The Brightest Night (Origin 3) - Page 47

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He blinked.

“I like peanut butter.” I smiled. “A lot.”

A long moment passed as he did nothing but stare at me. “You’re weird.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I think I am.”

“Definitely are,” he confirmed. His wary gaze never left me, but he seemed to relax a little, no longer glancing at the entrance to the kitchen every three seconds.

“So, are you going to tell me your name, at least?”

“Nate.” He shifted uneasily, scratching his fingers through his hair. “Just Nate.”

Relieved and a bit surprised that he’d shared his name, I said, “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Nate.”

He stared at me again, this time as if I had a third arm sticking out of the middle of my forehead.

I didn’t dare move closer to him. “You don’t live in this community, do you?”

Nate moved from one foot to the other. “I don’t live here.”

Thinking of the flashing lights I’d seen, I almost shoved it aside. The city was dead and everything of value scavenged. How could anyone live there, let alone more than one person, and not have been seen?

But if he didn’t live here, and I seriously doubted he could get through the wall without being seen, there could only be one other place. Houston may be dead, but it was a big city, and if the community had taken all the goods from the city, it would make sense that he was doing virtually the same, scavenging the community.

“Do you live in the city?” I asked.

He stopped fidgeting.

“I mean, where else could you live?”

Nate gave me a half shrug.

Even though I already suspected as much, it still sent me reeling. “How do you live there? Are you—?” Alone? Without parents? I cut myself off before I asked those questions. I already knew there were more than just him. He’d said we, and I had a feeling I had to choose my questions wisely.

“I make do,” he mumbled, glancing at one of the cans of green beans.

“I guess you’d have to. Can I ask you something else?” When he gave a quick nod, I said, “Why are you living there and not here?”

“We aren’t from here, and we don’t trust them,” he said, his eyes flashing. “They killed people. We all saw them, right after the invasion, before they dropped those bombs. We saw them touching people and becoming them, killing them.”

He was talking about how the invading Luxen had rapidly assimilated the human DNA, virtually assuming the humans’ physical appearance. Total Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, but …

“The invading Luxen were dangerous. They were killers, but the Luxen here didn’t do that.”

His chin jerked up. “How can you know? You said you just got here.”

“Because I know that there are a lot of Luxen who were living here, on Earth, long before the others came, and the vast majority of them never hurt anyone. Some of those Luxen are here, in this community, living with humans—helping them. Some of them are even my friends I met before I came here,” I explained, the last part a wish that rolled off my tongue all too easily. “And hey, I’m not saying all Luxen are perfect examples of, well, an alien race, but I think the ones here are good.”

Nate went quiet again as he seemed to digest the news that the Luxen have been here. There was no shock or denial. I had a feeling this kid had been exposed to enough in his short life that he knew anything and everything was possible.

“Or have you seen something different from the ones here?” I pressed.

“How would I know if I have? The way they look isn’t the way they always do,” he argued, and man, he had a point. Luxen chose their human form, the ones who’d been here for a while having done so by slowly taking a little human DNA here and there, but some Luxen could easily change their appearance by mirroring those around them. “Any of them could be killers, but they just look different now.”

“You’re right.” I took a shallow breath. “But the ones here and the vast majority of others, out there in the world outside these walls, don’t want to hurt anyone. They just want to live. That’s all.”

There wasn’t a single thing about the look on his face that said he believed me, so I wasn’t surprised when he said, “I’ve got to go.”

Knowing the only way I could stop him was to get physical—and that wouldn’t do anything to help build trust for me or the Luxen—I nodded. “Okay. You can have the food if you want. I think there were some old plastic bags in the pantry. Would probably make it easier for you to carry.”

His eyes widened slightly. “For real?”

I nodded.

Nate started to bend down to grab one of the nearest cans, but jerked upright. “Why?” he demanded. “Why would you let me take the food?”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Origin Romance
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