The Darkest Star (Origin 1) - Page 18

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I took a step back.

Air stirred around me, lifting the hair around my face. My breath caught as instinct flared to life. I so wasn’t alone in this room. I moved to get the hell out—

A hand gripped my arm, jerking me forward. A scream rose, abruptly cut off as I was shoved. Hard. My back hit the wall, knocking the breath out of me and shooting pain up my spine, where it exploded along the base of my skull.

Before I could move or make a sound, the same hand—a cold hand—closed around my throat, tight enough just to let the tiniest bit of air wheeze in. My hands flailed until I found it—his arm in the darkness. Digging my fingers in, I tried to pry the hand away from my throat as adrenaline pumped through my veins. My heart slammed against my ribs as bitter tendrils of panic burrowed deep into my stomach.

Oh God. Oh God—

I felt him lean in. I felt his breath ghost over my cheek as I was lifted up onto my toes. I felt his words all the way to the marrow. “You shouldn’t be here.”6

“Who are you?” the man demanded.

I opened my mouth to respond, but since he was half strangling me, I couldn’t get a single word out.

“Why are you here?” he demanded, and his grip tightened. My feet left the floor, forcing out a raspy gasp. Fear dug in with razor-sharp claws.

In the darkness, two bright white pinpricks of light appeared, casting a luminous glow. Pupils. They were pupils. This man was so not human. My fingernails scraped over his skin. Oh God, I was going to be choked to death all over a damn phone—

The door swung open. “Let go of her now.”

At the sound of the familiar voice, the hand around my throat disappeared. I fell forward, throwing my arms out into the empty space around me. A scream built in my throat—

An arm circled my waist. For a second I was hanging in the air, arms and legs flailing by a steely arm. Without warning, I was suddenly upright, on my feet, my back pressed against a very solid chest—Luc’s chest. I inhaled sharply, surrounded by that all-too-familiar woodsy scent of his.

This wasn’t any better than being choked.

I jerked forward, but the arm around my waist was like a steel band. I made it about an inch and then was hauled back.

“Stay still,” Luc warned directly into my ear.

Every muscle in my body locked up. About to inform him he could not tell me what to do, I winced as light suddenly flooded the room. My vision adjusted, and I saw an older man—an older Luxen—standing a few feet in front of us.

And then I saw what—who—was behind him.

There was a woman holding a small child, maybe a toddler. The little girl with curly pigtails had her face buried in the woman’s shoulder. Her tiny body was trembling so badly, she was shaking the woman cradling her. Real primitive fear was etched into the beautiful woman’s face as she stared at us with wide, terror-filled eyes.

Luc was as still as a statue behind me. “Explain yourself.”

“You told me we were safe here,” the Luxen male said, nostrils flared. “You swore that to us.”

Shocked that this adult Luxen would answer to Luc’s somewhat arrogant demand, let alone listen to him, I was struck silent.

“You are safe here,” Luc replied.

“She walked into this room. A human.” His hands opened and closed at his sides. “What was I supposed to think?”

“You should’ve thought, Wow, she’s an idiot and therefore harmless,” Luc retorted, and my mouth dropped open. “Throwing her against a wall wasn’t exactly necessary.”

Did he seriously just call me an idiot?

The Luxen male’s lips thinned and then he shocked me even more by saying, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

I felt Luc nod behind me and then he said, “And this”—his arm tightened even more, and a tiny squeak escaped me—“won’t happen again.”

The male didn’t respond, nor did he take his eyes off us as he backed up, keeping himself firmly planted between us and the others.

Understanding flared to life, and I probably would’ve seen it earlier if I hadn’t been so wrapped up in almost being choked to death.

The Luxen was protecting the woman and child from—from me. I was so dumbfounded by the realization, I didn’t protest when Luc removed his arm from my waist and then wrapped his fingers around mine, pulling me out of the room. The door closed behind us, but I swore no one had touched it.

Once we were in the hall, I tried to tug my hand free. “You called me an idiot in there.”

“And I’m wrong?” He kept walking, the muscles along his back tense. “Because I really don’t think so.”

“Yeah, you’re as wrong as—”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Origin Romance