Jennifer L. Armentrout

To those who begged and pleaded to see this world all grown up. This is for you…

Chapter 1

In the dim, almost but-not-quite seedy bar lights, I stared openmouthed at my best friend in what had to be the most unattractive manner. Mel was rocking the crazy pants tonight.

It was the only reasonable explanation.

That or Mel’s drink was a hell of a lot stronger than mine.

We’d been peanut butter and jelly since I shared my chocolate cupcakes with her in the first grade. A rattlesnake and a bunny had more in common than we did. Mel was the crazy one, always into something, while I was mostly comfortable reading a book or watching a movie. Throughout our lives, no one could figure out how we were so close, but when friendships begin with cupcakes—chocolate, at that—no truer bond develops.

I took a huge gulp of my rum and coke, wincing at the burn. “Mel, this sounds—”

“Insane? I know. I feel insane. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, and these blue peepers have twenty-twenty vision thanks to Lasik.” Mel jabbed at her eyes with two fingers. Both had chipped nail polish, which was so unlike her glamour-loving nature. “But I know what I saw, Serena, and I’m telling you Phillip isn’t human.”

There. She said it again. Not human. I peeked at Mel’s half-full glass. Had she been drinking before we met up? Or toking on the crack pipe? If the frantic voice mail I’d received from Mel while I’d been at the school and the subsequent conversation was any indication, maybe meth was involved. Mel liked to party, but she stayed away from the harder stuff. Hopefully. I was beginning to wonder.

I leaned forward, stretching the fit of my suit jacket as I folded my arms on the round table. Damn, I wished I’d had time to run home and change. I needed more comfortable clothes for this stuff. Nothing made crazy easier to accept than lounge pants and flip-flops. “Mel, most guys aren’t human.”

Mel’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah , well most guys don’t turn into a freaking light bulb!

But Vanderson’s sons did. Both of them!”

A couple glanced over at us curiously. Wanting to crawl under the table, I grabbed Mel’s hand and squeezed gently. “A light bulb?” I kept my voice down even though it was pointless. Mel was always a loud talker. And it was election season, so Senator Vanderson’s name being dropped was bound to get attention.

“Yes. He lit up like a freaking glow stick or—or you remember those toys that you squeeze and they light up?”

“A Glo Worm?”

“That!” Mel pulled her hand free and thrust it through her chin-length, raven-

colored hair. “He was like a Glo Worm but only brighter.”

Oh dear. She was definitely rocking the crazy pants. “Were you guys drinking or possibly smoking something—” Mel’s hand smacked the table, rattling our glasses. “There is nothing in this world that I could drink or smoke that would make me see that.”

“Okay.” I held up my hands in surrender. “I just don’t understand this, Mel. Don’t bitch-slap the table. It’s not its fault.”

She let out a long breath. “I’m just so—so freaked out. He saw me. His brother saw me. I know they know I saw them.”

I didn’t know what to say. I recognized how freaked out Mel truly was. Granted, Mel got excited over things like grasshoppers in the house, branches that looked like snakes in the yard, and…butterflies flying around, but I’d never seen her like this.

This was different.

Something had really scared her.

“I knew Phillip was bad news,” I said, tucking a strand of wavy hair behind my ear.

“Being the senator’s son had to have messed with him. He’s probably—”

“He’s probably one of them, too—the senator!”

Oh my God, if Mel kept yelling that, we were never going to be able to show our faces around here again. I wished they’d turn the music up louder and maybe turn the lights off, too. Fast Times bar wasn’t too packed on a Monday night, so conversation had a tendency to travel.

Mel took a healthy swallow of her drink. “I was at his apartment, not back in Grandview, when it happened.”

Grandview was where the Richie Rich of Boulder lived, an exclusive, gated community at the foothills of the Flatirons that the senator and other important people kept residency in. The gate was like a ridiculous twenty feet high. Absurd. Did they think Russia was going to invade them?

“When he did the light-bulb thing?” I asked, fiddling with my straw.

Mel nodded. “We were hanging out in his living room, having drinks. Nothing serious. And then we went back to the bedroom, had sex—it was great, as usual.

Phillip has stamina like no other guy in this world does.”

My brows rose.

“Then his brother showed up—Elijah.”

“While you two were having sex?”

“As hot as that would be considering they’re twins, no, not while Phillip and I were having sex.” She plucked at the button on her blouse. “Anyway, they got into some kind of argument outside on the balcony. The two of them are always bickering and, you know me, I’m perpetually nosy, right?”

I smiled. “Yes.”

“So I went to the door and listened. They were talking about something called Project Eagle and Daedalus —”

“Daedalus? Isn’t that some Greek thing?”

“That doesn’t matter, Serena. Listen to me. They were arguing about this. Elijah was pissed because their father was going to ruin things with the Daedalus and that this Eagle thing was a bad idea, but Phillip didn’t care or whatever. He told Elijah to mind his own business and to let it go. That it wasn’t their place.”

“Okay.” I wondered how this turned into Phillip becoming a light bulb.

“But Elijah was really upset, saying it was all going to blow up in their faces and that this Eagle thing was wrong and dangerous. He said something about Pennsylvania and where the kids were kept and if the Daedalus ever discovered what they planned, it would all be over. And at this point, I’m like, wow, what’s going on?” Mel’s blue eyes were wide and dilated. “Elijah said something too low for me to hear and it must’ve really upset Phillip, because he pushed his brother and then his brother pushed him back. Two grown men fighting like that? I thought one of them was going to push the other over the railing. But then…then it happened.”

“The light-bulb thing?”

“Yes.” She pressed her palm to her forehead, squeezing her eyes shut. Her normally tanned skin was pale. “At first, it was like he faded out. His clothes, body, everything just faded out like he’d vanished. And then he was there, but he wasn’t human, Serena. He was encased in light. Head to toe, Serena.”

“Okay,” I said slowly. “What did you do?”

“I flipped out like any normal person would do! I got the hell out there, but…” She cursed, lowering her hand to the table. “I dropped the damn bottle of beer. They heard me. I looked back and they were at the balcony door, both of them glowing…” Mel trailed off, lower lip trembling. “They know I saw them. I mean, obviously, since I ran out of the building like it was on fire. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t even gone home. I’ve been driving around

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