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“Exactly,” Ryan nodded, thankful for my explanation. “I came to ask you to dinner. We have some talking to do.”

“O…Okay,” I said, surprised.

“Jared’s not going to like that,” Beth lilted.

“Where do I pick you up? Jared’s place?”

“It sort of burned down,” I said, shifting.

Ryan didn’t flinch. “Okay, so where, then?”

“We’re at Cynthia’s for now.”

Ryan’s eyes were always the windows to his thoughts. That was one thing that his experiences hadn’t taken away from him. He was planning something.

“Seven o’clock?” he asked.

“How about I meet you there?”


“I don’t know. Wherever you’re wanting to eat.”

“I haven’t decided, yet. I’ll just pick you up.”

I sighed in frustration. “See you at seven, then.”

Ryan walked away like a robot accepting a command. He offered no smile, or any other expression, too preoccupied with his next move.

“That was weird,” Beth said, pul ing on the handle. “Open up, already, it’s freaking freezing!”

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said, rol ing my eyes and clicking the keyless entry.

Throughout the day, I waited for Jared’s call . He hadn’t come home that morning, passing on the message via Bex that he and Kim were in Woonsocket, just south of the Massachusetts line. Bex assured me that it was to speak with the priests of St. Anne’s, and he wouldn’t be engaging the enemy.

At lunch, I call ed Bex. “Why hasn’t he call ed?”

“He’ll call ,” Bex said, bored.

“Why did Kim go if they’re just going to a church?”

“It’s just a guess, but maybe she knows the contact their questioning.”

I blew my bangs from my face, frustrated. “You two are being very secretive these days.”

Bex sighed. “Go be a co-ed, Nina. I’ll talk to you later when you call to ask if Jared’s call ed again.”

I looked to Beth. “That little…he hung up on me.”

“He’s a teenager. You remember being a teenager?”


“He’s got al these feelings, and emotions…and didn’t you say he was home-schooled?”

“Yeah, but he’s only thirteen. He’s barely a teenager.”

Beth stared at me. “You’re joking, right?”

“No, why?”

“There is no way that kid is thirteen! He’s a mammoth! He looks at least sixteen!”

“Nope. It runs in the family.”

“You’re going to give birth to a toddler. Think about that,” Beth said, giggling to herself.

“We’re not…,” I trailed off. I waited, hoping Beth wouldn’t take it further. Any such hopes were lost when her eyes widened.

“You’re not what? Going to have kids?”

I shrugged, trying to play it off. “We haven’t real y talked about it, but it’s not something either of us would die to experience. I’m an only child.

Babies…kids…real y aren’t my thing.”

“Wel , there’s nothing wrong with that. I just didn’t know you felt that way. I bet Jared would be an amazing father.”

“He would be,” I nodded. Her words stung me, something I hadn't expected.

The afternoon was long. Bex hadn’t call ed with news of Jared, and the wait was making me grumpy. Jared always call ed, unless he was in trouble, and because he knew that I knew that, he should call . A lot.

After my last class, my feet couldn’t move fast enough to the Beemer. I pul ed out my cel phone and dialed, the same time searching my purse for keys.

“He hasn’t call ed,” Bex answered.

“Something’s wrong. Have you talked to Claire?”

“Yes. Nothing’s wrong; he’s just busy.”

“Then he would have call ed!” I said. Just as I slammed the phone shut, the Beemer and Bex came into view.

“Get in, we’re going to Woonsocket.”

Bex laughed without humor. “No, we’re not. Jared said to take you to Titan, and then home. We’re to wait for him there.”

“Wel , I don’t work for Jared, nor am I trying to earn the big brother approval, so get in the car or move.”

Bex did neither. “I have orders, Nina.”

He wasn’t as easy to persuade as Jared, because he wasn’t worried about making me angry. I had to try a different approach. He might look like a man, but he was stil a thirteen year old boy.

“Bex Gabriel Ryel, if you move a finger to keep me here, so help me, I wil call your mother and tel her you used your Hybridness to restrain me against my wil !”

His stoic expression wavered as he considered the consequences. “Fine,” he said, his entire body relaxing. “Get in the car, I’ll drive.”

I pushed up on the bal s of my feet to kiss his cheek. “Thanks, Bexster!”

His face screwed into disgust as he wiped the place where my lips touched his cheek. “Yuck!”

With Bex driving his typical speed, the trip took less than twenty minutes. He sat in silence; pouting, and no doubt planning the excuses he would offer Jared.

When we arrived, I gasped. St. Anne’s was a work of art, looming with both authority and elegance over the quiet town. As beautiful as was the outside, the interior was breathtaking.

Meticulously detailed murals of angels and saints adorned the wal s and ceilings, with a larger one as the focal point. The painting was of Jesus, his arms outstretched, surrounded in light, and rows of angels, who basked in his glory. The entire room was inspirational, and a strange feeling came over me as I walked down the center aisle.

Row after row of wooden pews bordered our way to the alter anchored at front of the church, where Jared and Kim stood with a priest.

Jared’s expression wasn’t surprised or confused. He glanced once in my direction, and then continued his conversation. Jared’s clear disregard only served to exacerbate my growing impatience with him.

“Excuse me, Father,” I said, interrupting him. I pul ed Jared a few steps away, purposeful y glaring at Kim as I did so.

“I can’t do this right now, Nina, I’m working.”