No! I cried out.

Dawn, you’ve got so much to live for. You’ve gone through too much to deserve this kind of ending. You didn’t remember the deal, even though it was made. This is what is fair. You need to go in your life. Get married. Live where there’s sunshine. Have children. Keep listening to music.

Tears spilled from my eyes. Though the idea of life, the idea of being saved from eternal damnation was more than I could have hoped for, I did not want Jacob to sacrifice his soul for mine.

Please, I pleaded, there has to be another way.

This is the only way, the spider thing said. It smiled, wriggling teeth like tiny worms. And I don’t need your permission, either. Never forget that there are forces in this world more powerful than you. If you do, I’ll be right back there to remind you.

I clutched Jacob’s hand hard, wanting to hold him. He couldn’t do this for me. I couldn’t let him.

But he kissed me softly on the forehead and wrestled his hand out of mine.

Take care of Sage, he said. And if you ever want to do me a favor, play me some Hybrid some day. That band, my Sage…they were my crown jewel. And so were you. A tremor of fear flashed across his eyes, but Jacob—wonderfully crass, bossy, brave Jacob—walked away, straight toward the flames, toward the swirling black ink in the middle. The spider thing walked after him, a tk-tk-tk sound of spikes on stone. It threw one last look back at me. It smiled again, in pure satisfaction.

I screamed and ran after Jacob, unable to just let it go. But my cries didn’t get very far, and neither did I. He and the spider thing disappeared into nothing, and I was suddenly sucked back, flying through the air until everything around me blurred in a tunnel of light and sound.

I thought I heard Jacob one last time. He was crying.

Chapter Seventeen

Sage

I hadn’t slept for three days, so when I saw the woman standing outside the hotel room window, lit up by the street lamp, I immediately thought of Angeline. I thought of the ways I was going to murder her. I thought of the ways that I’d get caught and thrown into a Czech prison and how the death that would surely follow would be preferable to the pain I was going through now.

The pain. It was all coming back to me with each hour upon each hour. The loss of my mother, the loss of Hybrid, the loss of Dawn, of Jacob.

I’d lost everything.

Even the me inside.

I was just an empty shell.

And we were stuck in fucking Prague because of the weather, none of us able to get a flight out, which meant we were all stuck in the hotel, dying inside of grief and anger and just fucking everything. I know it wasn’t just me, either—I know Tricky was being eaten up and I know Max was taking everything especially hard. But I couldn’t even feel for them because there was nothing left in me to feel. When Dawn died, I was left with nothing but pain in my chest and empty dreams that would never, ever be fulfilled.

So the sight of Angeline made my fists curl, my blood boil. It made me want to leave the hotel for the first time in days. It made me feel something, and I guess I had to be grateful for that.

I slipped on my shoes and ran out of the hotel and into the wind and rain, my legs weak and shaking from not really being used for days.

There she was, just standing across the street in the rain. Her hair frizzing wildly from the rain, glowing red under the light.

Wait.

She turned around as my pace slowed to approach her.

It was Dawn, a bewildered look on her face, her hair waving around her head like an auburn halo, a soaked, blue hospital gown on her frame.

I cried out and fell to my knees.

Oh, God, please let this be real.

“Sage,” she said quietly, hand to her chest, looking down at me like she couldn’t believe her eyes.

I could only stare up at her, my knees drowning in a puddle as the rain fell down on me, matting my hair to my forehead.

“Angel?” I cried.

She smiled as if she had been hit with sunshine. “Sage!” She ran to me and went to her knees, too, joining me on the cold, hard ground. I reached for her, feeling her face, trailing my finger over her nose, her brows, her cheekbones, her lips. This was her, wasn’t it? This was her, back from the dead?

She clung to me with greedy fists, and I wrapped my arms around her, and we cried into each other as the rain fell. I couldn’t even be mad if this wasn’t real—this was heaven on earth. This was a second chance, a second look at love, at life.

We held each other like that—tight, needy, insatiable, just trying to steal comfort in the night—until Max was at our side, trying to help us to our feet. I’d never seen the fucker smile so wide. He helped us both inside the hotel and up to my room. I’d left it as a tomb of death and sorrow, but now the dawn was breaking in.

Once we got Dawn out of her wet gown and into her pajamas, piling her with heavy blankets and pillows and warm cider and brandy, she told us what had happened, from the beginning. How she felt compelled to leave with Sonja and Alva, that she felt like giving up. But Jacob was there in no time, following them all the way to the crypt, which was apparently a portal, a place where the walls to the other worlds were thin and it would be easiest to take her. She explained what she saw in the Veil, how Jacob was with her, and how, in the end, he sacrificed his life for hers.

I’m not ashamed to admit a few tears leaked out over that. Yeah, men cry sometimes. Men cry when their lives are ripped away and then given back to them. Men cry when the person that was more like a father than their own father is gone. They cry when they know the incredible, unimaginable horrors that their loved one is facing for all eternity. And they cry when they get the love of their life back.

I kept Dawn’s soft hand in mine as she told us how she woke up in the hospital, in the morgue. How she banged on the cold, metal door until they let her out. How they wanted to run tests on her, study her, report on her. How no one spoke English and no one could connect her to a “Sage Knightly” because only Mr. Underhill was registered at hotels. How she escaped from her room, dazed and disoriented from the drugs, and found her way back here, found her way back to me.

I kissed her hand, still not believing it, still afraid to. She had my heart again and again and again.

“What can we do for Jacob?” Dawn asked quietly, her voice hoarse from talking so much. “Is there anything?”

Max ran his hand along his jaw, thinking. Finally he said, “There might be. I’m a free agent now. I served the contract. I managed. And Jacob saved you. I could maybe start over on a new life, a new task…to get him back.”

“Is that possible?” I asked.

He nodded. “I can surely try. It won’t bring him back alive, but I reckon I can save his soul. In fact, I know I can. Jacob must have known what he was doing.”

That was little comfort for my tour manager, but we would have to survive on that. On the hope that his sacrifice wasn’t the end.

Because it wasn’t the end for us. It was the beginning.

When Max finally left the room, I got under the covers with Dawn, relishing the feeling of her skin beneath my hands, this gorgeous second chance.

I took in a deep breath, gazing intently into her eyes. “Dawn, when I thought I lost you…what really got me the most, what really killed me deep inside, was what else I’d lost. I’d lost time with you. I’d lost moments I’d never used. Moments to tell the truth.” My heart swelled, my pulse quickening as I leaned in and kissed her softly, sweetly, slowly. Here it went. “Dawn Emerson. I fucking love you. I. Love. You. You are my reprise, my encore, my finale. You’re every single note wrapped up in the world’s most beautiful package. My love for you sings, and it’s a song that will never stop playing. It will play through our deaths and beyond that. And this I know.”

Her eyes welled with tears, and they spilled over her freckled cheeks in rivers. I kissed through their salt, kissed the life back into her. I kissed away the sadness and the loss.

I kissed her until we both began to thaw. I let my hands roam all over her body like she was a fragile ghost, something I couldn’t believe was in my hands, something that felt like a waking dream. I slowly took off her clothes, peeling them away until I could see her softness exposed underneath. I let my mouth savor her, to completely take her in. She warmed my heart, filled the places inside where I’d grown so lost and cold over the last few days.

I entered her slowly, both of us not caring about a condom this time, embracing the idea of life, love, soul.

We came together, hearts and bodies and souls joined as one.

And we were saved.

Chapter Eighteen

Dawn

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave that here?” Max asked.

It had been a few weeks since we left Prague. Though the tour was obviously canceled (though Tricky insisted it was just postponed), it took some time for us to claim the body of Jacob from the hospital. They all wanted to speak to me, the girl who wouldn’t die, though through some of Max’s smooth talking via a translator, we were able to convince the hospital that it was actually their fault. People don’t just come back from the dead; it would have been their faulty physicians who claimed me dead when I wasn’t. After that, they pretty much let it go.

We weren’t sure where to take Jacob—Sage was the closest thing he had to a family. I guess being a Jacob was a pretty lonely life. But because he was from England and often talked about his home in the quiet district of Rotherhithe in London, we found the nicest cemetery and had him buried there. We weren’t the only ones at the funeral—this was The Cobb, and his mysterious death attracted music lovers from all over. But it didn’t matter because we were the ones who loved him the most. We were the ones who knew the real him.

In keeping with Jacob’s wishes—that I play him Hybrid one day—I brought out a portable record player. It was sunny out and fairly hot for late May. I placed it on his grave the day after he was buried, amid the flowers and wreaths we had bought him. We made sure they were in the gaudiest colors imaginable.

Sage leaned down and picked up the needle, placing it on “Wet Lips.” The three of us rocked out in that graveyard, me softly singing along, Sage playing air guitar, and Max nodding to the beat. We did that for the whole song. And the next song. And the next. We did it until we were told to leave for being too disruptive where people needed eternal peace.

“You want to wake the dead?” a groundskeeper asked.

The truth is, we kind of did. We hoped the music would reach him, wherever he was, and there was some hope that things weren’t as gloomy as we had believed. Max had been out and about the last few days around the burial. When we asked him where he’d gone, he’d always said “out exploring.” He meant us to think London, but both Sage and I knew he meant the Thin Veil. He was out there, trying to put things in place in order to get Jacob back. He said he’d tried to track down Angeline too, after the whole incident, thinking she might have some information, but she had vanished without a trace. Whatever Angeline had bartered for, it probably didn’t favor her in the end.

I packed up the record player after we’d been chastised and kissed the top of Jacob’s gravestone (“Here lies a rogue and a bloody great manager”). I noticed Max staring at us awkwardly, green eyes and a twisted grin.

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***