The Burning Shadow (Origin, #2)






4


Unease churned in my stomach as I sat on the edge of the couch. A problem could be anything from someone stubbing their toe to a raid on the club. Anything was possible here.

“Sorry to bother you guys.” Kent cocked his head to the side, and I had no idea how the weight of his mohawk didn’t topple him over. He waved at me. “Hi, honeybuns. Glad to see that you’re okay. You dying would’ve sucked.”

I waved back up at him. I hadn’t seen Kent since before Micah’s attack. He hadn’t been a part of the cleanup.

He refocused on Luc. “It’s Officer Bromberg. Again. This time, he’s refusing to leave until he speaks to you.”

“Officer?” My heart plummeted. “Is something going on?”

“Nothing to worry about, Peaches.” Luc pivoted, heading into the kitchen. “Bromberg is with ART, and he likes to come in here and throw his weight around, because he knows we have unregistered Luxen here.” Luc grinned at me as he pulled out a contact case. “He just can’t prove it.”

ART? That meant there was an Alien Response Task Force officer down there, and I had no idea why that wasn’t something to worry about.

“Which is why I’m lingering up here,” came a deep, familiar voice from the doorway. A tall, dark-haired Luxen stood in the doorway beside Kent. Daemon Black. “I’m too lazy to put the contacts in.”

“Or too afraid,” Luc quipped as he popped the lenses in, changing the color of his eyes from a vibrant purple to a dark brown. “You should’ve seen him the first time he did it. I thought he was going to vomit.”

Daemon shot him a look.

“I can’t stand the idea of contacts, either. The whole sticking my finger in my eye—no, thank you,” I chimed in, and one side of Daemon’s mouth quirked up.

“That’s because you’re not supposed to stick your finger in your eye, Peaches,” Luc replied.

I ignored that comment. “Are you sure we shouldn’t be concerned with this officer being here?”

“It’s fine.” He swaggered over to the door. “Thought you were leaving?” he said to Daemon, and as they both stood there, eye to eye, I wondered if Daemon would think it was creepy if I took their picture.

Probably.

So, I resisted.

“I am in a bit.” He strolled into Luc’s apartment as if it were his own. “I’ll keep Evie company while you’re occupied, though.”

Luc’s eyes narrowed, and I’d swear Daemon’s grin kicked up a notch as he dropped onto the couch beside me, throwing his arm along the back of it.

“I’ll be back shortly,” Luc said, sending one last, long look before hooking a finger along the back of Kent’s collar, spinning him around.

Kent waved goodbye, and then the door was swinging shut behind them, and I was sitting side by side with Daemon Black. With his black wavy hair and chiseled features, he was just as stunning to look at as his emerald-green eyes were.

Alien DNA did a body good.

Fiddling with the strap of my camera, I stared at the television, unsure of what to say. The TV was turned on to one of the news channels, but the volume was so low that I couldn’t hear what they were saying. There was a breaking news banner along the bottom, something about a quarantine situation in Boulder, Colorado.

“You don’t have to worry about the officer,” Daemon said, looking over at me. Those emerald-green eyes were so bright, it was slightly unnerving. “Luc has it handled. This is just another normal Monday for him.”

“I don’t think it’s normal to have ART officers show up like that.” I lowered my camera to my lap. “I mean, what if he were to find proof of any number of unregistered Luxen here?”

“Then Luc will take care of it.”

“Take care of it? As in ‘take care of’ the officer?”

“You probably aren’t ready for that answer.”

I opened my mouth but promptly snapped it shut. I wasn’t stupid. Didn’t take a genius to figure out what Daemon meant, but suspecting that Luc would silence the officer in the forever-and-ever kind of way was not the same thing as hearing Daemon confirm it.

So, I changed the subject.

“You haven’t gone home yet?” I asked.

Daemon shook his head. “I’ll be leaving tonight, once it’s dark. I would hang around to make sure everything is cool here after that shit with Micah, but I need to get home. My girl is about to have our first baby, and I need to be there with her.”

“Baby? Congrats!” I immediately pictured Daemon snuggling an infant, and my ovaries might have exploded a little. “Being away has to be really hard right now.”

“It is. Coming here and getting the packages is something I need to do, but I’m not missing another second of Kat’s pregnancy,” he said. Package was the code word for unregistered Luxen. Daemon and others were moving them from their temporary hideout here at the club to someplace safe, where they could live without fear and without being forced to wear a Disabler. Where they were moving those Luxen to, I had no idea. No one had filled me in on that part yet. “This is the last trip I’ll make for a while, so you’ll probably be meeting my brother soon.”

“Cool,” I murmured, thinking about how dangerous it was, what they did, and the risks they were taking. “Have I met your—”

“Wife. Her name is Kat, and you two have met a couple of times.” Daemon’s gaze flickered away. “Luc will probably be pissed at me for telling you this, but the first time Kat and I saw you, you were dancing.”

My heart stuttered. Daemon had seen me dancing? I couldn’t believe it. I loved dancing, but I only did it in the privacy of my bedroom, where I could flail around like a cracked-out Muppet baby and no one could judge me. But Nadia danced in front of people—people like Daemon?

“I was?” I asked, throat parched.

He nodded.

I guessed Nadia—the old, unfamiliar me—had larger lady balls than I did.

Go figure.

What little I did know of Nadia’s life told me she was a braver, stronger, and all-around more badass version of me.

He nodded. “It was at Harbinger, another club Luc owned. It’s no more now, destroyed after the invasion, but we saw you there. You were a couple of years younger than Luc, and you were up on a stage just dancing away. You were really good. That was before…”

I nodded slowly, processing this little tidbit of information. I knew what before meant. Before the other Luxen, the ones who hadn’t been living here for decades unknown among the human populace, had invaded. Before millions of people and Luxen were killed in an all-out war. Before, when I was known as Nadia Holliday, and before I became so sick that I had been dying of a blood cancer that no Luxen or Origin could heal.

I hadn’t known there had been another club, and based on the timeline that I knew, I quickly did the math. My eyes widened as I shook my head. “Luc owned a club at thirteen or fourteen?”

A wry grin appeared. “Yeah, that was about my reaction when I first learned who Luc was. But that was before I even knew Origins existed. Anyway, later that night, while Kat and I were talking with Luc, you popped your head into the room. The way he reacted to us seeing you, to us learning you existed, I knew right then and there, Luc and I had something in common.”

My brows pinched. “What? Mind-numbing good looks?”

Daemon’s response was a slow curl of the lips that hinted at deep dimples.

Wait. I said that out loud?

I sort of wanted to smack myself. Hard.

“Well, we do have that in common, but that’s not what I was thinking,” he replied smoothly. His grin faded. “Can I give you some unasked-for advice?”

“Sure,” I said, curious. Probably had to do with my driving since I almost ran him over once before. Totally not my fault, though. He had appeared directly in front of my car without warning.

Daemon was quiet for a long moment. “Luc and I would do anything to protect the people we love.”

I stilled, unable to take more than a shallow breath as I stared at the male Luxen. I didn’t know how to respond to that.

“I would beg, plead, barter, and kill to protect Kat,” he continued, voice low, but every word struck me like thunder. “Nothing in this world would stop me, and there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do—and it’s the same for Luc when it comes to you.”

The next breath I took got caught in my throat as a brightness whirled through my veins. An undefinable amount of joy became a balloon in the center of my sternum, filling me up. I felt like I could float right up to the ceiling. To be loved like that? I’d seen that kind of all-consuming powerful love whenever Emery looked at my friend Heidi, so I knew that was real, and to know that Luc felt—

Luc felt that way about Nadia, though.

The reminder popped that whole balloon and sent me whizzing back to reality.

Things between Luc and me were complicated, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a human and he was an Origin, and everything to do with who I used to be.

A girl Luc had loved and lost—a girl he still loved.

A girl who used to be me.

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