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“I thought I was your job? You know it worries me to death when you don’t call . Do you do it on purpose?”

“Nina, calm down.”

“I couldn’t concentrate in my classes, checked my phone every five seconds, hoping you would at least send a one word text…something! It would take just a moment of your time to set my mind at ease. You spend half of your life incessantly protecting me from everything, and the other making me crazy!”

“Child….” the Father began. The Priests’ words had a hidden accent behind them, possibly British, diluted by years of service in America. His plea was cut short when each of the hundreds of candles glowing around us were extinguished in succession, from one side of the stage to the other.

The priest watched me warily, and Jared took my hand. “This is her, Father Francis. She is the one.”

The priest held his trembling hands to his mouth, and then reached out to me. He grabbed my free hand with both of his, and held it tightly. “The Mother,” he whispered, his eyes scanning my face with adoration.

Bex lifted his chin. His eyes closed, but not before his lashes flickered as his eyes rol ed back into his head. He took a deep breath, as if he were feeling the air around us, reaching with invisible tentacles to a different plane. “Jared,” he whispered.

A loud, repetitious banging echoed throughout the cathedral, and Father Francis dropped my hand, rushing to the large doors of the entrance.

“You should stop him,” Kim said to Jared.

“Father, wait,” Jared call ed. He grabbed my hand, fol owing quickly behind the priest.

The banging persisted, so loudly that I released Jared’s hand to cover my ears. The large doors vibrated with each blow.

“Make it stop,” I said, closing my eyes.

Kim and Bex were at my side, and Kim touched my shoulder before taking a few steps forward.

The banging grew louder, and the door threatened to give way to the hammering from outside.

“Make it stop!” I yel ed over the noise.

“Father,” Kim said, gently moving him to the side. She reached out with both hands, laying her palms flat against each door.

I grabbed Jared’s arm, then a quiet settled upon us; seeming more ominous than the banging.

Father Francis pushed open the doors, and we al stood in horror of the sight before us.

“Lord in Heaven,” Father Francis said, making a quick the sign of the cross.

“They….” I began, unable to finish.

“Crows. Nice touch,” Kim said.

Hundreds of lifeless, black birds littered the steps and sidewalk. The doors were covered in bloody splotches.

“Mommy!” A smal girl screamed and pointed as her mother rushed her to their parked car across the street.

Pedestrians stopped and stared at the unbelievable sight, pointing to the church, and to the smal , horrified group hovering in the doorway.

“Let us get inside,” Father Francis said, shooing us backward into the church. He pul ed the doors shut, shaking his head. “This was a warning.

They know what she is, and they’re aren’t happy she’s here.”

“Merovingian?” I said, a sudden feeling of desperation evident in my voice.

The priest’s face twisted in disgust. “Merovingian. Bah,” he grunted, shaking his head. “Nephilim,” he said, his voice returning to its soft tone. He touched each side of my face gently. His skin was tired and wilted, making it nearly impossible to see the kindness in his eyes…but it was there.

“Tel me,” I said, a weak smile grazing my lips.

“You are the woman clothed with the sun,” Father Francis said, in awe.

I looked to Jared. His expression was pained, but he offered no explanation.

“What…,” I shook my head, “Pardon me, Father, but what the hel does that mean?”

He took my hand, and gestured for me to sit in the nearest pew. He sat with me, my hand in both of his. Kim, Bex, and Jared al took a seat as wel , scattered around us.

“In Revelations, the Bible speaks of a woman. Clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, and she is with child in arduous times. She brings forth a man child who is to rule al nations. It speaks of the Holy Mother.”

“Okay. But, what does that have to do with me?” I said, frustrated and confused.

“A woman of the same description is also the center of a prophecy of the Naissance de Demoniac. The main prophecy speaks of a woman, clothed in the sun, the moon at her feet, the crown of ten stars on her head—a daughter of the Nephilim. She brings forth a son of God.”

“I know. The child disturbs the balance, blah, blah, blah.” I looked to Jared. “You had to come to Woonsocket to hear something we already know?”

Jared leaned his elbows onto the ridge of the pew, touching my hair with his thumb. “Father Francis is a scholar. He has studied the writings of the Naissance de Demoniac. I came here to ask for help.”

“If he knows what it says, we don’t need the book,” I said, excited. “Can’t you just tel us what we need to know?”

Father Francis squeezed my hand. “These prophecies are not in the stars, or in the dreams of old men. Our world is a story that has already been written. The human-born angel wil disturb the delicate balance of Heaven and Hel . It wil be a new angel, not created in the dawn of time as al the others.” He smiled, bit it didn't give me peace the way he had surely meant for it to. “Demons fear the unknown as humans do. Possibly even more so, because of the limited truth they do not know.”

“So we can’t stop it,” I said.

“But that won’t stop Hel from trying,” the priest said, his voice grave.

“I can’t stay here. I have to go,” I said, jumping to my feet. I ran out the front door, stopping when I felt the carcasses of birds under my feet. My hands flew to my eyes, overwhelmed.

“It’s okay,” Jared whispered in my ear, sweeping me into his arms. He carried me across the street, and then careful y set me in the passenger seat of the Beemer. His warm hand brushed the bangs from my face. “Get her home, Bex.”

Bex nodded, turned the ignition, and slammed the shifter into gear. It took us half the drive time to reach Cynthia’s that it took to get to St. Anne’s.

Bex parked in the garage, and helped me up the stairs to my room. His normal y playful, innocent eyes offered sympathy and concern wel beyond his years.