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“It has been a lot for you today. Let’s go home.”

I smiled, remembering my whispers in the elevator.

He let me lean against him as we walked to the Escalade hand in hand. The gul s seemed particularly loud, call ing to each other along the harbor.

The breeze brought in the sweet stench of fish and motor oil. The sounds and smell s surrounding Titan always reminded me of my father.

“It’s no wonder I’m having the dreams,” I said.

“What dreams?” Jared teased.

I smiled. “Coming here everyday, being around everything that embodies what I remember about Jack. It’s not some supernatural mystery. I’m just surrounded by him.”

Jared replied only with a thoughtful nod. He was careful to avoid the subject during the ride home, sticking to the weather and happenings at Brown. Once we reached the loft, he was al to eager to start preparing dinner, so I left him to his thoughts and ran a bath in the downstairs tub.

After lingering far too long in the cooling water, I wrapped my towel around me and opened the door, noticing only one plate of food. Jared was in the corner, dripping with sweat.

“You ate without me?” I asked, sitting at the table.

“I didn't want to disturb you,” Jared said, grunting with the massive amount of weight above him.

Jared was hiding something, and his behavior told me it was probably something I didn't want to know.

I finished my dinner and started the dishwasher, and then made my way up the stairs. I slipped on my night gown and crawled into bed beside Jared. He was reading, and put his book down long enough to kiss my forehead. I relaxed, trying to think peaceful thoughts. Wondering if I would wake up screaming wouldn’t help to keep the dreams away, so I forced my mind in the direction of Jared and our Oak Tree.

“No studying tonight?” Jared said.

“Test is Monday. I’m too tired tonight.”

Jared nodded. “Mom call ed today. Bex’s coming home tomorrow.”

A yawn interrupted my response, but I spoke in spite of it. “Oh?”

“I invited him over for dinner. I thought I could whip up a pot roast.”

I smiled, drifting off. “Sounds good.”

Just as Jared kissed me goodnight, I fel , dropping thousands of feet to a dusty, wooden floor. Landing face down, my palms flat to the ground, I hesitated to move until I was sure of my surroundings. It was dark and quiet, except for the subtle disruption of the rustling of papers. I turned my head, struggling to focus two shadows on the floor; two hunched figures desperately searching.

I closed my eyes. “I’m not moving,” I said, bal ing my hands into fists. “I won’t watch.”

The rustling stopped, and Gabe whispered the warning to my father. “It’s too late.”

“I won’t watch you die tonight,” I said, gritting my teeth.

Jack and Gabe escaped with their book, and I sat on my knees. The shrieking echoed through the hal s, and my heart beat faster. I stood, determined to stay, focused on the room I was in, trying to ignore the fiendish and frightening noises growing louder as they closed in. It was my dream. I would stay.

The room blurred, and time pul ed me away. My stomach tugged, and then I was gone, violently thrust to the roof. Gabe took my father in his arms and leaped with transcendental strength to the site of my father’s brutal end. Once again I refused to move, locking my knees in place. The tugging began, but my feet remained on the ground.

Just then, countless shadows swept past, traveling with such momentum that my hair blew forward, as if two trains were passing at ful speed on each side of me. The sounds that came from the shadows were indescribable, so loud that my hands automatical y cupped over my ears. I screamed aloud to try to drown out the evil that saturated the space around me.

Then it was gone.

I waited. Sounds from the street below replaced the deafening roar of Shax and his minions, and my knees buckled, letting my body fal to the ground.

“Please stop,” I whispered, knowing no one could hear.

My breathing accelerated. The air seemed too thin, and the tugging began again. “No,” I pleaded, just as a hole opened up beneath me. I fel , landing on the wet cement of the al ey.

A pair of familiar shoes stood before me, and I fol owed the tailored suit with my eyes to the face of my frightened father. His hands were wrapped around the book, his knuckles white. I closed my eyes, waiting for what would come next. The sounds of hands exploding through the door, and the audible shredding of Jack’s clothing and skin were much more vivid when I refused to watch. The bones of his spine snapped as demons yanked him through the hole in the door, and into the building to his brutal death.

I cried out. Not so much a scream, as a low, guttural moaning, sobbing for my father. The al eyway quaked, as if the earth below was trembling in the presence of such evil. Dark turned to dim light, and I focused as Jared’s warm hands shook me awake.

“Nina?” he said, holding my cheeks in his hands, waiting for me to look him in the eye.

Once again soaked in my own sweat, I tore my nails from my palms, stil clenched from trying to force myself to stay in one place. Jared looked down, and then left for only a moment, bringing back two rags.

“Jesus, Nina,” he choked out.

The white towels hid the four tiny, half-moon gouges in each hand, but quickly revealed the damage as they began to turn red.

Jared placed another rag, this one wet and cold, on my forehead, wiping away the sweat and tears. My eyes felt swol en and tight. Although the dream was over, I couldn’t stop crying. Jared’s expression was heart breaking. It was the same expression he had when he let go of my hand in the emergency room, as if I were dying before his eyes.

“I can’t fix this,” he said, his voice breaking. “I don’t know what to do to help you.”

“You’re helping,” I said, my voice raspy and faint. I left the bloody rag on the blanket, and touched my hand to his face. Too tired to hold up my own arm, it fel to the mattress. Streaks of blood marked Jared’s cheek, prompting me to turn my hand palm-up to see the oozing tears in my flesh.

“I’ll take care of that,” Jared said, reaching under the bed to fetch the first aid kit.

My head rested against the headboard as he tended to my wounds, kissing my fingers when he finished each hand.


“Yes, Sweetheart?” he said, thick with agony.