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The nightmares were also wearing on Jared, who left me with Bex every day to search for Shax’s bible. It didn’t take him long to figure out that the second he closed his eyes my nightmares would begin, and minutes later screams would echo throughout the loft.

A new semester had begun, and stil the dreams came. By Spring Break, Jared grew desperate. Everyday he sought Eli, asked Samuel for help, he’d even taunted Gabriel for an answer, and every time he came home frustrated and empty-handed.

“Coffee?” Jared asked, his voice tired.

“Yes, please.”

Once again, our day began at three-eleven A.M. I worked on a few papers, and studied while the coffee stil kept my brain functional. Once the heaviness set in, Jared brewed another pot.

“At some point, this has got to be bad for you,” Jared frowned. “I can’t get anyone to tel me anything. I don’t know how our fathers found where Shax kept the book in the first place. Word gets around. They must know what we’re up to. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to travel to Hel to get it.”

Weary of the same dialogue, I rubbed my eyes and nodded.

Jared sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m frustrated, and with al the caffeine in your system, it makes me feel a little anxious.”

“Ugh…I forget about that,” I said, setting my mug on the table.

The morning sun cast an amber tone against the wal s. Summer was just around the corner. My friends at school were discussing tropical vacations and family reunions, and I was too tired to think about the next hour.

My cel phone rang, and I fished in my purse to answer. “Hey Beth,” I sighed. “What’s up?”

“Kim and I are meeting for coffee. Again. Like we do every morning. And you’re invited. Again. Like every morning. Are you going to flake out? Again? Like you do every morning?”

“Sorry. I’ve already had a pot of coffee this morning. I’ll see you in class.”

Beth paused. I could hear a muffled, irritated voice in the back ground. Beth was obviously covering the phone with her hand. “Er…Kim says… Kim wants you to come.”

“I have a feeling that’s not what she said,” I frowned.

After the sound of a scuffle, Kim spoke into the phone. “We are going to be at the coffee shop in thirty minutes. And you are going to be there, too, or me and the Sentra wil come get you, and you wil ride al the way there strapped to the roof like a freakin’ Christmas tree, you got me?”

I held the phone away from my ear as she yel ed, and then cautiously held it within talking distance. “I got you.”

“Okay, then,” Kim said, satisfied.

“Sorry,” Beth whispered before ending the call .

“Sounds like your friends miss you,” Jared grinned.

“They probably just want to yel at me and ask me questions,” I said, stuffing books into my bag.

“You should tel them the truth. They’l just think you’re crazy and let it go.”

I laughed. “You have a point. It’s the one time I can be honest with them and not worry about them believing me.”

They wouldn’t believe you, anyway,” Jared said, kissing the top of my head. “I can take you today.”

“I know better than to think you’ve given up.”

“No, I’m stil working,” he said, keys in hand.

Beth and Kim sat with me at our usual table. They both watched me, until I began to feel like a zoo animal. An interrogation was immanent. Beth’s expression was unsure, nervous—Kim seemed just the opposite. She was ready to pounce.

Beth looked to Kim before she spoke. “How’s Ryan?”

Her question took me off guard. I had expected more questions about the circles under my eyes, or the gal ons of caffeinated drinks I’d consumed during the day.

“He doesn’t write much anymore.”

“You don’t talk about him anymore,” Beth said without pause.

“How’s Jared?” Kim asked.

“He’s…fine. Why?”

Kim crossed her arms. “What does he think about the fact that you’re a zombie these days?”

I shrugged. “He wants to fix it.”

“How’s that?” Kim asked.

Too tired for tough questions, my words were more acerbic than I’d intended. “He’s a guy, Kim. Guys want to fix everything.”

Beth nodded. “If a hammer and nails could solve it al ….”

“What’s he doing to fix it?” Kim prodded.

“Research,” I said blinking away the urge to let my eyes close.

Beth frowned in reaction. “Nina, you fel asleep on your desk yesterday. Grant is gril ing me about what’s going on with you. I don’t even know what the truth is so I can keep from tel ing him.”

“You won’t accidental y tel him, I promise,” I grumbled as I sipped from the plastic lid of my coffee cup.

“The truth is that far-fetched?” Kim asked.

My stomach began to complain from both the amount of hot liquid swirling inside it, and the irritating predicament I was in. Being impatient and upset so often due to the lack of sleep took a tol on my appetite, and the over abundance of coffee in my system made me feel il on a regular basis.

I stood. “We’re going to be late.”

“Are you sick, Nina?” Beth asked.

“No,” I said. My nausea was not what she was referring to.

“Do you have some disease you’re not tel ing us about?”

“No, Beth.”

“Could Jared be poisoning you?” she blurted out.

I laughed once, shocked. “Is that why you two brought me here?”

“Are you two into something we don’t know about? Voodoo-Witchcraft- Satanist crap?” Kim asked.

“What would even make you say that?”I said, my patience thin.

“Just answer the question,” Kim said flatly.

“No. I’m not being haunted by demons if that’s what you’re getting at, Kim.” A part of me wondered if that’s what she was asking. She always seemed to be right on the edge of the truth, and had the habit of asking al the right questions. Beth being there was just a cover. She knew something.

“I didn’t ask if you were,” Kim said. For the first time since I’d met her, she was uncomfortable. I watched her for a moment before she pul ed on her coat and grabbed her keys from the table. “Class starts in ten.”