“We don’t have a choice. Blake has it set up that if anything happens to him, Nancy will be notified about Katy and me. We can’t kill him.”
She was undeterred. “Then we find out who he’s talked to or working with and take care of them!”
Daemon’s jaw dropped. “Are you serious?”
He turned away, seconds from losing it. My stomach rolled. This whole situation was all wrong.
Beside me, Dawson leaned forward, taking on the same position that Daemon had earlier. “Is your need for vengeance more important than finding and stopping what they’re doing to Beth?”
She didn’t look away, but her lips pressed into a grim line.
All eyes were on Dawson. “Because, little sister, let me tell you that what Adam went through pales in comparison to what she’s experiencing. The things I’ve seen…” He trailed off and his gaze lowered. “If you doubt what I say, then ask Katy. She’s had a taste of some of their methods and she can still barely talk from screaming.”
Dee blanched. We hadn’t spoken, not really, since New Year’s Eve. I had no idea what she knew about my brief capture or the methods Will had used to subdue me. Her gaze flickered to mine, and she looked away all too quickly.
“You ask a lot,” she said hoarsely, lower lip trembling. But then her shoulders slumped, and she turned, walking to the front door. Without saying a word, she left.
Andrew was already behind her, shooting Daemon a look. “I’ll keep an eye on her.”
“Thank you,” he said, rubbing his palm along his jaw. “Well, that went wonderfully.”
“Did you really expect her or any of us to be okay with it?” Ash asked.
Daemon snorted. “No, but I have a problem with my sister so willing to kill.”
“I can’t…” I couldn’t even finish. Going into this, I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but Ash and Andrew were the ones I expected to want to go all serial killer—never Dee.
Matthew directed the conversation back to the present. “How do we contact Blake? It’s not something I can or wish to discuss with him in class.”
Everyone looked at me…everyone except Daemon. “What?”
“You have his number, don’t you?” Ash said, glancing at her naked nails. “Text. Call him. Whatever. And tell him we’re ridiculously stupid and plan to help him.”
I made a face but reached for my bag and dug out my cell. Sending Blake a quick text, I sighed. A second later he responded. Knots formed in my stomach. “Tomorrow evening—Saturday.” My voice sounded weak. “He wants to meet tomorrow evening in a public spot—Smoke Hole.”
Daemon gave a quick jerk of his chin.
My fingers wanted to rebel, but I typed out a quick okay and then tossed my phone back in the pack like it was a bomb about to go off in my hands. “It’s done.”
No one looked relieved. Not even Dawson. There was a very good chance that this was going to blow up in our faces like there was no tomorrow. But our choices were limited. Like Daemon had said, Dawson would go to Blake whether or not we did. And working with the enemy we knew was better than the one we didn’t.
But something cold and icky opened up in my chest.
Not because we were going to go down this road with Blake and not because Dee wanted Blake to die. But because deep down, underneath the layers of skin, muscle, and bone, hidden away from everyone, even Daemon, I also wanted Blake dead. Innocent Luxen or not… My moral code wasn’t at all offended by it. And there was something very, very wrong with that.
I hung around their house, hoping Dee would come back and I could chat with her, but everyone was leaving and she and Andrew hadn’t returned.
Standing on the front porch, I watched Ash and Matthew drive off, my heart heavy with regret and a billion other things. I didn’t need to look behind me to know that Daemon had joined me. I welcomed the warmth and strength his arms offered as they circled me from behind.
I leaned back against his chest, letting my eyes fall shut. He placed his chin atop my head and minutes passed with only the sound of a lonesome birdcall and a horn blowing off in the distance. Against my back, his heart beat steady and strong.
“I’m sorry,” he said, surprising me.
He drew in a deep breath. “I shouldn’t have flipped out over the whole Dawson thing last weekend. You did the right thing by telling him we’d help. If not, God knows what he would’ve done by now.” He paused long enough to kiss the top of my head, and I grinned. He was so forgiven. “And thank you for everything with Dawson. Even though our Saturday will take a turn into crapsville, Dawson… He’s been different since zombie night. Not the old Dawson, but close.”
I bit my lip. “You don’t need to thank me for that. Seriously.”
“I do. And I meant it.”
“Okay.” Several seconds passed. “Do you think we made a mistake? Letting Blake go that night?”
His arms tightened. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”
“We had good intentions, right? We wanted to give him a chance, I guess.” Then I laughed.
My eyes opened. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We should’ve blasted his ass.”
Daemon lowered his head, his chin now on my shoulder. “Maybe I would’ve done something like that before you.”
I turned my head toward his. “What do you mean?”
“Before you came along, I would’ve killed Blake for what he did and felt like crap afterward, but I would’ve done it.” He pressed a kiss against my fluttering pulse. “And in a way, you did convince me. Not the way Dee thinks, but you could’ve taken out Blake, and you didn’t.”
Everything about that night seemed chaotic and surreal now. Adam’s lifeless body and then the Arum that had attacked… Vaughn and the gun… Blake running… “I don’t know.”
“I do,” he said, and his lips spread into a smile against my cheek. “You make me think before I act. You make me want to be a better person—Luxen—whatever.”
I faced him completely, peering up at him. “You are a good person.”
Daemon grinned, his eyes twinkling. “Kitten, you and I both know that’s incredibly rare.”
He placed a finger over my lips. “I make terrible decisions. I can be a dickhead and I do it on purpose. I tend to bully people into doing what I want. And I let everything that had happened with Dawson amplify those…uh, personality traits. But—” He removed his finger, and his grin spread into a smile. “But you…you make me want to be different. That’s why I didn’t kill Blake. It’s why I don’t want you making those decisions or for you to be around me if I am choosing those things.”
Overwhelmed by what he’d admitted, I didn’t know what to say. But he lowered his head and kissed me, and I learned that sometimes when someone says something so devastatingly perfect, there isn’t a need for a response. The words said it all.
I spent Saturday morning with my mom. We had a greasy, artery-killing breakfast at IHOP and then wasted a couple of hours dollar-store shopping. Usually I’d rather pluck my eyelashes out than meander those aisles, but I wanted to spend time with her.
Tonight, Daemon and I were meeting Blake—only us, per his request. Matthew and Andrew were going to play parking-lot spies as backup, since Dee and Dawson, for very different reasons, had been banned from coming within a mile of the place.
There was no telling what was going to happen, though. This could be my last Saturday, my last anything with my mom. And that made the whole experience bittersweet and scary. So many times over breakfast and while in the car I wanted to tell her what was going on, but I couldn’t. And even if I could, the words probably wouldn’t have come out. She was having fun—thrilled to spend time with me—and I couldn’t bring myself to ruin it.
But the what-ifs haunted me. What if this were a trap? What if the DOD or Daedalus took us in? What if I became Beth and my mom never heard from me again? What if she moved back to Gainesville to escape the memory of me?
By the time we got home, I was pretty sure I was going to hurl. My stomach twisted and turned around the food. It was so bad that I went to lie down while Mom got some sleep before her shift started.
About an hour of staring at the wall later, Daemon texted and I responded, telling him to let himself in. No sooner had I hit send than I felt warmth shooting across the back of my neck and I rolled toward the door.
Daemon made no sound as he eased my door open and slid though, a wicked glint in his eyes. “Your mom’s asleep?”
His gaze searched my face, and then he shut the door behind him. A heartbeat later, he was sitting beside me, brows drawn tight. “You’re worried.”
How he knew was beyond me. I started to tell him that I wasn’t worried, because I hated the idea of him stressing out over me or thinking I was weak, but I didn’t want to be strong right now. I needed comfort—I wanted him. “Yeah, a little.”
He smiled. “It’s going to be okay. No matter what, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Daemon ran the tips of his fingers down my cheek, and I realized then that I could have both. I could freak out a little on the inside and need him, but I could still be strong enough to get up at six and meet our fate head-on. I could be both.
God, I needed a little of both.
Wordlessly, I scooted over, giving him room. Daemon slid under the covers, throwing a heavy arm over my waist. I curled against him, resting my head under his chin, my hands folded on his chest. Using my fingers, I drew a heart above his, and he chuckled.
We lay there for a couple of hours. Sometimes talking and laughing quietly, making sure we didn’t wake my mom. For a while, we dozed together and then I’d wake, tangled in his arms and legs. Other times, we kissed and the kissing…well, it took up most of the time.
He was just so damn good at it.
My lips felt swollen as he grinned at me, his lids heavily hooded, but behind those lashes, his eyes were like the color of dewy spring grass. Along the nape of his neck, his hair curled. I loved running my fingers through it, straightening the strands out and watching them spring back into place. And he liked when I played with it. Closing his eyes, he tilted his head to the side so I got better access, much like a cat stretching to be petted.
Ah, the little things in life.
Daemon caught my hand as I slid it around, over the thick muscles in his neck. He brought my palm to his lips. My heart did the flutter thing, and then he kissed me again…and again. His hand moved to my hip, his fingers curling into the denim before slipping under the hem of my shirt, causing my pulse to pound through me. He rolled over me, his weight doing crazy things to my stomach.
As his hand crept up, my back arched. “Daemon—”
His mouth silenced whatever it was that I was going to say, and my brain emptied. There was just him and me. What we had to do later simply disappeared off my worry radar. I moved, throwing a leg over his and my—