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Claire dropped to the floor, and Ryan rushed over to her. Jared attempted to get to his feet, but instead resorted to crawling toward me. Jared made his way to his family, and then slowly stood on his knees, weaving with exhaustion. Once again, he was all that stood between us and death.

Satan took Jared’s throat in his hand and lifted him off the ground. Jared gripped the man’s arm with both hands as his feet dangled above the floor. Moving his arm to the side, Satan held Jared in the best position to watch the end.

Long, blackened fingers reached for the child. Without thinking, I pul ed her to the other side of my body, and with my free hand, gripped the Devil’s wrist. It was cold and thin. My skin blazed against it.

“Don’t. Touch. Her,” I breathed.

He frowned, noticeably confused. He tried to advance his hand to my child, but he was unable to move.

“That’s far enough, Lucifer,” Samuel said. As usual, he had blinked into our plane without detection, but time Eli was with him.

“What is this?” Lucifer said, struggling to reach the child. He was clearly straining, but he was powerless in my grasp.

Eli smiled. “Daddy says no.”

Lucifer wrenched his hand back, his eyes wild with anger. “He’s all owing this…this human to defy me?” he howled, dropping Jared to the ground.

“Do you know what this means?”

“War?” Samuel grinned. “Too late.”

Satan began to speak, but Eli held up his hand. “Enough, Lucifer. It’s over. He has chosen to spare the child.”

Lucifer charged at us, he arms extended, his fingers curled, preparing to kill the baby angel in my arms. Just before he reached us, he was blown back and held against the wal . Large, long fingers curled around his neck. Lucifer’s eyes widened. The Prince of Darkness was afraid.

“Gabriel?” Lucifer said, surprised.

“He said enough,” Gabriel snarled. “Go back to your pits, Satan. He wil not ask it of you again.”

“Dad!” Bex said, his hopeful and excited expression matching Claire’s.

A figure stepped into the room from outside, through the broken remains of the windows. It was Michael, battle worn but victorious. “Enough.”

Samuel stood beside Michael, crossing his arms; Eli stood before the warriors. His immaculate white shirt was a stark contrast to their heavy armor. Another form stepped over the broken glass and into the room, and then another. Soon, twenty members of Michael’s army were in the room.

“The time of great suffering has come,” Lucifer seethed. He stepped to the side, away from Gabriel’s grip.

Eli lowered his chin. “You wil leave this family alone. Hel wil leave Gabriel’s children, and their children’s children, alone. He has commanded it,”

he said firmly. “The child has found favor with God.”

“It is not human!” Lucifer hissed.

Gabriel took a step, his hands bal ed into fists at his sides. “She is my granddaughter.” His voice boomed, but he did not yel . “I swear to the Most High, your punishment wil have you wishing for the pits of Hel if you threaten her again.”

“Vile!” the Devil screamed. “Vulgar! Iniquitous! Despicable!” After his tantrum, he smiled. “Wel . He’s final y stooped to my level. How delicious.”

“Blasphemy!” Samuel said, taking a step. Eli stopped him.

Before Eli could utter a command, Satan disappeared.

I took a deep breath, letting out a sob. Jared crawled back to us, wrapping his bloody, sweaty arms around our daughter and me. I shook as I cried, kissing my baby’s soft, delicate forehead as Jared kissed mine.

“Claire?” Ryan said, holding her in his arms.

Eli calmly walked across the room, kneeling beside them. “You look a fright.”

Claire managed one weak laugh. “Real y? I thought for a brush with the Devil I look pretty fly.”

Gabe joined them, evaluating her wounds. “Pretty ugly, kiddo.” He looked to Eli.

Eli motioned to Samuel, and Samuel was suddenly kneeling next to Eli, lifting Claire from Ryan’s grasp.

“Wait,” Ryan said.

Samuel ignored him, setting Claire on her feet. Her clothes were stil ripped, but the gashes from her face and body had disappeared.

Gabe helped Ryan to his feet with one hand, and hooked his arm around Bex’s neck with the other. “Thank you,” Gabe said, seemingly to himself.

I knew it was God he spoke to.

Ryan pul ed Claire into his arms and smashed his lips onto hers, kissing her over and over. “You okay?” he said, visibly upset.

She smiled. “Just another day at work.”

He hugged her tightly, a single tear running down his dirty cheek. He breathed in quickly, and then exhaled a faltering breath.

“In case I forget to tel you later,” she said, pulling back. “I kinda love you.”

Ryan laughed once. “Just remember who said it, first.”

She nudged him, and they turned to watch Bex slowly return to Kim’s body. He frowned, trying to hold back the overwhelming sadness that we al felt.

Ryan fetched a sheet from the corner of the room, and Claire helped him to spread it on the floor. Bex lifted Kim’s body from the floor, laying her gently on the sheet. He straightened her bent legs, and crossed her hands against her chest.

Eli stood next to Ryan. “We offer Kim’s soul to you, Father. Please welcome her into your kingdom, and your arms. Extend comfort to her father and to her friends, and remind them daily that the sacrifice she made, was made in love.”

“I’m sorry,” Bex said, covering her face with the sheet.

Ryan choked, and he and Claire wrapped their arms around each other.

My emotions were so tapped that I couldn’t find the tears to cry. I just stared at her outline under the sheet in disbelief. She was real y gone. I imagined the horrible task of informing her father, and Beth. How we could possible explain how she died?

“We’ll take care of it,” Jared said. “She’l receive the burial and respect she deserves.”

“I just want her back,” I said quietly. “This is my fault. I shouldn’t have left. We would have all been safe if I’d just stayed in the Sepulchre.”

Jared touched my cheek. “Anxiety is a struggle for anyone. You did what you believed you had to do in the moment, and the survival instinct is nearly impossible to ignore as a Hybrid. You didn’t want this. Kim knew that.”

I nodded, but knew the guilt would haunt me for a lifetime. The threat I felt in the tomb was very real at the time, but looking back, I let my fear get the best of me, and it cost Kim her life. I would carry that for the rest of my life.

Gabe kneeled beside me to better see his grandchild. “She’s absolutely beautiful,” he said, touching her tiny hand.

“Thank you,” I said, my eyes final y fil ing with tears.

“You don’t understand what you’ve done here,” he said, wiping the tender skin under my eye. “You saved her, and she wil save us all .”

“That’s a big job for a little girl,” Jared said, looking down to the precious bundle in my arms. “Good thing she’s strong like her mom.”

I lifted my chin, and touched Jared’s lips to mine. His lips were warmer than mine for the first time in months. His scent mixed with our baby’s, and I felt lightness from relief that was vaguely familiar. Feeling safe was like a distant memory, and it came to me in such a surreal way, as if I couldn’t trust it. But, our family was safe. We earned a new beginning for us, for all of us, that Heaven had created. With that thought, I looked on the precious beauty in my arms. “Eden,” I whispered.

“What was that?” Jared said, nearly euphoric.

“Her name is Eden.”


My hands were soaking wet. I wiped them on my gown, but they immediately became moist again. You can do this, I thought. This is nothing.

Definitely been through worse. I had, but there were hundreds of people watching. Waiting.

I turned to look for my husband. My eyes weren’t what they were when I was pregnant, and it was very frustrating returning to a normal human after experiencing life with abilities. An arm waving above the crowd caught my attention, and I saw Lil ian smiling from ear to ear. Next to her was Cynthia. Bex, Claire, Ryan sat in a line on the other side of my mother, with Jared on the end, trying to keep hold on an excited and wiggly Eden.

She was ten months old, with rol s on rol s, and wavy blond hair. Her cheeks were so chubby that they hung down like a basset hound’s. I could see her big blue eyes all the way from my seat. She stood on Jared’s lap, bouncing and waving, flashing her two gapped front teeth. It seemed to be al Jared could do to see around her, but it was her big brown bow that obstructed his view. I couldn’t help but laugh watching him try to see around it.

We had spent the last ten month is utter bliss. I finished my senior year at Brown as any other student, sans husband and child. No more looking over my shoulder. No more fear. Life was normal. Better than normal. We were living our happily ever after, and our daughter watched our absolute joy in our new freedom.

“Nina Grey Ryel,” the announcer cal ed.

I walked up the stairs and across the stage, taking my diploma from the president. She greeted me, and I made my way across, shaking the hands of people I’d never met, but were obviously important at Brown University.

Beth and Jared, Tucker, Josh and Lisa were among my classmates, and we were all both sad and excited that we had final y made it to graduation.

After the ceremony, we made our way to the gate, and danced through the famed Van Winkle gates with the band and Bruno, the Brown mascot.

Beth and I laughed and skipped all the way down the street, meeting my family at the end.

I was surrounded with hugs and kisses from my in-laws, and even from my mother. Eden reached for me, and Jared handed her to me, trading her for a kiss. Eden wrapped her chubby arms around my neck, tangling her fingers in my hair, and opening her mouth to give me a big, wet baby kiss on the cheek.

“Oh, thank you!” I said with a smile.

“I thought we could meet for dinner,” Lil ian chirped.

“Yeah,” I nodded. “Do we need to bring anything?”

“Nope,” she winked. “I’ve been at it all morning.” She kissed me again, and then nuzzled Eden’s cheek before kissing her children goodbye. “See you at six!”

Jared stuffed his hands in his pockets. “We might be a little late, Mom. We’ve got to make a stop.”

“Oh?” I said.

“It’s your graduation present.”

“What is it?” I said, lighting up.

Jared laughed. “You know I won’t tel you!”

I feigned disappointment. “I loathe surprises!”

“No, you don’t,” he said, hugging me to his side.

Claire winked at Jared. “We’ll see you guys at dinner. Congratulations! Bye, Edie!” She kissed Eden’s fat fingers, and then she and Ryan walked to her Exige, wrapped in each other’s arms. Bex rol ed his eyes and reluctantly fol owed.

“I need to change,” I said.

“Okay. We can do that, too.”

Jared drove to the outskirts of town. We were on the same road as the warehouse, so I squirmed in my seat with excitement, believing Jared was taking me to see Eli. But we stopped several hundred yards from the warehouse. I could barely see it.

Jared pul ed into the driveway of a two-story house.

“Where are we?”

“Home,” he smiled.

“Huh?” I said, taken aback. I looked at the house again. It was white with green shutters and porch with a swing. Very Norman Rockwel .

“Let’s go,” Jared said. As soon as his door shut, mine opened, and then he opened the back door to unfasten Eden from her car seat. “Come on!” he said, barely able to contain his enthusiasm.

I held his hand, and we walked to the front door. Jared used the key, and then pushed the door open. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The inside was identical to the loft. The same pictures on the wal s, the same decorations, even the same layout. The only difference was that the upstairs wasn’t visible.

“It’s ours?” I said, overwhelmed.

“It is. Our bedroom is upstairs, down the hal from Eden’s, and there’s a guest bedroom, too.”

I hugged him tight, burying my face in his chest. “Jared! I love it! I can’t believe you did this.”

He suppressed a smile. “Cynthia isn’t happy.”

“She’l get over it!” I said, looking around in awe.

We trotted up the stairs, and I gasped at our bedroom. It was like nothing had ever happened to our loft. It was the same. Excited to see the new additions, I rushed to Eden’s room. Jared had made sure to decorate it exactly as it had been at Cynthia’s. He sat Eden down in her crib with some toys, and then led me to the guest room by the hand. It was empty, and the wal s were white and bare.

“You left this one for me, didn’t you?” I said, squeezing his hand.

“I didn’t know how you’d want it, so I thought I’d just leave it alone. A blank canvas.”

“I love it. I love all of it. I wil sleep better tonight than I have since we lost the lost.” I looked at him. “You gave me back our home. I can’t tel you what this means to me.”

His eyebrows pul ed together. “Not even a fraction of what you mean to me.”

I leaned up on the bal s of my feet and wrapped my arms around his neck. My lips pressed against his, and I smiled at the warmth he emanated.

I’d missed how hot he felt against my human skin. His strong hands pressed against my back, and he pul ed me closer, every emotion he’d ever felt coming through in that kiss.

“I’m happy,” I whispered. “I’m so happy…,” I said against his mouth, “and it’s all because of you.”