The next breath I took was shaky. Maybe … just maybe both of them were right. Perhaps I was brave in my own way. I was strong, and if that was true, if what he said was right, then I could face what was to come … whatever it was.
Letting myself believe in that loosened some, not all, of the tension in my shoulders, and I wasn’t sure if he knew how much that meant to me.
I closed the tiny distance between us and kissed him, hoping that he could feel what I did even if I didn’t have the courage to say it, or think it, because even though I could be as brave as he said I was, there were still some things that terrified me.
What I knew I was beginning to feel for him was one of them.
His gaze snapped over my shoulder, to the television. “Oh, hell.”
“What?” I followed his gaze to the TV. The volume rose, and unless the TV had become self-aware, I figured I knew who was responsible for it. “Him again.”
A wry grin twisted his lips. “He’s on TV a lot.”
“Seriously. I don’t think there’s ever been a president on TV as much as President McHugh,” I commented.
The president was giving some kind of briefing outside, in what I guessed was the White House Rose Garden. Along the bottom there was yet another BREAKING NEWS banner, announcing that the House had not passed the bill that would change the Alien Registration Program, or the Twenty-eighth Amendment that recognized and afforded the Luxen the same rights as humans.
The president was obviously not happy about it.
“When I campaigned to be the president of these great states, I did so on the promise that I would make America safe once more, and today’s vote is a disappointment.” He stared directly into the camera, doing that creepy non-blinky stare thing. “These changes to the ARP are both necessary and inevitable. Within the last forty-eight hours alone, there was an attack in Cincinnati by two unregistered Luxen terrorists—and make no mistake, that is what they are. Terrorists.”
A muscle flexed along Luc’s jaw as his fingers made quick work of the tiny buttons on my sweater.
Nothing knocked you out of the mood quicker than seeing the president on TV.
“There are Luxen who want to play by the rules—the changes to the ARP will keep them safe. There are Luxen who don’t want to play by the rules and who want to hurt us,” President McHugh continued. “And that is why I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing to protect the people I was voted to protect. I am issuing an executive order that will implement these changes into the Alien Registration Program.”
I slid off Luc’s lap and onto the bed.
“Not only that, I am issuing an executive order to reinstate the Patriot Act and the Luxen Act, allowing all branches of the government, including the military, to take unprecedented action.”
Could he do this? I had no idea. I mean, I knew how basic levels of the government worked. The whole checks and balances thing. The House. The Senate. The judicial branch. Could the president just issue an order and it be followed?
The president was still looking directly into the camera when he said, “These changes will go into effect immediately and will have the full force of the law, under the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Luc stiffened as he murmured, “So it begins.”* * *“Evie, wake up.”
Groaning, I rolled onto my belly and planted my face in the pillow. It couldn’t be morning yet. I hadn’t heard my alarm go off.
Mom’s hand landed on my shoulder, shaking me. “I need you to wake up.”
I shook her hand off, thrusting my arm under my pillow.
Mom shook me again. “Honey, I need you to get up. Now.”
Something about her tone reached through the cobwebs of sleep, and everything that had happened earlier slammed into me. April. The questions. The president on TV and then Luc getting a call from Grayson an hour later. The officer was back—Officer Bromberg, enforcing a mixture of the Luxen Act and the Patriot Act. He’d demanded access to the club, and he wanted to see Luc. I’d wanted to go with him, but Luc didn’t want me there until he knew what Bromberg was up to.
He’d promised to come back, and I waited all evening for him and for Mom, eventually changing into my pajamas and then falling asleep. Part of me couldn’t believe that I had, after everything.
Had something happened?
My heart kicked against my chest as I rolled onto my side. The room was dark, but I could make out Mom’s outline. She was leaning over me, one of her hands planted on the bed next to me. Some of the cobwebs of sleep cleared. Clearly, it was still night.