I was going to stun gun him into next year if that was what it took. Pushing to my feet, I whimpered as pain arced across my jaw. My stomach dropped.
“Oh shit,” I whispered.
The Origin was gone.
Chills rolled down my spine as I took a step back. The fine hair on my arms lifted in startling awareness. I turned slowly.
He was right there.
“Now that was not nice, Nadia.”
Surprise knocked me off-balance. He knew my name—my old name. Engaging the stun gun, I let out a battle cry that would have made Braveheart proud, and thrust it forward.
Those few seconds cost me.
The Origin caught my wrist and twisted. My fingers spasmed and the stun gun slipped from my grasp. My eyes widened, and he winked at me. “That is not going to happen again.”
In the moment, I knew he wasn’t just going to break my arm this time. He wouldn’t stop there. He’d go through every bone before snuffing my life out. Horror choked me. I didn’t want to die. Not like this. Not now.
I didn’t even know who I was or who I would become one day. I was just learning about myself—about friends and, oh God, Luc.
And when the Origin finished with me, he’d move on to Mom. There was no way he’d let her live, and Luc . . . he would blame himself. I had no idea where we stood with each other, but I didn’t want that for him.
I didn’t want that for any of us.
Having no training, I reacted out of the pure instinct to survive. I kicked, catching him in the leg. The move surprised him, and he stepped back. I dipped down and made a desperate reach for the gun.
A fist coiled into my hair, wrenching my head back. I cried out. The Origin dragged me toward the kitchen. Razor-sharp pain radiated down my neck as my feet slipped over the hardwood floor.
He dragged me to my feet and then let go off my hair. The moment of reprieve was over before it had started. A hand curled around my throat. I was off the floor, dangling in air.
It was the last breath I took. Just gone like that. Every cell was shocked and screamed out as precious oxygen was suddenly cut off. My heart stuttered in my chest and the panic made everything worse.
“Let go of my daughter.”
The Origin tilted his head just as my vision started to darken. “I can do that.”
Flying. I was suddenly flying backward and breathing again. The breathing didn’t help, though. Just as soon as I got any amount of oxygen in my lungs, my lower back slammed into the dining table. The impact jarred me all the way down to the tips of my toes. My head smacked into the hanging light fixture, knocking it back. I fell forward, my knees cracking off the floor. Doubling over, I struggled to breathe through the waves of pain.
A scream of pure rage erupted from Mom as blood trickled down the side of my head. I lifted my chin and saw her go full Luxen. She was swathed in intense, beautiful white light.
The air crackled with power. I could feel it in my bones and tissue. She let loose, striking out—
He was too fast.
Shooting forward, he lashed out, swinging his arm. He caught her in the shoulder, and the bolt of pure energy smacked into the wall. Dust plumed, and Mom slammed into the couch, knocking it up into the air.
I cried out as she went down, the couch flipping and landing on her. God, that couldn’t be good. I had to get up. I had to—
He was there, his hand curling around my throat again. He lifted my head, forcing my gaze to his. This was it. This was—
“No, I’m not going to kill you.” The ever-present, charming smile appeared. “But unfortunately, I am going to hurt you.”32
Shivering in the cooler air, I forced my eyes to stay open. I couldn’t let them close. He got . . . impatient when I closed them. He’d think I wasn’t paying attention, and he . . . had problems with that. Issues.
This guy had a lot of . . . issues.
He was sitting on the grass a few feet from me, cross-legged, and I was where he’d deposited me, against a tree. He’d dragged me out of the house, and it had been a blur because he moved so incredibly fast, but I didn’t think we went that far. I was sure we were in the woods that surrounded the subdivision.
I’d lost my shoes somewhere. I think on the road outside my house. One entire pant leg had been torn off all the way to my upper thigh, having snagged on a branch. Some of my skin had snagged too. That hadn’t stopped him. Neither did the moment the edge of my shirt got caught. My trembling hands held the shredded material together.