Next weekend, I would convince my mom I needed to do an overhaul on the flowerbed.
At the beginning of June, I would graduate.
Sometime that month, I would get serious about filling out the paperwork for University of Colorado and I would drop that bomb on my mom.
In July, I would spend every day with Daemon swimming in the lake and getting a Jersey Shore tan.
By the end of summer, things would be normal between Dee and me.
And come fall, I’d move on from all of this. Things wouldn’t ever be mundane. I wasn’t fully human anymore. My boyfriend—the guy I loved—was an alien. And there may become a point where, like Dawson and Blake, Daemon and I would have to disappear.
But there was going to be a tomorrow, a next week, month, summer, and fall.
“Only you would be out gardening right now.”
I whipped around at the sound of Blake’s voice. He leaned against my car, dressed in all black, ready for tonight.
This was the first time since our confrontation that Blake had come around me while I was alone, and the alien part of me responded. That roller-coaster feeling was swelling inside me. Static pricked along my skin.
I held my ground. “What do you want, Blake?”
He laughed softly as his gaze fell to the ground. “We’re leaving soon, right? I’m just a little early.”
And I was just a little bit of a book nerd. Yeah, right.
Brushing the dirt off my fingers, I watched him wryly. “How did you get here?”
“Parked at the end of the road at the empty house.” He gestured with his chin. “The last time I parked here, I’m pretty sure someone melted the paint on the hood of my truck.”
Sounded like Dee and her microwave hands. I crossed my arms. “Dee and Andrew are next door,” I felt the need to point out.
“I know.” He pulled a hand out, ran it through his spikey hair. “You looked really good at prom.”
Unease unfurled in my belly. “Yeah, I saw you. Did you come alone?”
He nodded. “I was there only for a few minutes. Never did the high school dance thing. Kind of disappointing.”
I said nothing.
Blake dropped his hand. “You worried about tonight?”
“Who wouldn’t be?”
“Smart girl,” he said, and smiled a little. It was more of a grimace than anything. “No one that I know of has infiltrated one of their facilities before or even gotten as far as we did last time. No Luxen or hybrid, and we can’t be the first to attempt it. I bet there’re a dozen Dawsons and Beths, Blakes and Chrises.”
Muscles tightened in my neck and shoulders. “If this is supposed to be a pep talk, you completely fail at it.”
“I don’t mean it that way. Just that if we do this, we’re the strongest, you know. The best out of their hybrids and out of the Luxen.”
Funny or maybe just ironic, I thought, that what Daedalus wanted so badly was the only ones who could go up against them.
I reached into my pocket, feeling the warm, smooth edges of the opal. “Then we’re just awesome, I guess.”
Another pained smile and then Blake said, “That’s what I’m counting on.”
We were all dressed like a ragtag group of reject ninjas. My skin sweated under the long-sleeved black thermal. The idea was that the less skin exposed, the less the onyx impacted us.
Didn’t really pan out that way last time, but we weren’t taking any chances tonight.
The opal was burning a hole in my pocket.
Driving to the mountains of Virginia was a quiet affair. This time around, even Blake was silent. Dawson was a ball of energy beside him. Once, luckily not when cars surrounded us, he slipped into his true form, nearly blinding all of us.
Blake’s words lingered in my head. That’s what I’m counting on. I was probably being paranoid, but they settled like sour milk. Of course he was counting on us to pull off the near impossible. He had just as much as us to gain.
And then I thought of Luc’s warning: never trust those who have anything to gain or lose. But that meant we couldn’t trust either him or our friends. All of us had something to gain or lose.
Daemon reached over the center console and squeezed my fidgeting hand.
Thinking these things right then wasn’t the best route to travel. I was getting myself all worked up and spazzy.
I smiled at Daemon and decided to focus on our afternoon. We didn’t really do anything. Just cuddled together, both of us wide awake, and somehow that was more intimate than anything else. Last night or early this morning had been a different story.
Daemon was a creative fellow.
My cheeks were stained red the rest of the trip.
The two SUVs arrived at the little farm at the bottom of the pitch-black access road with five minutes to spare. As we climbed out, Blake got his confirmation text from Luc.
Things were a go.
Instead of limbering up, we all stayed still, conserving our energy. Ash, Andrew, and Dee remained in their SUV. The rest of us moved to the edge of the overgrown field.
I hoped I didn’t get infested with ticks.
With one last look at the Luxen in the vehicle, it was time to go. Letting the Source flow through my blood and bones and ripple over my skin, we took off into the darkness, without the light of the moon on the cloudy night. Like last time, Daemon stayed beside me. The last thing anyone needed was my tripping over something and rolling back down the hill.
Things were quiet and tense when we reached the edge of the woods, waited to see that only one guard manned the fence.
It was Daemon who took him out this time. Then we were at the fence, keying in the first code.
Taking off across the stretch of field, the five of us moved like ghosts. Visible in one’s peripheral vision, but gone when looked at head-on.
At the set of three doors, Dawson entered in the second password.
And now it was do or die time. All these months had led up to this. Did our onyx training mean a damn thing? Daemon glanced at me.
I slipped my hand into my pocket, wrapping my fingers around the opal.
Going through the onyx spray would still hurt like the fiery bowels of hell for the others, but it should be manageable if Blake had been right.
The door slid open with an airlock sound and Daemon was the first through.
Air puffed and he flinched, but one leg moved in front of the other and then he was through, on the other side. He stopped, glancing over his shoulder, and smiled that half smile.
All of us let out a collective breath.
We filed through the onyx-shielded door. Each of the guys took the spray with a wince and grimace of pain. I barely felt a thing.
Inside Mount Weather for the first time, we fell behind Blake, who knew most of the way. The tunnel was shadowed, with small lamps placed every twenty feet or so on the orange walls. I searched for those murderous emergency doors but it was too dark to see them.
Tipping my head up, I noticed something terrifying about the ceiling. It was shiny—like it was wet or something, but it wasn’t liquid.
“Onyx,” Blake whispered. “The whole place is covered in onyx.”
Unless they did a massive remodel recently, that couldn’t be something new to Blake. Feeling the opal against my skin, I pulled on the Source and waited for the extreme rush of energy as we flew down the tunnel.
There was a tiny spark of extra energy, but nothing like it had been when Daemon and I had tested it out. My heart sunk as we neared the end of the long tunnel. It had to be all the onyx, somehow weakening the opal.
At the end of the tunnel, it split into a crossroad. Elevators were in the middle. Matthew edged toward the opening, checking the space first.
“Clear,” he said, then faded out, moving so fast that when he hit the elevator button, my eyes couldn’t track him until he was beside us again.
When the doors slid open, we moved at once, filling the steel elevator. Apparently the stairwells were under password and I wondered what the heck people did to get out in case of emergency.
I looked around the elevator, noting a few blackish-red shiny parts in the flickering overhead light. I half expected to be doused with onyx while we waited, but it didn’t happen.
Daemon’s hand brushed mine, and I looked up.
Shaking my head, I shifted my weight restlessly. This seemed like the slowest-moving elevator in the world. I could figure out a trig formula faster.
Daemon squeezed my hand, as if he could sense my nervousness.
I stretched up on the tips of my toes and cupped Daemon’s cheek, guiding his head down to mine. I kissed him deeply and without reservation.
“For good luck,” I said after I pulled back, a bit breathless.
His emerald eyes glinted with a wealth of promises that sent a very different kind of chills over me. When we got home, we were so getting some one-on-one time.
Because we would get home, all of us. There could be no other outcome
Finally, the elevator doors popped open, revealing a small waiting room. White walls. White ceilings. White floors.
We’d stepped into an insane asylum.
“Lovely decorative colors,” Matthew said.
His brother moved ahead, stopping at the door. There was no way, no idea of seeing what waited for us on the other side. With this code, we were going in blind.
But we’d come this far. Excitement hummed through me.
“Careful, brother,” Daemon said. “We take this slow.”
He nodded. “I’ve never been here. Blake?”
Blake moved to his side. “Should be another tunnel, shorter and wider, and there’ll be doors on the right side. Cells, really, outfitted with a bed, a TV, and a bathroom. There’ll be about twenty rooms. I don’t know if the others are occupied or not.”
Others? I hadn’t thought about others. I looked at Daemon. “We can’t just leave them.”
Before he could answer, Blake intervened. “We don’t have time, Katy. Taking too many will slow us down, and we don’t know what kind of condition they are in.”
“For once, I agree with Blake.” Daemon met my shocked stare. “We can’t, Kitten. Not now.”
I wasn’t okay with this, but I couldn’t run down the hall, letting people free. We didn’t plan for that and we only had a set amount of time. It sucked—sucked worse than people who pirated books, sucked more than waiting a year for the next book in a beloved series, and sucked more than a brutal cliffhanger ending. Leaving here, knowing we could possibly be leaving innocent people behind, would haunt me forever.
Blake took a deep breath and keyed in the last code.
The sound of several locks sucking back into place broke the silence and a light at the top of the door, on the right, flashed green.
As Blake inched the door open, Daemon moved to stand in front of me. Matthew was suddenly behind me and I was shielded. What the…?
“We’re clear,” Blake said, sounding relieved.
We went through the door, discovering another onyx shield. Now we had two more to get the others through. This wasn’t going to be easy.
The tunnel was like the one above, but all white and like Blake had informed us, it was shorter and wider. Everyone was moving but me. We’d made it—we were here. My stomach lurched and my skin tingled.