“Bullshit,” Andrew said. “You set us up.”

“No. No way.” Blake stood with his back to the calm river. He placed a hand to his jaw. “Why would I set you guys up? My friend is—”

“I don’t care about your friend!” Andrew shouted. “You’ve been there! How could you not know they had the doors rigged with that stuff?”

Blake turned to me. “You have got to believe me. I had no idea that was going to happen. I wouldn’t lead you guys into a trap.”

I stared at the river, unsure of what to believe. It seemed stupid for him to set us up this way and if he had, wouldn’t the DOD be surrounding us now? Something wasn’t right. “And Luc didn’t know?”

“If he did, he would’ve told us. Katy—”

“Don’t,” Daemon warned and his voice was so low it caught my attention. The lines of his body shimmered. “Don’t talk to her. Don’t even talk to any of us right now.”

Blake opened his mouth but nothing came out. He shook his head as he stalked back to the cars.

There was a gap of silence and then Ash asked, “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know.” Half of Daemon’s face was shadowed as he watched his brother pace. “I really don’t know.”

Dee rose. “This sucks. This sucks donkey butt.”

“We’re back at square one,” Andrew said. “Hell, we’re at negative one.”

Dawson whipped toward his brother. “We can’t give up. Promise me we won’t give up.”

“We won’t.” Daemon was quick to reassure him. “We’re not giving up.”

I didn’t even realize I was shaking until Matthew draped a blanket over my shoulders. He met my eyes and then focused on the headlight beams. “I always carry a blanket just in case.”

Teeth chattering, I hunkered down in the blanket. “Thank you.”

He nodded as he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get you in the car where it’s warm. We’re done for the night.”

I let him steer me toward Daemon’s SUV and the welcoming blast of heat felt wonderful, but there wasn’t anything to rejoice in. Disappointment swelled. Unless we figured out a way around the onyx, we weren’t just done for the night.

We were circling the drain. We were done period.

In Dee’s words, the ride home sucked donkey butt. It was near midnight when we pulled into the driveway. Blake said nothing as he slipped out of the SUV and headed toward his truck. The engine roared and tires peeled as he pulled out of the driveway.

I started toward my own house, but Daemon cut me off and guided me toward his. “You’re not leaving yet,” he said.

My brows rose at that and the glint in his eyes, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. It was late, school was tomorrow, and tonight had been one giant fail boat.

I went into their house, still shrouded in Matthew’s blanket. My skin was so chilled underneath my damp clothes that I was numb. Exhausted, my legs shook to keep me standing, but everyone was talking—Dee, Andrew, Ash, and Dawson. Matthew was trying to keep them calm, but that wasn’t happening. Everyone was hyped up on anger and residual adrenaline, and I think Dawson kept talking because if he stopped then he had to deal with what happened tonight.

Beth was still with Daedalus.

“Let’s get you into some dry clothes,” Daemon said quietly, taking my hand.

At the bottom of the stairs, Daemon went to pick me up, but I waved him off. “I’m fine.”

He made a sound in the back of his throat that reminded me of a disgruntled lion, but he followed my slow ascension. Once inside his bedroom, he closed his door. Determination seeped from his pores.

I sighed. Tonight had been a tragedy. “We kind of deserved this.”

He prowled over to me, catching the edges of the blanket, pulling it off. Then he took ahold of my borrowed thermal. “How so?”

It seemed obvious to me. “We’re a bunch of teenagers, and we thought we could break into a facility run by Homeland Security and the DOD? I mean, come on. This was bound to go wrong— Wait!” The thermal was halfway up my stomach. My chilled fingers circled his wrists. “What are you doing?”

“Getting you naked.”

My mouth dropped open at the same time my heart did a backflip. A heady warmth cascaded through my veins. “Uh, wow. Way to cut to the point.”

A lopsided grin teased his lips. “Your shirt and pants are soaked and cold. And there are probably traces of onyx still on them. You need to get out of your clothes.”

I smacked his hands away. “I can do that myself.”

Daemon leaned in, speaking into my ear. “Where’s the fun in that?” He let go, though, and headed for his dresser. “You really think we were doomed to fail?”

Since he’d turned his back, I made haste with removing my clothes. Everything beside the cold piece of obsidian hanging around my neck was ruined and had to come off. The clothing smelled like musky river water. Shivering, I folded my arms across my chest. “Don’t…don’t turn around.”

His shoulders shook with silent laughter as he rummaged around for something for me to wear. Hopefully.

“I don’t know,” I said, finally answering his question. “It was a huge undertaking for trained spies. We’re in over our heads.”

“But we were fine until we hit those doors.” He pulled out a shirt. “I hate to say this, but I really don’t think Blake knew about them. The look on his face when you and Dawson went down—it was too real.”

“Then why did you punch him in the face?”

“I wanted to.” He turned around, one hand over his eyes as he offered me a shirt. “Here you go.”

I snatched it away and quickly tugged it over my head. The soft, worn material billowed around me, ending at my thighs. When I glanced up, I saw his fingers split over his eyes. “You were peeking.”

“Maybe.” He took my hand, pulling me toward his bed. “Get in. I’m going to check on Dawson and I’ll be back.”

I really should have headed next door to my own bed, but I reasoned that tonight was different. Besides, Mom wouldn’t be home before school started and I didn’t want to be alone. Doing as he requested, I climbed in and yanked the comforter up to my chin. It smelled of fresh linen and Daemon. He wasn’t gone long, but in that short time, my lids fluttered shut. The onyx had zapped most of my energy, as it was meant to. We’d been so damn lucky to even make it out of there before the guard came to.

Daemon returned, moving around the room silently, and I was feeling way too lazy to open my eyes and see what he was up to. Clothing rustled to the floor and my temperature went up a degree. Another drawer opened and then he was tugging back the covers, sliding in.

Lying on his side, he wrapped an arm around my waist and tucked me against his bare chest. The flannel of his pajama bottoms teased my legs, and I let out a contented sigh.

“How’s Dawson?” I asked, wiggling closer so I was pretty much plastered to him.

“He’s doing okay.” Daemon brushed the hair back from my cheek, his hand lingering. “He’s not a happy camper, though.”

I could imagine. We’d come so close to Beth only to have to turn around. That is, if Beth had really been there. Blake may’ve not known about the onyx defense system from hell, but I didn’t trust him. None of us did.

“Thank you for getting us out of there.” I tilted my head back, searching out his face in the darkness. His eyes glowed softly.

“I had help.” He pressed his lips against my forehead and his arm tightened around me. “You feeling okay?”

“I feel fine. Stop worrying about me.”

His eyes met mine. “Don’t ever walk through a door first again, okay? And don’t argue with me about it or accuse me of being chauvinistic. I don’t ever want to see you in that kind of pain again.”

Instead of arguing, I twisted in his embrace and placed my lips on his, kissing him softly. His lashes lowered, shielding his eyes. He returned the kiss and it was sweet and tender and so perfect that there was a good chance I’d start bawling like a baby.

But then the kisses, well, they changed. They deepened as I rolled onto my back and he followed, his weight a delicious feeling against my legs, and these kisses were anything but sweet. They scorched deep inside me, washing away the events of the last couple of hours like the river had taken away the unholy burn of the onyx. When he kissed like this, every muscle in his body coiling into a tight spring, he undid me.

His hand smoothed the shirt down, baring a shoulder, and his mouth followed. Static built in the air and a tremble coursed through his body. In that moment, after everything that happened, I wanted the feel of him against me with no barriers, nothing getting in the way. Lifting up, I raised my arms and Daemon didn’t hesitate. He took what was offered. With nothing there, his hands were everywhere, tracing the slender piece of obsidian, smoothing down the curve of my stomach, over my hips, and I was pretty sure there would be no other moment as perfect as this.

Or maybe it was how close we came to losing it all tonight that propelled us both? I didn’t know, nor was I sure how we’d come to this point, but all that mattered was we were both here and ready. Really ready. And when his clothing joined mine on the floor, there was no going back.

“Don’t stop,” I said, just in case he had any doubts about what I wanted.

There was a flash of a grin, and then he kissed me again and I was drowning in the rawness of what was building between us. Electricity coursed over our skin, throwing dancing shadows over the walls as he reared up, reaching for the small bedside table beside us.

I flushed, realizing what he was going for. When he sat up and our eyes met, I started to giggle. A wide, beautiful smile broke out across his face, softening lines that held a harsh beauty.

Daemon spoke in his language. The lyrical quality of his words made no sense to me, but they were beautiful, like spoken music that the alien part of me danced to.

“What did you say?” I asked.

He peered up through thick lashes, the foil package in his fist. “There’s really no translation for it,” he said, “but the closest human words would be, you are beautiful to me.”

I sucked in a sharp breath and our gazes locked. Tears built in my eyes. I reached for him, sinking my fingers into his silky hair. My heart was pounding fast, and I knew his was, too.

This was it. And it was right. Perfect without the dinner, movies, and flowers, because how could you really plan something like this? You couldn’t.

Daemon sat back—

A fist pounded on the door, and Andrew’s voice intruded. “Daemon, are you awake?”

We stared at each other in disbelief. “If I ignore him,” he whispered, “do you think he’ll go away?”

My hands dropped to my sides. “Maybe.”

The pounding came again. “Daemon, I really need you downstairs. Dawson is ready to go back to Mount Weather. Nothing Dee or I are saying to him is making a bit of difference. He’s like a suicidal Energizer bunny.”