The Burning Shadow (Origin, #2)

A girl I couldn’t remember no matter how hard I tried.

“Luc loves Nadia, and I’m not her,” I said, sliding my suddenly damp hands over my jeans. “I may have been her once upon a time and I might look like her, but we’re not the same person.”

Daemon fell quiet as he studied me. “You might not have those memories, but that doesn’t mean you’re not her and that Luc doesn’t feel the same about you as he did when he knew you as Nadia. And he was a kid then, Evie, and he already was willing to sacrifice everyone around him to save you.”

Something about that tugged at the fringes of my memories. There was a flash of familiarity, but it was gone before I could grasp it. “What do you mean?”

“Do you really want to know?”

I wasn’t so sure, but I nodded. “Yes.”

He sat back, looking toward the television as he rested his ankle on his knee. “Do you know that Kat was captured by the Daeda lus?” The Daedalus had been a secret division of the Department of Defense that had been responsible for assimilating Luxen into the human populace long before they’d invaded, and then for an atrocious series of horrific experiments with both Luxen and humans. “How it all went down?”

I shook my head.

“We were trying to free my brother’s girlfriend, and we did so going off information Luc provided us even though he knew one of us would get caught and that the other would do anything to free them. The whole time, he was planning for it. He needed one of us on the inside, one of us who’d be exposed to all the different serums, especially the new ones that were developing. In a way, he set us up.”

I thought I knew where this was heading, and I also thought I might be sick.

“Luc sent us in there to get the last serum that he knew the Daedalus had created, in an attempt to heal you. It was called the Prometheus serum,” Daemon went on. “That serum was for you. Kat and I could’ve died. We didn’t, but people did die, Evie, and I’m telling you right now, he’d do it all again knowing how it ends.”

“Who died?” I whispered, chilled to the bone.

“A lot of people. A lot of good people died in the process of it all.”

A name came to mind. “Paris?”

“He was one of them.”

I opened my mouth, but I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe it. Paris had died because of Luc.

Because of me.

As much as Luc talked about Paris, he never mentioned this. Not once.

“If Luc was the mastermind behind you all getting captured by the Daedalus and for people dying, then how are you friends with him?” I asked.

“Friends with Luc?” Daemon chuckled, and it was admittedly a nice sound even though I wasn’t sure what was so funny. “I think you mean, how can I look past the fact that he almost got Kat and me killed? Easy. Because I would do the same thing if those shoes were on my feet.”

“Really?” I gaped at him.

“Damn straight. If it were Kat who was dying and there were a chance I could save her, I’d throw everyone in this building under the bus, including you.” He lifted a shoulder as I blinked at him. “Luc and I have an understanding.”

“That’s an … interesting understanding.” Pushing a strand of hair out of my face, I glanced at the television as I chose my next words. “He did those things for Nadia, because he loved her—I think he’s still in love with Nadia, and she’s basically dead, Daemon. She and I couldn’t be any more different.”

He leaned toward me, bright green eyes meeting mine. “If Kat lost all her memories tomorrow and she didn’t know who she was or who I was, it wouldn’t change a damn thing about how I feel for her. I would still love her just as much as I did the day before.”

I swallowed hard. “That’s not really the same thing. You two have been together. It’s not like she disappeared for years and then resurfaced with no recollection of her life before.”

His eyes flashed with something dark. “Kat has disappeared on me before. Nothing like what happened to you and Luc, but time apart doesn’t make that kind of love lessen. Just makes you more protective of it and makes you willing to do things others won’t to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”

Tearing my gaze from his, I stared down at my checkered socks with little white ghosts all over them. I didn’t doubt for one second that what he was saying about his feelings for Kat was 100 percent true, but things were different between Luc and me.

“And here’s where my unsolicited advice comes into play. Whether you believe Luc is still in love with who you used to be or who you are now, it doesn’t matter. He will do anything to make sure you’re healthy and whole, and that means you need to be careful.”

It took me a hot second to formulate a response to that. “Why would I need to be careful?”

“People like Luc and me? We aren’t the bad guys, Evie, but we aren’t the good guys, either. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Not really.”

Daemon’s gaze slid back to mine. “You have power over him and his actions, and because you don’t even realize it, that makes him very dangerous.”

I cast a skeptical look at him. “I don’t see how I have any power over him, how that would make him dangerous, or how what he does or doesn’t do is my responsibility.”

“I’m not saying it’s your responsibility. It’s not. What Luc does is all on him. What I’m saying is you need to be aware of what he’s capable of.”

“I’m aware. I’ve seen it firsthand.”

“You’ve seen a little of what he’s capable of. So have I, and I like to think I’m a badass. My legion of fans would agree.” A quick smile appeared, flashing deep dimples. “But he could take this whole block down with a snap of his fingers.”

My eyes widened as my stomach dropped. I’d seen Luc uproot trees as tall as skyscrapers, but take down a whole block? “You’re being a little overdramatic, right?”

Shaking his head, he turned to the television. “My sister.”

I frowned. “What?”

“My sister is on TV.”

The volume turned up without anyone touching it, and I figured that was courtesy of Daemon and his nifty alien talents. I twisted toward the TV.

I recognized the man. Senator Freeman appeared on half of the screen along with the skyline of New York City. He was the senator of one of the midwestern states. Oklahoma? Missouri? I didn’t know, but the man was extremely anti-Luxen and in favor of tightening the ARP—Alien Registration Program—policies that President McHugh was trying to get passed through Congress, along with repealing the Twenty-Eighth Amendment, which afforded Luxen the same basic rights as humans.

He wasn’t alone on the screen. There was a girl, a stunningly beautiful young woman who was the feminine mirror image of Daemon.

“Dee?” I said, pulling the name out of the recesses of my memory.

“Yeah, that’s Dee.”

“What’s she doing on TV?” I was assuming that she was like her brother, unregistered.

“Doing God’s work,” he said, and then smirked.

The female Luxen was absolutely poised, her midnight hair pulled back from her face and her emerald-green eyes shockingly bright. I couldn’t tell where she was. The background was just a plain white wall.

Senator Freeman was worked up over something, his cheeks ruddy and lips thin. “You keep saying that your kind aren’t dangerous, that you can be trusted, yet there has been a steady increase of Luxen-on-human violence.”

“There is no evidence that the unfortunate acts of violence against humans have been at the hands of the Luxen, only speculation—”

“An entire family in Charleston were found just this morning, burned from the inside out,” Senator Freeman viciously interrupted, his tan cheeks deepening in color. “Are you saying that one of your people didn’t do that?”

There wasn’t so much as a flicker of response on Dee’s face as she calmly stated, “There are many things that could explain their deaths other than an altercation with a Luxen—”

“Like being struck by lightning?” He scoffed.

Dee ignored the comment. “None of these senseless deaths have been officially linked to any Luxen, but there is staggering evidence of violence against Luxen—”

“Oh really?”

She nodded. “Videos of beatings loaded onto the internet—”

“Videos of United States citizens defending themselves.”

“God, will he let her get one full sentence out?” I muttered. “How can anyone have a conversation with this dude?”

“He interrupts because he doesn’t want to hear what she’s saying,” Daemon said, one hand tapping off his bent knee. “He doesn’t want anyone else to hear it, either.”

“I don’t know how she doesn’t lose her mind and flip a table.”

“You’ve met me, right? She’s had twenty-two years of practice dealing with someone who continuously interrupts her.”

I grinned. “You must’ve prepared her well.”

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