Jared stood with me, restraining me with his hands on my shoulders as Bex cradled his sister, and then helped her to the ground.
Claire relaxed, and then stiffened again.
“Help her! She's having a seizure!” I said.
Jared turned my head, refusing to let me witness Claire's body writhing on the floor. “No, she's not. They're shocking him with a defibril ator.”
“What?” I said, pul ing away from him.
Claire lay in Bex's arms, limp. “He's dying,” she whispered, a single tear fal ing from the corner of her eye, down her temple, into her ear. Her eyes were nearly vacant, fixed on the ceiling.
“No,” Bex said. He closed his eyes. “Don't take her,” he said softly. “Please don't take her, too.”
A sob escaped my throat, and I buried my face in Jared's chest. “They can't do this to us,” I said. I pushed away from him, then, raising my fists to the ceiling in a rage. “You can't do this to us! We are the good guys, and this is what we get? How dare you! How! Dare! You!”
“Nina,” Jared said.
“It's not fair!” I screamed.
Jared enveloped me in his arms and kissed my hair. His fingers pressed into my skin, and I suddenly felt guilty, knowing Jared was suffering the agony of losing his baby sister, and then feeling my sorrow as wel .
“I'm sorry,” I said, holding him tightly. I took a breath, and focused on numbing al of my emotions.
“Don't do that,” Jared said, sensing my efforts. “You don't have to do that,” he whispered.
“I don't want you to hurt anymore than you already are,” I said, tears spil ing down my cheeks.
“Claire?” Bex said in a strange tone.
I closed my eyes, terrified to peek out from Jared's arms to see Claire's lifeless body. There was stil so much I didn't know about Hybrids and the curse. Jared had prayed for Gabriel to take him quickly; maybe Samuel had taken mercy on her, and couldn't bear to see her suffer.
“Nina,” Jared said, nudging me. “Look.”
Claire sat straight up, looking herself over, and then to the doorway. She didn't speak, she just waited. Final y, a nurse walked in, slightly confused by the spectacle on the floor.
“Er...we just stabilized Ryan. We had to remove his spleen to stop the bleeding, but he's a fighter. I'l come back when we know more.”
I looked up to the ceiling, stunned. “Um...I'm sorry. Th-Thank you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, a black figure appeared next to me. I jumped and recoiled, grabbing at Jared until I realized who it was.
“Samuel,” Jared breathed.
I frowned, and Samuel smiled in response. “You are unhappy with me, young Grey.”
“You haven't been much help,” I said, too angry to hold back.
He smiled, his white teeth a stark contrast to his rich, dark skin. “It appears to me that the situation is under control,” he said, making his way to Claire. He leaned down, touching the top of her head with his massive hand. “Ryan wil be fine, I'm told.”
Claire smiled, another tear fal ing from her eye. “Thank you, Sam.”
Bex and Claire embraced each other with raw relief. For the first time I heard Claire giggle. Her wet eyes were bright, and the sound of her laughter chimed in the air, reminding me of Lil ian. Bex laughed along with her, wiping the tears from his eyes as they celebrated together.
Jared squeezed me to his side, and Kim's mouth widened to a large grin. It was as if we could al breathe again.
“He's going to make it?” I said. The question was redundant, but I had to hear it again.
Samuel nodded once. “Yes,” he said, confident.
He returned to my side, and I wondered if any of the passers-by could see him. No one seemed to notice the half-dressed giant in the room.
“We stil need your help,” I said. “We've read the book. We've al came close to death more than once trying to get our hands on it to find a loophole. Jared didn't find anything.”
Samuel looked to Jared, who shook his head with a frustrated expression.
“I think you already know the answer,” Samuel said.
Jared sighed. “I was kind of hoping that would be a last resort.”
Samuel touched Jared's shoulder. “It's a means to an end, isn't it?”
With his last words, Samuel blinked from the space he had once occupied. Jared sat in the chair, pul ing me into his lap, lost in thought.
Bex helped Claire to her feet, and then walked her to the sofa. “He's right. It's what you should have done al along.”
“Stop,” Jared said.
The nurse returned, this time with a smile. “He's in recovery, now. He's doing wel .”
“When can I see him?” Claire asked.
“Soon,” the nurse said, offering a comforting smile before leaving the way she came.
Claire col apsed against the back of her seat. “That was close.”
“Too close,” Bex said, hugging her against his side.
“What is Samuel right about?” I asked.
Bex glanced at Jared, waiting for his brother to answer. When he didn't, Bex began, “We just started a war. The only way to win is to convince Heaven to fight with us.”
I shook my head. “But we've tried. They won't help.”
One side of Bex's mouth turned up. “They wil if you give them something to fight for. They won't let Hel destroy the baby once it's born. We just have to protect you until it gets here.”
“What baby?” I said.
Jared peeked at me from under his brow. “The baby you're carrying.”
Everyone in the room stared at me, waiting for my reaction.
“Me?” I said, touching my palm to my chest. “But I'm not pregnant. We haven't....”
“Ew...ew...stop,” Claire said, shaking her head.
“Just once,” Jared said, looking up at me sheepishly.
I remembered the night I begged Jared to help me forget about the chaos surrounding us; the night he said it wasn't a good time to tempt fate. I didn't realize at the time he had spoken literal y.
“How long have you known?” I said, taken aback.
“The fol owing morning. I knew something was different...it took me a week or so to pin point exactly what.”