Page 11


I walked out of the basement and took a deep breath. It was the first time my lungs felt like they were getting air. I noticed another, newer, male intern walking down the hal , and cal ed him over.

“Yes, Mrs. Ryel?”

“The lights in the file room need attention. Cal maintenance and have the bulbs replaced or repaired immediately, and please help Sasha with whatever she needs. You’l find her at the end of the third aisle. And do not, under any circumstances, leave her alone.”

The intern frowned with confusion. “Y-yes, ma’am.” He stood there for a moment, every thought scrol ing across his face.

“Wel ? Go.”

He nodded, hastily making his way down the hal to the file room, and I paused, disturbed by the distinct Cynthia-like tone in my voice just then.

I rushed up the stairs, squinting from the bright sunlight bursting through the windows of the lobby. When I made it to the Escalade, Jared watched me warily.

“Was there a problem?” he said.

I took his hand. “They were in there.”


“They, Jared,” I sighed. I put my elbow on the console and covered my eyes with my fingers. “I could feel them.” Jared was quiet, so I peeked up at him. He seemed confused. “You couldn’t feel them?”

“What makes you think they were there?”

“I was creeped out, for one. I’ve been around them enough to know what it feels like when they’re around. Sasha was down there crying; negative energy in the air; it was cold.”

Jared’s mouth pul ed to one side. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that—,”

“Just,” I sighed, irritated, “this one time, trust me. I’m not a Hybrid, but they were in there. Not many, but I could feel them.”

“But… I couldn’t feel them. It doesn’t make sense that you could and I couldn’t.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand it.” I thought for a moment. “Could you sense me?”

“Yes. You were just fine.”

“I was not just fine. I genuinely believed something was about to attack me. You didn’t sense that?”

Jared shifted to face me, his face darkened with concern. “You were afraid.” His tone was more of a statement than a question.

“My adrenaline was about to shoot through my eyes! I thought your senses were heightened?”

Jared eyes bounced around the cab of the Escalade as his mind tried to work out the details of this new development. He was clearly not taking it wel . He faced forward, and shoved the gear in drive.

“Jared,” I said, my voice low and soothing. It didn’t work.

He slammed the gear back into park, and his hand flew to his head. He hit the steering wheel. “Just when I think I’m ahead … something else gets thrown at me!”

“Honey, We’ll figure it out.” I reached to touch his arm.

He gripped the steering wheel. “How can I keep you safe from Hel without being your shadow if I can’t trust my senses? If I don’t have any to trust?” His eyes were desperate.

“So be my shadow.”

Jared laughed once, and then shook his head. “I can’t go to class with you. I can’t fol ow you around Titan, Nina.”

“You can be within earshot. You said it yourself. You can hear me through the crowd at the Superbowl.”

Jared nodded, putting the gear into drive once more, but he was beyond listening to reason. He negotiated the one-way streets of downtown Providence without effort, and then pul ed next to the curb behind Andrews Hal . He opened my door, and gestured for me to cross the street.

“What are we doing?”

“I’m walking you to class. You’ve only got a few weeks left. I’ll wait for you in the hal way.”

“Do you real y think that’s necessary?”

“I’m fast, but so are they. They are capable of a lot of damage in the few seconds it would take me to get to you from here. Without being able to sense when something’s wrong, I would feel better being closer than not.”

I thought a moment, and then nodded. Anything that was safer for Bean had to be the right answer.

The last few weeks of school came and went without incident. Jared stood in the hal way during my classes, and joined me, Beth and Chad for lunch. Without Ryan around, Josh found another table, and Kim was too angry with Jared to tolerate him.

The crisp air was just a memory by the time my junior year at Brown ended. The Main Green bustled with students who made their way to the Van Winkle Gates to see the graduating class make their last march through.

Before the last stragglers made their way through the gate, Beth, Chad, Jared and I walked to Col ege Hil to beat the rush. Beth prattled on about her family begging her and Chad to visit over the summer. She barely noticed the congested traffic. She had become a true East Coast woman.

Even her accent had diminished. She sounded more like Ryan than her family.

“So what’s for lunch?” I asked, tapping Beth’s arm.

Jared squeezed my hand. “I thought we would revisit the place of our first date.”

Beth slipped me a box, a bit larger than her hand, and without warning, I tossed it to Jared. I loved throwing things at him, because he always caught them. It had become our little inside joke.

“What’s this?”

“Your birthday present.”

“It’s my birthday?”

“It’s the ninth, isn’t it?” I said with a mischievous grin. “I wanted to surprise you.”

“Then I guess it is,” he said. He kissed my cheek, and then pul ed on the ribbon. “A book?” He thumbed through the pages. “A blank book?”

“A journal. You were down to the pages of yours, and I thought it would be a good time to start a new one.”

Jared’s eyes turned soft, and he took me into his arms. “It is the perfect time.”

Chad rol ed his eyes, and Beth sighed. “I remember that,” she said, her thoughts lost in the sweet, mysterious first days of my relationship with Jared.

“Come on, Ryel. You’re making me look bad.”

We walked across campus, taking in the atmosphere. Electricity seemed to be in the air, along with the smel s of summer. The chatter was louder than was normal; the young faces of students more animated. They would all embark on vacations, travel home, or spend their summer break on the beach or by the pool. I would most likely fil my summer trying to land punches on brother-in-law, or watching Jared read over the Naissance de Demoniac. The beach sounded much better.

Jared stopped in his tracks.

“Oh, no,” Beth breathed, looking up at the building that was once Blaze.

I glanced at her, and then fol owed her gaze. “Shanghai? I thought you said you wanted to go to Blaze?”

Clearly disturbed, Jared let go of my hand. “Did you know about this?” Jared asked Chad.

“No,” Chad said, shaking his head. “But I’d never eaten at Blaze, either.”

I looked around, and realized we were standing in front of what used to be Blaze. The location of our first date was gone, replaced by sushi takeout. My jaw dropped.

“Seriously?” I said to no one in particular.

Beth’s mouth pul ed to one side. “I was looking forward to their sweet potato fries.”

I felt my eyes bulge. “Jared!”

Chad huffed. “They stil have one on the east side. On Hope Street, I think.”

“I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe they….” My voice trailed off, too upset to finish.

Beth rubbed my shoulder. “That has to be upsetting. I’m sorry, honey.”

Chad grabbed Beth’s hand and stomped up the stairs. “This is not a tragedy. It spoils the sentimentality, yes, but it’s stil the same building. Make new memories. I’m hungry.”

Jared pul ed me to his side. “It’s bothersome, but Chad’s right. We can’t do anything about it. If we are in the mood for sweet potato fries, we can go to the east side.”

I nodded. “They have them at Cuban Revolution downtown, too.” Jared nodded, and then led me up the stairs. I trudged behind him, unwil ing to let go of my disappointment.

We stood in line with Beth and Chad. Jared reminded me that because I was pregnant, I should skip the sushi, so I grudgingly looked for something else. Double disappointment for the day. I silently hoped Bex wouldn’t be busy later. I had a sudden urge to take a swing at someone.

We went to Shanghai. It stil overlooked Thayer Street just as I remembered, and it stil had some leftover lighting from Blaze. Beth giggled at Chad’s overzealous appetite. Jared smiled at them, and reached under the table to touch my knee. Life seemed so ridiculously laid back that the only issue I had to complain about was the closing of our favorite restaurant. That thought caused the corners of my mouth to turn up, and I continued shoveling my chicken and shrimp Pad Thai. As much as I wanted to hate their food out of spite, it was good. So good, in fact, that my plate was empty before Chad’s.

Beth stared at me. “You should have mentioned earlier that you were hungry, Nigh. We wouldn’t have waited until you were starving.”

“I didn’t know I was starving,” I said, leaning back in my chair. I looked down, noticing that my stomach had already started to pooch out.

Beth rol ed her eyes. “Oh, please. If you even think about saying you’re fat….” Her words fel away as she noticed my protruding bel y as wel .

“Food baby?”

I looked to Jared, and nodded. “Real baby.”

“What?” Beth wailed.

“That was a productive honeymoon,” Chad said.

“When were you going to tel me? I’m your best friend, and I had to find out because you started showing? How long have you known?” Beth was obviously upset, but her high-pitched whines had garnered the attention of everyone in the restaurant.

Jared leaned in and kept his voice low. “Just a few weeks, Beth. You’re one of the first to know, I assure you.”

Beth frowned. “She’s already showing and you’ve only known for a few weeks? I don’t believe it. You’re only going to have a real, live baby. Why would I need to know something so trivial? It’s not like I need to prepare at work or anything.”

I smiled. Beth was grumbling to herself at that point. “I should have told you earlier, Beth. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

A grin exploded across her face, and she rested her chin on her fist. “You’re forgiven. When can we go shopping? Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” I didn’t mirror her fervor, instead sensing the same overwhelming nausea I felt when Lil ian bombarded me with wedding magazines two years earlier.

Jared took a breath. “We don’t know. It’s stil new and overwhelming to Nina, so perhaps giving her a break from the reality of it would help the most for now.”

“Oh. Right. You’re right. We can talk about all that later,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.

We finished eating and left. A minute later, we waited at the light—the same light Jared had honked at me nearly scaring me to death right after we first met. Beth had resorted to not talking at all , instead of risking saying something she wasn’t supposed to. Chad tried distracting her with other questions, but she only offered nods or head shakes.

Just as the light turned green, an arm reached across me, grabbing Jared’s elbow.

“Long time no see,” Kim said.

Beth smiled, but Kim was obviously not in an amiable mood.

“I said I would cal you,” Jared said.

Kim raised an eyebrow. “I know you did. Three days ago. I’m not waiting any longer, Jared.”

If I didn’t know of her struggle with exhaustion, I would have thought she’d broken her nose. The purplish skin under her eyes looked like twin bruises. The whites of her eyes were bloodshot, and her shoulders sagged. I knew that look all too wel , and I understood her desperation.

“I’m sorry. You’re just going to have to.”

Kim took a step toward him. “I don’t think you heard me. I’m. Not. Waiting. Any longer.”

Jared sighed, but he didn’t flinch from her glare. “We’ve discussed this.”

“Yes, we have. A lot.”

A nervous giggle emanated from Beth’s throat, and she shifted uncomfortably. “Waiting for what?”

Jared and Kim looked at Beth, and Kim shot an amused glare back at Jared. “Tel her.”

Jared frowned. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“What are we waiting for? Again?” Beth said, her voice stil unsure.

Kim crossed her arms. “My ancestors are Crusade Knights, and I inherited the duty of watching over a book my great-great-times-a-thousand grandfather took from a church in Jerusalem.”

“Is it worth a lot of money?” Chad asked.

Beth jabbed her elbow in his ribs.

“Kim,” I warned.

“So Jerry over here is half-angel, and he’s the only one strong enough to help me get it back without getting myself kill ed. Only he’s being selfish, and even though I helped him save Nina’s life, he’s not going to help me take it back, now, because he got what he wanted and isn’t going to hold up his end of the deal.”

“Kim!” I yel ed.

Beth began laughing hysterical y. “Oh, wow! That’s a whopper!” Her Oklahoma accent came back with a vengeance. “Where do you get this stuff, Kim?”

Kim looked to Jared, desperation in her voice and tears in her eyes. “You need me on your side. Don’t forget that.” She walked away, leaving Beth and the rest of us quiet and unnerved.

Jared watched her trudge back to the Sentra. “We’re running out of time.”

Chapter Eight


The oak tree loomed over us, casting a large shadow from the afternoon sun. The sweet summer breeze wafted along the uncut grass, making the delicate petals of the flowering dogwood dance with the violets. Heaven never felt quite as close as when I was on a blanket with Jared by our oak tree, with our names scrawled elegantly in the bark.