Page 27

“Mother,” I said, impatient. “When what began?”

Her eyes widened a bit, and she raised her hands, her fingers flared. “This, Nina! This! When protecting you and your father became difficult for the Ryel’s, when dark things began surrounding our home on a daily basis…his death. Honestly, Nina! What else could I mean?” she said, exasperated.

“Okay. Okay, I'm sorry,” I said to calm her.

She relaxed, and then smoothed her expression. “Now, if you don’t mind, I real y must be going,” she said, brushing past Jared.

Jared’s features tightened, instantly metamorphosing to anger. “I’m trying to save Nina’s life, and you’re worried about being on time for a party?”

Cynthia looked back at me with a sad expression. “It’s a mother’s duty to protect her child. But sometimes, we must let them save themselves.”

Her words stung me. Our relationship was never what one may call close, but when the occasion call ed for it, she extended some emotion. She had never been cruel or unkind, but at that moment, I felt like an orphan.

My mother walked to the waiting car quickly, disappearing when Robert closed the door behind her.

Jared pul ed me into his arms, and I let my cheek burn against his chest.

“I can’t imagine how you must feel right now,” Jared whispered against the top of my hair. “But I want you to remember two things: Cynthia feels helpless, and that’s not a feeling she deals wel with, and I want to remind you that I love you, and that love is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. If she makes you feel unworthy or unwanted in any way…know that every breath you take is precious to me.”

I nodded, unable to thank him for the words I didn’t even know myself that I needed to hear.

We walked to the large staircase, and I slumped to the first step. “I don’t want to…I can’t think about her anymore.”

Jared nodded once. “So let’s think about what she said.”

A smal laugh escaped my throat. “That I’m the woman in Hel ’s prophecy? I’ve been told several things in the last twenty-four hours that are, quite frankly, ridiculous, and Cynthia’s story gets the prize.”

Jared didn’t smile. “What if it’s true? It’s not like Cynthia is the most creative person on the planet. Why would she lie?”

I craned my neck, looking at him in disbelief. “Jared? I can’t believe you’re fal ing for her nonsense! My father never wanted children? That’s absurd! Jack was the best father anyone could ever hope for. You’ve said it yourself…he worshiped me.”

“Cynthia didn’t say he didn’t like children. I took it as he hoped to prevent something. We need to do a little digging in your ancestry.”

I rol ed my eyes. “Wild goose chase. You’re wasting time even discussing this.”

“What do you know about your family?” he asked.

“What do you know about your family?” I retorted.

Jared’s brows moved in. “I have an uncle in South Dakota. My grandparents are gone, you know that.”

“So are mine. My parents were only children, Jared. I have no family to speak of.”

“So we start with the grandparents on Jack’s side,” he said, standing. “Where does Cynthia keep stuff like that?”

“Stuff like what?”

“Family albums, newspaper cut outs…a family tree?”

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” I shrugged.

Jared sighed. “Jack has a coat of arms in his office. You can’t tel me family wasn’t important to him.”

I cupped my chin in my hand and thought for a moment. Cynthia’s words replayed in my head. Kim’s story and Cynthia’s were now meshed together— intertwined because of the prophecy, and the book it came from. Somehow life was even less normal than when a demon stood in my apartment. I felt like a freak.

“My father’s office…” I trailed off.

“You thought of something?” Jared said, pul ing me to my feet.

My eyes widened. “Last year, when I was in Jack’s office for the Port of Providence file, one of his cabinets were locked. I never found the keys to it. When I found the file I was looking for, I sort of forgot about it.”

Jared pul ed me to my feet, quickly climbing the stairs. I tugged on the drawers of the row of file cabinets until I found one that wouldn’t budge.

“That’s it,” I said. “The keys in the desk don’t work. I’ve tried them.”

Jared looked around the room, and then casual y yanked the drawer. It made a loud popping noise, but it opened easily enough—for Jared.

“Wel , that’s one way to do it,” I grinned.

Jared fingered through each of the papers. “You start with the bottom drawer. We’l meet in the middle.”

I sat on my knees, pul ing open my designated drawer. Old pictures, bank accounts overseas, but nothing about family. The familiar frustration from the last time I had spent rummaging through his office for clues clouded my brain.

Jared powered through three drawers before I finished one, but when he reached the fourth, he stopped. He held a paper in front of his face, and then looked beyond it to the adjacent wal .

“What is it?” I asked. Before he could answer, I noted that it was drawing of a coat of arms, similar to the one hanging from the wal .

“Does the Franks mean anything to you, Nina?” he asked.

I shook my head, pushing myself to my feet. “No. Should it?”

“You’re Irish, aren’t you?”

“Yeah? So?” Some days I had patience for his step-by-step approach of getting to the truth. This was not one of those days.

“It’s a common misconception. Surely Jack wouldn’t display something that didn’t specifical y belong to him.”

“You lost me,” I said, hoping he would get to the point.

“Coats Of Arms were designed to designate a knight whose face would’ve been covered during battle. They are inherited from father to son, so it wouldn’t make sense to have a ‘Grey’ coat of arms for an entire family or last name. Jack wasn’t the type to buy into that nonsense, so this must be the original, passed down.”


Jared scanned the drawing. “This is similar, but it’s not the same. And it’s unlike any crest or coat of arms I’ve ever seen.”