Her expression tightened and then smoothed out. “He was not part of the invasion.”
That made me feel a little better, knowing I hadn’t been kissed by a killer alien from outer space. It was the small things that made one’s crappy life choices easier to deal with.
I shook my head. “So did you guys help Luc assimilate? Or his parents?”
Mom didn’t respond for a long moment. “Something like that.”
That wasn’t much of answer. In fact, it was so evasive, I knew there was more to it.
She tipped her head back as her shoulders stiffened. “Jason . . .” She dampened her lips. “Jason wasn’t a good man.”
My breath caught. “I don’t understand. Dad was—He was a hero.” There was actually a statue of him in the capital! Well, not really a statue of him. It was a weird monolith-looking thing, but still. “He was awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Her eyes yet drifted shut. “Honey, awards aren’t a true reflection of a person. There have been many, many people highly awarded and acclaimed throughout history who were, in the end, very bad people. Oftentimes people who were so convinced that they were doing the right thing, they were able to overlook all the terrible things they were doing in pursuit of the greater good.”
“But . . .” I trailed off as my heart banged around in my chest. I didn’t know what to do with that piece of knowledge. I had never been close to Dad. Not really. He had never been home, but . . . “But you’ve told me he was a good man. You told me all the important—”
“I lied,” she cut in, opening her eyes again and meeting my wide-eyed stare. “I lied because I didn’t want you to know the truth about him. And yes, it was a necessary lie, one I hoped you would never have to learn was a lie, but with Luc here, I’d rather you hear it from me than him.”
“What . . . what does Dad have to do with him?”
Mom rubbed her hands down her face. “Jason wasn’t very kind to the Luxen he worked with. He could . . . often be very cruel to them.” She paused, and I thought perhaps she was telling a lot by saying very little. “He and Luc had a past. It’s not a good one.”
What Luc had said to me in the club rose to the surface. He’d said I didn’t belong there. I thought maybe he was just being a jerk, but what if it was bigger than that? What if he meant I shouldn’t be around him, because of whatever my dad had done to him or his family?
But if that was the case, then why had he kissed me?
I scooted to the edge of the chair. “Mom, what did Dad do?”
“He made sure that Luc lost someone very dear to him,” Mom answered, and I jerked at the unexpected response. “And that is something Luc will never forget nor forgive. Because of that, Luc can be very dangerous.”
My heart started thundering again. “Because he’s obviously not a registered Luxen?”
“Because I used to fear that Luc would seek retribution for what Jason had done to him.”
My eyes widened. “Retribution? Holy crap. Dad is—He’s dead. What did he do to Luc—”
“Jason was responsible for a lot of things and he made a lot of enemies and he . . . made a lot of bad choices,” she said quietly, almost as if she were afraid she’d be overheard. If Dad had enemies, then I guessed that was why we had shotguns under couch cushions? “None of that matters. I just didn’t want you to learn from someone else that the man who so many people look up to wasn’t a very good person.”
My head felt like it was going to implode. “Should we be worried about . . . Luc coming after us?”
Her gaze held mine. “I said I used to fear that. The truth is, if he’d wanted to hurt you or me, he would’ve already done that.”
“Wow. That’s reassuring.”
“It’s not meant to be,” she replied. “It’s just the truth. If he wanted to use me to carry out some sort of vendetta, it would’ve already happened.” She rose, fiddling with the sash on her robe. “Luc would never hurt you.”
I opened my mouth, but my tongue got all tied up. That didn’t make sense. Luc didn’t know me, and if my dad had done terrible things that involved Luc losing someone, I doubted he wanted to be my best friend forever. It didn’t require a leap in logic to assume that “losing someone” meant someone dying. “Are you sure we’re safe?”
Mom smoothed a hand over her forehead. “Oh, honey, we are,” she was quick to reassure me. “It’s just always good to be prepared.”