a Lux novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout
When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well… There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.
But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.
After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different… And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.
Together we’re stronger…and they know it.
Praise for Opal:
“I loved Opal from page to shining page! An engrossing, sexy nail biter! I’m delighted to join the Daemon Invasion.”
– Nancy Holder, NYT Bestselling Author, Wicked
© 2012 Jennifer L. Armentrout
I wasn’t sure what woke me. The howling wind from the first hardcore blizzard of the year had calmed last night and my room was quiet. Peaceful. I rolled onto my side and blinked.
Eyes the color of dew-covered leaves stared into mine. Eyes eerily familiar but lackluster compared to the ones I loved.
Clenching the blanket to my chest, I sat up slowly and pushed the tangled hair out of my face. Maybe I was still asleep, because I really had no idea why Dawson, the twin brother of the boy I was madly, deeply, and quite possibly insanely in love with was perched on the edge of my bed.
“Um, is…is everything okay?” I cleared my throat, but the words came out raspy, like I was trying to sound sexy and, in my opinion, failing miserably. All the screaming I’d done while Mr. Michaels, my mom’s psycho boyfriend, had me locked in the cage in the warehouse was still reflected in my voice a week later.
Dawson lowered his gaze. Thick, sooty lashes fanned the tips of high, angular cheeks that were paler than they should be. If I’d learned anything, Dawson was damaged goods.
I glanced at the clock. It was close to six in the morning. “How did you get in here?”
“I let myself in. Your mom’s not home.”
With anyone else, that would’ve creeped the hell out of me, but I wasn’t afraid of Dawson. “She’s snowed in at Winchester.”
He nodded. “I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t slept.”
“No. And Dee and Daemon are affected by it.” He just stared at me, as if willing me to understand what he couldn’t put into words.
The triplets—hell, everyone—was coiled tight, waiting for the Department of Defense to show up as the days ticked by since Dawson escaped their Lux prison. Dee was still trying to process her boyfriend Adam’s death and her beloved brother’s reappearance. Daemon was trying to be there for his brother and to keep an eye on them. And though storm troopers hadn’t busted up in our houses yet, none of us were relaxed.
Everything was too easy, which usually didn’t bode well.
Sometimes…sometimes I felt like a trap had been set, and we’d galloped right into it.
“What have you been doing?” I asked.
“Walking,” he said, glancing out the window. “I never thought I’d be back here.”
The stuff that Dawson had been put through and made to do was too horrific to even think about. A deep ache filled my chest. I tried not to think about it, because when I did, I thought of Daemon being in that same position, and I couldn’t bear it.
But Dawson… He needed someone. I reached up, wrapping my fingers around the familiar weight of the obsidian necklace. “Do you want to talk about it?”
He shook his head again, shaggy wisps of hair partially obscuring his eyes. It was longer than Daemon’s—curlier—and probably needed a trim. Dawson and Daemon were identical, but right now, they looked nothing alike, and it was more than the hair. “You remind me of her—Beth.”
I had no idea what to say to that. If he loved her half as much as I loved Daemon… “You know she’s alive. I’ve seen her.”
Dawson’s gaze met mine. A wealth of sadness and secrets were held in its depths. “I know, but she’s not the same.” He paused, lowering his head. The same section of hair that always fell on Daemon’s forehead toppled onto his. “You…love my brother?”
My chest hurt at the desolation in his voice, as if he never expected to love again, couldn’t really even believe in it anymore. “Yes.”
I jerked back, losing my grip on the blanket as it fell lower. “Why would you apologize?”
Dawson lifted his head, letting out a weary sigh. Then, moving faster than I thought he was capable of, his fingers brushed over my skin—over the faint pink marks that circled both wrists from fighting against the manacles.
I hated those blemishes, prayed for the day when they completely faded. Every time I saw them, I remembered the pain the onyx had caused as it pressed into my flesh. My ruined voice was hard enough to explain to my mom, not to mention Dawson’s sudden reappearance. The look on her face when she’d seen Dawson with Daemon before the snowstorm was sort of comical, though she seemed happy that the “runaway brother” had returned home. But these babies I had to hide with long-sleeved shirts. That worked during the colder months, but I had no idea how I’d hide these in the summer.
“Beth had those kinds of marks when I saw her,” Dawson said quietly, pulling his hand back. “She got really good at escaping, but they always caught her, and she always had these marks. Usually around her neck, though.”
Nausea rose, and I swallowed. Around her neck? I couldn’t… “Did…did you get to see Beth often?” I knew they’d allowed at least one visit between them while imprisoned in the DOD facility.
“I don’t know. Time was messed up for me. I kept track in the beginning, using the humans they brought to me. I’d heal them and usually if they…lived, I could count the days until everything fell apart. Four days.” He went back to staring out the window. Through curtains that had been drawn back, all I could see was the night sky and snow-covered branches. “They hated when everything fell apart.”
I could imagine. The DOD—or Daedalus, a group supposedly within the DOD—had made it their mission to use Luxens to successfully mutate humans. Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes it didn’t.
I watched Dawson, trying to remember what Daemon and Dee had said about him. Dawson was the nice one, funny and charming—the male equivalent of Dee and nothing like his brother.
But this Dawson was different: morose and distant. Besides not talking to his brother, from what I knew, he hadn’t said a word to anyone about what had been done to him. Matthew, their unofficial guardian, thought it was best no one pushed for more.
Dawson hadn’t even told anyone how he escaped. I suspected Dr. Michaels—that lying rat bastard—had led us on a wild goose chase to find Dawson to give himself time to get the hell out of Dodge and had then “released” Dawson. It was the only thing that made sense.
My other guess was much, much darker and more nefarious.
Dawson glanced down at his hands. “Daemon… He loves you, too?”
I blinked, brought back to the present. “Yes. I think so.”
“He told you?”
Not in so many words. “He hasn’t said it, said it. But I think he does.”
“He should tell you. Every day.” Dawson tipped back his head and closed his eyes. “I haven’t seen the snow in so long,” he said, almost wistfully.
Yawning, I glanced out the window. The nor’easter everyone predicted had hit this little speck of the world and had made Grant County its bitch over the weekend. School had been canceled on Monday and today, and the news last night said they’d still be digging everyone out by the end of the week. The snowstorm couldn’t have come at a better time. At least we had an entire week to figure out what in the hell we were going to do with Dawson.
It wasn’t like he could just pop back up in school.
“I haven’t seen it snow like this ever,” I said. I was originally from Northern Florida, and we’d gotten a couple of freak ice storms before but never the white, fluffy stuff.
A small, sad smile appeared on his lips. “When the sun comes up, it’ll be beautiful. You’ll see.”
No doubt. Everything would be encased in white.
Dawson jumped up and suddenly appeared on the other side of the room. A second later I felt warmth tingle along my neck and my heart rate pick up. He looked away. “My brother is coming.”
No more than ten seconds later, Daemon was standing in the doorway of my bedroom. Hair messy from sleep, flannel pajama bottoms rumpled. No shirt. Three feet plus of snow outside, and he was still half naked.
I almost rolled my eyes, but that would’ve required I take my eyes off his chest…and his stomach. He really needed to wear shirts more often.
Daemon’s gaze slipped from his brother to me and then back to his brother. “Are we having a slumber party? And I’m not invited?”
His brother drifted past him silently and disappeared into the hallway. A few seconds later, I heard the front door close.
“Okay.” Daemon sighed. “That’s been my life for the last couple of days.”
My heart ached for him. “I’m sorry.”
He sauntered over to the bed, his head cocked to the side. “Do I even want to know why my brother was in your bedroom?”
“He couldn’t sleep.” I watched him bend down and tug the covers. Without realizing it, I’d grabbed them again. Daemon pulled once more, and I easily let them go. “He said it was bothering you guys.”
Daemon slipped under the covers, easing onto his side and facing me. “He’s not bothering us.”
The bed was way too small with him in it. Seven months ago—heck, four months ago—I would’ve run laughing into the hills if someone said the hottest, moodiest boy in school would be in my bed. But a lot had changed. And seven months ago, I didn’t believe in aliens.
“I know,” I said, settling on my side, too. My gaze flickered over his broad cheekbones, full bottom lip, and those extraordinarily bright green eyes. Daemon was beautiful but prickly, like a Christmas cactus. It had taken a lot for us to get to this point, being in the same room with each other and not overcome by the urge to commit first-degree murder. Daemon had to prove his feelings for me were real and he did…finally. He hadn’t been the nicest person when we first met, and he had to really make up for that. Momma didn’t raise a pushover. “He said I remind him of Beth.”
Daemon’s brows slammed down. I rolled my eyes. “Not in the way you’re thinking.”
“Honestly, as much as I love my brother, I’m not sure how I feel about him hanging out in your bedroom.” He reached out with a muscular arm and used his fingers to brush a few strands of hair off my cheek, tucking them behind my ear. I shivered, and he smiled. “I feel like I need to mark my territory.”
“Oh, I love it when you get all bossy-pants. It’s sexy.”
Daemon inched closer, pressing his thigh against mine. “I’m glad your mom is snowed in elsewhere.”
I arched a brow. “Why?”
One broad shoulder shrugged. “I doubt she’d be cool with this right now.”
“Oh, she wouldn’t.”
More shifting and our bodies were separated by a hairbreadth. The heat that always rolled off his body swamped mine. “Has your mom said anything about Will?”
Ice coated my insides. Back to reality—a scary, unpredictable reality where nothing was what it seemed. Namely Mr. Michaels. “Just what she said last week, that he was going out of town on some kind of conference and visiting family, which we both know is a lie.”
“He obviously planned ahead so no one would question his absence.”
To disappear was what he needed, because if the forced mutation worked on any level, he’d need some time off. “Do you think he’ll come back?”
Running the back of his knuckles down my cheek, he said, “He’d be crazy.”
Not really, I thought, closing my eyes. Daemon hadn’t wanted to heal Will but his hand had been forced. The healing hadn’t been on the level required to change a human at the cellular scale. And Will’s wound hadn’t been fatal, so either the mutation would stick or it would fade away. And if it faded, Will would be back. I would bet on it. Although he conspired against the DOD for his own gain, the fact he knew it had been Daemon who mutated me was valuable to the DOD, so they’d be forced to take him back. He was a problem—a huge one.
So we were waiting… Waiting for both shoes to drop at once.
I opened my eyes, finding Daemon hadn’t taken his off me. “About Dawson…”
“I don’t know what to do,” he admitted, trailing the back of his knuckles down my throat, over the swell of my chest. My breath caught. “He won’t talk to me, and he barely talks to Dee. Most of the time, he’s locked up in his bedroom or out wandering in the woods. I follow him, and he knows.” Daemon’s hand found its way to my hip and stayed. “But he—”
“He needs time, right?” I kissed the tip of his nose and pulled back. “He’s been through a lot, Daemon.”
His fingers tightened. “I know. Anyway…” Daemon shifted so fast, I didn’t realize what he was doing until he’d rolled me onto my back and hovered above me, hands braced on either side of my face. “I’ve been remiss in my duties.”
And just like that, everything that was going on, all our worries, fears, and unanswered questions, simply faded into nothing. Daemon had that kind of effect. I stared up at him, finding it hard to breathe. I wasn’t 100 percent on what his “duties” were, but I had a very vivid imagination.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time with you.” He pressed his lips against my right temple and then my left. “But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you.”
My heart leaped into my throat. “I know you’ve been occupied.”
“Do you?” His lips drifted over the arch of my brow. When I nodded, he shifted, supporting most of his weight on one elbow. He caught my chin with his free hand, tipping my head back. His eyes searched mine. “How are you dealing?”
Using every ounce of self-control I had, I focused on what he was saying. “I’m dealing. You don’t need to worry about me.”
He looked doubtful. “Your voice…”
I winced and uselessly cleared my throat again. “It’s getting much better.”
His eyes darkened as he ran his thumb along my jaw. “Not enough, but it’s growing on me.”
I smiled. “It is?”
Daemon nodded and brought his lips to mine. The kiss was sweet and soft, and I felt it in every part of me. “It’s kind of sexy.” His mouth was on mine again, taking it deeper and longer. “The whole raspy thing, but I wish—”
“Don’t.” I placed my hands on his smooth cheeks. “I’m okay. And we have enough things to worry about without my vocal chords. In the big scheme of things, they’re nowhere near the top of the list.”
He arched a brow and wow, I did sound kind of uber-mature. I giggled at his expression, ruining my newly discovered maturity. “I have missed you,” I admitted.
“I know. You can’t live without me.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Just admit it.”
“There you go. That ego of yours getting in the way,” I teased.
His lips found the underside of my jaw. “Of what?”
“The perfect package.”
He snorted. “Let me tell
you, I have the perfect—”
“Don’t be gross.” I shivered, though, because when he kissed the hollow of my throat, there was nothing flawed about that.
I would never tell him this, but beside the…pricklier side of him that reared its ugly head from time to time, he was the closest thing to perfect I’d ever met.
With a knowing chuckle that had me squirming, he slid his hand down my arm, over my waist, and caught my thigh, hooking my leg around his hip. “You have such a dirty mind. I was going to say I’m perfect in all the ways that count.”
Laughing, I wrapped my arms around his neck. “Sure you were. Completely innocent, you are.”
“Oh, I’ve never claimed to be that nice.” The lower part of his body sank into mine, and I sucked in a sharp breath. “I’m more—”
“Naughty?” I pressed my face into his neck and inhaled deeply. He always had this outdoorsy scent, like fresh leaves and spice. “Yeah, I know, but you’re nice under the naughty. That’s why I love you.”
A shudder rolled through him, and then Daemon froze. A stuttered heartbeat passed and he rolled onto his side, wrapping his arms around me tightly. So tightly I had to wiggle a little to lift my head.
“It’s okay.” Voice thick, he kissed my forehead. “I’m okay. It’s…early still. No school or Mom coming home, yelling your full name. Just for a little while we can pretend that crazy doesn’t wait for us. We can sleep in, like normal teenagers.”
Like normal teenagers. “I like the sound of that.”
“Me, three,” I murmured, snuggling against him until we were practically one. I could feel his heart beating in tandem with mine. Perfect. This was what we needed—quiet moments of being normal. Where it was just Daemon and me—
The window overlooking the front yard blew apart as something large and white crashed through it, sending chunks of glass and snow shooting onto the floor.
My startled scream was cut off as Daemon rolled, springing to his feet as he slipped into his true Luxen form, becoming a human shape of light that shone so brightly I could only stare at him for a few precious seconds.
Holy crap, Daemon’s voice said, filtering through my own thoughts.
Since Daemon hadn’t gone ape wild on someone, I scrambled to my knees and peered over the edge of the bed.
“Holy crap,” I said out loud.
Our precious moment of being normal ended with a body lying on my bedroom floor.