When Lucas saw his reflection in a restaurant window, the face of a stranger stared back. Hunger had drawn him to the smell of hamburgers and fries, but once he got a look in the glass, he stopped dead. With bruised smudges under his gray eyes and his tangled hair, he didn’t recognize his own face, but more reflected in the glass. He’d soon be drug free for the first time in years and the electric blue shimmer that radiated off his body had returned—fortified by something new.
Something more powerful.
You’re the one, aren’t you? A girl’s voice came from nowhere.
The sound of her jacked with the hair on his neck and sent a slither of cold down his arms. The way she whispered—from inside his ear—made him look over his shoulder, expecting to see her. Her whisper lingered like soft breathe on his skin—something intimate and pure—but no one stood next to him.
The one? What are you talking about?
He concentrated hard, listening for her, but nothing came. Hearing her, he felt even stronger, connected to something bigger. The muffled voices reminded him of an orchestra tuning its instruments, but her voice rose stronger above the din like a haunting violin solo. He sensed her in his head. In his body. In every strand of his hair.
Why can’t you hear me? With his mind reaching out to her, he pleaded for an answer, but when all the voices stopped, he wondered if she’d punished him.
Don’t stop. I’m listening. You can talk to me, he told her.
The comforting murmurs returned, but the girl stayed silent, even though he still felt her with him. Lucas turned back toward the glass window. He didn’t need to see his own reflection to know what had happened.
He felt it.
Brilliant spears of white shot through cobalt blue and magnified the energy inside him. In blinding glimmers of pearl, the pulsing light made him want to smile, but he didn’t. The colors that grew stronger were nothing more than a ticking time bomb that had been masked by the drugs he’d been given to control him.
A countdown had started—and the girl had sensed it too.
Because of what you are, the Believers will hunt you down.
“What am I…exactly?” He said the words aloud, not to her this time.
It wouldn’t take the Believers long to realize he was missing. Once they found out, they’d track him. If they caught him, they’d never let him get away a second time. What he’d done to escape them felt like a stupid accident. Hours earlier, he opened his eyes to see he’d hidden in a delivery truck leaving the hospital. Because of the drugs, he never remembered actually doing it. He’d left the facility without much of a plan, dressed only in slippers and hospital issued stuff. When the truck stopped at a street light, he got out and never looked back.
After his head cleared enough for him to figure things out, he knew he had to find something different to wear. When a drunk, homeless guy took his eyes off his stash, Lucas stole spare clothes and grabbed a handful of coins the man had panhandled and kept in a lidded Styrofoam cup. Now everything Lucas wore stank. He hated it, but he fit the part of the invisibles that haunted the streets of LA.
Lucas knew his escape had been nothing more than dumb luck, or a cosmic shift of the planets, or some other freak anomaly. To stay free wouldn’t be easy. The Believers had money. Lots of it.
Don’t trust anyone. No cops. The girl’s voice mirrored what he’d been thinking, except for one thing.
Lucas needed to find a phone.
Outside a quick stop, he found what he’d been looking for. He fumbled through his pockets for spare change and the crumpled piece of paper that he’d brought with him from Haven Hills—the one his sister, Rayne, had given him with her phone number on it. When he heard the ring, he shut his eyes to picture her face. He wanted to imagine her happy, but that was too hard.
Come on, Rayne. Pick up.
As the phone rang, he tried to remember if the number she gave him had been her cell or where she lived. Soon it would kick into voice mail. A message. He’d have to talk for real and say something. With things screwed up, what the hell would he tell her? Damn.
Don’t trust anyone. The girl’s voice replayed in his head, but he had to make the call. Even though Rayne would have his return phone number, Lucas knew he couldn’t hang out and wait for her to call back. The Believers had too many ways to track him. Instinct urged him to keep moving. He didn’t want to put Rayne in danger, but he wouldn’t cut her out of his life without saying good-bye.
Good-bye. What was good about it? How would he say good-bye to the only person he wanted to see?
Disappointment punched him in the gut, especially after he heard her outgoing message. He didn’t know how much hearing his sister’s voice would affect him until he felt a tear slip down his cheek as he listened to her recording. When the beep sounded, he wiped his face with the back of his hand and took a deep breath.
“Rayne, it’s me. I’m sorry. I couldn’t stay there anymore. That place…something’s not right and I can’t trust Mia. You’re the only one who ever—” He stopped and gripped the phone tighter, trying not to sound pathetic. “I want to see you, but that’s too dangerous.”
He knocked his forehead on the payphone. His message sounded lame and with a clock ticking in his head, he felt exposed, especially after he spotted the store’s security camera pointed at him.
“I gotta go, but…” He swallowed, hard. “…you can’t look for me. Promise me you won’t. It’s not safe. You’d only make things worse for both of us and…”
When her message system beeped and cut him off, he shut his eyes and took a deep breath to force the drug fog from his brain before he called her again. This time he had to talk faster and say what he really meant.
“Hey, it’s me again. What I called to say is…I love you, Rayne. I’ll always love you.”
When he hung up the phone, he felt like crap. He’d sounded like a drugged out loser—a paranoid one. If Mia had convinced Rayne that he was mentally unstable, his message to her had sealed the deal. Although he wouldn’t blame Rayne for how things turned out, he felt a weight in the pit of his belly. He’d severed ties with the one person he could count on because he loved her. Whatever came next, he’d be alone to face it.
But Lucas didn’t have time to make things right. A ripple of energy surged through him like a psychic shove.
An urgent vibration made his insides twist and the sensation turned into painful needle pricks. A danger sign. He didn’t have to hear footsteps like normal people. The Believers were coming for him. He felt it. No. Too soon. I’m not…strong enough. He edged into the shadows of an alley to focus his mind and body. When he felt the push of energy again, he didn’t have to see them to know they were closing in. This time he didn’t worry about drawing attention.
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