“Well . . .” she said, drawing the word out. She twisted her red hair into a thick rope. “I think I’ll leave that to them to explain.”
Emery took a deep breath. “The Arum can sense Luxen. The only thing that stops them from doing so is being surrounded by beta quartz. I’m talking large deposits, usually natural ones found in mountains all over the world. We used to live in communities that were near natural deposits of quartz, but that changed after . . . well, after the invasion. Most of our old communities were destroyed.”
I wish I had more Coke. “Okay.”
The look on Emery’s face said she knew I was a couple of steps away from sensory overload. “When we heal a human, we leave a trace behind on them. To an Arum, it’s almost like the human is lit up. They’re surrounded in a glow. The Arum find humans with a trace as tasty as Luxen.”
“What?” My back straightened. “So, I’m glowing and an Arum shadow creature is going to eat me?”
Kent coughed out a laugh. “Boy, I just took that the wrong way.”
Emery rolled her eyes. “Normally, they would find you—or they could. They’d see your trace, and if they were hungry for some Luxen goodness, they’d either use you to get to the Luxen or use you as a snack. It wouldn’t just put the Luxen in danger, but also his or her friends and family. See, an odd side effect of the Disablers is that it blinds the Arum to the Luxen, so . . . they’ve been really hungry. They can’t search out most Luxen now.”
“Normally?” I’d caught that word.
“Normally,” she said, her gaze roaming over me. “If a Luxen heals a human, then we usually stay very close to them, just to be sure they aren’t in a danger, but you . . . you don’t have a trace, Evie.”
Relief made me dizzy. “Oh God, I thought you were going to say I was as bright as the sun or something. This is good news, right? I’m safe. My mom is safe. Well, safe from the Arum thing. I’m not going to be some weird shadow alien’s snack. All I have to worry about is bone-breaking Origins.”
“Well . . .” Kent took my empty can. “I’m just a lowly human, but apparently if she doesn’t see your trace, then that might not be a good thing.”
I focused on Emery. “Why?”
Emery lifted her hands. “Because every human who’s ever been healed always has a trace on them.”
“Well, I’m human, so—Wait, but Luc—”
“Luc is an Origin,” Kent confirmed. “But it works the same way. Origins leave a trace behind.”
My gaze swung to him. “Then what does that mean?”
Kent lifted a shoulder as he stood. “I have no idea. Anyway, I have to go.” He patted my head, easily moving out of reach when I swatted at his hand. “People to see. Stuff.”
I glared at him, super-annoyed. “Well, that was a lot of help when it comes to clearing things up for me.”
He winked at me. “Obviously, you understand how important it is to keep this quiet. If not . . .”
“Yeah, you’ll go after everyone I know and love?” I shot back.
Kent winked. “That’s my girl.” He walked out the room, throwing up a peace sign.
I turned to Emery. “God, why does everyone have to be so annoying?”
Emery gave me a sympathetic smile. “I know all of this sounds made-up.”
“But it’s the truth,” she continued. “Look, I’m going to go check on a few things. I’m sorry about what happened to you today. We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” She started to get up.
Emery didn’t get very far, though.
Catching her hand, Heidi pulled her back down for a kiss. Not exactly a quick one either. The tips of my ears were burning by the time they broke up and Emery sashayed out of the room.
“You really, really like her, don’t you?” I asked.
Heidi laughed softly. “I do. You know, I knew what she was the first night I met her. It never mattered to me. At all.”
There was a lot I wanted to talk about, but the really important one won out. “Why didn’t you tell me what Emery was?”
Heidi dragged her palms over her knees as her gaze fell to the carpet. “I didn’t think you’d . . . approve.”
She glanced at me. “Really. You haven’t . . .”
I haven’t what? I’d never been anti-Luxen. Then again, I’d never been really vocal either way in the past. I’d mostly been . . . quiet. Staying quiet was just as bad as being against them, and I had to get real with myself and take ownership for why she would’ve thought that. Because deep down, I had said things in passing that would’ve made her think that.