I wanted one day to go home and do nothing—no plotting or dealing with alien shenanigans. Books needed reading and reviewing and my poor blog could really use a makeover. I couldn’t think of a better way to finish out a Monday.

But it was probably not going to happen.

Stepping outside, I trailed behind the last group of students heading to the parking lot. From my vantage point, I could hear Kimmy’s high-pitched voice from the front.

“My daddy said that Simon’s father has been talking to the FBI. He’s demanding a full investigation and won’t stop until Simon comes home.”

I wondered if the FBI knew about the aliens. Images of The X-Files flew through my head.

“I heard on TV that the longer a person is missing, the less likely it is for them to turn up alive,” one of her friends said.

“But look at Dawson. He was gone for over a year, and he’s back,” another said.

Tommy Cruz rubbed a beefy hand along the back of his neck. “And isn’t that strange? He’s gone forever. The one Thompson kid bites it and then Dawson shows up? Something insane with that.”

I’d heard enough. Going between cars, I put distance between the group and me. I doubted their suspicious would go anywhere, but I wasn’t trolling for new things to worry about. We had enough.

Daemon waited by his car. Long legs crossed at the ankles. He smiled when he saw me and pushed off the side of the vehicle. “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to stay here.”

“Sorry.” He opened the passenger door and bowed. Grinning, I jumped in. I waited until he was behind the wheel. “Blake wants to talk tonight.”

“Yeah, I know. He apparently got ahold of Dawson and already told him about the whole onyx tolerance thing.” He backed out, hand on the gear shifter. Anger lit up his eyes. “And of course, Dawson is all about that. It was like handing him a winning lottery ticket.”

“Great.” I tilted my head back against the seat. Dawson really was a suicidal Energizer bunny.

And suddenly it struck me. This was my life—all of this craziness. The ups and downs, the near-death moments and those far worse, the lies and the fact I probably wouldn’t be able to trust anyone who befriended me without worrying if they were an implant. And hell, how could I really befriend anyone normal? Like Daemon in the beginning—he’d stayed away and wanted Dee to do the same so I wouldn’t be caught in their world.

It would be the same with anyone I met.

My life wasn’t my own. Every moment was like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I sank back against the seat, weighted down, and sighed. “There go my reviewing and reading plans.”

“Shouldn’t it be reading and then reviewing?”

“Whatever,” I muttered.

Daemon coasted the SUV out onto the road. “Why can’t you still do that?”

“If Blake wants to talk tonight, then that’s going to soak up all my time.” I really wanted to pout. Maybe even kick my feet.

With one hand on the wheel and the other arm thrown over the back of my seat, he cast me a half smile. “You don’t need to be there, Kitten. We can talk to him without you.”

“Yeah right.” I laughed. “There’s a good chance someone will kill Blake without me there.”

“And would you really be torn up about that?”

I made a face. “Well…”

Daemon laughed.

“And the fact that upon his untimely death, there’s a letter delivered to Nancy Husher. So, we kind of need him alive.”

“True,” he said, catching a strand of my hair between his fingers. “But we can keep it short. You’ll have a normal Monday evening full of normal suck and not extraterrestrial suckage.”

Shame burned my cheeks as I bit down on my lip. As crazy as everything had turned out, I could admit that things could be worse. “That’s really selfish of me.”

“What?” He tugged on my hair gently. “It’s not selfish, Kitten. Your whole life can’t revolve around this crap. It won’t.”

Straightening my fingers, I smiled. “You sound so determined.”

“And you know what happens when I get determined.”

“You get your way.” He raised his brows at me, and I laughed. “But what about you—your life can’t revolve around this crap.”

He pulled his hand back, resting it on his thigh. “I was born into this. I’m used to it, and besides, it’s all about time management. Say, like time management last night. We did our mission thing—”

“And failed.”

“There’s that, but the rest of last night?” One side of his lips curled up and I felt my cheeks heat for a totally different reason. “We had the bad—the not-normal. And then we had the good—the normal. Granted, the good was interrupted by the bad, but there was time management there.”

“You make it sound so easy.” I stretched out my legs, relaxing.

“It is that easy, Kat. You just need to know when to draw the line, when you’ve had enough.” There was a pause as he slowed and turned onto the lonely road leading up to our houses. “And if you’ve had enough for today, you have. Nothing to feel guilty about or to worry about.”

Daemon coasted to a stop in his driveway and killed the engine. “And no one will kill Bill.”

I laughed softly as I unbuckled the seat belt. “Blake. His name is Blake.”

Daemon pulled the keys out and leaned back, his eyes glimmering with amusement. “He’s whatever I decide to call him.”

“You’re terrible.” Crossing the distance between us, I kissed him. As I pulled away, he reached for me and I giggled, opening the door. “And by the way, I haven’t had enough today. I just needed a kick in the pants. But I do need to be home by seven.”

I shut the door and turned. Daemon stood before me. He stepped forward and there was nowhere for me to go if I wanted to. And I didn’t.

“You haven’t had enough?” he asked.

Recognizing the tone of his voice, my bones melted in response. “No, not nearly enough.”

“Good.” His hands were on my hips, tugging me forward. “That’s what I like to hear.”

Placing my hands on his chest, I tilted my head back. This was totally an exercise in time management. Our lips brushed and warmth cascaded through me. It was a really fun exercise. I rose onto the tips of my toes and slid my hands up the hard plane of his chest, marveled at the way it rose unsteadily.

Daemon whispered something and then the soft kiss, which wasn’t much more than a butterfly touch, strengthened me and unraveled him. His arms swept around me, and I could feel his heart pounding in tandem with mine.

“Hey!” Dawson yelled from the front door. “I think Dee caught the microwave on fire. Again. And I tried popping some popcorn with my hands and it kind of went wrong. Like really, really wrong.”

Daemon pressed his forehead against mine and growled. “Dammit.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Time management, right?”

“Time management,” he muttered.

Surprisingly, pretty much everyone was on board with the onyx thing. I was convinced we had an invasion of the body snatchers or something, because even Matthew was nodding like exposing yourself to the hellishly painful onyx was a good thing.

I had a feeling that would change the first time he came in contact with it.

“This is so insane,” Dee said, and I had to agree. “This is tantamount to self-mutilation.”

Ah, she kind of had a point.

Dawson’s head dropped back, and he sighed. “That’s a little extreme.”

“I remember what you looked like when they brought you back down the mountain.” She twisted her hair around her hand. “And Katy lost her voice for a while from screaming. Who signs up for that?”

“Crazy people.” Daemon sighed. “Dee, I don’t want you doing this.”

Her expression was clearly a no duh one. “No offense, Dawson, I love you and want you to see Beth and to hold her, because I wish…” Her voice cracked, but her spine straightened. “But I don’t want to do this.”

Dawson shot forward, placing a hand on her arm. “It’s okay. I don’t expect you to do this.”

“I want to help.” Her voice was wobbly. “But I can’t…”

“It’s fine.” Dawson smiled and there was a moment between the siblings, as if he were saying more with just that gesture alone. Whatever it was, it worked, because Dee relaxed. “Not all of us need to do this.”

“Then who’s in?” Blake’s eyes touched on all of us. “If we are going to do this, we need to start, like, yesterday, because I don’t know how long it’ll take to build a tolerance.”

Antsy, Dawson stood. “It can’t take that long.”

Blake let out a surprised laugh. “I’ve been with Daedalus for years, so there’s no telling at what point I built a tolerance…or if I really even have one.”

“We’ve got to test that out, then.” I grinned.

He frowned. “Wow. Kind of excited about that?”

I nodded.

Dee twisted around, eyeing Blake. “Can I test it out, too?”

“I’m pretty sure everyone will get a round.” Daemon’s sinister twist of the lips was actually kind of frightening. “Anyway, back to the basics. Who’s in?”

Matthew raised his hand. “I want to be in on this. No offense, Andrew, but I prefer to take your place this time.”

Andrew nodded his head. “No problem. I can wait with Dee and Ash.”

Ash, who hadn’t said more than two words, just nodded. I realized that half of the room was staring at me. “Oh,” I said. “Yeah, I’m in.” Beside me, Daemon gave me a look that said, You are so out of your mind. I folded my arms. “Don’t start with me. I’m in. Nothing you can say will change that.”

The next look translated into, This is going to turn into a conversation—argument—in private. Blake watched with approval—a ringing endorsement I didn’t want or need. Frankly, it made my skin crawl, since it reminded me of when I had killed the Arum he’d practically thrown at me.

God, I wanted to hit him again.

Plans were made to meet after school and, weather permitting, we’d head out to the lake to basically start causing ourselves an obscene amount of pain. Whee.

Since there were some hours left before bedtime, I said my good-byes and left to get some studying in and hopefully a dang review.

Daemon walked me over and I knew it wasn’t a gentlemanly act, but I let him in and offered him his favorite: milk.

He downed the drink in five seconds flat. “Can we talk about this?”

I hopped up on the counter and opened my bag, pulling out my history book. “Nope.”


“Hmm?” I flipped open to the chapter we’d been reading in class.

He stalked over, placing his hands on either side of my crossed legs. “I can’t watch you get hurt over and over again.”