Footsteps trotted down the hall.
Daemon faded out above me, reappearing at my desk chair. Grinning shamelessly, he picked up a book as I fixed myself.
“Book’s upside down,” I taunted, smoothing my hand over my hair.
Laughing under his breath, he turned it over and cracked it open. With seconds to spare, Mom knocked on the door and then opened it. Her eyes shot from the bed to the chair.
“Hello, Ms. Swartz,” Daemon said. “You look well-rested.”
I shot him a look and then clamped my hand over my mouth, stifling my giggles. He’d picked up one of the historical romance novels with the bodice-ripping, barrel-chested covers.
Mom arched a brow. Her expression basically read WTF, and I almost lost it. “Good evening, Daemon.” She turned to me, eyes narrowing.
Codpiece? Daemon mouthed, rolling his eyes.
“Bedroom door, Katy.” Mom headed back to the door. “You know the rules.”
“Sorry. We didn’t want to wake you.”
“How considerate, but it stays open.”
When her footsteps receded, Daemon chucked the book at my head. I raised my hand, stopping it so that it hovered, and snatched it out of the air. “Nice reading material.”
His eyes narrowed. “Shut up.”
There was no laughter as we pulled into Smoke Hole Diner’s parking lot a little before six. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Matthew’s SUV parked in the back. I seriously hoped he and Andrew paid attention.
“The DOD isn’t going to bust up in here,” Daemon said, pulling out the keys. “Not in public.”
“But Blake could freeze the entire place.”
“So can I.”
“Oh. I’ve never seen you do that.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, you have. I froze the truck. Remember? Saved your life and all?”
“Ah, yes.” I fought a grin. “You did do that.”
He reached over, flicking me gently under the chin. “Yeah, you better remember that. Plus, I’m not a show-off.”
Opening the door, I laughed. “You? Not a show-off? Okay.”
“What?” Fake outrage crossed his face as he shut the door and loped around the front of the SUV. “I’m very modest.”
“If I remember correctly, you said modesty was for saints and losers.” The bantering helped ease my nerves. “Modest is not a word I’d use to describe you.”
He dropped his arm over my shoulder. “I never said such a thing.”
Daemon shot me a roguish grin as we headed in. I scanned the restaurant for Blake, my gaze dipping over the natural rock clusters jutting out of the floors and beside the booths, but he wasn’t here yet. The server seated us in a booth near the back, cozied up to the roaring fireplace. I tried to keep myself busy by ripping the napkin into tiny pieces.
“Going to eat that or are you making homemade hamster bedding?” he asked.
I laughed. “Organic kitty litter, actually.”
A redheaded waitress appeared, wearing a bright smile. “Daemon, how are you doing? Haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Good. How about you, Jocelyn?”
Of course I had to give her more than a passing look, since the two were on a first-name basis. Not out of jealousy or anything. Yeah, right. Jocelyn was older than us but not by much. Maybe early twenties, but she was really, really pretty with all that red hair piled up in thick curls, surrounding a porcelain complexion.
Okay, she was beautiful…as in, Luxen beautiful.
I sat straighter.
“I’ve been real good,” she said. “I stepped down from managing since the babies. Working part-time instead, since they’re a handful, but you and your family should visit soon, especially since…” She looked at me for the first time, and her smile drooped. “Since Dawson has come back. Roland would love to see both of you.”
Total alien, I thought.
“We’d love to do that.” Daemon glanced at me and winked slyly. “By the way, Jocelyn, this is my girlfriend, Katy.”
I felt a ridiculous surge of pleasure as I extended my hand. “Hi.”
Jocelyn blinked, and I’d swear her face got even whiter. “Girlfriend?”
“Girlfriend,” Daemon repeated.
She recovered fast and shook my hand. A faint spark jumped from her skin to mine, and I pretended not to notice. “Nice…nice to meet you,” she said, quickly releasing my hand. “Uh, what can I get you two?”
“Two Cokes,” he ordered.
Jocelyn skedaddled off after that, and I raised my brows at Daemon. “Jocelyn…?”
He slid over another napkin for my pile. “Are you jealous, Kitten?”
“Pfft. Whatever.” I stopped tearing. “Okay, maybe a little until I realized she was in the ARP.”
“ARP?” He stood, coming to my side while saying, “Scoot.”
I scooted over. “Alien Relocation Program.”
“Ha.” He dropped his arm over the back of the booth and stretched out his legs. “Yeah, she’s good people.”
Jocelyn returned with our drinks and asked if we wanted to wait until our friend joined us to place our orders. That was a big fat no. Daemon ordered a meatloaf sandwich while I decided to eat half his order. I wasn’t sure I could stomach anything more.
He angled his body toward mine as soon as he finished deciding between fries and mashed potatoes—fries won. “Nothing’s going to happen,” he said, voice low. “Okay?”
Putting on a brave face, I nodded as I looked around the diner. “I just want to get this over with.”
Not even a minute later, the bells above the door jingled and before I could glance up, Daemon stiffened beside me. And I knew—I knew right then. My stomach lurched into my throat.
Spiky, bronze-tipped hair—styled messily with a ton of gel—came into view, and then hazel eyes locked on our table from the door.
Blake was here.
Blake had a confident air about him as he walked up to our table, but it had nothing on Daemon’s deadly swagger or the cool and arrogant smile he was wearing that instant. It was a purely predatory look.
Suddenly, I wasn’t sure a public place was a good idea.
“Bart,” Daemon drawled, his fingers tapping along the booth behind me. “It’s been so long.”
“I see you still haven’t figured out my name.” Blake slid into the seat across from us. His gaze dropped to the pile of torn napkins, then to me. “Hey, Katy.”
Daemon leaned forward. The smile was still on his face, but his words were like the arctic winds. “You don’t talk to her. At all.”
There was no stopping He-Man when he came out to play, but I pinched him under the table. Daemon ignored me.
“Well, only talking to you is going to make this conversation real rough.”
“Like I care?” Daemon said, placing his other hand on the table.
I exhaled slowly. “Okay. Let’s get to the point. Where are Beth and Chris, Blake?”
Blake’s gaze slid to mine again. “I—”
A current of electricity coursed from Daemon’s hand and shot across the table, shocking Blake. He jerked back with a hiss, his eyes narrowing on Daemon.
“Look, you tool, you can’t intimidate me this time.” Blake’s voice dripped contempt. “So you’re just wasting time and pissing me off.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Jocelyn returned with Daemon’s massive meal and took Blake’s order. Like me, he only requested a soda. When we were alone once more, I focused on Blake.
“Where are they?”
“If I tell you, I’d have to trust that you two, plus anyone else, aren’t going to give me a cement swim.”
I rolled my eyes at the mafia reference. “Trust is a two-way street.”
“And we don’t trust you,” Daemon threw out.
Blake drew in a long breath. “I don’t blame you. I’ve given you no reason to trust me other than the fact I didn’t tell Daedalus about how well the mutation held.”
“And I bet either your uncle—Vaughn—stopped you from turning me over, or you thought he was doing his job,” I countered, trying not to remember the look of horror that had settled on Blake’s face when his uncle betrayed him. He didn’t deserve my sympathy. “But he screwed you over for money.”
Blake’s jaw worked. “He did. And he put Chris in danger. But it’s not like I haven’t had to convince them otherwise after the fact. They think I’m happy to be an implant. That I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and asked for seconds.”
Daemon snickered. “To save your own ass, I’m sure.”
He ignored that comment. “The fact is, Daedalus doesn’t believe you’re a viable subject.”
“How do you know?” Daemon’s fingers tightened on his fork.
Blake shot him a duh look. “The only real wild card here is Will. Obviously he knew and used that knowledge.”
“Will isn’t our biggest or most annoying problem right now.” Daemon took a bite, chewing slowly. “You either have a lot of courage or are incredibly stupid. I’m going to go with the incredibly stupid part.”
Blake snorted. “Yeah. Okay.”
A dangerous look shadowed Daemon’s face, and for a moment, no one moved as Jocelyn returned with Blake’s drink. The second she was gone, Daemon leaned forward, his eyes starting to shine behind his lashes. “We gave you a chance and you came back here after you killed one of our own. You think I’m the only person you have to look over your shoulder and watch out for? You’re so wrong.”
A thread of fear finally showed in Blake’s churning eyes, but his voice was even. “The same goes for you, buddy.”
Daemon sat back, eyes hooded. “As long as we’re on the same page.”
“Back to Daedalus,” I said. “How do you know they’re watching Dawson?”
“I’ve been watching you guys, and I’ve seen them hanging around.” He leaned against the booth, folding his arms. “I don’t know how much work Will did to get him free, but I doubt he pulled the wool over anyone’s eyes. Dawson is free because they wanted him to be free.”
I glanced at Daemon. Blake’s suspicions mirrored our own, but that was another problem for another day, it seemed.
Blake’s gaze fell to his glass. “Here’s the deal. I know where they’re keeping Beth and Chris. I’ve never been there, but I know someone who has and can give us the security codes to get into the facility.”
“Hold up,” I said, shaking my head. “So you can’t really get us in. Someone else can?”
“Go figure.” Daemon chuckled. “Biff is virtually useless.”
Blake’s lips thinned. “I know what level and cell they’re being kept in, so without me, you’d just be running around the compound begging to be captured.”