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“Kim,” Charles said, stiff and nervous. “What’s going on, here?”

Kim reached out to her father. “Nina is my friend, Dad. And she’s important. These people are here to protect her. They’re not here to harm us.”

Charles nodded slowly, and then touched the arm of this brother. “Easy, Bruce.”

Bruce relaxed, then, and Claire stepped out of her rigid stance, replacing her gun in its holster.

Jared turned to me. “What the hel are you doing here?”

“Don’t cuss at me,” I said, immediately defensive.

Anger lit Jared’s eyes. “You…you have no idea how dangerous it is for you right now.”

“Maybe I would if you would just tell me.”

“If I told you everything, you wouldn’t want to leave the house. And I don’t want that for you,” he said, his eyes dark. “But you can’t do certain things, Nina, and running off with two humans without tel ing me where you’re going is one of them.”

“I’m sorry,” I huffed. “I thought you’d just fol ow.”

“Oh,” Jared said, taken aback. “You did?”

“Oh, Christ, let’s hear what Kim has to say and get out of here,” Claire snapped.

I peeked at our audience, embarrassed about the outburst. “Sorry,” I said, clearing my throat.

“The book,” Kim said to Charles.

“Kim!” Bruce said. Charles touched his brother’s arm, and Bruce immediately silenced.

“They know,” Kim said.

“You’re the son of Gabriel, aren’t you?” Charles said, in awe.

“One of them,” Jared answered.

Bruce’s face turned red. “Thief. If he wouldn’t have taken the damn book none of this would be happening.”

Claire took a step forward, and Jared gripped her shoulder. “You call my father that again,” Claire seethed, “and it wil be the last words that come from your mouth.”

“They're going to help me,” Kim interceded.

“What?” Charles said, confused.

“Jared promised to help me return the Demoniac to the Sepulchre in Jerusalem.”

Charles' eyes darted to Jared. “Is this true?”

“Yes,” Jared said. “I need time to study it, but after that, you have my word.”

Charles took a step back, and then walked several steps away with Bruce right behind him. They conversed in low whispers, and then returned.

“We can't trust them,” Charles said, finality in his tone.

“None of that matters, now,” Kim said. “We’ve al got some history, here, that’s apparent. But we need to focus on the problem. Dad, Nina is the women in the prophecy in the Naissance de Demoniac. Does that mean anything to you?”

Charles’ eyes shifted to mine, and then he scanned me from my hair to my shoes. “No,” he paused. “Who is she?”

Kim turned to me. “I told you. We’re not al owed to open the book. He knows nothing.”

“Is that why you came here?” Jared said, livid. “I could have told you that! If Charles knew anything, Gabe and Jack wouldn’t have taken it in the first place!”

“It was worth a try, because our next option was the last resort.”

“What are you talking about?” Jared said.

I looked at the crowd of people around me, feeling the negative, hostile energy in the air. It was in that moment that I recognized we had final y come to the last leg of the journey. Getting the book back into our hands had always been the only choice, which was why Gabe and Jack had come to me with the answers at night.

“I have to distract Shax long enough for you to get the book,” I said softly.

Jared turned to me, his eyebrows squeezed tightly together. “Are you serious?”

“No, Jared, she’s trying to be funny. Of course she’s serious,” Kim said.

“Bad idea,” Ryan said.

I reached out to to him, touching his cheek with my fingertips. “It’s the only way you’re going to get the book.

Jared glanced at Claire, and then back to me. “We’ve been trying to get the book to save you. It doesn’t make sense to put you in danger in order to get our hands on it.”

“This is stupid, let’s go,” Claire said.

Kim held up her hands. “Wait. Just wait. We al know she doesn’t have much time left.”

Kim saying aloud what everyone else knew—and had hoped to keep from me—felt like a bittersweet release, but the siblings' expressions were ashamed.

Jared’s eyes hit the floor.

“Did I miss something here?” Ryan said, shifting his weight. For the first time since we'd arrived, he seemed uneasy.

Kim’s eyes met mine. “Both sides are talking. You know too much, Shax wants revenge, and you pose a threat to Hel just by being alive. We could pluck out your uterus today and they would stil end your life to prevent a miracle. You are going to die, anyway, Nina. It’s time we resort to desperate measures.”

“Christ Almighty,” Charles whispered.

The air was absent of sound. Everyone’s eyes were on me, but I couldn’t reply. I could barely breathe.

“I’m not going to let that happen, Nina,” Jared said. “We can figure out another way.”

“Is it true?” I said, looking up at him.

His eyes fel away from mine, and I knew the answer.

“Why is this happening?” I cried, pul ing away from his grip.

“Nina,” Claire said as I passed.

I ran outside into the rain. Since the day Jack died, my life had spun so far out of control it was hard to remember what my life was like when I was just like any other girl. It wasn’t fair. Eli had instructed me to be strong, and not to mourn the normal life I once had, but I didn’t want to die— especial y for a choice I didn't make.

Jared was immediately behind me, encompassing me in his warm arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice pained. “Let me find another way.”

“No,” I said, wiping my nose. “Let’s just get it over with.”

A few moments later, the rest of the group joined us. They al waited patiently for my answer.

Charles fidgeted. “I wish there was some way we could help you.”