All I’ve ever wanted is to be able to give someone else what they want.
“You’re a manipulator. An egotist. A mockery of humanity that thinks she’s better than everyone else.”
This boy was insane.
It was bad enough that he’d held her at gunpoint. And kidnapped her. And apparently nursed her back to health as part of some kinky obsession he had with being the one to kill her. It was bad enough that he’d almost strangled her and was now clearly in possession of what she’d heard a man on Animal Planet once describe as “the crazy eyes.”
But this? Telling her that the world bent over backward to clear the way for her? That she didn’t care about people? That she excelled in making them care about her?
Lunacy. Sheer, utter lunacy.
The boy rushed her. She rushed away. He feinted left. She went right. He paused. She paused.
It was a strange waltz they were dancing. A strange, strange, lethal waltz.
“You’re not a very good killer,” Claire found herself saying. Why was she baiting him? She wasn’t sure. Except that maybe, she hoped that he would tell her something. Something that might help her find a way out of this alive.
“I’m the killer. I am death to all I seek. I am Nobody.”
He said it like he meant it. Like he believed it. Like it was the reason for the shadows in his eyes and the scar across his neck.
Like this boy—this beautiful, insane, gun-toting boy—could possibly understand what it felt like to be truly invisible. To not matter. To anyone. Ever.
The boy in question closed his eyes again and then sank to the floor, moving forward at a crouch. She dodged, and then scuttled backward, into the kitchen.
Away from the door.
“How do you do that?” the boy hissed, following her.
Do what? Run? Considering the amount of time she’d spent staring at him instead of doing so, it was probably a fair question. Taking advantage of his distraction, she lashed out with one leg, trying to kick him off balance. He caught her foot and trapped it in a viselike hold. Then he stepped forward, working his way up the leg toward her, with detached precision.
His face an inch away from hers, he spoke. “You shouldn’t be able to see me.”
This close, there was no escape. There was no room to maneuver. There was no hope and no chance. She didn’t lean away from him. She didn’t struggle. All she did was give in to the inevitable, with a shudder. “Of course I can see you. I’m not blind.”
Not blind. Not blind?
How was she doing this? How was this girl, this perfect-beautiful-cruel girl looking at him?
Acting like a person would have to be blind to stare through him.
His left hand held her leg immobile. He moved his right hand to brush the back of her neck. One motion. One movement. One jerk of his wrist, and she was dead.
“You will tell me how you’re doing this,” he ordered. “You will stop it.”
“Stop what? Tell you how I’m doing what?” The words burst out of her mouth. She seemed … agitated.
You shouldn’t be able to see me, Claire. I shouldn’t be able to agitate you.
He did not say the words out loud. The gleaming sheen of tears in her eyes stopped him from speaking. This wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t.
Claire filled the void of his silence. “I’m not doing anything. I can’t do anything. Every time I try, it’s like … you stop me. God, you tried to shoot me, and I’m so pathetic that when I looked out the window and you weren’t there anymore, I thought I was going to die because you were gone. And thirty seconds ago, I finally thought I had a chance to make it out of this, but now you’re touching me, and you’re looking at me, and you won’t let go. I know you won’t.”
A single tear broke from the surface of her eye and slid down her cheek. Her face turned red and puffy. She wasn’t a graceful crier, Claire. And she was right: he would never let go of her. Never.
“And you want to know why I’m looking at you!” she accused.
Like that was so ridiculous. Like it wasn’t a legitimate question. Like she wasn’t deliberately withholding the answer.
Nix watched as another tear slid down Claire’s face. And then another. She looked down, but then lifted her head back up defiantly and stared him straight in the eye.
Nix was sure that no one had ever been looked at quite the way that Claire was looking at him. No Normal had ever been broken in half by a stare so pure. Ione and the Sensors, the rest of the world—they’d never have what Claire was giving him now.
Instead of snapping her neck, he tightened his hold on her leg, just slightly. And then, conceding defeat, he stepped backward, his hand trailing down her thigh, past her knee, and to her ankle before he gave her back that long, perfect limb.
I can’t kill her.
He’d made her cry. Here, now, far away from the rest of her life or any other outside forces, she’d started crying.
Because of him.
And he didn’t care if she was acting. He didn’t care that it wasn’t real. It didn’t matter if he was just another stupid boy, falling for the charms of another heartless girl.
I made her cry.
Nobodies couldn’t make people cry.
Nulls couldn’t be made to do so.
She was the best damn actress in the world, and he couldn’t hold it against her. He couldn’t lift a hand against her, couldn’t so much as leave a mark on her perfect skin.
“You won,” he said.
“You can drop the act,” he told her. He opened one of the kitchen drawers. He took out a dagger, a gun, and a syringe. He laid them on the counter, one by one. And then he turned and looked at her.
She took a step backward.
Claire’s eyes are opened wide. Her lips are turned downward. She’s not breathing. She’s holding her breath.
He wondered what her angle was. Hadn’t he said that the game was over? Wouldn’t the victor want to revel in her spoils?
“Please don’t kill me,” she whispered.
Nix stared at her, not comprehending her words. Hadn’t he just exposed his weapons? Conceded defeat? Given her exactly what she’d wanted?
Years ago, he’d tried to kill himself. He’d failed.
Three times now, he’d tried to kill Claire, and he’d failed. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to harm her in any way. He’d saved her. It seemed right, somehow, that she should kill him.