Opposition (Lux, #5)(7)

She was standing in front of one of the Luxen, her mouth gaping open, seemingly frozen in fear. The little girl was pressed back against the rack of supermarket books, huddled into a small ball, wailing as she rocked back and forth. It took me a moment to realize what she was shrieking over and over again.

“Daddy! Daddy!”

The man was lying in a pool of blood at her feet.

Energy crackled along my skin, snapping against Archer as the Luxen reached out and placed a hand on the center of the woman’s chest.

“What the . . . ?” I whispered.

The woman’s spine straightened as if someone had dropped steel down the center of her back. Her eyes widened, pupils dilating. The shimmery white light radiated from the Luxen’s palm, and then draped over the woman like a waterfall. When the light reached her pointy-toed high heels, it faded off, seeping into the floor. Suddenly, the woman’s head kicked back and her mouth dropped open in a silent scream. Her veins lit up from within, a glowing white network across her forehead, filling her eyes, and then down her cheeks and throat.

What was happening? I could feel Archer pressing against me as the Luxen stepped back from the violently trembling woman. As the light receded from her veins, the color leached from her skin, and the light surrounding the Luxen pulsed like a heartbeat. It all happened at the same moment—the woman’s skin wrinkled and creased like she was aging by decades within seconds, while the Luxen’s form shifted and warped. The woman’s body crumbled and caved into itself, like all her life force was sucked right out of her. As she folded like a sheet of paper, skin gray and features unrecognizable, the Luxen’s light pulled back, revealing its new form.

It was identical to the woman, same tan skin and pert nose. Light brown hair fell over bare shoulders, but its eyes . . . they were an unnaturally brilliant blue, like two polished sapphires had been placed on its face. Eyes like Ash’s and Andrew’s.

They’re assimilating DNA. Archer’s voice floated among my thoughts. Rapidly. I’ve never seen it done or known it was possible. There was a level of disturbed awe in his tone.

It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the Luxen version. It was also deadly, and it was happening throughout the supermarket. Bodies were hitting the floor everywhere.

“We need to go.” Archer’s hand tightened around mine as he pulled me back against him. “Now.”

“No!” I tried to dig in. “We—”

“We don’t need to do anything but get the hell out of here.” He hauled me around the end of the shelves, tugging me toward him until I was plastered against his side once more.

I struggled as he guided me down the aisle. “We can help them.”

“We can’t,” he gritted out.

“You’re an Origin,” I snapped. “You’re supposed to be the badass alien test-tube baby, but you’re—”

“Running? Hell, yeah. Origin or not, there are dozens of Luxen, and they are powerful.” He pushed me around the rows of toothpaste. In his left hand he still carried the bin full of pills I’d already forgotten about. “Did you not just see what they did?”

I slammed my hand into his stomach, pushing him back as I tore myself free from his grasp. “They’re killing people! We can help them.”

Archer snapped forward, his face contorting in frustration. “There is no Luxen on this Earth who can take on DNA like that. These are stronger. We need to get out of here, get back to the cabin, and then get the—”

A scream made me whip around. From the end of the aisle, I could see that the Luxen who’d taken on the woman’s appearance was staring down at the small girl, her lips curled into a mocking smile.

No. No way could I leave the girl. I had no idea what the Luxen planned, but I doubted it involved a test run at motherhood. I glanced at Archer, who cursed under his breath.

“Katy,” he growled, dropping the bin. “Don’t.”

Too late. I took off, my legs and arms pumping as I darted into the next aisle and ran toward the front of the store. The clap of thunder came again as I reached the display of paperbacks, and the parking lot lit up as more Luxen arrived, over and over again, thunder cracking until I thought my heart would implode.

I skidded around the end of the aisle.

The Luxen froze in front of the little girl, and then its head tilted toward where I stood. Brilliant eyes locked onto mine. Rosy red lips parted. The coldness in its stare was like stepping out in subzero temps. There was nothing human in the stare, not even a hint of compassion, just cold calculation.

I knew in that tiny second as we stared each other down that this was the beginning and this was also the end. The Luxen were truly invading.

Swallowing the bite of icy terror, I lunged forward, grabbing the girl from behind. Her scream bounced through me and she went crazy, kicking me in the leg. I clamped my arms around her, holding her as tight as I could as I started to back up.

The Luxen rose like a pillar of water. Little bursts of energy crackled along its arms. It stared at me like it could see right into my insides. Each word it spoke rolled off the tongue like it was learning English at breakneck speed. “What are you?”

Oh crappity crap.

I learned two things pretty quickly. The Luxen could sense that I wasn’t riding just the human friendly skies, and by the way it drew back, raising a hand, I figured that wasn’t a good thing. I also learned it had no idea what a hybrid was.

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