House of Royale (Secret Keepers #4)(7)

Chase stepped forward to the other captain’s chair and pressed a button. Powerful engines roared to life. I hadn’t seen an anchor when I’d been below, but somehow the boat hadn’t moved at all since it stopped here. Probably Xander’s doing; he apparently controlled water. Daelighter. Excitement bubbled low in my stomach and I had no idea why. This situation should be scaring me. I had been dropped into a completely new world where I knew none of the rules. Instead, I felt like maybe, for the first time in a long time, I was not quite so alone. There were others like me.


At first there was only the noise of the ocean to keep us company, and I relaxed because this was my favorite tune. But, while I wished I could just remain in my cocoon of comforting water sounds, I needed answers, and that required me to ask questions.

Turning in my seat, I focused on Maya. She was the one I felt most comfortable with. “I’m going to need you to tell me everything, in detail. Don’t beat around the bush, just get to the point. What are Daelighters? How am I involved? What are the four?”

That covered the most pertinent points at this time.

Maya smiled, looking happier than I’d seen since I’d been shot into the boat. “You’re already so much cooler than I expected. I love honest, straight-up people.” I did also, so it was nice to know we had that in common. “Okay,” she started, “Daelighters are aliens. Pretty much.”

What in the…. Well, I definitely had not seen that one coming. I’d thought mutants. Aliens just seemed so much more … out of this world.

I managed to keep my expression neutral while images of little green creatures and ray guns ran through my head. I mean, clearly Xander and Chase were not even remotely little … or green, but maybe these were like human suits they wore or something.

Maya cracked up then. “If you’re anything like me, you’re trying to work out how they aren’t bulbous-headed mutants. The planet they’re from is called Overworld, and they actually have a lot in common with humans. This is what they look like, no disguises. They need the same basic fundamentals as us to survive. Water, oxygen, and the rest.”

We might have a little in common with these aliens, but I’d seen Xander in the water—there were also a ton of differences. And since I had a small amount of their abilities, that meant…

“Am I half alien? Is that why I can swim in the water the way I do?”

I didn’t mean to sound so horrified, and judging by the way Xander leveled his narrowed eyes on me, he wasn’t very impressed with my tone of voice.

“You’d be lucky to be half-Daelighter,” he said bluntly. “We are superior to humans in a lot of ways.”

“Especially your ego,” I shot back before I dismissed him completely, turning back to Maya.

She wore a soft look on her face. I was really hoping it wasn’t pity. “You’re not half-Daelighter,” she said. “You’re the same as me. We’re humans who were born in their land. Some of their energy infiltrated into ours. This is why you have a semblance of the Royale abilities.”

If I wasn’t sitting down, I might have fallen over at those words. “I wasn’t born on Earth?”

There was no way…. They were wrong. This was some weird, messed-up joke.

I half-lurched out of my chair. I needed to swim. I needed to forget everything I’d just learned. Xander got to me so fast that I barely even had a chance to step forward.

“No, wait.” He held me tight and I struggled against him, hating that I felt so out of control. “Listen to me,” he demanded, his arms like steel bands that I was uselessly smashing against. “You are important to both worlds. Without your help, millions, if not billions, of people and Daelighters will die.”

A sob choked from me before I could pull it back, but I stopped struggling because it was futile. “I have nothing,” I said to him. “No family. No future. And now you’re all telling me that I don’t even have my past, that everything I believed about myself is wrong, a lie told by my parents, who bailed as soon as they got me to the age of eighteen.”

No wonder they bailed on me. Their human freak of a child.

A familiar feeling of despair washed through me. Some days I just felt like nothing. I knew my self-worth shouldn’t be tied to anyone else, to their actions, but I believed that humans needed a tribe. And I didn’t have one. I was adrift in this world, trying to find my tide pool.

“You don’t have nothing,” Xander told me firmly, loosening his grip just enough to lean back. “You have a destiny far greater than you could have imagined. You have a family you don’t even know about, and if you bail on us now, you’ll never know about them.”

He released me completely, and I lifted my hands to wipe away the stray tears that had escaped. I was an emotional crier. The last time I’d shed tears was when I woke up to the note from my parents. In this moment, my chest hurt almost as much, and I couldn’t quite figure out why.

Maya pushed Xander to the side, shooting him a glare. “Stop manhandling her, you big jerk. This is a huge shock. I remember how it felt and I had my parents—who I trusted—tell me about it.”

Xander just crossed his arms, leaning back against the side of the boat railing, not at all off-balance even though we were still flying through the water. Maya returned her focus to me.

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