“Hey.” I pushed forward, clamping a hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay. Beth and the…and the baby will be okay. We’ll figure this out.”
Dawson’s smile of relief was evident.
I had no idea how we were going to figure this out, but women had been having babies since the beginning of time without doctors. Couldn’t be that hard, right? I sort of wanted to punch myself in the face after that, though.
Childbirth scared the crap out of me.
We talked for a little while longer, and I promised to keep things quiet. They weren’t ready to share the news with everyone, and I could understand that. Kat and I hadn’t told anyone that we were sort of married.
Aliens in Vegas.
The freaking world was coming to an end.
Still feeling a little shell-shocked, I headed into the living room. I stopped in front of the couch where Kat was curled up against the arm, the quilt bunched up under her chin. She was asleep.
Lowering myself, I carefully picked her up and placed her in my lap, her legs spread out between mine. She stirred, rolled onto her side, but remained asleep.
I stared out the window into the darkness for hours.
Now more than anything we had to do something. Not just run and hide. That was going to be damn near impossible as it was. The world knew about us now. Things would only get more dangerous from here on out.
And in a few months, we’d have a baby to worry about—a baby that could wreak all kinds of havoc.
We had to do something. We had to make a stand, change the future, or there’d be no future for any of us.
I smoothed my hand up Kat’s spine, curving my fingers around the nape of her neck. Tipping my chin down, I pressed my lips to her forehead. She murmured my name sleepily, and my chest clenched with the degree of emotion I felt for her. I leaned back on the couch and stared through the window into the darkness.
The uncertainty of tomorrow loomed like a storm cloud, but there was one thing I was fairly confident of, something more ominous than the unknown waiting for all of us.
We would be hunted by the humans and the Luxen.
And if they thought exposing the truth to the world was the most extreme thing I could do to protect those I loved, they hadn’t seen anything yet.
They had no idea what I was truly capable of.
I’d been vaguely aware of Daemon coming to the couch and wrapping himself around me, but that wasn’t what woke me several hours later. At some point during the night, his arms had tensed around me in a near chokehold.
And he was in his true form.
As beautiful as that was, it was also very hot and blinding.
Struggling to loosen his grip, I twisted in his embrace, squinting against the harsh glare. “Daemon, wake up. You’re—”
He jerked awake, sitting up so fast I almost fell onto the floor. The light dimmed, and he was back in his human form, a bewildered expression on his face. “That hasn’t happened since I was a kid—changing into my true form without realizing it.”
I stroked his arm. “Stress?”
He shook his head, his gaze settling over my shoulder. His expression tensed. “I don’t know. It…”
Footsteps pounded upstairs and within seconds, the whole crew was downstairs looking just as out of it as Daemon did. Untangling myself from his embrace, I shoved the quilt off and stood. “Something’s going on, isn’t it?”
Dee moved toward the window and pulled the thin curtain back. “I don’t know, but I feel…”
“I woke up thinking someone was calling my name.” Dawson wrapped an arm around Beth’s shoulders. “And I was glowing.”
“Same here,” Daemon said, standing.
Luc ran a hand through his messy hair. In his pajamas, he finally looked his age. “I feel itchy.”
“So do I,” Archer commented quietly. He rubbed the side of his jaw, squinting into the darkness outside the cabin window.
I looked at Beth, and she shrugged. It seemed we were the only two who weren’t feeling whatever it was that had the Luxen and origins in a tizzy.
All of a sudden, they stiffened—all of them except Beth and me. One by one, Daemon, Dawson, and Dee switched to their Luxen forms for a brief second and then resumed their human facades. It was so quick, so immediate, that it was like the sun was in the room for a moment or two.
“Something is happening,” Luc said, spinning around. He headed for the front door. “Something big is happening.”
He was out the door and everyone followed. I stepped out into the cool night air, sticking close to Daemon as he walked onto the gravel pathway in front of the porch and then into the grass. The cool blades were soft under my bare feet.
A strange fissure worked its way down my spine and then out through my nerve endings. A sense of awareness tightened the muscles in my neck as Luc walked farther across the patch of cleared land. The edges of the forest appeared dark and endless, wholly uninhabitable in the darkest hours of night.
“I feel something,” Beth said, her voice barely above a whisper. She glanced at me. “Do you?”
I nodded, unsure of exactly what I was feeling, but Daemon stiffened beside me, and then I felt his heart rate kicking up in his chest, jarring mine.
“No,” he whispered.
A small burst of light lit up the sky far off in the distance. Air hitched in my throat as I watched that tiny speck of light travel down, a bright, smoky tail trailing behind it. The light disappeared as it zoomed behind the Rocky Mountains. Another appeared in the sky. Then another, over and over again, and they fell as far as the eye could see, like stars shooting down to Earth. The sky was lit with them, thousands and thousands of bursts of light as they entered our atmosphere and rained down. So many of them that I couldn’t keep track of just how many there were, until their streaming tails blended together, until night turned into day.
Luc let out a strangled, hoarse laugh. “Oh shit. ET so phoned home, kids.”
“And he’s brought friends,” Archer said, taking a step back as several of the speeding lights came close, disappearing among the tall elms and firs.
Daemon reached down, threading his fingers through mine. My heart jumped as they continued to fall before us. Tiny explosions rocked the trees, shook the ground. Light pulsed, lighting up the forest floor every couple of seconds until an intense light flared for several seconds and then faded out.
Then there was nothing. Silence fell around us. There were no crickets, no birds, no scurrying of small animals. There was nothing but our respective short breaths and my own pounding heart thundering in my veins.
A speck of light appeared farther back among the elms. One by one, they appeared, an endless succession of lights coming into existence. So many that I knew there had to be hundreds here just in the forest surrounding us.
“Should we be running right now?” I asked.
Daemon’s hand tightened on mine, and he pulled me against his side. His arms wrapped around my body, holding me close, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “There’s no point, Kitten.”
My heart stuttered a beat as pressure clamped down on my chest.
“We wouldn’t outrun them,” Archer said, his hands closing into fists. “Not all of them.”
I could only stare as a bone-deep understanding settled in me. They neared the edge of the woods, taking shape. Like Daemon and every Luxen I’d seen, their forms were human-shaped and their arms and legs well defined. They were tall, each and every one of them. Their lights cast shimmery shadows as they stopped a few feet outside of the edge of the woods. One continued forward, its light brighter than the sun during summer, tinged in a deep, vibrant crimson, just like Daemon when he was in his true form.
Sergeant Dasher and Daedalus may have lied about a lot of things, but this—oh God—this had been the truth. They had come, just as Dasher had warned, and there had to be hundreds here, and hundreds of thousands elsewhere.
The light flared red again from the one in front. A pulse of energy rolled across the clearing, raising the tiny hairs along my body. I trembled, unsure of what was happening, but then something did.
Dee was the first to lose hold of her human form and then Dawson. I wasn’t sure if it was confusion, fear, or something otherworldly, something in them that responded to the proximity of so many of their kind, but a heartbeat later, Daemon’s arms shuddered around me, and he slipped into his true form as well.
His arms fell away from me, and it was suddenly unbearably cold without his warmth. I saw Dawson do the same and move toward his sister. The three of them stepped forward, separated from us.
“Daemon,” I called out, but he didn’t hear me.
He didn’t respond.
Suddenly Archer was beside me and Luc was near Beth. We were backing up, but I didn’t feel my feet moving or my muscles working. My eyes were trained on Daemon until the others of his kind swallowed his light.
Fear coated the inside of my mouth and turned the blood into slush in my veins. In that instant I couldn’t help but think of what Dasher had said about what would happen when the Luxen came—and whether Daemon would stand with his own kind or with mine.
I wasn’t sure Daemon even had a choice.
I wasn’t sure I did, either.