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“Right. I was in Afghanistan or wherever, sniping Al Qaeda, and carrying you over my back for miles. Sounds like me,” she snapped.

“I just want to see you,” Ryan said. “I need to see you to be sure.”

Jared shook his head, and Claire’s expression grew impatient. “Beat it, Ryan,” she said.

After a short pause, Ryan hit the door with the side of his fist. “I’m not leaving until I see you!”

“What are you going to do?” Claire yel ed, taking a step away from the door. “Wave your shiny badge around and impress us to death?”

“Open the door!” Ryan demanded.

“No!” Claire said.

“Fine!” he replied. “But I’m not giving up on you.”

He stomped down the stairs and slammed the door.

Chapter Thirteen


“I need the keys to your bike,” Claire said, holding out her hand to Bex.

He frowned. “Why?”

“Because I have to fol ow him, and he knows my freaking car! Give me your keys!” she said, jerking her hand toward Bex, impatient.

In one swift movement, Bex handed his motorcycle keys to his big, little sister. She wheeled around, sprinting down the stairs.

“Don’t forget the helmet,” he call ed after her.

“Shove it!” she yel ed before slamming the door.

I walked to my vanity, sitting hard onto the delicate pink cushion of the bench. “This is bad.”

Jared took slow steps to stand beside me. “Ryan is the least of our worries.”

“That makes me feel much better,” I said.

Bex left us alone to sit on the stairs, and Jared pul ed me from the bench to sit beside him on the bed. He didn’t speak for a long time, lightly brushing the skin of my arm, from wrist to elbow, with his fingertips.

“Do you understand what could happen?” he said softly, his eyes stil focused on my arm.

After a short pause, I took a breath. “Yes.”

He meant my death. Dying at the hands of the most inhumane, cruel beings on three planes wasn’t peaceful, in my sleep as I had planned, but it was an end. I wondered what would take place in that moment, and what ways Jared would suffer in the days fol owing my death.

His eyes were dark, the skin around them tight, but tired. The helpless feeling surrounding us was suffocating.

“I know what Father Francis said,” Jared said, his voice breaking. “But, I can’t believe that. I have to see the book for myself to be sure. There has to be a reason our father’s wanted it so badly. Gabe must have known there was a way to stop it.

“Stay with me,” I said.

“I can’t,” he replied.

“Just for a while. Just until I fal asleep?”

Jared met my eyes, and I could see that he would let me win.

We lay together above the sheets, silent and thoughtful. I imagined Jared was careful y plotting a way around Donovan and Isaac in his mind, praying for a conclusion. Shax had stayed one step ahead of Jared—even Kim, his secret weapon—and he was frustrated.

Jared’s arms tensed. Bex’s light footsteps rushed down the stairs, and the door opened. After a few moments, another set, heavier, returned with him, and Kim appeared in the doorway, out of breath and wide-eyed.

Jared sprung from the bed, pul ing on his jacket. “Stay with her, Bex.”

“I should go,” Bex said.

Knowing they were going to try to capture the book, I jumped from the bed, pul ing on a pair of sneakers. “He should go. I’ll go, too, and if anything happens, Bex can help.”

Jared frowned while he made his decision. “Nina….”

“We don’t have time for a lecture,” I said. “You know you have a better chance if Bex is there.”

He nodded, clearly conflicted. “Let’s go.”

The streets were filthy, lined with mounds of dirty snow. The Escalade flew at three times the speed limit, racing against the moment Shax realized we’d found him.

Jared slammed on the breaks in front of an old apartment building on the outskirts of town, and he and Kim rushed in. Bex was stoic, waiting patiently for a signal. My knees bounced nervously as I bit at my thumbnail.

“Here,” Bex said, pul ing a handgun from the back of his pants. “If I go in, keep this with you. The safety’s on, so—,”

“Take it off before I fire, I know.”

Bex smiled. “You’l be fine. Just don’t go in.”

The waiting was excruciating. The night was too quiet; the building too dark. I had expected immediate flashes of gun fire, and Jared and Kim to run out, with snarling, misshapen beasts in pursuit.

Bex picked at his nails, seeming bored, but patient. I checked my handgun again, making sure it was loaded and ready.

“We real y need Claire here. We have to figure out how to get the three of us in the same room with Shax and keep you protected at the same time.”

“You’re just itching to get one in on him, aren’t you?” I smirked.

“On Shax?” Bex said. “Jared’s fought a hundred of ‘em. They react to me the same way they do Kim. They won’t come near me. It’s irritating.”


“I don’t know, but it better not be because of my age, or anything like that. I’m ready,” he sniffed.

“You are,” I said, my voice absent of sarcasm.

Bex turned to me with a smal smile, reminding me of his innocence. “Yeah?”

“Absolutely. How much time have we spent together, with Jared nowhere in sight? I’m the hardest Taleh case there is: dirty cops and demons after me day and night, and I don’t have a scratch. Maybe they stay away because they’re scared?”

Bex nodded, satisfied. “Yeah. Probably so.”

Suddenly, Jared and Kim appeared, walking slowly from the back of the building.

“No go?” Bex asked as Jared slammed his body into the driver’s seat.

“They were already gone,” he seethed, his jaw muscles flitting under his skin.

“Shax is playing games with us,” Kim said. “Otherwise he’d move it out of town…or out of the country. He wants you to doubt your judgment, and he’s using me to bait you…wear you out.”

“There has to be another way,” Jared said, slamming the shifter into gear. “We’re making the same mistakes.”