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“I don’t believe it,” Jared said, helping me from the passenger side. He carried me through the snow to the side entrance, and then stomped through the house until he found them.

They sat in the kitchen at the breakfast table, laughing. Claire seemed genuinely happy for once, and I smiled at the sight.

“How long have you two been here?” Jared demanded.

Claire’s smile faded. “Don’t worry, I waited for you. I told Ryan you’d tel him what you thought he needed to know.”

“No questions asked,” Ryan promised.

Jared’s hand bal ed into fists at his side, and the tendons in his neck were strained. It took every ounce of wil power he had not to charge.

“I’m not tel ing him anything,” Jared growled. “Leave, before I do something we’l al regret.”

He turned his back to Claire, and she jumped up to stop him.

“Wait,” I said, landing the palms of my hands on Jared’s chest. “Sit, calm down…we’l just talk,” I said, nodding to Claire and Ryan. “Let’s just sit down and hear them out, and if you stil feel the same way, we’l go.”

Jared took a deep breath, and then nodded, taking a seat across from Claire. I sat beside him, placing my hand on his knee.

Claire mimicked his sigh, turning to Ryan. “Anything Jared tel s you is privileged information, Ryan. Nina has lied to you, to her best friends, to her family. Are you sure you want to know?”

Ryan glanced at me.

I leaned forward. “It’s not fun knowledge to have. In this case, ignorance is bliss. I recommend you walk away, but it’s your decision.”

Ryan met Claire’s eyes. “I’m sure.”

“Okay,” Claire said. “First thing’s first.” She grabbed his shirt and ripped it open, popping off the buttons.

“Hey!” Ryan said, holding up his hands.

“Standard procedure,” she said, pul ing up his white tank top underneath, bearing his chest. She ran her fingers down each side, and then around his back.

“Come on. You think I’m wearing a wire?” Ryan said, looking at each of us.

“I kil ed your partner,” Claire said, expressionless.

“What?” Ryan said. His eyebrows turned in, and he shifted nervously in his chair.

“Just get right to the point, Claire,” Jared said, shaking his head in disapproval.

“Why would you kil Kit? He was a good man. He was a good cop….” Ryan said, trailing off.

“He set you up. He asked you to meet him so men working for someone named Donovan could kidnap you, and ultimately use you as bait.”

Ryan shook his head. “No. Kit wouldn’t do that.”

“Then he was forced. He has kids. They probably threatened to kil them if he didn’t cooperate.”

Ryan’s shoulders fel . “So you were protecting me.”

“That’s my job,” Claire said.

Ryan’s once confused expression metamorphosed into suspicion. “W-What do you mean it’s your job?”

“Here we go,” I said, covering my mouth with my hands. I remembered the moment Jared had told me the truth about what he was, and I knew Ryan wouldn’t believe her.

Claire was stoic. “I’m your guardian angel. My father was an angel, my mother is human. When my father fel in love with my mother and decided to stay with her, he was cursed by Heaven so he would continue to protect his Taleh…his human.”

“My dad,” I added.

Claire continued, “The curse is carried throughout the bloodline for a few generations, so Jared, Bex, and I also have Taleh. We have trained our entire lives to be able to protect you, and we have superhuman speed and strength. Nina is Jared’s…you’re mine. I kil ed Anderson to protect you. I kil ed everyone else to protect Nina, so Jared could stay with her while she healed. I watched you throughout your entire military career, and yes, I pul ed you out of the desert.”

“I thought you said you were going to let me tel him,” Jared said, displeased.

“I don’t have al day,” Claire answered.

Ryan was silent.

“You forgot the most important part,” I said.

Claire rol ed her eyes. “Oh yeah, and because of the curse, I can’t die unless you do.”

The room was silent. I squeezed Jared’s knee, thankful he hadn’t dropped the truth on me the way Claire had just done with Ryan. We al waited for him to breakdown, yel , or try to leave. He just sat in his chair, letting it soak in.

I took my hands from my mouth and slid them across the table. “Are you okay?” I asked, touching his hand.

“Yeah,” he blinked. “Just trying to get it al straight in my head.”

“If you tel anyone, I’ll end your life,” Jared said in a low, frightening voice.

“Not likely, since you’d also be kil ing your sister,” Ryan said.

“He was paying attention,” Jared said.

One side of Ryan's mouth turned up. “So you would literal y take a bul et for me.”

“No,” Claire said, with zero emotion.

“No?” Ryan said, surprised at her answer.

Claire rol ed her eyes, annoyed that she had to answer. “If I have time to stand in the way of a bul et, you have time to move.”

“True,” Ryan said, nodding.

“So the question is,” I said. “What wil you do with the information now that you have it?”

Ryan paused in thought, and then fastened the few buttons left on his shirt. “Find Donovan.”

“Welcome to our club,” Bex said, plopping into the chair beside me. “I just talked to Kim. They’re on the move.”

“Kim. Our Kim?” Ryan asked, his eyes darting to me.

“Yes. She’s sort of the opposite of a demon magnet.”

Ryan left that one alone, turning to Claire. “Sounds like you left a lot out.”

She stood, pul ing Ryan with her. “Yes. This is going to be like on-the-job training. Can you handle it?”

“So far,” he said.

“That’s the hardest part,” I said, turning to Bex. “Where are they now?”

Bex traded glances with Jared before he spoke. “We have to move. They have an entourage, so it wil take al three of us.”

“Okay,” Jared said, nodding as he was lost in thought. “Where is Kim?”