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I smiled. “Yes.”

She nodded, taking a deep, cleansing breath, and straightened her shoulders. “I’ll take care of it.”

“I know you wil .”

Chapter Sixteen

Direct Flight to Hell

My hands shook. The seat belt clanged as I tried to buckle it for the forth time. Claire was two feet away, stuffing her carry on in the overhead bin.

Jared was outside, directing baggage and making doubly sure the preflight check had been carried out at least three times. Bex’s deep voice hummed from the back as he joked with Ryan. His nervous energy was evident in his tone, and even though he was trying to play it off, it was there.

The sun had set, and because of an earlier light summer rain, the tarmac glistened. Jared was pointing in every direction, answering questions, his expression severe. I was glad that he was able to burn off some of his anxiety by choreographing our departure.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Nina. Here,” Claire said, snapping my seat belt closed.

I sighed, and nodded in thanks, and she left me for Bex and Ryan. I rested my head against the seat and took a deep breath. My nerves seemed to take a back seat when I watched Jared work outside, so I tried to keep my concentration on the window.

A dark figure approached Jared. Kim. She was unhappy, and when I realized she would ride with us for the duration of the trip to Jerusalem, my anxiety level doubled. We had all abandoned her. She was left to fight alone, even after she was promised for some relief. She had helped us, and we turned a blind eye while she lost sleep and her uncle. I was afraid of what she would have to say to me. And she had plenty of time to either let me squirm, or cal me out.

She held out her hand. With the abilities Bean had given me, I could hear her dry voice.

“The book.”

Jared put the Naissance de Demoniac in her grasp. “I know you don’t believe me, but I am sorry.”

“I believe you.” Her voice was tired. Any sign of the Kim we once knew was as nonexistent as our former life. She took the book and held it to her chest, and then pul ed a cel phone from her pocket. As she walked to the steps of the plane, I heard her sigh.

“Dad. I have it. We depart in ten minutes.” She clicked the phone shut.

I wiped my moist brow.

“What’s your deal?” Bex said, tapping my shoulder. “You sick? You look sick.”

“I don’t feel wel .”

His eyebrows turned in, deepening the same line that gave away Jared. Bex sat in Jared’s seat, and patted my hand. “You have Kim, the human demon repel ant, three hybrids, and a cop/ex-special forces guy on this plane. Not to mention you’re kind of a badass yourself these days.”

“Bex,” I warned.

“Sorry. Don’t tel Mom.”

Kim boarded the plane. Her clothes were stained and wrinkled, hanging from her gaunt body. The dark circles under her once-soft brown eyes appeared like purple bruises on her ashen skin. She only carried the book in her hand, and the phone in her pocket. No luggage, no carry-on. She had one mission, and one mission only. Nothing else mattered.

Her eyes met mine, and she froze. Ryan passed my seat, and approached her. They traded glances, but no words were spoken. Ryan kissed her bony cheek, and she let her body weight lean against him. He supported her weight for a moment, and then squeezed her tight before letting go.

She used the seats to support her weight as she approached me.

“Hi,” she rasped.

My eyes fil ed with tears. Nothing I would say would be adequate. I didn’t deserve to talk to her.

Bex stood, and then helped Kim into the seat he occupied. She turned to face me, and her chin lowered. “I don’t blame you.”

I pressed my lips together in a hard line. An apology seemed insulting; I could barely look her in the eye.

“I don’t. I just wanted you to know that, you case we crash and burn in a few minutes.”

I stared at her in disbelief, and then the corners of her mouth turned up, and she winked and left.

Settling back into my seat, I took a deep, not-so-relaxing breath. The smal crowd loading the plane had dissipated, and Jared made one last sweep of the plane before boarding.

“This is it,” Jared said to us all . “From the moment we depart until we land, it’s out of our hands.”

I reached out to him, and he grabbed my hand, sitting in the seat beside me. He kissed my fingers, and closed his eyes. I waited for several moments, but he stayed stil and silent. I turned to see Bex and Claire, eyes closed. Bex’s lips moved in prayer.

Guilt washed over me. They didn’t need to be on the plane. Bex didn’t, either. If Hel pul ed a fast one and the plane went down, we were helpless to stop it. I knew they didn’t question their presence, though, but that only made me feel worse. It was all of us, or none of us, and the display of the lengths our mismatched family would go to for each other brought tears to my eyes.

Jared wiped the tear that raced down my cheek. “Ready?”

I nodded, forcing a smile. “I was born for this, right?”

“We all were.”

The engines whined, and the plane wheels began to rol . The wing lights blinked against the fuselage, casting a red glare at half the time of my heartbeat.

“Try to relax,” Jared whispered. His voice held no conviction. He knew they were just words.

We all waited for our impending death, knowing our chances plummeted the second the plane was in the air. The flight to Jerusalem was long— too long to cope with constant fear that every jostle or noise would signal our fal from the sky.

I turned to look at my family. Claire and Ryan were in deep, quiet conversation. Bex sat next to Kim, chewing his pinky nail, and Kim stared blankly ahead. The engines whined as the wheels rol ed forward. The pilot taxied on the runway, and after a short pause, the plane surged forward.

The sudden acceleration of the aircraft pressed my back into the seat. I closed my eyes, trying not to feel every flaw in the runway, or the wind resistance against the wings. My new abilities were exciting, and at times had saved my life, but for the first time, I wished for the aptitude to turn them off.

As we raced faster and farther down the runway, I imagine the tiny wheels, and how on earth at that speed the plane didn’t veer off into the grass, or a building. At that point, everything that could possibly go wrong before we even got off the ground flashed through my mind, and my heart pounded so hard against my chest wal that I thought I would die of a heart attack before we left Providence.

“Nina,” Jared said in smooth tone. He leaned into my ear, and his lips brushed against my skin. He pul ed my arm across him, and kissed my neck. I gripped his shirt, my knuckles white. I was relieved to be in the arms of my husband, but for all the wrong reasons.

“I’m afraid,” I said, stuttering.

“I know.” He gently held my jaw with both of his hands, and lowered his chin. His dark blue eyes met mine. “We’re going to make it. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Don’t start making promises you can’t keep, now.”

He kissed me, hard and purposeful. Once, I could have become lost in a kiss like that, but the wheels were leaving the ground, and we were now a large and easy target.

“Nina, you have to have faith.”

My eyebrows pul ed together. “Someone is going to have to give me a reason. I’m all out of faith.” The plane dipped a bit before making a sharp turn.

“Look at how far we’ve come,” he said, smiling. He meant to be comforting, but I could see the fear behind his eyes.

I buried my face in the crook of his neck, and squeezed him to me. My eyes shut tight, trying to push away the overwhelming feeling that we had been deceived, corral ed into this deathtrap —the one place Jared couldn’t control.

The plane righted itself, and then climbed effortlessly into the night sky. The lights below appeared to shrink, until they seemed like glowing clusters of fireflies. Everything else on the ground was black and ominous.

Jared was unfolding a map of the old city, sprawling it across his lap. He used his finger to trace different routes to the Sepulchre, then sighed. “I wish we’d had enough time to send someone ahead. To shape the battle space.”

I touched his free hand. “I don’t know what that means, but We’ll figure it out.”

He paused. “I apologize for the military jargon. I’m just in that mode at the moment.”

“I understand,” I said. The stress he suffered was nearly visible. The pressure was crushing him.

His eyes slowly fel on where my fingers touched his skin, and then closed. He took a deep, faltering breath, and exhaled. “I am terrified of losing you. The routes, the possibility of last minute change of plan, everything that could possibly go wrong has ran through my mind so many times, I doubt I’ll ever forget. I love you so much, Nina. I love our child. The fear of failing you weighs so heavy on my mind, I feel like I’m going crazy.”

I turned in my seat to face him. My eyes bore into his, fil ing with tears fueled by every emotion. “If I’ve ever believed in you, Jared, it’s now.

Whatever happens, whatever crosses our path, I know you’l make the right choice.” I pul ed his hand to my round bel y. “We both believe in you.”

“Claire has spent quite a bit of time there.” He turned and gestured at her to join them.

“We’re setting down in Ben-Gurion airport,” he said, pointing to the map.

Claire nodded. “It’s about forty-one kilometers from the center of Jerusalem. We head west here, toward Nesher, and then take this right, here, to Route Forty-five-oh-three.”

With his finger, Jared fol owed the road, and shook his head. “But this is a main road. Shouldn’t we try some back roads?”

Claire shrugged. “I say get there, Jared. We’re going to get the shit kicked out of us on any road we take.”

I frowned. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”

Claire raised her brows. “Nina, you should prepare yourself. Think of every war movie you’ve ever seen on TV. Loud noises, yel ing, guns, and things blowing up around us. We’re going to be shot at, chased, and running for our lives the second we touch the tarmac. You’re going to have to listen, stay focused, and fol ow orders, or we’re not going to make it. Get it?”

My head bobbled, trying to process the war zone she described.

Her eyes left mine to return to the map. “That tunnel could be a problem. We could detour here,” she pointed, “and skip across to rejoin the main road here, skipping the tol .”

“If we can just get into the Old City, We’ll be home free. The Sepulchre is just there,” Jared said. He pushed his lips back and forth with his fingers, a mil ion decisions flipping through his mind.

They pored over the map, discussing different roads, buildings, and blind spots. Even though they were kind enough to speak in English this time, as much as half of their discussion was lost on me with phrases like Black Swan, Belay, and Schwerpunkt.

Claire shook her head. “I brought the new rifle. Ryan and I could stay behind. I could cover you.”

Jared thought for a moment, but shook his head. “Too risky. What if you get trapped?”

Claire frowned. “That’s insulting.”

“It’s not just you, Claire. You have two of you to watch out for.”

“I know that, but he—”


Claire’s shoulders dropped in resignation.

“We’re not leaving anyone behind. We stay together.”

“Copy that.”

They spent another hour coming up with Plan Bs, and Cs, and Zs. If something went wrong at this corner, we would take that all ey; duck into that building; cut across that roof. Areas of concentrated population were to be avoided at all costs, but the Sepulchre was in the center of the Old City, and a popular pilgrimage. Our fight wouldn’t end until we were safe inside the tomb.

I shivered. How anyone could feel safe in a tomb was beyond me, but it was the one place Hel wouldn’t go. The book was proof. I turned to see Kim staring at the book in her hands.

She sensed me looking at her, and her eyes jumped up. I was immediately embarrassed, but she showed a glimpse of my friend, letting the corners of her mouth turn up. The action seemed unnatural for her, and it only lasted a moment before she was blank-faced and once again staring at the book.

Claire stood and crossed her arms. “Six hours ‘til arrival. I’m going to ready the weapons.”

She didn’t get halfway down the aisle before the plane trembled, and then shook. Jared looked at me, and then behind him. Claire held onto the tops of two seats on each side of her.

“Probably just some choppy air,” Ryan said.

In that moment the plane bounced violently, sending objects from the overhead bins the floor. The lights flickered, and I held my bel y with one hand, and gripped Jared’s arm with the other. Claire’s outline flashed by as she made her way to the cockpit.

“Is it turbulence?” I shouted. The engines whined in a way I’d never hear before, and I could feel the plane descending rapidly. The plane took another dive, and then leveled out slightly. “Jared?” I cried.

“Claire wil handle it,” he said, covering my hand with his.

The cabin went dark, and red emergency lights cast frightening shadows. After another dip, the emergency oxygen masks fel from above.

“Doesn’t that mean we’ve lost pressure?” I said in a panic.

Jared leaned over to look out the window, and I did the same. Blackness covered the ground below. No glowing fireflies, no tiny lines of traffic.

We were over ocean, with no hope of making an emergency landing.

The plane leaned to the left, pushing me against the window. It was then that I saw it: Moonlight flickering against the waves below. We were just a few thousand feet from crashing into the water.

“Nina!” Jared said, unbuckling my seat belt. “Come with me. I’m going to open the emergency exit door, and when I tel you, we’re going to jump.”