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“The safe!” Bex said, intent.

“Behind the desk,” I said, pul ing Jared with me. “It's there,” I pointed.

“But,” Claire said, bending down to touch the wal . “It's just wal .”

Bex twitched, and then closed his eyes. “They're coming.”

Claire ran her hands over the drab paint. “I don't feel anything.” She knocked. “It doesn't sound like anything's back there.”

“Are you sure? Maybe we're in the wrong room?” Ryan said.

I looked around, seeing the same paintings on the wal . “No, I'm sure. I've seen this a mil ion times; the safe is right there.”

Bex looked to Jared. “We have two minutes.”

Jared sighed. “Claire? Move.”

Claire obeyed, and Jared rammed the wal with his fist, pul ing back broken sheet rock. Claire helped him, and within seconds, the entire panel was open, revealing the safe, three feet inside the wal .

Thousands of dust motes flurried in the air.

“That explains why you always saw them waist-deep in the wal ,” Jared said.

Claire held up her hand. “Quiet.” She leaned her ear close to the safe, and then moved the dial back and forth, nodding intermittently. Within moments, the safe clicked open. Claire seemed stunned. “That was too easy. It's rigged with explosives or something.”

Jared shook his head. “I don't smell anything, do you?”

“No,” she said.

“Shax is notoriously pretentious, Claire,” Jared said. “I'm not surprised.”

She stood. “This whole thing is too easy. They take our bait, sit Ryan and Nina in the room with the safe, knowing we would come after them...and then leave?”

Bex pul ed out the book. “Got it!”

“Make sure it's the real thing,” I said.

Bex flipped through the pages. “It's real, al right.”

Jared grabbed my hand. “They left because Shax is bringing his legions to end us, Claire. They wanted us to come here and give them a reason to take us al out. Heaven can't step in if we provoke them.”

Bex took a few steps toward the door, his head jerking in every direction. “Legions is right. I think the whole of Hel is coming. We should get them out. Now.”

“The roof!” I said. “They always used the roof!”

“Who did?” Ryan asked.

“We don’t want to repeat what Jack and Gabe did, Nina. That leads to the same end,” Claire said, looking out the window, planning an escape.

“Maybe not,” Jared said, looking up. “Maybe she had the dreams to show us how to get out.”

“Fine,” Claire said, grabbing the book from Bex.

Screeching from below echoed throughout the hal s, turning my blood cold.

Ryan’s eyes darted in every direction. “Is that…?”

“Yes. Let’s go,” Claire said, shoving the book into her hot pink duffel bag. “Bex?”

Bex nodded, running across the room and diving out the window.

Ryan’s expression was a mixture of disgust and alarm. “It sounds like a dying animal…a thousand dying animals.”

Claire pul ed her sidearm from its holster. “You should hear one when you send it back to Hel .” She gestured to me, “Show us the way, Nina.”

The howls and screams of Shax’s minions grew louder. Jared turned to me, cupping his hands on each side of my face.

“This is it, isn't it?” I said.

Jared looked deep into my eyes, as if he wanted to pass the truth through them instead of just saying the words. But he said them, anyway. “I won't let them touch you.”

“I'm afraid,” I said, shaking. The fear was so intense I felt powerless to control my own body. As the screeching grew closer, it became a physical effort to avoid slipping into a flew blown panic. I looked to Ryan, then. “Remember what we talked about.”

Ryan nodded once. “I remember.”

I grabbed Jared’s hand and we fled, climbing the staircase, and then sprinting down the hal .

“This way!” I yel ed. I stopped in front of a closed door at the end of the hal way. It was pointless to whisper, with the deafening shrieking of the demonic fil ing the air. I pul ed on the knob, but it was locked. Jared moved me aside, and then landed a lethal blow with his foot. The door swung open, and hit the concrete wal , wooden pieces splintering and then fal ing to the ground.

“Come on,” he said, pul ing me up the crumbling staircase.

On the roof, the wind mercilessly whipped al around us, and the night sky crowded even the brightest lights below.

Jared ran to the edge. “Which building?”

I lifted my chin in the right direction. “That one.”

Ryan frowned at Claire, unsure. “You’re going to jump the length of a footbal field?”

She smiled. “Yes. And you're coming with me.”

Ryan shook his head. “I’ll take the fire escape.”

I grabbed his coat, and then pushed him into Claire’s arms. “Thousands of those things are going to swarm this roof in about seven seconds. You won’t make it to the landing.”

Jared wrapped his arms around my waist, and then took three long strides, grunting when he leaped from the edge. My fingers locked around his neck. I didn’t dare look down, afraid the second I realized we were doing something impossible, his powers would fade, and we would fal five stories to the ground.

He made the same grunting noise to land as he did when we departed, but the landing was not as rough as I had anticipated.

I could hear Ryan’s yel s somewhere between our building and Shax's. His voice grew louder as they approached, and when Claire's feet hit the ground just ten feet away, she let him go.

He fel to the ground, rol ing onto his back. “Let’s never… ever do that again,” Ryan puffed.

Claire grabbed his hand and yanked him to his feet. “Don’t be a baby,” she grinned, pul ing him to the roof access.

After two flights of stairs my lungs begged for air, but the adrenaline surging through my body made my legs feel they could go on forever.

Jared stopped, looked above us, and not a second later, a loud crash sounded on the roof, fol owed by the sounds only demons on the hunt could make.

“We’re not going to make it,” Jared said, looking to me, and then to Claire. “Take Nina and Ryan out.”