The Burning Shadow (Origin 2) - Page 4

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“Only because I can’t be kept or forced to do anything I don’t want to do,” I added. “That goes for you, too.”

“Never would imagine it didn’t.” He was closer, moving toward me as silently as a ghost.

Drawing in a shallow breath, I faced Mom. Her face was pale, but beyond that, I couldn’t read anything in her expression. “And I know you don’t want to try to force Luc and me apart, not now and not after everything. You were mad. You guys have a messy history. I get that, and I know you two may never like each other, but I really need you guys to pretend that you do. Just a little.”

“I’m sorry,” Mom said, clearing her throat. “He might’ve been willing to argue with me, but this was on me. I invited him for lunch, and then I was unnecessarily rude. He obviously has reasons to not trust me or accept any of my actions in good faith. If it were the other way around, I would feel the same as he does.” She drew in a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Luc.”

Shock splashed through me as my eyes widened, and I wasn’t the only one staring at her like I didn’t understand the words coming out of her mouth.

“I know you and I are never going to like each other,” Mom continued. “But we need to try to get along. For Evie.”

Luc was as still as a statue in one of the few museums that had survived the alien invasion. Then he nodded. “For her.”* * *In my bedroom later that evening, I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the corkboard tacked full of pictures of my friends and me. I didn’t even know when I started looking at them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Luc had left shortly after #grilledcheesegate, which was for the best. Even if they sort of smoothed things over, it was best if they got some space between them. Probably a whole zip code worth of space. I wanted to be hopeful that they could get along, but I also knew that may be expecting too much from both of them.

I sighed, my gaze crawling over the photos. Some of them were photos of us just chilling or goofing off. Others showed us in Halloween costumes or dressed up in fancy dresses, hair and makeup on point. Me. Heidi. James. Zoe.

Zoe.

She’d been the first friend I’d made at Centennial High four years ago. We’d hit it off immediately, both of us having suffered—or at least thinking we had—unimaginable loss after the invasion. Our little party of two quickly expanded to include Heidi and then, eventually, James. The four of us had been thick as thieves, but Zoe had been lying, too. Just like Luc. Just like Mom. Zoe had been ordered to be my friend, to watch over me because Luc couldn’t, and maybe Luc had been right earlier. Maybe she was made to become my friend, but we’d become best friends all on our own. Who knew? I didn’t. And we’d never know.

My stomach grumbled once more, and I knew it was time to go downstairs, because my stomach felt like it wanted to eat itself. Part of me hoped Mom had holed herself up in her bedroom. I felt terrible for thinking that, but things were always super-uncomfortable after a fight, and I didn’t have the brain space to deal with it. The moment I hit the foyer and heard the TV on, I knew I wasn’t that lucky.

Taking a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and entered the living room. An episode of Hoarders was playing on the TV, and I shook my head as I continued into the living room.

She was at the island, a bottle of mustard, loaf of bread, and a packet of deli meat spread out before her. There was even a bag of sour cream and cheddar chips, my favorite. Roast beef. She was making roast beef sandwiches, and it was apparent, based on the fact there was only mustard on the bread, that she’d just started.

Mom looked up as she picked up the packet of meat. “Hoping you’re hungry.”

My steps slowed. “How did you know I was coming down? Were you listening for sounds of life outside my bedroom door?”

“Maybe.” A sheepish look crossed her face. “I was planning to coax you out with this if you didn’t.”

I stopped to stand behind the barstool that I’d knocked over earlier. “I am hungry.”

“Perfect.” She motioned at the barstool. “It’ll be ready in a few moments.”

“Thanks.” I sat down, letting my hands fall to my lap as I watched her drape a slice of roast beef over the bread and then another. I had no idea what to say as the silence stretched out between us. Luckily or unluckily, she knew exactly what to say.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Origin Romance
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