the teachers to disappear into their classrooms. “Trusting Blake may be a moot point.”
His eyes narrowed as he turned, angling his body as if he was shielding me. “What are you saying?”
I prayed he didn’t lose it. “Blake confirmed what Will had said. The DOD and Daedalus believe my mutation wore off. Good news, right? But he’s desperate—more so than we realized. If we don’t agree to help him, he plans to turn us over.”
Daemon’s reaction was as expected. There was now a fist-sized indent in the locker beside us, and I grabbed his arm, dragging him into the nearby stairwell before teachers started inspecting the source of the noise.
Helpless anger seeped into the air and settled over him like a blanket. He knew what I wasn’t willing to say yet. Like with Will, we’d been blackmailed—trapped again, and what could we do? Refuse to go along with Blake and be turned over? Or trust someone who had already proven he wasn’t worthy of such a thing?
God, we were screwed to the tenth degree.
I could tell Daemon wanted to ditch school and search the entire county, but he also didn’t want to leave me alone…no matter how hard I worked to convince him that, of all places, I was the safest at school. Because apparently I wasn’t, not when Blake was back, acting like a normal student. And Blake knew that as long as he stayed around people, there was nothing we could do.
Throughout the rest of the day, I expected to see Blake again, but I didn’t. When the final bell rang, I wasn’t surprised when Daemon met me at my locker. “I’m riding home with you,” he said.
“Sure.” No point in arguing over this. “But how is Dolly getting home?”
He cracked a grin, loving it when I called his car by its stupid name. “I rode in with Dee this morning. Andrew and Ash are riding with her home.”
I let that sink in, wondering when Dee had become so close with them. She had never been a big fan of theirs and their human-hating tendencies. So much had changed, and I knew I hadn’t even seen the full spectrum yet.
“Do you think he’d really turn us over?” I asked once we were inside my little sedan. Outside, the bare trees surrounding the parking lot rattled like a thousand dry bones.
“He’s obviously desperate.” Daemon tried to stretch out his long legs, grumbling. “Blake killed already to protect his friend, and the only way for Blake to keep him safe is either by turning you over, as he was originally sent to do, or for us to help him. So, yeah, I believe he’d still do it.”
I gripped the steering wheel, welcoming the lava-like anger suffusing my skin. We’d let Blake go, giving him a chance to get as far away as he could, and he came back to manipulate us. How ungrateful was that?
I glanced at Daemon. “What are we going to do?”
His jaw worked. “We have two options: work with him or kill him.”
My eyes popped. “And you’d be the one to do that? Not right. It shouldn’t always be you. You’re not the only Luxen who can fight.”
“I know, but I can’t expect someone else to carry that burden.” He looked at me.
“And I’m not trying to start another argument over whether or not you’d make a good Wonder Woman, but I’d never expect you or my siblings to do that, either. I know you would have done it to…defend yourself and us, Kat, but I don’t want that kind of guilt on your shoulders. Okay?”
I nodded. Imagining what I felt already, just magnified, twisted my insides. “I could handle it…if I had to.”
A heartbeat passed, and I felt his hand on my cheek. I took my eyes off the road for a second. He smiled a little. “You burn bright, to me at least, and I know you could handle it, but the last thing I want is your light to be tainted by something so dark.”
Stupid girlie tears burned my eyes and the road became a bit blurry. I couldn’t let them fall, because crying over him saying something sweet really didn’t help the “I’m A Badass” case. But I gave him a watery smile, and I think he understood.