I dug out a Highlighter.

“Seeing what happened last night and when Will had you handcuffed in that stuff? And I’m supposed to just stand there— Are you listening to me?”

Halfway through the sentence I’d highlighted, I stopped. “I’m listening.”

“Then look at me.”

I lifted my lashes. “I’m looking at you.”

Daemon scowled.

Sighing, I put the cap back on the Highlighter. “Okay. I don’t want to see you in pain.”

“Kat—”

“No. Don’t interrupt. I don’t want to see you in pain and just thinking about you going through what that feels like makes me want to hurl.”

“I can handle it.”

Our eyes locked. “I know you can, but that doesn’t change how horrible it’s going to be to see you go through that, but I’m not asking you not to do it.”

He pushed off and pivoted around, thrusting his fingers through his hair. Tension and frustration settled over the kitchen like a well-worn blanket.

Setting my stuff aside, I hopped down. “I don’t want to argue with you, Daemon, but you can’t say it’s okay for me to watch you go through this and not you.”

I made my way over to him and wrapped my arms around his waist. He stiffened. “I know this is coming from a good place, but just because it’s getting ugly, I can’t back out. And you know you’re not going to. It’s only fair.”

“I hate your logic.” He placed his hands on mine, though, and I pressed against his back, smiling. “And I’m really going to hate this.”

Squeezing him like my favorite teddy bear, I knew how hard this was for him to give on. This was monumental, actually. He twisted in my arms, lowered his head, and I thought, Wow, this is how adults do things. They may not agree on stuff all the time, they may argue, but in the end, they work it out and they love.

Like my mom and dad.

A lump formed in my throat. Crying so wouldn’t be the right thing to do, but it was hard to keep those tears back.

“The only good thing is that I’m going to hold Buff down and make him kiss onyx over and over again,” he said.

I choked out a laugh. “You’re sadistic.”

“And you need to study, right? It’s school time management—not Daemon time management, which blows, because we’re alone and it requires more effort for them to interrupt us over here.”

Disappointed, I pulled free. “Yeah, I need to study.”

He pouted and it was incredibly sexy on him. Wrong. “All right, I’m leaving.”

I followed him to the door. “I’ll text when I’m done and you can come over and tuck me in.”

“’Kay,” he said, kissing the top of my head. “I’ll be waiting.”

And knowing that had me all warm and fuzzy. Wiggling my fingers at him, I closed the door and went back to the kitchen, grabbed my stuff and a glass of OJ. Happy that an all-out brouhaha was avoided with Daemon, I went upstairs and bumped open my door.

I came to a complete stop.

A girl sat on my bed, hands folded primly in her lap. It took me a moment to recognize her, because her hair hung in limp strands around her pale face and her almond-shaped eyes weren’t hidden behind purple or pink glasses.

“Carissa,” I said, stunned. “How…how did you get in here?”

She stood wordlessly. Her hands extended out. The overhead light reflected off a bracelet I also recognized—black stone with fire inside.

What the hell…? Luc had that stone. Why would—?

Static crackled in the air and there was a smell of burned ozone a second before whitish-blue light radiated from Carissa’s hands. The bracelet was no longer a concern.

Shocked into a stupor, I stared at my friend in disbelief. “Crap.”

Carissa attacked.

Chapter 24

The bolt of energy slammed into my history textbook, burning a hole right through. It fizzled out before it could touch me, but the book casualty told me what I needed to know.

Carissa was not a friendly.

And that little display of the Source was not a warning.

I dropped the book and darted to the left as she lunged at me. OJ sloshed over the side of my glass, covering my fingers. Why was I still holding it? My brain was so not catching up to this turn of events.

She shot toward me, and I did the only thing I could think of in that moment. I threw the glass at her face. Glass shattered as she stumbled back, raising her hands to her eyes. Sticky liquid and glass coursed down her cheeks, mixing with tiny flecks of blood.

I bet that stung like a bitch.


“Carissa,” I said, backing up. “I have no idea how this happened, but I’m a friend—I can help you! Just calm down. Okay?”

She wiped at her eyes, flinging liquid against the walls. When her gaze met mine, there wasn’t an ounce of recognition in it. Her eyes were frighteningly empty and vast. Like months had been washed away, and I was nothing to her. There was zilch going on behind those eyes.

My eyes had to be deceiving me or I was dreaming, because she was definitely a hybrid and that didn’t make sense. Carissa didn’t know about aliens. She was just a normal girl. Quiet and maybe a little bit shy.

But she’d been out with the flu…

Oh, dear baby kittens… She’d been mutated.

Her head cocked to the side, eyes narrowing.

“Carissa, please, it’s me. Katy. You know me,” I pleaded. My back hit the desk as I eyed the open door behind her. “We’re friends. You don’t want to do this.”

She stalked toward me, like that freaky female terminator after John Connor.

And I was so John Connor.

I drew in a breath, but it got stuck. “We go to school together—we have trig and we eat lunch together. You wear glasses—really funky glasses.” I didn’t know what to say, but I kept babbling, hoping to somehow reach her, because the last thing I wanted to do was hurt her. “Carissa, please.”

But she apparently had no qualms over doing some damage to me.

The air charged with static again. I lurched to the side as she let go of the Source again. The tail end of it singed my sweater. A smell of burned hair and cotton wafted into the air as I spun toward my desk. There was a low whine from the desk and then smoke billowed out of my closed laptop.

I gaped.

My precious, perfectly brand new laptop I cherished like one would a small child.

Son of a mother…

Friend or not, it was so on.

I lunged at Carissa, taking her down to my bedroom floor. My hands went around her hair and lifted. A stream of dark strands billowed, and then I slammed her head down. There was a satisfactory thud and she let out a low squeal of pain.

“You stupid—” Carissa tilted her pelvis up, wrapped her legs around my hips and rolled, gaining the upper hand in seconds. She was like a damn ninja—who knew? She slammed my head back much harder and damn, did paybacks suck. Starbursts clouded my vision. Sharp pain exploded along my jaw, momentarily startling me.

And then something inside me snapped.

Blistering rage welled up, coating my skin, setting a fire to every cell in my body. There was a heady rush of power centered in my chest. It flowed like lava through my veins, reaching the tips of my fingers. A veil of whitish-red fell over my eyes.

Time was slowing down again to an infinite crawl. Heat from the vents blew the curtains out, and the flimsy material reached toward us and then stopped, suspending in air. The small puffs of gray and white smoke froze. And in the back of my mind, I realized that they weren’t really frozen, but I was moving so fast that everything appeared to have been stopped.

I didn’t want to hurt her but I was going to stop her.

Arching back, I slammed both hands into her chest. Carissa flew into my dresser. Bottles of lotion rattled and fell over, clunking off her head.

I leaped to my feet, breathing heavily. The Source raged in me, demanded to be tapped into, to be used again. Holding back was like daring not to breathe.

“Okay,” I gasped. “Let’s just take a moment and calm down. We can talk this out, figure out what’s going on.”

Slowly, painfully, Carissa climbed to her feet. Our eyes locked and the absent look in hers sent shivers to my very core.

“Don’t,” I warned. “I don’t want to hurt—”

Her hand snaked out, lightning quick, caught my cheek, and spun me around. I hit the bed on my hip and slid to the floor. A metallic taste burst into my mouth. My lip stung and ears rang.

Carissa grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked me to my feet. Fire burned my scalp, and I let out a hoarse scream. She forced me on my back, wrapping her hands around my neck. Slender fingers dug into my windpipe, cutting off air. The moment I couldn’t breathe brought me back to my very first run-in with the Arum, reviving the sense of desperation and helplessness as my lungs were starved for oxygen.

I wasn’t the same girl as then, too afraid to put up a fight.

Screw that.

Letting the Source build inside me, I let it go. Stars exploded in my room, dazzling in their effect as the blast knocked Carissa back into the wall. Plaster cracked but she remained on her feet. Wisps of smoke streamed from her charred sweater.

Good God, the chick wouldn’t go down.

I rolled onto my feet, trying one more time to reach her. “Carissa, we are friends. You don’t want to do this. Please listen to me. Please.”

Energy crackled over her knuckles, forming a ball, and in any other situation, I’d be jealous of how easily she’d mastered the ability in what seemed like a nanosecond, because last week…last week she’d been normal.

And now I didn’t know what or who stood in front of me.

Ice filled the pit of my stomach, forming shards around my insides. There was no reasoning with her. No chance whatsoever, and the realization cost me. Distracted, I didn’t move fast enough when she released the ball of energy.

I raised my hands and screamed, “Stop!” Throwing everything I had into the single word, picturing the tiny light particles in the air responding to my call, forming a barrier.

Air shimmered around me as if a tub of glitter had been dumped in a perfect line. Each speck glowed with the power of a thousand suns. And in the back of my mind, I knew that whatever was going on should’ve been able to stop the ball.

But it broke through, shattering the glimmering wall, slowing it down but not stopping it.

The energy smacked into my shoulder and pain exploded, momentarily robbing me of sight and sound as it knocked me down, my legs over my head. I landed on my stomach on the bed with a loud oomph. Air rushed from my lungs, but I knew I didn’t have time to let the pain sink through.

I lifted my head, peering through strands of tangled hair.

Carissa stalked forward; her movements were fluid and then…not so much. Her left leg started to tremble and then quake violently. The shudder rolled up the left side of her body and only the left side of her body. Her arm flailed and half her face spasmed.

I pushed up on weak arms, scooting across my bed until I toppled off the side. “Carissa?”

Her entire body began to quiver like the earth shook only for her. I thought maybe she was having a seizure, and I stood.