Matthew sat on the edge of the recliner, looking like he needed some liquor. “That’s good, but it’s not good.”
“No shit,” Ash snapped. Upon a closer look, she wasn’t the picture perfect ice princess today. Her hair hung limply around her face, and she wore sweats. I didn’t think I’d ever seen her in sweats. “That’s another dead DOD Officer. How many does that make it? Two?”
Well, actually, that made it number four, but they didn’t need to know that.
She tucked her hair back, her chipped fingernails pressing into her cheeks. “They’re going to wonder where they are, you know? People don’t disappear.”
“People disappear all the time,” Dawson said quietly without turning around, his words sucking the oxygen from the air.
Ash’s bright sapphire eyes slid to him. Well, everyone pretty much looked at Dawson, since that was the first time he’d spoken since we all gathered. She shook her head but wisely remained quiet.
“What about the camera?” Matthew asked.
I picked up the melted thing, turning it over. Warmth still radiated from it. “If there’re pictures, they’re gone now.”
Dawson turned around. “He was watching this house.”
“We know,” Daemon said, moving closer to me.
His brother tilted his head to the side and when he spoke, his voice was empty. “Does it matter what was on the camera? They were watching you—her. All of us.”
Another shudder rolled through me. It was his tone more than anything that got to me.
“But next time, we need to kind of…oh, I don’t know, talk first and then throw people through windows later.” Daemon crossed his arms. “Can we try that?”
“And we can just let killers go?” Dee said, voice shaking as her eyes darkened, flashing with fury. “Because that’s apparently what should happen. I mean, that Officer could’ve killed one of us, and you would have just let him go.”
Oh, no. My stomach sank.
“Dee,” Daemon said, stepping forward. “I know—”
“Don’t ‘I know, Dee’ me.” Her lower lip trembled. “You let Blake go.” Her gaze moved to me, and it felt like a kick in the stomach. “Both of you let Blake go.”
Daemon shook his head as he unfolded his arms. “Dee, there was enough killing that night. Enough death.”
Dee reacted as though Daemon had hit her with his words, wrapping her arms around her waist for protection.
“Adam wouldn’t have wanted that,” Ash said quietly, sitting back against the couch. “More deaths. He was such a pacifist.”
“Too bad we can’t ask him how he really feels about it, isn’t it?” Dee’s spine stiffened, as though she was forcing herself to bite out her next words. “He’s dead.”
Apologies bubbled up in my throat, but before they could break free, Andrew spoke. “Not only did you guys let Blake go, you lied to us. From her?” He gestured at me. “I don’t expect loyalty. But you? Daemon, you kept everything from us. And Adam died.”
I whipped around. “Adam’s death isn’t Daemon’s fault. Don’t put that on him.”
“Then whose is it?” Dee’s gaze met mine. “Yours?”
I sucked in a sharp breath. “Yeah, it is.”
Daemon’s body went rigid beside me, and then, always the referee, Matthew jumped in. “All right, guys, that’s enough. Fighting and casting blame isn’t helping anyone.”
“It makes us feel better,” Ash muttered, closing her eyes.
I blinked back tears and sat on the edge of the table, frustrated that I was even close to crying because I didn’t own the right to those tears. Not like they did. Squeezing my knees until my fingers dug in through the soft material, I let out a breath.
“Right now, we need to get along,” Matthew went on. “All of us, because we have lost too much already.”
There was a pause and then, “I’m going after Beth.”
Everyone in the room turned to Dawson again. Not a single thing had changed in his expression. No emotion. Nothing. And then everyone started talking at once.
Daemon’s voice boomed over the chaos. “Absolutely not, Dawson—no way.”
“It’s too dangerous.” Dee stood, clasping her hands together. “You’ll get captured, and I won’t survive that. Not again.”
Dawson’s expression remained blank, like nothing his friends or family had said made any difference to him. “I have to get her back. Sorry.”
It looked like a dumbfounded stick had smacked Ash in the face. I probably looked the same. “He’s insane,” she whispered. “Freaking insane.”
Matthew leaned forward. “Dawson, I know, we all know, that Beth means a lot to you, but there’s no way you can get her. Not until we know what we’re dealing with.”
Emotion flashed in Dawson’s eyes, turning them forest green. Anger, I realized. The first emotion I’d seen from Dawson was anger. “I know what I’m dealing with. And I know what they are doing to her.”
Prowling forward, Daemon stopped in front of his brother, legs spread wide, arms crossed again, ready for battle. Standing together like that, it was surreal seeing them. They were identical, with the exception of Dawson’s thinner frame and shaggier hair.
“I cannot allow you to do that,” Daemon said, voice so low I barely heard him. “I know you don’t want to hear that, but no way.”
Dawson didn’t budge. “You don’t have a say over it. You never did.”
At least they were talking. That was a good thing, right? Somehow I knew that the two brothers going toe-to-toe was oddly comforting as much as it was distressing. Something Daemon and Dee thought they’d never experience again.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dee moving toward them, but Andrew reached out, catching her hand and stopping her.
“I’m not trying to control you, Dawson. It’s never been about that, but you just got back from hell. We just got you back.”
“I’m still in hell,” Dawson replied. “And if you get in my way, I will drag you down with me.”
A look of pain shot across Daemon’s face. “Dawson…”
I jumped to my feet, reacting to Daemon’s response without thinking. An unknown urge propelled me to do so. I guess that urge was love, because I didn’t like the pain flickering across his face. Now I understood why my mom got all Mama Bear sometimes when she thought I was threatened or upset.
A wind blew through the living room, stirring the curtains and flipping the pages of Mom’s magazines. I felt the girls’ eyes on me and their surprise, but I was focused.
“All right, the alien testosterone right now is a little too much, and I really don’t want to have an alien brawl in my house on top of the broken window and the dead body that came through it.” I took a breath. “But if you two don’t knock it off, I’ll kick both of your asses.”
Now everyone was staring at me. “What?” I demanded, cheeks flushing.
A slow, wry smile teased Daemon’s lips. “Simmer down, Kitten, before I have to get you a ball of yarn to play with.”
Annoyance flared deep inside me. “Don’t start with me, jerk-face.”
He smirked as he focused on his brother.
Beside him, Dawson looked sort of…amused. Or in pain—one of the two, because he really wasn’t smiling or frowning. But then, without saying a word, he stalked out of the living room, the front door slamming shut behind him.
Daemon glanced at me, and I nodded. Sighing deeply, he followed his brother, because there really was no telling what Dawson would do or where he would go.
The alien Kumbaya fell apart after that. I followed them to the door, my attention fixed on Dee. We so needed to talk. First off, I had to apologize for a lot of things, and then I had to try to explain myself. Forgiveness wasn’t expected, but I needed to try to talk.
I clenched the door knob until my knuckles bleached. “Dee…?”
She stopped on the porch, back straight. She didn’t face me. “I’m not ready.”
And with that, the front door tore free from my hand and swung shut.
Already treading on thin ice with my mom, I decided not to mention the whole window thing when she called later in the evening, checking in. I was hoping and praying the roads were cleared enough to get someone out here to fix the window before Mom could make her way home.
I hated lying to her, though. All I’d been doing lately was lying to her, and I knew I needed to tell her everything, especially about her supposed boyfriend, Will. But how would this kind of conversation go? Hey, Mom, our neighbors are aliens. One of them accidentally mutated me, and Will is a psycho. Any questions?
Yeah, that was so not going to happen.
Right before I hung up, she pushed the whole going-to-see-a-doctor-for-my-voice thing again. Telling her it was just a cold worked now, but what was I going to say in a week or two from now? God, I really hoped my voice healed by then, although a part of me knew this might be permanent. Another reminder of…everything.
I had to tell her the truth.
Grabbing a package of instant mac and cheese, I started to pop it in the microwave but then stared down at my hands, frowning. Did they have microwave powers like Dee and Daemon did? I turned over the bowl, shrugging. I was too hungry to risk it.
Heat wasn’t my thing. When Blake was training me to handle the Source and tried to teach me how to create heat—i.e. fire—I’d caught my hands on fire instead of the candle.
As I waited for the mac, I stared out the window over the sink. Dawson had been right earlier. It really was beautiful now that the sun had risen. Snow blanketed the ground and covered the branches. Icicles hung from the elms. Even now, after the sun had set, it was a beautiful white world out there. I kind of wanted to go out and play.
The microwave dinged, and I ate my unhealthy dinner standing, figuring at least I would burn off calories that way. Ever since Daemon had mutated me into this human-alien-hybrid-mutant-freak, my appetite was out of this world. There was almost nothing left in the house.
When I finished, I quickly grabbed my laptop and sat at the kitchen table. My brain had been scattered the last week, and I wanted to look up something before I forgot. Again.
Pulling up Google, I typed in Daedalus and hit enter. Wikipedia served up the first link and since I wasn’t expecting a “Welcome to Daedalus: Secret Government Organization” website, I clicked.
And I got all acquainted with Greek myths.
Daedalus was considered an innovator, creating the labyrinth the Minotaur resided in, among other things. And he was also the daddy of Icarus, the kid who flew too close to the sun on wings fashioned by Daedalus, and then drowned. Icarus got giddy from flying and, knowing the gods, it was probably a form of passive punishment, leading to Icarus losing his wings. That and a punishment for Daedalus, who’d outfitted Icarus with the contraption that gave the boy the godlike ability to fly.