The kid bolted.10“Stop!” I yelled.
The kid didn’t listen, rushing around the small kitchen island. I darted toward the back door, blocking his path. He spun around, starting for the entrance I’d come through, but I moved so I was in between the two exits. He jerked to a halt, behind the island, his frail chest rising and falling rapidly.
Heart thumping, my gaze swept over him once more. I had no idea who this kid was, but it was obvious why he was in the kitchen with his arms full of food. The kid looked like he hadn’t had a good meal in weeks, if not longer, and I knew that meant he couldn’t be living in this community unless he was being kept somewhere by someone who didn’t allow him access to food or water to bathe.
Man, my mind went to some really dark places, but the world and the people in it could be darker than anything my imagination could drum up.
More importantly, though, the thing inside me hadn’t come alive, so I was guessing that meant it didn’t recognize him as a threat. The kid was definitely human, that much I just knew, but I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that didn’t mean he couldn’t become one, but at this moment, I was going to listen to instinct or whatever was inside me.
I kept my eyes on him, preparing for him to try to make a run for it. “Who are you?”
The kid didn’t answer as his gaze darted between the entrance and the back door.
“It’s okay.” I raised my hands, thinking that would help.
The kid threw his arms up over his head and bent, shielding himself as if he expected me to throw something or to use the Source against him.
What had happened to this boy? I quickly lowered my hands. “It’s okay,” I repeated. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
He didn’t move, but his small body trembled. The kid was beyond afraid, and while I had no idea what had caused him to be in such a condition, I said the only thing I thought could help.
“I’m not an alien,” I told him, and that wasn’t exactly a lie.
The kid didn’t move for a long moment, but slowly, he lowered his arms. He didn’t look at me, though. “If you’re here, then you’re friends with one of them. You’re with one of them.”
“I am friends with them,” I answered. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to hurt you.”
“Why would I believe that?” He stared at the door as if it were a lifeline, and I had a feeling he would bolt again the moment he felt remotely threatened by me.
“Because I don’t understand why being friends with them would make you think I would hurt you,” I told him, even though I knew why humans feared the Luxen, whether that was right or wrong. “And because I don’t want to hurt you.” I paused. “Even though you were in my house.”
“I didn’t know anyone moved in.” His gaze nervously shot toward me and then skittered back to the door. “It had been empty all this time.”
“We just moved in a few days ago. I’m new here, but I know some of the people here.” That also wasn’t exactly a lie. “Do you live here?”
The kid didn’t answer.
My mind raced, trying to figure out what I could say that would keep him talking and wouldn’t make him even more nervous. I decided it might help if I told him my name. “My name is Evie, by the way, and like I said, I just got here a few days ago with my boyfriend.”
Another quick glance in my direction. “Is your boyfriend one of them?”
“Is he a Luxen? No.” That was also not exactly a lie, but the kid wouldn’t know that Origins or hybrids existed.
“But you’re here, so you’re one of them that support them,” he said.
“I do. The Luxen here are nothing like the ones who invaded,” I said, really hoping this wasn’t the time Luc decided to show up. “Unless you know something I don’t? If so, I really hope you tell me.”
He didn’t say anything for so long that I thought he wasn’t going to answer, but he did. “We don’t go near them.”
The kid took a deep breath and then looked at me, and this time, he didn’t look away. I thought that was a step in the right direction, but there was a heaviness in his stare. This kid had seen far too much in his young life. “I was trying to steal your stuff.” He lifted his chin, and his shoulders squared. “You caught me, and I don’t believe you’re not mad, so don’t even try to lie.”
“You caught me off guard. Scared me a little, but I’m not mad. I wouldn’t be standing here and trying to talk to you if I were. Besides, it’s not like you’re stealing my food. That stuff was here when we arrived.” I forced a casual shrug. “And it’s not like you took the peanut butter. If you had, then I wouldn’t be remotely happy.”