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“But,” Lorren said, “if you have even the slightest idea why he survived…”

I growled my reply, “My soul. My soul was in his body. It protected him. I don’t know why or how. Locoicia didn’t know it was there. I never told her.” Staring at both of them, I added. “But you both knew. Didn’t you? You knew Kreturus was still in Collin. What I saw in the Underworld wasn’t a hoax. For a while, I thought it was smoke and mirrors—but it wasn’t. You knew that the demon was using Collin to get to me. You knew they fused into the same person.” I stood walking over to Eric. “How could you not tell me?”

His eyes were glistening. They were not completely gold, but lacking the fire that poured through them earlier. “I suspected, but there was no way to know for sure. Things aren’t obvious. Collin hid it, but the way he acts is almost bipolar sometimes. It made me wonder why. And I doubted that they were the same person until the day you disappeared. Collin did all that. I saw it with my own eyes. Collin started this. More demons followed him into the church, looking for you. I barely held him off long enough for you to escape. Then, when I couldn’t find you,” Eric paused. His eyes shifted back to me. “I thought he killed you. But he didn’t leave. Collin kept burning, and killing, looking for something—looking for you.”

“That’s why you were there? That’s why you were near the church when I stepped outside?” He nodded once, and instantly averted his eyes. “And you,” I said turning to Lorren. I wanted to kick him for not telling me. I wanted to cause him pain for what he did. “You. You fucking angel—stuck in hell. What’d you forget to tell me, huh?”

Lorren was still dressed in his black clothes. “I forgot nothing.” He turned his back to me, refusing to say more.

I shot out of my chair, grabbed his shoulder and screamed in his face. “You were the angel who used the stone! It was you in the first war. You were the warrior who took the brunt of the curse, and you got trapped down here because of it, right?” Lorren’s eyes drifted across my face, to Eric’s, and back. He nodded once. “And the second angel… ” Lorren’s neck snapped in my direction with a warning in his eye, but I kept speaking. There’d been too many secrets. I wouldn’t lend to allowing them to exist any further. “The second angel who used the stone to stop Kreturus is also here, isn’t he?”

Eric’s face pinched in confusion as he looked from Lorren to me. “What are you talking about?”

“Tell him,” I said to Lorren. But Lorren just looked up at him with pinched eyes. “I already know. There’s no point in hiding the damn stone. I’m on your side, and if you believed me the first two times I met you, this wouldn’t have happened.” Anger coursed through me and I grabbed onto it like a kite string about to slip away. Spinning on my heel, I swung my arm back and made my fist collide with a wall of golden flowers. I no longer cared what they were or who they were. They were dead. Like everyone else on earth would be if they kept playing games, and hiding things. “Tell him!”

Lorren’s dark eyes met Eric’s. He sighed, his back slumping, “Satan’s Stone has two parts. They separate after they are used. One half finds the next owner, while the previous half remains with the last owner. The stone knows who it’s destined to go to.” Lorren looked at me, as if to ask if he had to continue. He finally looked back at Eric, and said, “Someone used the stone after me, which is why I no longer have it. Ivy has the one half of Satan’s Stone hanging around her neck—it found her, the way it should have.” Lorren glanced at me as if to ask if I was really sure.

I nearly bit his head off, “TELL HIM!”

Lorren bit down, and returned his gaze to Eric. Eric watched the two of us, saying nothing. Lorren finally spit it out, “The second angel who used Satan’s Stone, the angel that was there when they sealed Kreturus into his tomb—was you. You were an angel, Eric. You were a Seraphim, a warrior. The cost of the stone made you mortal. The price was different for you than it was for me. I remember my past life. My wings were ripped off my back and I was hurled into the Underworld to spend the rest of my life. But, you” Lorren said gesturing to Eric, “you had a different destiny. The stone wasn’t finished with you, yet. You were granted humanity, grew up, and were marked as a Martis. Althea, swore to me she’d find you and raise you. She knew who you were, and she knew she’d die by your hand. It was the cost—the cost of the stone. So was everything that happened after. You were one of the few uncorrupt Martis, because you were an angel first. You saw right from wrong, even if they didn’t. You’re a Valefar now, because of… ”

Eric cut him off, “Because of her.” He glared at me.

But Lorren rose and stood in front of him, “No. You are alive because of her. You are a Valefar, if you can call it that, because of the cost of the stone. You were put into a perpetual state of change where you can’t control the things around you. You cannot save her. You cannot save anything. You merely survive. That is your curse. That was your cost.” Lorren tilted his head toward me and said, “I have no idea what her cost will be.”

Eric looked crestfallen. His gaze shifted from Lorren to the floor as he pushed his hands out of his hair. “Nothing’s as it seems, is it?” Lorren shook his head. Eric looked up, “So the other half of the stone is… ”

“Gone,” I said. “It’s gone. You were the last person to have it. That’s why you had all those notes, Eric. That’s why you knew everything. Your previous lives were forgotten every time your mortality ended. You were reborn with a new life—up until your last birth. You wrote everything of importance down so you wouldn’t forget. How you found that book over the centuries is beyond me, but that’s what you did. That’s why you knew what Satan’s Stone was in the first place—you were the last person to use it.” I stood pacing, uncertain what to do next.

Eric spoke, “There’s no other option then, is there?” I looked over at him. “I have to remember where I put the other half of the stone.”

“The memories are gone, Eric.” I turned to look back at Lorren. Something he said had just sank into my spinning brain, “What do you mean, he’s a Valefar, if you can call him that?”

Lorren looked up at me. “Eric’s not a Valefar. He’s been demon kissed, and his soul was stripped away, but he’s not under Kreturus’ control. The rest of the Valefar are. Eric is not. He’s under your control, Ivy.”

I nearly choked as a laugh ripped out of my stomach. Both boys looked at me like I was nuts. “Eric’s not under anyone’s control.” Lorren started to reply, but I cut him off, “Is Eric’s soul here? Is it in the Pool of Lost Souls?”

Lorren nodded, “It should be. If you truly drank his soul, and I can sense that you did,” Lorren did not hide his revulsion, “then it’s in the Pool.”

Eric rose, and took my hand in his. His voice was urgent, “I know what you’re thinking.” He gazed into my eyes. The scent of his blood hit me hard, and I pulled away. Eric turned toward Lorren, “No one can sense us here, within the Lorren, can they?”

Lorren shook his head, “No. The dead mask the living. This is the only place where they won’t look for you. It’s the only place you can hide, but eventually, I would expect Kreturus to figure it out.

“The Guardian is dead. All the other points that held the Underworld under the world have been breached. Demons walk in the sun. The sky bleeds, the clouds cry icy drops of blood. It only continues to worsen, unless you kill him, Ivy.” Lorren’s eyes met mine. He doubted me, I could see it on his face.

My jaw locked. I could blame him forever, but it wouldn’t stop what was happening. It was too late to save the past. Salvaging what was left was the best we could hope for. “Everything would have happened to this point anyway, right?” I asked looking at both of them.

They nodded. Eric spoke, “This was the prophecy. This was the part that was not preventable.”

“Then,” I replied, “the rest is still up for grabs, and I’m not going down without a fight. The spell fazed Collin, which means my bargain with Locoicia is broken. If it was my failure, I’d be dead or locked in her throne room. But Im not. I’m standing here staring at you.” Lorren glanced at Eric. They both seemed nervous. “I need to find the stone and end this. I’m not listening to any more fucking demons. Or angels.” I glared at Lorren. “I’m ending this. I don’t care what the cost of the stone is—I’m going to find it, and I’m going to use it. And next time I see Collin, this will end.”

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