Blake glanced over his shoulder and said, “I think he liked you, Daemon.”

“Shut up,” Daemon said.

Blake let out a low laugh and went in, and my legs carried me through a tight hallway that suddenly spilled into a different world. One full of shadowed enclaves and flashing strobe lights, and the smell alone was almost overwhelming. Not bad, but a potent mixture of sweat, perfume, and other questionable aromas. The bitter taste of alcohol was thick in the air.

Blue, red, and white lights streamed and dazzled over the teeming throng of undulating bodies in dizzying intervals. If I were prone to seizures, I’d be on the floor in a heartbeat. All the bare skin—mostly female—shimmered like the girls had been dusted with glitter. The dance floor was packed, bodies moving, some in rhythm, others just thrusting. Beyond it was a raised dance stage. A girl with long, blonde hair whirled in the center of the chaos; her slender body was short but she moved like a dancer, all graceful and fluid motions as she spun.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She stopped spinning; her lower half still swayed in tune to the beat as she shoved the damp hair back. Her face was radiant with innocence, her smile beautiful and wide. She was young—too young to be in a place like this.

Then again, as my eyes scanned the crowd, a lot of the kids were definitely not of drinking age. Some were, but the vast majority looked like they were our age.

But the most interesting part was what was above the stage. Cages hung from the ceiling, occupied by scantily clad girls. Go-go dancers was what my mom would’ve called them. I wasn’t sure what the name was now, but the chicks had on some kick-ass boots. The top halves of their faces were covered with glittery masks. All of them had hair that was all the colors of the rainbow.

I glanced down at the skin between my denim skirt and cropped sweater. Yeah, I really could’ve gone crazier.

Even stranger, there wasn’t a table or set of chairs anywhere I could see. There were couches peeking out of the shadowed sidelines, but there was no way in hell I’d sit on those things.

Daemon’s hand was firmly on my back as he bent over, speaking into my ear. “A little out of your element, Kitten?”

Funny thing was, Daemon still stood out in this crowd. He was a good head taller than most, and none of them moved like him or looked like him. “I think you should’ve gone with the eyeliner.”

His lips quirked up. “Not ever going to happen.”

Blake moved in front of us as we followed him around the dance floor, the fast techno beat easing off and another picking up, heavy on the drums.

Everyone stopped.

Fists suddenly shot into the air, followed by shouts, and my eyes widened. Was there going to be a mosh pit? A part of me kind of wanted to try that out. The angry beat may have had something to do with it. The cage girls slammed their hands against the bars. The pretty girl on the stage with all that blond hair had disappeared.

Daemon’s hand slid to mine and squeezed. My ears strained to pick up the lyrics over the screams. Safe from pain and truth and choice and other poison devils… The yells picked up, drowning out everything except the drums.

The hair rose on the back of my neck.

There was definitely something up with this club. Not right… Not right at all.

We rounded the bar and entered a narrow hallway. People were against the walls, so close to one another I couldn’t tell where one body began and another ended. A guy peered up from the neck he was busy with, and his heavily kohl-outlined eyes met mine.

He winked.

I quickly looked away. Note to self: do not make eye contact.

Before I knew it, we’d stopped at a door that read Personnel Only, but the Personnel part had been scratched out and someone had written Freaks in permanent marker.


Blake went to rap his knuckles on the door, but it cracked open first. I couldn’t see who was behind it. I glanced over my shoulder. Kohl Eyes was still watching. Skeevy.

“We’re here to see Luc,” Blake said.

Whatever the mystery person behind the door said didn’t look good, because Blake’s spine went rigid. “Tell him it’s Blake, and he owes me.” There was a pause and the back of his neck flushed red. “I don’t care what he’s doing; I need to see him.”

“Great,” Daemon muttered, his body tensing and relaxing in intervals. “He’s friendless as usual.”

Another garbled response and the door opened a little more. Then Blake growled, “Dammit, he owes me. These people are cool. Trust me. No bugs here.”

Bugs? Oh, another word for implants.

Finally Blake turned to us, his brows drawn tightly. “He wants to talk to me first. Alone.”

Daemon drew up to his full height. “Yeah, not gonna happen.”

Blake didn’t back down. “Then nothing’s going to happen. Either you do as he wants and someone will come for you, or we made this trip for nothing.”

I could tell Daemon wasn’t cool with this, and I hadn’t sat through the car ride from hell and brought out my inner stripper for nothing. Rising onto my toes, I pressed against his back. “Let’s dance.” Daemon turned halfway, eyes flashing. I tugged on his hand. “Come on.”

He relented and as he turned completely, over his shoulder I saw the door open and Blake slid through. A bad feeling settled in my stomach, but there wasn’t anything we could do now that we were here.

The drums had faded off, and a somewhat familiar song had started. Taking a deep breath, I pulled Daemon out to the floor, slipping around bodies as I searched out a spot. Finding one, I pivoted around.

He watched me curiously, almost like he was saying, Are we really doing this? We were. Dancing seemed crazy when so much rested on the information we’d come for, but I pushed away our reasons for coming here. Closing my eyes and drawing on courage, I stepped up to him, draped an arm around his neck, and placed my other hand on his waist.

I started to move against him, like the other dancers were, because in reality, when guys danced, they sort of just stood there and let the girls do all the work. If I remembered correctly from the few times I’d snuck off to clubs with friends in Gainesville, the girls made the guys look good.

It took a few seconds of stiffness to find the beat to the song and loosen up muscles that hadn’t really seen any action recently, but when I did, the rhythm of the music resonated in my head and then through my body, my limbs. Swaying to the music, I whirled around and my shoulders moved with my hips. Daemon’s arm crept around my waist, and I felt his chin graze my neck.

“Okay. I might have to thank Blake for being friendless,” he said into my ear.

I smiled.

His arm tightened as the beat picked up and so did my movements. “I think I like this.”

All around us, bodies were slick and shiny with sweat, as if they’d been dancing for years. That was the thing about places like this—you get caught up and hours go by but it only feels like long minutes.

Daemon spun me back to him, and I was on the tips of my boots, facing him. His head lowered, forehead pressing against mine, our lips brushing. A rush of power went through Daemon, transferring to my skin, and in the flashing lights, we were lost in this world. Our bodies surged with the beat, fitting together fluidly while others seemed to thrash beside us, never able to find the right sync.

When Daemon’s lips pressed more firmly against mine, I opened up, not losing the rhythm even though he was stealing my breath. My—our hearts were pounding, hands grabbing, clutching, his slipping over the curve of my back, and behind my lids, I saw a pinprick of white light.

Sliding my hands across his cheeks, I kissed him back. Static flowed, cascading off our bodies in streams of reddish-white light that was hidden under the flickering strobe lights, flowing over the floor like a wave of electricity. And all around us, people danced, either oblivious to the shocks or fueled by them, but I didn’t care. Daemon’s hands were on my hips, tugging me closer, and we were so gonna end up like one of those ambiguous couples in the hallway.

The music may’ve stopped or changed or whatever, but we were still pressed together, practically devouring each other. And maybe later, tomorrow or next week, I might be embarrassed by the PDA, but not now.

A hand landed on Daemon’s shoulder, and he whirled away. With a second to spare, I grabbed his arm, stopping his fist from saying hello to Blake’s jaw.

Blake smiled and yelled over the blaring music, “Are you guys having sex or dancing?”

My cheeks flared. Okay, maybe right now I’d be embarrassed.

Daemon growled something and Blake took a step back, hands going up. “Sorry,” he shouted. “Geez. He’s ready to see us if you’re done eating each other’s faces.”

Blake was going to get punched at some point.

Taking my hand again, I followed Daemon and Blake back through the snake-like bodies and down the hallway. My heart was still racing, my chest rising and falling too fast. That dance…

Kohl Eyes was gone and this time when Blake went to knock, the door opened all the way. I followed, hoping my face wasn’t burning.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find behind the door. Maybe a smoky, dark room with men wearing sunglasses, cracking their knuckles, or another big guy in overalls, but I wasn’t expecting what I found.

The room was large and the air clean, vanilla-scented. There were several couches, one occupied by a boy with shoulder-length brown hair tucked back behind his ears. Like the girl I’d seen dancing earlier, he was young. Maybe fifteen, if that, and he had holes in his jeans the size of Mars. Around his wrist was a silver cuff that circled a strange stone. It was black, but not obsidian. In the center of the stone, there was a reddish-orange flame and below it, speckles of blue and green.

Whatever stone it was, it was beautiful and expensive looking.

The kid glanced up from the DS he was playing on, and I was kind of dumbstruck by his boyish beauty. Eyes the color of amethyst locked with mine briefly and then went back to the game. That kid was going to be a looker one day.

Then I realized Daemon had stiffened and was staring at a guy in a leather chair. Stacks of hundreds were splayed across the desk in front of an icy-blond guy who was staring back at Daemon, brilliant silver eyes wide with shock.

The guy was probably in his early thirties, and my God, he was gorgeous.

Daemon stepped forward. The guy stood. And my heart sped up. My worst fears spread through me like wildfire. “What’s going on?” I asked. Even Blake seemed nervous.

The kid on the couch coughed out a laugh, closing his DS. “Aliens. They have this wacky internal system that lets them sniff each other out. Guess neither of them was expecting to see the other.”

I turned to the kid slowly.

He sat up, swinging his legs off the couch. He would’ve had a baby face if it wasn’t for the keen intelligence in his eyes or the experience set in the hard lines of his mouth. “So, you crazy kids want to break into the Daedalus stronghold and you want my help?”

I gaped. Luc was a mother-freaking kid.

Chapter 15

I waited for the kid to yell, “Psyche!” and scamper off to the nearest playground, but as the seconds stretched out, I came to accept that our messiah of information was barely a teen.