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Kim continued, “I’m going to make this short if you don’t mind.”

I nodded and Kim rol ed her eyes. “The story bores me, so to get to the point, the Pol ocks, my family, descend from Crusade Knights. Those Crusade Knights used the Holy Sepulchre as an end point of their pilgrimages…you okay?” Kim asked, pausing.

“Yeah,” I said casual y. “Because I don’t know what the hel you’re talking about!” I yel ed.

Jared held my hands in my lap, and lowered his chin, looking directly into my eyes. “You need to stay calm. It’s important.”

I looked back to Kim. “Sorry.”

Kim dismissed my apology. “Whatever. You remember learning about the Crusades, Nigh. English knights…Robin Hood…King Richard?” I nodded. “It has nothing to do with that.”

I sighed, and Jared jerked his head to the side in frustration. “You’re not helping.”

Kim laughed once and looked down. “I'm sorry. I just can't describe to you how much I hate tel ing this story.”

“Try,” Jared seethed.

Kim looked to me. “Templar Knights took their crusades to a very holy place in Jerusalem. It’s call ed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was once the temple of Aphrodite. Christians refer to it as Golgotha…the place where Christ was crucified.

“The First Crusade was envisioned as an armed pilgrimage, and no crusader could consider his journey complete unless he had prayed as a pilgrim at the Holy Sepulchre. This is where it gets a little hairy. During my great-great times infinity grandfather’s pilgrimage, he came upon something under the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. It was a book. A Bible.”

“So you’re Bible savers?” I looked at Jared in disbelief. “Cool? I guess?”

“We’re not talking about the Holy Bible, here, Nigh,” Kim said. “You’ve seen it.”

“Shax’s bible?” I asked.

Kim nodded. “It was kept safely hidden away in the cistern under the basilica, which is where it was rumored that the mother of Hadrian found the true cross and the tomb of Christ.”

“Isn’t that pretty much sacrilegious? The Bible of Hel being kept under what was thought to be the tomb of Jesus Christ?” I said.

Kim rubbed her temples. I had clearly asked a question she’d answered a thousand times. “The Holy presence there kept Shax and his legions from finding it. My grandfather didn’t know that. He removed the book, and after learning of its importance, he vowed to keep it safe. That vow, and the book, has cursed our family for generations.”

“Curses seem to be the popular thing around here,” I grumbled.

Kim glanced at Jared.

“I’m sorry,” I said, laughing without humor, “this is al a little far-fetched. Even for me, and I’ve seen Shax.”

The room grew cold, and Jared and Claire immediately extended their necks, looking to the ceiling. Jared pul ed me closer to him, and Claire sat on the other side of me, lightly touching my knee.

The lights flickered, and even with Jared’s and Claire’s warm bodies on each side of me, I shook from the cold. The dim fluorescent lights created an eerie glow to the air we exhaled, now warmer than the air in the room.

“What’s happening?” I whispered.

“For the fiftieth time, Nina, stay calm,” Claire said, her voice even. “Nothing wil happen to you while we’re here. This is just what happens when there’s a higher concentration of them than normal.”

“Higher concentration?” I asked.

Kim looked above her. “Oh there’s probably an army or two around...or one real y strong one.”

I shivered. “Which is worse?”

“One,” Claire whispered, her eyes unfocused. She was relying on her senses, creating a thoughtful, confused expression on her face.

Kim returned her attention to me. Her demeanor was baffling. She had always been relaxed, and at times aloof, but it was hard to believe she could remain that way with so many Others around. Every part of me wanted to run screaming down the hal .

“Anyone who’s made the trip to return the book to the Sulpulchre never came back. We thought Jack and Gabe stealing the book from my uncle was the best thing that could have happened to our family, until Shax held us personal y responsible. That’s when I got sick…or that’s what we thought it was.”

Even with the drop in temperature and the knowledge that a mil ion demons might have been hovering over us, I sat hunched over, with my chin resting on my fist, suddenly unimpressed. “You were possessed. Like priests and green pea soup possessed? C’mon, Kim.”

“I don’t remember most of it. I just know that my father spared no expense to bring in the best of the best, and when Father Gary and Father Carmine were finished...I was different.”

Jared squeezed my hand. “When humans are overtaken in that way, they are often left weak for the rest of their lives. Kim kept something with her when Father Carmine final y extracted the demons. And they wouldn’t have left behind power voluntarily. She took it from them, and because of that, they fear her.”

“What kind of power?” I asked.

“The al -knowing, understanding dead languages blah, blah, blah. I also know when they move, when they approach, when they leave, and why they’re doing it. And I think I can take their power at wil , but none of them have gotten close enough for me to try.”

“So Kim is an asset,” Claire said, sul en. “She affects them in ways no one understands.”

“I…you….” A mil ion questions swirled in my head, but the most upsetting revelation was that nothing was separate, now. My normal life just had a head-on col ision with my life with Jared.

The air around me felt thick and ful of static. An end table next to one of the chairs shook for a moment, and then slid across the floor a few inches.

“What just happened?” I said.

The table vibrated again, and then shot to the wal , the legs squealing as they grated across the tile.

“Sweetheart,” Jared warned.

My fingers worked in smal circles against my temple. “Okay,” I whispered. I worked to release any negativity that the demons could use to fuel their power. “What now?”

“I can help you,” Kim said, uncharacteristical y sympathetic. “I can help you find the book, Nigh. They’l tel me. They have to.”