Before…

October 2012

I picked at a piece of lint on my sleeve, evading the question. “There was a guy,” I said. “I haven’t seen him in a few years.”

The counselor nodded, leaning forward. “It didn’t work out?” she asked.

I pushed my hair away from my forehead. She couldn’t possibly understand how painful it was to talk about this. “We were teenagers, you know? It was that kind of crazy, silly sort of thing you think is love when you’re seventeen. But…”

“It wasn’t love?”

“He was violent,” I said. “Not to me. He was always nice to me, but he’d get really angry sometimes, and he’d kind of go crazy.” I paused. “Actually, that’s not true. He wasn’t always nice to me. There was this one time. One time, he almost killed me.”

“So it was an abusive relationship?”

No! Well. “It was…it was just intense. I did things when I was with him. Things I didn’t think I’d ever do. I still sometimes remember those things. Dream about them. I had a sort of problem with alcohol for a while. It was just better to get away from him. To get away from all of it. You know?”

“And there hasn’t been anyone since?”

I shrugged, not looking up. “I’ve dated a couple guys. But…as screwed up as it sounds, being with them, it’s like…it’s boring. There’s no spark, you know?”

“It’s common for women who are abused to feel an excitement, to miss the adrenaline of the relationship, even though they know they were being hurt.”

The counselor didn’t know what she was talking about. And she was getting me off track. “Look, I didn’t come here to talk to you about my relationships. I just heard that I could get prescriptions through the college for free. And that’s all. I’ve been taking this pill for years. Will you give me the pills or not?”

“I just think it’s possible, from what you’ve told me, that these pills are cutting you off from your emotions. Clearly, at the time they were prescribed, you were in a state where you weren’t functioning. But it’s clear that you don’t have the same kind of trauma in your life. Maybe it’s time to face yourself again.”

“No,” I said. “No, that’s not it. Not at all.” I needed the pills to stop me from being able to influence people with my mind. But if I told her that, she’d think I was nuts. “Never mind. You’re obviously not going to help me.”

“You have to talk about this to someone. If it’s not me, then please tell me you have a friend or a family member—”

“Everyone in my family is dead,” I bit out. “And no, this isn’t something I ever want to talk about. Mostly, I just want to pretend it never happened.”

Which wasn’t easy. Things that Jason and I had done had pretty much permanently screwed up the world. When I’d used my powers to convince all of the Sons to commit suicide, I’d effectively killed off three quarters of the U. S. government. Now the government belonged to a bunch of Wiccan tree-worshippers—The Order of the Fly. I’d given up hope that things would ever go back to the way they used to be. I got up out of the chair, ready to leave.

“I’ll write you the prescription,” said the counselor.

“You will?” I said. That was great. That was awesome. I sat back down. “Thanks.”

“But I have to say that I wish you’d make some appointments with me. Maybe twice a month. To talk about this. I think you need to process what happened to you.”

That was the last thing I needed. “I’ll think about it,” I told her.

She smiled. “You do that.”

I watched as she scribbled on her prescription pad, wondering why I hadn’t just lied to her. I could have easily have just said, “No, I’m not in a relationship. No, I haven’t had any serious issues with relationships. I just want to focus on school right now.” Why had I opened up to her? I knew it was stupid to open up to psychiatrists. They never understood. They never really believed me.

I’d only come here for pills. Hallam and Marlena might be working for the government these days and since the government was overrun by the Order of the Fly, they might think it was practically criminal to suppress one’s magical talents, but I didn’t care.

The counselor ripped the prescription off of her pad and handed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said. As long as I had the pills, I didn’t have any powers. That was the way I liked it.

The lights in the office abruptly switched off, along with the hum of the fan overhead. The room went dark. I blinked, trying to force my eyes to adjust. I could barely make out the face of the counselor, who was frowning. “Was there a storm?” she muttered. “Maybe something just tripped a breaker.”

I shrugged. We both stepped out of her office and into the hallway outside, which was just as dark. The college counselor’s office was in the lower level of the freshman dormitory, and above me, I could hear whooping. Freshmen seemed to think anything at all was an excuse for impromptu parties. I’m sure they were all hoping the lights stayed out. It would probably mean cancelled classes.

I said my goodbyes to the counselor and made my way through the hallway to the lobby of the counselor’s office. A student work study was on her cell phone behind the desk, babbling excitedly, “My laptop’s got a battery, and I’m looking at it on the internet. The power’s out all over the state. We’re gonna be out of class for sure!”

I rolled my eyes. Predictable.

Outside, the sky was blue and clear. No storm. Not even a cloud. There were faint imprints of purple and pink dancing over the horizon. I squinted. What? Aurora borealis? In New Jersey? During the afternoon?

What was going on?

Chapter One

April 2013

Kieran slammed the door of the beat-up Subaru we’d been driving. “So this Jason guy was like your high school sweetheart or something?”

I stepped out of the car myself, stretching. It had been a long car ride. I took a look around. We were standing in front of a church, which looked a little worse for wear. It had a high bell tower, which looked proper and picturesque, but the addition on the back of the building stuck out like tennis shoes on a prom queen. “Sort of,” I said. “There wasn’t much about it that was sweet, though.”

The Kentucky air was warm, but we knew that since we’d been driving with the windows down the whole way. I peeled my shirt away from my back. It was stuck there with sweat. The car we had was equipped for air conditioning, but using the a/c was a complete waste of gas, and it wasn’t like we had easy access to gasoline these days.

“Right.” Kieran stepped over the trailer on the back of the Subaru and opened the trunk. We’d been dragging a motorboat with us all the way from Georgia. “He’s psychotic or something.”

Psychotic? That was putting it a little strongly.

Kieran handed me my bag. I didn’t know why he was suddenly so talkative anyway. We’d barely said anything to each other on the eight-hour drive to Columbus, Kentucky. Things between Kieran and me were a little awkward.

I took my duffle and slung it over my shoulder. “He’s not psychotic. Not exactly.”

Kieran shoved his shoulder-length sandy hair behind his ears and grinned. “He tried to kill you, didn’t he?”

Only once. And he hadn’t exactly been himself during that moment. Of course, I guess Jason’s sense of self was a lot different than what I’d originally thought it was. Especially these days. I shrugged. Was there any point fighting about it? “He’s kind of psychotic, I guess.”

Kieran lifted his own duffle out of the trunk. He half-grinned.

Damn it. Why did he have to be so freaking gorgeous? It would be a lot easier if he weren’t. Of course, if he weren’t beautiful, things wouldn’t be awkward, because I never would have—

“Azazel!”

I looked up, looking for the person who was yelling my name. Marlena was at the door to the church, just under the tower. She was grinning.

I hiked my bag up on my shoulder and strode toward her. “Marlena, it’s so good to see you.”

She met me three steps away from the door and enfolded me in a tight hug. “I know,” she said into my shoulder. “It’s been too long.” Marlena was black and British. I loved the lilting sound of her accent. And she was the closest thing I had to an older sister or a mother figure. I’d missed her.

She released me, and I stepped back to present Kieran. “This is Kieran.”

“Your bodyguard?”

“Her partner,” said Kieran, offering her his hand.

She shook it, raising an eyebrow. “Partner?” She smiled at me, mischief dancing in her eyes.

Kieran winked at me.

I cringed. “Not like that,” I said. It had only been once. And I’d been drunk. And… I wanted to change the subject. “Where’s your husband, the man in charge?”

“Hallam’s inside. He’s fiddling with the radio. It’s down again.” Marlena motioned us inside.

Inside the church, it was darker, despite the fact that the windows, originally stained glass, were all busted out. The air was much warmer, even though a breeze fluttered through the broken glass. I tried to remember what air conditioning felt like, or what electric lights looked like. It had been over six months since I’d experienced either.

“We got the transmission that you were coming,” Marlena continued, walking us into the sanctuary, “but it went down the next day, and we haven’t been able to get it back up.” The sanctuary still looked like a church. There were plush pews lining the rectangular room. Most of them were covered with sheets, blankets, and pillows. Apparently, people were sleeping in here. The front of the room no longer contained a pulpit, however. A few drums containing gasoline were stacked against the wall and several pallets of bottled water. I knew the look of the provisions well. They came straight from the Order of the Fly emergency shipments.

Marlena walked through the aisle between the pews, heading straight back through the church. We followed.

“Has the situation changed?” Kieran asked. “Anything we should know about that headquarters couldn’t tell us?”

“No,” said Marlena. “He’s still here. He still wants to see you.” She paused and looked over her shoulder at me.

I cringed again. I’d been dreading this ever since Georgia. I didn’t want to see Jason. I didn’t want to see him at all. “That’s not the only reason I came,” I said. “You told headquarters something about the Key of Asher.”

We stepped up onto the platform that used to contain the pulpit.

“Sure,” said Marlena, “and you can talk to Lily about that after you see him.” She stopped at a door at the back of the platform, her hand on the knob. She looked at me, and then she cast her eyes down on the floor. “He’s different.”

“We haven’t seen him in years,” I said. What did she expect? Or did she think I’d kicked him out of the house for no reason? He wasn’t different, anyway. He’d always been that way. He’d just gotten worse at hiding it.

Marlena turned the knob and opened the door. “Well, if anyone can get through to him, it’s you.” She smiled at me.

It was my turn to look away. Get through to him? Whatever.

We walked out of the sanctuary and into a dim hallway. A little bit of light streamed through two open doors on either side of the hall. Inside one, I could see rows and rows of stockpiled ammunition. Guns were hanging on the walls. Inside the other, a group of people were crowded around a radio.

“So that’s still the plan, then?” Kieran asked. “We want to recruit him? We want Azazel to convince him to join us?”

“Of course that’s the plan,” said Marlena. “What else would we want to do with him?” She waved into the room with the radio. “Hallam!”

Hallam’s shaggy head looked up. When he saw me, his face lit up. “Azazel, you’re here!” He broke away from the others, dusting off his hands. He looked older. His face had more lines. He’d grown a full beard and mustache. There was a streak of gray in his beard.

Still, I was glad to see him. Hallam had been lots of things over the years: a guy I was terrified was going to kill me, the overbearing father figure I’d never wanted, and overall, a good friend. He was British too. I also dug his accent. He hugged me even tighter than Marlena had, nearly crushing my ribs. I oomphed as he released me, trying to catch my breath to introduce Kieran again, but Hallam was already pumping his hand. “Kieran, I presume?”

Kieran smiled. “Azazel didn’t tell me this was going to be like a family reunion.” He grinned, looking annoyingly attractive again. “Actually, she hasn’t been talking to me much lately at all.”

I glared at him. “Should I see Jason now? Is there any reason to wait? Anything I should know?” The sooner I got this ridiculous mission out of the way, the sooner Kieran and I could get back to Georgia. Hopefully, I could get us reassigned to separate units, and I’d never have to see him again.

Hallam shoved his hands in his pockets. “You don’t want to rest after your drive?”

“Rest?” I repeated. I laughed. I guess I sounded a little bitter. “I haven’t really had a chance to rest in six months. I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.”

Hallam nodded. “He’s been tied up in the back room for days. He and a bunch of the locals have been giving us problems ever since we arrived. After we captured him, and he saw me, he’s been asking to see you.”

“I didn’t want to tie him up,” Marlena said, pleading with me to understand.

“He and his little group injured a member of our party,” Hallam said. “We had no choice.”

“It doesn’t bother me that he’s tied up,” I said. But it did, a little. Not because I cared if he was uncomfortable, but because it didn’t make any sense. Jason had broken out of a maximum security holding cell in England. There was no reason for him to stay tied up in a church in Kentucky. No reason at all. I swallowed. “Take me to him.”

Hallam sighed. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

Hallam pulled some keys out of his pocket. They jangled as he walked down to the end of the hall and opened up one of the rooms. All four of us went inside.

The room had a smashed piano in one corner, and stacks of bent folding chairs in another. There was one window, high up on the far wall. It was still intact. It was closed. The room was stifling.

Jason was against another wall, his arms tied above his head. The rope was secured against a coat rack that was bolted into the wall. He wore a ragged t-shirt that clung to his muscular chest and a pair of cut-off jeans. He was sweating and his dark hair was pasted against his forehead. His eyes were closed.

Marlena reached for my hand and squeezed it. I let her, but the scene didn’t bother me. Well, okay, it did. But not because I felt bad for Jason. I didn’t give a flying fuck what happened to Jason anymore. It only bothered me because I was seeing him, and I really didn’t want to have to look at him again. I pulled my hand away.

“Hi babe,” said Jason without opening his eyes.

Oooh. So I was supposed to be impressed that he knew I was here without actually seeing me? Big deal. I crossed my arms over my chest.

Jason opened his eyes. He caught my eyes with his own. I clenched my teeth. He looked the same. “Didn’t you miss me? I missed you,” he said.

“Somehow, I’ve soldiered on without you,” I said. I wanted to leave. I wanted to run out of the room and never look at him again. But they wanted me to try to get him on “our side.” So I’d try.

“I want to talk to Azazel alone,” said Jason, stretching his arms as best he could.

“Jason,” said Marlena, her voice cracking. Jason and Marlena had known each other since they were kids. I’d heard him once refer to Marlena as the big sister he’d never had. It was killing her to see him like this. “We just want to help you.”

“Just Azazel,” Jason repeated.

“No can do,” said Kieran, from behind me. He stepped forward, touching me on the shoulder. “They sent me here to protect you.”

I stepped away from Kieran, shying away from his touch.

“They sent you to protect her from me ?” Jason laughed. “They really underestimate me, don’t they?”

Kieran’s eyes darkened. “I’m not leaving her alone with you.”

“What is he? Your idea of a rebound?” Jason grinned. His skin crinkled a little around his eyes. It never used to do that. It looked good on him.

I shook myself. Don’t find Jason attractive, I told myself. Think of Jason in that car garage that night, with the body just a few feet away from him. Think of Jason telling you it was an accident, as if that made it all better. “It’s been years, Jason. I’m past the rebound stage. Kieran and I work together. That is all.”

“Yeah? Well, he doesn’t look at you like a co-worker,” Jason smirked. He wriggled against the ropes that held him. I could see that they were a little loose. Damn it. He’d be out of them in two seconds. Hallam knew Jason. Hallam had trained Jason. How could Hallam be so stupid? “I only want to talk to Azazel.”

I turned to Kieran. “It’s okay. I can handle him.”

Hallam nodded. “She can. She’s talked him down from worse.”

Kieran didn’t look happy about it, but he nodded once curtly and headed out the door.

Hallam put a hand on my shoulder. “We’ll be right outside if you need us.”

I nodded, pulling my pistol out of its holster inside my shorts. “I’ve got a gun.”

They left. Marlena looked like she might start sobbing. I shut the door after them. I didn’t turn around right away. I just stood, facing the door, staring down at the gun in my hand. I thought about turning quickly, before he had a chance to see what I was doing, and squeezing the trigger three times in succession. My aim wouldn’t be good the first time, because I was turning, so I might miss. He’d have a chance to get free of the ropes. He’d go for the window, maybe, or the door. But he didn’t have cover, and he wasn’t armed. I could get him in the chest, I was sure. Maybe the head. And he deserved to die. He did. But…

I flashed on his arms around me while I was screaming, awakening from a nightmare. I thought of his deep voice, his gentle hands. I thought of how much he seemed to care about me then. I couldn’t do it. Not all of him deserved to die. There was a part of Jason that was worth keeping alive. I just wasn’t sure how deep he’d buried that part.

“You look beautiful.” His voice was husky. “I had forgotten how beautiful you are.”

I turned around, bringing up the gun. “Shut up,” I growled.

He laughed. “Damn. You were always so sexy with a firearm. I’m getting all hot and bothered.”

I reholstered the gun. “What gives, Jason? We both know you could be out of here in five minutes. Why the charade? Why stay tied up here?”

Jason laughed again. He slid his hands out of the ropes, easy as pie. Standing, he massaged his wrists. “I wanted to see you. You always hang up on me when I try to call.”

He hadn’t called in over a year. Part of that time, he couldn’t, because no one really had phones anymore. Not on the east coast, anyway. For a few days after the blackout, the landlines had worked, until the generators in the stations went down or the people manning the phone companies had run screaming for home. Very few people even had landline phones anymore, though, anyway. At least half the cell phone service went out the instant the solar flare hit. It must have knocked out some satellites in space. Everyone else’s cell phones stopped working as soon as they couldn’t recharge them.

But before the lights went out, he did call me. Usually once every few months. It didn’t matter if I changed my number. He always found me. “Well, I’m here now. What did you want to talk to me about?”

Jason crossed the distance between us in three steps. I started to take a step back from him, but before I could move, I was in his arms. He pulled me tight against him, one hand on the small of my back and the other tangling itself in my hair. I had forgotten what it felt like when he touched me. His caresses were white hot, searing into me. I didn’t fight it. I was consumed by the sensation. His lips pressed against mine, and I opened my mouth to him, letting his tongue probe me. Fireworks exploded at the end of all my nerves. I melded my body against his, my arms going around him, exploring the sculpted perfection of his back, his shoulders. Ah, God. Jason.

And then I pushed him away.

He was startled, so I threw him off balance. He tried to step backwards to correct his loss of center, but he stumbled and thumped to the floor on his backside. I had my gun out again, trained on him.

He held up his hands in surrender.

“Don’t ever do that again,” I said.

“Right. Because I could tell how much you hated it.”

I decided to ignore his sarcasm. I was angry. “You and a bunch of locals kept Hallam’s group from getting west because you wanted to make out with me? Seriously?”

“No,” said Jason. “I stayed tied up in this room, because I wanted to talk to you. I wasn’t planning on trying to kiss you.” He took a deep, labored breath and shifted his gaze to the ceiling. “Can I stand up?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Are you going to shoot me?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

He lowered his hands. His voice went low and intimate. “I don’t think you’ll shoot me.”

“I might,” I said. “I’m not seventeen years old anymore, Jason. You can’t charm me that easily.”

His eyes raked my body appraisingly, taking in every nuance. “Yeah. You’re not seventeen.”

I half-wanted to shoot him just for that. “ What do you want?”

“I’ve only ever wanted you.”

“That’s not true. You used to want to be a normal guy. You used to want to have normal experiences, to live in a John Hughes movie.”

“I’m not normal,” he replied. “And in case you missed the memo, it’s the freaking apocalypse. The lights went out. There is no normal.”

“It’s normal out west,” I said, teeth clenched. My arms were starting to shake. I lowered my gun so Jason wouldn’t see, but I didn’t put it away. I hated it when he started talking about how he wasn’t normal. It was his excuse for everything, and it wasn’t enough. Not anymore. I was through forgiving him.

“If it’s normal out west,” Jason said, “then why haven’t they sent any rescue teams to help us? Where’s the freaking Red Cross?”

“The Red Cross’ Administrative Headquarters was in D.C.,” I said. But he was right. It didn’t make sense. Even if the east coast had no power, and most companies were based there, why hadn’t the rest of the entire United States responded to the crisis? Why hadn’t other countries responded to the crisis? We couldn’t communicate with anyone. We didn’t know.

“There’s no reason to go west,” Jason said. “All I want is for your precious Order of the Fly to pack up and get the hell out of here.”

“How can you say there’s no reason to go west?” I asked. “We need help. People are dying. If you’d seen the things I’ve seen, you’d realize that.”

Jason shrugged. “How can you be sure the people out west even want to help us? It’s the freaking Bible belt. Face it, Azazel, when your precious Order of the Fly took over the government, all of the people out there hated it.”

“Maybe they’re trying to help. Maybe they can’t. But whatever is happening, we know they had power. Right after the outage. We have to get across the river. And you and your little goons are blocking us.”

Jason stood up. He walked over to the broken piano and began to plunk some of the keys. They didn’t make any noise. “Here in Kentucky most people weren’t crazy about the Order of the Fly either.”

“Columbus was liberal,” I said. “They got that Democratic candidate here—”

“Because it’s a poor state, and they needed federal funding. Not because they agreed with the OF’s agenda on religious freedom.” He looked at me. “Understand, I don’t care if they want to use magic, and they want to promote the rights of Wiccans and pagans. I never cared about that, you know that. But I’m not letting anyone go west.”

He wasn’t? Why did he care? “Why not?”

Jason crossed the room to me and took my hand. I pulled it away. He let his own hand dangle in the air for a few seconds and then he dropped it. “Things are good here. Now.”

“What? Things are not good. There’s no electricity. It’s chaos.”

“Yeah. There’s no…there’s no government. There’s no authority. There aren’t people with tons of power trying to throw their weight around and force people to do stuff they don’t want to do. Everyone is free.”

Was he insane? “There are mobs. There are gangs of people stealing food and gasoline, shooting innocent people. There are turf wars and starving babies. People are not free .” I’d been travelling up and down the coast, trying to help the military keep order. I’d seen what the world had become.

“That will stop,” said Jason. “Soon. I’m just not going to let the OF stick their noses into this and ruin everything. I will stop the OF. After I stop them, I can help everyone else. I can bring everyone back together, and we can all have freedom. We can live without anyone looking over our shoulders.”

Kieran was right. He was psychotic. I took a step back, shaking my head.

“Can’t you see it, Azazel? You and I were made for this. You wouldn’t be working with the OF if they didn’t recognize your talents were perfect for this situation. All our lives, people have prophesied that we would be important if something like this happened. We are the key players here. Why don’t you help me? Leave the OF, and help me—”

“Help you what?” I said. “Rule the world?” I felt cold all over. Jason was mentioning things from our past, things that I thought I’d buried when I’d made every single one of the men chasing us kill himself.

“Help me help the world rule itself,” said Jason. “With your powers, we could—”

“I’m not using any of my powers,” I said. “Not anymore.”

Jason looked shocked. “You’re not?”

“You know what happens if I do!” He’d been there when we found out. He’d watched the tiny casket get lowered into the ground. He’d known that it was all my fault.

“Azazel, even Agnes told you that we were important to the future of the world. You and me. We’re supposed to be part of this massive change that’s overtaking everything. This power outage is the first step. And if you just run from who you are—”

“Who am I, Jason? Am I Kali? Am I the vessel? Your dark counterpart? The person who’s supposed to save you? The person who’s supposed to kill you? If this is the apocalypse, am I the messiah or am I the anti-christ?”

“We’re both all of that,” he said, his eyes burning. “But apart, we’re nothing. You and I are made to be together. We are soul mates. You can’t keep running from me. Not now. If you used your power, you’d—”

“No.”

Jason must have heard something in my voice that told him I was serious, because he didn’t say anything. He was close to me now. He reached out and stroked my cheek. I recoiled.

“Don’t touch me.” My voice was hoarse.

He was quiet for a little longer. When he did speak again, he was quiet. “You know that what happened was an accident. I didn’t mean for him to get hurt. I wish you could forgive me.”

“I wish it wasn’t so easy for you to forgive yourself.” I turned and walked to the door of the room. “They sent me here to try to convince you to join the OF and help us return order to the world. I guess that’s a lost cause.”

“I’ll never join them. I don’t deal well with people telling me what to do.”

That was true, as far as it went. He’d never been particularly good with any kind of authority. I put my hand on the doorknob. “You might want to tie yourself back up again.”

He rushed to me, grabbing both my hands. I tried to pull away, but he held me firm. “Azazel, is there any way you’ll come with me? Please?”

He was just as exquisite as he’d always been. Dark, dark hair. Huge dark eyes like pools I could swim in. His heart-shaped face. I didn’t know if I would ever look at him and not feel a stirring inside me. I’d always want him. But that was all.

“I love you,” he said. “I’ll always love you.”

“I can’t ever love you again.” My voice was shaking. Was it from rage? Fear? Pain? I wrenched my hands away from his.

He looked wounded, like a little boy. Then he squared his shoulders. He laughed. “Tell Hallam, tell Marlena, tell the Order of the Fly to leave. Leave, or I will make you leave.” His mouth twisted into a cruel, satisfied smile.

I crossed my arms over my chest. So it was going to be like that, was it?

“You know me,” he said. “You know I can do it. They don’t know what they’re up against. Make them see that it’s impossible to win against me.”

“It’s not impossible,” I said. “If anyone’s your match, it’s me.”

Jason chuckled. “I taught you everything you know.”

I shook my head. “Not everything.”

Jason turned the knob on the door.

My hand went to my gun. “You’re not just going to walk out of here.”

“Watch me.”

I drew the pistol, flipping off the safety.

Jason’s hand paused on the knob. He looked at me. “Are you fucking that Kieran guy?”

I was caught off guard. “What? No.”

He moved too fast. His hand was on my wrist in a second, twisting. I let go of the gun. He caught it with his other hand.

Damn it. He had me. Jason pointed the barrel of the gun at my face. Fine, then. I could play dirty too. “Maybe once,” I said. “He didn’t need me to show him where my clit was.”

Jason made a little growling sound in the back of his throat and seized my arm, twisting it. Good. I’d gotten to him. He yanked me against him, my back against his front. He put the gun against my temple. He breathed in my ear, “It’s like our first date, babe.”

Right. Me, Jason, Bramford, crazy Satanists, and Jason with a gun to my head. Except back then, I’d been sure Jason wasn’t going to shoot me. Now, I didn’t know.

Jason opened the door. He walked me into the hallway.

“Sorry,” I said to the shocked faces of Hallam and Marlena. “He didn’t go for it.”

chapter two >>