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Jared tried to hide his disappointment at my words. “He hasn’t told anyone he’s here. How would you explain your visit?”

The tightness around his eyes gave him away. He was stil worried. Now that Ryan had been wounded, and was home after such a long time away, I imagined his concern was at a new level.

“Ryan and I are different people, now. Everything has changed,” I said, touching Jared’s cheek with my fingertips.

“As long as Ryan is in love with you, I wil always have reason to worry.”

I leaned in to to kiss him. “How can I convince you?”

Jared pul ed away from me, shifting uncomfortably.

“What is it?” I said, frowning.

“Don’t get mad…,” he began.

I crossed my arms. “A disclaimer? This should be good.”

He took a deep breath. “Until we find the book, and figure out a way to keep you one-hundred percent safe, I think the intimacy should be kept to a minimum.”

“Oh, for the love of God, not this again,” I said, rol ing my eyes.

“It happens al the time, Nina. We can’t risk it,” he said, covering my hand with his.

I smirked. “You can’t use your Abra Cadabra to figure it out?” I leaned in to kiss his neck. “Haven’t you heard of the rhythm method? We’l put our own spin on it.”

“I would consider myself an intel igent person, but no, can’t say I’ve heard of it.”

“You just figure out when I’m ovulating, and we abstain for those few days. Voilà! Birth control. We have the Hybrid edge.”

Jared’s nose wrinkled in disdain. “That doesn’t seem like a solution to me.” He leaned away from my kisses, and I crossed my arms in a pout.

“It’s better than your proposal,” I frowned. “Are you saying you can’t do it?”

“What makes you think I can?”

My eyes narrowed. “Eli said once we were intimate, your senses would change. You’ve never once mentioned how, or even if they have.”

“That discussion is better left alone,” he said, maneuvering out of my embrace. He faced forward, clearly unwil ing to elaborate.

“Tel me I’m wrong,” I said, lifting my chin in defiance.

Jared quickly commandeered the drivers seat, shoved the gear shift into drive, and pul ed into the street. “Nina, I shouldn’t have to tel you this, but I wil : I love you more than anything on this earth; more than anything in the universe. I love you more than life, more than my family, and I love you more than I love being with you in that way. Your safety is, and wil always be my first priority. This isn’t the kind of risk I took sitting beside you on that bench the night we met, or tel ing you what I am. Making a mistake concerning an accidental pregnancy wil mean an al out war, because that is exactly what wil have to happen to keep you alive.”

The smile or wink I was hoping for never came. He had always been careful to protect me from the truth without tel ing a lie, but the seriousness of the situation warranted a bluntness Jared usual y avoided.

It took a long time for me to reply. My initial reaction was to complain, but Eli's words echoed in my mind. He had told me it was time to break away from being the victim. He was very clear that my time to feel sorry for myself was over.

That gave me an idea.

I attempted a smal smile. “I understand you know better than me what wil happen. You know exactly what consequences to expect when a choice is made—especial y if it’s the wrong one. I’m human, Jared. But that doesn’t make me frail. You have to give me more credit than that. It’s time you teach me some of what you know.”

“Like what?” Jared said, dubious.

“How to shoot a gun, for instance…and basic self-defense wouldn’t hurt.”

Jared pinched the bridge of his nose. “A gun isn’t going to help you in this particular situation, Sweetheart, much less a solid knee to the groin.”

“You don’t think I can do it.”

“Why would you need to when you have me?”

“What if you’re busy?”

He raised an eyebrow. “You mean too busy to do my job? The one that includes protecting the love of my life from certain death?”

He was trying to scare me, but I stood my ground, determined to prove my case. “Do I have to remind you of the night at the restaurant? Claire stayed behind while you took care of business?”

“That’s different. I would’ve never left you if Claire hadn’t been there.”

“If I had known how to shoot a gun I could have helped. That’s al I’m saying.”

“Teaching you just enough to make you dangerous is not helping. It gives you the impression that you’re capable of more than you actual y are.”

My mouth fel open. “Now that’s just insulting. Do you real y see me as helpless?”

Jared laughed once, amused. “No. Definitely not, but we’re not dealing with Graham, anymore, Nina. Others are an enemy you don’t want to piss off by shooting at.”

“Fine,” I said, a fake smile tightening my face. “I’ll have Bex or Claire teach me. She’s offered before.”

Jared clenched his teeth. “Neither of them wil do it without my explicit permission, and if they do, you’re going to start something you can’t take back.”

“That’s not fair!” I said, ful y recognizing the whine in my tone. I waited until my voice could sound calmer, and then spoke again, “I happen to know there’s a gun club in Cranston.”

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” Jared said, slowing as he pul ed into the drive.

“Probably not, no,” I said. Jared huffed in frustration. “It’s just that I…it’s suffocating being in your shadow. According to you, my life is constantly in danger, and I have to wait for you to save me. It would be nice to know if for whatever reason I’m alone, I can do something to protect myself.”

Jared’s eyes met mine, and then he nodded once. “Okay. We’l start Saturday.”

Chapter Eleven


Jared lessons were not easy. Where I caught a break from him, Bex pushed me further. When I wasn’t at school or Titan, the three of us were in the field by the Oak Tree, aiming, punching, blocking, ducking, attacking and subduing. It was mentioned more than once that I was a fast learner, and Bex said that I was a natural with any gun they put in my hand.