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Bex twitched. “Outside.”

Jared nodded. “Kim, stays with Nina.”

“Jared!” I protested.

Claire pul ed on her coat. “Did you hear Bex, Nina? The three of us are going. We don’t need Kim.”

“Ryan,” Jared said. “I’ll need you to stay with Nina. The only things you can’t handle wil be protecting what we’re going after.”

Ryan nodded. “I won’t let her out of my sight.”

“You have your gun?” Claire asked.

Ryan patted his side in confirmation.

I threw my arms around Jared and squeezed, shutting my eyes tight. “Don’t stay away long.”

“In and out, Baby. In and out,” he smiled.

“And don’t come back ful of bul et holes this time!” I call ed after him.

The door shut, and the sound of the Escalade’s engine faded as everyone I loved most in the world traveled farther and farther away.

“Bul et holes?” Ryan asked.

“Come on,” I said, pul ing him into down the hal . “Let’s find more comfortable chairs. This is going to take a while.”

Chapter Sixteen

If I Told You Everything

The rain beat against the window of the classroom, prompting Professor Sawyer to speak louder than her smal voice could accommodate.

Words squeaked from her throat as she struggled to lecture through the snickers and murmuring of the students.

Her words blurred together as I stared at the blank page of my laptop monitor. The nightmares were absent the night before, but only because sleep never came. The Ryels didn’t return home until just before the sun rose, and even if I could have ignored the worry long enough for my eyes to close for a moment, Ryan’s incessant questions kept me awake.

So...what if she gets shot in the head?

If I die and then Claire dies does she go to Heaven?

What if I don't die but I'm a vegetable?

Can she get knocked out?

So her dad was an angel? Can he see me right now.

His curiosity was insatiable. I final y lost my temper and yel ed at him to shut up, but he only smiled and sat quietly long enough to think of more questions. For the first time, I was glad that Ryan was no longer enrol ed at Brown.

I twirled the diamond ring around my finger, trying to block out images of what Bex and Claire had described earlier that morning. Their clash with Isaac and Donovan was short-lived, but had the Ryel's been human, it would have been lethal. The vision of Isaac was so vivid and frightening in my mind, the thought of coming face to face with him terrified me. He and Donovan had been commissioned to protect the Naissance de Demoniac, and because they were faced with al three of Gabe Ryel’s children, they decided retreat was the prudent option—but not before sinking four bul ets into Bex’s chest.

The kitchen was a bloody mess by sunrise, and although Bex’s eyes were wide with excitement, seeing Claire pluck the remnants of bul ets from his flesh left me…wel …unsettled.

“Oh, to hel with this, class dismissed,” the professor said in defeat.

I blinked, seeing the other students pack up without pause and leave the classroom. Once the doorway cleared, Kim stood with a smirk on her face.

“Why didn’t you come back to the house with the others?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Two papers due today. I stil go to class, you know.”

“So how did it go?” I asked, fol owing her down the hal . My feet scampered along her wide strides.

She shook her head, clearly troubled.

“Don’t do that, Kim. You’re the impervious one.”

“Taking Shax, or Donovan and Isaac head on isn't working. We need to think of another way to get the Demoniac. They know when we’re coming. We can’t distract them because they want nothing else more than that book.”

I frowned, wary of Kim’s uncharacteristic concern. “I stil say we don't need it. Your family had the book al this time. You have to know what it said.

Didn’t you open it?”

“No,” she said firmly. “I was never al owed to open it.”

“What about your uncle? Your father? Between them and Father Francis, can’t we just get enough information for Jared to work with?”

Kim lowered her chin. “I guess you didn’t catch the part about how we weren’t al owed to open the book.”

“You said it yourself!” The words were louder than I’d meant for them to be. I looked around, and then lowered my voice. “We can’t take it when they know we’re coming.”

Kim nodded, but her somber expression melted away as an idea lit her eyes. “There is one thing they would want more than the book.”

I shook my head. “No. No way, Jared would never go for it.”

“We need them to come to us. We need bait.”

“Think about it. He’s not going to risk my life to save me, Kim. And I kind of hate you for even mentioning it.”

“Hey guys!” Beth yelped in her southern drawl. “Ew. That’s a horrible face,” she said, mirroring my expression.

Kim pul ed a cigarette seemingly from nowhere, and popped it between her lips. “We were just discussing how we would use Nina as bait to lure demons,” she said flatly.

Beth’s face morphed into revulsion. “What class are you guys taking?”

The corners of my mouth turned up, and I wrapped one arm around Beth’s tiny waist. “Come on. I don’t want to lose our table at the Ratty.”

The three of us carried our trays the corner spot, and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that Ryan’s chair had been fil ed. His friends surrounded him with wide grins on their faces. They al talked and laughed, making the dead silence upon our approach that much more noticeable.

“Look who’s back in town, Babe!” Chad said, standing to greet Beth.

Beth's tray slapped against the table when she dropped it to throw her arms around Ryan.

“Hi, Bethy,” Ryan said, giving her a squeeze.

“Yay!” Her pageant-smile stretched to its limit, showing every one of her teeth.

To the others, lunch with Ryan was a celebration, but as the questions about his last days at war, how he got hurt, and why he’d waited so long to tel them came, I grew nervous. So did Ryan.

He stood. “Wel ! I have to go home…get the old uniform on.”