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I listened hard and could hear a growling off in the abyss.

He closed his eyes. “I need to take you back with me. I can’t leave you here.”

“I know,” I said, my heart drowning in desperation.


“I am.” The strain in his voice was palpable.

The growling grew louder and I was aware of another presence coming closer, one that brought a wealth of pain and suffering along with it. Red eyes gleamed somewhere.

I looked away, looked at Dex. We were going to run out of time.

“You have to get out of here,” I told him. “Go back.”

“Not without you.”

“We both can’t stay here,” I pleaded. “You must go.”

“Roman is growing weaker,” he said.

“So, please go!”

The red eyes were almost upon us. My body shook and shuddered from the waves of evil and ugliness. It would drown us in them.

Dex reached up with his other hand and tried to place it against my other cheek. It was like he was trying to cup air in his hands. “Wil you forgive me?”

I was taken aback. “What?”

“For all the things I’ve done to you. Wil you forgive me?”

I knew forgetting what happened was impossible. But I was ready to forgive him. I didn’t want that weight to be on both of us for the rest of our short lives.

“Of course,” I whispered.

He smiled, soft and sad.

A gust of hate whirled through us. Red eyes appeared over Dex’s shoulder.

Dex leaned forward and attempted to kiss me. Despite everything, I wished I could have felt it. I wished it was the last thing I could feel.

The beast descended.

Our hearts are magnets, I thought.

And with that thought, I felt him.

His warm hands on my face. His soft lips flush on mine.

A current of electricity and light flowed from him to me and back again, invigorating my skin and jump-starting my heart.

A heaviness descended on us, crushing us down with insurmountable malevolence.

But Dex’s grasp was strong. I wrapped my arms around his waist and together we were pul ed back by an unseen force, ripped right out of the blackness.

Somewhere in the dark I heard Pippa say goodbye.

Then there was a horrid screeching sound, like we were swept up in a violent, high-pitched windstorm, fol owed by a blinding white light and Roman’s commanding, monumental voice.

I felt Dex’s hands drop away from me and my arms fal slack to the side. Then with a giant push I screamed my way back into the real world.

It felt like I had been hurled straight into a brick wal . I opened my eyes to find myself back in the nearly dark room. A charred ring surrounded the bed, which was broken in two.

I was on my knees, as was Dex beside me. Roman stood between us, one hand on top of my head, the other hand on top of Dex’s.

“Your soul is yours,” Roman said, his voice dropping with exhaustion.

I dropped too, straight back onto the ground, and let the gentle darkness carry me away.


I opened my eyes slowly to a soft, filtered light, conscious of nothing except my head, which was pounding mercilessly. I stared up at the faded yel ow ceiling, careful not to upset the imbalance in my skul . The scent of herbs and greenery fil ed my nose.

There was color. I could smel . I was alive. And I was back where I belonged.

I heard a soft snoring sound from beside me and I slowly turned my head to the side, nestling it deeper in the pil ow.

My hand was down beside me along the side of the single bed and another hand was grasping it, reaching up from the floor beneath.

I lifted my shoulders and head to see who had a hold of me, letting out a grunt at the pain that throbbed at my temples and tightened along my forehead.

On a pile of pil ows laid out on the ground, was Dex. He was on his side, sleeping it seemed, his hand holding onto mine.

I managed a smile, then flopped my head back on the pil ow, the pressure to keep my head upright was too much.

I let out an involuntarily moan, overcome by the discomfort and pain.

Dex stirred beneath me, his hand squeezed mine. He sat up and peered at me, his hair sticking out messily on the sides.

“Kiddo?” he asked, keeping his voice low.

“Hi,” I croaked out.

He cleared his throat and sat up straighter, taking my hand in both of his.

“Your eyes are back to normal,” he said as he looked at me intensely. “How are you feeling?”

“Honestly? I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse.”

“Roman said you’d feel like you were crushed by a steamrol er.”

“That about sums it up.”

“He said it would pass, though, in a day or two. I insisted we take you to the hospital but he said whatever injuries you got wil fade quickly. Something about them not being rooted in this world.”

“Oh. Good to know,” I said. I brought my head to the other side and took in the surroundings. We were in the room that looked like a greenhouse turned office. My small bed was pushed up against a desk and an ancient behemoth of a computer. Plants upon plants were stacked up along a low table and up a bookshelf.

“Where is everyone?” I asked, hearing only quiet in the house.

“Ada and Roman went to town to get some food. I think Bird is outside going on a walkabout or something.”

“Are they OK?” I remembered seeing the exorcism bed being ripped in two, the charred ring that held fire, the fear in Ada’s eyes when she gazed at me floating above the bed in a wild swarm of lightening.

“Bird’s fine. Roman looks like shit but he’s alive. I think Ada’s a little shel -shocked. But she’l be fine. She’s an Amazon, just like you are. It must run in the family.”

At the mention of family, I frowned. Images and sentences from seeing Pippa in the Thin Veil came floating back to me.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, and leaned in closer. He took his hand and gently stroked my chin with his thumb.

“I went to a place...” I began, unsure of how to start or finish. “A place cal ed the Thin Veil. Black Sunshine. Pippa was there. I talked to her...”

He nodded, his eyes reading mine. “You know she’s your grandmother.”

“Yes,” I said, breathing it out. “You knew...”

“I figured it out,” he said. “But I didn’t want to be the one to tel you.”

“My mom said she was crazy, she put her away. Both her and my dad, they practical y kil ed her.”

His hand went up to brush the hair off my forehead. My skin jumped at his touch, butterflies ignited in the heart of my being. “I am so, so sorry, Perry. I wil do everything I can to not let that happen to you.”

“You already have,” I admitted. “I wouldn’t have made it back here if it wasn’t for you.”

“Roman almost had you. He was so close. But I think he was too afraid of making the same mistakes he did with the boy. The one who died. He should have been able to free you himself. I had to do something.”

I swal owed hard, overtaken by his sacrifice. I felt so very small .

“I guess I have to save your life at some point now,” I said. “To make things even.”

“Perry,” he said quietly, his fingers trailing down the side of my face, “you’l never have to save my life. You gave me life. I never lived a single day until the day I first met you.”

Then he smiled warmly at me. It had all the grace and heart in the world.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Bird’s voice broke through the moment. “I heard voices and wanted to see if she was OK.”

Dex didn’t move but his eyes flitted up to Bird in the doorway and he smirked. “You sure suck at timing, bird man.”

To be honest, I was a little grateful for Bird’s intrusion. I wasn’t ready to hear such things from Dex’s mouth. I was stil mad at him for what he had done and my heart prickled a little from the memory. I could forgive Dex but it didn’t mean I could forget.

“It’s OK, Bird,” I said, moving my head just enough to see him and his grandfatherly face. “He was just fil ing me in on what happened.”

Dex took his hand away from my face and sat farther back on his pil ows. One hand, though, kept a hold of mine.

“You already look better,” Bird said, looking me over and nodding approvingly.

“Wel , black eyes and a lightening mouth never did anyone any favors.”

He chuckled. “Your humor has returned too. well , Miss Perry, now that I can finally talk to you in there and you alone, I am very happy to see you again. How do you feel?”

“Shitty,” I said, but smiled. I was happy to see him, too, and in the right circumstances.

“Your body wil recover fast,” he said. “You might be able to go home tomorrow.”

Home? I hadn’t even given my home much thought. What would I be returning to?

“Don’t worry,” Bird said, picking up on the vibes that were tensing up my muscles. “Ada has cal ed your parents.

They know you are safe.”

That doesn’t mean anything anymore, I thought. I shot Dex a look. He stared back, pupils hard with determination.

I could almost hear what he was thinking, that he wasn’t going to let anything happen to me. And yet I was suddenly and appropriately scared. Dex may have just pul ed me out from another dimension, but when it came to my parents he had absolutely no power whatsoever.

We left the house early the next morning, just as the sun was done climbing above the brown, grassy hil s. Roman was hard-faced and tired as he saw us off. He was stil as removed as he was earlier and kept his cool demeanor, but I could at least pick up a sigh of relief; like by helping me has was able to forgive himself about the boy.

I was stil feeling a bit broken and bruised, but I had no injuries on me whatsoever, and after I was thrown into a much-needed, steaming shower, I felt almost as good as new. It was nice to be back in Dex’s car, sitting in the back with Ada, not constricted by rope or wrapped in duct tape.

We dropped off Bird at the bus terminal in Lapwai. I insisted we drive him to catch his plane in Boise. Hel , for what he did for me, I would have taken him all the way to Red Fox. But he told us we needed to get home before things got any worse for my parents and I had to agree with that.

It was hard to say goodbye to the man. Along with Dex, Bird was one of those people who got me, and made me feel like I could face anything. He cared and he was selfless. I wanted him to come home with us, to explain to my parents what happened and why it happened. But this was a battle that Ada, Dex and I had to fight on our own.

The thought was terrifying and it preyed on me as we drove back into the cold mountain passes, heading toward Portland. I sat shotgun watching the trees whip past my window, wishing I didn’t feel just as scared as I had when I was heading the other way. Pippa was right. I not only had to watch out for the dead, I had to watch out for the living.

My living loved ones were proving to be just as frightening, and an equal threat.

I could tel Dex was thinking that over too as we both sat in silence, music playing quietly from the speakers. Only Ada seemed in good spirits and was chatting to us about who knows what. She must have gotten the hint that we weren’t paying attention, because she tapped Dex on the shoulder.