Opposition

a Lux novel by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don’t miss Opposition, the fifth and final book in Jennifer L. Armentrout’s bestselling Lux series, now available as a standalone in print for the first time!

“An unmissable series!” –Samantha Young, New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street

“This is the stuff swoons are made of.” —Wendy Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Sweet Evil

Katy knows the world changed the night the Luxen came. She can’t believe Daemon stood by as his kind threatened to obliterate every last human and hybrid on Earth. But the lines between good and bad have blurred.

Daemon will do anything to save those he loves, even if it means betrayal. But when it quickly becomes impossible to tell friend from foe, and the world is crumbling around them, they may lose everything to ensure the survival of their friends…and mankind.
 
 
Want to read the LUX series on your ereader? Each book is sold individually in e-format:

#1: Obsidian
#2: Onyx
#3: Opal
#4: Origin
#5: Opposition
Dawson’s story: Shadows
 
 

Information:

Title: Opposition
Series: Lux, #5
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 300 pages
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Print ISBN: 978-1-63375-694-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62266-265-4
Imprint: Teen
 
 

 
 
 

An Excerpt from:

Opposition
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer L. Armentrout. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
 

Chapter 1

Katy

Back in the day, I had this plan for the off chance that I was around for the whole end-of-the-world thing. It involved climbing up on my roof and blasting R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” as loud as humanly possible, but real life rarely turns out that cool.

It was happening—everything about the world as we knew it was ending, and it sure as hell did not feel fine. Or cool.

Opening my eyes, I inched aside the flimsy white curtain. I peered out, beyond the porch and the cleared yard, into the thick woods surrounding the cabin Luc had stashed in the forests of Coeur d’Alene, a city in Idaho I couldn’t even begin to pronounce or spell.

The yard was empty. There was no flickering, brilliant white light shining through the trees. No one was out there. Correction. Nothing was out there. No birds were chirping or fluttering from leafy branch to branch. Not one sign of any woodland creatures scurrying anywhere. There wasn’t even the low hum of insects. Everything was silent and still, soundless in a totally creeptastic kind of way.

My gaze fixed on the woods, glued to the last place I’d seen Daemon. A deep, throbbing ache lit up my chest. The night we’d fallen asleep on the couch seemed like ages ago, but it had only been forty-eight hours or so since I’d woken up, overheated, and nearly been blinded by Daemon’s true form. He hadn’t been able to control it, although if we’d known what it signaled, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything.

So many others of his kind, hundreds—if not thousands—of Luxen, had come to Earth, and Daemon…he was gone, along with his sister and brother, and we were still here in this cabin.

Pressure clamped down on my chest, as if someone were squeezing my heart and lungs with vise grips. Every so often, Sergeant Dasher’s warning came back to haunt me. I’d seriously thought the man—that all of Daedalus—was riding the crazy train into Insanity Land, but they had been right.

God, they had been so right.

The Luxen came like Daedalus had warned, like they had prepared for, and Daemon… The ache pulsed, ripping the air right from my lungs, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I had no idea why he left with them or why I hadn’t seen or heard from him or his family. The terror and confusion surrounding his disappearance were a constant shadow that haunted every waking moment and even the few minutes I’d been able to sleep.

What side would Daemon be standing on? Dasher had asked that of me once, while I’d been held at the very real Area 51, and I couldn’t let myself believe that I had that answer now.

In the last two days, more Luxen had fallen from the sky. They’d kept coming and coming like an endless stream of falling stars, and then there was—

“Nothing.”

My eyes popped open, and the curtain slipped from my fingers, softly falling back into place. “Get out of my head.”

“I can’t help it,” Archer replied from where he sat on the couch. “You’re broadcasting your thoughts so damn loudly I feel like I need to go sit in the corner and start rocking, whispering Daemon’s name over and over again.”

Irritation pricked at my skin, and no matter how much I tried to keep my thoughts, my worries and fears, to myself, it was useless when there was not one, but two Origins in the house. Their nifty little ability to read thoughts got real annoying real fast.

I picked at the curtain again, watching the woods. “Still no sign of any Luxen?”

“Nope. Not a single glowing light crashing to Earth in the last five hours.” Archer sounded as tired as I felt. He hadn’t been sleeping much, either. While I’d been fixated on keeping an eye on the outside, he’d been focused on the TV. News all across the globe had been reporting nonstop on the “phenomenon.” “Some of the news stations are trying to say it was a massive meteorite shower.”

I snorted.

“Trying to cover up anything at this point is useless.” Archer sighed wearily, and he was right.

What happened in Las Vegas—what we had done—had been videotaped and blasted all over the internet within hours. At some point during the day after the absolute obliteration of Las Vegas, all the videos had been pulled down, but the damage had already been done. From what the news copter had captured before Daedalus had shot it down, to those on the scene who recorded everything with their camera phones, there was no stopping the truth. The internet was a funny place, though. While some people were blogging that it was the end of times, others took a more creative approach to everything. Apparently, there was even a meme created already.

The incredibly photogenic glowing-alien meme.

Which had been Daemon phasing into his true form. His human features were blurred to unrecognizability, but I knew it had been him. If he’d been around to see that, he would’ve really gotten a kick out of it, but I didn’t—

“Stop,” Archer said gently. “We don’t know what the hell Daemon, or any of them, are doing or why at this point. They will come back.”

I turned from the window, finally facing Archer. His hair, a sandy brown color, was cut close to the scalp, typical military style. He was tall and broad-shouldered, someone who looked like he could throw down when it counted, and I knew he could.

Archer could be downright deadly.

When I’d first met him at Area 51, I had believed he was just a solider. It wasn’t until Daemon had arrived that we discovered he was Luc’s implant within Daedalus and also, like Luc, an Origin, a child of a Luxen male and mutated, hybrid female.

My fingers curled inward. “You really believe that? They will come back?”

Amethyst eyes flicked from the TV to mine. “It’s all I can believe at this point. It’s all any of us can believe right now.”

That wasn’t really reassuring.

“Sorry,” he replied, letting it be known he’d picked up on my thoughts yet again. He nodded at the TV before I could get ticked off. “Something’s going on. Why would that many Luxen come to Earth and then just go silent?”

That was also the question of the year.

“I think it’s kind of obvious,” said a voice from the hall. I turned as Luc entered the living room. Tall and slender, he had his brown-colored hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. Luc was younger than us, around fourteen or fifteen, but he was like a little teen mafia leader and, at times, scarier than Archer. “And you know exactly what I’m talking about,” he added, eyeing the older Origin.

As Archer and Luc locked eyes in a battle of the stare down, something they’d been doing a lot of during the last two days, I sat on the arm of a chair by the window. “Care to explain out loud?”

Luc had a certain boyish quality to his beautiful face, like he hadn’t quite lost the roundness of childhood yet, but there was a wisdom in his purple eyes that went beyond a handful of years.

He leaned against the doorframe, crossing his arms. “They’re planning. Strategizing. Waiting.”

That didn’t sound good, but I wasn’t surprised. An ache formed between my temples. Archer said nothing as he went back to staring at the TV.

“Why else would they come here?” Luc continued as he tilted his head, gazing at the curtained window near me. “I’m sure it’s not to shake hands and kiss babies’ cheeks. They’re here for a reason, and it’s not good.”

“Daedalus always believed they would invade.” Archer sat back, clasping his hands over his knees. “The whole Origin initiative was in response to that concern. After all, the Luxen don’t have a history of playing nice with other intelligent life-forms. But why now?”

Wincing, I rubbed my temples. I hadn’t believed Dr. Roth when he’d told me how the Luxen were actually the cause of the war between them and the Arum—a war that had destroyed both of their planets. And I’d thought Sergeant Dasher and Nancy Husher, the head bitch in charge of Daedalus, were crazy freaks.

I’d been wrong.

So had Daemon.

Luc arched a brow as he coughed out a laugh. “Oh, I don’t know, might have to do with the very public spectacle we put on in Vegas. We know there were implants here, Luxen who aren’t that fond of humans. How they communicated with the Luxen not on this planet is beyond me, but is that really important now? This was the perfect moment to make an entrance.”

My eyes narrowed. “You said it was a brilliant idea.”

“I think lots of things are brilliant ideas. Like nuclear weapons, zero-calorie soft drinks, and blue jean vests,” he replied. “That doesn’t mean we should nuke people, or that diet drinks taste good, or that you should run out to the local Walmart and buy a jean vest. You people shouldn’t always listen to me.”

My eyes rolled so hard they almost fell out of the back of my head. “Well, what else were we supposed to do? If Daemon and the others hadn’t exposed themselves, we would’ve been captured.”

Neither of the guys replied, but the unspoken words hung between us. If we’d been captured, it would’ve sucked donkey butt and then some, but Paris, Ash, and Andrew would probably still be alive. So would the innocent humans who had lost their lives when everything went to crap.

But there was nothing we could do about that now. Time could be frozen for short periods, but no one could go back and change things. What was done was done, and Daemon had made that decision to protect all of us. I’d be damned if anyone threw him under the spaceship.

“You look exhausted,” commented Archer, and it took a moment for me to realize he was talking to me.

Luc turned those unnerving eyes on me. “Actually, you look like crap.”

Gee. Thanks.

Archer ignored him. “I think you should try to sleep. Just for a little while. If anything happens, we will get you.”

“No.” I shook my head just in case my verbal cue wasn’t enough. “I’m fine.” The truth was I was far from being fine. I was probably one step away from going to that dark corner in the room and rocking back and forth, but I couldn’t break down, and I couldn’t sleep. Not when Daemon was out there somewhere, and not when the whole world was on the verge of…hell, turning into a dystopia, like one of those novels I used to read.

Sigh. Books. I missed them.

Archer frowned, and it turned his handsome face a little scary, but before he could lay into me, Luc pushed off of the doorway and spoke. “I think she needs to go talk to Beth, actually.”

Surprised, I glanced at the stairwell in the hall outside the room. The last I checked, the girl had been sleeping. That was all Beth seemed to do. I was almost envious of her ability to sleep all of this away.

“Why?” I asked. “Is she awake?”

Luc ambled into the living room. “I think you two need some girl-talk time.”

My shoulders slumped as I sighed. “Luc, I really don’t think this is the time for girl bonding.”

“It isn’t?” He dropped onto the couch beside Archer and kicked his feet up on the coffee table. “What else are you doing besides staring out the window and trying to sneak past us so you can go off into the woods, look for Daemon, and probably get eaten by a mountain lion?”

Anger punched through me as I flipped my long ponytail over my shoulder. “First off, I wouldn’t get eaten by a mountain lion. Second, at least I’d be trying to do something other than sitting on my ass.”

Archer sighed.

But Luc just smiled brightly up at me. “Are we going to have this argument again?” He glanced at a stone-faced Archer. “Because I like it when you two get into it. It’s like watching a mom and dad have a marital disagreement. I feel like I need to go hide in a bedroom or something to make it more authentic. Maybe slam a door shut or—”

“Shut up, Luc,” Archer growled, and then he turned his glare on me. “We’ve been down this road more times than I care to even think about. Going after them isn’t smart. There will be too many of them, and we don’t know if—”

“Daemon is not one of them!” I shouted, jumping to my feet and breathing heavily. “He hasn’t joined them. Neither would Dee or Dawson. I don’t know what’s going on.” My voice cracked, and a swell of emotion rose in my throat. “But they wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t.”

Archer leaned forward, eyes glittering. “You don’t know that. We don’t.”

“You just said they’d be back!” I fired at him.

He didn’t say anything as he cast his gaze back to the TV, and that told me what I already knew deep down. Archer didn’t expect Daemon or any of them to come back.

Clamping my lips together, I shook my head so fast my ponytail turned into a whip. I turned away, stalking toward the doorway before we did get knee-deep in this argument again.

“Where are you going?” asked Archer.

I resisted the urge to flip him off. “I’m going to have girl talk with Beth, apparently.”

“Sounds like a plan,” commented Luc.

Ignoring him, I rounded the stairs and all but stomped up them. I hated sitting around and doing nothing. I hated that every time I opened that front door, Luc or Archer was there to stop me. And what I hated most of all was the fact that they could stop me.

I might be a hybrid, mutated with all that special Luxen goodness, but they were Origins, and they could kick my butt from here to California if it came down to it.

The upstairs was quiet and dark, and I didn’t like being here. Wasn’t sure why, but the tiny hairs on the back of my neck rose every time I came up here and walked down the long, narrow hall.

Beth and Dawson had commandeered the last bedroom on the right the first night here, and that’s where Beth had holed herself up since he…since he left. I didn’t know the girl well, but I knew she’d been through a lot when she’d been under the control of Daedalus, and I also didn’t believe that she was the most stable of all hybrids out there, but that wasn’t her fault. And I hated to admit this, but sometimes, she kind of freaked me out.

Stopping in front of the door, I rapped my knuckles on it instead of busting up into the room.

“Yes?” came the thin and reedy voice.

I winced as I pushed open the door. Beth sounded terrible, and when I got an eyeful of her, she looked just as bad. Sitting up against the headboard with a mountain of blankets piled around her, she had dark circles under her eyes. Her pale, waiflike features were sharp, and her hair was an unwashed, tangled mess. I tried not to breathe too deeply, because the room smelled of vomit and sweat.

I halted at the bed, shocked to my core. “Are you sick?”

Her unfocused gaze drifted away from me, landing on the door to the adjoined bathroom. It didn’t make sense. Hybrids—we couldn’t get sick. Not the common cold or the most dangerous cancer. Like the Luxen, we were immune to everything out there in terms of disease, but Beth? Yeah, she wasn’t looking too good.

A great sense of unease blossomed in my belly, stiffening my muscles. “Beth?”

Her watery stare finally drifted back to me. “Is Dawson back yet?”

My heart turned over heavily, almost painfully. The two of them had been through so much, more than Daemon and I had, and this… God, this wasn’t fair. “No, he’s not back yet, but you? You look sick.”

She raised a slim, pale hand to her throat as she swallowed. “I’m not feeling very well.”

I didn’t know what level of bad this was, and I was almost afraid to find out. “What’s wrong?”

One shoulder rose, and it looked like it had taken great effort. “You shouldn’t be worried,” she said, voice low as she picked at the hem of a blanket. “It’s not a big deal. I’ll be okay once Dawson comes back.” Her gaze floated off again, and as she dropped the edge of the blanket, she reached down, put her hand over her blanket-covered belly, and said, “We’ll be okay once Dawson comes back.”

“We’ll be…?” I trailed off as my eyes widened. My jaw came unhinged and dropped as I gaped at her.

I stared at where her hand was and watched in dawning horror as she rubbed her belly in slow, steady circles.

Oh no. Oh, hell to the no to the tenth power.

I started forward and then stopped. “Beth, are you…are you pregnant?”

She tipped her head back against the wall and squeezed her eyes shut. “We should’ve been more careful.”

My legs suddenly felt weak. The sleeping. The exhaustion. All of it made sense. Beth was pregnant, but at first, like a total idiot, I didn’t understand how. Then common sense took over, and I wanted to scream, Where were the condoms? But that was kind of a moot point.

An image appeared in my head of Micah, the little boy who’d helped us escape Daedalus. Micah, the little kid who had snapped necks and destroyed brains with a mere thought.

Holy alien babies, she was carrying one of them? One of those creepy children—creepy, dangerous, and extremely deadly? Granted, Archer and Luc had probably been one of those creepy kids at one time, but nothing about that thought was reassuring, because the newest batch of Origins that Daedalus had whipped up were different than the ones Luc and Archer had popped out of.

And Luc and Archer were still kind of creepy.

“You’re staring at me like you’re upset,” she said softly.

I forced a smile onto my face, knowing it probably looked a little crazy. “No. I’m just surprised.”

A faint smile appeared on her lips. “Yeah, we were, too. This is really bad timing, isn’t it?”

Ha. Understatement of the lifetime.

As I watched her, the smile slowly slipped off her lips. I had no idea what to say to her. Congratulations? That didn’t seem appropriate for some reason, but it also seemed wrong not to say it. Did they even know about the Origins, about all those kids Daedalus had?

And would this baby be like Micah?

God, really? Did we not have enough to worry about right now? My chest tightened, and I thought I might be having a panic attack. “How…how far along are you?”

“Three months,” she said, swallowing hard.

I needed to sit down.

Hell, I needed an adult.

Visions of dirty diapers and angry, red little faces danced in my head. Would there be one baby or would there be three? That was something we never thought about when it came to the Origins, but the Luxen always popped out in threes.

Oh, holy llama drama, three babies?

Beth’s gaze met mine again, and something in those eyes caused me to shudder. She leaned forward, her hand stilling over her belly. “They’re not coming back the same, are they?”

“What?”

“Them,” she said. “Dawson and Daemon and Dee. They’re not going to come back the same, are they?”

###

About thirty minutes later, I walked downstairs in a daze. The guys were where I’d left them, sitting on the couch, watching the news. When I entered the room, Luc glanced at me, and Archer looked like someone had shoved a pole up some very uncomfortable place.

And I knew.

“Both of you knew about Beth?” I wanted to hit them when they stared blankly back at me. “And no one thought to tell me?”

Archer shrugged. “We were hoping it wouldn’t become an issue.”

“Oh my God.” Not become an issue? Like being pregnant with an alien hybrid baby wasn’t a big deal and would just, I don’t know, go away? I dropped into the chair, placing my face in my hands. What next? Seriously. “She’s going to have a baby.”

“That’s usually what happens when you have unprotected sex,” Luc commented. “Glad you two talked, though, because I so did not want to be the bearer of that news.”

“She’s going to have one of those creepy kids,” I went on, smoothing the tips of my fingers over my forehead. “She’s going to have a baby and Dawson is not even here and the whole world is going to fall apart.”

“She’s only three months along.” Archer cleared his throat. “Let’s not panic.”

“Panic?” I whispered. The headache was getting worse. “There are things she needs, like, I don’t know, a doctor to make sure the pregnancy is going all right. She needs prenatal vitamins and food and probably saltine crackers and pickles and—”

“And we can get those things for her,” Archer replied, and I lifted my head. “Everything except the doctor. If someone draws her blood, well, that would be problematic, especially given what’s going on.”

I stared at him. “Wait. My mom—”

“No.” Luc’s head whipped toward me. “You cannot contact your mom.”

My spine stiffened. “She could help us. At least give us the general idea of how to take care of Beth.” Once the idea popped into my head, I latched onto it. I was totally honest with myself. Some of the reason why it seemed like such a great idea was because I wanted to talk to her. I needed to talk to her.

“We already know what Beth needs, and unless your mom has the down low on how to care for pregnant hybrids, there’s not much more she can tell us that Google won’t.” Luc pulled his feet off the coffee table and they thumped on the floor. “And it will be dangerous to get in contact with your mom. Her phone could be monitored. It’s too dangerous for us and her.”

“Do you really think Daedalus gives two craps about us right now?”

“Is that something you want to risk?” Archer asked, meeting my gaze. “You willing to put all of us in danger, including Beth, all based on a hope they have their hands full? You willing to do that to your mom?”

My mouth screwed shut as I glared at him, but the fight leaked out of me like a balloon deflating. No. No, I wouldn’t risk that. I wouldn’t do that to us or to my mom. Tears pricked my eyes and I forced a deep breath.

“I’m working on something that will hopefully take care of the Nancy problem,” Luc announced, but the only thing I’d seen him work on was the fine art of sitting on his butt.

“Okay,” I said, voice hoarse as I willed the headache to go away and for the edges of bitter panic to recede. I had to keep it together, but that dark corner was looking better and better. “We need to get stuff for Beth.”

Archer nodded. “We do.”

Less than an hour later, Luc handed over a list of items he’d searched down on the internet. The whole situation made me feel like I was in some kind of twisted after-school special.

I wanted to laugh as I folded the piece of paper into the back pocket of my jeans, but then I probably wouldn’t stop laughing.

Luc was staying behind with Beth in case…well, in case something even worse happened, and I was going to go with Archer. Mainly because I thought it would be a good idea to get out of the cabin. At least it felt like I was doing something, and maybe—maybe going into town would give us some clues to where Daemon and his family had disappeared.

My hair was tucked up under a baseball cap that hid most of my face so the chances I’d be recognized were slim. I had no idea if anyone would, but I didn’t want to take that risk.

It was late afternoon, and the air outside carried a chill that made me grateful I was wearing one of Daemon’s bulky long-sleeve shirts. Even in the heavily pine-scented air, if I breathed in deeply, I could catch his unique scent, a mix of spice and the outdoors.

My lower lip trembled as I climbed into the passenger seat and buckled myself in with shaky hands. Archer passed me a quick glance, and I forced myself to stop thinking about Daemon, about anything I didn’t want to share with Archer, which was pretty much everything right now.

So I thought about belly dancing foxes wearing grass skirts.

Archer snorted. “You’re weird.”

“And you’re rude.” I leaned forward, peering out the window as we traveled down the driveway, straining to see among the trees, but there was nothing.

“I told you before. It’s hard to not do it sometimes.” He stopped at the end of the gravel road, checking both ways before he pulled out. “Trust me. There are times when I wish I couldn’t see into people’s heads.”

“I imagine being stuck with me the last two days has been one of them.”

“Honestly? You haven’t been bad.” He glanced at me when I raised my brows. “You’ve been holding it together.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that at first, because since the other Luxen had arrived, I felt like I was seconds from shattering apart. And I wasn’t sure what exactly was keeping me together. A year ago, I would’ve freaked out and that corner would’ve been my best friend, but I wasn’t the same girl who had knocked on Daemon’s door.

I would probably never be that girl again.

I’d been through a lot, especially when I’d been in the hands of Daedalus. Things I’d experienced that I couldn’t dwell on, but the time with Daemon, and those months with Daedalus, had made me stronger. Or at least I liked to think they had.

“I have to keep it together,” I said finally, folding my arms around me as I stared at the rapidly passing pines. The needled branches all blurred together. “Because I know Daemon didn’t lose it when I…when I was gone. So I can’t, either.”

“But—”

“Do you worry about Dee?” I cut him off, turning my attention fully on him.

A muscle thrummed along his jaw, but he didn’t respond, and as we made the quiet trip into the largest city in Idaho, I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t what I really needed to be doing. That instead, I needed to do what Daemon had done for me.

He had come for me when I’d been taken.

“That was different,” Archer said, cutting into my thoughts as he turned toward the closest supermarket. “He knew what he was getting into. You don’t.”

“Did he?” I asked as he found a parking space close to the entrance. “He might have had an idea, but I don’t think he really knew, and he still did it. He was brave.”

Archer cast me a long look as he pulled out the keys. “And you are brave, but you are not stupid. At least I’m hoping you continue to prove you’re not stupid.” He opened the door. “Stay close to me.”

I made a face at him but climbed out. The parking lot was pretty packed, and I wondered if everyone was stocking up for the coming apocalypse. On the news, there’d been rioting in a lot of the major cities after the “meteorites” fell. Local police and military had locked it down, but there was a TV show called Doomsday Preppers for a reason. For the most part, Coeur d’Alene appeared virtually untouched by what was happening, even though so many Luxen had landed in the nearby forests.

There were a lot of people in the store, their carts stacked high with canned goods and bottled water. I tried to keep my gaze down as I pulled out the list and Archer grabbed a basket, though I couldn’t help but notice no one was grabbing toilet paper.

That would be the first thing I grabbed if I thought it was the end of the world.

I stuck close to Archer’s side as we headed to the pharmacy section and started scanning the endless rows of brown bottles with yellow caps.

Sighing, I glanced down at the list. “Couldn’t this crap be in alphabetical order?”

“That would be too easy.” His arm blocked my vision as he picked up a bottle. “Iron on the list, right?”

“Yep.” My fingers hovered over folic acid and I picked it up, having no idea what the hell that even was or what it did.

Archer knelt down. “And the answer is yes to your earlier question.”

“Huh?”

He looked up through his lashes. “You asked if I was worried about Dee. I am.”

My fingers tightened over the bottle as my breath caught. “You like her, don’t you?”

“Yes.” He turned his attention to the oversize bottles of prenatal vitamins. “In spite of the fact that her brother is Daemon.”

As I stared down at him, my lips twitched into the first smile since the Luxen had—

The boom, like a sonic clap of thunder, came out of nowhere, shaking the rack of pills and startling me into taking a step back.

Archer stood fluidly, his shrewd gaze swinging around the crowded market. People stopped in the middle of the aisles, some hands tightening on their carts, others letting go, the wheels creaking as the carts slowly rolled away.

“What was that?” a woman asked a man who stood next to her. She turned, picking up a little girl who had to be no more than three. Holding the child close to her breast, she spun around, her face pale. “What was that—?”

The clap of sound roared through the store again. Someone screamed. Bottles fell from the racks. Footsteps pounded across the linoleum floor. My heart jumped as I twisted toward the front of the store. Something flashed in the parking lot, like lightning striking the ground.

“Dammit,” Archer growled.

The tiny hairs on my arms rose as I walked toward the end of the aisle, forgetting all pretenses of keeping my head down.

A heartbeat of silence passed, and thunder blasted again and again, rattling the bones in my body as streaks of light lit up the parking lot, one after another after another. The glass window in front cracked, and the screams…the screams got louder, snapping with terror as the windows shattered, flinging glass at the checkout lanes.

The streaks of blinding light formed shapes in the parking lot, stretching and taking on legs and arms. Their tall, lithe bodies tinged in red, like Daemon’s, but deeper, more crimson.

“Oh God,” I whispered, the bottle of pills slipping from my fingers, smacking off the floor.

They were everywhere, dozens of them. Luxen.