This was it.

My first reaction to headlights would be to grab a gun, to get ready to shoot—to shoot to kill if necessary.


I shook my head. A fire crawled through my stomach, up my throat. Tears burned my eyes. So many thoughts raced through my mind. Pressure clamped down on my chest, tightening around my lungs with icy fingers. A shudder rolled down my spine. Four months of tears I didn’t let fall built inside me.

Daemon was in front of me in an instant, gently and carefully peeling my fingers away from the gun. He placed it on the bedside table. “Hey,” he said, cupping my cheeks with both his hands. “Hey, it’s okay. Everything is okay. No one is here but us. We’re okay.”

I knew that, but it was more than headlights in the night. It was everything—an accumulation of four months of no control over any aspect of my life or my body. Everything piled up on me—the tangy fear that never eased, the dread I had woken up with every day, the exams, and the stress tests. The pain of the scalpel and the horror of watching the mutated humans die. It all cut through me. The harrowing escape where I shot people—real, live people who had families and lives of their own—and I knew I’d killed at least one of them. His blood had been splattered all across my face.

And then there was Blake…

“Talk to me,” Daemon pleaded. His emerald eyes were full of concern. “Come on, Kitten, tell me what’s going on.”

Turning my head, I closed my eyes. I wanted to be strong. I’d told myself over and over again that I had to be strong, but I couldn’t get past everything.

“Hey,” he said softly. “Look at me.”

I kept my eyes squeezed shut, knowing that if I looked at him, the balloon that had been so full and tethered so delicately would burst. I was wrecked inside, and I didn’t want him to see that.


But then he turned my face to his and dropped a kiss on the lids of my closed eyes and said, “It’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. I got you, Kat. I’m here for you, only you. It’s okay.”

That balloon burst, and I lost it.


My heart cracked as the first tear rolled down her cheek and broke with a hoarse sob, making its way out of her lips.

I pulled her against me, wrapping my arms around her as she shook with the force of her grief, her pain. I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t talking. There was no room around the tears for that.

“It’s okay,” I kept telling her. “Let it out. Just let it out.” And I felt stupid for saying that. The words were so lacking.

Her tears streamed down my chest; each one cut like a knife. Helpless, I picked her up and brought her to the bed. I gathered her close, yanking up the blanket that seemed too coarse for her skin and wrapping it around her.

She burrowed into me, her fingers clutching the strands of hair at the nape of my neck. The tears…they kept coming, and my heart was shattering at the raw sound of each of her breaths. Never in my life had I felt more useless. I wanted to fix this, to make her better, but I didn’t know how.

She had been so strong through all of this, and if I had thought for one instant that she hadn’t been deeply affected, then I was an idiot. I had known. I’d just hoped—no, I’d prayed—that the scars and wounds would just be physical. Because I could fix them—I could heal them. I couldn’t fix what bled and festered underneath, but I would try. I would do anything to take this pain away from her.

I don’t know how much time passed before she settled down, until the tears seemed to dry up and her ragged breathing evened out, and she’d exhausted herself into sleep. Minutes? Hours? I didn’t know.

I got her under the covers, and I stretched out beside her, tucking her warm body close. She didn’t stir once through the whole thing. With her cheek against my chest, I kept running my hands through her hair, hoping that the motion could reach her in her sleep and would soothe some of her troubles. I knew she liked it when I played with her hair. It seemed like such an insignificant thing, but it was all I had at that moment.

At some point, I drifted off to sleep. I hadn’t wanted to, but the last six or so hours had taken their toll. I had to have slept for a couple of hours, because when I opened my eyes, daylight streamed in through the gap in the curtains, but it only felt like minutes.

And Kat wasn’t beside me.

I blinked quickly, rising up on my elbows. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in the shirt and pants I’d found last night. Her hair fell down the middle of her back; the waves shifted as she turned toward me, bringing a leg up on the bed.

“I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No.” I cleared my throat, glancing around the room, slightly disoriented. “How long have you been awake?”

She shrugged. “Not too long. It’s a little past ten in the morning.”

“Wow. That late?” I rubbed my brow with the heel of my hand as I sat up.

She looked away, studying the strap on her flip-flops. Her cheeks were red. “Sorry about last night. I didn’t mean to cry all over you.”

“Hey.” I scooted over, sliding an arm around her waist, and tugged her closer. “I needed the second shower. It was better than the first.”

She laughed hoarsely. “That was a huge mood killer, right?”

“Nothing kills my mood when it comes to you, Kitten.” I brushed her hair back, tucking it behind her ear. “How are you feeling now?”

“Better,” she said, lifting her gaze. Her eyes were red and swollen. “I think…I think I needed to do that.”

“Want to talk about it?”

She wetted her lips nervously as she fidgeted with the ends of her hair. I was happy to see the opal bracelet still on her slim wrist. “I… A lot happened.”

I held my breath, not daring to move, because I knew it took a lot for her to get the words out sometimes. She internalized a ton of crap, kept it in. Finally, she gave a wobbly little smile.

“I was so scared,” she whispered, and my chest spasmed. “When I saw the headlights? I thought it was them, and I just freaked out, you know? I’ve been in that place for four months. I know that’s nothing compared to Dawson and Beth, but…I don’t know how they did it.”

I exhaled slowly. I didn’t know how they did it, either, how Dawson and Beth weren’t more messed up than they already were. I kept my mouth shut as I ran my hand up her back and then down, up again.

Her gaze focused on the bathroom door, and she was quiet for what felt like forever. Then, very slowly, the words tumbled out of her. The onyx sprays. The thorough exams. The stress tests with the hybrids and how she’d refused to participate, and what that had meant for her until they had paired her up with Blake. How he’d goaded her into fighting him and tapping into the Source. The guilt that she carried for his death was evident in her voice. She told me everything, and through it all, I had to check myself about a million times. Rage like I’d never known coated my insides.

“I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m rambling. It’s just that…I needed to get it out.”

“Don’t apologize, Kat.” I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. Instead I slid over so I was sitting beside her, thigh to thigh. “You know what happened with Blake isn’t your fault, right?”

She twisted a section of hair around two fingers. “I killed him, Daemon.”

“But you were defending yourself.”

“No.” She let go of the hair and looked at me. Her eyes were glassy. “I wasn’t defending myself, not really. He goaded me, and I lost control.”

“Kat, you have to look at the entire situation. You were getting beat up…” Saying that out loud made me want to go back to the compound and burn it down. “You were going through a lot of stress. And Blake…whatever his reasons were for doing what he did, he repeatedly put you and so many other people in danger.”

“You think he had it coming?”

A real sadistic part of me wanted to say yes, because yeah, some days I thought that. “I don’t know, but what I do know is that he went into the room to goad you into fighting him. You did. I know you didn’t want to kill him or anyone else, but it happened. You’re not a bad person. You’re not a monster.”

Her brows pinched, and she opened her mouth.

“And no, you’re not like Blake. So don’t even go there. You could never be like him. You’re good inside, Kitten. You bring out the best in people—even me.” I nudged her with my arm, and she cracked a grin. “That alone should earn you the Nobel Peace Prize.”

She laughed softly, and then she rose onto her knees. Wrapping her arms around my shoulders, she leaned down and placed the softest kiss, the kind I’d treasure forever, against my lips.

“What was that for?” I circled my arms around her waist.

“A thank-you,” she said, resting her forehead against mine. “Most guys would’ve probably left in the middle of the night and run far away from the hysterics.”

“I’m not most guys.” I tugged her over so she was sitting in my lap. “Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

She dropped her hands to my shoulders. “I’m a little slow sometimes.”

I laughed, and she responded with a smile. “Good thing I don’t like you for your brains.”

Her mouth dropped open, and she smacked me on the arm. “That’s so ignorant.”

“What?” I wiggled my brows suggestively. “I’m just being honest.”

“Shut up.” She brushed her lips against mine.

I nipped at her lower lip, and a rosy flush appeared on her cheeks. “Hmm, you know how I like it when you get all mouthy with me.”

“You’re mental.”

My hands flattened against the small of her back, and I pulled her close. “I have something really corny to say. Get ready for it.”

She traced the line of my jaw. “I’m ready.”

“I’m mental for you.”

She busted into laughter. “Oh my God, that is corny.”

“Told you.” I caught her chin and brought her lips to mine. “I love the sound of your laugh. Is that too corny?”

“No.” She kissed me. “Not at all.”

“Good.” I slid my hands up her waist, the tips of my fingers stopping below her chest. “Because I’ve got—” A sensation crawled through my veins, spreading all over my body.

Kat stilled, sucking in a sharp breath. “What is it?”

I gripped her hips and deposited her on the bed beside me. Swiping the gun off the table, I handed it to her, and she took it with wide eyes. “There’s a Luxen here.”

Chapter 21


I stood quickly, palming the gun. “Are you sure?” I winced. “Okay. That was a stupid question.”

“I don’t—”

A knock rattled the motel door, jarring me to the point that I almost dropped the pistol. Daemon shot me a concerned look, and I flushed. I really needed to pull it together. Taking a deep breath, I nodded.

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