The room suddenly constricted. My brain had clearly decided to really start messing with me, because it started throwing out more terrible, panic-inducing questions. Would I forget what my life was like before, well, before everything went to hell? Would I even survive—
“Stop it.” My hands closed into fists.
Would I see Heidi again? Was she truly safe? What was I going to do once I got to Zone 3?
My throat clamped shut, and then I yanked off my tank top and slipped on my bra and button-down cardigan since I had no idea if anyone else was awake. I spun around, hurrying to the door. Wrenching it open, I quickly headed downstairs, my bare feet whispering on the steps. A small lamp had been left on beside the couch, casting a soft glow throughout the room.
Moving toward the kitchen, I stopped when I reached the back door that led out to a screened-in porch. “What am I doing?”
Gasping, I spun around and saw Grayson standing in the living room. “God.” I swallowed hard, placing my hand on my stomach. “You scared me.”
He arched a brow, staring at me.
All righty then. I glanced around. “I … I couldn’t sleep.”
Silence stretched out between us as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. This was getting awkward. “I’m guessing you couldn’t sleep, either?”
“I was patrolling. Making sure no one is getting too close to the house without our knowledge.”
“Oh.” I twisted my fingers around the hem of my sleep shorts. “Is that something you normally do?”
He eyed me disinterestedly, which was an improvement from him looking at me like I was the legit worst. “Yes, it is something that all Luxen do and have done since the beginning of time.”
Well, that sounded dramatic, but what did I know? “I had no idea.”
“Of course you didn’t. You fear tomorrow now, because you’ve now experienced something personal that shows you just how scary the world can be.” His tone was hard. “We’ve always feared tomorrow.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “I know what fear is.”
He looked away, a muscle throbbing along his jaw. “I guess you do.”
I had no idea how to respond to that.
Grayson inclined his head. “I didn’t know you were her.”
He was talking about Nadia.
“It makes sense now. I never understood why he was willing to risk everything for you.” He paused, his gaze flickering over me. “I couldn’t figure it out, but I’d heard about Nadia. He spoke about her—about you only a few times. It was obvious that he’d been in love. Now I understand why he is the way he is with you. If I’d known who you were, I never would have said you were useless.”
I opened my mouth to point out that he shouldn’t have said that to me no matter who I used to be or who he thought I was.
But Grayson was already gone.
He’d moved so fast the ends of my hair lifted, and I was left standing in the kitchen like I’d been talking to myself.
“What the hell?” I muttered.
Scrubbing my hands down my face, I turned and eyed the fridge. The idea of eating filled me with nausea, but I was stressed; therefore food was the only acceptable—
A low, creaking sound pierced the silence—the sound of unused hinges on the door rubbing together.
Lowering my hands, I twisted around slowly. The kitchen looked normal. No source of the sound—there. The door to either the pantry or the basement was open a couple of inches.
What in the world?
Inching toward it, I touched the cool knob and pulled the door open. Hinges squawked as musty air surrounded me. My heart bounced as I stepped forward, peering into the darkness. “Hello?”
Silence greeted me.
Frowning, I looked at the door. It was hanging sort of cockeyed. It probably hadn’t been latched properly. I started to close the door and a chill skated over my skin. I exhaled, and my breath puffed a misty cloud in front of my lips. Tiny bumps rose as the temperature dropped.
My gaze swung back to the dark stairwell. It was pitch-black, so much so that I could only see the two steps in, and the light from the kitchen seemed to hit an invisible wall, not penetrating the depth of the darkness.
The inky blackness of the basement brushed over the second step, rolled over the old, worn wood like oil.
Well, that was strange.
Maybe-this-house-was-haunted kind of strange.
Still gripping the door, I took a step back. The darkness, the shadows rose, expanding and rippling over the wall. Smoky tendrils crept into the light, and the air turned frigid.
A scream built in my throat and died in the freezing air.
The thick shadow constricted, pulling back and swirling. Out of the blob of darkness, a shape took form. Two legs. A torso. Shoulders and arms. A head. An entire body that was as black and shiny as midnight oil.