Every part of me tensed. I really didn’t want him to be picking up on what Luc had shared with me. No one needed to.
“No one will,” Archer said, and those violet eyes met mine. “There are days when I think I don’t know much, but I was with the Daedalus for a long time, virtually undercover. None of us walked out of there without scars. We all feared that we’d become exactly what they wanted, one way or another. A monster.”
My mouth dropped open. How deep did he go into my mind to pull that out?
“It’s Dee that keeps me human,” he went on. “It’s always been you that has done that for Luc, and I have a feeling, even if you don’t realize it, he does the same for you.”
The next breath I took scorched my throat. I was at a loss as to what to say.
Archer smiled. “I’d better head back in there.”
I nodded, stepping aside as he walked past me. I watched him until the door swung shut behind him. More than a little freaked out, I slowly turned around and started walking, thinking over what Archer had said. Part of me didn’t want to know how he’d picked all of that out of my brain, but he was right. Luc was there for the nightmares and all the scars I carried. If he weren’t, I would probably be just as inhuman as I imagined the other Trojans were.
Walking along the empty lot that was behind the shopping center, I took in the stools that sat in front of the basins turned over to dry out. The clotheslines were bare, and as I walked under them, I couldn’t help but think of how creepy it was—
A soft whistle drew my attention the right. My heart kicked against my ribs as I spun around, searching for the face I hadn’t seen in days. There. Behind the dumpster, I saw familiar red hair.
“Nate.” Relief seized me as I crossed the distance and then gave way to concern, because I seriously wasn’t expecting to see him so soon. “Is everything okay?”
He’d slinked farther back into the shadows as I rounded the corner, frowning when he continued to move away. Nate was skittish, but this was different. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. It’s just…”
I saw his face, and rage poured into me like a violent summer storm. He’d been hit—hit hard. Around his swollen left eye, his skin was a deep purple and an angry shade of red. The Source pulsed in the center of my chest, flashing through my body. “Who did that to you?”
Nate drew back, planting himself against the back of the building. “Your skin.” The one eye of his widened. “It’s moving.”
I didn’t have to look at my arms to know the Source was making its presence known and he was scared. Who could blame him? Besides all the nonsense he’d been fed about the Luxen, I was sure I looked like something straight out of a low-budget science fiction movie.
“It’s okay.” I lifted my hands, and Nate flinched. Stupid move. I willed myself to calm. The Source pulsed and then returned to a steady hum. “I’m not going to hurt you. You have to know that. Right?”
Nate was still for several long heartbeats, and then he nodded. “You really aren’t like them—like the ones who’d invaded.”
“I’m not. Neither are the ones here.” I managed a calming breath. “Who did this to you?”
His silence was an answer.
“Was it Morton?”
He folded scrawny arms over his frail chest and gave me one more nod.
The fact I didn’t lose my shit right there showed just how much control I truly had, because now it was me who wanted to blow something up.
Funny how I had just walked away from people arguing about whether it was right or wrong to kill someone, and here I was, fully ready to commit murder. Nate was just a child. All of them were just children. How in the hell could a grown man hit one of them? And I knew this wasn’t the first time.
“Your eyes,” Nate whispered.
“Sorry. I’m just upset for you. No one has the right to hit you, Nate. That’s not okay.” Surprised by how level my voice was, I slowly lowered my hands. “Please tell me you’re here because you want our help. Please.”
His head bowed. “After you left, Jamal and Nia … I think they wanted to go with you. So, I talked to the others. They’re ready,” he said. “They want out.”
I almost hit the ground. Only a few hours ago, Luc and I were talking about this. Never did I dare to hope that Nate would come to us so quickly. “Okay. That’s good. That’s great. We can go now—”
“Not right now.” Nate’s chin jerked up. “It has to be later. Tonight. When it’s dark. We’ll flash our lights when we’re at the Galleria. It’s the mall.”