All of this was good and a little disturbing to think about, but it wasn’t why we were here. “My friend was wearing a bracelet—”

“Tiffany’s?” he asked and smirked.

“No.” I smiled tightly. “It was just like the one you’re wearing.”

Surprise rolled over Luc’s face like a wave. The little punk dropped his legs onto the floor and sat straight. “Not good.”

Foreboding chills skated over my skin as Daemon zeroed in on Luc. “Why is that not good?”

He seemed to debate whether he should talk about it and then went with a, “Oh, what the hell. You’ll owe me, hope you realize. But what you see here?” Luc flicked a finger along the stone. “It’s a black opal—so rare that only a few mines can even unearth these babies. And it’s only these kinds.”

“The ones that look like they have fire in them?” I asked, leaning forward to get a better look. It really did look like a black orb with a flame inside. “Where are they mined?”

“Australia, usually. There’s something in the composition of a black opal that’s like a power booster. You know, like Mario gets when he hits a mushroom. Imagine that sound. That’s what a black opal does.”

“What kind of composition?” Daemon asked, eyes sharp with interest.

Luc unhooked the bracelet and held it up in the dim light. “Opals have this remarkable ability to refract and reflect specific wavelengths of light.”

“No way,” Daemon breathed, and apparently that was super cool. I was still lost on the whole stone and light thing.

“Yes.” Luc smiled at the stone, like a father smiles at his prodigal son. “I don’t know who discovered it. Someone in Daedalus, I’m sure. Once they figured out what it could do, they kept it away from the Luxen and ones like us.”

“Why?” I felt stupid for asking, mainly because both of them looked at me like I was. “What? I don’t have a degree in alien mineralogy. Geez.”

Daemon patted my thigh. “It’s okay. Refracting and reflecting wavelengths of lights affects us, like the obsidian affects Arum and onyx affects us.”

“Okay,” I said slowly.

Luc’s purple eyes glimmered. “Refracting light changes the direction and speed. Our friendly neighborhood aliens are made of light—well, made of more than that, but let me explain it this way: let’s say their DNA is light. And let’s say that once a human is mutated, their DNA is now encased in wavelengths of light.”

I remembered Daemon trying to explain this before. “And onyx disrupts those wavelengths of light, right? Kind of makes them bounce around and go crazy.”

Luc nodded. “Opal’s ability to refract allows a Luxen or a hybrid to be more powerful—it enhances our ability to refract light.”

“And the reflection part—wow.” Awed, Daemon grinned.

I got the whole refraction thing. Sure, super speed, ability to pull on the Source more easily, and probably a slew of other benefits, but reflection? I waited.

Daemon nudged me with his elbow. “We flicker or fade sometimes because we move fast. And sometimes you see us fade in and out—it’s just reflection. Something all of us have to work at to control when we’re younger.”

“And it’s hard when you’re excited or upset?”

He nodded. “Among other things, but to control reflection?” He fixed on Luc. “Are you saying you can do what I think you can?”

Laughing, Luc hooked the bracelet around his wrist and sat back, dropping his legs on the desk again. “Hybrids are good. We can move faster than humans, but with the obesity rates nowadays, turtles can move faster than most humans. Sometimes we’re even stronger than the average Luxen when it comes to the Source—it’s the mixture of human and alien DNA that can create something powerful, but that’s not standard.” A self-fulfilled smile stretched Luc’s lips. “But give a Luxen one of these, and they can completely reflect light.”

My heart skipped a beat. “You mean…like, invisible?”

“So cool,” Daemon said, staring at the stone. “We can change the way we look, but become invisible? Yeah, that’s new.”

Confounded, I shook my head. “Can we be invisible?”

“No. Our human DNA gets in the way of that, but it makes us just as powerful as the strongest Luxen and then some.” He wiggled a little in his seat. “So you can imagine that they wouldn’t want any of us having these…especially one that hasn’t been proven to be stable, unless…”

A cold breath of air shot over my neck. “Unless what?”

Some of the enthusiasm faded from his face. “Unless they didn’t care what kind of damage the hybrid caused. Maybe your friend was a test run for a bigger incident.”

“What?” Daemon tensed. “You think they did this on purpose? Hooked up an unstable hybrid and sent her out into the wild to see what happens?”

“Paris thinks I’m a conspiracy theorist with a hint of schizophrenic paranoia.” He shrugged. “But you can’t tell me that Daedalus doesn’t have a master plan up their sleeves. I wouldn’t put a single thing past them.”

“But why would she come after me? Blake says they don’t know the mutation held. So it wasn’t like they’d send her after me.” I paused. “And, well, that’s if Blake’s telling the truth.”

“I’m sure he is about the mutation,” Luc responded. “If he wasn’t, you wouldn’t be sitting here. See, I’m not sure even Daedalus knows everything that this stone is capable of and how it affects us. I’m still learning.”

“And what have you learned?” Daemon asked.

“For starters, before I got my grubby paws on one of these, I couldn’t pick out another hybrid if one did a jig in front of me. I knew the moment you and Blake arrived in Martinsburg, Katy. It was weird, like a breath washing over my entire body. Your friend probably sensed you. That’s the least terrible probability.”

Daemon blew out a long breath and then looked away for a moment. “Do you know if it can enhance the Arum’s abilities?”

“I imagine it could if they were bloated on a Luxen’s powers.”

Overwhelmed, I sat back and then shot forward. “Do you think the opal can, like, counteract the onyx?”

“It’s possible, but I don’t know. Haven’t hugged any onyx recently.”

I ignored the sarcastic tone. “Where can we get some of the opal?”

Luc laughed and I wanted to kick his legs off the desk. “Unless you have about thirty thousand dollars lying around and know someone who mines opals, or you want to ask Daedalus for some, you’re out of luck. And I’m not giving you mine.”

My shoulders slumped. Yippee, another dead end. We couldn’t catch a break if it slapped us upside the face.

“Anyway, it’s about time for you guys to hit the road.” He tipped his head back, closing his eyes. “I’m assuming I won’t hear from you two again until you’re ready to go to Mount Weather?”

Ah, we’d been dismissed. As I stood, I debated on bum-rushing Luc and grabbing his bracelet. The way his eyes opened into thin slits warned me to forget that idea.

“Is there anything else you can tell me?” Daemon prodded.

“Sure, I have something else.” Luc lifted those long lashes. “You really shouldn’t trust a soul in this game. Not when everyone has something to gain or lose.”

Chapter 29

Over the course of several weeks, interviews given by local law enforcement and tearful pleas from Carissa’s parents appeared on the nightly news, candlelight vigils were held, and reporters from all around came, drawn in by morbid curiosity. How could such a little town have so many children who just disappeared? Some even speculated that a serial killer had targeted the sleepy town in West Virginia.

Being at school, listening to everyone talk about Carissa, Simon, and even Adam and Beth was hard to do. Not just for me, but for all of us who knew the truth.

These kids didn’t disappear.

Adam and Carissa were dead, most likely Simon, too. Beth was being held against her will in a government facility.

A dark, somber mood settled, creeping into every part of us, and there was no shaking it. Of course suspicion blossomed along with the spring grass and tiny buds at school, because only one of the kids had reappeared and that had been Dawson. But his reappearance had signaled the disappearance of others.

There were whispers in the hall and long looks passed among students whenever Dawson or Daemon was around. Possibly because very few could tell them apart, but both brothers acted like they didn’t hear it. Or maybe they just didn’t care.

Even Lesa had changed. Losing a friend would do that, as would the inability to find any closure. There was never a reason for why Carissa had disappeared, at least not for Lesa. She, like so many others, would spend a lifetime wondering why and how it happened. And not knowing created this powerlessness to move on. Even though the seasons were changing and spring was well on its way, Lesa was stuck on the day before she found out her best friend had vanished and the day after. She was the same girl in some ways: moments where she’d say something wholly inappropriate and she would laugh, and then others when she didn’t think I was looking, her eyes would cloud with misgiving.

Carissa wasn’t the only newsworthy case, though.

Dr. William Michaels, aka Mom’s boyfriend and all-around douche canoe, was reported missing by his sister about three weeks after Carissa dropped off the radar. A frenzied storm descended once again. Mom had been questioned and she… She had been a wreck. Especially when she learned that Will had never signed in at any conference in the west, and no one had seen or heard from him since he left Petersburg.

Officials suspected that foul play might have been involved. Others whispered that he had to have something to do with what happened to Carissa and Simon. A prominent doctor just didn’t simply cease to exist.

But Daemon and I were still alive, so all we could assume was that the mutation had held and since he had gotten what he wanted, he was in hiding. Worst-case scenario, Daedalus had picked him up somewhere. Didn’t bode well for us if that happened, but hey, it served him right if he was locked in a cage somewhere.

All in all I wasn’t torn up over the fact that for right now, Will was a nonissue, but I hated seeing Mom go through this again. And I hated Will even more for putting her through it. She hit every stage of the grieving process: disbelief; sorrow; that horrible, lingering lost feeling; and then anger.

I had no idea what to do for her. The best I could was spend the evenings with her on her days off, after I finished with the onyx stuff. Keeping her company and distracted seemed to help.

As weeks passed and there was no sign of Carissa or anyone else that had held the little town captive, the inevitable happened. People didn’t forget, but the reporters went away and then other things occupied the nightly news. By mid-April, everyone for the most part was back to doing their own thing.