“We’ll be fine with the onyx shields.” He tossed the rock back into the pile. “Each of us can withstand it long enough.”

“But it’s not being sprayed in your faces,” Dee protested, eyes wide. “You’re just handling it.”

Blake inched closer. “It was never sprayed in my face. All I did was handle it over and over again. It’s the only logical explanation.”

“No. It’s not.” She let go of her hair and faced her brothers. “Handling onyx and having a tolerance is one thing. Having it sprayed in your face is totally different.”

Dee had a point, but it was all we could do.

Dawson smiled for her and it was always strange to me when he did smile, because it was so rare to see a real one, and it transformed his face. “We’re going to be okay, Dee. I promise.”

“And the lasers—you have the lasers to watch out for,” Andrew threw in, grimacing.”

“No doubt,” Blake said. “But they shouldn’t be an issue. The emergency doors are activated only when the alarm goes off and if everything goes smoothly, we’ll be fine.”

“That’s a big if,” Dee muttered.

Heck ya, it was a huge if, but we were in this to the end. Just looking at Dawson reaffirmed why we were about to put our lives on the line again. Because I knew beyond a doubt, if it were Daemon locked in Mount Weather, I’d take as many risks as there were to free him.

Part of Dawson was missing and the other half was Beth. None of us could expect him to walk away from this. And all of us would go to the end of the earth for the ones we loved.

After another grueling session with the onyx, we called it a night and gimped back to the houses. Matthew and the Thompsons left, as did Blake. Dee went inside while the three of us lingered and finally Dawson disappeared somewhere around the side of the house.

Daemon took my hand and sat on the third step up, pulling me down between his legs, so that my back was against his chest. “You feeling okay?”

“Yes,” I said. It was the same question he asked every, single time after practice. And yeah, I sort of loved him for that. “You?”

“You don’t need to worry about me.”

I rolled my eyes, but leaned back, liking the feel of his chest and the way his arms circled me. He dipped his head, pressing his lips against my pulse. I could tell where his mind was going and I was on board that train.

Dawson reappeared, the fading sun casting a halo around him. That train came to a crashing halt. He shoved his hands into his jeans and rocked back on heels, not saying a word.

Daemon sighed and straightened. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” he said, eyes squinting at the rapidly darkening sky. “I was just thinking.”

We waited quietly, because we both knew that Dawson couldn’t be rushed. He’d say whatever it was he wanted to say when he was ready. Again, I found myself wondering what he was like before all this terrible stuff had happened to him.

Finally, Dawson said, “You guys don’t need to do this on Sunday.”

Daemon’s arms fell away. “What?”

“You guys shouldn’t have to do this. Dee’s right. It’s too much of a risk. We don’t know if we really are going to be able to walk past those onyx shields. Who knows what Blake’s deal is really? This doesn’t involve you all.”

Dawson looked at us then, expression full of sincerity. “You shouldn’t be doing this. Let Blake and I go in. It’s our risks to take.”

Daemon fell silent for several moments. “You’re my brother, Dawson, so whatever risk is yours, it is mine.”

I smiled, tipping my head back. “And whatever risk is Daemon’s, is mine.”

“That I don’t agree with, but you get what we’re saying?” Daemon placed his hands on my shoulders. “We’re in this together, for the good and the downright crappy.”

Dawson’s lashes lowered. “I don’t want to see either of you two get hurt. I don’t think I could live with that.”

“We’re not going to get hurt,” Daemon said, so strongly that there was no doubt in my mind that he believed this to be true. His hands landed on my shoulders, gently rubbing the tensed muscles. “All of us are going to walk out of there, along with Beth and Chris.”

Pulling his hands out of his pocket, Dawson thrust them through his hair. “Thank you.” His lips twitched as he lowered his hands. “You know, I’m going… I’m going to have to leave afterward? Maybe… I can finish out the semester, but Beth and I will have to leave.”

Daemon’s hands stilled and I felt his heart trip over itself, but then his hands started up again. “I know, brother. We’ll make sure that Beth is hidden until you’re ready to leave. It’s going to suck, but… but I know what you have to do.”

His brother nodded. “We’ll stay in touch.”

“Of course,” Daemon said.

Lowering my gaze, I bit my lip. Man, I sort of wanted to start balling. Their family shouldn’t be split up again. All of this because of what they were and none of them brought this on themselves. It wasn’t fair.

Worst of all, it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do about it.



Thursday evening, after another skin-numbing training session, Daemon and I caved to our mad sugar need by hitting up the local fast-food joint—sweet tea for the win. Instead of going in, he lowered the latch on the back of his SUV and we chilled out.

The skies were clear and the glimmering stars started to fill up the heavens. Whenever I looked at the stars, I thought of Daemon and his kind.

He elbowed me playfully. “What are you thinking?”

I grinned around the straw. “Sometimes I forget what you are, but then I see those stars, and I remember.”

“Do you forget what you are?”

Laughing, I lowered my cup. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Nice.”


I swung my feet back and forth. “But seriously, I really do. I think that if the public knew about you guys, they’d get used to the Luxen.”

“Really?” He sounded shocked.

I shrugged. “You guys really aren’t any different.”

“Besides the whole glowworm thing,” he teased.

“Yeah, besides that.”

He chuckled and leaned in, rubbing his chin along my shoulder like a big cat. Thinking he’d like the idea of him being compared to a lion or something, I grinned. “I want you to carry the opal on you on Sunday,” he said.

“What?” I pulled away and twisted toward him. “Why? You’re the stronger one out of all of us.”

A cocky grin appeared. “And that’s why I don’t need the opal.”

“Daemon.” I sighed, handing over the rest of the tea. He took it. “Your logic fails. Because you are stronger, the opal will do more for you than any of us.”

He sipped the tea, his eyes practically twinkling. “I want you to wear the opal in case anything goes wrong. I’m not arguing with you.”

“Whatever.” I crossed my arms.

“And if you don’t agree, I’ll tie you up—and not in the fun way—and lock you in your bedroom.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Okay, maybe in the fun way. Like later, after everything is done, I’ll come back and—”

I cut him off. “I’d like to see you try to tie me up.”

His eyebrow arched. “I bet you would.”

“Shut up,” I growled. “I’m being serious.”

“So am I. You’re wearing the opal.”

I scowled. “This makes no sense.”

“It makes perfect sense.” He kissed my cheek. “Because I’m perfect.”

“Oh, dear God.” I elbowed him, and he laughed. I turned my gaze back to the starry sky and then it hit me like a cement truck. How could we have not thought about this before? “I have an idea!”

“Does it involve getting naked?”

I elbowed Daemon. “God. No. You’re such a perv. It involves the opal. What if we can break it up into pieces and share it between us?”

His brows furrowed in concentration. “It could work, but it’s a huge risk. What if we shatter the rock? I doubt it would work in powder form. And even if we did manage to break it into pieces, will it still be effective?”

All good questions. “I don’t know, but can’t we try? Then everyone is protected, at least some.”

He didn’t say anything for a long moment. “It’s so much of a risk. I’d rather know that you’re protected instead of hoping that you are. And I know that makes me sound selfish, but I am. I am incredibly selfish when it comes to you.”

“But Dawson…?”

Daemon looked at me. “Like I said, I’m incredibly selfish when it comes to you.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say.

He sighed as he rubbed his palm along his jaw. “If we ended up destroying the piece of opal, then you go in there with nothing backing you up. Matthew, Dawson, and I are Luxen. We are going to be stronger than you. We won’t tire as easily. We don’t need the piece of opal, not like you do.”

“But—”

“I’m not willing to risk it. If breaking up the opal weakens it, then how does it really help you out?” He shook his head. “We don’t need the extra boost. You do.”

My shoulders slumped at the finality in his words. Frustration swelled inside me. It wasn’t that I didn’t get what he was saying, we just didn’t agree.

Later on, Daemon retrieved the opal from wherever his hidey-hole was and pressed it into my palm, wrapping his hand around mine as we stood on my porch. Night birds sung out around us, a canopy of chirps and calls. The spring roses I’d planted after school a week before filled the air with a clean, fresh scent.

It would be romantic if I didn’t want to punch him in the face.

“I know you’re mad.” His eyes met mine. “But this makes me feel better about everything. Okay?”

“A few days ago you told Dawson that nothing was going to go wrong.”

“I did, but just in case… I want you to be able to get out no matter what.”

My heart stuttered. “What…what are you saying?”

He smiled, but it was forced and I hated it. “If something goes wrong, I want you to get out of there. If you have to leave this damn town or state, do it. And if for whatever reason I can’t get out of there, you don’t stop. Do you understand?”

Air rushed out of my lungs painfully. “You want me to leave you?”

Daemon’s eyes were brilliant as he nodded. “Yes.”

“No,” I cried out, wrenching away. “I will never leave you behind, Daemon.”

He clasped my cheeks, holding me still. “I know—”

“No you don’t!” I grasped his wrists, my fingers biting into his skin. “Would you leave me behind if something happened to me?”