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episode seventeen


Twenty hours later, Jason and I were standing at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. It was midmorning in the eternal city. Bright sunlight filtered through the ancient buildings and a crowd of tourist had already gathered around the fountain. The water cascaded over the statues, which were so life-like, I thought the stone horses were going to leap out at us over the frothy water and gallop across the square. Of course, that might have been just because I was ridiculously sleep deprived.

I hadn't sleptreally slept anywaysince the night that I huddled with Lilith in the abandoned house. Instead, Sutherland had taken both Jason and I to the airport, where we'd caught a flight to Rome, prepaid by the Catholic Church. I was confused. I tried to ask Jason questions as we waited for the plane, but it wasn't until we boarded and got settled that we really got to talk.

During the long flight to Rome, Jason had explained as best as he could what had happened. "First of all," he said. "I owe you an apology. I kept saying you were paranoid, and that there wasn't any danger, and you were right all along."

"No," I said. "I thought it was the Sons. I was wrong. And I was totally clueless about Jude. I should have listened to you."

"I should have listened to you," Jason said. "I can't keep running away from this stuff. It follows me everywhere. It's part of who I am. I won't forget that again. Okay?"

I kissed him. "I'm just glad you're alive."

He grinned. "Well, so am I."

Jason began to explain. After beating Sutherland to an inch of his life, Sutherland had begged Jason to let him live, promising to tell Jason information that he knew about the Satanists and Jude. Disgusted, Jason had left him, coming back to me that night, dazed from his violence. After I'd disappeared, Jason remembered what I'd said to him about the Satanists. He'd hunted Sutherland down and beaten the information out of him.

"Sutherland and I made a deal," Jason said. "In return for his cooperation and any information he knew about me or you, I told him who my father was."

Sutherland, in return, had told him that Michaela Weem had engineered the capturing of me. He'd been doing Michaela a favor by watching me. That was why he'd been in Bradenton. Sutherland also told Jason that Jude was actually Michaela's son. Further, he told Jason that Hallam was in contact with Edgar Weem.

Armed with this knowledge, Jason had gone to Michaela's house, tied her up, and left the note for Jude to find. Sutherland had used his knowledge to contact the biggest enemy of the Sons that existedthe Catholic Church.

I was surprised. Jason said that he was too. Since Jason knew that Hallam was working for Weem, he got Sutherland to work a deal with the Church. In exchange for sheltering us, we'd help them fight against the Sons. That was why we were in Italy now. We were guests of the order of Reddimus, here in Rome. It seemed that it was our lot in life to stay with people who wouldn't let us have sex.

Because of Sutherland's actions, big changes were going down in the Sons. Weem had purportedly stepped down and had been succeeded by Ian Hoyt, my great uncle, who I'd never heard of. There were things I didn't understand about the connection between the Hoyts and the Sons. Was Grandma Hoyt working with the Sons? Was she working with the Satanists? Now that we were in Italy, I also fully intended to visit my younger brother Chance at his boarding school. I thought it was strange that my grandmother had sent him away right before everything had gone down with Gordon and Noah. I didn't know what was going on with my grandmother.

Then I'd spent some time catching Jason up on everything that had happened to me. I was breezing past some of the things at first, like how Noah and Gordon had showed me hours of videotape and documents proving that Jason was actually a cold-blooded killer. Jason stopped me and asked me about it though.

"They showed you what?" he asked.

I explained again, but slower. He wanted to know about the video of the girl from the sorority house. He made me explain it in excruciating detail. I felt embarrassed, frightened that Jason would think that just because I was telling him the story, I also believed it. I didn't. But I was confused. I wasn't sure what to think.

"She said I was smiling?" Jason repeated.

I toyed with the tray tablethe remains of the snack that the flight attendant had yet to collect from us. "A lot of people said that about you. That you were smiling."

"Really?" said Jason. He looked disturbed. He settled back into his chair and looked into the aisle of the plane.

"And Hallam said it too. He said that he saw you kill Anton on a video tape and that you were smiling when you did it."

"Really," Jason repeated, still not looking at me.

"I don't believe it," I said. "Or . . . even if it is true, it doesn't matter."

He turned to me then. "You mean that?" he said.

"Of course I mean it," I said.

"No matter what I've done."

"No matter what you've done, I'll always love you," I said. "I overheard you saying something like that about me to Lilith."

He nodded. "I did. It's true."

"Did you . . . did you kill people before you met me?"

Jason stared down at his fingers. He shook his head. "No," he said. "No, of course not."

I nodded. Of course, he hadn't. How could I have believed . . .? I hadn't, though. I hadn't believed. We were quiet for a little bit, then Jason prompted me to go on.

I finished explaining what had happened to me, everything, including shooting Noah and Gordon and killing Lilith. Jason squeezed my hand tight when I thought I might cry. And I didn't.

"It's good that we're talking about all of this," Jason said. "I don't think we've been communicating enough lately. We've been avoiding things that are true. We never talked about what happened in Shiloh. About the Sons going nuts."

I was glad he said that. I'd been thinking about that too. In the house with Noah and Gordon. "I know," I said. "We've been running from who we are. From what we are."

"We tell each other everything from now on," he said.

"Yes," I said. "And it doesn't matter what it is. Because I trust you, and I want to know you. And I want to know everything you've ever felt or done been."

"Then we tell each other everything."


* * *

Once in Rome, our wounds bandaged, we'd gone sight-seeing. The monks of the order assured us that the Sons wouldn't bother us in Rome. The entire city was a sanctuary of sorts, considering its history and ties to the Church. We wandered freely through the streets, feeling a kind of liberty we hadn't felt in months.

Next to us, a tour guide was telling her tour that throwing one coin over your shoulder into the fountain would ensure you returned to Rome, two would mean that you'd find new love, and three would mean your current lover would break up with you. Jason and I didn't have any coins, so we didn't throw any.

But it wouldn't have mattered anyway. We were going to be in Rome for quite some time. Returning wasn't an issue. As for love, we had exactly what we wanted. True love. Honest love. Forever.

* * *

Later, as twilight was falling on Rome, we wandered through the stone streets, hand in hand. We paused and sat down on the Spanish steps. I lay my head on Jason's shoulder. And he took my hand. Then he whispered in my ear, "I lied to you."

I started, moving to look at him.

"One thing," he said. "And I guess I've been lying to myself about it for a long time too, because I didn't want to face it. But when I'm with you, I don't feel like I'm who I used to be. And when I'm with you, I feel like . . ."

"You can tell me anything, Jason. You know that."

"He called me an abomination," said Jason. "The same words Michaela Weem used. When she said them, I thought of it. That night, he came to me, and he said that I was a thing of great evil. He was all I ever had. And he wanted me dead."

I took Jason's hands in mine. "You killed Anton, didn�t you?"

He nodded.

trembling for for more?

tortured: book three of the Jason and Azazel trilogy >>

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Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers