He jolted. “What?”
It wasn’t often that I saw Luc so caught off guard, and it was sort of amazing. I wanted to revel in it, but now wasn’t the time for that. “Kat said something the other day that has been driving me crazy. She said you might’ve done something in the woods that snapped me out of it. And you did. It was the same thing you said when I was doing the deep-sleep thing. I heard you, and that’s what woke me up. You called me Nadia. Both times.”
Luc swallowed hard, and then his expression smoothed out. “Yeah.” He cleared his voice. “I did both times. I know you hate that—”
A brow raised.
“Okay. I did at first, because it was confusing, and it’s still weird. I mean, I don’t know her—I mean, I don’t know me.” Groaning, I tried again. “It’s just weird. All I know is that it doesn’t upset me anymore because I am her, and that part of me responded to you. I was mutated and trained as Nadia, not Evie, so that has to mean something, right? There has to be a connection there.”
He smoothed my hair back. “I think it means exactly what you said a few moments ago. That you are her, and I’m thinking that because you went through the mutation as her, there’s a level of consciousness there that I can reach.” He exhaled slowly. “That’s good to know. It’s another avenue if things escalate. Something I can try before shutting you down.”
“Did you try to shut me down today?”
“No.” He tucked the hair back behind my ear. “You went quiet so fast, but—”
“But you could’ve done it the moment I told you I was losing control.”
“I could’ve, but I wanted to see what you’d do first.”
“Oh my God, Luc.” I stared at him. “What if I did go banana-pants crazy and you couldn’t reach me?”
“I was willing to hedge my bets that you wouldn’t.” He dropped his hand back to my arm. “I told you this before, Peaches. I believe in you; I believe that you won’t ever let yourself get to the point you did in the woods, and you haven’t. Not since you had that nightmare, and the big difference there? You started to use the Source. You stopped being afraid of it. You started to trust yourself, and it’s far past time you start believing in yourself.”
My heart flipped over. God, he was right.
I ignored that comment.
“Why is it so hard for you to do so?” he asked quietly.
Man, that was a hard question to answer, to explain. I shifted onto my back, relieved to discover it didn’t hurt. There was a dip in my stomach when I thought again that I’d actually, literally been shot earlier. My brain couldn’t process that as I slipped a hand under the sheet and found the small, ultrasmooth patch of healing skin. “Will it scar?”
“The one on your back? The entrance wound? It’s already a faint mark. By tomorrow, it will probably be gone. The chest will probably scar, but it won’t be too noticeable in a couple of days. It will look like a scar from a wound that occurred years ago.”
“That’s weird. Like, I can’t even fathom that.” I prodded at the skin, wincing. “It’s tender.”
“Yeah.” He reached over, pulling my hand out from under the sheet. “So try not poking it.”
He was quiet while I resisted the urge to poke around more. “Peaches?”
“Why won’t you believe in yourself?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed, staring at the dark ceiling. But was that really true? I didn’t think so. “I think Eaton was right. I keep allowing myself to think like I’m the Evie from before and that things are out of my control, because…”
Luc rose onto his elbow. “Why do you think that’s easier?”
I closed my eyes, the truth hard to speak, to acknowledge. Because that’s how I’ve always felt. Like I’ve never had control in anything.
“That’s not entirely true.”
Opening my eyes, I turned my head toward him. “How so?”
“Before, even when you faced things that were out of your control, like your father and getting sick? You did everything to gain back as much control as you could. You faced things head-on, no matter what cards you were being dealt,” he said. “And that fierce strength is still inside you. That couldn’t be stomped out by any serum, not completely.”
Nadia was a badass, but she was me, and I wondered just how much of her still existed in me. If who I used to be was why, as Evie, I always felt so stifled and aimless, as if I’d been shoved into a skin that didn’t fit.
“Your life as Nadia was mostly erased, but even the night you walked into the club, I saw so many of Nadia’s qualities in you. It wasn’t just the certain foods or drinks you liked or didn’t. It was more than your love of photography. It was in the way you wouldn’t let me intimidate you, how you pushed back even before you knew if you were safe with me or not. That was all Nadia. So is your inherent strength. Most people would’ve cracked under the pressure and everything you’ve been through. You haven’t. Just like you didn’t when you did what you needed to do to get away from your father. The same as you did when you were diagnosed with cancer. You kept going.”