BONUS: Unedited – Luc POV – 1

March 16, 2020


Sweat and questionable life choices.  

That was what most clubs smelled like. Throw in the mix of heavy cologne and thick perfume, it was a rank scent that clung to the body, one you couldn’t clear from your sinuses until you scrubbed it off your skin with a loofa. No loofa, no chance of ever getting rid of that stank.  

Foretoken never smelled like that.  

I’d burn the damn place down before I allowed that to ever happen.  

Sure, there was usually an arid hint of desperation in the air, but that usually came from the floors above, where it made sense. Never from the main level, where everyone here was looking for a safe place to just liveTo be who they were, without masks and lies.  

It didn’t matter how many times Foretoken was raided, people kept coming back, willing to risk imprisonment or worse to shake off the labels the world had given them. 


Foretoken offered that in more ways than one, and for that, I could feel what I suspected was pride, which was the only thing I truly felt in a long while. Otherwise there was a vast … nothingness.  

Shifting on the plush cushion, I eyed the floor crowded with humans, aliens… and others.  Glimpses of familiar faces. New ones. Some fresh. Some old. Their thoughts flashed through mine, but little effort pushed them out. None of them were loud. At least not tonight. 

The wave of twisting, churning bodies stayed away from the alcove. While most knew to keep a safe distance from wherever I was, there were some who dared to creep close, apparently lacking the inherent sense that even humans had that told them that a predator was in their midst and they were the prey 

Males. Females. Human. Alien. Origins. Hybrids.  Different colors. Different backgrounds. Those who were beautiful and those who were plain. Some strong while others weak.  

All of them had three things in common. 

They wanted me because I did not want them. I was a mystery to them. A puzzle they thirsted to solve.  

They all thought they could be the one to catch my eye, to hold my attention.  

And none of them knew they could never be the one. 

Because she already existed, and if even if she had left this world, she’d still be the one. She’d always be the one.  

Everyone else was just a generic brand. 

“You’re not even listening to me.” 

One side of my mouth curled up as I dragged my thumb under my bottom lip. “I’m listening, Archer.” 

The Origin’s sigh wasn’t lost in the thrum of music. “Then what did I say?” 

“That you love me and miss me and your life isn’t complete without my constant presence.” 

Grayson snorted from where he sat, otherwise occupied by whatever damn game he was now playing on his phone.  

“That is not what I said,” Archer replied. 

“It’s not?” I looked at him, eyebrow raised. Archer had nearly a decade of age on me, but he was nowhere near as powerful. He knew that too, which meant he was smart. Not everyone was as smart as Archer. Though, they learn pretty quickly, that was if they were given the chance to learn. Some didn’t. 

Oh well.  

“You haven’t come home in over year,” Archer started again.  

Home? I almost laughed, but whatever humor I felt faded. Was Zone 3 my home? Was Foretoken? My gaze shifted back to the mass of sweating, gleaming bodies. I had private quarters upstairs, but I wasn’t sure I’d call that home either. 

Many years ago, when I was younger and Paris was still alive and when… Nadia was, well, Nadia, the house we shared had felt the closest to what I imagined a home felt like, because that house had been warm and full of so much emotion it had seeped into the bones of that house, laughter and love, heartbreak and desolation, all of it was written on the walls.  

Archer leaned in. “I know you’re busy here. More and more unregistered Luxen need our help, but….”
Power coursed over my skin, the kind invisible to human eyes, but not Archer’s.  

Or Emery, a Luxen like Gray, who whistled softly under her breath before stepping to the side. Then again, she wasn’t exactly like Grayson. Emery actually liked humansGray wasn’t particularly fond of humans. Perhaps if he spent more time around them that would change.  

Eh, then again, more human contact would probably make Gray hate them more.  

“But what?” I asked, dropping my hand to my bent knee. My fingers began to tap to dissipate the surge of energy.  

Archer took a breath. “But you are missed.” 

I grinned. “So, like I said, your world is not complete without my constant presence?”  

He rolled his eyes. “If that was what you need to tell yourself so you’ll come pay everyone a visit, then sure, my world is not complete without your constant presence. My soul is shriveling inside and Dee has to rock me to sleep each night.” 

My lips twitched. “Just hearing you say that will help me sleep better at night and I….” I trailed off.  

A shiver of awareness skittered over the nape of my neck. Instinct flared alive and that shiver became something else, something old and familiar. Home. Something that felt like home 

Hairs all over my body rose. Heart pounded like a jackhammer. I knew. Dammit. I knew what I felt, who I felt, but I looked. I looked to the left— 

Everything halted even though none did.  

There was no oxygen in the room, no air in my lungs. There were no thoughts in my head, and that wasn’t something that happened often. The world stopped the moment I saw her.  


She stood beside a girl with crimson red hair. A girl I knew Emery was interested in, because of course, I knew exactly who her friends were.  I knew everything about her. Sounded creepy as hell, but I didn’t care. It just was, because I was hers even if she no longer remembered that.  

And she was looking straight in my direction. Christ.  

Pressure clamping down on my chest, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Completely caught off guard, something that rarely, if ever, happened, all I could do was stare. Her hair was down. During the few rare glimpses I allowed myself, her hair was always up. Tonight, it fell halfway down her back in loose, golden waves. Straps so tiny they were silly peeked out from behind the thick strands. The midnight blue of her dress suited the cream of her skin, but any color would, because she was… God, she perfect and beautiful to me, even if uncertainty bled through her pores as her friend headed to the center of the dance floor and she remained standing to the side, fidgeting with her fingers.  

Nadia loved to dance, anywhere and anytime, up until her body failed and she couldn’t find the energy. Only then did she ever remain still while music played.  

But she wasn’t Nadia, not anymore.  

I knew that, God did I ever know that.  

Now the girl she became looked unsure, a little frightened to be here. I didn’t like that. Not for her. The urge to do something, anything, to make her feel safe was almost impossible to ignore.  

But she should she uncertain and afraid, because she wasn’t supposed to be here. She wasn’t supposed to anywhere near me. Those were the rules, but she…. 

She was alive. 

So very much alive. Not sick. Not slowly, terribly dying. Not out of time and out of options.  

That was all that mattered.  

That was all that could matter, but a raw and possessive sensation fisted low in my gut. Other than those all too brief times I’d seen her from a distance, all I had were pictures, moments frozen in time over the years. Portraits and group selfies with friends, but the pictures never captured her the way her eyes sparked or how her smile always started as a lopsided grin. 

Or had that changed too? 

 I gripped the arm of the couch while everything inside me demanded I get up and go to her. That I stand in front of her so that she really saw me. So I could see her. Not from a safe distance where I could control myself. Close enough I could count the freckles on her face. Close enough that I could almost pretend she remembered who I was. 

But she wouldn’t remember. 

Sylvia had made sure of that, hadn’t she?   

Pain pierced my chest, my lungs. Breathe. I wasn’t breathing. Holy shit. I forced my jaw to unlock.  

“Luc?” Concern pinched Archer’s tone as the scent of burnt ozone filled the air. “Are you okay?” 

“Yes.” I eased back against the couch, into the shadows. “Don’t you need to leave?” 

“Well, yeah. I need to get a few things—” 

“You need to leave.” He couldn’t see her. He’d know who she was if he did, and he’d have questions, rightfully so, but ones I couldn’t answer on the packed floor of Foretoken, where there were too many listening ears. Archer didn’t move, so I shifted my gaze to him.  

That was all it took. 

Lines bracketed Archer’s mouth as he swore. “Whatever.” He rose, looking toward the blue-haired human male who sat to my left. “Kent, want to join me?” 

Does joining you involve breaking laws and shenanigans?” Kent asked. 

“When does it not?” Archer replied.  

“Awesome.” Kent waited still, his gaze falling on me.  

“Go,” I murmured, my attention focusing back on her.  

Why was she here, taunting me with everything I wanted and nothing I could have? My knuckles started to ache. I tipped forward slightly, focused like a hawk as she moved. My eyes were thirsty. My soul greedy. I soaked it all in. How her hair swayed and drifted on and off her bare arms. The way the hem of her dress fluttered around her thighs. The way her chest moved in quick, shallow breaths. Need dug in, deeper than anything physical, flaying me from the inside and cutting so deep there had to be blood dotting my shirt. 
Exhaling harshly, I kept my ass seated as a riot of conflicting emotions battled it out in me. Anticipation. Irritation. Yearning. Fury. Pissed at myself, her mother, the world and everything that led to this moment, I kept a tight leash on the power building like a crescendo. I snapped, and everyone in here died, everyone but—  

Her,” growled Gray. “What is she doing here?” 

“Good question.” A muscle ticked along my jaw. “I’m wondering the same thing.”
“Hey.” Gray held up one hand. “It’s not my night to babysit her.” 

“I know.” It was Zoe’s, and she had to know that she was here, but I knew without looking there were no missed calls or texts to give me a heads up. 

“I don’t get it.” Gray shook his head, watching her as she made her way over to the bar.  

I said nothing. 

“I don’t understand your obsession with her,” he went on, and of course he wouldn’t understand. He couldn’t. “How many years have we’ve kept an eye on her for you?” 

Three years and twenty-three days, but who was counting? 

“You’ve never spoken about her. I can’t even remember a time when I heard you say her name once.” Grayson squinted as at her as she waited at the bar. “She’s just a human—a painfully boring human. There’s not a single thing special about her.” 

That wasn’t true.  

Gray knew that, but he didn’t realize I heard the hollowness in his words every time he bitched about her, every time he forced those lies past his lips.  

It was the only reason why I said nothing now 

And those lies were the only reason why he still lived.  

The arm of the couch groaned under my hand. I forced my grip to lessen. I liked this couch. It wasn’t the couches fault that she was here, closer than she had been in three years and twenty three days.  

But she was here and even though I knew better, even though I’d followed the rules—sort of—this entire time, I would see her. She would see me. She was here, after all this time, and it there had to be a reason for that. Fate? Coincidence? I didn’t care.  

Besides, it wasn’t me that broke the rules. 

She had.  

Didn’t matter that she had no idea that she’d dive-bombed right over that invisible line that was established when I made the deal with Sylvia and her bastard of a husband Jason Dasher.  

They’d cure the cancer eating away at her if I walked away, promising to let Jason live, who by the way, deserved a long, painful death, and stayed away from Nadia. Sergeant Dasher has reneged on the deal immediately and paid the price from a very unexpected source.  

Never in a million years had I expected Sylvia to be the one to put Jason down. God knows I wanted that honor.  

None of that meant I trusted the woman, even if she was a Luxen in hiding. Which was why I made sure she stayed safe, kept tabs on Sylvia, and by the time Nadia was healed, she wasn’t… she wasn’t Nadia anymore and there was nothing to be done. 

Sylvia had made sure of that.  

Clyde was making his way over to me and those who didn’t get out of his way fast enough were moved out of his way. “Luc—” 

“I know.” At that very moment, she turned toward the alcove. Inexplicably, our gazes connected over the nothing distance. An eternity passed as one thought got stuck on repeat. Remember me. She spun back around as Chaz approached her from behind the bar. A fist seized my heart. “I see her.” 

“I would’ve given you a heads up sooner but we had an issue at the door.” He placed a heavy hand on the back of the couch. “I didn’t turn her away. Thought that would—” 

Lifting my hand, I crooked my finger. Clyde lowered his bald head. “It’s okay,” I spoke quietly. “Bring her to me.” 

Clyde lifted his head, his gaze meeting mine. I heard the question he didn’t speak out loudAre you sure? 

arched a brow.   

He nodded curtly and then he was moving away more quietly than one would expect for a man his size.  

Gray twisted toward me as if to speak. 

“Say one word and I swear I’ll knock you through a wall.” I paused as I draped an arm over the back of the couch. “Repeatedly.” 

A rare smile graced Grayson’s face, and I thought he might actually like being knocked through a wall, but he quieted and said not another word.  

Small favors.  

Then I wasn’t thinking about Gray. Clyde was speaking to her, and a moment I’d been dying for was coming.  

My heart was racing even faster now and the minute it took for Clyde to retrieve her stretched out until it felt like an hour. The closer she got, the finer details of her face became clear Her face was less round and her lips—Damn, her lips—were fuller than before, lusher. She wasn’t much taller. Maybe an inch, but she had changed. That short dress….  


I loved it.  

My lashes lowered as my fingers started to tap again. I waited.    

Clyde led her past Gray, and her cheeks were paler than normal, causing the splattering of freckles to stand out in stark release, and— 

Average life. Average face. Average body. 

My fingers halted for half a beat. She was loud. Her thoughts a megaphone. I almost laughed, because she’d always been loud. A swelling motion whipped through my chest at the knowledge that hadn’t changed, but there was nothing funny about those thoughts. 

There was nothing average about her. 
How could she think that? 

Those eyes of hers were so big, a warm chocolate brown, intelligent as they were uncertain, as they darted between Clyde and I. “What is going . . . ?”  

Her voice. 

It sent a shockwave through me, robbing me of speech and sight for a few seconds. Her voice. It was still her voice, after everything we gave up, it was still her voice.  

 “Sit,” I said softly.  

She blinked and then sat on the couch, farthest from me as she possible couldI watched her watching Clyde, her gaze trailing after him as he stalked back toward the entrance. She looked like she might spring from her seat and chase after him.  

She didn’t want to be around me.  

That should relieve me, but irritation pricked at my skin. “You can stare in Clyde’s direction all you want, but no amount of wishful thinking is going to bring him backThough, if you’re wishing for that and it works, then you’re made of awesome dark magic.”  

The plastic cup in her grip appeared as if it were seconds from caving in, but she didn’t respond, but then the music shifted to the heavy beat of drums, and she had one hundred percent of my focus as those on the floor shouted, pumping their fists in the air.  

She stiffened, eyes widening as the thick lyrics filled the air. Her lips parted, and I stilled, heart nearly stopping. Did she remember being on a stage like the one before her, screaming the lyrics to what had become our battle cry? Or was it just… residue from a life that no longer belonged to her? 

“Like the song?” I asked. 

Slowly, she turned to me, and I felt the jolt of the eye contact all the way to the core of my very being. I started to move toward her, to do what, I had no idea. Something incredibly inappropriate.  

Then she spoke again. “You’re a Luxen.” 

Gray snorted. 

Spell broken, I stamped down on the ferocious need and grasped at the control that only ever failed me when she was involved. “I’m not a Luxen.” 

Picking up on her thoughts, I could tell she didn’t believe me. That was fine. The less she remembered from her old life, they better.  

“Are you a human wearing freaky contacts then?” she asked. 

“Nope.” Sensing she wasn’t going to let that line of questioning go, I asked, “Are you enjoying yourself tonight?” 

“Uh, yeah . . . I . . . think so.” 


I bit down on my lip and caught that her gaze followed. Her thoughts became very loud then. She was thinking about my mouth, how… kissable… my lips looked.  

I fought back a grin. “You don’t sound very convincing. You actually look like you would rather be anyplace but here.” And that was the truth. “So, what are you doing here?” 

Surprise flickered across her face.  

“Your friend comes here a lot. She fits in. Has fun. You have never come here.” I lifted my gaze to hers, wanting to know why, after all this time, she was here. “And I would know if you had been here before.” 

Her eyes narrowed as she wondered how I could’ve known if she had been here before, and irritation gave way to anger.  I knew it wasn’t her fault. None of this was, but the fact that she didn’t realize I would know the very second she was here cut even deeper. 

“You stand by the dance floor all by yourself. You don’t have fun… and you don’t fit in here.” 



She sucked in a sharp breath laded with hurt. “This is my first time here—” 

“I already knew that. Obviously. Because I just said that.” 

“I’m sorry,” she said, sounding the exact opposite of sorry. “Who are you again?” 

The sting of my words had given way to anger, and the joy I found in that would’ve concerned counselors across the world.  “My name is Luc.” 


“And I want to know why you’re here.” 

“Are you like the official club greeter or something?” she demanded. 

My grin turned up a notch as I dropped a foot onto the glass coffee table and met her gaze. “I’m going to be blunt with you.” 

She made a sound that was vaguely like a laugh. “You haven’t been blunt already?” 

God, I liked that. 

I liked it a lot—the snappy comebacks and the fact she wasn’t sitting there, cowered. It… it soothed a troubled part to know she still had a spine of steel. “You shouldn’t be here. Like, of all the places for you to be, this is the last place. Isn’t that right, Grayson?” 

“Beyond right,” he answered, and even if her thoughts weren’t screaming at me, I could see the heat of embarrassment climbing down her throat, over the swells of her chest.  

I wanted to punch myself in places that would hurt for a long time.  

I opened my mouth, but then her thoughts intruded once more.   

No way am I letting him, a complete stranger—and alien—get the better of me. At the end of the day, he was a jerk-face, and I wasn’t going to allow him to hurt my feelings. Absolutely no way. I closed my mouth as she held my gaze 

“I didn’t realize I needed your permission to be here, Luc.” 

 “Well,” I drawled, tensing at the sound of my name coming from her. Something I had been sure I’d never hear again. “Now you do.” 

She drew back. “Are you serious?” A shocked laugh escaped her. “You don’t own this place. You’re just some—” She inhaled deeply. “You’re just some guy.” 

I heard what she wasn’t going to say, and I chuckled.  “Now, I know that’s not what you were about to say or what you’re really thinking.” I continued tapping my fingers, knowing it annoyed her. “Tell me what I really am. I cannot wait to hear it.” 

“Whatever.” She glanced over at the dance floor. “I came here to hang out with my friend. That’s all I’m doing. It has nothing to do with you.” 

“Everything has to do with me.” 

She blinked once and then twice. She thought I… I was the most arrogant person she ever met. If she remembered meeting Daemon Black, she would know that was not true.  

“By the way, you’re not hanging out with your friend. Like I pointed out earlier, you were standing by the dance floor . . . just standing there, all by yourself.” My gaze coasted over her expression, fascinated with how expressive her face had become. “Is that what you normally do when you hang out with your friend? Stand by yourself, drinking water?” 

She was struck speechless.  

I grinned then, having more fun than I should be. “You’re not even old enough to be in here.” 

“I’m old enough.” 


“Your big burly friend checked my ID and let me in. Ask him.” 

Knowing I should let this go, tell her she needed to leave and that she could never come back, I wasn’t at all surprised when I did the exact opposite. “Let me see your ID.” 

She scowled. “No.” 

“Why not?” 

“Because you’re some rando dude in a club. I’m not going to show you my ID.” 

“Or maybe you don’t want to show me your ID because it proves you’re not twenty-one.” 

Her lips pressed into a thin, hard line. 

I raised an eyebrow.  “Or is it because you think I’m a Luxen?” 

“Now that sounds like the real issue,” Gray chimed in, and she glanced at him. “That’s probably also why she’s not comfortable. I bet she’s one of those people.” 

“Those people?” she repeated. 

 “The kind scared of the Luxen.” 

Her thoughts weren’t so loud then, and I couldn’t determine if that was true or not. Unsettled by the idea of her being afraid of Luxen, I knew who’d to blame if that was the case.  


I cursed under my breath. “Does being around Luxen like this, out of the public eye, bother you? Scare you?” 

“No. It doesn’t,” she answered. 

And now I could hear her thoughts. That was true and it wasn’t. She had a healthy, sensible fear of the Luxen. Anyone with two working brain cells had to be somewhat wary with them, but her fear wasn’t driven by hate.  

She surprised me then, reaching into the small purse and whipped out her ID.  “Here you go,” she said with an impressive amount of false brightness.  

I took the card, purposely brushing my fingers over hers. The shock static wasn’t intended, but I knew she felt it, because she gasped, jerking her hand back. The surge of energy from me to her had nothing to do with naturally occurring static but a result of how many times I had tried to heal her.  

And failed.  

I glanced down at the ID and almost choked on a laugh. “Nola Peters?” 

“Yes.” I chin lifted a notch. “That’s my name.”
That was so not the name Sylvia had given her. No, it was the combination of… two of her favorite cities. I glanced back at her, picking up the names. New Orleans and Petersburg. She’d been to neither. Interesting. She hadn’t had favorite cities before. I wondered why she chose them if she’d never been there.  

“It says you’re twenty-two.” I lowered the card. “You’re not twenty-two. I bet you’re barely seventeen,” I said, knowing that she would be eighteen in six months.  

It was evident by the way she took her next breath, she was losing patience.  “You know, you don’t look like you’re twenty-one.” 

“Looks can be deceiving.” I flipped the card between my fingers. “I have a baby face.” 


“I like to think I’m going to age gracefully. People will think I’ve found the fountain of youth,” I told her. 

“Okay,” she drew the word out. “Look, it’s hasn’t been nice talking to you, so I have to go. I need to find my friend—” 

“Your friend is busy, you know, having fun.” My grin spread as I picked up her thinking about punching me. “Unlike you. You are not having fun.” 

“You’re right. I’m not.” Her eyes narrowed once again. “I was actually trying to be polite—” 

“Quaint,” he murmured, half expecting her to toss the water on me like she was fantasizing about.  

 “But truth time?” She started to get up. I really don’t want to spend another minute in your presence. You’re a dick and I don’t know you. I don’t want to get to know you. Peace out, home skillet.” 

I should’ve let her go then.  

But I didn’t.  

She wasn’t remotely afraid of me. Called me a dick straight to my face, and it wasn’t because she was lacking the inherent sense of self-preservation like some humans and even humans did. Like before… before she was cured, she had more courage than sense, because she was wary of me. She thought I was a Luxen, and with that, she knew I could do any manner of things to her before she even realized what was happening. And I thought if she realized I was more powerful than any Luxen known, she still would’ve called me a dick.  

That interested me.  

That made me think of other times when she stood up to me, furious because I’d left her behind when Paris and I had meetings or when I tried to cut her out of danger, glaring at me with those chocolate eyes while I towered over her. Nadia, who knew exactly what I was and what I was capable of, never feared me. 

The girl she was now did not fear me, and because of that, I could not, would not let her go.  

“But I know who you are.” I paused. “I know who you really are, Evelyn.” 

The shock that rippled through her was like a tidal wave. “How do you know my name?” 

I stared up at her as I leaned back against the couch.  “I know a lot of things.” 

“Okay. You just took creepy to a creeptastic level of unknown proportions.”  

Thinking if she only knew, I laughed a deep, real laugh. Gray looked at over at me, his gaze sharp. “I’ve been told that a time or two in my life.” 

“Why am I not surprised?”  

I opened my mouth. 

“Don’t answer that question. Can I have my ID back?” 

She caught me off. No one cut me off. Ever.  

I loved that more than the indecent dress with silly tiny straps.  

Moving faster than she could track, I was inches from the constellation of freckles. “What if I told you a truth? Would you tell me one in return?” 

She glared at me, lips a mutinous line. Suddenly, I saw her younger, hair a ratty mess, fists covered in dirt as she stopped her bare feet in river mud, mad because I wouldn’t go swimming with her. Who would? She was in the Potomac 

“You were right earlier. I’m not twenty-one,” I said. “I’m eighteen.” There was a short pause. “Almost nineteen. My birthday is December twenty-fourth. I’m a Christmas miracle. Now it’s your turn.” 

“You’re creepy,” she responded. “That’s a truth I will tell.” 

I stared at her, speechless for a moment, and then another laugh broke free, and I didn’t care who heard it. “Now, that is not how you play this game, Evie.”  

Before I could tell her just how the game was played, the overhead lights came on. The entire floor was flooded in light. 

“Damn.” I sighed. “This is going to be inconvenient. Hell.” I rose, looking toward Gray. “Here we go again. You know what to do. Move them out.” 

Gray slipped his phone into his pocket and then stood, taking off for the floors above. He would make sure no one was found.  

I turned my attention back to her.  “You’re coming with me.” 

“What?” she squeaked. “I’m not going anywhere with you. Like, I wouldn’t even walk from here to the dance floor with you.” 

“Well, that’s kind of offensive.” And kind of funny. “But we’re about to be raided and not in the fun way.” 

She froze.  

“And hey, you’re underage. Don’t think you want to get busted, right?” Reaching down, I took her hand. The charge of power was duller this time, but still a reminder of who she was—who we were.  

 “I need to find Heidi. She’s—” 

“She’s with Emery.” I tugged her around the table. “She’ll be fine.” 

“And I’m supposed to trust you?” 

Looking over my shoulder at her, I met her gaze. “I didn’t ask you to trust me.” 

She sucked in a sharp breath, but there wasn’t time to give her a chance to obsess over me leading her somewhere. RAC drones made their appearance, along with the ART officers, entering the club like a swarm of annoying insects. A shudder went through her even as she dug her feet in, pulling on her hand. 

“Let go!” she demanded. 

“Everyone, down!” One of the officers yelled.  

No one listened.  

Humans and aliens scattered in every direction. Bodies smashed together, knocking into her. She started to slip.  

 “Oh no, you don’t.” I yanked her up. If she went down, she’d be crushed, and the last thing any of these people would have to worry about was the officers.   

Rushing her behind the bar, I pulled her out of the way of the Luxen vaulting over the counter— 

I sensed the grind of metal on metal. Cold, hard anger burned through me as I shoved her to my side a second before the air erupted with gunfire. Rubber bullets meant to stun the humans, but still could do some damage.  

Dipping down, I slid us out from under the bar just as several bottles of liquor exploded. One look told me it was the expensive shit. Of cours.  “Such a damn mess,” I muttered, disgusted. 

Disbelief thundered through her as I led us down a dark hallway, past those who had no idea there was only one way out from here.  Cutting to the right, I pushed open a door and entered darkness. My eyes adapted quickly.  

“I can’t— I can’t see anything,” she whispered. 

“You’re fine.” I charged ahead, stalking past the laundry facilities.  

“Stop!” a man yelled. 

I couldn’t let them see her, get a look at her face, remember her. No way. Twisting, I grabbed her by the waist, catching her off guard. A small squeal left her as I lifted her up.  

 “You’re too slow,” I told her. 

I took off, keeping my arm around her waist so she didn’t slip. Not like that would happen with how tight she was holding onto my shirt. I blew past the bathroom, where a window to the back alley was, knowing she’d probably waste value time arguing with me. I cut a sharp left, letting her go so she would land on her feet as I found the hidden panel in the wall. The screen read my flattened palm and slid open. 

“What the . . . ?” she sputtered.  

Only serial killers had hidden rooms! That thought I picked up from her would’ve made me laugh any other time, but I needed her to be quiet. I shushed her, grinning when she slipped into a mental tirade about me shushing her.  

Once inside the room, I let go of her hand and then closed the door. Only a thin strip of light crept under the door. I stepped back, and she pressed into the wall. I had no idea where she thought she was going to go. There was no room, and when I took a breath, I smelled… peaches.  

My eyes slammed shut. To be this close to her again. I would’ve dropped to my knees if there been room.  

A door banged off the wall out in the hall, causing her to jump. A moment later, her hands landed on my back. I was moving before I could stop myself, turning so that I was facing her and her hands were on my chest. Her soft exclamation of surprise danced over my skin. I caught her wrists before she could do something that would draw attention to us.  

 “They have to be back here,” an officer’s frustrated voice filled the hall outside the room. “I’ve checked the other rooms.” 

A trickle fear crept through her racing thoughts. I dipped my head so my mouth was by her ear.  “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.” 

She turned, her nose grazing my cheek in a way that caused me to tense. “It’s a little late for that,” she whispered back. 

“True.” I shifted my weight, feeling her shiver when our legs brushed. “We just need to play it cool in here for a little bit and then they’ll be gone.” 

She was quiet for a moment “Does this happen often?” 

“About once a week.” 

“Lovely,” she muttered, and I chuckled softly. “What are you guys doing here to get raided?” 

“Why do you think we have to be doing something?” 

“Because you’re getting raided.” She was so stiff, the fear of the Officer opening fire spreading through her like a virus. 

Seeking to distract her, I moved my thumb over hers. Her breath caught. “Do you really think they need a reason to come in here, search for people?” I asked. “To hurt people?” 

“Are you registered?” 

“I already told you.” I tilted my head, closing my eyes again. Perhaps this room wasn’t a good idea. “I’m not a Luxen.” We were close, too close. I was surrounded by her. “You . . . you smell.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“You smell like . . . peaches.” 

“It’s my lotion.” Her hands closed into fists as frustration churned with fear and then something else, something that reminded me of warm sheets and soft lips. My heart thudded.  She was worried and she was mad, but that wasn’t the only thing she was feeling, and realizing that was almost too much. 

“I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” she stated. 

“Good.” I couldn’t help but tease her, tease myself. “I can think of a lot more interesting things to do in a tiny, dark space that would pass the time.” 

She locked up. “You try something and you will regret it.” 

I laughed under my breath. “Calm down.” 

“Don’t tell me to calm down,” she whispered-yelled. “I’m not who those men are looking for. I have no reason to stay quiet.” 

“Oh, you do.” I glided my thumb over her palm. 

“Stop that.” 

“Stop what?” I asked as I did it again.  

“That.” Her thoughts were now jumping all over the place, but I could track them. Out of the mess was her… her thinking about my lips—my “kissable” lips. Damn. “And come to think of it, how do you—” 

Her phone rang, echoing off the walls of the small room.  

“Well,” I sighed, I dropped her hands. “That’s truly inconvenient timing.” 

A voice shouted from the hallway, sending terror through her. I curved my hand around the nape of her neck, startling her enough to focus on me, only me as I lowered my head far enough that my nose touched hers.  “When I open this door, you’re going to run to your left. There’s a bathroom. Inside said bathroom is a window you can climb out of. Do it fast.” 

The Officer kicked at the door.  

“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “We could’ve just run outside through the bathroom?” 

I slid my hand off her neck. “But then we wouldn’t have had these precious moments alone.” 

“You are—” 

I shouldn’t have done what I did next. I knew that. Even though she was thinking about doing the same, I should’ve exercised better control. I didn’t.  

I brushed my lips over hers, and the slight contact was nothing short of something beautiful. Her lips parted, and the tip of her tongue touched mine, a tentative, impulsive stroke that lit a fire in my blood. 

“A Luxen didn’t kiss you.” My lips brushed over hers once more before I lifted my head, breathing heavy as I ended the too quick kiss.    

“But neither did a human.” 

“What?” Her voice was breathless.  

It was time.   

Stepping back, I turned from her. “Get ready.” 


Making sure she was blocked behind me, I opened the door and found an EMP gun pointed directly at me. I rolled my eyes, stepping forward as I grabbed the front of the man’s white uniform. I tossed him aside with enough force that when he hit the wall, he was out cold by the time he landed face first on the floor.  

 “Holy crap.” She stood behind me, staring at the man. 

Voices from the Officer’s radio said we were about to have company.  

“Go,” I said, letting the Source ripple through me. The edges of my vision turned white as I stepped aside. She stared at me, lips parted and cheeks flushed. “I’ll see you later,” I promised her.  

She hesitated for a half a moment and then took off for the bathroom. Waiting until the door swung shut behind her, I strode forward, stopping in front of the closed door. I didn’t have to wait long.  

The doors at the end of the hall flew open, crashing into the wall as three ART Officers filed through and then spread out, side by side.  

“Hi,” I said, dipping my chin as I smiled.  

Three EMP guns leveled at my chest. The Officer in the middle spoke. “Get on the floor, face down.” 

“Do you think if I lie down that will somehow protect you?” I asked, and the Officer on the left, sent a nervous glance to the one in the middle. “Spoiler alert, it won’t.” 

“Where is the bitch that was with you?” The first one to speak demanded. “Call her out here and we won’t shoot you.” 

The bitch? 

My head cocked to the side as white crept across my entire line of vision. “You should’ve already fired that gun.” 

The middle officer’s finger twitched over the trigger, but I was faster. The distance between us disappeared in a nanosecond. Whipping the rifle out of his hands, I knocked his head back with the butt of the gun as the others whirled on me. Lifting my hand, I didn’t touch them. I didn’t need to. They flew upward, smacking into the ceiling. Plaster cracked and they hit the floor hard. They’d wake up… eventually and most likely find themselves hogtied in a different state.   

My gaze fell to the middle Officer.  

He, on the other hand, was another story.  

As he struggled to his knees, blood dripping from his mouth, I placed my hand on his forehead, holding him in place. I bent, whispering in his ear, “You should’ve never called her that.”
Channeling the red-hot intensity of the Source, the white light that poured out of his mouth silenced his screams. In seconds, he was nothing but ash.  I waved my hand, scattering the remains until there was no evidence even the most skilled pathologist could find.  

I headed into the bathroom, straight for the open window. Hopping up, I climbed through. Loose asphalt crunched under my boots as I landed. Straightening, I looked around. The red and blue lights from patrol cars parked on the mains streets reflected off the damp brick of nearby buildings.  

The rain had turned to a fine drizzle, it’s scent still heavy in the air, but when I inhaled, I still smelled peaches.  

Slowly, I lifted my hand. The Source still crackled white light over my knuckles as I touched my mouth, my lips. They tingled. Like a jolt of electricity still hummed beneath the skin. They only did that once before, the first time when she’d kissed me. The last time. The only time. 

Until now.  

Heart pounding, I lowered my hand, fingers curling inward as the air shifted. I inclined my head.  “Make sure she found her friend and they make it home safely.” 

A shadow peeled away from the wall. Very few knew how to be as silent and unseen as Zoe. “Luc….” 

There were a hundred questions in her tone. Questions Zoe already knew the answer to.  


Lifting my chin, I closed my eyes and let the rain settle over my skin. God, I loved the smell of peaches. Weight lifted off my chest, like a hundred chains slacking and falling loose.  

She was still the one 


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About Me

#1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer lives in West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, hanging out with her husband and her Border Jack Apollo.

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