The Burning Shadow (Origin, #2)

“I always want that,” he whispered against my lips.

Startled, I jerked back and broke contact. The lit atoms flickered and then fizzled out in a series of crackles. My gaze swung to Luc’s face.

One side of his mouth kicked up as his gaze collided with mine. “All you have to do is ask, Peaches. All you have to do is tell me what you want, and it’s yours.”

I opened my mouth as my cheeks warmed. At a loss, I reached for the soda on the nightstand, taking a huge gulp. A slight tremble rattled the can as I placed it back on the nightstand that was bare except for a silver lamp.

“So…” I cleared my throat, searching for something to say. “How did you meet Paris?”

“It’s kind of a funny story,” he replied after a moment. “He tried to kill me.”

“What?” My head whipped toward him. I had not been expecting that. “How is that funny?”

He grinned. “It was shortly after I’d escaped the Daedalus. I was around five, I think?”

I stared at him. “He tried to kill you when you were five?”

“Well, me at five was like a normal human at sixteen for all intents and purposes, but yeah, he’d been blackmailed into hunting me down with this other group of Luxen. They were supposed to capture and bring me back. That’s not how it went down, though.”

I had a feeling I could guess what happened.

“They, of course, weren’t as prepared as they should’ve been when they found me. All of them except Paris had no issue with what was being done. I could tell.” He tapped his finger to the side of his head. “So, I saved Paris.”

In other words, he’d killed the rest of them … at five years old. I blinked slowly. “How were they blackmailing him?”

“They had his siblings,” he answered. “A brother and a sister.”

Oh God. “What happened to them?”

Luc looked away then. “We tried to find and free them, but they were killed once the Daedalus figured out Paris had teamed up with me instead of killing me.”

“God,” I whispered, thinking there were a lot of moments like this for him. People trying to kill him or control him, experiment on him and use him. “Are you sure you had good memories?”


I wasn’t so sure about that, and I was thinking that maybe it was a little bit of a blessing that I couldn’t remember my childhood. And I wished I could … change that for him.

I looked away from him, my gaze landing on where my camera sat on my backpack. I’d brought it with me, planning to finally go through the pictures, but it sat untouched.

There was something I wanted to do, but it was kind of weird. Like, super-weird.

“Nothing is weird to me.”

I sighed. “You’re in my head again.”

“Guilty as charged.” When I looked at him, he arched a brow, utterly unrepentant. “What is it that you want to do, Peaches?”

“I want to take your picture.” My face felt as if it were on fire. “And I know that sounds creepy—”

Interest filled his expression. “That sounds hot.”

“Not that kind of picture!” Now my entire body was burning. “I just … you have such interesting lines. Your face, I mean. I want to capture them on film.” I rose, wiping my suddenly damp palms as I turned away from him. “God, saying that out loud does sound creepy as hell. Just forget—”

“You can take as many pictures as you want.”

“Really?” I faced him, clasping my hands together. Excitement thrummed to life. “You don’t think it’s weird?”

Luc shook his head, sending messy waves tumbling in every direction.

I glanced at my camera and then back at Luc. The question came out before I could stop myself. “You said Nadia—you said I was always interested in taking pictures?”

He nodded this time. “You liked to take a lot of the outdoors. Fall was your favorite. Then winter, but only when it had snowed. Otherwise, you didn’t like taking those pictures, because—”

“Everything looks dead in the middle of the winter,” I whispered, and when he nodded again, I felt a little dizzy. “It’s weird. You know? That there are pieces of Nadia in me. I guess they’ve always been there.” I walked to my bag and picked up the camera, wrapping the strap around my arm. “Do you think there’s any of Evie in me?”

Luc was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. I didn’t know her.”

I fiddled with the buttons on the camera. “I was thinking last night that it seemed wrong to replace her, you know? Like it’s an insult to her memory. It makes me feel gross.”

“It wasn’t of your choosing, though. You didn’t wake up one day and decide to take over her life. Sylvia—” He cut himself off when I looked over at him. His shoulders were tense, the line of his jaw harsh, turning the beauty of all those lines more brutal than warm.

I lifted the camera then, snapping a picture before I lost my nerve. He didn’t seem to mind.

“Don’t put that kind of guilt on yourself,” he said. “You didn’t make that choice.”

I knew what he was saying. Mom had made that choice, to replace the real Evie with me. She hadn’t needed to do that. A part of me thought it wasn’t wise to talk about Mom with him, especially after what happened the day before, but the words, the truth of it all, bubbled up. “She could’ve given me any other identity.”

“Yeah, she could’ve.” Luc held still as I slowly approached him. “Kind of makes you wonder why she did that.”

My fingers halted several inches from his face. “It does.” I drew in a shallow breath and then touched his chin. His entire body gave the slightest jerk, and I pulled my hand back. “Sorry. I was just going to—”

“No, it’s okay.” His eyes were a brighter shade of violet as he caught my hand and brought my fingers back to his chin.

Throat inexplicably dry, I tilted his head back and to the left so the sunlight caught the side of his face again. “I think she did it because she missed the real Evie.”

“People do the strangest things for love.”

Carefully, I brushed a thick lock of hair back from his face. His eyes closed as the tips of my fingers grazed his forehead. Warmth crept into my cheeks as I stepped back. “Don’t move.”

“Your wish is my command.”

My lips twitched as I lifted my camera, adjusting the focus until I snapped a picture of him. I took several as I moved toward the foot of the bed, attempting to capture all the striking angles while feeling incredibly self-conscious.

Lowering the camera, I walked back to him, turning his chin so he was looking straight at me. I wanted to ask him to smile, but I was too embarrassed to do so.

“Are you going to look at the ones you just took?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Not until I’m done.”

“That’s different.”

My gaze lifted to his, and I saw that he was smiling. Not a big one. That kind was rare for Luc, but this was a lopsided grin, and when those strands of hair flopped back onto his forehead, there was this adorable rakish look to him.

I snapped a pic.

“From before, I mean,” he clarified. “You’d look at every picture after you took it. But you never took portraits. Do you take a lot of them now?”

“Not a lot, but I’ve taken photos of Zoe and Heidi, even James. But more candid shots, you know? Like when they’re not paying attention to me.” I switched the mode to black-and-white. “I guess that’s something that is all me.”

“It is.”

Smiling, I lifted the camera and took another shot of him in black-and-white, and then I went over to him to readjust his angle.

Luc caught my fingers as he snagged my gaze, and my entire body locked up. He dragged them over the line of his jaw, to his parted lips. His warm breath danced over the tips of my fingers. He pressed a kiss to one finger. A tight, hot shiver curled low.

“I like this,” he said, kissing my next finger.

“Like what?” Did I sound as breathless as I felt?

“You taking pictures.” Another kiss on another finger. “I like that you’re involving me in something you like to do.”

An incredible whooshing sensation swept through my chest, more than a flutter, like an impossibly sweet swelling. “I like…”

He stared up at me through thick lashes, his mouth centimeters from my last finger. “What?”

I felt warm and dizzy as he held my gaze. “I like you … being involved.”

One side of his mouth kicked up. “I know,” he said, and then before I could respond, he nipped at my pinkie, a quick bite that sent a bolt of awareness through me.

My stomach hollowed as I sucked in air that seemed to do nothing to alleviate the sudden, intense throbbing.

Luc’s smile turned downright wicked as he lowered my hand. His gaze flicked over my shoulder. “We’ll have to take more later.”

I opened my mouth, but a knock at the door silenced me. I stared at him dumbly as he rose, still holding on to my hand. “How do you do that? Know when someone is about to knock?”

“I’m that special.” Luc led me down the step and into his living room. “Like a snowflake, unique and pure.”

I snickered as he let go of my hand and went to the door. From where I stood, I saw Kent’s blue mohawk when Luc opened the door.

“What’s up?” Luc asked, dragging a hand through his hair.

“We got a problem.”
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