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April 30, 1991
He was so small the first time I saw him. So little. And even though it had been an agonizing ten hours trying to push him out of my body, I didn't hate him. I know I should. I have seen in my visions what he will be capable of. I have seen him standing tall while the bodies lie around him dead. I have seen him turn on everything and everyone that ever loved him. But when I held him and looked into his tiny bright eyes and his arms batted at the air in front of me like he was trying to grab at something only he could see, I felt this burst of . . .
Maybe it was love.
I can't do it. I can't kill him. He's just a baby.
I hit the floor. The bullet sailed over my head. "Jason, it's me!" I shrieked.
He did turn then. He looked at me. Sort of. His eyes were dull, the way they had been when he'd come back from doing whatever he'd done to Sutherland that night in Bradenton. They looked through me. Expressionless, he kicked the man he was torturing away from him. The man screamed again. Almost as an afterthought, Jason turned and put a bullet neatly in the man's head, right between his eyes. The screaming stopped.
Jason walked to me. He was still holding his gun. Aiming it at me.
I started to push myself to my feet, but Jason knelt down in front of me. He put the gun to my forehead. I stopped breathing.
"Jason," I gasped. "It's me."
A flit of something went across his eyes. Recognition, maybe? I took the opportunity to grab the barrel of the gun. I tried to wrest it away from him, but he held onto it. I managed to twist it, so that it wasn't facing me anymore. I drew my own gun.
I was scared now. Jason didn't recognize me. He seemed to have gone completely and totally crazy. And I didn't know what he was doing to these men or what he planned to do to me. Michaela Weem's words echoed back to me, from months ago.
You will lie dead while he feasts on your guts.
Had I been wrong, all those months ago, when so many people had urged me to kill Jason? Was he really the monster they'd painted him to be?
Jason was tugging on his gun. He was stronger than me, and with one heave, he pulled it away from my grasp. I leveled my gun at him, struggling to my feet. We surveyed each other, guns trained on each other. Jason's finger tensed on his trigger.
"It's Azazel," I said again.
Jason cocked his head. The huge grin on his face was fading. "Azazel," he whispered.
His gun dropped to his side. He rubbed his face with his hand, squeezing his eyes shut, and when he opened them, he could see me. He looked around himself, at the bodies, at the men who were mangled by gunfire, and he screamed.
The gun fell out of his hand, landing softly on the carpet. Jason dropped to his knees, suddenly sobbing.
I went to him, kneeling next to him, gathering him in my arms. He took my hand, the one still holding a gun, and pulled it up to his face. He rested the barrel against his cheek. "She said," he whispered, "that you were the only one who could kill me. So you have to do it. You have to do it or God knows what else I'll do."
I dropped the gun like it burned me. It fell between us. I put my forehead against his, kissing his cheeks and his nose. "I would never do that," I said. "I could never do that."
"You don't understand," he said, pulling back. "I've been lying to you. All this time, I've been lying to you. I tried to tell you, that first night in Rome, but I couldn't. I tried again in the hotel, but I—I couldn't tell you. I thought I'd lose you, but you should have known."
"Jason, shh," I said. "Let's just get out of here."
And go where? I wondered. More running? After what we'd done here, the Sons would hunt us down like dogs. But I needed to get Jason away. I needed to—
"Listen," he said. "After the sorority house. They sent me on missions. Not with Hallam. Not always with Hallam. Sometimes by myself. I did things. Things like . . ." He gestured around himself. "Things like this. I don't always remember all the details. They're fuzzy and . . ." He sucked air in through his nose. "Your brothers. Those things they showed you. They were all true." And then he really started sobbing, like his heart was going to break.
That fucking bastard Edgar Weem. I would never forgive him for this. "It's not your fault, Jason."
This wasn't a curse. This wasn't my grandmother's twisted idea of revenge. This was a cold, calculated way of bringing up Jason to make damned sure he could do something like this.
He didn't look at me. "Because of prophecies or fate?" he asked. "Because I'm made of evil and I'm meant to destroy?"
"No," I said. "Because your father is an absolutely horrible man." I put my finger under his chin and turned him to look at me. "If it didn't bother you, I'd be scared. Then you'd be evil."
I was sure. Agnes had said that I need to trust myself. Well, I did. I knew this was right. I knew Jason better than anyone on earth. If there was evil in him, I'd know about it. "You were abused," I said. "And we've both been through a really hellish year. But since we've come this far, we might as well finish the job."
There was so much he didn't know. "The Sons are trying to blow up the world in 2012," I said. "So, we should probably go kill Ian Hoyt."
"No more," he said. "No more killing."
"Okay," I said. "I'll do it." I bent my face to his, which was wet with tears. And I brushed my lips gently against his.
And a crescendo of explosions underscored our kiss.
I pulled back. "What was that?" I said.
Jason shook his head. I got up. Ian Hoyt's office was right behind Jason. I tried the door, but it was locked. Picking up my gun, I put two bullets in the knob. The door swung open. There were about fifteen men crowded in Ian Hoyt's office, all wearing suits. They'd probably cowered in here when they'd discovered Jason was loose. That wasn't the strange thing, though. The strange thing was that they were all dead. They were all holding guns, and their heads were slumped forward or to the side. It looked like they'd all just shot themselves. And from the smell of smoke in the room, they must have just done it.
You put that suggestion in those men's heads. You planted their insanity.
Oops. Had I just made a whole castle of men shoot themselves?
"Chance," yelled Mina from the top of the steps, "it's your turn to make up a bottle."
Chance and Jason were sitting in the living room of what used to be my grandmother's house playing Call of Duty on a huge widescreen TV. I was half-watching them, half-writing in the journal my therapist insisted I keep. Jason and I, as I had predicted, needed lots of therapy.
"Two seconds," Chance yelled back.
"Dude, it's cool," said Jason. "I'll pause it."
Marlena came in through the front door, her keys jingling. "Is Hallam back from work yet?" she asked, ducking her head into the living room.
"He's got a late class on Wednesdays," Chance reminded her as he got up to go into the kitchen to make a bottle.
I followed him. Sometimes Chance needed help with this kind of stuff.
"That's right," said Marlena. "I keep forgetting that."
The house was huge, and Chance and I had inherited it after Grandma Hoyt's death, which had been officially ruled an accident. So the six of us lived here. Hallam and Marlena had apparently struck up some kind of romance over all the dead bodies at the Sons' headquarters. I liked the fact they were here, and I liked them as a couple, even if it was only because I could now tease Hallam about "living in sin" on a regular basis.
All of the surviving members of the Sons had indeed committed suicide, and it hadn't just been the ones in the castle. Apparently, members of the Sons all over the world had jumped out of windows and thrown themselves into traffic. No one really had any idea how or why they'd done that, and I wasn't talking. It was a freak thing, like Jason coming back from the dead, I said.
It wasn't that I wanted to hide the fact I might have some kind of crazy power. It was just that I didn't quite understand it yet, and it freaked me out. With the help of Agnes, who did indeed exist and live in an inn in Tuscany, I'd been able to contact some people stateside who worked with people with special talents. We were working on getting it under control, figuring out exactly how it worked.
"You want me to get the bottle?" I asked Chance as I entered the kitchen.
He shook his head. "It's my turn. I've got to figure out how to do this." He looked around the kitchen with a panicked expression. "Where's the formula?"
I pointed to the counter. "In front of your face," I said.
"Oh," he said, reaching for it. "Right."
I grinned at him, tousling his hair. He brushed me off.
The threat was really all gone. The Sons were all dead. The Satanists were all dead. There was no one left chasing Jason and me. Sometimes he still woke up in the middle of the night and sat straight up, searching the room for danger. Sometimes, I still had awful dreams. The one I hated the worst was the one where Jason didn't ever recognize me in that hallway in the castle and shot me anyway.
But Jason and I were talking. And Jason was talking to a therapist. He wasn't ever going to be normal. Neither was I. We both knew that. But we were doing the best we could. We'd enrolled in classes at the local community college. I was still undecided as to what I wanted to major in. I remembered that, sometime back in Bramford, I'd wanted to be a fashion designer. I didn't know why. I'd never sewed anything in my life. I was taking time to try to get to know who I was.
And I wasn't drinking anymore.
I didn't want to say anything as drastic as I was an alcoholic. Someday, I might be able to have a few drinks with dinner or something. But I wasn't even going to try that until I was legally of age.
I heard the screams of my niece Jenna before I actually saw either Palomino or the baby. I turned to the door, waiting for them to walk in.
Palomino blew wisps of her hair out of her face. "God," she said. "Can you take her, Azazel? You're the only one she'll get quiet for."
I held out my arms and Palomino placed baby Jenna in them. I smiled down at her, and she quieted immediately. Chance handed me the bottle, which I popped into Jenna's open mouth. I watched her suck contentedly. Maybe I was biased, but she was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen.
I took Jenna back to the living room and sat on the couch next to Jason. He leaned over me to tickle her tummy, then smiled at me. "She sure does like you," he said, kissing me.
I smiled. "Yep. I'm good with babies, Jason." I winked at him.
He laughed. "Don't go getting any ideas," he teased. "We're barely eighteen."
I looked back down at little Jenna, so snug in my arms. Impressionable minds, indeed. It wasn't too hard to convince her to be quiet. And I didn’t think of it as hypnotism at all.
Thanks so much for coming along on this journey with me. Many times Jason and Azazel have surprised me as much as they have surprised you. I've really enjoyed writing about them and sharing their stories with you guys. And thank you all so much for reading.
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Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers