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Secrets of Sanctuary Hospital Andrew and Mia's Encounter by L.A.A. Law

Our friends and family gather as the graying twilight sky blankets the waning crystal clear day. My father guides me down the aisle as the gentle waves roll toward the white sand. Searching through the sea of serene faces, my gaze finally rests upon his sparkling eyes 
Secrets of Sanctuary Hospital Andrew and Mia's Encounter
Secrets of Sanctuary Hospital Andrew and Mia's Encounter by L.A.A. Law

which glisten with satisfaction as he waits for me below the flowery lattice. Placing my hand in his, the world around us seems to disappear. A triumphant smile lifts the corners of his lips as he places the ring on my finger. He draws me closer as the officiate pronounces us husband and wife. “You may kiss Satan’s mistress.”

His eyes flare and the world around me turns to an inferno, heat and flames spring all around. The flowered lattice transforms into a thorny cage crawling with serpents. My eyes dart to the ocean which is now a fiery lava pit with fierce flaming creatures springing into the ashen air and crawling toward the shore. My once white dress is red as blood and the realization of who Jonathan is and what was always holding me back finally pushes to the forefront of my once shrouded mind.

My eyes scan the rising flames only to find the tortured faces of the St. Cloud family which I had once forgotten and my loving children. Wriggling out of his arms, my flesh rips away as I throw myself through the prickly cage and run toward my family’s engulfing inferno, desperate to pull them from this torturing abyss. Raising my hands, I gasp at the new born nestled in my arms whose eyes burn brighter than the flames around us and whose face is darker than any demon I fought against. Despite my horror, I cannot drop him. I need to save him too from this hell. I can’t believe that my children and the St. Clouds are being made to suffer because of my failure. Their torture is not right, not just, and not fair. It is one thing to claim me because I am not strong enough to remember who I was before the decision to end my existence with Andrew to right a wrong, but quite another to claim the innocent lives of those who my sacrifice has already hurt.

They need to be returned to the life that was not supposed to change with my absence. Michael promised me that my decision to ensure Eva’s life would not end to save mine would not place my children in harm’s way and would not end Andrew’s existence. As the child scrambles to cling to my chest, I thrust my hands into the fire. The excruciating pain rips through every nerve cell, but I do not care. As my hands burn, I grab Nicole but cannot budge her from the fires that threaten to consume her. Struggling, fear grips my heart. How can I pull them free before nothing remains of my arms but ash? This cannot be happening!

A voice calls to me. Jacob has somehow escaped his blazing confinement and grabs my arm, wrenching it from Nicole and the fire.

“Mom, let go, it’s alright; it is only a dream. You can open your eyes, everyone is safe, trust me please.” He pleads.

My eyes fly open. I am in the living room. Jacob and Andrew are holding me as the others look on, their faces wrought with concern. Alexander is crying in the kitchen as Eva instructs Jackson to warm a bottle.

The light pink hew shining in from the window tells me it is early morning. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to wake everyone up.”

Jacob hugs me. “Mom, we’re just glad you’re here, we missed you so much.” They move closer.

“I’m sorry that I left you. I never meant to hurt you, it’s just…”

Kayla crawls next to me. “Mom, we know why you did it.” I look at her stunned. “Dad explained everything a little while ago. We’re just glad that Jacob could get you out of your dream, it sounded pretty bad.”

I hug her closer and put my arms around the children. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you like that.” Then I turn to Jacob. “Were you in my dream?”

“Not really, Aunt Eva saw what you were dreaming, and I don’t know how, but because of the connection you opened between us, I could project myself there. I didn’t see what you were seeing, but I could get the message that she told me to tell you in your dream and it helped you wake up.”

His power and ability to cross so many lines at such a young age stuns me. My body relaxes as Eva enters with Alexander whose perfect features in no way resemble the impairments of my nightmare.

Looking around the room, I am overwhelmed by the warring emotions struggling in me as guilt over what I put my children through the past several months slams into the outpouring of love from Andrew and my family. Although my reasoning at the time seemed solid, looking into their eyes, I see past their joy to what I cost them, not only did I force them to grow up so quickly, but I left them without a mother in a time of turmoil for what I believed would be forever. Pulling them closer to me, my emotions well up causing a lump in my throat that I must force back down to speak. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am for everything that I did to our family; I don’t know how you can ever forgive me for putting you through that.”

Andrew interrupts. “Mia, stop now. You made the only choice you could. You could never let someone else die for you. We are just happy that we have all been granted the miracle of a second chance at our family. There is no room for guilt and because of your choice we were rewarded, our family has grown and we have you and Eva with us. Our family has never been stronger. We love you.” He gently caresses my cheek.

Nicholas hugs me. “Mom, dad’s right, we spoke about what you did and why while you were dreaming. Even though we missed you, we don’t blame you for leaving. We know that you didn’t want to give the darkness an opportunity to hurt our family. We understand so much better now because of William and his coven what you were always trying to teach us about what can happen when such darkness grabs hold of your life. We’re just so happy to have you back.”

Stroking his cheek and looking into their precious faces, a lump rises in my throat choking me as I try to force the words out. “I missed you so much, even when I was confused I knew there was something missing, something not right with what was around me.”

“Jacob said that.” Kayla kisses my cheek.

My jaw inadvertently drops. I knew from the fight, Jacob was getting stronger, but how could he know what I was feeling. Before I have a chance to ask, he answers my unspoken question. “I saw you in my dreams. You saved a lot of lives and still loved children like us. I caught glimpses of the life you were living. It was almost as if you were calling to me and telling me not to let go. Everyone thought I was dreaming about Katrina, but they couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing or hearing. I’m just glad that it wasn’t my imagination and that you’re here and not just in the elements that are surrounding us.”

“I am too. I dreamt about the four of you and your dad too, something was helping me to hold on to you and not make a decision that would have taken me away from you. I love you all so much.” Rising, “I’ll make some breakfast since I got everyone up so early?”

Nicole rises quickly. “Mom, go and get changed. We’ll make you breakfast. We are pretty good at it.” She smiles widely.

“She’s right; they have become pros in the kitchen. They have even been helping Gabriel serve meals to our patients.” The pride in Andrew’s voice rings through and each of them beam.

Jacob moves toward me, kissing my cheek. Looking at him, I realize they are all dressed. “Really mom, get cleaned up and by the time you come out, we’ll have breakfast ready.” He turns to Andrew. “Dad, why don’t you help mom find her stuff and then we can eat.”

Taking my hand, he helps me into our room, probably noticing that I am still a little shaky. When we’re alone, he enfolds me in his arms. “Mia, it’s alright, you’re home and we all love you. Jonathan’s gone. You’re safe, the children are safe, and everything is going to be fine.”

“But look at what I have done to our family. How long have I really been gone from this life? Has it really only been several months or was it longer, the children seem so grown up.”

“They have been quite eventful months.” He tries making light of it, but I just can’t smile. “You’re right the children have grown up quite a bit and are very mature. They are quite remarkable and have gained significant control over their abilities, but their capacity to love and their strength surprises me most. Despite what they went through in England and then thinking that they lost you, they never let it grab hold of them or drag them under. They wanted to be strong like their mother and could feel you with them always. We told them that it was your energy that would never leave them. They wanted to do the right thing for you, to carry on all the good that you started, and wanted to stay strong because of what we were facing with William’s clan.”

“What did go on with William’s clan? Did you get any answers about Marlena and why she and David changed?”

“Mia, I know that you have a lot of questions, but you should give yourself time to adjust to being home. From your dreams last night and this morning, I think you should concentrate on feeling safe here and give yourself time to recover and enjoy being with the children. You did just give birth, you lost a lot of blood when Marlena sliced your back open and your mind seems to be racing in so many different directions, from what Eva saw, maybe it would be best if we waited to deal with everything other than the joy of your coming home.” He strokes my cheek gently and for the first time I see the concern in his eyes.

His gentle touch ignites my warring factions once again as my overwhelming love for my family struggles against the guilt of what I put them through over the past several months. I hate the consequences my choice hoisted upon them. Looking up toward Andrew, I try to blink the mist from my eyes. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am for everything. I don’t know how you and the children can ever forgive me for putting you through that.”

Bringing his index finger to my lips, he speaks deliberately. “Mia, stop now. You made the only choice you could. We know that, and the children really did understand when I spoke to them. I love you and never truly accepted that you were gone. I understand now, how you spoke of something when you thought that I was dead that tugged at you and pushed you forward. There was always something, despite what everyone told me that knew you were not gone. There is no room for guilt, I understand why you did it and believe that because of that, we are granted this miracle. I love you.”

“I love you too. I don’t think that my heart ever let go of that love, even though my mind was confounded by what was around me and the life I was leading. I just can’t believe that I could have forgotten any of this and that I’m actually home now, with you.”

“Believe it, you are home and this is exactly where you belong, if you didn’t we would have never found each other again. You are truly my better half and I won’t ever let you go.” His lips softly brush mine as he pulls me into his chest.

Although I know he is right and this is where I belong, flashes of the life in New York and the benefit cross my consciousness. “Andrew, what did happen last night when I passed out at the benefit?” Although it was less than twenty-four hours, it seems like a lifetime ago.

He steps back gazing at me as if trying to read my thoughts. “Why don’t we have breakfast with the children first, there is plenty of time for that.”

I can smell the apple pancakes they are making so I quickly shower and change. As we join them in the kitchen, their faces beam with pride. “You really have grown up so much, but how did you learn how to cook?”

They laugh. “Dad helped us, but so did Julianne and Paul. Wait until we make you chicken and stuffing.” Jacob chuckles.

“Well these pancakes are wonderful.”

“We found your recipes.” Nicholas hugs me before sitting down. “We couldn’t believe that you even labeled our favorites.”

We finish eating and I rise to clean the dishes. Nicole puts her hand on mine as I reach for her plate. “Mom, I’ll clean up, I think that you should rest with Alexander, I don’t want…” She stops abruptly.

I suspect what she is going to say, but I want to be sure. “Nicole, what were going to say?” Her eyes shift to the floor and she remains silent. “Nicole, it’s alright, I didn’t leave because I was sick and nothing is going to happen to me.”

“But what if you get weak, maybe something can go wrong, what if William comes back and something else drags you back to that existence and away from us again. Maybe this is not over.” Her panicked words rush like a raging river and I can see the worried looks passing between them. “We know that William was not destroyed and that Marlena is still alive.”

Although I heard the others on the plane whispering, I didn’t realize that Jacob heard and told the children. “Nicole, nothing is going to drag me back to that life and away from you again. I love you. I know that it is very difficult to understand and forgive me for the choice I made to leave you, but if there was any other way, I would not have left. I know that I hurt you more than anyone has ever hurt you and that you went through some unbelievably frightening experiences, but even with all of that, I can see how strong you have become. Sometimes, life is very strange to understand, but we have been granted a second chance to be together and neither William or Marlena will tear us apart. I won’t let anyone do that again. You need to believe that.”

Andrew moves over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “Nicole, your mom is right. Although William escaped, most of his coven was destroyed. He won’t be coming back, especially alone. Marlena is very far away from here in a hospital that some friends of ours run. She will not be leaving any time soon.”

“Are you sure?”

He nods. “I’m sure that we are a very strong family, with remarkable friends that stand by us when we need them. Your mom’s strength in making the right decision is what brought her back to us. I know that it is difficult for you to understand why she made the decision she made, but I hope that you understand that she did it to protect you and our family.”

Nicole interrupts. “I do understand that. I know what you told us and although I get it, I’m just afraid that this is too good to be true and that something bad is going to happen because of the gift we got with mom coming home.”

“Honey, it doesn’t work that way. Your mom coming home is the reward for everyone trying to make the right decision. You and your brothers and sister fought to stay strong and help out here despite suffering her loss while your mom saved all those lives and did good work in New York despite not even knowing who she was and wouldn’t let someone else suffer in her place.”

Just then, there’s a knock. Julianne, Paul and Charlie are at the door.

“Come in.” Jacob moves aside to let them in.

“No, we just came by to see if you are coming to help out at the recreation center this morning or if you are going to stay home with your mom.” Paul smiles in at me from the doorway.

The children look at me. “Why don’t we all go and help out” Moving toward the door, Andrew puts his hand on my shoulder. “Mia that may not be a good idea, the patients believe you died and we need to come up with something regarding your return.”

I hadn’t thought of that. Turning to the children, I can tell they don’t know what to do. “Why don’t you go and help out and then I’ll see you when you come back.”

“Are you sure that is alright?”

“I’m sure. I know how much everyone must appreciate your help and I don’t want to leave Gabriel shorthanded.”

“Promise you’ll be here when I get back?” Nicholas grabs my hand.

“I promise, sweetie. I’m not going anywhere.”

They all hug and kiss me, but I see the concern etched in their features. As they enter the hallway, I hear Paul trying to reassure Nicole that I won’t disappear.

Eva hands me a now sleeping Alexander. “I’ll give you some time alone. Don’t worry, the children will be fine.” She kisses me and leaves.

“She’s right, they will be fine and so will you. Everyone just needs some time.” Andrew kisses my forehead.

Placing Alex in his crib, I don’t even realize I’m mumbling to myself until Andrew puts his hand on my shoulder. “Stop that now. You haven’t complicated anything. We just need to come up with something for the patients. They know we had trouble here, we even moved them for a while when William’s coven was attacking. Do you still want to go back to New York because if you do, maybe we should consider doing that now to give Eva some time to prepare the patients for your return?”

“I would like to go and ensure that the wing is built. I know that I have so much to repair here, but I don’t want that to get lost either.”

Pulling me into his embrace, he leans down meeting my eyes. “Mia, there is nothing here to repair, we only need time. Remember how you first felt after your incident with Daniela, even though you knew you were safely home, you were still waiting for everything to disappear?”

“I do, and everyone was so patient with me.”

“We have to be patient with them. Maybe going to New York to secure that project will provide a new venue and do us all some good. The children can see all of the wonderful work you started there.”

He is interrupted by another knock at the door. Cassandra steps through. “I hope this is not a bad time, but I saw the children leave and wanted to talk with you before I depart.” Crossing the room, she stops at Alexander’s crib. Leaning down, she gently brushes his cheek and her eyes become momentarily unfocused. A strange look crosses her face, but quickly vanishes. “You truly have remarkable and strong children.” She turns to me. “Don’t worry, they really do understand your choice, Mia, they do not hold it against you and although you feel guilty, if you had let Eva die in your place, it would have changed you and your relationship with everyone in your life would have suffered more than you could imagine and more than you feel that they are suffering now. You need to be patient, they love you and with each passing challenge which they refuse to allow consume their lives, they become stronger and their true powers are beginning to reveal themselves in their actions.” She crosses the room and sits on the couch. “Come sit with me I know what you are considering and have good news on that front.” We sit on the loveseat next to her.

“What do you mean you know what we’re considering?”

Andrew takes my hand. “Mia, Cassandra has a very special gift; she can see the future and helped us with many of the problems and questions we had.”

Remembering her ability to stop my pain, I stare at her wondering if that too came from a gift. I can feel Andrew’s eyes staring at me. “She is what they call a gatekeeper and is definitely one of the good guys, but I will have plenty of time to explain that to you later.” His eyes shift to her. “You seem to be anxious about something. Is something wrong? Is William returning or is something going to happen to Mia?” His tone turns concerned.

She reaches across to him. “Andrew, nothing is going to happen to Mia or anyone here. Everything is going to be quite calm. You are right, I am anxious, but not because of you, I need to help Reginald with a journey that he will be departing on.”

Knowing how Reginald came to check on me and tried to lead me in the right direction, trepidation grips my heart hearing the anxiety in Cassandra’s voice. “What is wrong? Where is he going?”

“I will let him explain that to you, he requested that much. He is not tied by the same rules that I am. That is not why I came. I know your concerns regarding what you started and you have good reason to worry. If you do not return, Dr. Davis will get his wing built and the pediatric wing will no longer be an option. I am here to help you with that.”

Andrew interrupts. “I thought you said that you could only gently lead, but not always directly help.”

“Normally you are correct, but when Michael put her in that life, he only expected her to be a physician and agreed to allow Ann to guide her until it felt more natural to her. They did not envision that she would actually secure the wing or establish something that we can see it helping so many. She even convinced Jonathan to help her. Granted, he thought that it would serve his purpose and that it really would not come to fruition, but it can truly become something wonderful, something that the real Jonathan Taylor wants to see accomplished. The money that you raised with the benefits was phenomenal and if you return, there will be considerable funds set aside for those children who do not have sufficient insurance or for families that need help, just like you wanted. The existence that Michael put you in took on a life that no one expected. Normally when this is done, the individual lives an ordinary life. They do well, but do not touch the lives that you have, nor make the sacrifices that you did. Despite not knowing who you really are and losing your powers, you did utilize the insurance which Michael provided to make your life a little easier to help those in need, saved lives and went on to help others and do well for more than just yourself. Your actions, those of Reginald and Andrew in protecting me from Calib and returning the dagger to our side, needs to be rewarded. Although you both have many roads to travel and things to do which will impact our world, your travels are best diverted so as to finish Mia’s earlier journey and to give Jonathan Taylor’s life a legacy. The real Jonathan Taylor, despite some of his womanizing ways, was on his way to creating a legacy that would benefit many people in need.”

A strange look crosses her face and she appears deep in concentration. Finally, her voice has an underlying menacing tone. “His life was cut short in a plane crash, but it has come to our attention that the plane crash was not an accident; it appears the other side arranged it in order to allow Jonathan to get close to Mia. As such, we are bending the rules where my involvement is concerned. Mr. Taylor’s body is not going to be found, he and his companion’s body have become nourishment for the ocean’s wildlife. Even if the remnants were to ever be found, they will not be traced to him. This provides a unique opportunity for the two of you, but you must be up to it.

Turning to Andrew, she seems to be assessing something. Waiting for her to speak again, I can feel my heart pounding. What does she have in mind? “Andrew, you can temporarily assume the identity of Mr. Taylor and ensure that not only the wing is completed, but that the legacy of good that he desired, is fulfilled. Mia, the story that you read about Jonathan and his employee is true. He did make dramatic changes for his employees, but what that story did not reveal is how it truly changed him. Mr. Taylor had a wife and child that were lost to him because of insufficient medical care they received after suffering an accident while the family was on safari. No one knew of the marriage because it was before he had become known in the business world, before he assumed his new name, and come to this country. You see, his real family was one that your Jonathan would have loved, they were aligned to the darkness and did everything they could in England to take people’s money and ruin lives. Jonathan’s wife, Miranda took him away from that and showed him what he could become. Before their dreams came to fruition, she was ripped from him and he became sidetracked until that incident which you read about. It truly brought him back. He resides with our side now and has requested that we allow you to return and finish what you have started, ensure that his vast estate and business is arranged to carry on his work and to take care of a private matter. Our side will ensure that we take care of all of the collateral issues surrounding his disappearance and that of his partner so you will not have any trouble with that.”

Andrew’s features turn serious. “How can I assume his identity? He is well known. It would be one thing if he was some unrecognizable recluse, but his picture was all over the newspaper.”

She shakes her head. “Andrew, are you forgetting about your ability to change your appearance?”

“No, it’s just that I can only do that for short periods of time. The only time I ever did it as a person was with Jacob, but that was an even shorter period of time than when I have changed into an animal.”

She smiles and her features take on a look of understanding. “Andrew, you can do it for much longer, you are stronger than you give yourself credit, you limit yourself because you always believed that his side limited your abilities, but in truth, you are the only one limiting them because you feel unworthy, held to the darkness because of what it made you.” She chuckles. “If only you could see what I have seen and what I am starting to discern you would realize that none of you have even remotely touched upon your abilities. You marvel at your children’s abilities, but they get them from both of you and are not limited by your fears and guilt. Stop limiting yourselves and take lessons from your children. Believe in yourselves and take this journey of self-discovery together. Go and finish Mia’s work and that of Mr. Taylor’s. Give your family a new venue to heal. Sanctuary will be fine and you will be back soon. Take Jeff and Grant with you, they can watch over the children while you spend time at the hospital and Jeff will be needed to operate on a young wolf. Their life cannot be lost, they have much to do and Jeff needs to understand that he and his pack can still protect and help people while he continues his medical work. His proceeding in this area is important to his kind, their physiology and ability to heal is different from that of humans. He has been running far too long. Surprisingly, his pack has many that could go on and develop their medical skills which would be the best way to help their species, but they have been chasing covens such as William’s for so long, they have lost site of the bigger picture, not to mention, the bonds between, Charlie and Kayla, Paul, Julianne, Jacob, Nicholas and Nicole are growing stronger. I’m sure, Mia that you have seen where some of it is going and I would hate to see that future change.”

As she says this, another glimpse of their future flashes before me, confirming what I have already seen. “You said our journey is being diverted and that Reginald is going somewhere. Why do I have a feeling that we are being diverted from helping him?”

“Probably because you are quite perceptive and correct, however, do not worry, I will help him with this part of his journey. He is going to be fine and your family will only become stronger in following this diversion. Your journey in New York will allow your family to deal with the ramifications of such surreal events that have consumed your existences lately. You all need time to realize your abilities and heal from this experience so that you can face upcoming challenges that will cross your path soon enough.” She rises. “I need to prepare to leave and put some things in place while Reginald and Amanda get ready. Go back to New York, stay at the Taylor residence, by the time you arrive, all of the remnants of the fight will have been removed. There are papers on the ideas that Jonathan had for foundations that he had spoken to his lawyer to put in place, you will find all of that there. Have your children enroll as juniors at the local high school.”

I interrupt her. “They are not old enough for that.” She laughs.

“Mia, they may be young in years, but they are far beyond that in maturity and even your schooling has placed them far ahead of the pack.” She snickers at her own joke. “Their physical appearances and advancements will allow them to fit right in. I’m sure as far as everything else goes, Catherine can ensure that the paperwork is in order. It is important that they go to the high school and their interactions with children will be wonderful learning experiences. The school even has openings so that Grant and Julianne can even secure positions there as teachers to ensure the children are watched over. Tell Grant to apply for the math teacher position and Julianne the gym, it will be fine, trust me. Mia, you need to introduce Jeff as a surgeon friend of Jonathan’s so that he will be able to operate on the child. Trust me; you will know which child needs his assistance as soon as they are brought in.”

“How can I return to the hospital though, I can’t operate on anyone. I don’t have that type of skill.”

She shakes her head. “Remember what I said, stop limiting yourself. You are wrong about this as well. You need to return to ensure the wing moves forward and you have the skills which you possessed while you were there. Trust yourself and everything will be fine, I promise you.”

Cassandra flicks her wrist opening the door as Reginald stands there about to knock. “Reginald has come to say good-bye and I must leave.” Unexpectedly, she turns and hugs me. “You have a remarkable family, don’t worry so much, everything will be fine and I will see you again.” She turns and hugs Andrew. “Thank you for assisting me that day in the cabin. I am very glad that you did not forget that sometimes appearances can be deceiving and trusted your heart; it would have been a shame to lose any of you. Stay strong and don’t limit yourself because of what he turned you into. He did more damage to himself and I wonder if even now he realizes what he has done.” She pauses. “In some ways, you should consider it a gift. Immortality and strength on this plane gives your new life meaning especially from whence it comes. Use it wisely.” She chuckles. “I bet even he didn’t count on you meeting Mia ag…” She clears her throat. “And the wonderful immortal children he can no … I wonder if he would have rethought converting you if he had foreseen such.” She laughs again and nods to Reginald before leaving.

Reginald crosses the room and sits by me. “How are you feeling?”

“Unbelievably blessed” Alexander cries and Andrew picks him up, so I head into the kitchen to get him a bottle. Reginald follows.

“Mia, I am sorry that I could not tell you who you were when we first met, but I had to follow the rules, otherwise the results would have been very different.”

I turn and see his face wrought with concern. “Reginald, don’t give it a second thought. I am just so glad that you did come that night. I know that you were watching over me and ensured that William got the letter so that Andrew could find me. Our talk that evening was very helpful.” Andrew takes the bottle from me and squeezes my hand reassuringly. “I realize now why you seemed so desperate to tell me something and how you were trying to jog my memory of who I really am. Reginald, did Amanda see where I was going and who would be waiting for me when I arrived, is that how you kept tabs on me?”

“She did see you. I can’t tell you how afraid I became when I saw who was waiting for you. Amanda saw me trying to warn you the next morning when we were running because I just couldn’t stand the thought of you falling into his hands, but she stopped me by showing me what would have happened if I interfered. We would have lost you all.” His face contorts as some thought flashes before him. “I couldn’t just leave you on your own either, Amanda let me know that we could watch and even make contact with you as long as I didn’t reveal the truth. I never imagined that you would have accomplished so much however. I knew you were strong and special from the moment we met. I guess that holds no matter what life you are living. However, since you are returning to this life, I think that you need this.” He removes something from his top pocket and opens his hand. I recognize the pendant immediately.

“I thought part of the deal with Michael included my giving up my powers?” I can’t stop my fingers from stroking the pendant which still has the colors running through the onyx.

“You didn’t lose your powers, you just lost the ability to remember them or what can offer you protection. Now that you are back, it may be returned to its rightful owner, she still has a lot of work to do.” He smiles, placing it around my neck.

Andrew’s voice softly interjects. “Cassandra says that you are leaving on a journey that she is helping you with. After everything that you have done for us, what can we do to help you?”

“You can go to New York and finish what Mia started. I’m sure Cassandra and Amanda will be able to help me. You need to spend some time away from the surreal and concentrate on your family.”

From the way his eyes are darting, I can tell he is hedging and that he is about to confront something big. Placing my hand on his arm, I am about to ask him what it is he is hiding, but an image flashes before my now unfocused eyes of David and Reginald surrounded by the flames of hell. I can feel the intense heat, my hand involuntarily recoils from him and the heat and images dissipate. “Please tell me that you are not going after David in his realm.”

His widening eyes meet mine. “What did you see?”

“I saw you surrounded by an inferno and heading for David. You can’t do that. Reginald, please, I know that you want answers as to why your brother changed, but you can’t seek out David. How could you even enter that realm? Please, we need you here. Sometimes there are no answers.” My voice is a high pitched crescendo making Alexander jump.

He interrupts me. “Mia, I don’t know how you saw it, but I am not seeking answers, I am going to bring my brother home, he has been held down there for too long. When I destroyed the vessel, I destroyed the only other possibility of his being released.”

His words make no sense, but as my eyes catch Andrew’s expression, I realize I’m missing something that he seems to understand. “Reginald, are you saying that everything Cassandra spoke of regarding innocent souls is true?”

He turns to Andrew. “I believe so. Amanda has seen it, so we are going to reclaim him if we can.”

“How can you even enter that realm, I thought crossing realms was impossible for those of us tied here?” His voice is low, but surprised at this new possibility.

“I am hoping that we can enter through one of openings to hell’s mouth. We may have even been provided a clue to its location from when Mia was hurt.”

I grab his arm. “Reginald you can’t believe that, you yourself said I was never there.”

“Although your body was always here, you did cross dimensions and I am hoping that we can do the same once we reach the actual location.”

“Even if you were to get there, Cassandra can’t help you, she said it herself. You and Amanda would be on your own. You can’t consider this. Have you really thought this through, what if she is wrong or you both get trapped there?”

“I have thought about that. Mia, I have spent my existence, protecting others and if my brother, the one that I love, know, and can understand, is trapped there because of the demon which stole his existence on this plane, I have to seize even the slightest possibility to try and bring him home. The two of you know best of all what someone is willing to risk if the one they love is suffering.” His eyes glance toward Andrew. “Just look at what Mia did when she thought you were being held there and what you were willing to give up not to have her suffer.”

My eyes shift to Andrew who is staring at me. Bringing my hand back to his, my tone turns authoritative. “You can’t do this alone. What can we do to help?”

“You can go to New York. Although Cassandra can’t help me directly if I enter hell, she has friends who can and Amanda will be with me. When I return, I will come to see you. I promise.” Removing a key from his pocket, he hands it to me, clasping my hands. I can feel his energy and wonder what else he is passing to me, but remember how worried Andrew was the last time about my physical reaction to the transfer and resolve to remain mute. “I don’t have time to put this away, keep it safe for me.” He rises to leave, but as another flash crosses my vision, I reach for him, clasping his wrist.

“You knew when you stabbed Marlena, didn’t you?”

“I did, but I couldn’t have David return again, I saw what would result and someone who I cannot close off the possibility for would be forever lost. By doing this, they still have a fighting chance. Don’t worry, I will be back, I can feel it. You still have a lot to discern and I still have a lot to teach and share with you. We both have to make this journey, right now; it is just taking us on separate paths. I have to go and get ready and so do you.” He hugs me. “I will see you soon, I promise.”

“I’m going to keep you to that promise. Be very careful. Don’t let the wall close on you. Don’t take your eyes off of it, once it closes, you will only be able to look on and I don’t want you to be lost.”

Andrew places a now sleeping Alexander back in his crib and turns to me. “What did you see when you touched Reginald, besides his being surrounded by hell and seeing David?”

“I saw a white light around David. It is very strange, David was illuminated, but his face appeared really frightened as he stared at an even brighter light that was coming from his arms which appeared folded around mid-chest, but I couldn’t really see on account of the light being so bright.” I shake my head. “If I did see David, wouldn’t his soul be enshrouded in crimson and why was the area around his hands so bright?”

“If what Cassandra said is true, there are cases where innocent souls are captured so that true demons can enter this plane. If Sebastian was taken over by David and held so that David could remain, maybe the soul you saw is innocent and not the demon, David, but Sebastian.”

“But why would Reginald believe that he can enter that realm through an area I saw all those years ago. Could that really be some type of point of access?”

“I don’t know, maybe Cassandra told him something or Amanda saw something. From what he said, he doesn’t want us involved in this and truthfully, after what you have been through and what we put the children through, it is not a journey we can consider. I know that the children understand what I told them and that they have matured, but they need us, they need to be reassured that we are here for them.”

“Do you think taking them to New York will be too disruptive?”

Enfolding me in his comforting embrace, his voice is soft. “Going there will be a good thing. They can see how much you accomplished even while you were at a disadvantage. You weren’t even yourself, yet you managed to get Jonathan to unwittingly do something good. Maybe one of your gifts is to turn all us bad demons to your side.” He jokes, but his eyes are filled with sincerity.

“Neither side of you was ever a bad demon, but I am glad you decided to fight to save me that night and every night since.” I hug him tighter and feel him shiver. Withdrawing from his embrace, I can see the pain in his eyes. Bringing my hand up and running my knuckles down his magnificent cheek I become concerned that despite his knowing that I was never truly with Jonathan, my spending time with him hurt Andrew deeply. “I’m sorry that my being with Jonathan hurt you and that you had to see that.”

He shakes his head. “Mia, it’s not that. I just can’t believe how close I came to losing you. If you committed to him, despite my finding you, I would have lost you all over again. The months that you spent with him, if he convinced you that you did belong with him…” He pulls me back into his chest.

After a moment, I withdraw myself. “Andrew, I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry. Despite the time I spent with him, something inside of me always knew he was not the one who captured my heart. The more I tried to force it, the more you were coming to me. I could feel your love surrounding me and what we shared. Even when my mind was veiled and would not reveal your face, my heart refused to let go of you.”

“Mine will always belong to you, although I loved the beautiful letter you left me, how could you even think that I would be able to move forward without you.”

Placing my head against his chest, I can feel a lump rising in my throat. “Truthfully, the thought of you being lonely was just unbearable. It was bad enough that I was leaving you and the children, but to think of you going through eternity alone, I just couldn’t stand it. You are too good of a person to bury yourself back in your work or turn back into the person that you described to me when we first took a trip to New York.”

His hand travels slowly down my spine sending tingles throughout my entire being. One moves across my waist and as he picks up my left hand, I feel him placing my rings on my finger. Kissing my hand, he withdraws his sculpted lips as my eyes shoot down. Staring at them, I hear him whisper. “Then it is a good thing my heart found its home again.”

Looking up into his sparkling eyes, I can barely speak. “Where did you find these?”

“Eva gave them to me. She said that they were on the ground when you disappeared.” As his hands move up my arms, brush across my collarbone and cup my face, a forest fire ignites, spreading throughout my being, a feeling that only he unearths in me. His angelic face moves closer to mine. His lips touch mine, and my overheating blood explodes within, passion consumes me, and our life and love overwhelms my mind. This is the first time that I am alone with him, truly knowing who I am and where I belong. My hand moves to his collar and he shivers as my fingertips glide down his neck to his button. Slowly unfastening his shirt buttons, I allow my fingers to linger on his perfectly sculpted abdomen. Rising, he lifts me in his arms and moves into our room, laying me gently on our bed. Opening my eyes, I see his glistening with love and desire assured that he can see in mine a love that no matter what tries to confound it will never be extinguished. Drawing him closer, I feel every curve of his body aligning itself with every contour of mine, falling perfectly into place. As his cool lips glide across my shoulder, up my neck to the lobe of my ear, my heart explodes, beating like an out of control freight train forging down the tracks. I can barely hear his soft sultry voice. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Making love to him after all our time separated is more intense than even my most vivid dreams. Curled into his side, I run my fingers along his muscular torso. He shivers, drawing me even closer to him. I want to stay in his loving embrace, but know that the children will be back soon and Alexander will be waking shortly. Foisting myself on my elbow, I trace his perfect lips before kissing them one last time. “We should get dressed.”

He sighs and for the moment this special time for us is over. “You’re right. Why don’t you wait here for the children to return and I’ll talk to Gabriel about our plans.”

“Andrew, before you go, what did the people at the benefit see last night regarding my abrupt departure?”

Leading me into the living room, Alexander is sleeping soundly so Andrew draws me to the couch. “When you keeled over in pain, I picked you up and was moving you out the door when Jonathan stopped me. We couldn’t make a scene there because there were too many innocent people and we calculated that Jonathan had several men positioned in the banquet hall which we were sure would not hesitate to harm anyone who got in their way so I handed you to him. One of the men at your table approached Jonathan and said that he had called for an ambulance and tried to get a look at you, but Jonathan snapped at him and said he was getting you to a specialist. He practically knocked the man over and got you out the exit. Considering what could have happened, it was over fairly quickly for those who were at the hall. He exited quickly with his men backing him up and us chasing him. However, I don’t believe anyone saw any of that.”

“Do you know who came up to me?”

“I heard a woman call him Julian and ask what was going on. Mia since we are returning, you should call him. He seemed very worried and we don’t want anyone thinking that you disappeared.” Rising, he crosses the room and pulls a telephone from his jacket pocket. “I lifted this from your costume. You probably have his telephone number in it. Call him and tell him that Jonathan took you to a specialist friend outside of the city but that you will be returning shortly to ensure the money for the wing is well spent.” Handing me the phone, he kisses me gently before leaving.

Scrolling through the telephone, I see Julian’s name and hit send. The voice of the man who picks up sounds frantic. “Mia, where are you? Paul and I have been trying to reach you and Jonathan all evening. Are you alright?”

“I’m sorry I worried you, I am at a private hospital owned by a friend of Jonathan’s, they have been running tests all night and this is the first chance I had to wrestle my telephone from him.”

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. I am still a little fuzzy about last night’s goings on. I must have had a bad reaction between the new vitamins, cold medicine and my nerves working over-time trying to mingle in such tight spaces.” I wish my voice sounded less shaky. “You know how cautious Jonathan is about this entire thing. We will be back probably by tomorrow. Please tell me that Geoffrey hasn’t used my absence to poison the board.”

“Don’t worry about that, with all of the publicity over the proceeds of last night’s benefit and the calls the Board is still receiving regarding whether they are going to put some of the money which the papers are reporting they are sure is excess, the Board hasn’t had time to listen or deal with him, they are too busy hamming it up trying to boost their own causes. Mrs. Ford, however, did come by to see if you were doing alright. I’ll make sure I see her and let her know that you are doing better and will be returning tomorrow. I’ll also ask her to push back the final meeting by a few hours the next day so you can attend.

He chuckles at something. “I had Janet bring coffee to Reynolds in finance. She secured the figures from last night’s auction from him. I’ll send them to you so that you and Jonathan can work your magic with the numbers and put together your pitch to have the proceeds put aside for the children. I’ll send them to your phone when we’re through.”

“Thank you so much. I’m sorry for worrying you and Jonathan wants me to apologize for his being short with you last night, he was just really concerned.”

“Tell him not to give it a second thought. Call me if you need anything else. Mia, are you sure you’re alright, I mean why wouldn’t you just come here?”

“I’m fine. Jonathan was afraid that if we went there, the press might follow and he didn’t want me to endure anymore stress.” Alexander begins to stir and I need to hang up before he cries. “Julian, I’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you again for everything.” I hang up just in time and pick up Alex, as Jacob comes in.

He turns. “I told you mom would be here.”

As they enter, the relief on their faces is evident. “Mom, do you want me to get Alex a bottle?” Kayla asks, hugging me.

“No, he ate a little while ago. Are you hungry?” When they shake their heads, I seize the opportunity to talk to them. Despite my wanting to go back and finish what I started, I need to ensure that it is not too much for them first. I won’t put them through another upset. “Could we talk about something for a minute?” Their faces immediately fall. “It isn’t anything bad, don’t worry, I just want to get your opinion on something.” I’m glad to see their shoulders slack in relief as they sit down.

My nerves inadvertently spike and I take a deep breath. “You know how you helped William pick out pictures for a new wing to help children?” They nod immediately. “The people who are approving the project need to see me again in New York and I am wondering how you would feel about taking a trip there for a while so that I can ensure the wing is built. I know how much you love it here and how many changes you have experienced and can understand if doing this would be too much, but I would like you to consider this and be honest about how you would feel if we do this.”

Jacob straightens up and I can see the looks passing between them. “Mom this project is really important to you isn’t it?”

“When I didn’t know who I was, this project is the only thing in my life that felt right and thankfully it brought you and your dad back to me, but I understand if you don’t want to leave Sanctuary right now considering everything that has happened.”

“We did have fun walking around with William there.” Kayla voices as the children seem to be communicating to one another without uttering a word.

Jacob places his hand upon mine and Alexander’s. “When are we leaving?” He smiles widely.

“I still have to work out some details with your dad and speak to Grant and Jeff. I need for them to come with us as well.”

“They’re coming too, but where will everyone fit?” Kayla asks excited.

Turning my attention to Jacob since he was already there during difficult circumstances, I direct my answer to him. “If it wouldn’t be too hard for you Jake, we are thinking about staying at the house that you saw me at.”

“Why would we be going there? Some of William’s coven escaped, what if they come back there?” His rising tone reveals his panic.

“Honey, William’s men didn’t own that house, they weren’t even using it. They won’t be coming back there and the demon that was using it has been destroyed. Although William escaped, he has no reason to return there or to even stay in the area.”

“I still don’t understand why we would stay there.” Although his voice sounds calmer, his features remain concerned.

Although I know what I am about to say is confusing or difficult, we always promised no secrets and after everything that I already put them through, I wouldn’t start now. “Honey, you know how our world sometimes impacts those who do not belong to it. Well, the man who you saw me in the picture with, his plane went down and he died. However, we believe that it was because the one who was pretending to be him needed his identity. The real man was a good man; he had helped a lot of people and still had a lot of work to do. Since our world prematurely ended his life, your dad and I have been asked to help finish some of his work while we help ensure that the wing gets finished.”

“How can staying in his house help?”

I didn’t realize Andrew entered. “I was told that if I take on his persona in public for a while, I can institute the plans he wanted to initiate. He was a very wealthy man and wanted to put his assets to good use.”

“How do you know what he wants to do, is he talking to you?” Nicholas asks.

“No, but his home has a lot of paperwork showing what he wanted to accomplish.”

Jacob turns to Andrew. “Mom said that she doesn’t think William will go back there, do you think he will stay away too?”

“I do. Jake, we would never return there if I thought that going back there would put anyone in danger from those we have come across lately. We just got our family back. I don’t want anything to tear us apart.” He moves closer to Jacob. “You know how we have always strived to help those here and teach you that helping others is so important, well, this would be an opportunity for us to help people beyond our own little haven and beyond those who live in our world. It will also give you an opportunity to meet new people and children, experience another part of the world. While we are there, you can attend the local school and get a new perspective of how children who don’t have any special powers live. I know you love learning about your powers and have done wonderfully in controlling them, but maybe for a while, it would be good for us to live in a world away from all of that, time to just be a family.”

“Dad, it sounds important to you too for us to go.” Kayla places her hand upon his, her voice sounds as if she is twenty.

“The wing that your mother was working toward would be your grandmother’s legacy, she devoted her life to helping children and it was what prompted your mom to write to William for help. If she hadn’t, we may have never crossed paths and gotten her back. I think that considering the miracle that we received, it would be a wonderful thank you for us to complete the project and bring Mr. Taylor’s projects to fruition as well.”

“Why do you want Jeff and Grant to come with us?” Nicole looks over to me.

“We were told that it would be important for them to come. Jeff has allowed our world to overtake his practicing medicine and this trip may help him see that he can truly combine the two and it will give Grant and Julianne a chance to work at the local school.”

“Is Charlie coming too?” Kayla inquires.

“That will depend on Jeff and Sarah.”

There’s a knock on the door. Andrew rises. “I asked Jeff and Grant to stop by.” As they come in, their children are in the hall and mine pop up. “Can we go and play while you talk?”

“That’s fine, but don’t say anything about what we spoke of.”

“We won’t, we know you have to talk first.” They leave quickly.

Placing a once again asleep Alexander in his crib, I turn to them. “Can I get anyone some tea?”

“No, we’re fine. Andrew asked us to stop by. How are you feeling?” Jeff asks sitting down.

“Much better now that I’m home. Thank you both for everything that you did last night and for everything that you did to protect the children when I wasn’t here.”

“Are you kidding, your children are wonderful and in helping them and staying here, it helped us as well.” Grant smiles and sits next to Jeff. It’s nice seeing how comfortable they are with each other now.

“I just wish we destroyed William last night.” Jeff interjects.

Grant shifts to face him. “He is nothing without the others and like I told you last night, you put a considerable dent into their existence and you helped stop David from returning, but Jeff you can’t lose yourself in trying to destroy them. You are better than that and you have a wonderful family, don’t ever lose sight of that because of those monsters.” Heat floods his cheeks and he glances at Andrew. “Andrew, I’m…”

Andrew puts his hand up. “Grant, don’t worry about it. I have called our kind worse.” He laughs. “Truthfully, until Mia saved me, I thought of myself as even worse, you can always speak your mind, we don’t take offense here.” His eyes look to Jeff. “Your father is right, you can’t allow fighting them to consume you, that gives them power because they have taken a piece of you, don’t let that happen, they are not worth it.”

“I know. It’s just sometimes…” He closes his eyes and I know he is fighting for control. As I watch him, I figure out the way to bring him back to what he used to love so much, even if it means stretching the truth a little.

“Jeff, Andrew told me how you and your pack have found a home here, but I am wondering if I could impose on you for some help with something that I was working on while I was gone.”

Opening his eyes, “Sure, what do you need?”

“Are you familiar with what I was trying to do at the hospital?”

“Yes, I saw the letters you sent William.”

“If I want it to happen, I have to go back to New York and ensure that the physician who was fighting for the funds for a plastic surgery wing doesn’t kill it or make it so small that it can’t help anyone. When I was there, I was constantly at the hospital performing surgeries and working on emergencies, but that isn’t really me, I’m a psychiatrist not a surgeon and I can’t be there all the time as I was before. Not to mention, some people thought I was only about two months pregnant. I could never explain Alexander. I was hoping that with your vast knowledge and medical experience you could come back and help me and I could introduce you as Jonathan’s physician friend who returned with us and who is volunteering to cover for me while we get the project off the ground and eventually seek my replacement. In this way I will have time to convince the Board about those who I know can run the project while taking some time because of my recent episodes to recover. Normally, it would not even be an issue and the hospital would provide its own replacement, but the physician who is competing for the funds with me will use any excuse to cause me roadblocks and I need this to go through.”

“Mia, I haven’t been concentrating on my surgical skills. I have been so submerged with the issue of destroying William, hoping that if we were successful there, we would gain enough strength and knowledge to go up against David. Although I worked in local clinics to provide for my family and performed the occasional surgery, I haven’t been on a regular surgical rotation in years.”

Crossing the room, I sit on the opposite side of Jeff, placing my hand upon his. “I understand what was driving you, but Jeff, your mom wouldn’t want you to lose all that you worked so hard to achieve in avenging her death. I know that is not your only reason, I can understand how you would want to protect innocent lives against such forces, but David is gone and William and those like William will always be around, we can’t let them stop our lives no matter how good our intentions are in protecting others. Please, I remember how much you loved your work in medical school and working at the hospital.”

I catch Grant’s smile as Jeff’s face softens. I know he is going to say yes before he even nods in agreement. “When do you want to leave?”

“I need to be back there tomorrow. We are considering staying in Mr. Taylor’s home because Andrew needs to pose as him to follow through on some of his unfinished business.” Turning my attention to Grant, “We are hoping that you and your children will come as well. We are going to enroll the children temporarily in a local school and Cassandra said that it is a good opportunity for you to spend some time at the school as a math teacher and Julian as the gym teacher.”

“Did Cassandra tell you why she needed us there?” He inquires.

“No, she just said that it was a good idea.”

Jeff rises. “I should talk with Sarah. She grew up just outside of New York and loved spending time there before our lives, well, you know. What time do you want to leave in the morning?”

“First thing, if that is alright. I need to get a report together and meet with the Board.”

Jeff leaves, but Grant lingers behind. Alexander wakes up searching for a bottle and Andrew takes him into the kitchen. “Did Cassandra say anything else? Should I be worried?”

“She said that it is important for Jeff to realize that his work is essential to helping our kind because werewolf physiology is different than normal human physiology. She said that he will be called upon to work on a wolf that still has a lot of work to accomplish but needs Jeff to save them.”

“Did she give you any indication if it is because the wolf is caught in some sort of trouble?”

“You know how she speaks so cryptically, but she indicated that as long as Jeff is there, they will be fine.”

“Yes, she does tend to do that. She always mentions changing the future and not always for the better if she reveals too much. Although why she thinks I can pull off being a math teacher is beyond me, but if that is where she said I should be, I’ll give it a chance. Mia, thank you, I could see how much Jeff listened to you and you’re right, his mother would have been heartbroken to realize that this life was taking over his. Although she was one of us, she hated the way we lived in isolation, she always thought that we could live a normal life and wanted that for Jeff. Despite the circumstances in why he left, I am sure that she must have loved once he went to medical school as opposed to spending his life avenging her death, regardless of all the lives he saves in the process.”

“I am glad he decided to come. I am hoping that this trip will be good for all of us. I hope that you understand why I didn’t tell him about what Cassandra told me. It’s just that he would have found an excuse to just send one of his men to help, but he can never resist helping a friend in need.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” He smiles. “I’ll let you get ready and see you in the morning.”

Walking into the kitchen, I hear Andrew singing to Alexander. It is so good to see him happy. “Since you have everything under control here, I’ll go pack.” I kiss them both before going into the children’s rooms.

Finishing closing the last case, the cool hands I love so much wrap themselves around me. “You must be excited to return, I have never seen you pack so quickly before.” He kisses my cheek.

“As much as I love it here, the idea of having this wing built does excite me. I just feel that I have messed up so much and failed so many, first not teaching the children enough about their powers, then leaving and hurting all of you, and never even truly understanding my own potential, I need to make amends for all of that. Maybe by at least following through with this and ensuring that it gets built, I can start to do something right and figure out how to fix all of the wrong I have done to our family.”

I feel him shaking his head behind me as he turns me around. “Mia, you haven’t failed anyone. First of all, you left to save Eva and as awful as it was thinking that you were gone from our life, you’re doing the right thing to ensure that she didn’t suffer in your place was what gave us a second chance. As far as the children and teaching them about their powers, we agreed early on to raise them as children first. Trust me that was definitely the right decision. As much as we were frightened about them being taken, I have watched them while you were gone and they truly understand now when to use their powers and when not to, they would not have known that before and they would not have developed as strong in character if they had used them early on. They have matured beyond their years, but that is not because of their powers it is because our family provides them a very strong and loving base to grow on. You should have seen Nicole and Jacob’s face when they saved Rachel’s son or the control that Kayla and Nicholas showed even after they thought you were gone and involuntarily phased to ensure that no one was hurt.” He kisses my forehead gently and then bends to meet my eyes. “Our children are strong because of the decisions we made. If they developed and used their powers early on, they would not have the control, the devotion to each other, or the commitment to doing right that they have now. So stop thinking that you failed them. I am glad that this project means a lot to you, but don’t do it to make amends for anything because there is nothing to make amends for, do the project because you love to help children and you want to carry on your mother’s legacy. Look Mia, from the way your mind was racing last night, I know that you feel very guilty about everything that happened, but you need to stop. You left to protect Eva, the same way she was willing to sacrifice to protect you. As far as what happened between you and Jonathan while you didn’t know who you were, you have nothing to feel guilty about there either.”

I interrupt him. “Andrew, how can you really ever forgive me for being with Jonathan? Although we weren’t physically intimate, I still spent time with him. I tried to force myself to love him and get close to him when I was committed to you.”

Drawing me into his chest, his voice becomes slow and deliberate. “Stop right there. You had no idea I even existed. I am just glad that you didn’t commit to him because I would have lost you.”

“But….”

He moves his fingertips to my lips. “But nothing, you did nothing wrong. Look, normally I would have never invaded your privacy and had Gabriel and Eva look in on you, but last night, you seemed so disturbed, I thought it was just over leaving, but it was over being with him and causing me pain too. Eva saw how much you were wrestling with feeling as if the relationship with Jonathan that you tried to force upon yourself would hurt me. From what she saw, you didn’t even start to force yourself to try and fall in love with him until after you found out you were pregnant. Mia, knowing how traditional you are and your values, not to mention your misapprehension about who you thought the father was, I understand exactly why you tried to form a relationship with him, so stop beating yourself up over it. I love you, the children love you and we all know how much you love us. We are dealing with realms that affect us in strange ways and sometimes we make choices and sacrifices that set things in motion which far surpass human comprehension. You can’t feel guilty about that, nor can you allow the guilt to hold you back. As hard as it was thinking you were gone, we always felt you with us, your strength and your love, not even your physical absence could remove that and then just look at what you put in motion and the money you raised when you didn’t even know your true identity, not to mention you were suffering from a terrible loss. The feeling of loss, even though you thought it was for someone you didn’t know, was real and probably was in part feeling your children’s absence from your life. Yet, you committed yourself to making the lives of others better and from what I understand committed funds that could have made your life comfortable to making the lives of those who were injured and couldn’t afford surgery better. Maybe you should see the journey that you took as one of self-discovery. Despite our telling you that you are strong enough to accomplish anything, you never believed that, maybe this journey was to show you that you could.”

Stretching, I kiss him. “Why are you so good to me and always say the right thing to make me feel less guilty.”

As he runs his fingertips down my arm, my heart rate spikes. He stops at my engagement ring. “That’s easy, it is because I love you and do you remember what I told you when I placed this on your finger, I meant it. You are an extraordinary person who saved nine lives and you should never forget what you are truly capable of. Mia you have always been so hard on yourself that I don’t think that you truly realize all the good that you have done and the wonderful family that you have helped to create and I do not just mean our children. They are beyond anything that I could have ever imagined, even before I was transformed, but after, I can’t even describe how much they truly blow me away each day, with not only their powers but also the little things they do. However, looking beyond us, look at the family here at Sanctuary, those that we have reached beyond these walls and all those who helped us in our time of need. They are all family, we band together and you are a part of that, a very integral part, don’t ever forget that.” He kisses me tenderly.

I hear the door open and look at my watch. “I should start dinner.” I back away.

“I’ll finish packing.”

“Don’t pack anything for me, I’ll stop by the apartment and pick up the clothes there so that I can clear it.” Dinner is very nice; the children seem very excited and are asking to see different sites that Charlie spoke of. It is wonderful tucking them in. They even allow me to read to them. After they fall asleep and all the patients have retired, I turn to Andrew. “Would you mind if I went for a walk?”

“Is everything alright?”

“Yes, but before we go, I want to walk around home.”

His features tell me he knows I have another motive, but he doesn’t press me. “I’ll see you when you get back, by then, I may have the numbers for your meeting, Catherine is working on a proposal.”

“Thank you, I won’t be long.” The air is brisk, and the smell of pine welcomes me home as my eyes glance up to the sky glistening with thousands of stars. I stop by the main kitchen and grab a candle and lantern from the outdoor closet. Despite the bright sky, the woods will be dark. Walking past the cabin, I see the windows and door boarded up and the porch smashed. Stopping at the stairs and running my hand along the broken rail slowly, a very strange feeling comes over me as visions of intense fighting fill my mind. Touching the doorway, I see Nicole and Jacob running through it and healing Reginald as white souls surround them. I see what Andrew meant and how amazing the children have become. Moving away from the cabin and through the forest, I catch sight of a beautiful, new weeping willow tree by the lake. Touching the luscious branches, I see my family planting it as the children hold back tears and as Andrew’s strained features fight against revealing his overwhelming emotions. I hear the children’s voices talking about how much they love me and Andrew talking about how I will always live on in them and surround them the way the warm air surrounds our home in summer and the gentle snowflakes float toward our courtyard in the winter. My eyes mist as I see them place my favorite flowers in the lake and whisper into the wind as they float away. My heart is overwhelmed by the wonderful way they remembered me. I am grateful that it was not a typical sad service which I dreaded when Katrina, David and my mother passed. Despite the beauty, the guilt of what they endured because of my choice engulfs me and I foist myself up and away. There is something I have to do before leaving here tonight and I have already been away too long. Reaching into my pocket and pulling out the bottle of perfume I took from the bureau, I empty it along the shoreline and fill it with lake water.

Traveling quickly now, I finally reach the gorge and drop to my knees. Taking out the candle, I place it in the small bowl I took and pour the water around it. Before lighting it, I close my eyes, knowing that there is one person I need to thank first and hope that Michael hears me. “Michael, I know that thank you just isn’t enough especially after what you have done for me, but I don’t know what else to possibly say. I can’t believe that you have given me a second chance with my family, but I promise you that I won’t fall into complacency this time and will do my best to ensure the children know their powers and fight for their side.” My eyes fly open as I receive an unexpected response. Michael stands before me.

“Mia, you were never complacent, if you were, you would have never found Andrew and your family again. You did that. Your efforts and the efforts of your family is what brought you home, not me. I know you struggle with your choice with the children as well, but there is plenty of time for them to fight, don’t let them stop doing what they are doing and growing the way they are, it is a pleasure to see how well they are advancing and it is because they were not thrust into the fight from birth that they will be such a powerful force. I can’t stay, I am needed elsewhere, but you and your family will be fine, just keep to the course you are on.” He disappears.

Lighting the candle, I place my fingertips in the water. Knowing the real Jonathan Taylor died when his plane crashed in water, I concentrate on its feel and the candle’s flame. When it flares, I whisper softly. “Mr. Taylor, I am very sorry that your life was cut short probably because of the demon who wanted to get to me. I want you to know that my husband and I will try to carry out your wishes and ensure that the projects you desired go forward. I hope that you don’t mind our staying in your home and my husband posing as you, but that would be the quickest way to ensure that your projects get completed.”

“I don’t mind at all.” I jump and am astonished by all the responses I am receiving when I didn’t expect to get any at all. Keeping my fingers in the water unsure of whether or not that is providing his connection and knowing he isn’t that old, I look up.

His faint echo moves closer to me. “I hope you don’t mind, but it is very hard for me to apparate, so if it’s alright with you I would rather just speak as a gentle breeze.”

“That’s fine.” I look on as his image fades.

“I watched you in my home and know what you are trying to do. Your cause is exactly something I could have gotten behind. I am glad that you got away from the one who was pretending to be me. His light was only white for a moment and then the crimson enshrouding him showed me what a strong demon he really was. If you could, I don’t have any family left, but the woman who was with me, Cindy Monahan has a son, twenty, who is attending NYU, could you look in on him and make sure that some of my money goes to him so that he can continue his education and then if it’s possible without tipping your hand, try to get him some seed money for when he gets out. I know that you can’t tell him his mother is gone or where the money is coming from, but please do what you can.”

“I promise. I’ll make sure he gets it. What is his name?”

“Scott. I have to go, thank you and good luck.”

There is one more message I need to send before returning. I empty the water from the candle, blow it out and relight it. Taking the little cross from my pocket; sure that Ann secured it for her child, hoping it would protect him; I concentrate on the flame, hoping to get her a message while grasping the cross. When the flame sparks, I speak. “Ann, I am so sorry that you lost your son to the darkness and that I resent him there to cut the tie to your other children. For a moment, I thought that I touched the boy that you gave birth to and loved, the child of light, the one whom you had hoped to protect, but I couldn’t keep my hold upon him, I’m sorry that I forever sent your son back into the darkness and the abyss that was once your forever night. I wish that I could have saved him for you.” I scream as cold hands grasp my shoulder, terrified that it is Jonathan. As I turn to face him hoping that I am strong enough to escape, relief washes over me as Andrew’s eyes meet mine.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you, but you were gone a long time and I became concerned.”

Blowing out the candle, I rise. “I didn’t mean to concern you, I hadn’t expected to get responses and lost track of time when I saw some of what went on while I was gone.”

As we walk back, Andrew snakes his arm around me while asking me about what I saw and who I spoke to. The children are still asleep and from Gabriel’s expression, he knows the message I sent and had yet to tell Andrew about. “I’ll let you get some rest and see you before you leave. Andrew do you think I could see you a moment before you retire?”

Hugging Gabriel, my voice is softer than I want it to be. “You don’t have to be concerned or tell him who I sent the last message to, I’ll do it.”

Andrew’s eyes shoot between us. “What am I missing?”

I turn to him, hoping this won’t hurt him further. “Gabriel saw that I tried sending your mother a message about her son.” His eyes lock on mine and I can’t tell if he is concerned or hurt. Either way, I need to explain and hopefully remove the look. “It’s just that, I know how evil the demon we saw as Jonathan was, but there was something and I think that the real Jonathan Taylor saw it too, it was just something, when we were talking and he was helping me that made me feel bad for your mother in sending the baby that she loved so much back into the abyss.”

I can see the mask he uses enshrouding his features so that I won’t see his hurt and wish just this once, Gabriel had not spoken. “Mia, you know how much I hate to lose a good soul, but from what we found out, when her husband changed the baby, it was consumed, taken over or turned into the one we know as Jonathan, a dark, deceptive demon tied tightly to the underworld and advancing destruction to souls on this plane. Although what he did will lead to good, it was all in furtherance of his lie to trick you into committing to him so that we would lose you forever. You know how he deceived us for close to five hundred years and encased Martina for centuries because he hoped it would destroy our family. I know that my mother loved the child, but once he was destroyed, consumed by evil, there was nothing left. You cannot feel guilty about sending him back.”

“I know the demon was beyond any evil that I ever want to encounter again and how fearful I am of him, but I still felt the need to send the message. I’m so sorry I concerned you.”

Although his features soften, slightly, I catch a look pass between them before Gabriel leaves. Andrew pulls me into his chest, but cannot hide the hurt from his voice. “Why don’t you get ready for bed and I’ll make you some tea. I’m sure that your walk must have given you a chill.” He quickly darts into the kitchen, avoiding my eyes.

When I come out, he is sitting on the bed sporting a cup of tea. Despite his calm looking demeanor, his eyes cannot mask his thoughts. “Andrew, I’m sorry I concerned you.”

“Mia, maybe we should stay somewhere else. Staying where you spent so much time together may cause more complications than it is worth, especially considering your wrestling with such guilty feelings and how much you will be skirting between the life you were leading there and your life now, it may be too stressful for you.” His eyes dart everywhere in the room but toward mine.

Putting down the tea, I grasp his face so that he is forced to look at me. “Andrew, the home is big enough to fit all of us and it would help with the charade. Besides, when I spoke with the real Jonathan Taylor, it seems he didn’t mind at all and I would really like to ensure that his desires get accomplished. It would be so much easier for you to appear as him if we were living where people know he lives. I know what I said upset you and I don’t want to hurt you further, but I had to send the message to your mother. I know what we decided about the children, but thinking about when they were born, they were so innocent, so perfect and loving and then in the case of your mom, a demon ripped her child away and turned him into the very darkness which she feared the most. She killed herself so the innocent soul which she brought into this world would not be alone in the abyss, in the darkness that consumes the light. I believe that the soul that was consumed was good, how could it not be, it was a child. From the stories that he told me of how the darkness overtook him and how it was too late after being left with a monster to know anything else, how could he turn from the darkness when all he knew was the thought his mother had abandoned him and his life with his keeper was shrouded in an endless abyss? Despite what she tried to do in killing herself, she never reached him, I know it. I can’t really explain what I mean, it’s just that when you were transformed, you were an adult and physically never changed after that, but the morality that was already engrained in you helped you, it made you the man I love and the one I can’t exist without.” As the meaning of what I am saying hits me, I elaborate. “I can’t understand though how Jonathan changed and grew. Aren’t you supposed to be frozen? But sometimes, for the briefest of seconds when he spoke, there was just something of that innocent child who searched for answers as to why it happened to him and who I knew your mother died for. I guess it is the mother in me and the wonders of such miracles that I have been blessed with that compelled me to apologize to your mother for sending the innocent piece of her blessing back to the shadows. I am truly sorry for putting you through this too, but I couldn’t let it go.”

Reaching for my hands, he brings them to his lips, kissing them gently. “I do understand. I just know what guilt can do and how badly you already feel about what you think you did to our children, I don’t want this to be any harder on you.”

“I’m fine, so please wipe the concern from your eyes.”

“It’s not concern, I was just thinking about how the child was changed so young but then grew into the man who deceived us all. You’re right. We don’t change physically once we are converted, so I can’t understand how he changed.” He shakes his head. “It’s so strange. Every time I think that we are beginning to understand what is around us, I find there is still so much that we know nothing about, gatekeepers, an incredible dagger, super demons and now this.” I can feel my jaw drop at what he is talking about. “I’m sorry. You should rest. I’m just running off at the mouth. I will say one thing about our world though that I am glad surprised me, it brought you back to me.” He moves to kiss me and that is all it takes to make all the realms around us, confounding as they are, disappear.

Waking, it is still dark. Andrew is not beside me, so I rise and look for him. Entering the living room, I hear muffled voices from the kitchen. Moving closer, Andrew is speaking. “Stop apologizing, we were all confused. Eva just look at what I could have done, what I had gone there planning to do. I could have killed my son and Mia.”

“You weren’t fooled though and I tried to force your hand which would have led to disaster. It is just that before you leave, I want you to know how sorry I am and to make sure that you’re alright and will be careful while you are there.”

“Is there something that you’re worried about?”

“It just seems strange that Cassandra would want you to take Grant and Jeff and then what she said about the wolf he would operate on, I don’t know, but obviously if he is going to operate on a wolf, you are going to encounter something again from our world and it just seems that lately every time we encounter something, it has extreme consequences, so just be careful. I should let you put Alexander back to bed and get back to Mia. I’ll see you in the morning before you leave.”

A chair moves and I quickly move to open the door. “I hope that we didn’t wake you.” She rises.

“No, I was up. Is everything alright?”

She hugs me. “I just wanted Andrew and you to know how sorry I am about the other night. I know I frightened you.”

I interrupt her. “You were protecting Andrew and I would have done exactly the same thing. I love you Eva. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have my life.” I throw my arms around her. “I don’t know how I will ever show you how grateful I am for that.”

Andrew rises as she leaves and places Alexander back in his crib. “You should try to sleep, we’ll be leaving in a few hours and something tells me that we will be hitting the ground running. Eva took the report that Catherine did and I think that you will be very pleased and so will your Board. There were plenty of funds raised between the benefits that you set up and the contributions to ensure a surplus fund that if invested wisely could ensure all children receive the best of care possible, regardless of insurance. Catherine even included some suggestions regarding investments that we have utilized to keep our endeavors running.”

Wrapping my arms around his waist, I kiss the back of his neck. “Thank you for doing this for me.”

He turns still in my embrace. “Mia, it is a good endeavor and this could be very good for all of us.”

Taking his hand, I move to sit on the couch and pick up the proposal. Reading over it, I’m surprised to see how much we did secure and the projections from the investments. It’s strange, before I never used to take an interest in finances and now I am reviewing reports to ensure that the numbers are manipulated enough to bring about the best results for the wing. I even discern that she included costs for equipment that we do not need with the initial startup because we could use equipment already in the hospital. I rise.

“What’s the matter?”

“I just need to get dressed and change this report. I’ll be back to make breakfast before the kids wake up.” Putting on my coat, Andrew is staring at me and I realize that this change registers with him as well.

When I return, the children are still asleep and the bags are by the door. Andrew is starting breakfast in the kitchen and I go to help. When the children rise, they are happy to see us. It feels so nice and strange at the same time. Less than forty-eight hours ago, my life felt so out of sync and I was trying to force a decision by convincing myself it was the right thing to do, but still, my work, the project, surgeries, and helping patients felt so right. Now, although I am so happy to be home with my children and the man who makes my heart beat, I can’t escape the anxiety I feel knowing where we are headed and who the people there think I am. I wonder which one of me is actually here and which one will emerge there. So many emotions flood through me, it’s so perplexing. I loved psychiatry and for the longest time thought that was the only way to stay in the medical field and still help people. Now, I can see why my parents loved what they had done and why they tried to share it with us. For the first time, the knowledge that I fought so hard in medical school against is fighting to stay in the forefront. I feel it bubbling to the surface as the two sides of me are engaged in battle, both wanting to work and help. I shake my head. We have to get the things to the car and leave before the patients start moving around, I don’t want to upset anyone else. Forcing these thoughts out of my mind, I pick up a dish and chide myself. I have already caused enough, pain, anxiety and feelings of loss, I need to concentrate on repairing the damage, if this is even possible, not causing more confusion and change. Closing my eyes, I hope I can find some way to bring some peace to those I love.





Chapter One - Embarking On New Endeavors





After cleaning the dishes, we meet Grant, Jeff and their families by the parking lot and load a small bus for the airport. It is wonderful to see the children interacting and excited. Grant volunteers to drive and Andrew sits with me and Alexander, stroking my hand. “Would you like to tell me what had you so preoccupied at breakfast?”

I don’t know how to explain what I am feeling to Andrew, since I can’t even explain it to myself and fear if I try, he may misunderstand or think that I’m not happy to be myself again, but in truth, I am not myself, despite my memories coming back. If I tell him that I feel strange, will he think that I am not happy to be back with him and my children? I love them more than anything in my life, more than my life, it isn’t them, it’s me.

“Mia, what’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just me, nothing is wrong. I was just thinking about the project, that’s all.”

He kisses my forehead then moves his sculpted lips to my ear. “Mia, I know you better than that, something is bothering you, please don’t shut me out.”

Looking into his eyes, I know that if I don’t tell him, he will feel like I’m shutting him out again, just like I’m sure he believes I shut him out of my decision to leave in the first place, despite saying that he understands why. I can’t hurt him anymore, but as I look back at the children, I become concerned that if they overhear, they will misunderstand and then I’ll hurt them further. No matter which way I turn lately, I’m hurting someone. I have to find some balance between the answers he needs and not hurting them through a misunderstanding. “Can we talk about this tonight? It’s just I don’t know how to explain my preoccupation and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I’m trying to say.” My eyes glance toward the children.

Bringing my hand to his lips, he nods in understanding. “Tonight”

The plane ride is smooth and we drive directly to the house. Walking in, I can’t believe how neat and tidy it appears, not one shred of evidence from the fight remains. There are so many rooms. I am surprised when Nicholas, Jacob, Charlie and Paul decide to bunk together and so do Nicole, Kayla and Julianne. Grant, Jeff and Andrew move the beds and then light a fire downstairs to warm the room while I go into the kitchen to see what I can prepare for dinner. I’m surprised to see the refrigerator stocked. As I cook, I call Julian. Thankfully, he spoke with Mrs. Ford and the meeting time has been changed so that I can attend.

“Are you home? I’m about to leave here and would love to make sure that you’re alright for myself.”

“I’m not there. I’m at Jonathan’s. I’ve put him through too much already and after the other night I don’t want him worrying anymore.”

“Does that mean you said yes to his proposal?”

Knowing that Andrew will be posing as him and the work we have to do, I seize the opportunity to set the groundwork. “Yes, we got married last night in the clinic chapel.” He drops the phone.

“What did you just say?”

“Jonathan suggested that it might be less stressful if we got married while the press was occupied with the benefit, you know how they hounded us after learning we got engaged, we didn’t want our ceremony to become a circus and I really couldn’t face any more stress with having to plan a ceremony.”

“Mia, please tell me that you did it because you love him and not just for the sake of your child and this project. He is a good man Mia and I know that he can make you happy. It is time for you to start living again, but if you did it only for the sake of the baby, everyone is going to suffer.”

“I didn’t do it for that, so stop worrying.”

“If that’s the truth, say the words. You never had a problem when you were with Alex, there was never any question of how you felt for him, and it was in your eyes, every time you looked at him.”

“I do love him. You were right. I was just being stubborn in not admitting it to myself. Now get home to your family and give Tracy and Davy a hug for me. I’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you again for taking care of the meeting.”

Unaware that Andrew is behind me, I almost drop the pan of chicken.

“So is everything set for tomorrow?” He inquires ensuring I don’t drop the pan.

His expressionless features reveal that he overheard my conversation. “Yes.” Placing the pan on the counter, I wrap my hands around his waist. “Andrew, I hope that you realize that I said I loved Jonathan because tomorrow you will be pretending to be him and although the others will see you as him, I believe that I will still see you. Knowing how much I love you, I know that it will show in my face. They believe that they have watched me bury myself for so long and were hoping that I would fall in love again, I just want them to know how happy I am before we return home.”

“Mia, you didn’t do anything wrong, besides it provides me a good reason to spend time with you there.” Despite his reassuring words, I can hear the strain in his voice as he picks up the chicken. “I should serve this before it gets cold.”

He turns, but I grab his arm. “Andrew, stop. I know that you are upset. I want you to know something, no matter how much I desperately tried to feel for him, I couldn’t. The only time I ever felt love or desire was when I was dreaming and it was you, no one else. The way you knew your heart wasn’t lying to you when you believed it was me, my heart couldn’t belong to anyone but you and never will.” I stretch and kiss him. “I love you and that will never change.”

“I love you too. Come on, everyone is waiting. I want you to eat. You need to keep up your strength.”

Dinner is nice, but the children getting up and clearing the table and cleaning the dishes surprises me. Once we tuck them in, Andrew and I return down stairs. Placing another log on the fire, he allows me to curl into his side. I nuzzle his neck. I love looking at the way the flames flicker in his beautiful sapphire eyes and am grateful that his features appear serene. He shifts to face me. “Will you tell me now what had you so preoccupied today?”

“You are going to think that I have absolutely lost my mind. I’m not so sure I haven’t. I am not even sure if I understand it myself or know how to explain it but if I don’t, you’ll think I’m shutting you out again and if I try to explain, I’m afraid I’ll do such a bad job that you’ll get the wrong impression. I don’t want to hurt you any more than I already have because I love you. Please understand that I never meant to hurt you with any of this, I...” I’m not even aware that I’m wringing my hands so tightly that my knuckles have turned stark white, until he picks up my hands and gently moves them apart.

Looking into his eyes, how can they be filled with such understanding after everything I have already put him through? Before when I spoke to him, I could bring him comfort and now, every time I open my mouth, all I bring him is more pain. Is there any way to explain this to him without inflicting yet another wound?

“Mia, you are the most remarkable woman I have ever met. I would never think that you lost your mind. You have been through an extraordinary experience. Now that you know who you are, you are trying to mesh yourself with the person you developed into while you were here. Although you did wonderful things in each life, the paths followed are very different, not only in the career that you followed, helping people in very different ways, but also in how you led your life.” He strokes my cheek gently. “I’m sure that you are struggling with what you want and the way you think you should behave now. You worry about hurting us, feel guilty about all that occurred and if that is not enough, am I right in assuming that you believe that you need to behave exactly like you were before you left?

My mouth pops open. From that day I first stepped through the gates of Sanctuary, he has been able to read me, knowing me better than I know myself.

Kissing my forehead, he cups my face. “You are not the same person you were when you left, you have other experiences now which shape who you are. I know you think that I don’t understand, but I do, more than you may realize. At least the two people that you are merging are both loving and caring people who always help. I know that in some ways you feel that they are very different because the Mia that you were here is the Mia you fought so hard against before, the one who practices hands on medicine and operates and now that you remember your old life, you have both sides of the physician warring within you and question if you can really perform the surgeries on your own or if it was all due to your mother’s assistance. I bet you even remember all of the medical training that you went through and fought against earlier now at the forefront of your mind, a part of you that you enjoyed, that gave you peace and understanding regarding what was going on around you while you were here, that part of you that allowed your life to have meaning and make sense.”

With each word he utters, he unravels another string confounding this new existence, revealing my confusion, not only to him, but in a way that makes sense of what I am feeling but cannot express to even myself. “Mia, I understand because that is how I felt when I realized that I had lived two types of lives while I was split, the Nicholas side of me and my own. When we merged I couldn’t reconcile or understand myself and in some ways even hated myself more because of some of the things that I did as Nicholas.”

I interrupt. “Andrew, just look at what you did in the end, if you hadn’t sacrificed blindly and truly been good, your family would have never been released. If you hadn’t merged or if you had chosen to kill me or side with darkness, all of our lives would be so different now and your family would still be searching for answers, if not lost.”

Running his knuckles slowly down my jawline, his eyes warm. “I know that now, but it took a long time for me to accept both sides of myself. At first I felt a desperate need to keep just the good side of me and felt very strange about the bad things that I had done. However, as I truly looked at both sides of me, I realized that there was also a part of Nicholas, the good part, the part of him that you touched, that I wanted to keep with me always. Both sides of me did merge and I was able to keep both, so will you. Trust me, you will feel more comfortable with yourself in time and you may even find that you desire to practice both sides of medicine. The wonderful part of that is that you have an eternity to bounce back and forth between them. Remember how I told you we had many different careers in this field, so can you.”

I shake my head. “Andrew, I can’t practice without my mother’s help.”

“Mia, although your mother helped guide you in your confusion, when she did, she unleashed not only your own knowledge but the knowledge that lay dormant within your subconscious from when our souls touched. Cassandra explained that the night in the woods, when our souls touched, my experiences and knowledge also touched you, you have not only your own skill and knowledge, but some of what I gathered over the centuries has become engrained within you. Think back to when you were treating the patients or performing surgery, did it feel as if you just instinctively knew what to do, that your mind was making connections and guiding your hands without you having to really think about it?”

Sitting there, thinking about the young boy who was shot and the accident, I did feel as if that was happening. “Wasn’t that because my mother was guiding my hand?”

“Some of it was, but some of it was knowledge that became a part of you so if you did want to practice medicine in that fashion you could, you just have to trust in yourself the way you trusted in me. You once told me how relieved you felt when you saw that both sides of me survived and loved to see the changes, enjoy your changes and allow them to grow, but give yourself time, the way you gave me time when Nicholas and I became one. I know it is not exactly the same, but in some ways it is. You are dealing with a lot and you need to stop expecting yourself to act like you did before this experience changed you.”

“So are you. Just look at what I put you through what you had to deal with in my absence and now, to get this project done, look at what I’m asking you to do. I’m asking you to pretend to be someone who tried to destroy you. What kind of a monster does that make me?”

“You aren’t asking me to be anyone but Jonathan Taylor, the philanthropist, but if you want me to take on the bit of his lady’s man persona, I have to tell you, I only have eyes for one woman and that will always be you.” He smiles widely and his eyes in the flickering flames smolder with desire.

Crawling into his lap, I slowly unbutton his shirt, allowing my fingertips to linger on his perfect chest. As I kiss his neck, I whisper. “He could have enjoyed his womanizing ways.” I tease.

I feel him laughing. “As long as you promise to be all of the women I love, I guess it couldn’t hurt.” Rising with me in his arms, he pulls me into his chest and heads upstairs. As his smooth, cool lips caress my neck, move down my jawline to my lips, my heart is overwhelmed with love for this man and my mind fills with clear visions from the dreams I had while here, both sides of me heating with desire for my wonderful husband.

Waking, Andrew is not in the bed. As my eyes focus, the darkened sky reveals it is not yet morning. Looking over, Alexander is asleep. Rising, I check on the children. They are still sleeping. Moving down the stairs, Andrew doesn’t appear to be in the house. Looking out I finally catch sight of him sitting at the table by the pool, on the telephone. Looking at my watch, it is still too early for Alexander to get up and eat so I move outside. Crossing the patio, I hear him on the telephone.

“I can see the changes in her and know she is feeling confused and guilty, what if this is too much for her. I can see her straining to try and behave the way she thinks she should act, I want to help her, I want to make this easier for her, but in truth Eva, I don’t know how. When Nicholas and I merged, you convinced her to give me time to work it all out and then with the children, it did work out. My life became so full, there wasn’t time to get lost in everything that changed and I did feel better because I had so much joy surrounding me with Mia and my new family, but when I look into her eyes, I can tell that we are also a source of guilt for her. She is not finding the same peace in us that I found in them…What if we never bring her peace and she doesn’t truly find her way back to us?….I can be patient. I just can’t stand feeling like I am bringing her pain. Just look at what she was seeing last night, what being with me brought upon her.” His hand moves up to his nose pinching the bridge. “Maybe if I had left her alone all those years ago, the life that she experienced here would have been the life she would have found without all of the guilt, demons and danger.”

Moving closer, his voice sounds so tortured and I see the pain in his profile. Moving my hand toward the telephone, I take it from his hand. “Eva, he’ll call you back.” I don’t even give her a chance to respond before ending the call and placing the phone on the table. Pulling up a chair, I take his hands, and wait until he looks up. He needs to hear every word. “Andrew, you’re right a part of me has changed and feels very guilty for everything that I put you through. Although you understand my reasoning and you say that the children understand, a part of me feels like you and the children must believe that I chose to leave you that I abandoned you because in some way that is exactly what my choice led to. You remembered me. You had to deal with the ramifications of suffering my loss, but I had no real recollection of you or our children. I did not suffer over the past several months in the same way that I caused you and the children to suffer.” He opens his mouth to interrupt, but I raise my fingertips to his lips to stop him.

“I knew that the choice I made would take me away from you without warning and that you would be made to believe that I was dead, even though everyone says they understand, how can any of you forgive that? I left voluntarily and all of you paid a price. Now all of a sudden, I’m back. I am grateful, I can’t even explain to you how blessed I feel for this gift, but after what I did to all of you, I…I don’t deserve such a gift. I caused so much hurt to those I love. They suffered while my life went on and it shouldn’t have gone on that way. I should have been made to suffer for what I foisted upon our family. I shouldn’t have been allowed to go on and do something that would make me feel good and right. I made the choice and I should have suffered for it.”

He cups my face, placing his thumbs against my lips to silence me. “Stop that right now! You weren’t allowed to do anything. From what you told me, you fought for the wing to become a reality and could have lost your soul to get it accomplished.”

For the first time ever, I forcefully shake out of his hold. I am not going to let him allow me off the hook for the pain I caused. “Andrew, Michael gave me the wing, he gave me a gift to hold on to while my choice allowed you and our children to suffer.”

Shaking his head, his eyes harden with his resolve. “Mia, we had each other to hold on to. We had our family, while you were without your powers, without knowledge of who surrounded you and suffering a loss which although you didn’t know who those feelings of loss were truly for, it doesn’t make the grief and sense of what is missing any less real and you faced it alone. Although we suffered your absence, we still had each other to hold on to and believe me the children knew they had support and love. They even grew closer and took Grant and Jeff’s family, as well as their already extended family into their hearts and are now stronger because they learned how many people support and love them.”

“But Andrew, I weakened them as well because the one who should have loved them the most, the one who said she would always be with them and watch over them, abandoned them and left them.” Fighting against the misting that veils my eyes, I will not let one tear fall. I don’t deserve that luxury. I don’t deserve to be comforted, not after what I had done. “Andrew I know what you’re saying, but they trusted me and I left them, without any preparation at all.”

“That’s not true.” His tone turns frustrated, maybe even angry. “Mia, you didn’t chose to leave them, you made a choice not to let Eva suffer in your place. You made a choice to save the life of someone who was willing to sacrifice everything to give our children a life, one that they wouldn’t have had. If you had made the decision to knowingly let Eva die that day so that we could go on, nothing would have been the same. The guilt of that choice would change you in a way that we would never be able to reach you again. You would have left the children in a different way, a way that would have allowed the darkness into not only your life, but theirs as well. I’m not saying that by your choice, your loss didn’t affect them, but you have to realize, they do understand that you made the only choice possible. Your choice allowed them to continue to grow in love, strength and understanding. They have gained levels of maturity and forgiveness that our choices, even early on, have allowed into their hearts. They have seen how our world sometimes causes us to make choices that we would never otherwise make. They really do understand why you did it and truly, you are right, they won’t forgive you for it because in their eyes, there is nothing to forgive.”

Slowly, he snakes one arm around my waist and the other he slips under my knees, sliding me onto his lap. “Please allow yourself to know that they love you, I love you, and let go of the guilt you are struggling with now. Trust me, it is going to be difficult enough for you to try and meld the person you are now with the person you were at Sanctuary.” Looking into his extraordinary features, although they successfully mask his pain, the heavenly reflection of his eyes cannot. I wonder if as he’s looking around, he thinks I am struggling because more had happened than I am letting on. I need him to understand what part of me is actually struggling.

Brushing his beautiful lips, I gauge my tone. “Andrew, I never thought, when I told Michael to take me that I would ever be allowed to set eyes upon you, our children or enjoy the life that we made together,” I feel my bubbling emotions and want to get out what I need to say without my tone wavering. Taking in a deep breath, I steady myself. “You are wrong in what you told Eva. You do bring me peace and I am so happy to have found my way back to you. I am struggling with who I am right now and how I should behave, but only the physician part of me, nothing else. No other part of my life made any type of sense when I was away from you. Every day, I would wake up knowing that nothing but my work seemed to fit. I knew I felt a loss, but couldn’t understand it. I thought it was because the loss happened quickly in a home invasion and my husband had been ripped away from me, but looking back, I can understand it much better now. I felt the loss of you and our children being erased from my mind as my heart kept trying to hold on to the part that was torn from my memory. Despite everything, despite the veil, a part of me was always fighting trying to hold on to something and now I know that it was you and our life together. Andrew, you need to know, that the reason I even allowed Jonathan to come into my life was because I thought that he was someone who could help me bring the wing to fruition. You know how I never liked to get involved with numbers or your business ventures over these past several years, that did not change.“ I am happy to see him chuckle, probably from a memory of my throwing all the trust statements in the draw, without ever looking at them.

“I was failing miserably in raising funds and getting the numbers to work, but at the same time, I became desperate to hold on to the only thing that seemed right. When Jonathan made a huge donation and offered to help, from everything I read it seemed like he could resurrect my dying effort. Although what he was doing was driven by an ulterior motive, the wing would never have had any chance at all if it wasn’t for what he did and the thought of the wing and helping children was the only thing that truly allowed me to wake up and try to live life every day.”

Knowing how touchy the next part is, I pause a moment to make sure that my thoughts and words are not muddled. I won’t cause him any more pain. “Then when I learned that I was pregnant, part of the old me, the Mia who loved my family, who loved the life I had built with you came back to me. Maybe it had truly never left me because I was blessed enough to always have a part of you with me in Alexander, but I am telling you the truth when I say that even when I desperately tried to push a life with Jonathan, it wouldn’t come. In fact, that is when I began to dream about you more, but things were changing so quickly in your features, that I couldn’t see your face, but I could feel your love. I know that I may not be explaining this all right and I hope that I am explaining enough because I heard what you said to Eva and you are so wrong. You have nothing to feel guilty about, you don’t cause me pain. You are the most wonderful gift that has ever been bestowed upon me. You and our children are more than I ever thought I would be blessed with.” His arms tighten around me, bringing me closer to his chest.

Peeking up at him, I see the overwhelming emotions touching his features. “You are our gift and our family is beyond anything that I ever thought possible. As far as Jonathan goes, there is nothing for you to explain, I understand what you’re saying perfectly. I just hate seeing you struggle. Mia, I am so grateful that you had a project which brought you peace, because in truth it was that project that brought you back into our lives. I just can’t help but wonder if you would have found a more peaceful life if I hadn’t crossed your existence and taken you up to Sanctuary all those years ago, maybe you would have found such a project or one like it without all of the ramifications which you are dealing with now.”

Putting my hands on his face to ensure that he cannot look away, I speak very deliberately. “You are absolutely wrong on that count. You remember what I was like with my family, I would have never found such a life, I would have never stayed in the medical field and more importantly, I would never have the wonderful family and the man I can’t live without in my life. Even if I were still an immortal, I would have never stumbled upon anything like the life I am privileged to live now. You and our children are the most important people in my life, you are my life.” I pull his face down to mine, kissing him passionately.

When he finally withdraws to allow me to catch my breath, he rises and places me gently on my feet. “Maybe we should get inside in case Alexander wakes up.” As we move through the hall into our room, Alexander is still sleeping. Turning to Andrew, he is deep in some thought and his features grow serious as his eyes shift between the crib and me. “Mia, I know how important getting the wing built is to you and how concerned you are with trying to meld your existence with Jonathan to the life you have with our children and as much as I don’t want to put more stress upon you, we have another issue to deal with. Now that we have found you, the children need to spend time with you and it is going to be difficult in town to avoid doctors and people who know you and who may see us out with them, so I had an idea. When you and Jonathan were with people from the hospital, did he ever talk about family?”

“He said he had siblings and some nieces and nephews but that they weren’t very close to him why?”

“I think it may be a good idea to try to lay some groundwork that his nieces and nephews are coming to stay with us for a while. I don’t want to say they are your nieces and nephews because we really don’t know how much of your background they know. This way, we don’t have to worry about moving around with the children or keeping anyone hidden. It will also take some stress off of you and them to be allowed to freely travel together.” I can see that he is struggling with something else, something he doesn’t want to say.

“Andrew, what aren’t you telling me?”

He moves me over to the edge of the bed and his eyes keep shifting to Alexander. “Mia, it’s just that I know you thought we would only be returning for a few weeks, maybe two months, but I know from past experience that even though you have the money now to build the wing, it will take several months before they even find a contractor and the Board begins to approve and allow certain things. We are going to be here for quite some time.” He clears his throat as his eyes shift again between me and Alexander. “It’s just that you said there are some people there who think you are several weeks pregnant, even if you were to hide Alexander, by the time you could be giving birth, his physiology will not meet that of a new born. If they weren’t physicians you may have been able to fool them, but I don’t think with them it would be wise.”

Cold freezes the core of my very being as visions of Alexander floating through darkness then fire flashes before my eyes. Before he even finishes, I know what he is intimating and what he is trying not to say. Maybe I already knew from the way I answered Julian. “When do you think we should tell them I lost the baby?” Despite knowing Alexander is before me, I can’t help but shudder. As my eyes lock upon the crib, Andrew’s arms encircle me.

“It’s alright, you didn’t lose him. How many people knew of your condition?”

“Thankfully, only Janet and Julian know for sure. Some others suspected, so maybe the sooner I let them believe it, the better.”

Alexander stirs and I quickly move towards him, reassuring myself that nothing happened to him and he is safe in my arms. Downstairs, I turn to Andrew. “How long do you think that it will be before I can back away from the project without it being in danger?”

Handing me the bottle, his voice turns soft. “You are going to need to stay and spearhead the project for at least six months to a year before you can begin backing away and telling the Board that you will not be heading the wing.” We move so I can sit and feed Alexander. “I know you said you had an idea as to who could run it, but Mia, this endeavor is not the same as when we established hospitals. You have a Board to deal with and a physician who would like nothing better than to sideline your project for his own benefit. It may be better to personally ensure that everything stays on track and that you are here when it first opens. The benefactors gave because they thought that you would be heading the project and you don’t want to shake their confidence because from experience I can tell you that the Board will become very upset once the people whose circles I’m sure they travel in start questioning whether the project is still on track considering the physician who put this into motion and secured funds because of all the good work she did backs out. Board members become very uncomfortable with such things and you don’t want this project to become a problem for them. If you remain at the hospital as a physician and keep the project moving forward it will go much smoother.”

I don’t mean to but as my eyes meet Andrew’s I gasp. How can I ask Andrew to pose as someone else for all that time and how could I keep our children away from the only home they have ever known, especially after what I have already put them through? “I didn’t realize it would take that long when I asked you to come here. I can’t disrupt your and the children’s lives for that long. They belong home and you belong in the hospital as Andrew.”

He moves his chair closer to me and places his hand around my arm, gently enfolding Alexander and me. “Mia, you are looking at this the wrong way. Sanctuary will always be our home and it will be there when we return. You should look at this as offering the children a chance to see beyond Sanctuary to what the world has to offer them. They are immortal too now and should see beyond our walls, see what the real world is like. As they get older, they will venture beyond the walls and it would be a good thing for them to see the world with us first”

“He’s right, if they venture out, they will need to learn how to move around before people get suspicious.” Jeff strolls in. “I hope I’m not interrupting, I just need a bottle for Andrea and you sounded so worried, but let me assure you, the kids sounded very excited about being here when I went to check on Charlie tonight. They are even making plans on what they want to see.” As he dries the sides of the bottle, he moves closer to us. “I hope that you don’t mind my interjecting something, but you have both gone through quite an ordeal and what you are going to try to do next is not going to be easy on you, don’t compound it by putting even further guilt upon yourselves about taking the children away from their home. Watching your children over the past few months, I’m sure they have no doubts as to Sanctuary being their home, but they are also open to new experiences and are very mature for their age. Take it from one who has moved Charlie around since he was very young, children adapt and they look upon moving around as an adventure. Even if you did decide to stay here for a year, Maine isn’t that far away and we can go back on long weekends and vacations to ensure that they don’t get homesick and I’m sure your siblings will come and visit, your family is amazing. I have to get back; I’ll see you in a while for breakfast.”

“He’s right, we’re not that far away and maybe once we get whatever story we need to in place, get the children enrolled in school and enter more of a routine, this will be a way of our stepping away from the surreal to concentrate on our being a family again.”

“Won’t our being here for all that time cause problems at Sanctuary?”

“No, we have plenty of coverage there.”

“But Andrew, you won’t be practicing medicine. Jonathan wasn’t a physician.”

“Mia, it’s fine and as myself I can practice medicine, if I miss it. In fact, I have spent time in that hospital.” He chuckles.

“Can you change back and forth like that?”

A grin crosses his face. “I can, and it doesn’t take as much out of me now. So don’t worry. Besides, who knows, I may decide just to play Jonathan and stay home with Alexander. At least with you working, I have choices.” As he laughs so do I.

Now that Alexander has fallen asleep we move upstairs to get ready for the day. As the children rise, it is nice to hear them happy and excited about being here. Over breakfast everyone makes plans. Grant and Julianne head off to the local school to apply for the math and gym job which they confirmed are being advertised online and even found a science teacher job being advertised which Paul is applying for with the impressive resumes Andrew has printed from Catherine. The children are going sightseeing with Charlie, Jeff and Sarah while Andrew and I attend the board meeting.

As we enter the parking area, there are several ambulances parked near emergency. Without even thinking, my hand grabs the door handle, before the car even stops. “Mia, wait until I stop and then you can jump out.” As he says this, I realize that maybe my hand shouldn’t be on the door at all. What if I can’t help? What if without anyone guiding my hand, I can’t do what needs to be done? As if he sees the hesitation in my eyes, he places his hand on my shoulder and I turn to him in time to see him force back his own internal struggling over being unable to help in order to make me feel better. His voice turns reassuring. “Mia, you will know what to do and you will be able to help, go inside and don’t worry, the knowledge you had did not leave you, your mother only guided your hand to give you the confidence while your mind was processing it all.“

Knowing that he too is struggling, I take the reports from my bag and hand them to him, hoping that what I say next will lessen his anxiety. “You need to get these to the meeting and keep Geoffrey in line; he thrives when I’m not around. I’m sure that he’s there and will try to pull something thinking that I’ll just give the papers to Janet to drop off. You need to help the children who will come to this hospital and because of everything you shared with me, I need to go and see what I can do.” Leaning over I am relieved to still see Andrew’s face and not Jonathan’s. I kiss him before jumping out of the car and move quickly across the parking lot.

Entering the emergency, patients are lying on gurneys lining the hallways while the waiting room is packed with concerned family members. Catching site of Janet moving toward one of the rooms, I run up to her. “What happened?”

A truck barreled into the construction site on fifth causing a structural collapse. We have twenty to twenty-five workers seriously injured and others with lacerations and broken bones.”

“What room should I start in?”

“After the other night, are you sure you’re alright to even be here? I thought Julian said you were only coming in for the Board meeting.”

“I’m fine, what room?”

“Check with Samantha in surgery. I know that they were awaiting Dr. Michaelson’s arrival, but he was a way out and she was trying to rotate the surgeries.”

Moving quickly to surgery, I catch Samantha on the phone calling for additional help. “Where should I go?”

“Scrub for surgical three. We have a man with severe internal injuries and a collapsed lung.” Scrubbing quickly, I could see Dr. Michaelson’s team already in place. Entering, my heart races, I hope Andrew and Cassandra are right about my knowing what to do. Maybe I shouldn’t have entered; maybe I should have just gone into patient care at least that would not have been a life or death situation. Looking around at the machinery, I realize that from the readings, this man can’t wait, especially if Michaelson is out. With each step toward the table, my body pushes out the anxiety. I cannot afford unsteady hands. Picking up the scalpel, my hand is not shaking and I feel a new sense of determination come over me. As my hand moves, the next steps are running quickly through my consciousness. After several grueling hours, I close, knowing that the gentleman is on the mend, I only hope I can sneak Andrew into recovery to help the healing process. From the indent on his ring finger, I know they removed a band on him for surgery and that he probably has a very worried family awaiting word.

Heading toward the physician’s lounge to change, I see Julian doing the same. When he sees me, he moves toward me. “Janet told me that she sent you into surgery, how are you feeling?”

Knowing what I had accomplished and grateful that the knowledge did indeed stay with me; I feel a strange high and can’t help but smile. “Surgery went well. How did your surgery go?”

“It went well too. I just wanted to change before going out to the family. Jack told me that the lobby is mobbed with family members, as word got out, they all came in. Thankfully, we got everyone settled into a room. Janet told me that Jonathan did a fantastic job at the Board meeting, but Mia, how are you really doing? I know what you said last night, but considering what has gone down in the last forty-eight hours, I am surprised that you felt well enough for surgery or to even see patients.”

I could see the concern in his features and decide to start laying the groundwork. Knowing that my facial features when I look at Andrew will be quite different than when I was with Jonathan and that Julian and Janet will quickly pick up on the change. I want to get our story with the children out there too so that we will not have to hide them for any period of time.

“A lot has happened but considering all that we accomplished at the last benefit and that I can say good-bye to that part of my life, I feel relieved and want to ensure that after everything that has happened, Geoffrey didn’t undue any of it. At least I don’t have to dress shop anymore.” I joke and am happy to see him laughing.

“Were the benefits and dress shopping really that bad?” He teases. “Kelly said she would be happy to take any new dresses off your hands? But seriously, I knew you promised Jonathan that you would give him a decision, but to marry him so quickly, are you sure that you are alright with that or did you just do it to get it over with? There are some serious consequences to that move, have you really thought all this through?”

Looking into his eyes, knowing that he would know if I were unsure or hedging, I clear my throat. “I am absolutely sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with him.” I turn my tone serious I have to get this out now; I don’t want it lingering over me. “Julian, I lost the baby, the pregnancy was ectopic.”

He gasps and his features turn grave. Pulling me over to the bench, he grasps my hands. “I’m so sorry. Mia did you find this out after you married him?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“I don’t understand, then why?”

“Despite the crazy way it started and…” I take a deep breath. “The situation made me realize or maybe remember how much I do want a family. Jonathan is a good man. Just look at everything he was willing to do for me, no matter what I decided. He showed me how much he truly cares for me; he loves me and has been searching for a family to love him for so long. When we were at the clinic, I finally let my guard down and realized that I love him and if I hadn’t fought it these past few months, maybe I would have realized it sooner.” His features reveal his shock and I decide I might as well lay down the last piece. “When we were there, his friend who runs the clinic told him that his step-brother was in a very serious accident back home and was facing some very difficult times.”

“I thought Jonathan said he wasn’t close to his family.”

“He hasn’t been but always wanted to be. He called over to the hospital that his brother is in and found out that he and his wife were hit on the way home from the hospital, along with their newborn son. His wife is dead and his brother is in serious condition. The doctors said his brother is going to have a long road back to recovery and considering they had four other children, Jonathan thought he would try to go home later today and convince his brother to recuperate in the clinic while we watched the children.”

Julian cannot keep his jaw from falling. Finally snapping it shut, “Why would he think that his brother would agree, especially after what he said at my house? Besides, Mia, don’t you think it would be too much for the two of you considering what just happened.”

“I don’t think it would be too much. You know how much I love children and if this could allow Jonathan to get closer to his family, maybe I could help give him back something he so desperately wants considering all he has done to help me realize my dream. I just hope that his brother says yes.”

“Mia, where is this clinic anyway? Where were you the other night?”

As I think about how to answer him, I consider how we may travel up to Maine so that the children don’t lose contact with their home. “I was in Maine, at a hospital called Sanctuary. It’s really an exceptional place and considering that Jonathan has friends there and they have a wing that could help his brother over a long recuperation he would be a fool to turn him down.” Knowing how long surgery was, I don’t want to leave everyone waiting. “We should go out and speak with the patients’ families and then I should see if Jonathan is in my office and ready to go home. Turning to leave, I could see something else I said surprises him. “What?”

“I just can’t believe the person standing before me. You must admit it is a quick turn-around. I have never known you to leave early.”

I laugh. “Technically, I’m not leaving early. I’m not even supposed to be here. Besides, I want to see what I can do to help Jonathan before he leaves.”

After speaking with the patient’s family, I head toward the office and am glad to see that Janet is nowhere in sight. Although I convinced Julian of everything, I am anxious to get home and see how the children’s day went. Entering, Andrew is on the telephone. “She’s coming in now and we should be there within the hour, what if we stop and get everyone some Chinese food?...Oh they did… That’s great, we’ll see you shortly.”

Shutting the door behind me, I crawl into his lap, wrap my arms around him and kiss his neck. “So, I heard you wowed them at the Board meeting and kept Geoffrey in line.” As I move my lips up his neck, his arms snake around me, pulling me closer.

“I heard you performed surgery and saved another life today.”

Looking up at him, I feel my excitement bubbling up. “You were right, I do remember!”

Caressing my neck with his perfect lips, I feel his smile. “I told you that you had nothing to worry about. Everyone had a good day today and the kids even ate dinner already.”

Glancing at my watch, I didn’t realize how late it had become. I shift to rise when my door opens and a shocked Janet stands frozen, staring at me in Andrew’s lap. Her eyes shoot toward the floor. “Mia, Dr. Michaelson just finished in patient care and wants to go over some charts before you leave.”

Rising, “I won’t be a minute, should I meet you at the car?”

We walk to the elevator and then Janet steps in behind me. As the doors close, I know she is going to say something and figure I might as well get everything over at once, so I face her. Her reaction catches me by surprise as she wraps her arms around me. “I’m so happy to see that you are living your life again.” As we walk down the hall, I hear the excitement in her voice. “I knew you were going to say yes because of…” She stops. “But I never thought I would actually see a spark of the old you when you looked at him. You are absolutely glowing.”

I can’t help but smile. She’s right, being back with Andrew, despite all of my changes, I feel a glow from within because that part of my world finally makes sense and my heart is whole. “I am and you know what else” I grab her arm and bring her closer, “I’m also married.” She stops dead in her tracks. “Come on, I have to see Brett so I can go home.

“You can’t drop a bombshell like that and then leave.” I don’t want to get into the entire story with her too and am grateful she starts moving again.

“I have to, he’s waiting in the car and he has to go, he’s leaving for England tonight and I don’t want to make him late.”

“Mia, you’re not making any sense, why would he be leaving, are you both going? Is that where you are going to honeymoon?”

“No, let me talk to Brett and then I’ll give you the abridged version on the way to the car.“

“Fine, but the next time you’re on duty, I want the detailed version.” She crosses her arms as I enter Brett’s office.

Coming out, she is waiting for me. As we move quickly, I tell her the same story I told Julian and she voices the same concerns. As we reach the lobby, I am about to say good-bye, but she walks past me toward the door. “Since you denied me the chance be at your wedding, maybe you could make it up to me and drop me off at Max’s, save me waiting for a cab.”

I hug her. “Sure, jump in.”

I am happy that the children are still up and excited. We light a fire in the living room as they change for bed and then sit with them in the toasty living room as they tell us about all of the wonderful places Jeff and Sarah brought them. Thankfully Sarah’s earlier unpleasant feelings toward me have passed and she is happy to be here.

Later, we tuck them into bed. As I lean down to kiss Jacob goodnight, he grabs my hand. “Mom, when will you be enrolling us in school here and how long are we going to stay?”

Knowing that we will be enrolling them as Jonathan’s nieces and nephews and that I told Janet that Jonathan was going back to England, I had to think a moment. “Since it’s Wednesday, maybe, we can go Friday and enroll you so that you can start on Monday. We can talk about it more tomorrow, I’ll be home and we can do something fun.”

“Really”

His voice is filled with excitement. “Really” I mess up his hair. “I love you sweetie, sleep well and I’ll see you in the morning.” As I rise, he grabs my arm and throws his arms around me. “Mom, I’m really glad that you were allowed to come back to us, I missed you.”

Sitting back on his bed, I hug him tighter. “I’m so glad I could come back to you too. I love you so much and I’m so sorry for everything I put you through.”

I could feel him withdrawing so I let him go. “Mom, you didn’t put us through anything on purpose, I know you think we’re too young to understand it all, but we really do get it, we’re just glad to have you back.” He yawns.

Hugging him one more time, I tuck the covers around him and kiss his head. “Go to sleep, I promise, I’ll be here when you wake up.”

“I know you will” he smiles and closes his eyes.

Entering our room, I notice Alexander is out of the crib. Andrew must have taken him downstairs, so I head there. I hear Andrew and Jeff talking in the living room.

“Of course I don’t mind, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

“I know she will, but I feel better knowing she has someone with her that she doesn’t have to pretend with, someone she considers a true friend.”

“Andrew, she is strong, you know that and I can see how excited she is about this wing. She would have never pushed for it if it wasn’t something important to her.”

“You’re right, she loves to help people and she is strong, but her dreams are pretty disturbing and she is still be dealing with repercussions from what happened, especially considering she has spent the last few months with someone whom, before this all happened, she truly feared.”

“Have you ever considered coming to the hospital as yourself?”

“I have, but considering how close we are I think I would make it harder for her, especially since she is telling everyone she loves and has married Jonathan.”

Moving closer, I stop as Jeff asks the question that I need an honest answer to, not the answer Andrew believes I need to hear. “How are you doing with all of that, considering your history with Jonathan, finding out who he is and realizing that he spent so much time with her?”

I sit quietly on the bottom step, listening intently.

“Truthfully, at first I really wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to do it but I wanted to make Mia more comfortable and give her time to adjust to all that happened and the person she developed into while she was here. I kept telling myself that when we are around others, we are always playing a role and I just had to try and keep the real Jonathan Taylor in mind, but researching him, I found that he really was into some projects I could get behind and admire. He even provides annual funding for an orphanage in the town where his wife came from. He contributed to homeless shelters, children’s funds and even a hospital. As long as I keep that Jonathan in mind, I am more than happy to ensure that his projects continue and that his wishes get carried out, especially since our world cut his life short to take advantage of Mia’s situation.”

“Well if you ever need to talk, I hope you know that you can talk to me. I mean I know you have your family, but sometimes it’s easier to talk with someone who isn’t so involved.”

Andrew laughs. “Thank you, I hope you know that you can do the same.”

Jeff laughs as well. “I do and your right for laughing, we have come quite a long way haven’t we.”

“Yes we have. Who would have ever thought that you and I would be sitting here, feeding our children and bonding?”

They both burst out laughing together. “I should get upstairs to Sarah; I promised we would watch a movie before retiring. I’ll see you in the morning.”

I rise and move toward the room as Jeff exits with Andrea. “See you in the morning.”

“Have a good night.” I pass him. Andrew is standing with a now sleeping Alexander.

As we head upstairs, there is a knock on the door. I turn and start to descend, but Andrew stops me and hands me Alexander. “I’ll see who it is.”

I wait on the stairs. Opening the door, Francis is illuminated under the porch light. As he steps inside and Andrew turns, his features resonate concern. “What’s wrong?”

Descending the stairs, I follow Andrew back into the living room. “Nothing, we just got a call from Cassandra and she said that it would be a good idea if you were to go to the school when the children are enrolled.”

Sitting down, my heart rate quickens. If she wants Andrew there, something is going to happen. “What else did she say?”

Andrew moves toward me and places his hands upon Alexander to take him. “Mia, it may be a good idea if I place Alexander in his crib.” Looking down, I realize how tightly I am gripping him to me. Releasing him, Andrew takes him. “I’ll be right down.” He is back instantly.

“She just said that it would be a good idea if you were there to assess a situation that would develop and that you could help.”

Heat spreads through my body as my pulse pounds out of control. I want to run upstairs, take the children and head back to Sanctuary. They have already been through too much and it is not right to put them through any more. I know Andrew hears my spiking heart rate as he places his hand on mine, probably to keep me from doing just that. “Did she see something happening to the children?” He inquires, straining to keep the tension out of his voice.

Francis response is unalarmed. “She believes that the children will be fine, but said that they will be called upon to help in a developing situation and she thought that it would be best if you are there to help them along.”

“Did she give you any indication as to what the situation was or what I should be doing there?”

“She only hinted that it is not a case of demons or our kind going after the children. You know how cryptic she is; all she said was that it might be a good idea if you were to take a part time guidance counsel position that would be opening up in the next week or two. She said that when you enroll the children, make a point to offer your services as a volunteer and that you would get a call asking if you could help out in that position for a while until they can budget for and secure another part time counselor.”

“Why didn’t you call us with that information? Is there something you aren’t telling us?” Andrew’s eyes scrutinize Francis.

“Nothing bad” he chuckles and fidgets. I came to tell you this because if you are going to be bouncing between being a school counselor and assisting with getting Jonathan’s affairs in order, you are going to need some help with Alexander and …” His eyes shift toward the floor and if it was possible, I think he would blush.”

“And what?”

His voice drops and he refuses to meet our eyes. “Cassandra said that if I came, I would cross paths with one who will be my partner.”

Knowing how long he has been alone, I hope she is right. Piercing my lips together, so as not to smile and embarrass him further, I rise and hug him. “I’m glad you came. I know it’s only been a day, but I’m sure that the children miss you and so did I.”

“Thanks Mia. I should let the two of you get to bed. I’m just going to call Catherine and then go in the office to see what information I can find out about Jonathan’s endeavors.”

Andrew rises, “I’ll help you with that. He has quite a computer system; it may even help me figure him out a little more.”

Kissing Andrew good night, I go upstairs; it has been quite an exhilarating, but also an exhausting day.

As Friday rolls around, the butterflies in my stomach expand and flutter their wings as we pull into the school parking lot. Andrew keeps reassuring me that if Cassandra saw anything happening to the children, she would have warned us. Grant, Julianne and Paul are finishing orientation and will be starting in their classrooms on Monday as well. Knowing how much more the children learned at Sanctuary, I am sure that knowledge wise they can easily pass for high school juniors. Andrew decides the best thing to do is ensure that the children stay together, since they may be facing some trouble. He had Catherine change the birth certificates so it appeared that the children were all the same age, she even changed Charlie’s records. We complete all of the paperwork and Andrew emphasizes how grateful he is that they could enroll the children so quickly and volunteers to help around the school. From the administrative assistant’s response, I know she has seen stories about Jonathan and is already mentally placing him in the guidance counselor position. Everything is in place. On Monday, the children will report to school, I will start my first shift knowing who I truly am, and Andrew will go over to NYU to find out as much as he can about Scott so we can ensure that Jonathan’s wishes are handled.





Chapter Two – New Lives New School





Entering the classroom, I am glad the principal kept us together. Although the others are strong, I am the strongest and need to make sure that whatever we are going to face, everyone stays safe. Our family just came together again, and I don’t want anything to interfere with that or risk having something like what happened in England happen here. At least from what Uncle Francis said, it doesn’t appear demons are coming after us, it sounds more like something from this realm. Despite our powers, I know because of our age, we have some serious limitations. In truth, from what I saw about mom’s life when she was away, the dreams I had which I did not share with anyone, not really, of what happened to her in the woods, Jonathan’s warning and shadows grabbing at her, which I cannot explain, it would be too frightening to think of facing those creatures outside of the walls of Sanctuary and without all of our family around to fight with us. At least in facing human issues, not only do we have the benefit of our powers, but Grant, Julianne and Paul are here and dad will be here soon.

Looking at the turning faces as we pass chatting students, I see faint glows emanating from them. Many are shrouded in shades of gray, but a few boarder more toward black or mahogany. Sitting in my seat, I wonder if this is what dad sees when he looks out upon a sea of new faces.

Thankfully, the back row is empty and we scoot into those seats. Kayla appears nervous, but Charlie leans over. After whispering in her ear that everything will be fine and he is here for her, he retreats and points to his charm. As she brushes her fingertips over her own charm, I am happy to see her smile.

A woman strolls through the entrance. Placing her books and purse on the desk, the students in the classroom continue talking and glancing back at us. Her glow is almost stark white and she smiles widely. Taking in a breath, my eyes widen. She isn’t human. Glancing over at my siblings and Charlie, this same fact registers with them.

Moving down the aisle, she stops in front of Charlie’s desk. From her facial features, she knows what we were as well. Holding out her hand, Charlie rises to shake it. “I’m Miss Wolf.” Charlie quickly pierces his lips together tightly, as do we, to stop a chuckle. Her name fits what she is perfectly. A moment later, Charlie gains control over himself. “I’m Charlie; it’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure meeting all of you.” She moves down the row, shaking all our hands. A moment later, she is back up at the front of the classroom. “Please take out your readers; we have a lot to accomplish before the football rally. As most of you know, our team is going to the semi-finals in Rochester and there will be an assembly at 1:00 to send them off. Let’s hope that this Thanksgiving, they will be playing in the finals right here in our own field.”

Looking around, some of the bigger boys are smiling and I notice they are wearing letter jackets.

The class is pretty quiet after that and the material they are reviewing is a subject we covered three years ago with Rachel. From the look on Charlie’s face, he must have covered it as well.

Moving through the hallway to our next class, I notice more of the jackets and the glows or shadows emanating from the students. Leaning toward Nichole, “Can you see what is surrounding the students?” At first her eyes dart as if she is looking for a threat, but then I place my hand over hers, “I mean their essences.”

Her eyes narrow as we continue walking and then she whispers to me. “I can see light shadows around some of them, while others are darker, but most of them aren’t really clear.” Her forehead creases. “Can you see them?”

“I can, it’s pretty strange, I don’t really remember seeing this when we were at Sanctuary.”

“Do you think this is something new or maybe we just never noticed it there?” She shrugs as we enter our next class. I can’t help but giggle as I catch Charlie winking at Paul as we pass. He has something set up in the front of class for a demonstration. Standing to the side as the rest of the students take their seats, they mumble about the new teacher and one girl comments. “It looks like Mr. Anderson did run off with Ms. White from math; I hear there’s a replacement for her as well.”

All the students cram toward the back whispering about hoping this teacher doesn’t have the old seating chart and leaving the first two tables open. Quickly moving, Nicholas and I take the second table while Charlie, Nicole and Kayla sit at the first. From the look on Paul’s face, he is straining to keep from smiling. Charlie must be doing something trying to make him laugh. Kicking the back of his chair, Charlie turns around. “Alright, I’ll stop.” He quickly faces front. Knowing Charlie and seeing the mischievous look in his eyes, I just hope Paul can look past him.

He moves around the desk, leaning up against the front of it. “Good morning, I’m Mr. Grayson and I am taking over for Mr. Anderson.” I could see him smile slightly. “I know Mr. Anderson had you sitting in a particular manner.” The students grumble behind me. “However, since I am a new teacher and my style may be different than his, I think we will try something new. Everyone stand up please and move to the back of the room.” Everyone moves quickly and he continues. “Since we will be working in groups of two and three, get into small groups and these will be your partners for the rest of the year. Please choose individuals who you can work with but not chat with all through class. I want us to get as much as possible out of each class and although I want you to enjoy working together, I also want you to make sure that you are next to someone who you can pay attention with as well.”

The others pair off and move to seats, but still leave the first two tables open. One of the boys backs away from the others and gravitates toward Nicholas and me. He wasn’t in our homeroom, and his eyes are focused more on the floor than on who is around him. I elbow Nicholas who now catches sight of him too. As we move closer to him, I realize he is more like us than I first realized. I hold out my hand. “Hi, I’m Jacob and this is my brother Nicholas, would you like to pair up with us?”

His eyes shift up in disbelief. “I’m Brian, would you mind?”

“Are you kidding, come on, let’s go sit down.” Charlie, Kayla and Nicole head for the first table, but I scuttle around the outside desk and sit where Charlie was previously sitting, laughing. As Nicholas and Brian sit by me, Brian is puzzled, but Nicholas is laughing, knowing why I did it.

“Brian, this is our friend Charlie and our sisters, Nicole and Kayla.”

“It’s nice to have some new students, where are you from?”

Nicole answers quickly. “We live in England, but where spending some time with our uncle here.” Brian’s features tell me he knows that we are lying, but considering what he is and where we all are, he is probably very familiar with this type of game.

As the rest of the students sit, we chat before Paul starts class. When the bell rings, Brian turns to us. “Thanks for letting me sit with you.”

“Are you kidding, it’s going to be great. What class do you have next?” Charlie inquires as we move out into the hall.

“I have Spanish and then gym and algebra.”

“We have English, but then have gym and algebra too. We’ll see you there.”

He smiles. “That’s great.” As he moves, his eyes drop to the floor and he puts his head down before slinking along the lockers. It almost appears as if he is trying to avoid being seen.

Charlie’s boisterous voice tears me from my contemplation as we move to our next class. “Why did you sit in the front row, are you seriously going to ruin my fun?”

I nudge him in the shoulder. “Absolutely” As much as I love having Charlie around I know how much he likes to clown around and give his family a hard time, it is going to be hard enough without his antics for them to keep their eyes open for whatever encounters may come our way and teach class. “How about you give them a hard time at home and let them be here.”

“That’s not as much fun” He grumbles.

“I know but Paul looked nervous enough up there, at least give him a few weeks before you start.”

“Alright” I can hear the disgruntled humph coming.

“Come on, we’ll be late for class.”

Entering the gym, the athletes are in one corner, a bunch of girls are chattering in another corner, but a few students seem to be separated out. From their demeanor, they look as if they are wishing the floor or walls would just swallow them whole. They aren’t even talking to each other. This is so different from our school. At least there everyone gets along. Here it appears to be something quite different going on, even among those who gather together. As I listen, I detect a definite pecking order and some very unpleasant talk.

It is strange, but as I look over at some of those who appeared to have gray auras about them in homeroom, they are now surrounded by something darker. I have to ask dad if their aura can change depending on who they are around. As we move past one girl, I get the strangest feeling, but when I look at her, I see nothing around her, no indication of what she is like.

As Nicholas passes her, she mumbles. “Are you new?” He stops to introduce himself, but I keep moving toward Brian, knowing that we shouldn’t keep moving around together for fear that someone may really take notice of us, more than the occasional glance we receive as the new kids now. Considering what Brian is and the strange feelings I get passing some of them, there could be more here than we bargained for. Moving next to Brian, I smile.

“So did you ever play capture the flag at your old school? We played that a lot with the old gym teacher”

“Sometimes, but at my old school we used to go outside in the good weather and play a great game of hide and seek.” Charlie chuckles and I know he is thinking of it wolf style.

Brian shudders slightly and then shakes his head. “What about you Jacob, what game in gym do you like best?”

“I think I like baseball the best, but basketball is alright too.”

“I like swimming” Nicholas adds.

Brian’s eyes light up. “You swam at your old school that must have been so cool.”

Julianne blows her whistle and instructs everyone to line up as she introduces herself. She has an obstacle course set up and I could hear some of the bigger boys whispering to try and get behind certain people. Hearing Brian’s name, I realize the other names mentioned must be the other kids who are standing alone along the wall. Nicholas and Charlie must have heard Brian’s name too because they move to sandwich him, but as he runs into the course, a larger boy jumps in front of me and runs. A second later, he is pushing Brian toward the floor with such force I can feel the vibration in the souls of my feet. Before I even move, Julian is already upon the boy.

“What is your name?”

The boy turns to her with a huge smirk on his face. “Greg”

I help Brian up. “Are you alright?”

“I’m used to it,” he rubs the side of his arm that first hit the floor.

“Does it happen a lot?” I hear snickers from the other athletic boys as my tone reflects my surprise.

“Every class”

Julianne’s tone is authoritative and so low, no one else probably hears. She orders the boy to apologize. Greg’s reply is not so low. “I don’t apologize to dogs.”

“Until you learn to behave like a human being in my class you can march yourself right now down to the office,” she commands.

“I never go to the office” He retorts and flicks the whistle around her neck. In a flash, she has his hand and is straining not to break his fingers, while putting enough pressure on them to show him that she is not some petite woman he can push around.

“Greg, you will go where I instruct you.”

He moves closer to her and despite his features revealing that he is feeling pain; he smirks and answers her like a real wise guy. “I know you are new here, so let me educate you on something, my group doesn’t go to the principal, I see him at home every night.”

“You’re right, I am new here and I will not sit idly by while you push around another student in front of me.”

Brian moves closer and I move with him. “Ms. Gray, it is fine. We should just get back to class.”

Julianne makes the mistake of turning to Brian to answer him. “No it’s not.” Greg maneuvers his hand to try and hurt her, but thankfully, she appears unaffected and he is confused. She turns back toward Greg. “Please do what I told you so that I may return to class.” He flinches as she puts additional pressure on his hand. As he moves, she lets go.

He is quickly at her ear whispering something so low, the other students cannot hear, but from the look upon our group’s face, we all heard correctly. As he storms past her and then Brian, he pushes Brian again to the ground. The next moment he is gone.

Despite Julianne’s best efforts, class does not go well. Those who were with Greg are uncooperative and plant themselves before the obstacle course while those against the walls are too afraid to go around them. As we move, she shakes her head in such a way only we can see, to stop us. As I stand by Brian, I realize she is right waiving us off, despite being able to pass ourselves off as high school juniors, our physical appearance would align us more with those who stay away. It wouldn’t help to put a target on our backs on the first day out. Thankfully, a few moments later the bell rings and we change classes.

Those with Greg turn and the way they stare at Julianne as if they are passing along some unspoken warning that this is not over ignites a fury inside me that I have never felt before. They are going to give her trouble and as the darkened shadow around one of them turns pitch, I see red. Knowing how dangerous anger is and what it could lead to, I scrunch my eyes tight, envisioning my fury as a ball and throw it in my mind far past the football field we saw driving into the school. A moment later, I realize Nicole’s hand is on my shoulder and she is whispering in my ear. “Are you alright?”

Opening my eyes, I am at least in control again. Starting to move so we won’t be late, my reply is more clipped than I intended. “I’m fine. Let’s get to class.” Maybe I’m not as much in control of myself as I hoped. I’m never short with Nicole.

Although algebra goes fine, as we travel to the cafeteria I can feel my nerves standing on end. Knowing how hard I had to fight against using my powers to send Greg and the other boy across the room when I thought he was going to hurt Julianne and the other boy seemed to be threatening her, will I be able to combat such an impetuous response if they do something to another student in front of me? Knowing if I unintentionally flick my wrist they will fly across the room, I force my hands into my pockets and keep repeating a simple mantra. “We never use our powers in anger and never on humans, even when they are being cruel.”

Stepping inside, I jump as Nicole puts her hand on my shoulder and is at my ear. “Jake, it’s alright. They’re not even here, relax.”

Looking around, I see letterman jackets, but the boys and girls wearing them were not those with Greg in the gym. Thankfully, I don’t see any of them, but I do see the girl who spoke to Nicholas sitting alone in a corner, pushing around her food and staring down at the pages of a book. She appears even more uncomfortable here than in the gym if that is possible.

Brian’s voice causes my head to turn back to the others. “Do you guys want me to show you what’s good here or would you prefer just to sit down?” From his tone and the way his eyes focus on Nicole and me, I know he is trying to figure out if we eat in a way not to offend so I respond quickly. “I’m starved. What’s good here?”

He smiles and I sense his relief as we move to a counter serving hamburgers and hot dogs. Grabbing a dog and milk I wait for the others not wanting to be on my own if Greg does come in with his cohorts. We follow Brian over to the table where the girl is sitting. As he sits, a look of sadness crosses his face.

Nicholas sits near the girl. “Hello”

She doesn’t even glance up from her book, “I hope you enjoy lunch.” The anxiety in her voice is the same that developed in the gym after Nicholas stayed to say hello to her. “I hope you enjoy it here” she whispers, rising and moving away from the table, despite having a full plate, she picks up her book and tray and throws it away, before exiting. Her strange tortured expression preoccupies me as I try to force my attention back to our table only to meet the same preoccupied, concerned look on Nicholas and Brian’s face. Finally, Brian breaks the uncomfortable silence by inquiring about the other classes we have. Despite answering him, I can’t stop my eyes from staring out into the sea of people surrounding us, seeing how the lights and shadows around them meld together and change as they speak with different people. A voice over the loudspeaker makes me jump, pulling me from my introspection. “All seniors and athletic teams, please report to the rally.”

“Brian rises. We should put away our stuff and get ready. They will be calling for us soon.”

Outside, the students fill the football bleachers while the teachers and administration gather in the middle of the field. Looking around, the seniors and athletes align the bleachers closest to the field, while many of the other students appear to be clumped together. Looking at the goal posts, however, there are several students sitting at the top most bleachers, spread out, as if they want to be away from everyone. Scanning their faces as we follow Brian to some seats in the last row behind a group of girls from our homeroom class, I see some of the people from our gym class; I recognize some of the faces as those I saw in the hallways slinking along the lockers. Since they are so spread out I can easily see the auras surrounding them, but gasp as my eyes see what is next to one girl.

“What’s wrong?” Nicholas whispers. I’ll tell you later.” When I look back at the girl, it is gone, but I am left with the strangest uncomfortable feeling. I try to concentrate on what is going on, but these strange feelings will not leave me. To make it worse, as I look down on the field, my eyes lock with Greg’s before I tear them away, only to view the others. The coach introduces them as the first string football team and he also congratulates some of them for bringing the championship back home to the school in hockey.”

Thankfully, when the rally is over, he announces dismissal. We walk back down to the lockers and grab our books. “Have a good day guys and thanks for letting me hang with you today.” Brian grabs his jacket and hurries off.

Uncle Francis is waiting for us when we get out. “So how was your first day?”

I hear the rest of them say it was alright as they scoot into the car, but not like our school at home. As he slides into the driver’s seat, he stares at me, waiting for me to say something, but for some reason, I just can’t. Dropping my eyes down to my folded hands, I don’t know if it is that I don’t want to say anything to worry Nicole and the others or if what I saw is not the only thing concerning me. Maybe I can’t say anything because I am just too ashamed of almost losing my temper. As I look up, Uncle Francis’ stare is even more intense and he speaks low so as not to draw the attention of the others who are singing along to a song on the radio. “Your parents should be home shortly and the grounds around the house are really interesting, maybe a walk with one of them or both would be really good for you. “ His voice is filled with understanding and I just nod my head.

When we arrive, Sarah tells us that mom and dad called and will be home within half an hour. Even though I’m not really able to concentrate, I know the homework is easy and want to get it over with. We finish just as mom comes through the door. From the look on her face as her eyes shoot to mine, I know she has a sense of what I was feeling today, she nods slightly, probably aware that I don’t want to talk in front of the others, especially Nicole. I know our abilities frighten her and that she tries to shut them out, and I don’t want to ruin this new experience for Nicholas and Kayla because of my temper or what I see around us, especially since I’m not even sure what it means.

“So how was everyone’s day?” She smiles sitting down next to us.

The school is very big; there are so many students there. There is even a teacher and a student that we encountered who are wolves” Nicholas chuckles.

Concern immediately shadows her features, so I interject. They are both very nice and even have very good souls around them

“You could see them?” Dad inquires coming over to me as a look passes between he and mom.

“I could see most of the souls around people; it was very strange, some of them even changed.”

“What do you mean they changed?” His tone reveals genuine curiosity.

Stopping for a moment, I need to think about the best way to describe it. “Well it’s not so much that they change completely, they just become different.” Even as I say it, I become frustrated, because that isn’t quite right, but I don’t know how to really convey what I saw.

“Jacob it’s alright, I know what you’re trying to say. You saw their essences go from a light to a darker color or the opposite depending upon who they were with and what they were doing.”

I’m surprised that he knows exactly what I mean. “How did you know, have you seen that too?”

“I have.” Since most people make good and bad choices, they are somewhere in between, like a shade of gray, but when they are making bad choices, the gray becomes darker, while when they make a good choice, the color around them is illuminated, becoming almost white.”

“That’s exactly what I was seeing. I’m so glad that you see that too, I thought I was concentrating too much or hallucinating.”

“Not at all, but considering how many people are in your new school and how distracting it can become, I can teach you how to tune it out so that you don’t see it.” From his tone, I know he thinks that seeing this is why I’m upset.

“No, it’s alright, I’m sure I’ll get used to it and it’s interesting to see it on such a large scale.” My response confuses him and he stares at me as if trying to pull the cause of my mood directly from my thoughts like uncle Gabriel sometimes does.

“If you change your mind, I’ll be happy to show you.”

Hugging him, I whisper in his ear so low, I hope no one else can hear. “Can we talk about it later?”

“Whatever you want,” He turns to the others, “How about a nice game of baseball on the front lawn?”

Just then, the door opens and Grant, Paul and Julianne come in. “I have a better idea, I know Charlie was talking about how much he liked hide and seek, wolf style of course, so how about we play that?”

“Really” Charlie interjects excitedly.

“Sure, if you don’t mind some vampires joining. The estate looks big enough to play; even though I’m sure in the woods it would be much more fun.”

“That’s alright, there are enough trees and we could still have fun.”

We head outside. It is good to see Nicholas and Kayla phase without even a hint of worry. Paul, Charlie, Grant, Jeff and Mark phase quickly and begin running. Nicole and Francis quickly follow them. I move but notice Julianne come next to me and stop.

“Jake can we talk a minute.”

“Sure” I follow her over to a bench.

As she sits, she faces me, looking directly into my eyes. “I know what happened today got you very upset, seeing Brian get pushed down and then thinking that Greg was hurting me or that Tim was threatening me and that there would be trouble. You have been through a lot over the past several months, I could see you struggling probably trying to tell yourself that they are human, but you also have to realize that I can handle myself.”

“How did you know?”

“I have encountered people like that before, when we were off of our land for a while before we entered David’s estate. We had to learn how to act like everyone else so that David would not suspect what we are and learn how to mask our scent. I encountered people like Greg and his little followers. I too had to remind myself that we can’t use our powers against them. I know what they are doing is rotten, but there are other ways, human ways, to deal with people like that. I can take care of myself so don’t worry about that. Although I appreciate your wanting to help, don’t get yourself into trouble at school. Let us as teachers handle it and give yourself time to observe how adults handle these types of situations. You are very lucky to have Sanctuary and an accepting place to grow up, but the world outside of Sanctuary is filled with people like Greg and his followers, they are not nice, but their degree of nastiness does not call for our type of intervention. Despite your maturity in some areas, this area is very new to you and will upset you greatly because you are a good person, but give yourself time to observe the human ways to deal with this. Considering who your grandfather is you don’t want to let the darkness which people like them bring to your life into your heart, don’t let it change you.”

“But we are stronger than they are and we have always been taught to protect those who are weaker.”

“You’re right” Dad’s voice rings out behind me and from the second set of footsteps near him, I know mom is close behind. Julianne rises. “I’ll let you talk.” She phases and is gone instantly and they come next to me.

“Jacob, we are stronger and we do need to protect those who are weaker, but there are human ways to do that too. In teaching you to use your powers it is more so to combat those in our realm, not teenagers behaving badly.”

“I know that. I didn’t use any of my powers, I swear.”

Mom puts her hand on my shoulder. “We know that.”

Looking directly at her, “Mom, I hated standing by while they could have hurt Julianne and they hurt Brian.”

“But Jake, think about what could have happened if you threw Greg across the gym.” As she says this, I realize she was with me at that moment. “I know it’s wrong and that I could have seriously hurt him or maybe even killed him.” I shudder at the thought. “That’s why I fought so hard to concentrate. I even used the visualization technique you showed me and turned my anger into a ball and threw it very far in my mind. Then I kept my hands in my pockets when I thought he might be around. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our being here and I don’t want to do the wrong thing, this is just so new and I didn’t expect that it would be like this.”

Mom’s eyes turn soft and fill with understanding as she wraps her arms around me. “I know and I’m sorry that you have to see how people can be nasty towards one other. I am very proud of the way you channeled your fear and anger over what you saw. I’m sorry that you had to experience that, especially after everything else.”

“It’s alright. It’s isn’t like we hadn’t heard about this from Stephanie and some of the others. It’s just new, but it will be fine.”

“Jake, as you get older you will be able to better utilize both your powers and human ways to deal with these types of situations. They do sometimes mix and the results can be quite satisfying, but while you’re still young, trying to combine the two, may cause you to slip and use the combatant powers in a human type situation, which could lead to disaster.”

“I know you’re right and I do understand.” I hope that what I ask her next isn’t going to hurt her feelings, but I don’t quite know how to talk about this in front of her and know that she will think that I am too young for it to even be possible. “Mom, do you mind if I talk to dad for a few minutes.” From the change in her features, I know I haven’t hurt her feelings, but wonder if she knows what I am going to talk to him about.

“Sure, I’ll go inside, start dinner and check on Alexander.” She kisses me on the head and leaves.

Turning back to dad, he is studying my features intently. “Dad, I know we are never to use our powers in anger and I know that what happened today didn’t call for it because it wasn’t like what we see when some of our own are bad, but will you teach me how to fight like a human?”

He appears torn over my request. “Jacob, I know what you saw and what you thought would happen upset you greatly, but it really wouldn’t be wise for you to go looking for trouble.”

I have to be careful answering him, knowing that if he thinks that I’m going to start a fight, he will never agree to help me. In truth, I’m not looking to start anything, but I can feel trouble coming and I want to be prepared if it does. “I’m not going to look for trouble, I promise, but truthfully, I got the distinct impression that trouble is coming for Julianne and I want to be able to protect her the way you have always tried to protect mom. I figure since we are playing in their realm now, maybe it would be best if I know how to defend her in acceptable ways.” Looking at him, I know he is seriously considering my plea.

“Dad, I promise you if you teach me I won’t initiate anything. Maybe once you’re there, you could help, but for now, please teach me. I know everyone thinks I’m young and Julianne believes she can handle herself, but I’m not so sure. I had some very strange feelings come over me. I’m not as young as everyone thinks I am, a lot has happened that has caused us to grow up. I don’t think that I have done anything to cause you concern. Just the opposite, I think that from what I have shown you that you know you can trust me. I have to protect Julianne and the others.”

“Jacob, besides what happened in the gym was there something else? I know you told me about being able to see the light or darkness that surrounds the other students, but from the determination in your voice, I am getting the impression that there is something more.” His tone is laced with concern.

Taking in a deep breath, I hope that he won’t think that I was seeing things. “I saw something really strange around one of the students when we were at the rally.”

“What did you see?”

“I saw a man, but I know he wasn’t really there. I saw his spirit.” As his image flashes through my thoughts, I shudder and dad’s arm is instantly around me. His voice turns soft and reassuring.

“Jacob, it’s alright, you know that sometimes those who have left this plane return to help those that they love or to watch over them.

“I know, but dad I don’t think that’s what is happening here.”

“Why?”

“It’s just that from everything you told us, wouldn’t the person have some sort of light around them or look peaceful?”

“Most of the time the people are peaceful. Jake what is it that you saw that has you worried?”

“When I looked across the field, the person next to this girl didn’t look peaceful at all. He looked upset, maybe even angry and…and he looked as if something had ripped at his skin.”

“Did you see any type of shadow around him?” The hitch in his breath betrays his own anxiety, despite his trying to hide it.

“No, I didn’t and he didn’t look like the creatures that were around this house the other night or …” I stop short knowing that I haven’t disclosed some of the things I was seeing when we thought mom was dead.

His features turn scrutinizing and I know he must be disappointed that I have been keeping things from him, but he already had so much to deal with these past months. He quickly gives me an explanation trying to put me at ease. “It sounds as if you saw an apparition of someone who was ripped away from this person quickly and without warning. When the one who gets ripped away leaves someone they love behind, it takes time for their essence to leave. Did it appear as if the person you saw was in an accident? Maybe that is why they appeared disfigured to you.”

Thinking about the face in this way, I see it differently now. “Maybe, but I’m not really sure.”

“Jacob, I need you to do something for me. Until I get to the school, I need you and the others to stay away from this person. I believe you when you say you don’t think that it is one like those who were here the other night, but until we are sure, I don’t want you taking any chances.”

“I promise. Dad about the other thing I asked you, will you teach me?”

“How about after dinner you and I go down into the workout room and spar. I’ll even show you some moves my father showed me. Granted, in my day, they were to fight against feudal knights behaving badly, but I think those moves still work.” He chuckles, but then his voice turns serious. “Jake, even when you learn these, don’t go looking for trouble, they are only to be used in defense.”

“I know, but I think it will be helpful to know them and may help me better cope and feel more comfortable.”

He rises. “Why don’t you go and hide, I’m sure they will miss you if you don’t play, dinner should be ready soon.”

At least the game, allows me to get some of my energy out. By the time we eat dinner, I feel a little more relaxed, but mom keeps glancing over at me and I can tell she knows what we will be doing and is concerned.

The workout room is amazing, it is almost as good as the one at home, but this one has mats as if set up for martial arts, I even notice some Japanese swords hanging on the wall and dad explains about them and which era’s they were used in. I always knew he had seen a lot of history, but listening to him now, I wonder if I will sound like this in a few hundred years. After two hours, we go back upstairs to join the others so that I could look over one more thing for school and get ready for bed.

While the others fall asleep quickly, I find it very hard to. I can’t shake the images that surrounded me or the strange feelings. Rising, I head downstairs, maybe a glass of milk will help. I hear mom and dad’s voices coming from the living room.

“Do you think that maybe you should try to speed up getting in there?”

“I thought about that, but I truly believe what he saw was an apparition and not a shadow. If I try to push too much, we will draw attention that we may not want. Mia, you should also know that Jacob is worried about Julianne and feels very protective of her.” He clears his throat and I wonder if he knows how I feel and is debating whether to tell mom.

“I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.” She interjects. “I wasn’t going to say anything because I know that the future can change, but I caught a brief glimpse of Jacob when he is older and I believe that he and Julianne will end up together.”

“Did you see anything else?”

“I did. Do you remember that I told you Jeff suspected that you were a watcher?”

“Yes, but …” Before he even has time to finish, she speaks again.

“I know that you aren’t, but Charlie is and I know that he is tied to Kayla in that way.”

This revelation doesn’t surprise me, nor do I suspect that it surprises my father, but I wish I knew more of what a watcher does. Deciding that I shouldn’t be eavesdropping on their conversation and should let them know I came down, I head into the living room.

“Do you mind if I just grab some milk? I can’t sleep.”

Mom rises. “I’ll get it for you while you relax by the fire; it always helps me when I can’t sleep. As she rises, I can tell by the way she is searching my eyes that she’s concerned that I overheard what she said and that it may affect my choices in the future. I grab her hand as she moves past me.

“Mom, you didn’t change anything, I already saw that too.”

Despite her continuing into the kitchen I can tell this surprises them both. When she returns, my father asks the question that I know he was contemplating even earlier.

“Jacob I know when your mother was gone, we talked about some of the things you were seeing, but what else did you see that you’re not talking about?” From his tone, he isn’t mad, but is very concerned.

“Dad, I told you about a lot of it. I know that you say to always be honest, but you were dealing with a lot and then mom disappeared and everyone was trying to convince me that I wasn’t seeing what I thought and that I was only dreaming, but I’m not always asleep when it happens. Sometimes the images just appear.” I know I’m rattling, but as the floodgates open, my nerves take over thinking about what I have withheld and how he may now think that by not telling him, I was being deceptive, when really, all I wanted to do was not have him worry about me.

He moves his hand to mine as mom hugs me. “It’s alright, I know it has been very difficult the past few months, but maybe now that things are better, you could tell us what you saw. I know you are very mature for your age, but Jake, some of the things I now suspect you see or have seen through your mother’s eyes could be very upsetting and disturbing.” Thankfully his voice is filled with understanding without a hint of anger, but still I can’t help but shudder as the images of the dark shadows grabbing for mom flash before me and a new image of dad lying on the ground dying in her arms rips through my mind like a flash fire consuming a forest.

As I see this, dad grabs my arms. “How often have you seen those images?” My eyes tear from the fire to his and my jaw drops as his expression reveals that he saw what I did.

“How did you see that?”

“I’m not sure, but Jacob, that wasn’t me dying.” His tone is emphatic.

“Yes it was, and I saw mom with you, you’re going to die!” My body shakes violently. We just got mom back and now we are going to lose dad in a fight.

“No, Jake that happened a long time ago.” He releases me and stares into my eyes. “It is not something that is going to happen.”

“Dad you’re not making sense, you’re here so it couldn’t have happened yet.”

Mom awkwardly embraces me and I can feel her anxiety at what we are saying, but dad responds to me before I can say anything to her. “Jacob, that happened a long time ago, there is no danger from what you saw and I’m fine now.”

“Are you sure?” I fight to hold back the tears. We can’t lose him, not now, it’s not fair.

“I am. Have you seen that before?”

Inhaling deeply so that not even one tear will escape and I can answer him, “I saw the shadows ripping at mom before but not you. How did you see it though? I thought only Uncle Gabriel could see things like that.”

He hesitates. “I’m not really sure, but Jacob, that happened before you were born” As he explains what happened back then, it is finally making sense, all of the strange images, but the idea of him being split like that frightens me. “Dad, could that happen to us?”

I catch a look passing between him and my mother before he answers. “I don’t believe it could, Jake what happened to me didn’t even happen to my siblings. From what I know, it hasn’t happened to anyone else, so I don’t think that it is something that you have to worry about.”

Inadvertently, I yawn and mom looks at her watch.

“We should get you up to bed?” She rises. I follow her and she tucks me in. “Jacob, I know that what you saw and what your father told you is very disturbing, but try to put this out of your mind. Hopefully, while we’re here we can step away from all of that for a while and with any luck tomorrow will be better at school.” She leans down to kiss me. It is so nice having her back and being able to feel her hugging me again. Despite her comforting words, considering what I saw and our already coming across two wolves, I highly doubt we are leaving anything of the surreal world behind, we are only changing venues.

The next few days go by fairly normal. Paul and Grant are keeping a close eye on Julianne. I overhear them talking at night about how certain athletes are giving her trouble in the class, probably on Greg’s instruction. I hate that she has to go through this, despite all her reassurances that it is nothing and doesn’t bother her.

By Wednesday of the following week dad comes to school as a temporary guidance counselor. The administrators have asked him to guide students who want to enter business until they can arrange for a replacement counselor. They have even asked if it is possible for him to finish the school year if they do not find someone before then. He informs them he is only too happy to help. Although I have given him the names of the boys who are with Greg, I doubt he will have a chance to see any of them since Brian let me know that they usually speak to the coaches or the other counselor. I also gave him the name of the girl who spoke to Nicholas and he let me know that he believes he caught sight of the girl who I described in the bleachers and that her name is Alice. Hopefully, he can figure out who is around her.

Waking up on Friday, my head feels as if I have fallen out of bed and hit the dresser. Despite not finding any lump or indication that I hit something in my sleep, I can’t escape the feeling that my brain is swimming in a sea of confusion. As I rise to get ready for school, I fall back onto the bed. I can’t ever remember feeling this way. Nicholas, who comes in to grab his pack before heading down to breakfast, runs over to me. “Are you alright? You look terrible.”

“I’m not sure, I don’t feel so great.”

He calls for mom. She and dad both come in. Mom immediately touches my head. “You don’t have a fever.” I can see the concern on her and dad’s face. Dad checks me out thoroughly, but doesn’t find anything wrong.

“I think you should stay home today.”

As I sit up, my head feels as if it is scraping against sandpaper and I don’t want to even argue about it, all I want is for the feeling to go away. Placing my head back on the pillow, my mind begins drifting through images of what has occurred over the last few months, but then all of a sudden, I see the school parking lot before me and feel a blow to the back of the head. Jumping out of bed, I feel as if my body hits the floor, but I’m still upright. Screaming out for mom, knowing she stayed home to be with me, I can hear her rushing up the stairs. As she comes toward me, I stumble, grabbing her sweater. “Get me to the school now, Julianne has been taken!”

Helping me down the stairs, she takes out her telephone and tells dad what’s going on. “Jacob what do you see?” Despite her helping me move forward and knowing that my legs are moving, I feel myself on my back as my body is being dragged over a rough terrain. Although I can make out the blue sky, my eyes are fighting against a graying midst threatening to cut off my vision and are barely open.

“Mom we have to get to her, she’s being dragged, I can’t really see where yet. Please.” After helping me into the car and buckling me in, she thrusts the telephone into my hand. It’s your father, keep talking to him. Tell him what you see.” She floors the engine.

It is so strange, I feel the car speeding toward the school, but at the same time, I feel what I realize now is happening to Julianne. I can feel her fighting to keep her eyes from closing and struggling through the pain and encroaching unconsciousness. As she struggles someone kicks her. Her eyes widen momentarily from the pain and I see a fleeting image of the top of the goal post. She is passing the football field and heading for the trees. “Dad past the football field, they’re taking her into the woods!”

“Jacob it’s alright” My parents say at the same time, but their voices are being drowned out by a deep male voice.

“You have been giving the wrong people trouble and asking the wrong questions! Keep your nose out of other people’s business b… and just do your job. This is your only warning!” His putrid, hot breath rises up my nostrils, churning my stomach. The pain in my head explodes as someone lifts Julianne’s head and slams it against the ground. Everything before me turns black and then my own eyes focus on my present surroundings as panic engulfs me. If she’s unconscious she has no chance of fighting them off or getting away. We are pulling into the school. Before mom even stops the car, I unbuckled my seatbelt and throw myself out. Moving faster than I ever have, my earlier confounded feeling dissipated and I breathe deeply as I pass the football field. Catching her scent, I push forward. I need to get to Julianne. In seconds, I come across someone with their back toward me, kneeling over her with his hands on her head. “Get your hands off her!” I yell, flying at him. As he turns, dad catches me.

“Jacob, it’s alright, she’s alive and should regain consciousness in a few minutes.” He releases me. Scuttling toward her, I lift her head gingerly. Although I see some blood on the ground, I can no longer feel a gash. Dad must have already healed that. I cannot stand seeing her unconscious. Closing my eyes, I place my hands upon her temples, concentrating and hoping that it will help her regain consciousness quicker.

“Jake you can stop, I’m alright” I hear her mutter weakly. Opening my eyes, her eyes are open too as Paul and Grant approach with mom.

I move as Grant comes near, taking my place holding her head. “Are you alright? How badly are you hurt? Can you tell me what happened?” His questions are pouring out, his tone laced with anxiety as he hugs her to him.

“I’m alright now, as I was blacking out, I could hear Andrew coming toward us and he must have scared whoever it was away. I was going to the car to meet you and someone must have snuck up on me and hit me from behind.” The weakness of her response makes my stomach churn in a manner that I cannot understand and I wonder if it is her stomach I am feeling.

Before, I can dwell on this, I hear Paul take in a deep breath and rise, about to bolt. Taking in my own deep breath, I tackle him to the ground. “What did you do that for?” His boisterous response echoes off the trees making me jump. Almost losing hold of him, I scramble to regain my grip and hold him toward the ground.

“I know who you smell, but smell again; there is another scent and what if you’re wrong?” As reason returns to his eyes, I jump off him.

Inhaling deeply, he turns back to me. “How did you smell that? Greg’s scent is so much stronger; the other scent is barely noticeable.”

“Maybe because I was looking for something else, the voice I heard wasn’t his, it was too deep.”

“What did you hear?” Grant asks but Julianne replies before I can.

Mom interjects. “We should get her out of here, go back to the house, and take a better look at her to make sure she’s alright.”

Grant picks her up and dad moves over to mom. “Mia, go home with them and leave me your keys in case Julianne shows any signs in the car of not feeling well. I’m going to see if I can find anything out or trace the scent.”

“Andrew, I’ll stay with you.” Paul comes closer to us.

“No, it would be better if you went with them. We don’t know who it is or if they are still around, but it is definitely a human scent and we don’t want to draw too much attention. Besides, no one here knows that you two are related, so you can keep a better eye on your sister and do her more good if that revelation does not come to light. I promise as soon as I get back, I’ll let you know what I find.”

We head toward the car, and thankfully, by the time we arrive at the house, Julianne appears much more alert. Grant still insists on carrying her inside. The others are waiting as we walk in. As soon as Jeff sees Grant holding Julianne, he runs over and takes her from him. “What happened?”

“It’s nothing, I’m fine really. You can put me down.” Julianne insists, but Jeff carries her up to her room.

Nicholas comes up to me. “What happened, did you see what was happening to her?”

“I did.” I see the others staring at me intently. Charlie moves closer to me and surprises me when he throws his arms around me. “Thank you for saving her.”

“I’m just glad my dad caught up to her and nothing worse happened.” My body inadvertently shudders as images of what could have happened to her flood through my consciousness. The fear of her being hurt pierces my very core. Closing my eyes, I force myself to calm down, she is upstairs, safe. Repeating my mantra that she is safe and will be fine, I can finally wrench my eyes back open. Looking to the upper hallway, Grant is pacing outside of Julianne’s room. He has always been so good to us, I want to go up and say something to him, hoping to make him feel better. “I’ll be right back.”

I’m glad that mom doesn’t stop me as I ascend the stairs. He is talking to himself. “I should have met her in the school. I should have seen something like this coming.”

“Grant, it’s alright, I’m sure Jeff is going to come out and tell you that she is fine. I know what happened to her is really bad, but we found her quickly, and she was even doing better before we left.”

“Jacob, I’m just glad you saw where she was.” Before I can reply, her door opens and Jeff steps out.

“Dad, she’s fine, really, even the bump on the head is healed and I’m sure the effects of the concussion which she probably suffered are almost gone as well, but we’ll keep an eye on her. I just need to go and get something to clean the cuts on her back from being dragged.”

“Can I go in and see her?”

“Go ahead. I’ll join you in a minute.”

I follow Jeff downstairs. “Jacob, did you see who did this to her?”

“No, I only saw what was happening to her, from her point of view. I’m sorry.”

He turns. “You have nothing to be sorry about, you saved her, it could have been a lot worse, I was just trying to get any information about who did this.”

“I did smell him sort of.”

“What do you mean sort of?”

“Whoever did this was wearing something that smelled heavily of Greg, the one who gave her trouble a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t him.”

“Are you sure, why would you say that if you smelled him?”

“I heard him talking to Julianne.” Jeff’s features tell me he’s shocked at this revelation, but I continue without explaining how it happens because in truth, I don’t know what causes something like this. “The voice of the man speaking wasn’t Greg’s and something is telling me the lesser scent is important, but I can’t really tell you why, it’s a feeling.” I wish I could explain it to him better. He must think I’m crazy for saying it is a feeling.

“Jacob, if you think of anything else that you saw or heard, could you tell me, I don’t care what time of the day or night it is.”

“Sure, I’ll tell you.”

“Thank you.” He grabs some supplies from the closet and turns back to me. “I should get back up there.”

“Could you tell her I hope that she feels better and I wish I saw it earlier?”

“I’ll tell her.” He moves quickly upstairs.

Mom comes over to me. “Jacob, could we go into the living room and talk for a minute?” I follow her in and sit down. “Had anything like that ever happened to you while I wasn’t here?”

“No, this was the first time I ever felt anything like it. It was so strange, but I think that’s what I felt earlier when I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe I dreamt of it last night and didn’t realize it when I woke up.” As this realization hits me, my hands inadvertently grab my mom’s. “I should have realized that this is what made me sick before, if I had, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Why didn’t I remember this?” Aggravation wells within me. “How could I have been so oblivious to what was going on? I could have stopped this! I could have prevented her from getting hurt.”

“Jacob, calm down. You may not have seen it last night. Maybe you only felt what was going to happen, it’s not something you can control, especially when it first starts?”

“But mom, she got hurt because I couldn’t figure this out earlier.”

“You can’t think of it that way. You did see it when it was happening and you got help to her so that something worse didn’t happen.”

“Your mother is right. This isn’t something you can really control. Do you feel weak at all, now?”

Thinking about it, I feel better now, there is not even any remnants of the sick feeling I had this morning. “No, I feel fine.” I rise and go over to him. “Did you find out who did this to her?”

“You are right about the scent, I smelled Greg near where we found her, but as I followed the trace scent, it became stronger back near the football field but then disappeared by the parking lot.”

I don’t mean to, but I bang the table he is standing near, it splinters with pieces flying across the hardwood floor. Immediately bending down to pick up the pieces, I can’t believe I did that. “I’m sorry, I…”

“Jacob, it’s alright, I’ll clean it up. Try to sit with your mother a few minutes and calm down. I know you’re upset, but we got to her, she’s alright.”

Sitting beside mom, I close my eyes, trying to concentrate on calming my raging heart, but as the blood courses through my body, heating every crevice, the incident once again flashes before me. I feel the blow and her panic as she fell coursing through me and my heart races faster. A voice as gentle as the wind flows through these thoughts. “Jacob, it’s alright, try to calm yourself so you can see more details. Hold my hand and we can do this together.” I feel someone reach for my hand through the darkness. As the hand touches mine, I turn and can see mom, she is surrounded by a light. “Mom, how are you doing this?”

“I’m not sure. Your father could hear your raging heart and you didn’t respond to us, so I was going to shake you but when I touched your shoulder, I could feel what you are feeling and thinking. Closing my eyes, the images that began floating through your consciousness started floating through mine and I could see you. Jacob, listen, you need to detach yourself from the events. I know that it is hard because Julianne is involved, but you will see more if you do. Concentrate with me and focus on what you hear.”

I scrunch my eyes tighter and within seconds can hear a thud and feel another blow to my head from behind, but she fell backwards which makes no sense because the second blow came before I felt the back of her head hit the pavement.”

My mother’s voice is close in my ear. “Jacob, step back a moment and think about what you feel when she’s hit in the back of the head and immediately after.”

Concentrating very hard, I feel the blow again, but this time, I also feel a quick, forceful push against my chest, thrusting me toward the ground. “That is very good. Now think about the fall, your eyes are not closed yet. “What do you see?”

Slowing it down, pushing the pain out of my mind, I feel my head bob, but there is someone in front of me. No, there is not just one, there is two, but I can’t see their faces. They are hidden within the shadows of their oversized hoods.

“Concentrate on what you can see.” Focusing, I realize what she means. Although, I cannot see their faces, their builds tell me that they are too big to be students. They are adults. My eyes fly open and I see my parents staring at me.

Shutting my eyes again quickly, this time I feel two hands upon me. Glancing about quickly, not only is my mom with me, but so is my dad. Neither say a word, but I can feel the intensity surrounding my father. The sky is moving quickly overhead, it is dim, but not dark. I feel the cool ground against my back from being dragged by someone is gripping my ankles tightly. I feel her struggling to keep even the slits of her eyes from closing, there are two dark gray hoods before her. I gasp as I realize two men grabbed her and are dragging her into the woods. “It’s alright Jake, she is upstairs safe.” My father’s voice calls through the darkness. “You are only an observer of a past event, detach yourself. She is fine. Concentrate on when they turn around and speak to her.”

After a few moments, they stop. I scrunch over from the pain of a swift but powerful kick to my side, but neither man turned around. Their heads are scanning the area making sure that no one is approaching. The kick could not have come from either of them. There had to be a third person. Fog overtakes my mind and I realize she is losing consciousness. Hot, putrid breath fills my nostrils as a gruff, male voice bellows in my ear. The haze becomes thicker and she can no longer fight the blackening of her unconscious abyss. Just before she enters the darkness, I hear my father’s voice, quick paced footsteps and feel her relief as she slips into nothingness.

Opening my eyes, concern resonates through my parents’ features and I feel someone behind me. Instinctively jumping off of the couch, I turn with my fists clenched. It takes a moment before I realize it is Jeff. I immediately drop my fists.

“Jacob, I didn’t mean to startle you. Julianne is asking for you.”

My peripheral vision catches my parents’ nods and I swiftly pass Jeff who is entering the room. I hear my father ask how she is, but don’t wait for a response. Knocking, Grant opens the door and slips out as I walk in.

“How do you feel?”

“Very lucky, my dad says that you saw what was going on and that’s how everyone found me so quickly. Thank you.”

“I’m just sorry; I didn’t realize what was going to happen to you sooner. I should have stopped this.” Responding more aggravated than I desire, I quickly shut my mouth, not wanting to bring any more to her already trying day.

“Jacob, come here.”

Grabbing a chair, I sit beside her bed.

“Jake it’s alright, you alerted everyone in time and they got to me before anything could happen. You know that we can’t control some of the things that develop in us. I’m sure as you get older and more in tune with this new power you will have some control, but even if you don’t you can’t let it aggravate you this way, it will eat away at you and make moving forward so much harder.”

“That’s what my dad said happened to him and he shut himself off and didn’t feel he was helping people like he should.”

“He’s right.” As she sits up, I see her wince and my stomach twinges as she struggles to turn her features stoic. I hate that her back is causing her pain.

“Don’t sit up, turn over, I can help you.” Moving to the edge of the bed, I place my hands over her shirt, I close my eyes and concentrate. I want to relieve her discomfort. As I do so, a strange sensation besides the energy flowing out of my hands begins to form in my back. Not only do I feel on my own back where I am releasing the energy, but twangs of pain clueing me in to where my hands should go next. I can’t believe how my own body is guiding my hands. My concentration is suddenly interrupted when the door opens. Looking up, Grant moves toward us. I can’t understand it, but my eyes immediately fall back toward the floor and a strange feeling comes over me. Rising, I quickly cross the room and turn at the archway. I can’t meet their eyes and whisper. “I hope you feel better.” Although I can’t understand my strange feelings, I need to leave and turn on my heels.

Rising the next morning for school, although my body feels fit, my mind continues to be troubled by yesterday’s events. Knowing I will encounter Greg today and that his scent saturated the clothes of the man who kicked Julianne, probably hit her from behind, and threatened her, I know I have to be very careful. Just thinking of seeing him in the hallway causes a flash of red across my eyes and my hands involuntarily clench into fists. This is not good. Closing my eyes before leaving the room for breakfast, I fight to gain control of my now raging emotions, reminding myself that we don’t know what his involvement is or what his ties are to this man.

Hearing someone’s footsteps approaching, my eyes open and my body automatically thrusts itself forward, right into my father. Realizing it is him, I whisper. “I’m sorry.”

“I was worried when you didn’t come down for breakfast. Are you feeling alright?”

“I’m fine, I was just…” I stop, unsure of how to explain myself and feeling ashamed that I am allowing my temper to get the better of me.

Putting his hand upon my shoulder, causing me to sit at the edge of the bed, his eyes fill with understanding as he sits next to me. “Jacob, I know that you are still very upset about what happened last night and are probably worried about seeing Greg today, but you can’t let this grab hold of you or show him that you are aware he has any connection to the man that hurt Julianne last night. If you do, it will alert him that we know they are connected and may even have him taking a closer look at us because, remember, it is only his scent that made us aware that they are connected at all and humans cannot detect such.”

“I know. It’s just that …” Stopping immediately and closing my eyes, hoping to gain enough control to release my now clenched fists, I feel my father’s hands prying my fingers gently apart.

“Jake, I know how hard it is to get a hold of yourself when someone you care about has been hurt, but you help Julianne more if you stay calm and do not let on that we know Greg is somehow connected to the man who hurt her. We are going to be watching more closely both her and him. After school today, he has practice and I am going to see if anyone comes around him or where he goes afterwards, but in the meantime, you have to stay calm and let the adults handle this.”

“Dad, I’m not just a little kid.” I answer quickly, angrily, and without thinking. My eyes shoot up towards his hoping that I haven’t made him too angry.

Before I can even apologize, he is trying to comfort me. “I know that you are not. Your abilities and level of maturity over the past several months amaze me, but Jacob, the hardest thing for us to see is that our striking out can hurt those that we love and are trying to protect more. I know you don’t think that I understand, but I do. I also know how hard it will be for you today, but I’ll be there if you need to talk.”

Throwing my arms around him, “I know. Thanks for understanding.”

“You can always talk to me, but in the meantime, why don’t we go downstairs so you can eat before leaving.”

Entering the kitchen, Julianne is cleaning her dish as Grant calls for her. Turning and seeing me, she stops and calls out to him. “I’ll be right there.” Despite knowing that her wounds are healed and she is physically better, I wasn’t expecting her to be returning today. Her voice turns consoling as she places her hand on my arm. “Jake, I’m fine. Don’t worry. I won’t be caught off guard again. I’ll see you in class.”

Grant calls out again and she’s gone. My stomach feels as if it is dropping out from under me. Returning today and seeing Greg was already going to be hard, but knowing that she is inside, exposed to whomever wants to cause her harm, is too much. The walls close in around me and I need to leave, to clear my head. I jump as my mother touches my shoulder, unaware that she was even speaking to me. “Would you like to take a run before we leave? Your dad left with Grant, but I’m sure Uncle Francis or Jeff can keep up with you.”

I hear Jeff in the living room on the telephone with someone. Waiting until he’s off, I approach. “Would you mind running with me? I need to work off some energy and mom won’t be able to keep up.”

His eyes fill with understanding. “You saw Julianne this morning didn’t you?” I nod before moving toward the back doors. Moving at full speed, some of the tension leaves me and I can think clearly. Jeff must feel it too because suddenly he stops and phases into himself. “Do you feel well enough to walk and talk for a few minutes?”

“Sure”

“Jake, I know that you’re worried, but Julianne is smart and they won’t catch her off guard again. Don’t let your worry and anger consume you. I did and it was very hard to let go. You have to hold on to the fact that you did save her and because your dad got there so quickly, nothing that bad happened. We even have the scent of the man who did it thanks to you. My dad, Paul and your father are more equipped to handle this situation. Despite your maturity, you are still young and this situation is very new to you. I need you to do something for me, when you go to school. I know that you are going to see if you can detect who it is or if you get that scent off of anyone. Considering how you detected it in the first place, you may be the one who does find it first, if that person hangs around school.” He turns to me, placing both hands on my shoulders and his stare turns intense. “If you find out anything, you need to tell your father or mine, let them handle it. You cannot try to handle it on your own, do you understand?” Opening my mouth to argue with him, I snap it shut knowing, just from my reaction yesterday and this morning that he is right. Continuing to stare at me, his words take on an authoritative tone. “Jacob, I mean it. You need to let the adults handle this. You cannot bring that kind of trouble down upon yourself. Although you are strong enough to take care of it, the person is human and you haven’t been outside of Sanctuary, so let those who are familiar with dealing in their realm handle this, please.”

From his continuing stare, he is awaiting a verbal confirmation. “I know. It’s just so hard sometimes.”

Putting his arm around my shoulder, he heads back. “I know it is, believe me, but I also know that you are a good kid. I’m not saying this because I don’t think that you can handle it, I’m saying it in hopes of helping you avoid some of the same mistakes that I made when I first started interacting with those who we hide our existence from.” He chuckles as if remembering something amusing. I turn and as my inquisitive eyes meet his, he smiles. “After I left Grant and came here, I found myself moving around quite a bit because of my temper and responses to situations. Your mother calmed me down quite a bit. I’m just hoping to return the favor.” His tone is quite amused and I wonder if he unleashed himself on someone he shouldn’t have.

When we return everyone is in the car. Slipping in the front seat, mom hands me an apple. “In case you get hungry.”

Walking through the halls, I cannot help scanning the faces and taking in deep breaths as we pass those who have darker shadows around them. Despite knowing that the men I saw appeared to be adults, I never got a look at the third person and if they are here, they may lead us to the others. Slipping into my homeroom seat, Brian appears distracted. Before I can ask if everything is alright, the bell rings to switch classes and he is quickly out the door without even a backward glance.

Entering the gym, Nicole whispers in my ear. “Don’t forget what everyone has been telling you, she’s fine and we don’t know what, if any, involvement Greg had in last night’s events, so no matter what happens, don’t lose your cool.”

I nod and brace myself, locking every muscle into place. As my eyes scan the room, I catch Julianne’s apprising and warning eyes as well. Greg isn’t here, but some of his cohorts are already playing basketball despite class not starting. Catching sight of Brian who is standing along the opposite wall, his eyes appear fixated on us. Maybe I can distract myself and be useful if I see what’s wrong with him.

Crossing the gym, I catch Tim in my peripheral vision running down the court with the ball, but instead of heading for the basket, suddenly he veers toward me, drops the ball and barrels into me, sending me careening into Laurel. As my upper torso slams into her, our fall feels never ending, as if someone just pushed us down a deep well. Despite hitting the cold, parquet floor, I still feel as if I am falling, deeper and deeper. My mind reels and images swirl around me as if I’m in a cylinder bombarding my thoughts and overwhelming my already overloaded senses. Descending further down, I am enveloped and submerged by disturbing images which Laurel stars in bringing forth feelings of cold, desolate, isolation, without any hope of emerging. As her descent flashes through my consciousness, I understand clearly how she has developed into the person she is today. The visions flash furiously all around me as I stand in the empty shell that is Laurel, amidst peers who slowly tear her down. I can see how desperate she is, desiring positive contact from anyone, but too afraid to expose herself to any more of the previous ridicule, degradation, and torment which stripped away her self-confidence. As the images fly at me, the voices of those she sought to befriend are deafening. “You’re ugly;” “You’re too stupid to give the right answer;” “We don’t associate with dogs;” “Looser;” You don’t belong here;” “Why would we want to be your friend?” “Losers are not allowed to sit with us;” “Your dad was a drunk before he got himself killed;” “I hear she disappears just like him, my mom says she’s just like her old man and will end up the same way.” As the insidious comments ring in my ears, there is one voice, softer than the rest and a hand stretched out toward her, trying over the years to reel her back from her ostracized isolation. As she looks up, I see Brian and hear his comforting words. “You’re better than all of them because you are different. Don’t let them take that away from you. I feel her fleeting hope and relief at finding someone who is willing to accept her for who she is, but the constant barrage of other voices overtakes her existence, submerging her once again as she struggles to hold on to the one good person who gives her some light in this silent hell. Suddenly my ears prick up as an all too familiar tone of the one I seek roars. “Tell your brother to stay out of my business or I’ll take it out on you B…..” The voice is directly behind her and I once again smell his putrid breath and feel her overwhelming fear. I wish I could force her to turn, to see his face, but this is a past image, a past event. Desolation blankets her as she sinks deeper and deeper, spiraling away from Brian as the light he fights to bring her towards fades to black and those who ostracize her entomb her into the isolated abyss forever.

Before the images could drag me further into her desolate wasteland, the panicked voices of students surrounding us penetrate through the encumbering cone of disturbing images, and I fight my way towards them, desperate to leave this sickening loneliness. Through the sea of voices, I hear and hold on to Julianne’s voice as if it were a lifeline dragging me to the surface. “Brian, get the school nurse quickly. Make sure she knows to bring smelling salts. Tell her we may need an ambulance.” Knowing that this would not be something that worked on me, Laurel or Tim must have been rendered unconscious. “Charlie, go get Mr. Taylor.” Her voice sounds very authoritative as she orders the students to back away from Laurel and myself. Nicole’s panicky voice resonates through the crowd and I feel her hand upon me.

Forcing my eyes open, she throws her arms around me. “Are you alright?”

Sitting up, rubbing the back of my head, there’s no bump. “I’m fine.” Scanning those around us, I see Tim and now Greg’s smug looks as they stand with their friends, but cannot even waste a moment’s thought upon them. Laurel is lying next to me, still and crumpled against the wall. Julianne is talking to her, trying to revive her. Scurrying to her side, knowing that her head must have hit the hard surface, I move my hands closer to her temple, but Julianne pulls them away, quickly before anyone else sees. As my eyes meet hers, I see the warning and her voice was soft. “The nurse is on her way.”

Dad rushes through the doors followed by the nurse and Principal Walker. Julianne backs away, giving the nurse room and I hear sirens off in the distance. Turning to my dad, he is struggling too, wanting to help, knowing that we can’t, at least not here.

Nurse Barker tries the smelling salts to no avail, Laurel remains lifeless.

“Jacob, how do you feel?” Despite his whispering, concern resonates in his tone and eyes as they shift between Laurel and me.

“I’m fine, but why isn’t she waking up?”

“I don’t know? What happened?” Responding in a hushed tone, I reiterate what I know. “Did her head hit the wall or the floor?”

Nicole moves closer to him and whispers. “She hit both pretty hard.”

My stomach drops as I realize that my slamming into her caused this, if I had only stood my ground and realized what Tim was doing beforehand, maybe I could have stopped this. Hearing the wheels of the stretcher coming down the hall, I move further back so they can have quick access to her as they come through the doors. As they work on her, Mr. Walker instructs the students to report to the library for study period, but as the students are leaving, he moves towards Greg and Tim.

“The football coach wants to see you two.” He turns back toward us as they leave without another word. “Jacob, how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine. “ My dad interrupts. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll take him down to my office for a few moments and call my wife, she may want to take a look at him.”

Principal Walker nods and moves toward Laurel. The attendants moved her to the stretcher and I could hear them telling the dispatcher they were taking her to Mercy. As we are leaving a woman rushes past us and I freeze. “Dad, she’s a…”

He interrupts me. “Jacob, keep moving.” Out in the hallway, we move quickly into his office, he already has his phone out. Shutting the door behind me, he is talking to mom. “Is Jeff with you…Good…tell him that there is a girl on her way in an ambulance, she’s unconscious but that she may be half-wolf. No we didn’t detect anything on her, but as her mother is a wolf…This could be the one that Cassandra was talking about…She was in the gym and got slammed into, her head hit the wall and floor and she is non-responsive…I’ll meet you there in a while and see what I can do as well…No, they are fine…I promise.” Looking at his face, I can tell he doesn’t like hedging when he talks to her. As he hangs up, I put my hand on his.

“I am fine. You didn’t lie.” Looking down at me, a small smile lightens his features. “How did you get so smart?” Hugging him tightly, “I learned from you.”

Sitting me down, he checks me out thoroughly. “Dad, do you think she’ll be alright?”

“I’m sure between your mother and Jeff she will get the best possible care and then right after school, we can go and see her if they haven’t already released her. Do you want me to call uncle Francis to take you home?”

“No. I know Nicole and the others are worried, I should go join them in class, but dad, tonight, can we talk, something strange happened when I hit Laurel…” Concern flares in his eyes. “I don’t want to get into it now, not here.”

“Alright, we can talk after school.”

For the rest of the day, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get my mind away from the disturbing images that pierce their way into every thought, despite my trying to push them from my mind and concentrate on the subjects before me. Knowing that we didn’t detect what she was also raises my concerns that there may be more from our world than I had even considered and they may have found a way to mask themselves. If there are, I don’t want to take a chance that they will overhear my concerns about Laurel’s private hell. Nicholas’ hand on my arm causes me to jump. “Didn’t you hear the bell? It’s time for the next class.”

The day lags as my mind relives her events, dragging me deeper and deeper into her solitude with each passing demeaning stare, intentional push and derogatory comment ringing in my ears, I felt her slowly dying inside until there was nothing left but a blank stare. Occasionally, I see some spark, a comment to someone, her desperate side trying to reach out, to find anywhere where she belonged. I see her shutting out Brian and can’t believe that I can hear her debate in my head, her fears for him if she were to grab hold of him, her worry that she would isolate him further and make him an even bigger target than he already appears to be. I see her looking out at the sea of faces as she withdraws even further away from any chance of connecting with others as she is now too afraid to reach out to someone who her getting to know may cause problems for and her fear of experiencing yet another rejection, another cut upon her already battered soul. The information that our brief contact brings is amazing, but I can’t understand how I saw what I did after our collision and how my mind is just beginning to digest and process all that I saw and felt in such a short time. It’s strange, fascinating and disturbing all at the same time. Glancing at the clock, I can’t believe that we still have a few hours. I wish I knew what was happening to Laurel physically and if she has come around.

The cafeteria is buzzing with the story. As we enter, eyes shift towards us and I can’t believe what some of them are saying. I knew that Tim would never tell the truth, but to say that I got in his way and that’s why it happened, has me seeing red. Feeling guilty enough and knowing that getting angry will only exacerbate an already unbearable situation, I turn to Nicole. “I’m going outside for some air. I’ll see you in the next class.”

Heading toward the door, I am immediately joined by Charlie, Nicholas, Kayla and Nicole. Turning, “I’m fine, I’m just not hungry but you eat.”

Nicholas leans into me, “Greg and his group aren’t anywhere in the cafeteria, they could be outside on the field, we’re going with you. We’ll eat at home.”

About to argue, I hear someone whisper “That’s him; he got in Tim’s way and now that Laurel girl in the hospital.” Not even looking up, I move quickly outside trying to take in deep breaths. Why am I so angry about what they say, none of it matters?

Sinking to the cold stone dead grass with my back against the building, Nicole tries to console me. “It’s alright. I’m sure she’s fine and probably has already been released. You can’t let what people say upset you. Don’t do this, you know where it leads.” She is right, I do know and I cannot become that person or even let that into my life, I know what a snowball effect that could have. Tightening my closed eyes, I once again picture the anger as a ball and fling it as far from me as I can. Finally opening my eyes, I see the concern in all of theirs. “I’m fine. I just needed a minute. Really, you can eat and I’ll be right in.”

“You should come back inside too.” Charlie’s eyes are fixated on the field and as I look out to what he is staring at, I rise knowing why he wants me inside. Greg and the others are on the field and our little group has their attention. Six of them and two coaches are on the field, but there is someone else in the distant bleachers, wearing a jacket with the collar pulled up around their face, with their head hanging slightly down. His brown hair is showing, but I cannot even see his eyes as they appear to be staring at a phone. From the way he sits, he appears too big to be a kid in the school. Taking two steps forward, my intention must have registered with Nicholas who grabs my arm, pulling me back toward the door. “What are you doing?”

“There’s someone else up there, do you see him on the bench?” Nicholas’ eyes dart up and then back to me.

“You can’t go up there. Let the adults handle this.”

“What if he’s one of the guys that went after Julianne, maybe he is the one I smelled.”

“Go inside and tell dad. I mean it Jacob.” He pulls me harder trying to get me to the door as Charlie, Kayla and Nicole circled around nudging me toward the entrance, knowing that I would never try to go through them.

Walking through the hall, they corral me in still. Have I really worried everyone so much? I knew I was slipping, allowing feelings in that I shouldn’t, but I thought that I was at least managing those feelings in a proper manner. Maybe I was just fooling myself and their response to this is their way of showing me that I need to do better and show everyone I am in control of myself. Almost at my father’s door, Mr. Walker steps out into the hallway. From his expression, he is surprised to see us walking about. “Why aren’t you in the cafeteria?”

Nicholas answers. “Jacob got pale waiting in the lunch line and felt a little queasy so we thought we should take him to our uncle. I hope that’s alright.”

He turns to me. “Do you want to see the nurse?”

“No thank you, I’m sure everything is fine, they were just concerned. Have you heard anything on Laurel?”

“No, she is still in the emergency room. You should get to your uncle and the rest of you should get back to the cafeteria. We can’t have students roaming in the hallways.”

Dad must have heard us because he opens his door and steps outside before we can reply. As he walks toward us, Mr. Walker departs. His eyes are filled with concern telling me that he heard Nicholas’ reply. Moving quickly to his office, once we were inside, I close the door. “Dad, I’m fine, it’s just that someone is outside with Greg and the others and he’s not one of the students.”

“Was he wearing a dark brown coat?”

“Yes”

“I already saw him, and circled around out there. He was not the one who hit Julianne last night.”

Something about his answer makes me feel unsure whether his response relives me or makes me more curious. Is he hedging? “Could he have been one of the men who was pulling at her legs?”

“That I’m not sure of. By the time we realized there was more than one of them, last night’s rain had taken away any trace scents. Francis is outside watching, he will keep an eye on what’s going on until Paul can join him after school so that I can go to the hospital.”

“Dad has there been any news on Laurel?”

“Your mom called and said they were doing an MRI, she still hasn’t regained consciousness, but she is in good hands, both Jeff and your mom are with her and I’m sure they can help. You only have one class left and then I’ll take you home and go on to the hospital. I have an appointment with Alice for the last class.”

Knowing what surrounded Alice, I am glad that he will be speaking to her. “Dad, can I come with you to the hospital?”

His objection immediately registers in his eyes, but waivers as they meet the pleading in mine. “Sure”

Entering the last class, we slip into our seats just as the teacher starts. Brian appears to be as distracted as we are. He is probably thinking about Laurel too. The clock ticks down the final moments and he can no longer contain his fidgeting, probably anxious to speak with his mother. As the bell rings, he springs up and is out before humanly possible. If he was someone that people paid attention to, it may have mattered. Instead, the breeze of his exit only leaves one girl commenting to her friend before departing. “You would think the teachers would be smart enough to close windows when it’s cold.”

Moving into the hallway, I am hoping to catch up to him, but he is too quick and I don’t dare draw any attention to us considering, people are still looking at me and whispering about what had occurred. This time, I block my mind so as not to concern my siblings and instead move at a quick human speed to gather my books and go to my father’s office. I am happy to see Nicole relax as she looks into my eyes which show no trace of anger or aggravation. We pass Julianne who is slipping into Grant’s classroom. At least I know she will be fine with her dad.

Moving toward the car, I slip into the front seat hoping to talk with dad about Alice, but he shoots me a look and I know that too must wait until we drop the others off. Despite the short distance, the ride feels like hours. As soon as they exit, he answers my unspoken question. “I thought it would be best if we waited because I think you are right about Nicole blocking some of her abilities because she is afraid of what she will see or what they will reveal. I don’t want to push her into something that she may not be ready for, but which you seem to embrace despite the images disturbing your thoughts.”

“Was that person still around Alice when you met with her?”

“Yes, but he is not trying to harm her, it’s her father. He and her mother were taken away in a car accident a year ago. Ever since then, he has been searching for a way to communicate with her about a piece of paper that his sister is withholding from Alice.” He shakes his head at whatever else he learned. “When Alice’s parents passed, they left a substantial life insurance policy to care for her. His sister, Jennifer, took Alice in and has been using the inheritance for her own selfish purposes.”

“But why would she do that and how would that paper help her?”

“Money makes people do some very strange and dubious things Jacob, which I’m sure that you will come to learn as you intermingle with people. As far as the paper goes, it is custody papers appointing Alice’s aunt, Sophie, her mother’s sister a legal guardian for Alice.”

“How did you learn all of this?”

“When Alice came to see me, Don, explained this to me.”

“Can you help her?”

He nods. “I just need to figure out a way to lead her to the paper without revealing who informed me of this. She doesn’t trust me quite yet, but from her openness to talk to me, I know she’s searching for someone to help her and I’m sure that it won’t be long before I can lead her in the right direction.”

“Do you think you can help her before the aunt spends all of her money?”

He smiles. “I’m sure I can. From what Don told me, she is not being so unreasonable that he believes the money will all be spent, it is more that she is somewhat old and unpleasant to live with and he wants his daughter to have a chance to live with a family, Sophie has two daughters close in age to Alice and that is why they chose her. Besides after what he has seen regarding her isolation in being in this school, he wants to see her have a new start somewhere else.”





Chapter Three - New Hospital New Powers





Entering the hospital, we immediately go to mom’s office. “Jeff is still in surgery with Laurel, but he should be finished soon. He is trying to release pressure which built up around her brain.”

“I thought Jeff was a heart surgeon.”

“He specialized in heart surgery, but he is also a skilled general surgeon and thought it may be important for him to be in there with the team.” Placing her hand upon my shoulder, she looks directly into my eyes. “I’m sure that she will be just fine.”

“Could you go in and check on her and see how much longer they will be?”

She hugs me. “You’re really worried about your friend aren’t you?”

“Mom please, she has to be alright.”

She leaves without another word. “Jacob, I know that you’re concerned about what happened to her, but there seems to be something more.” Dad stares at me with such intensity, I feel as if he is trying to pull the thoughts directly from my mind.

Taking in a deep breath, how do I explain to him what I saw and felt? “Dad there is so much more, I can’t even really describe it, but when I hit her, all of a sudden, the darkness surrounding her and making her unconscious, was with me.” I shudder as images of what has been running through my mind all day once again consumes me, dragging me into her abyss. I grab his hand hoping to pull myself back to the present, but as I focus on him, he freezes and his eyes momentarily turn unfocused before staring into mine. In the silence of the moment, I don’t know how it is happening again, but I realize that he is seeing everything that is running through my mind, everything that has haunted me today and haunted Laurel throughout her life.

Mom re-entering the office, breaks whatever strange connection we share and the images dissipate. “How is she?”

“They are just closing now. Jeff should be out soon and he’ll let us know.” I catch the questioning look passing between her and my father.

“Jake, I can see why you are so concerned. Once she wakes up, she is going to need some help coping with what has been going on.” He turns to my mother. “Jacob’s talent seems to expand beyond just in his sleep. When he hit Laurel, he saw some very disturbing occurrences that have been sending her cascading into self-doubt, self-loathing and self-isolation.” He raises his eyebrow and they seem to share something that I am missing.

She nods. “I think that we can help her with that.” She smiles at me. “You were right about her mother being a wolf too. I spoke with her in the waiting room.”

“Then why couldn’t I tell. I could tell with Brian and his mom right away?”

“Brian may not be a natural wolf or may be pretending to be younger than he is if he is a natural wolf. If Laurel hasn’t reached twenty-one she hasn’t undergone her first conversion and you wouldn’t be able to tell. Are you hungry, we could go down to the cafeteria?”

Although I’m not really hungry, the walls in mom’s office feel as if they are closing in on me and I could use a distraction. “I could use something to drink.”

As we head down the hall, I see mom’s concerned look before she peers up at my father, who has now put his hand on her back. As he does, I see her eyes widen and know that he is somehow passing along the information which he saw from my visions. As we pass the waiting room, I see Brian and his mother with Laurel’s mother and instead head there. As I do, Laurel’s mom rises and addresses mom. “Is there any news?”

“They are just closing up and should have her in recovery shortly. I will bring you once they have settled her in and you can stay with her there for a while. In the meantime, can I get you something from the cafeteria?”

“No thank you. Dr. Angelis, I know that you checked in with the operating room, is there any indication at all as to how Laurel is doing or if there are any unexplainable complications with the procedure?” As she asks this, the looks that pass among us all, tell me that she is aware of what is surrounding her as well and her question is directly related to Laurel’s surreal status.

Mom opens her mouth to respond, closes it, but as Laurel’s mother becomes more anxious, I hear a small sigh escape her lips. “Ms. Day…”

“You can call me Renee. Please just tell me whatever you know.”

“Renee, the physician who is working on Laurel is very skilled and familiar with our… this type of situation. He shouldn’t be much longer and when I went in there, things seemed to be progressing as they should.” Although mom couches her answer, I can tell that Ms. Day gets the message loud and clear. Just then, Jeff comes out.

“How did it go?” Laurel’s mom moves anxiously to him. Just as she does, another anxious family enters the waiting room.

A look passes between Jeff and my dad, who shakes his head minutely, appearing to answer some unspoken question. Jeff turns back to Ms. Day. “Overall, the surgery appears to have went well, we relieved the pressure at the base of her brain caused by today’s incident, but are you aware of any fall or accident that Laurel may have had over the past few weeks because it appears that there was also pressure building around another contusion we found that is at least several weeks old?”

She shakes her head, but from the way her eyes drop from Jeff’s, I know that she is not telling the truth. “May I see her?”

My mom touches Jeff’s shoulder. “I can take her to recovery if you want to fill out the reports.”

He nods. “I’ll use your office, if that’s alright.” He looks to my dad and I know he wants him to follow. We quickly move down the hall and head into mom’s office. Jeff looks at me then to dad.

“Jeff, it’s fine, you can say whatever you found in front of Jacob.”

“She’s alright now, but Andrew, I found scarring about an inch behind her ear near where I found the other contusion and build up. It definitely appears to be an old wolf bite. In addition, I found some serious suppressant drugs running through her system. I think that someone is trying to stop her conversion.” I can’t help it but I gasp and their eyes turn quickly to me.

“Can you tell how old the scars are?” Dad inquires as he puts an arm around my shoulder.

“From their appearance, they have to be several weeks old at least. I’m more concerned about the drugs in her system and who has been administering them. They are damaging some of the growth to her organs. They need to be flushed out, but considering where she is and the full moon just two days away, I didn’t dare, not without more information about what is going on with her and a safe place to move her.”

“From the look she gave us, she suspects what we are. When she leaves recovery, maybe we can take her here and see what we can find out.”

“Dad, before we do that, maybe I could touch her. If she is the one doing it to Laurel, she may not tell us the truth, she already lied about whether Laurel had any other type of accident.”

Both he and Jeff turn to me, their eyes searing with curiosity. “How did you know she lied?” They both say and Jeff continues. “How would your touching her help?”

I look to dad, knowing he probably wouldn’t mind my telling Jeff, but needing confirmation. He nods. “Laurel’s in a pretty bad place, when I slammed into her, I saw some things that have been happening to her and…” I gasp as I wonder if the darkness and screams I heard but that showed no images may have to do with her being hurt earlier.

“Jake what is it?” My father shakes me gently, pulling me from my introspection.

“When the images were first coming to me, I heard screams in the darkness, but didn’t see anything. I have been concentrating so much on what I saw, but what if the screams were from her and her mom? What if they are related to her getting hurt earlier?”

Jeff’s eyes widen and I know he is shocked at what I am saying, but dad is the first to speak. “Jacob we don’t know what their situation is and we shouldn’t speculate. We need to observe and see what we can find out. As far as you touching her, that may not be a good idea, you became semi-comatose when you touched Laurel, if that were to happen when you touch her mom and she is not on the good side of things, it may reveal something about you that we don’t want anyone to know now.”

Jeff interjects. “Regardless of how we find out, we need to do it soon. I can’t give her any more suppressants, with her recent injury and the damage already to her organs, they could kill her and in two days’ time enough suppressants may be out of her system that she will change. We need to find out if she is a natural born wolf and has converted before, or if the marks indicate that she was bitten and someone is trying to stop the change. Andrew, look, I know that we are trying to stay within the shadows, but her mother is obviously someone from our world and those drugs are causing Laurel some serious harm, they will eventually kill her.”

Mom steps in and her features appear grave. Grabbing her hands, I am going to ask her what happened to Laurel, but instead, I see exactly what concerns her and as the images flash before me, I feel dads hand on my shoulder. As disturbing as entering her abyss was earlier these new images are terrifying and I can’t help but pull away from mom, falling back into the seat behind me.

“Jacob, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was going to happen.” Her voice turns concerned, but I can’t seem to find mine. She hugs me. As she finally withdraws, my mind cuts through the scattered thoughts on some level to register Jeff’s inquiry and my father’s response as to how we are now able to share what we see and get from others. I can’t hold on to their conversation as the overwhelming images rock me to my core. An attack on Laurel so disturbing coupled with the violent defense by her mother and brother ripping at him until he releases her and takes his last breath, that I barely recognize my own strange voice. “How could her dad turn on her like that? Why would he do that?”

My mom’s soft voice pierces through the growls and screams until finally, all is silent as the devastating images of Laurel lying on the ground as two wolves turn back into humans before a now broken man lying at her feet imprint on the back of my now closed lids. The sheer terror on their faces overwhelms me as my mother fights to dissipate the images. “Jacob, think of your coaster and step away from what is before you.” Her authoritative voice is commanding and I throw my arms around her. As the images finally fade, I open my eyes able to focus once more on where I am. I feel her wiping my tears and as reason returns, I grab her arms realizing what else she saw as my eyes shoot between her, Jeff and my dad. “Laurel’s mom is the one giving her those drugs. What if she is doing that now while she’s with her? We have to stop her! She doesn’t know that she’s killing her daughter!” Dad clamps my shoulders, anchoring me to the floor as I bolt towards the door. Jeff disappears immediately.

“Jake, you can’t go into recovery, it will cause suspicion and we don’t want that. Jeff will protect her.” Taking a deep breath, I know he’s right, but I can’t just stay here.

Sensing how closed in I’m feeling mom takes my hand. “Come with me and we can get some air.” Thinking that we are going out to the front, I hesitate, knowing how noisy it is and how my already overloaded senses will only become more agitated by the rustling of so many people. She turns, looking straight at me. “Trust me.”

Moving with her, she enters the stairwell and travels up. Opening the roof door, we stand outside. The cool air and quiet at least clear my head enough that I can breathe. The remnants of the violent images finally fade enough so that I can concentrate on what my father is telling me.

“Jacob, her mother isn’t trying to hurt her, something terrible obviously happened, but I’m sure that once Jeff explains what the drugs are doing to her, she won’t use them.”

I grab his hands, “Dad do you think that she used them on Laurel’s brother. He’s not here. Wouldn’t he be here, knowing she is hurt, especially since he fought his own father to protect his sister? What if he’s dead? What if Ms. Day killed him?”

Mom interjects. “Jake, he’s fine. He is on his way from Washington. He was helping a friend move.”

Releasing breath I didn’t even realize I was holding, I have to ask. “Mom, did you see anything else to explain why Laurel’s dad attacked her?”

“No, I only touched her briefly. The only other thing that I saw was that he was a police officer.” Her pager goes off and I know Jeff was too late.

My father turns into himself before my eyes. “Mia, take Jake to the car. I am going to see what we can do. Call Francis and tell him to contact Taylor. Tell him we need an ambulance here to transfer Laurel right away. He’ll take care of the rest. My father’s gone and my mother is on the phone as we travel down the stairwell.

Within thirty minutes, an ambulance is at the emergency exit, a man hops out with Uncle Francis and they head into the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, Jeff, Dad, Uncle Francis and the man are lifting the stretcher into the ambulance and dad assists an ashen Ms. Day into the back with him while uncle Francis and Taylor get into the front. They are off without a word, probably because a new shift is entering the hospital and mom’s friend, Janet, is talking to her. As soon as it leaves, mom brings Janet closer to me and introduces me as Jonathan’s nephew and lets her know we are on our way home.

Entering the car, Jeff is waiting for us. “How’s Laurel?”

“She is going to be fine. Your dad got to her in time. I started the flushing process and by the time she reaches Sanctuary, most of the drugs should be out of her system and they can deal with her conversion and give her time to heal. Some of my men are medically trained and can help her with the other aspect as well. I’ll call them and let them know what to expect as soon as we get back to the house.”

“Will she be alright?”

He shifts to face me. “Jake she is going to be fine. I know that you feel guilty over falling into her and that Tim was trying to hurt you two, but his bad move actually saved her life. If she wasn’t in the hospital with us, the suppression drugs and pressure that was already building from her dad’s attack would have killed her.”

“Is dad going back with her too?”

“No he just needed to make it look like he was. My men are more than capable of helping her with this. Your father should be home before we are and your uncle will be back in a few days.”

Mom interjects. “Do we know why she was giving her the drugs?”

He shakes his head. “Francis is going to try to talk to her. By the time I got down, she had already injected Laurel, so I didn’t really have time to ask.”

Entering the others must be asleep because of the late hour and I can hear dad talking on the phone to aunt Eva in the living room. The door is closed and mom veers me into the kitchen. “Let me get you a snack before I check on the others. “ She puts milk and an apple before me, but I just can’t eat.

Sipping the milk, I listen intently and can hear that dad asked to speak with uncle Gabriel. “You need to monitor the mother and keep someone on her whenever she is with Laurel until we know exactly what is going on. Something traumatic occurred to have the father attack his own daughter and then to have the mother use such heavy drugs to suppress Laurel’s conversion considering she herself is a wolf. Have Eva fill you in on the psychiatric concerns we have regarding Laurel. She is too young to be in such despair. Keep me updated…Hopefully you’re right and Francis can get some information from her on the ride up. She was pretty skittish, but that is normal considering she doesn’t know us and has no reason to trust us. We only got her to agree to move Laurel because Jeff finally convinced her that if she didn’t allow the conversion which she is so afraid of to take place, the suppression drugs will shut down her organs…Yes have them take her to the outer cabin before the full moon. If the mother was trying to stop the conversion fearing something, we don’t want her around patients…Keep me updated, yes they just came in…I’ll talk to you soon.”

A moment later, he is in the archway. “You should really eat the apple now that the crunching won’t interfere with your listening to my conversation.” He smirks and sits by me. Despite knowing he isn’t mad at me, I can’t stop my mouth from falling open.

“How did you know?”

He laughs. “Jake you have my hearing, I didn’t shut the door so you couldn’t hear, I shut it because when I came home Nicole wasn’t quite asleep and I didn’t want her worrying about us sending a problem up to Sanctuary.”

Smiling at him I take a bite of my apple and he laughs harder as it makes a deafening crunch, it is very fresh. “Dad is she going to be alright?”

“I think that sending her to Sanctuary gives her the best opportunity to heal and deal with whatever is going on in her family.” I shake my head wishing that he wouldn’t hedge with me. I may be physically young, but emotionally, I feel as if the recent experiences have aged me a lifetime. As if answering my unspoken thoughts, “Jake, I’m not hedging with you because I don’t think you can handle it, I’m being cautious because we don’t know enough about what happened in her family that led to such extremes. I can tell you this though if she is not a danger to herself or anyone else, you know how accepting the children are at home and how good aunt Eva is at helping people, they will be able to help pull her from the abyss she has fallen into and it will be much better for her. “

“Dad can you read my mind now too?”

He grins. “No, but you and your mom share some pretty tell-tale expressions and I have gotten very good at reading those over the years.”

I chuckle. “Dad couldn’t mom help her here so she could stay close to the people she knows. I know how good home is, but to her it is a strange place and…”

Placing his hand on mine, “Jake, the best thing for her may be to get to a place that has no history and is fresh from the incident we saw and the people who make her feel so despondent and cut off from her own life. Besides, until Amanda gets back, Laurel will change with each full moon and considering the extremes her mother has gone to, it is safer for her and those around her to be with our kind. I’m sure that uncle Francis has told her mom to let her brother know where she is and he can go up there to be with her. From what we saw, the way he fought for her, they must be very close and may even be on their own. If they are and they follow our way of life, they will soon come to learn that they are among friends. If they are on the wrong side, at least we can contain the damage they can cause.”

Mom comes in, carrying Alexander and moves to grab a bottle. “Are you ready for bed, handsome, it has been quite a day?”

As late as it is, I am too wound up to even think about sleeping. “Mom, would you mind if I went for a run with dad first?” I look toward him hopeful and he nods, but his eyes have not left mom’s. I rise and we are out the door before she even begins feeding Alex. We break into a sprint as soon as we clear the pool. By the time we hit the edge of the property, the crisp air and smell of an approaching storm clear my mind of all things today and over the last week. Stopping, I don’t want to run back, not just yet, there is something else that has been nagging at me since Julianne’s incident and I need some advice. “Dad, can I ask you something off topic?” He smiles in a way that makes me wonder if he knows what I am going to ask, but just nods and stops walking, waiting for me. “We can walk; I know you don’t want me going to bed too late, I just thought we could talk on the way.”

“What’s on your mind?”

“When you first saw mom, did you always feel a desire to protect her, a need to keep her safe?”

He chuckles. “When I first met your mother, she is the one who protected me?”

“I don’t understand, mom said that she didn’t know she was a witch until after coming up here.”

“That’s rights, but when I first met your mom, I was fighting with myself and was badly injured. I could have died…” He stops as I halt in my tracks and can feel my eyes widening? “Jake when I first met your mother, she was a young girl and I was an injured eagle.”

“But you said you were fighting with yourself. Dad I love you but you’re not making sense.”

He moves us over to a downed log. “Jake remember how you thought you saw me dying and we explained to you about the split, when I first met your mother, my Nicholas side had turned into a fox and swiped at me. I was badly injured, but your mother threw dishes at the fox and nursed me back to health.” I can’t help but laugh at the picture now running through my mind. “But as to your question, after that, I did go and check on her and I did want to keep her safe from harm and in truth safe from me, but as you know, some things are just beyond our control and thankfully, I couldn’t keep her from me. Did you ask because that is how you feel about Julianne?”

The strange feeling that I had when I was curing her returns and I don’t know why I can’t simply answer him. Rising, I begin walking back slowly, hoping that it will be easier to talk to him if I don’t have to look him in the eye. I can hear him coming up beside me. “I want to protect her…but I am also feeling something I can’t explain…something that came over me when I was curing her and Grant walked in…”

He smiles at me. “Jake it’s alright. You don’t have to get frustrated. I know what you mean. You were embarrassed because you are young, and these feelings are new to you, but you did nothing wrong, you helped her. Jacob I know what you saw and how you think that you and she will end up together, and I am not saying that you won’t, but you are still young and everything is still so new to you. Give yourself time to grow up and see where things lead.”

“Dad, I don’t feel so young anymore though, it’s strange, but ever since what happened in England, I feel strange, different as if I’m growing faster than my body and that I’m changing. Dad please don’t be mad, but I feel as if my mind is always processing things, things I don’t even remember seeing and gaining knowledge of things which I know I haven’t come across.”

He stops dead in his tracks and turns to me. “Jake what else have you felt, and did you ever feel this before we went to England?”

“No, not really…I didn’t even feel it as much until recently, until we left Sanctuary. At first it was only little things I noticed, things I seemed to know, but couldn’t explain how. Then after the incident with Julianne, my mind seems to be racing all the time, and I feel different? I thought it was just because I was feeling angry more over things that happened, but now I realize too that it is because I can’t explain things that I seem to know…” I feel the frustration welling within me, knowing that I am not really explaining what I mean, when suddenly something hits me. “Dad, when you were split did you feel as if you knew or saw things that weren’t your memories or your knowledge, but instead belonged to someone else?” I don’t mean to, but as what I’m asking truly sinks in, I panic and grab his wrists.

“Jake, it’s alright. I don’t think that has happened to you, we haven’t had that kind of an encounter. Jake that only happened because Satan himself did that, I don’t think even his strongest demons can do that. There has to be another explanation? Jacob, can you explain more of what you feel or the knowledge you have come across?”

It’s so mixed up in my head; I can’t even begin to explain to him what I have been dreaming of. I can’t even explain it to myself and up until now, maybe I wasn’t even willing to admit it to myself. I know some of it I tried to convince myself was because of my dreams about mom, but there seems to be someone else or something else that is in there too, but I can’t put a face to it or really explain it. “Dad, I don’t know how to really explain what is going on, it’s strange. At first I thought it was just feeling what others feel and maybe it is that. Is it possible that I am connecting with someone else and am not aware of it and that is why I feel these things?”

He takes in a deep breath and begins walking, but at a very slow pace and his features appear as it they are truly considering the possibilities. “You do seem to have that ability. Just look at the information that you obtained from Laurel. Did this ever happen besides with your mother when you were at Sanctuary?”

“I don’t think so, but maybe it was happening and I really didn’t even realize it or was ignoring it.” This is so frustrating, I feel as if my mind is racing trying to pull things, time, places, events from fleeting visions and trying to decipher whether I saw them at home or just here. Inadvertently, my fisted hands move to my temples. “Why is this so confusing?”

Dad stops, gently removing my hands from my face. “Jake it’s alright. You may not have realized it was happening at home or maybe this is something new, something that is only recently developing because you have been using your powers. Maybe it is even something like uncle Gabriel, maybe you are connecting with people’s thoughts on some sort of sub-conscious level and their knowledge is somehow coming out when you sleep or let yourself think of such things. I know that this is very frustrating but it’s alright son. You need to give yourself time to adjust to your surroundings and your talents. If you feel that it is too much for you or that you will feel better home, we can always discuss going home with your mother.”

I shake my head. I know how important this project is to mom and she is right, it is what brought her back to us. It needs to get done. Besides, knowledge can’t hurt me, it is something I just need to sort out and calm down about. “No dad, it’s fine. You’re right, everything is just new and I need to give it time to sort itself out, but while I do, do you mind if I talk to you about it or we go on more of these runs because they do help. I know I seem frustrated and that they don’t, but they do.”

“We can do whatever you want Jacob. I am always here for you.”

I start walking again. “Dad, can I ask you something else that might seem a little strange?”

“You can ask me anything.”

“Because the devil” I’m surprised how much my tone drops, “came for grandma and tried to claim you, and then seemed to send those who are with him after mom, more than once, do you think that he will come after us or anyone that we get close to, is that why you said you tried to protect mom from you?” Even looking at his profile as we walk back towards the house, I can see his features fill with understanding.

“Jacob, I tried to keep your mother away from me because at the time she came into my life, I couldn’t see past what he had made us and the curse that was hanging over our head. I didn’t want to cost your mother her soul.”

Before he can continue, I stop and grab his hand. “I don’t understand.” Placing his arm around my shoulders, he tells me the story of what happened all those centuries ago and how mom saved them. Somehow as we move forward, images appear to be popping before my eyes, brief, but very vivid images of what he is saying and I gasp as I see the image of him on the ground lying beside his dead self. Just then, a loud angry voice rings in my ears. “You shouldn’t have stopped the drugs. She’ll attack just like my father did… It will be dangerous for everyone involved. My mother said that she was traveling to Maine, where exactly are you sending them? How did you come across them? Are you associated with Peter’s group? Does he know what you are?” I hear mom’s voice. “Jeff are you alright, who is this?” An image flashes before me and I quickly shrug my shoulders out from under dad’s arms and grab his wrist, hoping that he can see what I am seeing as I bolt toward the house.

As mom goes near Jeff, the man who must have been shouting turns, grabs her by the shoulders, and falls to his knees, taking her with him. “You can’t be real, can you? I don’t understand how can you be here? I saw you fall into the gorge that opened when … Oh no! Oh no, not again!”

Bursting through the doors, I wedge myself between mom and the man, quickly grabbing his thumbs and removing his hands from her. A flash of her falling darts across my vision but Jeff grabs me, I see someone go over and as he breaks contact, the image dissipates.

“Jacob, it’s alright, he’s just confused. He’s Laurel’s brother.” Dad is now before us both, inching him back. With lightning speed his hands move up as if to grab dad, but as he lifts his head, his eyes lock with dad’s, widen and he appears to go into shock. Jeff moves over to them and is calling his name, but he does not respond. Moving him over to a chair, he still makes no movement on his own.

Leaving the room, Jeff returns with his bag. As he shines the light in his eyes, he quickly snaps out of his daze, jumps out from his seat, knocking Jeff over and throws himself across the room. His eyes dart wildly between us. “Who the hell are you and what type of game are you playing he roars.”

Hearing fast moving footsteps upstairs and fearing anyone approaching him will get hurt, I bolt past him, too quick for him to even realize what I am doing and am out into the hallway. Grant, Julianne and the others have already reached the stairs. “Don’t. Stay upstairs. It was only a misunderstanding.”

Mom joins me and places her hand on my back. “He’s right, everything is fine. Come on.” She moves me along and whispers so low that only I can hear. “We don’t want anyone down here or worrying so go upstairs with them.” She tucks everyone back in and whispers once more to me. “Jake everything is fine. Try to get some rest. I’m sure he just got confused with everything that happened with his family. Everything will be fine.” Despite her comforting words, I can tell that she’s worried.

Closing my eyes, I have no intention of sleeping, but know she is anxious to get downstairs. Reaching the hallway, I hear her ask Julianne to stay with Alexander in case things get out of hand before she descends down the stairs with another set of footsteps at her side. Grant must have waited for her. Thankfully now that it is quieted down I can easily hear the conversation they are having.

“I told you we don’t know any Peter. I came down to help Dr. Angelis at Mercy and after operating on your sister, I stopped the drugs because they would have killed her.”

“I know what you are and you may think you’re helping, but you’re not. You didn’t see Charles change instantly when he attacked us. He was more vicious than you can imagine and whatever caused that is probably coursing through her veins now. She’ll kill herself or Renee. Tell your man to turn around. We’ll handle this ourselves!”

“We can help if you let us. Have you spoken to your mother since she left for Sanctuary?”

“The last time I spoke with Renee she didn’t sound right. She said she was traveling up to a special hospital with some of our kind, then the line went dead and now seeing what is with you, you must have done something to her.”

I hear shifting and then his voice turns livid. “Whatever sick game you are playing, it won’t work. If you harm my family I will end your existence. I fought you once and I will do it again without hesitation no matter whose form you take. I won’t be fooled. You won’t get a link with me again. I may have been fooled when you pretended to by my twin, but I won’t be fooled again. I know your tricks. Now turn that ambulance around!”

Jeff’s response is measured. “I never fought you or pretended to be anyone and we haven’t done anything to your family. I only want to help them. Anthony, you need to understand, the drugs were closing down your sister’s system.”

“I wasn’t talking about you!” He roars back. “I was talking to them.”

My dad responds quietly as if talking to a wounded animal. “Your mom must have lost service. Our hospital is out of the way and there are places along the route where there is no service. We are not trying to harm your sister in any way. We are trying to save her. Maybe if you told us what happened that night with your father, we could help her better.”

“You don’t want to help us. You wouldn’t be pretending to be someone else unless you are trying to get me again! You have to be up to no good. Although why you would turn into a natural enemy I don’t understand. You had to know I am a…” He stops and inhales deeply.

Listening, I wonder who he is seeing. I know that dad didn’t change into Jonathan when we were running back, so what could he be talking about. Does dad project to the outside world all the time that he is Jonathan, or is it only when we see him as Jonathan.

Dad responds even lower still. “I’m not pretending to be anyone. I have been this way for over five hundred years and I don’t ever remember coming across you.”

Rising, I wonder if my other assumption is right. Sneaking down stairs, I am just outside the door. Grant catches site of me and slips out of the room. “Jacob, I thought that your mother put you to bed?”

“She did, but I can’t sleep with him down here. Grant who is my dad appearing to you as?” His features appear confused by my question and his eyes shift between me and the other room.

“Jacob he is himself? Why?

“I thought maybe Anthony was seeing Jonathan or maybe dad through the Jonathan façade and that is why he is saying what he did? Do we know if we see him sometimes as him, but everyone else sees him as Jonathan all the time?”

“I don’t think that is possible, I think when we see him as Jonathan that he looks that way to everyone else, but now he is himself.”

Anthony’s aggravated voice rings out. “Are you going to make the same lying claim? Why are you doing this, we can be of no consequence to you or is this because of Peter and his group? Am I mistaken, is he somehow related to our world too?” He takes in a deep breath. His tone drops and he begins arguing with himself. “How could I have been so wrong in thinking that Peter is human? If he’s involved with you people there is no way that he is. That must be what Charles discovered before… He must be disguising himself in some way, that’s how he got to him…” Suddenly a back is in the archway and Grant pushes me against the wall just as Anthony blows past us out the door.

Jeff quickly follows but dad grabs his arm. “Don’t, he needs time to sort out whatever is going on with him. I’ll call up to Francis and see if I can reach him or call Eva and let her know that as soon as they arrive, Renee has to call Anthony. If we pursue him now, we’ll only make things worse. He sees us as a threat for some reason and we don’t want to exacerbate and already tenuous situation because if they turn that ambulance around we will lose Laurel and if he is correct in whatever caused the father to attack could cause problems for her, we want to contain her for as long as possible.”

Dad, do you think that he was seeing you as your Jonathan façade and that’s why he was accusing you of being someone you’re not?”

“I don’t think so. Mia, you didn’t see me as Jonathan at all while he was here did you? I know that I have been slipping in and out of him and now don’t even have to really concentrate when I am him, but I don’t think that I unconsciously change?”

“I didn’t see you as him, but I never do, she says moving closer to him and they both look to Jeff.”

“I didn’t see you change to him, but I was concentrating on Anthony afraid that he would bolt.” I see them shake their heads and know they are wondering if there was some sort of quick conversion too, but before I can dwell on it, mom comes over to me.

“Come on Jacob; let’s get you back to bed.” As we ascend the stairs, Grant follows, but dad and Jeff move to the office, probably to call the others.

As she tucks me into bed and rises, I grab her hand. “Mom can you stay a few minutes?”

“Sure, handsome, what’s on your mind?”

“You don’t think that they will actually turn the ambulance around do you?”

“No, I don’t. They are probably almost up there and I’m sure that your uncle used the drive up there to convince Renee that Sanctuary is the best place for Laurel to be and that we can be trusted. Their family has obviously gone through something terrible and I think that Anthony is just confused and lashing out because we are strangers, he’s worried about his sister and there is obviously something still very wrong and frightening going on with them. I’m sure though that they will get in touch with him and get him to go up to Sanctuary and they can work it all out there. Don’t worry. I’m sure that everything will work itself out in time.” She glances at her watch and then strokes my cheek gently. “Jacob, try to get some sleep, there are only a few hours until school. If you are not up to it in the morning, I can call in and you can stay home.”

I shake my head as the events of the day begin to take their toll. I have to be in school with the others, with everything that has gone down and the questions still unanswered, I don’t want my siblings there without me. I am the strongest and want to be there if anything were to happen. “I want to go. I’ll be fine. Love you mom.”

She kisses me on the forehead. “I love you handsome. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Closing my eyes, I try to clear my mind, but as I drift, visions of Laurel trying to fight her father, flash vividly through my mind and mix with Anthony grabbing and hurting mom. As the vision replays for the third time, all of a sudden everything appears to be shaking around mom and the scenery has changed from the living room to outside, but not this outside. She is surrounded by a bright clear day, trees are in the distance, but not ones that I have seen at home and all of a sudden, Anthony is grabbing her, while holding on to a strange wide column, one like I have never seen, except for maybe in history books. Snow seems to be falling all around them, but as the vision becomes more consuming and clearer, I realize it is not snow, but instead looks gray and strange. The world around him seems to shake and as his hand grasps mom’s wrist, the ground below her seems to fall away. Her face is pained, his is strained, and I can see his hand slipping from the column. Her free hand grasps the hand holding hers and she wrenches his fingers from around her wrist and calls out as her body plummets downward into the nothingness that once was a plush earth beneath her feet. I love you, get to safety. I can feel the fall and my body is being battered as if I am hitting the rocks. My mind suddenly goes blank. The next thing I know, someone is calling to me.

“Jake are you coming?” Charlie is calling from the hallway. “Breakfast is ready and we have to leave for school.”

Rising, I’m glad that despite feeling battered in my dream, my body does not feel beaten. Julian, Grant and Paul have already left and I grab my eggs and stick them between bread so I can eat on the run.

Over the next two days, rumors are spreading like wildfire about Laurel being permanently paralyzed because of me to slipping into a coma and having to be moved to a special hospital. One of Greg’s group even said he heard that they transferred her to a distant hospital where she died. As if that is not bad enough, every time a classmate gets remotely close to me in gym, one of Greg’s friends moves close to me and makes them jump.

I don’t know if it is my restless nights, which I cannot explain to my siblings or even mom and dad because how do I tell them about what now has become my recurring nightmare of mom wrenching herself free from Anthony and falling into an abyss and the strange visions of dad diving in saving her but is then separated from mom in a dense, all, consuming fog, or if I am inadvertently showing signs of being bothered by what is surrounding me, but Charlie, Nicholas, Nicole and Kayla are staying too close and are watching me as if they’re waiting for a second head to grow from my neck. Even Brian appears to start to ask me something but then immediately withdraws.

During our free period, we head to the library to so that Kayla and Nicole can finish their research paper, but between their stares and the more timid students shying away from me, I feel as if the walls are just too confining. I need some space, some quiet time. Knowing that Greg and the rest would never be caught dead in the library, I head to dad’s office and although Nicholas rises, when I gesture for him to stay with Charlie and the others, thankfully he retreats.

Dad’s office is empty and although I would like to stay and just take a few moments of quite time, I know that if anyone were to come down, I would be in trouble. Heading back, I see Greg talking with Tim just before they slip into the athletic room.

Scanning the hallway, I don’t see signs of anyone else around so I quickly move towards the door and try to listen in, but all I hear is the click of the door to the field. Listening for another moment to make sure there is no sound from the room, I gingerly open the door and slip inside. Thankfully, no one is there. Moving to the outside door, I listen and after a few moments of hearing nothing, I open the door and can see that they are moving quickly toward the football field. Taking a piece of paper from my pocket, I scrunch it in such a way as to wedge it between the door so it will not fully close, but also making it appear as if they dropped it in case they return before I do or someone comes to the door before I get back.

With lightning speed, I move to the trees surrounding the school for cover and begin to double back near the field. Climbing a tree near the far post, I see Coach McDonough near the benches speaking with a tall man in a black leather jacket. Greg and Tim are almost on top of them when I hear the voice I have been searching for.

“A new shipment is coming in three days, is everything prepared at the lab?” As his voice rings in my ears, I can hear his threat to Julianne and Laurel. Because his back is turned to me, I can’t see his face. Taking in a deep breath, he is too far away and the smells around are too much for me to really get a good scent, but the voice, is unmistakable.

“At least we won’t have trouble from that stupid cop since we took care of his sister.” Tim snorts.

“Don’t underestimate him again. We thought that the father would take our warning and look at how far he pursued us.” Coach McDonough grumbles.

“Yes, but he has been neutralized. We even got his own family to take him out so it’s not traceable to us.” Greg’s tone is filled with satisfaction. “I also confirmed that Laurel was moved from the local hospital and hopefully Anthony is wherever she is.”

“This shipment needs to go off without any interference.” The voice retorts.

“We met with our man in the precinct. He buried the investigation. They continued it on their own. No one else in that station is looking at us.” Coach McDonough’s says reassuringly.

“If he comes around, I expect you to take care of him the way you did his father. Do you need more of the drug I provided to you?”

“No.” McDonough states. “I have some. What’s in that anyway, my guys couldn’t break it down.”

“That’s not your job!” He shouts angrily. “Do what I pay you to do.”

We will stay in the background to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Just make sure that your end of the deal is taken care of.”

The man turns and pushes the coach in the chest, but still I cannot see his face. “Your incompetence during the last shipment cost me a half a million. Any more mistakes and I might just use what I supplied you with on you.” He growls angrily and then moves away from the others and appears to be heading to the parking lot.

Moving quickly down the tree, I want to follow him, but considering what they were saying and how clever they appear, the door being ajar may tip them off. Darting quickly through the forest, thankfully, they are just turning on the field. I know that I can dash the last fifty feet to the door quick enough that they won’t see me. Even if they run back, I can be out of the locker room before they reach the door. Sliding inside, hot hands grab my shoulder making me jump and I quickly put my hand over my mouth not to alert those who are heading this way. As my eyes dart up, I’m relieved that it is Paul, but quickly grab his wrist and move us past the inside door without a sound. The hallway is now filled with students moving to their other classes. Although we can blend even if Greg, Tim, and the coach move to the hallway, I won’t be able to catch up with the man in the leather jacket.

Paul takes a few more steps and then moves me aside in an alcove. “What were you doing outside?” He sounds both worried and angry.

“I’ll explain later, can you get out to the parking lot, the man in the black leather jacket is the one who hurt Julianne.” Without another word, he moves quickly past the other students, constrained by human speed.

Nicholas, Kayla, Charlie and Nicole catch sight of me and we head to our next class. Thankfully, it is with Ms. Wolf. Quickly I go to her. “Can I speak with you a second before class.”

She positions herself so that the other students have to go straight to their seats. “I need to be excused to see my uncle.” I say hoping that she will allow me to go and I can slip out so I can keep an eye on Paul, if he catches up with the man, he can’t be alone.

“Your uncle had a meeting he said he had to take care of and won’t be back for an hour. Are you feeling sick? I can send you to the nurse.”

Knowing she will call down to alert the nurse first and that we are wasting time, I try a new tact. “Ms. Wolf, please, I just need to leave for a few minutes without anyone knowing.”

Her apprising stare tells me she knows what I am asking. “Do you need help?”

I shake my head knowing that I don’t want my siblings out with me and if she were to leave with me it would cause suspicion.

She slips her hand into her pocket and then grasps mine and I can feel a cool metal between our palms. “You’ll need this to get back inside, but be careful and don’t let anyone see you or that key. It’s traceable back to me.”

I nod then slip out of the classroom. Staying up against the lockers, I quickly slip past the remaining students to an exit. There is no sign of Paul or the man. Moving to the far end of the lot closest to the field, I catch sight of a gray wolf returning and as he catches sight of me, he phases, moving quickly toward me. “He was gone by the time I got out here. I tried to search for a scent, but it disappeared. He must have had a car waiting nearby. Did you get a good look at him?” He moves us close to the edge of school and around the back so we can sneak in the cafeteria delivery entrance.

I shake my head in frustration. “He never turned my way. Paul, coach McDonough is involved and from the way they were talking, I’m pretty sure that the man is some sort of drug dealer. They also drugged Laurel’s father and that’s why he went crazy and attacked.”

Paul grabs my wrist and pulls me into the supply closet just as I catch the scent of Principal Walker. Standing stock still, I hear him talking with someone and the turning of a knob. Thankfully, they retreat within moments.

Paul whispers. “Get back to class. Mrs. Riley is waiting for me. I was supposed to deliver some papers she requested when I caught your scent. I’ll let Grant and Julianne know what’s going on and your father should be back soon. He just went to the college to find out about Scott.”

“We need to do something.”

“Jacob, we don’t know who the man is, but he is obviously connected to Greg, his group and the coach. If we raise suspicion it sounds like we could bring a whole lot of trouble that we cannot afford upon us. Besides, the best way to get a handle on this is to stay here where those who we know are players remain.” Knowing he is right, I move quickly back to Ms. Wolf’s class, thankful that no one is in the hallways. Slipping into my seat, she is lecturing walking up and down the aisles. As she passes me, I slip her back the key. From the way my siblings and Charlie are looking at me, I know they are raging with curiosity and worried. Hopefully it is just because they know me and nothing is showing on my face. As the bell rings, I rise and am leaving, but Ms. Wolf calls me and tells the others to go on their way.

“Jacob is everything alright or should I be expecting trouble?” The way her eyes are boring into mine, I swear she can see down to my soul. I open my mouth but as I think about lying to her, I close it again. She did hand me her key, no questions and I know what I saw around her.

“Ms. Wolf, I need to get to my next class, I was just worried about a friend who might have been getting himself into a situation that he couldn’t handle alone, but they’re alright for now.” She nods and lets me pass, but I can feel her eyes following mine.

The rest of the day drags by too long. Walking into science, I brush against Paul and know he told Julianne and Grant, but that dad has not returned.

By the time the day ends, I desperately need to run. I was so close to seeing the one who hurt Julianne. Now, not only do we not know what he looks like, but he could bring a whole world of trouble to a school where many of the students already seem to be struggling in their own personal hells. I wonder how many will seek whatever drugs he is selling in hopes of escaping the chains of their despair for a brief moment, without realizing how much more trouble they are inviting in. It’s so strange, for all the unworldly troubles that we faced, our school at Sanctuary never faced this kind of trouble. Maybe the world really is filled with a lifetime of different troubles and challenges and when we left, we only traded the surreal kind for the human kind which seem to be just as problematic and maybe even more dangerous, especially since we cannot use our powers to stop it.

As soon as we are out the door, I’m bombarded with questions, but Jeff comes out of dad’s car and shuffles us inside, probably not wanting anyone to overhear what we have discovered. I slip into the front seat, despite knowing Charlie probably would want to sit with his father. I need some breathing room. The questions start up again as soon as all of the doors close. Knowing how much we have already been through and how skittish Nicole still is with everything, I don’t want to worry her or any of them and wonder how much mom and dad would really want them to know. Since they already know about Julianne, I tell them about seeing Greg with someone but that I couldn’t get a good look at him and tried to see who he was when I left Ms. Wolf’s class. Although I’m not totally honest with them, I know Jeff knows what is going on and from the slight rise in the corner of his lips, I know it is an approving smile and I’m glad that I have said no more as I catch Nicole and Kayla’s worried glances.

When we arrive, Jeff maneuvers us into the kitchen for a snack and to do our homework and I’m surprised that mom and dad don’t come out to see us because I caught their scent as soon as we entered and know it is not from this morning. Excusing myself to utilize the bathroom, I duck near the study and can hear them talking.

My mother’s concerned voice is straining to speak low and I wonder if dad heard us come in. “Could it be the same sense of familiarity with him as you had with Daniela?”

“I’m just not sure. It was just the strangest feeling when I was leaving. Like I told you, the hallway was filled with students, but the second he came out of that classroom, I felt him there, looked up and there was something about him that seemed familiar, but then he was gone. The administrator came up to me so I couldn’t even follow him without involving suspicion.”

“Maybe we should leave. I shouldn’t have brought us here. You should take the children back to Sanctuary, I’ll join you in a few days, I just need to see if I can give this a fighting chance by attending the meeting day after tomorrow and handing it off to Paul or Julian. You know what happened the last time. If it is similar…”

Before she finishes, I hear dad comforting her. “Mia, it’s fine. I don’t know for sure why it happened, maybe the real Jonathan was near me or his mother, since she was ripped away from him, she may be close and the wing and the programs that Jonathan Taylor was beginning to set up could accomplish a lot of good.”

“But Andrew, we were fooled before and what if it is history repeating itself but this time with one of our children. I couldn’t bear that. We can’t put them in danger like that. I have put them through enough already.”

“Mia our children are becoming very strong and we do not want to limit them. I know that they get afraid, but just think about how much we have limited ourselves and how much my family fighting amongst themselves limited us. I have been around five hundred years and am just learning about creatures and powers that I should have become familiar with centuries ago. Mia, they need to see the world, eternity is a long time and we can’t keep them prisoner in Sanctuary forever hoping to keep them safe. We are teaching them how to utilize their powers and look at how strong they are becoming and how quickly they are growing. They easily fit into high school and already know most of what is being taught. Just look at how much Jacob is changing, not only is he growing more each day, looking more like an adult than a teenager, but he is also embracing his gifts and the control Nicholas and Kayla have shown. I know Nicole is still afraid, but in time she will learn to let go of her fear and flourish…”

Tentatively, I knock on the door, it opens immediately. Walking in, I know from dad’s features that he is aware I was out there for a few moments so I go over and hug mom. “Mom, you do try to keep us safe, but Dad’s right, I am just beginning to realize how much trouble there is out there and not just from our world.” As I say this, she grabs dad’s hand and places it on my shoulder and I realize that I am thinking about what happened on the field and she grabbed him so that they could see it too. I stop talking and try instead to concentrate on the details that I saw and heard so that they can have a full picture too.”

Backing out of her embrace, I can see a new cause of worry in her eyes. “Jacob, you shouldn’t have followed Greg outside. What would you have done if they caught you?”

Opening my mouth, I want to tell her I am strong enough to fight them off, but I quickly close it, knowing that she probably knows that and is concerned that in fighting them I could seriously hurt them or worse, kill them and in either case, I would expose us. “Mom, your right, I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, but I was very careful.”

“And clever” Her tone reflects her pride, but I can tell my actions still concern her. “Just next time, make sure you have help?” She turns to my father. “Have you spoken to Francis? Did Anthony arrive there or has Eva gotten any more information about what happened that night with their father?”

“I talked to Gabriel and his account was similar to what Jacob saw, but he said that Anthony arrived there and since Laurel was awake, he wanted to move her, but Renee convinced him that it was safer for her to go through the conversion at Sanctuary with so many other wolves present. After that, he got a phone call and took off. He said that Renee hasn’t heard from him since and is very worried.”

“Do they know who called him?” Jeff inquires stepping inside.

“No, but whatever they told him, he left immediately, he didn’t even stay to talk with Laurel which is surprising because if what Gabriel saw is true it makes no sense.”

Before he can explain we hear movement in the kitchen. Knowing it is the others, mom interjects. “Maybe we should go see the children and discuss this later.” Mom moves out the door quickly, probably not wanting my siblings to worry.

I quickly complete my homework. Thankfully I do not need to concentrate because I can’t seem to focus on the here and now. The images of the field, my recurring nightmare and the speculation of what my parents are discussing are jumbled in my consciousness and I desperately need to clear my head. Unfortunately, both mom and dad are on conference calls and Jeff has been called back to the hospital. Stepping outside while the others are finishing up, I close my eyes, leaning against the back wall, hoping that the fresh air will offer some relief.

“Shall we run? Your mother said it would be fine.”

I smile and break out into a sprint. Ten minutes later, Julianne phases and I stop. “Do you want to talk about it? Maybe I can help?” She moves over to a large rock and sits down. Sitting next to her, I don’t even know where to start. “Jacob, I know that you have been through a lot and I hear you up at night, I just thought that maybe you would like a neutral ear to listen.” How do I tell her that she is not a neutral ear and that part of the reason I am so anxious is because in all of this she could get hurt and I couldn’t stand that.

“I don’t even know where to start.”

“How about with what has you pacing in your room at night.” Looking up, I see the concern in her eyes.

“Ever since we came here, I feel different, strange. I see things, know things and feel things that I cannot explain and some of which don’t even feel as if they are my own. Like today when I followed Greg outside, something was telling me that I should make sure the door remains open and how to do it. The notion just popped into my head, but then again, I felt as if I had done that before. I have never done anything like that at home or even thought of such a thing and then there’s the…” How do I explain to her that there are the feelings about her and the dreams with Anthony that I can’t seem to escape? Her growing concern is evident and I so wish I could tell her. “Julianne, I…” She takes my hands and her eyes become unfocused.

She gasps. “You need to tell your parents what you are seeing. Jacob, is that why you have been pacing these last few nights? Did Mia fall into a fault opening during a volcanic eruption? I thought that she wasn’t that old.”

As she says this, I can’t believe that she could see my dream. “How did you see it?”

“I’m not sure, but the image flashed once I took your hand.”

“I have only been able to share like that with mom and dad, no one else.” I can feel the heat coloring my cheeks as I wonder if it is because I like her so much and could see us end up together in the future. “Julianne, my mom isn’t that old. That’s why I haven’t said anything to her. She is already so anxious and blaming herself for everything that happened when she was away that I didn’t want to give her something else to worry about, especially because whatever I’m seeing can’t be right. Mom couldn’t have fallen during some volcanic eruption a long time ago.”

“Jacob, all the same, you still need to talk to her. Obviously this is upsetting you. Maybe it means something and that is why you keep dreaming about it.”

“It could, but maybe it is just an awful dream because of the way Anthony grabbed her. I don’t want her to be any more anxious. She’s already talking about returning home because she’s afraid something will happen to us. If I tell her about this on top of not feeling like myself and feeling as if I’m changing, she’ll return right away and this project is important to her and could help a lot of people.”

“Jake, I know you said you feel as if you have knowledge about things you didn’t before or that is just coming to you, but there seems to be something more. You can trust me. I want to help you.”

“I know you do. It’s just that everyone looks upon me still as a child, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel as if I’m changing faster than my body is allowing, as if everything inside me is fighting itself.”

“It does appear that you have gone through another growth spurt. She smiles and I catch her eyes going to the hem of my pants which are too short again. Mom just bought these the other day.

“Then with everything that is going on around us, I just want to make sure that everyone is safe.” I can’t help it, but I take her hand and before I can stop myself, “You need to be careful; I can’t stand the thought of you being hurt.”

She puts her hand over mine. “Jake, they caught me off guard once. I will not let my guard down again. I am keenly aware of what is around me at all times. How do you think that I detected your pacing at night? Look, I know that we met at a time when we both needed help and got caught off guard, but we have changed quite a bit over the last few months and I know that you are not a child, I never meant to give you that impression, but you are new to the human world. That is why I told you to let the adults handle it. We have been through this before. You and your family are used to battling demons and those from our world, those around us now…” She stops and giggles and despite my anxiety, I can’t help but laugh too considering how many we have encountered from our world. “Yes I agree with you, but, the ones who are with Greg are human and we can’t handle them the same way we would handle our kind, despite your wanting to stop them. But if it makes you feel better, I did hear Jeff before he left for the hospital call up to some of his men, I guess they were police officers or maybe still are before they went up to Sanctuary, I’m sure they will be able to help with the Greg situation.

She opens her mouth to say something else and closes it again, but pats my hand and I know that she is thinking about what else I said but is unsure as to how to handle it. Her eyes soften and then she fidgets. I don’t want to cause her any anxiety and know it is because of my age that she doesn’t know how to respond so I rise. “Maybe we should get back. Thank you for running with me.”

“Jake, anytime you want to run or talk, I will be here.” She smiles and I see relief in her features.

When we arrive back, I’m surprised to see uncle Francis back. “How’s Laurel?”

Physically she is doing much better and Jeff’s men have her out at the cabin. They said that the first night of the conversion went well. She is still very confused as to how she ended up there and what happened, but I’m sure with time, she will be fine. “

Dad walks in. “Has Renee heard from Anthony?”

“No, not since he left. Gabriel confirmed something interesting. Renee is not Laurel’s mother, and Charles is not her father, Anthony is. Laurel is a natural born wolf, but only from Anthony, her mother was human. She died of cancer shortly after Laurel was born. Anthony had been with Renee and Charles for centuries and they thought that it would be better to hold Laurel out to all as being their child because Anthony does a lot of undercover work and didn’t want to put her in danger.”

Julianne interjects. “Do you know if any of my uncle’s men are coming down to monitor the Greg situation?”

“They should be here within an hour or so, they were getting ready to leave and are flying down.”

She turns to me. “Remember what I said.” She smiles. “I’ll go help Mia with dinner.” She turns on her heels and leaves. I catch my father staring at me.

Knowing I don’t really want to give my mother anything more to be concerned over, I decide maybe I should talk to him and follow him out to the pool.

After we talk, I am convinced that I must be mixing things that happened with mom falling down a gorge when she was at Sanctuary and events that Anthony may have lived through. When I tell him my body feels as if it is fighting itself to grow, he reminds me that it’s probably a natural growth spurt because I’m at that age. He also calls up to uncle Gabriel regarding checking some data base for instances where our kind have felt that they are connecting with others or gaining knowledge from others. Although he has come across those like himself, uncle Gabriel does not come across any of our kind that may gain knowledge without proximity to others or reading minds. This information gets me to wondering if it is possible that my knowledge is coming from being around students and teachers who are not what they appear to be. Maybe I’m reading minds without even realizing it. As we consider this, my father lets me know that he will alert the others considering that my siblings and Charlie could be exposed to real world situations and deceptive individuals that could put them in danger.

Rising as mom calls me to dinner, my father places his hand on my shoulder. “Jacob, I’m glad that you came to me with this. Julianne is right, we can’t keep secrets. I know that you are worried about your mom and the guilt that she is carrying around about what happened, but she is strong and will come through this, it is just going to take time, but I know that despite all of it, she would much rather you talk to us and let us know what is going on. If you are concerned about talking to her, you can talk to me. I know that you have matured, but we are much stronger and can deal with much more when we are honest with each other about what is going on. We may not have the answers, but we can forge a path and discover them together and considering that both worlds are still quite new to you, I would rather you face them with us than alone right now.”

I hug him and know that he is trying to warn me off of doing things on my own again like I did this afternoon.





Chapter Four - New Friends And New Enemies





Cleaning up after dinner, there is a knock on the door. I go and answer figuring it’s Jeff’s men and am surprised to see that it is Mrs. Wolf, Brian and another girl. When I fail to say anything, Ms. Wolf smiles. Just then, Paul and Julianne cross the foyer and I can see Ms. Wolf’s surprise as well as theirs. After they stare at each other for a few moments, she turns back to me. “Jacob, is your uncle at home?”

“Sure, come in.” Stepping back, they enter and I turn about to call for dad when I bump into uncle Francis who is staring at Ms. Wolf. Turning back to Ms. Wolf, I see the same expression on her face and decide to introduce them before getting dad. Uncle Francis leads her into the living room. Mom follows dad and I in and then after introducing Ms. Wolf to mom, dad turns to me. “Jacob, why don’t you show Brian and …”

“Jennifer” The young girl replies as my father looks to her.

“Why don’t you show Brian and Jennifer around the grounds?”

Ms. Wolf interjects. “Mr. Taylor, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask Jacob a few questions about this afternoon?”

“Please sit” He motions to the couch and Brian, Jennifer and Ms. Wolf sit as uncle Francis takes the sole chair and mom, dad and I take the opposite couch.

“Mr. Taylor”

“Jonathan, please” It’s still so strange hearing him refer to himself as someone else.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your evening, but I was hoping that Jacob could tell me a little bit more about why he left this afternoon?” Her eyes shift to me, but I immediately turn to dad not sure what I should be telling her.

Dad straightens his shoulders and a look crosses his face. “He thought a friend needed some help with a situation, but by the time he went to check on him, there was nothing anyone could do. It won’t happen again.”

She shakes her head. “Jonathan, look, I know what you are and can see now that everyone is connected, I suspect Grant is somewhere in this house as well.” As she says this, Grant, Julianne and Paul come into the room. “I don’t know what you are doing here and I hope that I’m not wrong about you, but I’m sure that you know what we are as well.” I see my dad nod. “I believe Jacob stumbled over something this afternoon that may help me with a situation that I am investigating and that has caused someone to go missing.”

“May I ask whose missing?”

“Laurel’s brother, Anthony. I know that he was here the other night and that something happened which concerned him. He asked me to keep an eye on you, but I am more concerned with what I originally came here for and what I think Jacob and Julianne may have stumbled upon.”

My eyes shoot over to Julianne and I can see that she is staring at Ms. Wolf. As I turn back to her, my mother grasps my hand, telling me to wait before answering.

“Ms. Wolf” my mother addresses her

“Stephanie please”

“Stephanie, I don’t know what you think he and Julianne came across, but may I ask what it is you are investigating.”

She stares at mom and after several moments, she scans us all and appears to come to some sort of a decision. “Anthony called me in as a favor. I work for the DEA. He said that Charlie had come across a drug dealer that was shuffling drugs in this area through school children, but that his department had closed the investigation. Anthony was convinced, especially after Charlie went crazy and attacked his family, that he needed help and that Peter and his group had somehow infiltrated the police department to stop investigating the drug shipments. I was sent down into the school to pose as a teacher to see what I could find out. Jennifer has become very close to Greg’s sister and two days ago, she overheard a conversation that Peter did Greg a favor in going after Julianne to warn her off of Greg and his cohorts because Greg took care of that problem with the cop. I called Anthony and told him what we suspected. Then, after Jacob disappeared, I heard Greg and Tim talking about spreading the word to the others. I need to know what your son knows and if he has any knowledge as to what happened to Anthony.”

Dad turns to me and nods cautiously. “You’re right about Peter doing Greg a favor with Julianne.”

She interrupts. “How do you know this?”

“I saw Greg and Tim go outside before your class today and I followed them out. They met with this Peter and coach McDonough at the field and were talking about it and some shipment which is coming in three days. They were also talking about using some drug on Charlie.” I stop not wanting to say what happened.

I see her eyes soften and her voice becomes low. “Jacob, I know that Anthony had to take out Charlie when he attacked Laurel. Off the record, he told me everything. You can speak freely with me. Anthony and I go back a long way and he helped me. I am not trying to hurt him or anyone in his family. I know about Laurel being his daughter and although I work for the DEA, I came here tonight as his friend. I’m worried about him and as I’m sure that you are well aware, from looking at your group, those of us in our world sometimes have to stick together. I need your help and I need you to tell me what you know.

“That’s really all I know…Wait, they did talk about if Anthony got in the way, Peter expected Greg or someone to use the drug on him and when the coach said he tried to break down the mix and couldn’t, Peter got really mad. “

“Did anyone talk about where the shipment was coming in?”

“No, but Peter did say that Charles cost him a great deal of money and that this shipment had to go off without a hitch.” I don’t know why but for some reason when he was talking, I got the impression he answers to someone else.

“Jacob, when you were outside, did you see the type of car Peter drives?”

“No, it was too late. He was gone.”

“Can you give me a description of him?”

“I can tell you he is about 6’4” or 6’5”, brown cropped hair with a strong, muscular build and was wearing a black leather jacket, white shirt, open at the collar, charcoal, gray dress pants, and black dress shoes.” My mom’s mouth drops at my description, probably because it is so detailed, but she says nothing.

Ms. Wolf’s eyes dart between Julianne and myself. “Julianne, I know his boys have been giving you a hard time and you keep trying to challenge them or send them down to the office, but you need to stop and make them think they’ve won. We don’t want them riled in the school or sending anyone any more messages.” Her eyes shoot back to me. “I know they used you to hurt Laurel, but it may also mean you are on their little list and you can’t be mixed up in this. No more following them.”

As she says this, I can hear several footsteps in the foyer and know that it is Jeff’s men. Dad rises. “Stephanie, I don’t know what your back up is, especially with Anthony unreachable, but one of our party sent down a few friends who were in law enforcement.”

She rises. “I have back up through official channels, but knowing what happened to Charlie when he disappeared, I would like to meet your men.”

“Then come with me.”

As she moves forward, Brian jumps up and grabs her arm. “Mom, can I talk to you a minute before you go.” Knowing he wants to talk with her alone, we rise and go out to the foyer, but I can still hear him. “Mom are you sure that you want to meet them. You know what Anthony told you, something wrong is going on here and he thought that they were pretending to be something that they are not. If you are meeting them because I told you that I trusted Jacob and his siblings don’t, it might be dangerous and I can’t lose you.”

“Brian, it is going to be fine. I am only going to meet them, I’m not going to do anything or rely on anyone. I remember what Anthony told me, but you have to remember that I told you he has been under a lot of stress and that can do strange things to you. Don’t worry. You are not going to lose me.” Her tone is very slow and deliberate.

“That’s what dad said before he died. Just promise me that you are going to be careful.”

My heart sinks and I wish I could somehow convince him that we would never hurt his mom.

Dad is telling Jeff’s men what is going on and who she is when the door opens. They turn to her. “Oh my God, Marcus, I can’t believe it.” She moves quickly and embraces him. “It’s been far too long, how is Laura and Mark?”

He smiles widely. “They are doing really well. I see you’re in the thick of things as usual. I was sorry to hear about Brian. How are you, Brian and Jennifer doing?”

“We’ve been keeping busy. Brian and Jennifer are here with me in fact.” As she says this, Brian comes out, followed by Jennifer and she puts her arm around him. “Honey, this is an old friend of mine, Marcus.”

Brian steps up and shakes his hand and I can see his features relax. “How about I take Brian and Jennifer in the kitchen for a snack and show them around while you talk.”

As they have a snack, I can hear Marcus reassuring Ms. Wolf that our group is very trustworthy and that he has been with us for months. “They are a very strong group and you wouldn’t believe how they work together.”

I hear her giggle. “I know, I was shocked when I went past the children in class and realized I had vampires and wolves from the same family.”

“Their mother is a witch.” Marcus replies matter of fact and I hear her gasp.

“I heard their mother was dead and that they were staying here with their uncle.”

Marcus whispers to either mom or dad that he is sorry, but Stephanie interjects. “I’m sorry, I should have realized. That is none of my business and I won’t say anything at school, don’t worry. Am I correct in assuming that your children are actually young though or are they just pretending to be that age?”

Mom responds. “They are young, but very mature for their age. This is however, the first time they are intermingling with people off our lands.”

“I’m sorry that they had to run into this on their first encounter, Brian at least has had some good experiences with the human world before encountering those here. Hopefully this situation with Greg will be wrapped up shortly. I have come across quite a few good children in that school, but you should tell your children that there are a group of girls that hang around Ms. Varnum who believe that they are witches and practice in the occult. Let your children know that they aren’t and that no information should be revealed to them.”

Marcus interjects. “Will you be going through channels as far as Greg and the others are involved or is this a strictly off the books type of investigation?”

“My superiors are the ones who approved this endeavor so I will contact them and let them know that the matter is probably coming to a head in two to three days because if we can catch them with the shipment, I’m sure we can send them away for a long time, but in the meantime, I need to see if I can locate Anthony and that will be off the books. If they somehow have him and have used whatever they used on Charlie, then I need to get to him first because from what Anthony told me, Charlie involuntarily phased before the full moon and was quite violent. Laurel cannot afford to lose another parent and my superiors cannot find what they believe is a rabid wolf; they’ll put him down on site.” I hear her earrings cling and wonder if she is shuddering.

“Do you have any indication of where he might be or if they have him, where they could be holding him?”

“I know that Anthony followed Peter to a warehouse one evening but he reported that they must have moved the lab to a new location. He noticed that there were signs there regarding upcoming renovations.”

“Was he able to determine the new location?”

“We were investigating a few, but nothing yet. I know that he was snooping around a new area before Laurel was hurt, but I didn’t get the exact location.”

“Could he have been getting close and that is why they hurt Laurel?”

Before she can answer, Charlie comes bounding into the kitchen and starts a conversation with Brian. Excusing myself, by the time I reach the hall, Julianne is there and all I can hear is Marcus suggesting that they check out the areas and see if they can find any trace of Anthony or the others. Dad interjects and asks Stephanie if she would like to leave Brian and Jennifer here for the night while she is searching. Although Stephanie replies that Jennifer is only pretending to be a teenager, my father suggests that she may want to consider having them stay anyway considering that we don’t know what is going on with Anthony. “Stephanie, I know that Anthony probably made you very wary of us, but I assure you, that we are not involved with this Peter in any way nor are we out to harm anyone. We came here to assist my wife with the building of a hospital wing and if this Peter did grab hold of Anthony and he somehow drugs Anthony to talk, I would hate to see your children on their own while you are out investigating. I’m sure that they are strong, but still, despite Peter and Greg being human, they are involved in something very sinister and have only who knows how many working with them.”

Marcus interjects. “He’s right and I can assure you that the ones in this house are fighting on the same side you are. They would never harm anyone. We have been fighting alongside of them for months now and I can assure you I have no qualms in leaving my son and wife up at Sanctuary with his family while I’m down here.”

“Are you sure it would not be an inconvenience considering how many people you have here already.” I can hear the wavering in her voice and know that she is unsure about leaving them, but is struggling with the idea of leaving them own their own as well.

“It wouldn’t be any trouble at all. There are plenty of rooms available and I’m sure the girls have something Jennifer could wear tomorrow and the boys have something for Brian. We’ll even put them in a room where if you come back early enough, you can bunk with them.” My father notes and then follows them out into the hallway. Stephanie goes into the kitchen to speak with Jennifer and Brian and I follow dad upstairs to help him get a room ready.

When we come down, Stephanie and Jeff’s men are gone and Charlie is in the living room with Brian, Jennifer and Nicole.

The next morning is hectic with everyone returning and getting ready for school. From the grumblings, they didn’t have any luck tracking Anthony and there were no traces of Peter. Stephanie calls into her superiors and reports that the shipment is expected in two days but they she has no leads at this time as to where it will be delivered. It sounds as if they will be casting a wide net over the area surrounding the school. This Peter must be quite the dealer for such an endeavor.

The day drags on and I can feel Brian’s heightened anxiety on what his mother must be facing. For as much as our world causes problems, I can’t imagine what it must be to face every day realizing that not only is my mother in danger from things from our world, but also from the dangerous job that she has.

As gym rolls around, I see Brian staring at Greg and Tim every time they turn their back, almost as if he is willing the destination of where the shipment will be and then it hits me, maybe we can get that information, or at least I can. Moving to Julianne, you need to start a game of basketball, I whisper so low that only she and our group can hear. I see her eyes grow wide and know that she knows I am inviting trouble and cannot figure out why, but she goes over to the closet, grabs a ball and blows her whistle. Line up, odd/even will be the teams. I see Greg, Tim and his group position themselves so that they will all be on the same team and maneuver myself so that they will have easy access to me once I steal the ball. I need Greg to hit me and hit me hard enough that I can grab hold of him for a few seconds.

His team easily scores three baskets and are pretty much playing monkey in the middle with the rest of us when I barrel ahead and grab the ball from John and head to the basket. Passing Greg, I stumble as if having problems and as luck would have it both he and Tim pounce upon me, knocking me hard to the ground. Tim grabs the ball and I grasp Greg’s head pretending to be in a haze and yelling to Nicholas that I have the ball. I can hear him laughing, but as I concentrate, I see flashes of the Ashnault Trucking Company and Pier 12 on Longmeadow. Greg slaps my hands. “You don’t have the ball, idiot and as he removes my hands, I allow him to slam me against the parquet floor and hear his self-satisfying humph. Nicole runs toward me and I hear her panicky voice but wink at her as she kneels beside me ensuring that I get up slowly so that Greg will not suspect a thing.

Julianne opens her mouth as if to say something to Greg, but I shake my head slightly and suddenly her features change telling me that she now understands what I did and I nod letting her know that I got the information.

The bell finally rings and we file out. Mom is waiting for us. I slip into the front seat. “Is Marcus at the house?”

“Yes, why?”

“I have a lead for them to follow.”

I can see the disapproval raging in her eyes but her voice strains to sound calm. “Jacob, I thought you were told not to follow them. You can’t get involved in this.”

“Mom, I didn’t follow them, they aren’t even aware that I did anything really. We were in gym and I let Greg barrel into me.”

She turns and although her features appear stunned, her eyes tell me that she knows immediately why I did that. “That is a very clever move, and you’re sure that he doesn’t suspect anything?”

“I’m positive. They were even gloating about how they put the little pipsqueak in his place when he thought he could steal the ball.” She smiles widely and hands me the telephone.

After telling Marcus what I learned, Nicole asks me how I manage to get the information, but I really can’t explain to her how and can see her disappointment as my mother tries to convince her that everyone’s talents are different and that she is sure that Nicole’s abilities will flourish once she becomes more comfortable with everything.

Two minutes after we pull into the driveway, Stephanie, Brian and Jennifer pull in. Stephanie heads right into the study while Brian comes over to us. “Why would you do that? Are you trying to get yourself hurt?”

Knowing I can’t tell him the real reason, I try to shrug it off. “I just wanted to give Greg a different target. I saw him staring at some of the smaller boys and figured he was up to no good so I wanted to divert his attention. Hopefully, he and the others will be gone soon.”

Although his features tell me he accepts my explanation, I can tell he doesn’t like what I did. Despite this being our first time out, I feel more stable than Brian at what is going on and wonder if it is because of my strength and new found powers or if he has just seen too much of what is around us and suffered at the hands of both worlds. Heading inside, I can hear them making plans to check out the spots tonight and Stephanie asking how they came across the information.

I hear Jeff interject, trying to joke it off. “Come on, even you know that in all those old shows, dealers like piers and trucking companies to move the merchandise. The internet is great for showing trucking companies and my men went out early this morning along the piers and saw some activity around Pier 12 that appeared odd, even for fisherman.”

Stephanie’s voice slips into authoritative mode. “Marcus, make sure that your men understand that no matter what we find tonight, we cannot move in. If we do, we will lose the shipment and we can’t risk that, especially if they are as big as we suspect.”

“And if Anthony is there?” Jeff retorts.

“Our plan is to observe and determine the best way possible to extract him during the raid. If we get him out beforehand, we could risk their calling the whole thing off or moving it to an unknown location.”

“But…”

“Look doc. I guarantee you that if we lose this opportunity, the drugs will be in that school within a week, if not sooner and how will you feel when you are treating a kid for a drug overdose? That is if you even get the opportunity and they don’t pass you and go directly to the morgue. I don’t mean to sound cold, but Anthony knew what he was getting himself into when he signed up for this job. Our job has to be to observe, let my team move in and slip him out without their seeing him.”

Dinner that night is very tense. I can see the disapproval in Jeff’s eyes for their plan, the anxiety of Brian, Jennifer, my parents and to my surprise, even uncle Francis.

After they leave and everyone settles in for the night, I can hear Brian pacing in his room. Jennifer tries to comfort him and for a while, I don’t’ hear movement, but by 11:30, he is pacing again. Getting up, I knock on his door. “Do you want to go downstairs for some milk and to talk?”

He follows me downstairs and I hear dad slip out of the study, where I can smell he has a fire going. “Go in and sit” I open the door. “I’ll get some milk.”

Dad’s in the kitchen when I enter. “Thanks for giving us the room. I promise, we won’t be too long, but he has been pacing and worrying for hours.”

He smiles, his features full of understanding. “You take care of your friend and if you need anything or either of you want to talk later, I’ll be in the office.”

“Thanks dad.”

He hands me the poured glasses of milk and we both exit. “Are you alright?” I enter and see Brian staring into the fire. “I’m just nervous, I wish my mother would stay behind a desk like she promised, but she just can’t seem to do it. There is always something pulling her into danger, just like my dad.”

“Is that how you lost him?” The question is out before I can stop myself and I regret it as I see the pain etched in his features as he goes over and kneels by the fire. His voice is barely a whisper and his eye bore into the fire. “We thought we were getting away from everything bad for a while, my dad had just come back from an undercover assignment and we decided to go camping. Everything was great the first few nights and then dad got a call warning him that one of the men that he had just put away made bail. Little did dad know when he was talking to his partner, that his partner and his family was being held at gunpoint and they traced his call to dad. They killed his partner and family and came after us. Mom and dad took a few of them out, but then they grabbed dad and me. Mom and Jennifer were trying to follow, but she didn’t get to us before they sent us off the side of the cliff. Dad hit the rocks pretty badly on the way down, he tried to phase and get to me, but they shot at him. I landed on a ledge and was pretty badly hurt. I don’t know how my dad made it back up to me, but just before he died, he bit me and I survived, but he was too far gone.”

Sitting next to him, my voice cracks and my tone is barely audible. “I’m so sorry. How long ago did that happen?”

“Two years ago. Since then, mom has been promising to stay behind a desk, but this is the second time she has gotten involved in field work. She keeps trying to reassure me that she will be fine and I know that she is strong, but things happen and I…” He stops staring into the fire, lost in what I know is a quagmire of emotions.

“Can I do anything to help?”

“You’re doing it now. It’s nice to talk to someone without having to hide who I am or the details about what happened to my dad. We have been on our own since dad died and even before then, we fought so hard to fit in and hide who we are, that I never felt as if I could even talk to anyone.”

“Did you ever talk to Laurel about things? I know you tried to be her friend”

“No, Mom and dad always warned me against it, although they would never explain why and considering that we lived so close, it would have been nice to grow up with family of our own at least free to talk to them, where Laurel and I are only a few days apart, we probably would have even gone through the transformation together, but for the circumstances changing us.”

“Jacob, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure”

“Is your family really related or did you all somehow come together. I mean considering your aunt is human and then the difference between some of you.” His eyes fall to the floor.

I don’t want to lie to him, but need to cast a wide enough net so as not to give too much information. Although he is from our world, I don’t know what information is really allowed. “Nicole and I are really twins and I consider Nicholas and Kayla my siblings, but I guess technically they are my cousins. My mom’s sister died before we were born, so we have always been together with my dad’s family. We came across Jeff, Grant and their family after we had some trouble and we have been together ever since.”

“You are very lucky. At least you don’t have to hide all the time.”

“I am very lucky. Brian, you know, now that we are friends, you can always talk to us. I’m sure that once your mom gets to know us better, she’ll learn that we really aren’t out to hurt anyone and whatever Anthony thinks is wrong, he will come to see that he is mistaken. We don’t want to hurt him or anyone he knows. As far as tonight, don’t worry, I know that Jeff has been chasing our kind for a long time and his men seem very capable, I’m sure they can help your mom and that she will be home soon.”

“Jake, do you know if anyone has heard anything about Laurel and how she is doing?”

I smile at him. “I think that she is doing better. I know that they said she regained consciousness and that the doctors were helping her.”

“Yes but considering her state of mind and now everything with Anthony disappearing, do you think that she’ll be alright?”

“There are plenty of physicians up there that can help her and the rest of Jeff’s pack are there and can help her with her phasing.”

“There’s a wolf pack up there!” His eyes widen as he turns and stares at me.

“Sanctuary is a great place, it is not only a hospital, but there is a school where we all learn to work together.”

“Do you think that the people who run it would allow me to visit Laurel there if she stays for a while and I could convince my mom to go up there?”

“I’m sure that could be arranged, but in the meantime, do you think that you could get some rest. I’m sure your mom would feel much better if you got some sleep.”

“Would you mind if I stay down here? I would like to see my mother when she comes in. I’ll rest on the couch.”

Rising, “I’ll get some pillows and blankets and wait with you.”

“You don’t have to do that, I’m fine.

“I want to.” Grabbing two comforters and some pillows, I catch dad in the hall and he nods before I re-enter the living room.

Waking with a start, I can hear Stephanie and the men enter, they are arguing in hushed tones. It sounds as if they have found Anthony and that Steven thought he could grab him without alerting the others, but Stephanie refuted the idea. As she argues with him, she sounds like she is trying to also convince herself that he is strong enough to hold out one more day. It sounds as if they overheard arguments among Peter’s men regarding their inability to do anything with him until the shipment comes in for fear that the body could be discovered and cause them trouble.

Looking over, Brian is still asleep. I rise and slip out of the room. As I enter the hallway, they stop immediately. Stephanie looks so torn, that I hope to give her some breathing room. “Brian is in the room and he is anxious to see you.”

She smiles. “Thanks for staying with him. I’ll go and see him now.”

I head upstairs to alert dad as to what happened and for some reason, I don’t completely understand, something else comes to mind.

He is leaving his room and smiles at me. “I know they are back and that Anthony is being held. You were right to give Stephanie some room, she is very emotional and struggling with her decision and sometimes Steven pushes too far.” I feel my mouth drop and can’t believe he knows what I was doing.

“Dad if they have him and they are using the drug on him, they may be hoping that his family takes him out like they did Charlie. You need to call James and see if he can come here. If we can get hold of Anthony and whatever they are giving him, maybe he can break down the substance and stop him from turning on his family like Charlie did.” I can tell from the smile on his face my dad is impressed, but I can also see the concern creeping into his eyes.

“You really have grown up and matured. Jacob, do you know what made you think of that as a solution to the problem?”

“Not really, it’s just something that came to me when I heard them. Will James come?”

“He is already on his way, but he is going to need access to a lab and we need to get Jeff’s men to construct some sort of holding cell for Anthony here or get him up to Sanctuary. We will need to contain him.”

“I have your lab access solved” Mom says joining us. Dr. Jeffers owes me some favors and I told him that a researcher friend of yours was coming to get approval on some new drugs, but needed to conduct a few last minute tests. He is making arrangements for us now.”

It is so strange seeing my parents like this. I knew they could work together, but they seem so different now away from Sanctuary.

She turns to me. “You should get ready for school, but Jacob, please today especially don’t take any chances. They may be very skittish or worse yet, overly suspicious, especially since they have Anthony and are struggling over what to do with him before the shipment comes in. So please, promise me that you will not do anything and won’t even get close to them.”

Hugging her, “I promise that I won’t even go near them. I won’t give you a reason to worry today.”

My father smiles and places his hand on her shoulder. “I’ll be there and we’ll all keep an eye on them. They’ll be fine” She smiles back at him and I turn to go and get ready.

Everyone is charged at school. The students are charged over the upcoming holiday and playoff games which the football team will be participating in, the teachers are scrambling to get in last minute assignments and tests. Our group is concerned over tonight’s events. Running into Greg’s group, they appear nervous too. Ms. Wolf’s team is monitoring the area in case the shipment comes in early and Jeff’s men are in the shadows, but considering the time of day, I’m sure that they are not finding it easy. In gym, Greg’s men are particularly annoying, bashing into students, Brian is thrown to the ground twice, Charlie once, but when they go after Nicole, I bash Greg and as we both fall to the floor, Julianne, comes to break us up immediately, but not before, I get a glimpse of Greg stabbing Anthony with a substance, I suspect is the same as the one they injected Charlie with because I hear Greg taunt Anthony about maybe letting him lose so that his family can finish him off like he finished off Charlie but hoping that he gets Laurel before that happens. The disdain that drips from his mouth as he talks about Laurel makes my stomach churn.

Julianne whispers to me. “Jake remember what you promised your mother.”

Although it makes me want to toss my lunch, I turn and apologize to Greg. His answering smirk tells me that he thinks he has won and that he won’t stop coming after us now that we are conciliatory and he thinks he has the upper hand. Thankfully, the bell rings a few minutes later and the real hell is soon to begin.

After leaving school, Brian, Stephanie and Jennifer meet up with us in the driveway and the wait for us begins. Brian is particularly anxious when Stephanie leaves, knowing that she is now entering a den of danger. From speaking with her men before departing we know that the shipment did not come in during the day, but then again, everyone expected that they would utilize the cover of night.

Uncle Francis offers to go with her after learning what I saw. Despite her initial objections, she acquiesces when uncle Francis convinces her that if Anthony is in trouble, he may need immediate medical assistance that a normal physician cannot render and that, they will need to get him out under official radar.

The waiting is unbearable, as graying twilight blankets our home, so too does it blanket our mood. Sarah is pacing in her room because despite Jeff’s lack of police experience, he insists on going to help in the extraction of Anthony arguing that he has been chasing vampires for the past fifty years and that he is sure he can be helpful in this and that if Anthony phases, uncle Francis can’t get near him. Despite trying to hide it, I can see that Mom is anxious too since dad decided to go and ensure that Francis and Jeff are backed up. This is really becoming a family affair. I only wish that they would allow me to go since I know that I am the strongest of all and although we are not dealing with our kind, if I could stay in the background, I’m sure that I could manipulate it so that if things needed to happen and people needed to slip, fall or go flying across the room so that others could escape, I could make it happen without anyone discovering me.

As the hours tick by, the anxiety in the house is thick enough that I could swear I see an intense graying aura emanating from every room occupied. As 9:30 rolls around, mom insists that we should all try to get some rest, despite everyone retiring to their room, no one is sleeping and I can hear the whispered conversations around me. By ten o’clock, I hear my mother scooting across the granite foyer and unlatching the door. James has arrived and to mom’s delight, he is accompanied by uncle Gabriel.

“Have you heard anything?” He asks as I sneak out of the room, thankfully, despite Nicholas’ disapproving look, he doesn’t stop me or say anything that will alert uncle Gabriel to what I am doing. Dad always said that his hearing was even better and I swear dad could hear a pin drop a mile away.

Mom is shaking her head and I can see the concern etched in her features. James interrupts. “Do I have access to a lab? My portable material will not be very beneficial if the substance is not typical or if I need to separate it.”

Mom turns to him. “I have arranged for you to test at Mercy. Your cover is that you are a friend of Jonathan’s that is here to get some approval and that you need to conduct a few last minute tests. Dr. Jeffers has cleared it with the staff.”

“I think that I’ll go then and get things set up. When they extract Anthony are they bringing him directly to the hospital?”

“No, they are bringing him here.” Gabriel’s eyes shoot up and his face whips around to mom.

“Is that really a good idea with the children here?”

“We can’t take him to the hospital. We don’t know what condition he will be in and if something could make him change early. Jeff’s men constructed a reinforced the door to the room downstairs and they will be standing guard.”

James interrupts once more. “Mia, you are an hour away, is there any way to get him closer so that there is less lag time?”

“We can’t risk taking him to the hospital.”

Something occurs to me and I head down stairs. Mom doesn’t appear surprised to see me. “Could we maybe utilize one of Stephanie’s special vehicles? I’m sure that they must have something reinforced, maybe he can be held in that and brought closer to the hospital.” Although she was not surprised to see me come down, my response definitely shocks her and uncle Gabriel.

As Gabriel’s surprised mouth closes, he turns to James. “We can talk to Stephanie when she gets back about that possibility but we need to assess what type of condition he is in. From what I could see, the change occurred quickly and was very violent.”

As James leaves, Gabriel turns back to mom. “Have you heard from Andrew? Do we know if anything has happened yet?”

Her face falls and her whole demeanor changes. Putting on a brave face, she smiles but her voice is monotone. “Jacob, I’m sure that your father is fine, you should really try to get some sleep. They’ll be back soon and something tells me that the raucous that will accompany them will wake the whole house.”

Not wanting to make her more anxious I hug her and uncle Gabriel and ascend the stairs. Before returning to my room, I go to check on Brian, knowing that he is probably up and pacing. Opening the door, I’m surprised to see he and Jennifer sleeping, but when I turn to leave, I realize I only hear one person breathing. Staring at Brian’s covers, I realize he cannot be under them. Moving quickly, but quietly, I go over to his bed. His pillows are arranged to make it look as if he is sleeping. How could I have missed this happening? I should have realized it from how nervous he was the other night. Flying out, I close the door behind me, not wanting to worry Jennifer. Downstairs, I find mom and uncle Gabriel in the study. “Mom, Brian has left? He must have gone after his mother.”

She has the phone out immediately, but as she dials each number it goes to voicemail. She goes into the kitchen, alerting Julianne and Paul as to what is going on and grabs her coat as uncle Gabriel does the same. As they are at the door, I grab her hand. “Mom, I have to come with you. Please” Opening her mouth to object, she immediately closes it again, probably realizing that as much as I hate defying her, I have acted irrationally in the past to protect others.

“Grab your coat, but Jacob, you need to listen and stay with us. We need to let the others handle this, there are too many people involved in this already. Things are complicated enough. We need to find and grab Brian if we can, but more importantly, if we can, we need to alert Stephanie and your father then get out of there. We can’t complicate this or get caught in the mix, it wouldn’t help anyone.”

Traveling quickly through the darkened streets, I can’t believe that Brian would do this, or maybe I can, considering what I did to my family when my mom was in trouble. By the time we arrive, the take down is in full swing. Some of Peter’s men are on the ground, shouts are coming from the surrounding buildings and a small boat, and I can see Stephanie heading toward the boat with her gun drawn. Mom has found dad who lets her know that Francis is with some of Jeff’s men behind the warehouse. They are trying to get to Anthony before Stephanie’s men do. It appears that they are going in the front door now and are being met with resistance. As soon as mom tells dad about Brian, he grabs me and we are off trying to see if we can detect his scent leaving mom and uncle Gabriel.

The scents are all mixed together and it is becoming very confusing. “Jacob, keep your head low and don’t get in front of me.”

As we move closer to the area where Stephanie is approaching, I catch something moving to our side. I see the gun before the individual and see that it is pointed at Stephanie. As I yell to her to watch out, I flick my wrist, knocking the gun out of his hand as my father throws a rock, probably to mislead how the gun was removed, but before we know it, shots ring out and someone screams out in pain. As I turn, everything appears in slow motion, Brian has jumped out from where he was and Stephanie turned when I yelled and fired. Brian is down and bleeding, Stephanie falls to her knees and I can see someone behind her with a semiautomatic. Dad rushes to Brian as someone I do not recognize is running toward Stephanie and has now shot the man who shot her.

As Brian whales, he shifts immediately and starts snapping. “Jacob get back, you can’t help him.” Mom must hear our shouts and yells to my father to get back as well as she comes upon him and is chanting something I do not recognize. He seems to calm under her touch and immediately is himself once again. My father and I approach cautiously and place our hands upon his chest, which is covered in blood.

“We need to get him to the hospital immediately, it is not a through and through” Dad calls out to Gabriel who helps him lift Brian, but as they all rise, three men with guns descend upon us.

“Freeze” One of them yells and I see DEA in big white letters on his bullet proof vest.

“We are not part of their group. This is Brian, Stephanie’s son, we came to find him. Please we have to get him to the hospital.”

The men look down as a bleeding Brian writhes in pain, I hear one of them say, “It looks like the picture she has on her desk.”

The one who yelled freeze shouts. “Who are you and what are you doing out here?” He is looking at my father suspiciously.

“We came to find Brian, Stephanie left him with us and he snuck out fearing for his mother. I’m”

My mother immediately interrupts. “I’m a physician at Mercy, please we have to get him there or he’ll die.”

The man speaks into his chest com. “We have two down on the south side, a minor and one of our own. Send an ambulance quickly.”

“Let us move him from here to the street. Is someone bringing Stephanie?” The man shakes his head and I can hear someone over his com say that she didn’t make it. His eyes glance back to her.

“She can’t be dead!” As the words escape from me, I see them register with Brian and sobs rip from his chest.

“Please you have to help my mom.” He grabs my hand.

My eyes shoot up to dad. “We have to help.” I plead.

“Have them bring her here.” His tone is authoritative and he stares directly at the man in charge. I can tell by the way dad’s pupils are changing he’s compelling the man who finally calls into his communicator to his men. “Bring her to us.”

When they bring her up, she isn’t breathing and the blood is covering the hands and clothing of her carriers.

“Put her down, get Brian to the ambulance and bring down a gurney.” I know he wants to get as many of them away from us as possible. They move quickly with uncle Gabriel, but the man who yelled at us remains behind. He must be her partner. Dad begins compressions, while mom breathes and I slip my hands underneath her closing the wounds, despite knowing that this will only lessen her blood loss, not solve her internal injuries. With each compression, my dad’s hands seem more electrified and finally her heart begins to beat.

Picking her up, we move quickly to join the men bringing back the gurney and move her to the ambulance. When we arrive, they have just placed Brian in one and mom hops in while uncle Gabriel hops in with Stephanie and dad ushers me to the car.

Getting in, the chaos around us seems a bit more controlled and I see several men being pushed into police or DEA cars before we’re off and following the ambulances.

As soon as we reach the main roadway, dad calls uncle Francs. “What happened with Anthony?”

“They got him out. He was unconscious and his vitals are erratic. We are on our way to the house. Are you there?”

“No, we ran into trouble. Is Jeff with you?”

“What’s wrong” He interjects.

Brian’s been shot and so has Stephanie. Mia is traveling with Brian. Jeff, he changed momentarily into a wolf when he first got shot and when Mia calmed him down he turned back. Has that happened before?”

“I have heard it happen on occasion with younger wolves when they are hurt or traumatized, it usually lasts only a few minutes. How bad are they?”

“Stephanie is very bad, her heart stopped for several moments and Brian sustained one bullet to the chest cavity. How far are you away from the area?”

Uncle Francis responds. “He jumped out of the car and is on his way. I’m sure he’ll meet you there. I’ll get Anthony settled.”

“Francis, you need to stay away from him and since we are scattered, I need you to get the children out. If he were to get out of control, he could be a danger to everyone in that house. We need to keep him contained, but I don’t want the children there. Bring them to the apartment and don’t’ let Paul and Julianne stay either. I know that they will say they are old enough, but tell them you need help watching over the other children and then meet us at the hospital.”

“I’ll do that as soon as we arrive. Do you need anything?”

“No, Jacob and I are right behind the ambulances and we should be arriving shortly.”

When we arrive, dad still looks like himself and I know he is doing that so he can help. Two teams are outside waiting for the ambulances and everyone is moving quickly. I hasten my pace as dad whispers “Jacob, go to your mom’s office and wait. We’ll let you know what’s going on as soon as we can. Leaving him, I quickly slip into the office.





Chapter Five - A Long Night





Rushing down the hall, Brian is in and out of consciousness. Janet approaches. “Mia, what happened?” Her eyes fixate on my blood stained clothing.

Andrew comes beside me then passes me, following Brian into x-ray.

Gabriel comes through the door with Stephanie and is moving straight towards the pre-operative doors as James comes down the hall to join him.

“Janet, the DEA were involved in some sort of take down that went wrong. I was in the area and tried to help. Are the two surgical rooms ready?”

“They are and Dr. Reed and Dr. Myers are prepping. They are the only surgeons who haven’t been steadily operating in the last twenty-two hours. It’s been a pretty busy night.” For the first time, I notice dark circles under her eyes, but knowing what could happen with Brian, I don’t even ask.

“That won’t be necessary, we can handle it.” Jeff bursts through the doors and interjects.

Geoffrey comes barreling down the hallway. “Who do you people think you are?” He shouts at Jeff, but then turns to me. “Mia, I don’t know what you think you are pulling, you disappear, reappear with friends who think they have the run of this hospital. We have channels and they have no right being here or operating.”

I open my mouth to tell him to but out, but before I can even mutter a sound, the man who was yelling at us bursts through the doors and is in Geoffrey’s face. “Dr. I don’t know who you think you are to interfere with those who we sent in to operate on our men, but step aside now before I make you.”

Janet’s mouth falls open and she moves quickly. “I’ll get the test results into surgical two and three for you.”

I nod and as Geoffrey storms off, I turn to the man. “Thank you for your help.”

As I turn to leave, he grabs my wrist. “Just make sure they are both alright, please.” From the plea in his voice, he has more than a professional involvement with them. I nod and move quickly with Jeff and James.

Entering the scrub room, I go over to Dr. Meyers and Dr. Reed. “Surgeons came in with the victims and the DEA field commander has requested we allow their teams to work on them.” Despite their puzzled looks, they say nothing and step out of the room. I catch a relived look on Dr. Meyers who I know would much rather be at a Board meeting than in surgery again, especially if he has already had back to back surgeries.

Andrew and Gabriel wheel in Brian and Stephanie.

Jeff turns to me. “Mia, you need to bounce between Brian and Stephanie. If things go wrong, they could change and you have to keep them away from the others. Gabriel can you take Brian with James and Andrew and I can work on Stephanie. Is Francis on his way?”

“He’s taking the kids to the apartment, but I can have him come straight here and have Julianne and Paul do that.”

“Do it, I would call Christian, but if Anthony needs medical assistance, he is the only one with a medical background.”

“That’s fine. Andrew pulls out his phone and instructs Francis who lets us know that he is already on his way and that the children are headed for the apartment with Sarah, Julianne and Paul.”

Before slipping into surgical two, I see Geoffrey arguing with Dr. Meyers and am sure that I’ll be facing problems when I leave, but for now, I place it out of my mind to concentrate on the urgent tasks at hand.

Surgery is long and Brian comes out of the anesthesia and changes twice more, but thankfully I am able to quickly contain him so that the surgery can be completed. Francis arrives and is assisting Andrew and Jeff. After losing her twice, it appears that they are successful in repairing and beginning to heal the internal injuries and that her heart is getting stronger. Knowing that it would be dangerous to leave them in the hospital without anyone I plan on staying in recovery, but Jeff suggests that we move them fearing that Brian may change again in the next twenty-four hours because of the effects of the anesthesia and what has happened tonight. Instead of bringing him down to recovery, I scoot outside to inform the agent that we will be moving them while Francis calls and arranges for Taylor to come with two ambulances.

The agent is pacing in the waiting room and is whispering into the phone. Stepping back, not to intrude, I wait for him to hang up. As if he senses my presence, he hangs up and turns. “How did surgery go?” He asks anxiously.

“They both came through the surgery, but the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours is crucial for Stephanie, we lost her twice on the table, but our doctors were able to bring her back.” I pause wondering what reason I will give him for transferring of them. Although he obviously knows them, since there is no indication that he is from our world, I doubt she would reveal what she is.

His voice drops to a whisper. “Dr. Angelis, why were you really out there and why did you bring in your own physicians.”

“We really were there because of Brian. We should have been more careful, we never expected him to leave in search of his mother and the physicians with me are close friends. They were staying at the house and offered to help look for Brian. Since they worked on them in the ambulance and two are heart specialists, we figured it may be best to utilize their expertise considering the multiple internal injuries Stephanie suffered and the bullet lodged in Brian’s heart.” His eyes widen and his features turn skeptical making me wonder if he somehow knows what they are and what I am, but how could he? I try to divert his attention. “Thank you for your interception with Geoffrey. I really didn’t have time to argue with him then. Are you Stephanie’s partner?”

“No, she is my sister-in-law.” My mouth inadvertently drops open. He moves closer to me and his voice drops to an almost inaudible tone. “Dr. Angelis…”

“Mia, please”

“Mia, did you have them operate because of who Stephanie and Brian are?”

I can feel Andrew approaching behind me as I nod. “Taylor has arrived.”

He moves near Andrew extending his hand. “Thank you for helping Brian and Stephanie. I’m Ben.”

“Ben, did Dr. Angelis tell you that we are going to move them to a private hospital where they can be watched over more carefully.”

“No, I think she was getting to that, but didn’t know how to tell me.” He glances over to me and smiles. “Am I correct in that you didn’t know how to tell me because you were unaware that I know of their special circumstances?”

Andrew smiles at him. “We think that for everyone’s safety, it would be best if they are elsewhere. Brian changed a few times and we really cannot have anyone here seeing that.”

“Where will you move them to?”

“There is a hospital up in Maine that would be better suited to their needs and they would not have to worry during their recuperation.” From the looks passing between them, they seem to each be reading the hidden meanings under the apparent conversation.

“Could someone go and visit them if they desire.” His face reveals his concern, probably because of who Andrew is.

“Of course. They will be well taken care of. You could go up in the ambulance if you like.” Ben’s features reveal his shock.

He steps closer to Andrew and his voice drops so low, it is almost inaudible as his eyes dart around. “Why would your kind care help ours? I’m shocked to see you had one of ours with you.”

I glance at Andrew and his eyes are as wide as mine, surely from the shock that Ben seems to be referring to himself. “Ben we work with many of your kind and others. We only want to help and ensure that those who strive to do the right thing are helped when needed. Although may I ask, how you are hiding your scent.”

Ben smiles. “My wife is a real witch,” He smirks.

I burst out laughing despite where we are and Andrew leans down and smirks. “So is mine.” I make a mental note to ask her or have Eva ask how she does that, knowing that because of this situation our paths will cross.

Ben and Andrew are laughing as Geoffrey approaches us all. “Mia, may I have a word away from your friends.” His voice drips with contempt.

I move closer to him and eye Andrew, cautioning him not to interfere. When we are a few feet away, he lays into me. “You may have gotten what you wanted as far as the wing goes, but this is far from your hospital. Your friends have no business being here and no business operating on patients. Don’t think that you are taking over or can interfere with the running of this hospital just because you somehow tricked one of the most influential men in this area to marry you. Don’t get any ideas about interfering with my plans for my wing just because Dr. Meyer’s is foolish enough to let you have your way this evening and to put aside money for your ridiculous cause which will only bring problems to the hospital with those who cannot afford our care.”

“Geoffrey, I have had just about enough of your threats and your nonsense.” His eyes flare and I know I am lighting a fire under him, but frankly, he is becoming beyond unreasonable. “I have no intention of interfering with the plastic surgery wing. I told you that from the beginning. All I have ever fought for was the fair share of the money for the children’s wing so why don’t you stop threatening me. All I want to do is my job and help children. As far as the plastic surgery wing goes, to my knowledge it is the hospital’s wing and not your personal playground. It will be used not only for your patient’s but also those serviced by Dr. D’Angelo and his staff. I know that burns you Geoffrey, but I strongly suggest that you stop being unreasonable, start focusing on what you need to do, and all those lovely patients you can’t wait to nip and tuck. As far as tonight goes, I’m sure that you know how many surgeries that Dr. Meyers and Dr. Reed already performed, Janet told me how busy it was and the DEA didn’t want to needlessly expend our resources when they had help of their own and wanted to ensure that their own were cared for in the best possible way since they were hurt during one of their raids.”

“And how do you think that will look for the hospital when it is learned that our staff was not good enough or trusted to work on their agent and my understanding is a child also got hurt. Isn’t that supposed to be your specialty, yet you didn’t take the lead?”

It has been such a long night and I just can’t put up with his shenanigans anymore. “Geoffrey, no one is going to learn anything, unless you go running to the press and then I’m sure that the nice DEA agent standing over there whose friend almost died tonight will have a field day with you. Just let me be! I have been in surgery for hours and I am going home. I would think very carefully about your next move.” I storm away from him towards my office, knowing that Andrew is helping with the move and that Ben is probably waiting outside for them. When I enter, Jacob is asleep in my chair. Covering him, I go in search of Andrew hoping to take Jacob home.

He is just outside about the shut the ambulance doors on Francis and Jeff as two men wearing DEA vests approach the ambulance.

The taller one stops before him. “Doctor a DEA agent was taken here tonight for surgery, do you know…”

Before he finishes, Ben comes out of the other Ambulance. “Jack, they are transferring Stephanie and Brian to another hospital. I called it in. How did the raid go?”

“We captured twenty-two, five of them are teenagers and three women.”

“Did you manage to get Peter?”

“Yes, but he fled the scene, he was never in clear sight, our men didn’t catch up with him until he was about half a mile away on a crowded street and they lost him in the pursuit twice. Unless one of his men rolls over, we are going to have trouble holding him once his lawyer gets there. How is Stephanie?”

“She is in pretty bad shape, but finally came through surgery, the next forty eight hours is critical.”

“How is Brian? Did anyone find out why he was out there?”

“He came through surgery well, he is stable. I’m going up with them to the new hospital and should be back in a few days. If anyone needs me, you can reach me by cell.”

“Can I do anything for you?”

He shakes his head. “Just try to hold on to this Peter for as long as you can and see if we can somehow tie the drugs to him. We don’t need him setting up shop at some other school.” He climbs back into the ambulance and is off.

Jack leaves and Andrew turns to me. “Are you ready to go home beautiful?” He whispers. “It has been quite an interesting evening.”

Smiling, “Yes it has. Who knew coming to New York would lead to such an overflow at Sanctuary. “

He bursts out laughing. “For all the times I came here, I never had such an interesting time until I met you.” I want to kiss him, but know that he appears as himself and that there is still activity around. “Is Jacob asleep?”

I nod as we move to the office to get him. As Andrew reaches down to pick him up, his eyes fly open. “I can walk.” We head to the car and he at least seems relieved that his friend will be alright. As soon as we get to the apartment, he climbs into bed exhausted. Coming outside, I let Sarah know about Jeff. Julianne and Paul want to go back to the house, but Andrew insists that they stay and calls over to Jeff’s men who say that Anthony is still unconscious but that they have everything under control to contain him when he awakes. When Andrew asks if they need any additional medical help, Christian gets on the phone and lets him know that it will be better if we stay away considering he may see Andrew as a threat and has already voiced suspicions.

Julianne and Paul reluctantly retire with the children and after feeding and putting Alexander back down, I go over and make a cup of tea hoping not to disturb a now sleeping Sarah and Andrea. Andrew comes behind me, wrapping his hands gently around my waist as I wait for the tea to boil. Kissing my neck, he moves his lips gently to my ear. “You seem far away, are you tired?”

“No, I just can’t believe how long it has been since we were last here and how much has changed.” I turn in his embrace.

“One thing hasn’t changed.” He smiles.

“And what might that be?”

“How much I love you.”

Stretching, I kiss him tenderly. “Well that’s good, because eternity would be quite long if you didn’t.” I tease remembering what he said on our wedding day.

“I’ve set up a sleeping bag next to the windows, how about watching the stars with me?” I nod knowing that he is trying to ensure that I feel safe and comfortable, probably hoping the dreams that have caused my tossing and turning most nights since learning who I am will soon subside.

After drinking my tea, I settle down in his arms, drifting, but soon my dreams take hold of me once more. Waking with the cold sweats, I’m at least grateful that it appears I did not scream. Andrew’s concerned eyes meet mine after I see that Sarah is still asleep. “Another nightmare? What can I do to help you?”

Snuggling against his chest, “I’m fine. It wasn’t as bad as the last one and I could feel your arms around me which is a big help.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” I can see the snow beginning to fall and the lightening sky is telling me that morning is here. I shake my head knowing how concerned he has been since my return. Besides, how do I tell him that each night since we have been reunited, I can’t escape dreaming that I am running through fiery tunnels as demons spring from hidden alcoves grasping at my legs, causing me to fall or pushing me through hidden ground channels. Falling, I can feel myself changing, becoming a fiery creature, piece by piece. The first fall is always the most stunning as everything below my knees becomes ablaze. Although I can feel myself gasp, and the warmth of the flames surround me, I cannot understand why they do not immediately consume me or why I do not bellow out in pain like the demons that surround me. The deeper in I get, the more flames engulf me. Yet still, I do not burn or feel the pain as I did when I was in the cave fighting Jonathan. I know I’m in hell, yet I am not trying to escape. In fact, I am shocked as I realize I am actually fighting my way through the demons to get further inside. I shake my head again realizing, I want to be there, but can’t understand why. How could I ever reveal to him that as my dream progresses, engulfing me in turmoil that I see myself abandoning him and running toward the dark silhouette that I saw in our alternate reality when we went after Abigail, knowing that I need to put distance between Andrew and myself? Am I running from him to spare him from being engulfed like I am as I push further on or is there some other reason, something else which I feel is compelling me forward and away from all those I love and the one I do not want to live without. Why would I run from him? Why wouldn’t we run away from the horrors that I see in each cave I enter before running through another tunnel or falling through another channel? Am I leaving him behind to protect him or am I truly running from him as I fear?

“Mia talk to me, please.” His pleading voice calls to me dragging me from my introspection and the visions which are now dimly before me despite being crystal clear in my dreams.

“It’s nothing. We should get breakfast ready for everyone and I need to make sure I take my shift. I’m sure that Geoffrey is filling the Board’s head with all sorts of wonderful stories about how I ensured that the hospital was overrun last night with personnel who had no right taking up space as our own physicians and surgeons were pushed aside or had to wait to utilize the two operating rooms that we occupied.”

As I rise, Andrew grabs my hand. “You can’t avoid what has hold of you forever.” His voice is soft and I can see the hurt from my hiding my nightmares from him. I want to sit back down with him and tell him, but I still don’t understand why this dream has such a hold on me and why I am running from him. I have hurt him so much already and given him cause for concern, I don’t want him to misinterpret any meaning that may be associated with my dreams, think that I am running from him or doubting my love for him. Despite everything that has happened to us and my choice to leave him when faced with the revelation of what really happened to give us time, my love for him has only grown stronger. I know that our souls will always and forever be tied to one another, he is my better half. Even in those strange dreams of different times, those that I still cannot explain and Reginald seemed to shy from, he was still with me. So why am I now running from him in this dream. It has to be to spare him the pain and suffering which awaits and which I can feel in the others who grasp at me despite not feeling the flames and agonizing torture myself.

Bending, I cup his beautiful face in my hands. “I am not avoiding anything. I promise. They are just nightmares. Probably residual effects of being in close proximity to Jonathan and realizing how I could have lost you forever. They will pass, but life here will not and will only get more complicated if I miss my shift. Why don’t you call over to the house, see how Jeff’s men are doing, and if there is any change with Anthony. I will get breakfast started.”

Despite releasing my hands, I can see that concern and worry have not left his eyes. Knowing how much secrets and half-truths have hurt us in the past, I vow to find a way when things calm down to sit down with him and talk to him about this. I can’t let him watch me go through night after night struggling and worrying more so that I am keeping something from him.

After showering quickly, I begin breakfast and can hear Andrew. It sounds as if Anthony regained consciousness in the wee hours of the morning and became extremely violent. “Did you get any samples to James, I know that after the surgeries, he went down to work in the lab not wanting to cause any confusion if Anthony got lose…Did he leave the residence?...That’s good. I’ll let you know as soon as James contacts me with the results. If you need anything, let me know. Yes we will stay here until things are better there and Jeff returns. Have you heard from him? Good.”

Placing the pancakes on the counter, Andrew enters. “Is everyone up?”

“I heard the children dressing and Sarah is taking a shower now.”

“When did you secure the groceries?” I smile and his radiant returning smile warms my heart.

“I called for them while you were fighting to sleep last night.” His tone tells me that he is still hurt and worried.

Moving closer to him, I wrap my arms around him. “Andrew, I know you think I’m keeping something from you, but you need to know I’m not doing it intentionally. I just need some time to get a handle on it myself so that I can explain.”

Kissing my forehead. “I just want to help. Mia, I’m very concerned considering you spent most of the night talking in you sleep about demons and fires. You even hit your forearms several times in your sleep. I’m surprised it didn’t wake you up. The way you were slapping your hands and arms, you looked as if you were trying to put out a fire.” He stares at me and when I don’t respond, he embraces me. “Were you thinking about Reginald and what he may be facing? Could that have brought all this on or were you dreaming about yourself?”

As he says this, maybe he is correct and without even realizing it I am thinking about Reginald trying to get through the gates of hell and what he must be going through. “Maybe you’re right. I have been dreaming about hell, but couldn’t really understand it. I must be thinking about Reginald.” Although that doesn’t explain why I would be dreaming about running away from Andrew, maybe I am dreaming of trying to help Reginald and I’m running from Andrew because I didn’t want to face that he is right about us not being able to help him and put the children through any more trauma. Hearing them crossing the living room, I don’t want them hearing about this, they already have too much on their plate. Kissing his lips, I whisper against his mouth. “I’m sure that is all it is. We can talk more about this later. Has anyone heard from him?”

Just then, Jacob comes barreling in and hugs me. “Thanks mom for making pancakes I’m starving.” Hugging him back, I see Andrew shake his head.

Jacob looks up at me as he takes his plate. “Were you asking dad if he heard anything about Stephanie and Brian?”

Andrew interjects. “I was just going to call up there and see how they are doing this morning. Everyone arrived last night and Brian was in stable condition and Stephanie seemed to be doing better.”

“Dad, can you find out about Laurel as well?”

“Sure.”

“Since we’ll be on brake in a few days, if they are doing alright, do you think we can go home and spend Christmas there or do we have to stay around here?”

Andrew’s eyes shift to mine and I nod, knowing that the children will be happiest at home. Considering the me who was here was such a workaholic, I should have some time coming. “If everything seems to be going alright with Anthony, I don’t see why we can’t go home for a few days.”

I’m glad to see them smile. Andrew appears apprehensive, probably worrying that if things don’t go well with Anthony, he will want to stay close in case Jeff or his men need help. Crossing my fingers, I hope all does go well, knowing Andrew would be happier home too. Despite his reassurances that being Jonathan is not weighing upon him, I know that it is and could see how much happier he was last night, even in a grave situation, operating on Stephanie and having more of a hands on involvement.

As I clean up the dishes, the children decide that they want to go to school, knowing that despite their being new students, since they are five, their absence as well as Brian’s would be noticeable. Although I am apprehensive, Andrew assures me that everything will be fine and that he and the others will be there

Heading to my office, I see that the raid has made the morning news. Passing by some nurses to my office, I hear them talking about how the victims were brought in here last night and how there is still heavy guard around one victim on two. I can’t help but wonder who that might be. Opening the door to my office, Julian is in there reading something on his tablet. When I come in, he looks up. “I hear that you went head to head with Geoffrey last night again.” Although he fights to hide a smirk, I can also see concern in his eyes. As I sit, he rises and shuts the door. “Mia, considering everything else you are dealing with, maybe it wouldn’t be a wise idea to light a fire under him.”

“That wasn’t my intention, but he was interfering with surgery.”

“Mia, why were you anywhere near those piers?”

“I was looking for the young boy who got shot. He was going after his mother who is a DEA agent.”

“Who are they that you would be going after him?”

Knowing how he has kept my confidences in the past, “Can I tell you something in the strictest confidence?” He raises an eyebrow at me and I know why. “The boy, Brian, made friends with Jonathan’s nieces and nephews and they inadvertently found out that his mother was there on an undercover assignment. We had him over while his mother was on the sting and he slipped out because he was concerned. When we went after him, we got caught up in everything.”

“Mia, a lot has been happening to you since you and Jonathan have gotten together, are you sure that you’re alright and that Jonathan is really an alright person? I mean I know I pushed you toward him but…” I interrupt. I can tell from his tone and the way that he is staring at me, he is concerned that he advocated for a relationship that he shouldn’t have.

“Julian, don’t worry, Jonathan is a very good man. There is nothing shady about him. Maybe I’m the magnet for trouble and am dragging him into all the wrong places.” I try to joke.

“Speaking of trouble, that’s what I came in to warn you about. After your little run in with Geoffrey last night, he called some of his friends on the Board and they convinced Dr. Meyers to reschedule the meeting from next week to later this afternoon. Some claim they will be out of town for the holiday, but it appears Geoffrey wants to lock down the funds for his wing and is even bringing in a colleague that spearheaded the development of a new wing in Boston, similar to the one he is hoping to develop. Jamie told me that she heard Geoffrey is worried after Dr. Meyers backed you last night that he is losing control of the situation. He is hoping that this Ruth can help him.”

Shaking my head, I can’t believe he is up to tricks again. Why can’t he just leave things alone, take his half and let me be. If he only knew that if he did this, I could leave and the biggest thorn in his side would be removed. I wish that I could tell him, maybe it would be enough incentive for him to stop all this nonsense, but I know that if I even hinted at it now, he would use it to kill the pediatric wing. “Thanks for the warning. I should get up to two and start my rounds. Do you know who they are holding up there?”

“A teenage boy who jumped into the water to escape, he hit his head on one of the pilings, has a concussion, a gash that required 21 stitches, is suffering the effects of hypothermia, and is being monitored because he was under for several minutes and needed to be revived. His heart rate is still erratic. The police outside his room asked me if he was well enough to transport for arraignment, but I said that you would have to make the call today after examining him. His father is upstairs as well and is arguing with every physician who enters the room that his son is not well enough to be moved, but Janet told me that she heard he is waiting for his brother, who is some big time politician to pull in some favors before his son goes before the judge.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

He rises. “I’ll see you later. Tracy isn’t feeling well.”

“Tell her I hope that she feels better soon.”

“I will and good luck this afternoon.”

Knowing that I will probably be grilled by the father as soon as I step foot near his son’s room, I decide to make my rounds checking on the other patients first and am called down to an emergency surgery. I have an hour before Geoffrey’s little impromptu Board meeting and decide to go and see the patient on two. Opening the stairwell door, I don’t know why, but I’m surprised to see principal Walker pacing while an officer stands outside the door. He is on the telephone and appears agitated. “You can’t distance yourself from this situation. I don’t care how it looks we’re talking about my sons. You have to help me.” Turning, he sees me heading to the door, and steps in front of me while hanging up the telephone. “Dr. Angelis, could I speak to you a moment?”

I can see the pleading in his eyes and as much as I would like to say no, I step away from the officer and the door. “Principal Walker, I take it Greg is in that room. I need to get in there and examine him before going down to a Board Meeting. The police are anxious to move him and are awaiting the results of his examination.”

“I know that he and your nieces and nephews did not get along in school, but Dr. Angelis I…”

Knowing where he is going, I interrupt. “Mr. Walker, my professional opinion would in no way be influenced by what goes on with my chi… nieces and nephews. I really do need to get into the room and report before going into the meeting.”

“Dr. Angelis I know it’s a Board Meeting regarding the wing. My brother, contributed at the art auction to your cause. Is there any way that you could go into the meeting without first examining my son? I need to help him and the only way I can is by delaying his transfer right now. I don’t want to see Greg go to jail.” He grabs my wrist and his eyes are begging me to help.”

Before I can even answer him, there is a code red in the room two doors down. Responding immediately to that, by the time I exit, the police officer stops me, but now, I am already late for the meeting and I can see Janet beckoning me and holding the elevator. Quickly excusing myself from the officer, I assure him that I will request one of the other physicians comes down to assess Greg. Calling over to Dr. Jeffers as I scurry down the hall, he assures me that he can get to Greg shortly.

I can hear Geoffrey’s aggravated voice as I open the door. He is going over what occurred last night. I hear some of the Board members grumbling about how highly unusual that is and that Dr. Meyers must assure that I am not overstepping my bounds.

Before he has a chance to respond, I interject. “I’m sure that you are very concerned with the goings on of last evening, but I assure you that at no time was anyone trying to usurp anyone’s authority here. Our staff had undergone an already grueling day of surgeries and the DEA requested the physicians who were treating the parties on route continue. They just did not want to unnecessarily expend our resources. As to myself, I assure you that I am not trying to upset anyone or challenge anyone’s authority. The DEA wanted to maintain control. Considering it was one of the DEA’s own, I’m sure that each one of us here can understand that they were concerned and wanted to do all they could. They have even been transferred.” Thankfully I see heads nod and the matter is quickly dropped as Dr. Meyers steers us toward the matters at hand.

After listening intently to his reiteration of the numbers and discussing pertinent matters, Geoffrey rises and goes to the door letting us know that a good friend and colleague is visiting who has undergone this type of construction of a plastic surgery wing and has been gracious enough to bring contact names, numbers and projected figures. Opening the door, a beautiful woman with turquoise eyes that sparkle strolls in. She is petite with flowing auburn hair. As she smiles, her whole face lights up. Walking over to Dr. Meyers, she shakes his hand briefly and then moves along through the Board, introducing herself as Ruth. As she comes to me, her smile is warm and soft, but as she places her hand in mine, the strangest sense passes through me and I inadvertently begin pulling my hand from hers, but she grips harder and does not let go. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Dr. Angelis. I have been reading about how much your efforts have contributed to the building of these wings and on your recent marriage. Congratulations.” As she says this, her features appear strange as if she knows something or wants to say more. I catch Geoffrey’s features which appear none too happy probably because of her civility towards me. I know that he was hoping that she would give me grief, immediately too. When she releases my hand, it tingles and the strange feeling lingers. Finally, she moves up to end of the table and turns on a laptop which I didn’t even realize was there and charts pop on screen as someone darkens the room. We spend the next hour going over information and when someone turns back on the lights, I gasp seeing five darkened shadows around her. Every eye in the room is now on me. Turning my gasp into a cough quickly, I leap up and move from the room, hoping that they just think it is dry throat. Grabbing a water from the outside desk, as the Board members disburse they eye me and turn. Thankfully, only Mrs. Ford stops a moment to see if I’m alright and then leaves.

Geoffrey ushers Ruth out and I’m surprised that she stares at me concerned. I feel as if she is searching my thoughts to discern the true reason I left the room. Geoffrey ushers her away from me thankfully, but as they pass me, I get the strangest sense of warmth followed by a chill so cold that I can’t help but shudder. As they await the elevator, I again see the shadows surrounding her. They are fainter under the bright halogens, but are unmistakably around her and appear to be humanlike in shape. Staring at one, I could swear I make out transparent facial features and caramel colored hair, but how could that be? Shaking my head, I wait until they leave and then take the stairs to my office. Looking at the time, I realize how late it is and call over to Andrew to find out how the children made out. Although they had a quiet day and are just finishing their homework Andrew tells me that there was a lot of activity in the school and that the DEA were searching lockers and questioning teachers. I let him know that Greg is here and was injured in the escape and what principal Walker was trying to get me to do.

“Mia, you need to stay as far away from that situation as possible. That is something that Geoffrey could use against you and you don’t need this to be any more complicated than it is. How did the Board meeting go?”

“It was very interesting, I’ll tell you about it when I get home. Several staff members pass my door moving toward the stairwell, something must be going on in emergency. I’ll be home as soon as I can. I love you.”

With that, I head down the stairwell and find that there are several patients needing emergency assistance due to a multicar accident on the Bridge. By the time, I suture my last patient, it is close to midnight and when I go to grab my purse, Andrew is there waiting for me with a hot cup of coffee.

“I thought you could use this before walking to the apartment.” His embrace energizes my worn body and I’m thankful that we will have a few minutes out of earshot so that I can tell him what happened with Geoffrey’s friend. His eyes grow concerned and I hear him gasp when I tell him of the strange energy I felt as she grasped my hand.

“Mia, describe her to me.” After I do, he turns and stops. “Do you think that she may be in the hospital still?”

“I doubt it, the meeting ended hours ago and there would be no reason for Geoffrey to stick around. He probably took her back to his house and is filling her head with stories about us. He seemed agitated when she was cordial to me today.” We are at the apartment door and he opens it for me, but does not follow me through so I turn to him.

“I’ll be back shortly. I just want to see if I can find anything out.”

“Andrew, be careful, I’m sure that Geoffrey’s place is well alarmed.”

He chuckles and is gone instantly. The children are fast asleep and so is Sarah. Making myself a snack, I sit at the computer and update the patient records while putting in a call to Christian to see how they are doing with Anthony. I‘m surprised to hear that Jeff is back and is working with James to combat the hallucinogens discovered in Anthony’s system. I never really considered how such things could also impair us and wonder if they even harm us more because of our heightened senses. Christian lets me know that James and Jeff are hopeful that Anthony should be back in control within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

Staring at the screen, it blurs a moment and in that instant, I find myself standing in a darkened tunnel. Faint shouts emanate from deep inside. My hand runs along the rough rock surface. I move carefully forward so as not to fall. Walking several hundred feet, a faint flicker of light illuminates the catacomb. As my eyes scan the area, the ashen rock reminds me of a burnt coal, crumbly and weak. I remove my hand fearing my grip could cause this area to cave. Staying just inside the shadow, it sounds as if two males are arguing in hushed tones, but I can’t quite make out what they are saying. Inching my way closer, trying to stay within the protective shadow and away from the crumbling wall, I strain to hear them, but they are just not loud enough. Peeking inside, I’m shocked to see that the light is coming from an enormous stone fireplace taking up half the wall. Strangely, the room appears to be some type of plush office with an oversized, mahogany desk and chair standing before an ornate sculpture etched into the wall with two plush armchairs turned toward the roaring fire. The furniture appears strangely out of place, modern despite their antiquity, probably because of the Elizabethan nature of the room and the torches which are the only other light beside the fireplace casting soft shadows on the sandstone. Two men are sitting in the oversized cushioned chairs, their heads almost touching, but not quite. Staring, I try to make out their features, beyond just their profiles, but something semi-transparent obstructs my view. I gasp as I see faint shadows floating around them and in that instant someone grabs me from behind pulling me back.

Opening my mouth, I want to scream, but nothing comes out. A soft voice is at my ear as a delicate, subtle scent seems to surround me calming me. I feel warm and safe, but am unsure why. I try to turn my head, but the way they are holding me, I can’t move. They whisper in my ear. “You can’t be here, not even in your dreams, if any part of you somehow crosses to this reality this far in, he could grab hold of you, confuse you, and convince you to stay. You can’t let that happen. We have …”

Before the voice finishes, someone is shaking me and my eyes flutter open to meet Andrew’s concerned features. His hand is gently to my lips, probably cautioning me not to scream or speak to loud as Sarah is on the couch while Andrea and Alexander are still asleep in portable playpens. Despite my raging heart, I nod and acknowledge I know what he is doing. Removing his hand, he rises and goes out into the foyer. I follow.

“Another nightmare?”

“Not really.” He arches his eyebrow and I know that if I don’t explain, he will think that I am keeping something from him. We sit in the chairs opposite the elevators and he patiently waits as I search for the words to explain the strange happening that is my newest dream. After a long pause, the only words I can muster to explain it, I finally finish and his concern heightens.

“Have you ever seen that place before?” I shake my head and he continues. “Close your eyes, and concentrate on the voice that was talking to you and dragging you back.” Closing my eyes, I clear my thoughts and just let the words flow through my mind. “Is the voice a male or female?” He inquires quietly, probably not to disturb my concentration.

“Female.” I open my eyes in surprise.

“No, close them again and concentrate on her voice. Have you heard it before?”

My eyes flutter open surprised. “It can’t be, I must just be associating the voice, but I don’t know why?”

“Whose voice?”

“The woman Geoffrey brought in today, Ruth.”

“You said you felt strange next to her. Do you think that she can be from our world?”

Running her profile through my mind, she is definitely not a vampire, her skin was not cold and her cheeks and skin tone have too much color. When we shook hands, she didn’t feel hot, nor did I get the faint scent that I detect near Jeff and the other wolves, so I don’t think that she is a wolf, but I did see shadows around her, but were they surrounding her because she is a witch or were they surrounding her for some other reason? “I don’t know if she is one of us, maybe she is a witch, but I could be wrong. The only reason I am saying this is because I don’t know why shadows are surrounding her. Did you get close enough at Geoffrey’s, was she staying there?”

“Yes, and I was able to get close to her room.” He snickers. I was on the balcony. He pauses.

“And…”

“It’s very strange, she had her back to me, she was on a laptop and I couldn’t see what she was writing, but she seemed rather agitated. She also appeared to have two auras around her. A brighter one very close to her being while there is a darker one floating around her essence, but not too close. I have never seen anything like it.” He shakes his head as if to dispel some thought and then his tone drops. “I never thought I would say this, but the aura surrounding her seems even brighter than the one that I see around you.”

“Did you see anything to indicate she is not human?”

“No, but then again, I couldn’t stay on the balcony long. A few moments after I got there, she rose, turned half way around, almost as if she could detect me and then she turned toward the balcony and started coming toward it. I had to leave. She stepped out on it for a moment and then returned inside and closed the drapes.” He pauses for a moment. “Mia, the shadows you saw around her, other than at Sanctuary or in the alternate realm, had you ever seen shadows like that before?” Shaking my head, he seems lost in thought again.

When I cannot stand the silence any longer, I reach across and take his hand. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure, it just seems that our world is surrounding you and the children here, more so than I have experienced in my five hundred years. I know that we have come across our own, but never in such quick succession and I feel energy building around us, but can’t really explain why. At first I thought it was just the children’s energy getting stronger, but now I am wondering if there is something more, something that we are missing.” I can feel my eyes widen and am not really sure what he is getting at. Seeming to recognize my confusion, he continues. “Mia, remember I told you that I felt a sense of familiarity with Scott.”

“Yes, but couldn’t that be because of Jonathan’s connection to him. His interactions and your pretending to be him?”

“At first, I thought so, but I have had no real connection to Jonathan Taylor, none of his memories or impressions would have imprinted upon me so that can’t be it. Then to have Anthony react as if he knew us, at first I thought it was confusion or a result of the stress, but there seems to be more going on here. Just think about how we were able to connect with Jacob that has never happened before. There seems to be some sort of shift going on and now with this new development with Ruth, you need to be careful when you are on your own. We have missed things in the past and now that we are together again and away from our family and the protections of Sanctuary, I just think that we need to be a little more vigilant and careful.”

The worry etched in his face tells me that he believes that something is going on that we are not seeing. “Are you worried that the children could be hurt if we stay?” I can’t hide the anxiety from my voice, especially considering what happened the last time we were off Sanctuary grounds.

Inhaling deeply, his response is measured. “We can’t keep them on the grounds forever, as we talked about before, eternity is long and they will want to explore the world around them. It may be that I am just nervous considering what brought you here in the first place, who was waiting for you, and then everything that the children have encountered but considering what Reginald is trying to attempt based on information from you, I think that we need to be watchful. His attempts to gain access to the netherworld could somehow open up an opportunity that they would not otherwise have.

Taking my hand, his stare turns beseeching. “Just be careful around this Ruth, I don’t want you taking any chances.” He rises. “We should get you to bed, you must be exhausted after today and I know you have an early shift.” Going back into the apartment, we check on the children once more before snuggling in the sleeping bags before the starry night sky.

Other than a spectacular snow storm which keeps the children out of school for two days, the week is fairly quiet, even at work. Ruth has not been around and Geoffrey for some unknown reason, but one for which I am very grateful, appears to be avoiding causing me grief.

Ben stopped by the hospital to thank me again and let us know that Stephanie, Brian and Laurel are all doing well. Laurel has been asking about her brother. “Although Eva is being very cautious, she did talk to Jeff who said that he seems to be doing well and may even take Anthony up a few days for Christmas.”

“Jeff did tell me that. Will you be working, spending it with your family, or are you going back up to spend it with Brian and Stephanie?”

“My wife and I were thinking about going back up. Our children are thinking of spending the day with their in-laws this year since last year they spent it with us and we are just too far apart to split the day. Gabriel said that it would be no trouble for us to come and stay for a few days and that we may even be able to take them home.”

“That’s wonderful.”

He moves in closer to me. “Mia, what you have up there is amazing. I have to admit, when I first went up there, I did it because I was afraid that despite saving them, considering who some of you are and our natural inclination toward things, I was concerned, but I am amazed. You weren’t kidding when you said that you were only trying to help.”

I laugh. “I’m not a good kidder. Besides, our kind has to stick together. Who else would tolerate us? Didn’t you say your wife is a real witch?”

Now he laughs. “Could I buy you a cup of coffee? I’m waiting for Jack to come and pick me up and I would love for you to tell me how Sanctuary came about. I never thought I would see something like that and one of your members was telling me that there are other hospitals like that in other countries. Does everyone work together there as well?”

We are in the cafeteria and I grab two coffees. “Why don’t we go back to my office. It is a little more private.”

Entering my office, we sit. “Mia, are the other places secure for our kind as well to get help or was this assistance because your children are fond of Brian?”

I shake my head. “They are there to help everyone. Although my children are fond of Brian, we would have helped regardless.” His jaw drops and he quickly tries to recover. “Ben, the people that we work with, the ones who have taken over the hospitals started by my husband’s family or have gone out to start clinics and communities of their own want to help.”

He interrupts, surprise laces his tone. “But we are natural enemies, how did you get everyone working together.”

I shake my head and smile. “I wasn’t there when they started working with witches, but we started working with the wolves when we all needed to rescue our children from other vampires.” He sinks into a chair.

“You husband’s family went after their own kind!”

I lower my voice in hopes that he will do the same. “Although my family doesn’t actively go after anyone, we do have encounters and anyone who is trying to harm others needs to be addressed. We also have some vampires who try to connect our kind with each other so that we can help one another and some wolves who actively patrol to thwart vampire attempts to kill humans.” Thankfully he is sitting because the blood appears to drain from his face.

After finally finding his voice, he leans across the desk. “Mia, could you give me a list of those facilities. Considering what I saw at Sanctuary, if the other facilities assist the way they do up there, I would love to alert some of my fellow agents, who I know scramble each time they get hurt to help one another and then cover their tracks in not getting professional medical help. The paperwork becomes very convoluted, but if they didn’t have to worry about that and could actually get help when they really need it, it would make things much easier.”

“If you come up to Sanctuary over Christmas, I’ll be sure that Catherine prints out a listing for you. She has it up there. If not, I’ll grab one while we are there and get it to you.”

“You’re going up too?”

“We thought it might be better for the children to be home for a few days.”

Just then, there’s a knock on my door. Julian opens it and I can see his surprise. “Mia, I’m sorry to disturb you, but we have a six car pile-up. Two of them were mini-buses. There are at least ten children involved and the injuries are pretty bad. They are transporting them in now. ETA is two minutes and Paul is on his way in.”

Jumping from my seat, I say a quick goodbye and follow Julian to the elevators. Eighteen hours later, I am sitting on the bench outside of OR 3 and have a feeling of déjà vu as Andrew comes to sit beside me. Opening my eyes, “We should get you home, do you need me to carry you. I have a car waiting downstairs.” He hands me a cup of coffee.

I shake my head a little too vigorously to get the image flashing through my thoughts quickly out. “Aren’t we just going to the apartment?”

“Mia, we are leaving today.” I gasp realizing it is the next day.

“Are the children back at the house?”

“Yes, we’ll pack and then head home.”

“Andrew, can you go home and pack so that I can finish the paperwork and pick me up on your way back?”

“Mia, I’d rather you log in and complete the work from your tablet.” His voice is barely a whisper and I know from his rigidness that there must be someone here, he would rather I didn’t encounter now.”

We walk down the hall, enter the elevators and are just crossing the lobby when I see Geoffrey with Ruth, talking to Dr. Meyers. Andrew quickly shuffles us out the door before they catch sight of us. “Is that why you wanted me to leave?” I inquire as we reach the parking lot.” He nods as he opens my door. “Andrew is there something that you saw that you are not telling me?”

He slips into the driver’s seat. “No, it’s just that the last time you had an encounter with someone that you felt was questionable, we both know what happened and considering all that has gone on already, I don’t want to take any unnecessary chances.”

Flashes of what led to all of this bombard my mind as emotions well within me. Despite it all, I cannot have his attention diverted considering his strange feelings with Scott and his preoccupation with achieving all that the real Jonathan Taylor desired to accomplish. Despite making great headway with Francis before our attention got diverted, I know that achieving success in this realm weighs upon his mind. “Andrew, I do not have the same feelings from Ruth that I did before and you said it yourself that the aura around her is very bright and that the shadows do not even appear to be able to pierce through.”

He shakes his head. “Mia, we both know that I have been fooled before and I am not willing to take that chance again. I will…”

Bringing my hand to his knee, I squeeze it before he can finish. “Don’t. You didn’t fail me with Daniela. No one could have foreseen what was going to happen and just think about all the lives that would have been lost if you didn’t go. Too many young people would have died, destroying families.”

“But look at what happened to you.”

“Andrew, no. That is all in our past and we need to leave it there. You were right, we are stronger and our family is more resilient because of everything we have gone through, the same way your family persevered when darkness tried to impair you.”

I see his eyes narrow and know he disagrees. “Mia, did we really persevere or did we hide up there only helping a fraction of those who needed our help while failing to learn all that we should about our powers and those who try to claim the lives and souls on this plane. We should have been more vigilant, we should have saved more, and we should have reached out to more.”

“Andrew, stop, you have done wonderful work.”

He interrupts. “But Mia considering how long we have been here, we could have done so much more.”

“Stop. You can’t save everyone and you are doing remarkable things for those you have touched. Just look at all of the hospitals which have formed over the last ten years because of the work you started. We have an eternity and our friends grow every day. We touch more lives than you realize.” My voice is a little angrier than I intend.

He shakes his head as if trying to rid himself of some thought. “I’m sorry, you’re right. We still have a long way to go.” He forces a smile on his lips and falls silent for the remainder of the ride entrenched in thought.

Entering the house, the children are packed and waiting downstairs. I laugh when I see Andrew’s and my bag already at the door with the others. “I hope you packed me something good.” I tease Nicole as she comes over to hug me.

“We did. Alexander has eaten and is changed and all we have to do is load the bus and go home.” Her tone reflects her elation at the thought. “Do you think they have decorated the tree already?”

I can see Andrew’s smile in my peripheral vision. “They saved the biggest for you.”

Loading the bus, we get underway. The children are all chatting happily, but I can’t seem to tear my eyes from Anthony and the way he stares at us as if trying to bore into our very thoughts. I can see Christian trying to draw his attention and although Anthony responds, his eyes never shift from Andrew and I. As the miles pass, I can see his features shift between skeptical and angry. I rise and am about to go over to him and see if I can speak with him, but Alexander begins to cry and as if Andrew knows my intention, he puts his hand on my shoulder and shakes his head. I sit with Alexander and can see Andrew shift in his seat so as to block Anthony’s view of us and he seems to be concentrating, possibly on the now extremely hushed conversation that I can no longer hear between Christian and Anthony.

As we reach the higher elevations, snow blankets the wonderful pine trees and surrounding roads. Andrew takes over the driving from Grant, probably because he is more familiar with the twist and turns that we are traveling through. An hour later, we are pulling through the gate. The children jump out, hug Eva and Jackson who are waiting for us, grab their bags and head to the residency. I can hear Anthony tell Christian that he is anxious to see Laurel and Jeff interjects. “Just give me a moment, I know that everything seems fine, but we did agree that you would always have one of us with you while visiting in case there are any unforeseen residuary effects. Why don’t we get you settled, give me a moment to get my family settled and then we will go and see her.”





Chapter Six - Return To Sanctuary And A New Puzzle





“Is she really doing better?” His voice sounds anxious.

“Anthony she is doing much better. We wouldn’t lie to you and then take you up here to be ambushed.”

I hear him sigh and catch his skeptical look. Christian moves close to him again and says something I cannot hear, but from Andrew’s look, I know he did.

Lingering near the bus, I can feel my trepidation. I know that Eva told the patients that when we had trouble those who were on the grounds made it appear as though I had been murdered, but still, knowing how much over the years some of them have put together and how long I haven’t been here or been practicing psychiatry, I hope that they do not have any questions. Andrew liens closer to me and whispers in my ear as Eva releases me. “Everything will be fine. Everyone up here loves you.”

Jackson chimes in. “He’s right. You have nothing to worry about.” He takes Alexander from me. “And how are you young man?”

Walking back to the residency, I can see lights sparkling in the windows and the courtyard decorated for the season, it takes my breath away. Entering, the children are already downstairs with Francis and Catherine decorating the tree. Jackson and Eva join them as Gabriel follows us upstairs so we can drop off our bags.

As I exit our bedroom I hear Gabriel asking Andrew why Anthony thinks he knows us and why he is so distrustful of us. “What did you detect and do you know what went on when he left here suddenly?” I inquire standing next to Andrew.

“Just now, he wanted to see Laurel because if she is well enough, he wants to move her and get her home. He is very concerned about her being here, especially now that you and Andrew are here. He sees you as a threat to her. Despite being comfortable and trusting Jeff and his pack, he is worried for them as well. He is concerned that we may have somehow duped them into complacency, waiting to set them up for something. He has warned Christian about this more than once and despite Christian’s reassurances, he seems to want to get his family off the land before trying to convince them again.”

I’m stunned by the amount of information that he got from Anthony in such a short period of time. “Do you know what happened when he was first up here?”

He hesitates and his eyes shift to Andrew but then quickly back to me. “Gabriel, don’t. You and I have known each other far too long and have been through too much to go back to this game. Please tell me what you know.”

Inhaling deeply, I can see concern in his eyes. “Mia, I don’t know what this means and honestly it doesn’t make any sense, but in the brief encounter that I had with him when he was here, he couldn’t take his mind off of you and Andrew, despite everything that was going on with his daughter and despite Renee trying to convince him otherwise.”

Andrew interjects. “Gabriel, you don’t have to stall, tell us what you know.”

“Images kept flashing though his mind of Mia falling deep into a fiery gorge with you jumping to the edge but missing your mark and tumbling in after her. Then a picture of him, as a young boy, clinging to some type of ancient pillar as the world shook around him and Mia yelling to him to get to safety seemed to be flashing through his head. He kept repeating to himself that you were gone and that this had to be some sort of deception to get hold of him again. Truthfully, the only reason he came up this evening with you was to observe and to get his family out. He was bracing for an ambush the minute he came through our gates and was shocked that it did not occur. I know he is wondering if it is because of Jeff’s men and because there is some bigger picture he is missing.”

“But how could he think we were from some ancient time. Are you sure that it was me and not just Andrew on some encounter you had somewhere.”

Gabriel nods. “It’s your face he sees. I only saw the back of Andrew’s head.”

“It makes no sense.” I mutter more to myself as Jacob comes through the door.

“It may not make any sense, but that is what he believes he saw a long time ago and mom, the person falling looked exactly like you.” Three stunned faces all turn to gape at him.

“How do you know this?” Gabriel seems to recover the ability to speak first.

“I saw flashes of it just before he stormed out of the house.”

I move closer to him. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Everything started to move so quickly, none of it was making any sense and…” His voice reflects the worry and concern in his eyes.

“Jacob you know that you can tell us anything right?” I ask knowing that he probably didn’t tell us about what he saw because he has been so worried.

“I know, Julianne said the same thing.” Although I’m happy that he spoke to someone, I don’t want him hiding things from us thinking that we can’t help him because of other things that are going on. “Honey, I’m glad that you told someone, but next time, come to us too so that we are all on the same page.” His eyes shift to the ground and Andrew comes beside him.

“Jacob, we aren’t mad, so don’t worry, it’s just that we all need to work together, especially when there are things that are somewhat inexplicable.”

“I promise. I’ll come to you next time.” He relaxes and takes my hand. “Are you going to come down and help us decorate?” I nod and follow him down. Gabriel and Andrew stay in the room a few more minutes before he joins us and I see Gabriel slip out the door.

After completing the decorations, enjoying hot cocoa by the fire and the children telling their aunts and uncles all about the goings on they encountered while in New York, we finally get everyone to sleep. Now that I can move about our home, I have a nagging need to go see the nursery and have some quiet time. “Would you mind staying here with the children while I take a walk around? I won’t be long.”

Concern immediately flares in Andrew’s eyes. “Is something wrong?”

I smile hoping he’ll relax. “Everything’s fine. I just haven’t been home in so long, not really, and I would like to take a walk around, especially at this time of the year.

“You’re not leaving the courtyard area, are you?”

Despite there being no sign of William and the others since the attack, I know immediately what is flowing through his mind. “No, I just thought that I’d take a walk to the nursery.”

A smile plays on his lips before he kisses my forehead. “I understand. When you come back, maybe we could sit before the fire and enjoy some quality time.” He smiles widely and his eyes are alight with sincerity and love. I can’t believe how blessed I am after everything I have put him through, he still loves me so.

Stretching to kiss him, “I won’t be long.”

Stepping outside, the grounds are breathtaking as soft lights twinkle in the snow covered trees. The air is crisp and the newly falling snowflakes swirl around me like a hug from an old friend, welcoming me home. Walking down the path, the peace of my refuge is shattered by the hushed shouting of Anthony and Renee. They are behind the shrubs lining the psychiatric building and I can hear Anthony pleading with Renee to leave with him tonight.

“I’m telling you that you are wrong about whatever you believe they are doing. Dr. St. Cloud has done more for Laurel in a few days than all the doctors who have treated her over the years and the children here have come into her room since she regained consciousness, have made her feel welcome and as though she has somewhere that she belongs. She is comfortable here. This may be a good time for her to know everything and maybe this would be a good place to do it. She seems very comfortable and even happy here.”

“It has to be some kind of a trick. It is not possible that they survived. Renee, I told you what came for me after they were gone. If it wasn’t for Charles who turned me, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have survived. What if this is a trick, what if it somehow has come back for me or worse yet, Laurel?”

I move closer trying not to make a sound. “Anthony, I think that you’re wrong. Maybe it is only a coincidence that they look like them. I have been here and I’m telling you that you would be absolutely astonished at what they have going here. I have met so many children from all walks of our realm and adults who genuinely care about each other and work together. I never thought I would see the day when wolves, witches and vampires weren’t trying to kill each other, but here, some are even married to each other. They have children together. I’m telling you that they are not to be feared. Please just think about it. You could harm Laurel more by taking her from this place. You know the one who was involved in the accident did not mean to cause her harm. He has been calling his aunt every day checking on Laurel. I’m telling you he is genuinely concerned for her and so are the people up here. His being involved in the accident, even though it was not his fault may be the best thing that could have happened to Laurel because I’m telling you, she has changed and for the better.”

“I have to admit that when they let me see her, she did seem happy and the color has returned to her cheeks.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m doing better. I know now though why Charles attacked, the hallucinogens caused such violent images to run through my head that I realize now he probably thought that we were trying to harm him and only attacked in defense of what he thought was going on. If it wasn’t for Christian and his men, I don’t think that I would be here right now. Not only did I try to hurt them, but they saved me from hurting myself.”

“This is what I’m talking about. They don’t really know us, yet look at how much help they are being. Anthony, please give it a few days for your daughter’s sake. I know that they are watching you afraid that something may flare but if it will make you feel better, I will stay with Laurel 24/7, no harm is going to come to her here, not from them. I know it, I can just feel it. I’ll go stay with her now and give you a chance to think on it.”

Ducking behind one of the trees as she renters the building, I decide that maybe, this would be a good time to approach Anthony so as he emerges, so do I. His eyes widen as he catches sight of me and he freezes instantly. Carefully and slowly, I approach him. “Anthony can we talk?”

Walking slowly towards him, he steps back when there is only ten feet between us. “I won’t let you attach to me again!” His anger is palpable.

“I’m not trying to do anything but talk to you. I would like to find out why you think my husband and I are trying to harm your family. Whoever or whatever you are confusing us with, I can assure you, we don’t want to hurt you.”

He takes another step back. “You’re lying. There is no other reason for you to appear to be..” He barrels over, grasps his abdomen, and begins to vomit. Moving closer, he forces his head up and holds his hand out. “Stay away from me.”

Moving away from him and into the psychiatric building, I grab a bottle of water and return outside. Moving toward him, his stomach is still contracting, but he is now suffering from dry heaves. “Anthony, I am just going to put this close to you. It’s a sealed bottle and then I will back away immediately.” He drags his head up once more and eyes me carefully, straining to keep his head raised. I put the bottle just in front of him and back away immediately. Picking it up, I see him examining the bottle. Opening it carefully, he cocks his head to one side with his ear at the cover. He listens as each of the plastic ties breaks and then quickly takes a sip. After a few more, he manages to straighten himself up and I can see his surprise that I have stayed stock still allowing the snow to fall upon my head and shoulders, immobile.

“Why are you doing this? I won’t let you control me again. Once I repelled you and sent you back, she told me I could keep you out of my head.” His hand moves to his chest and I can see him grasp something hidden under his clothing. His shoulders slump slightly as his body relaxes. Straightening out, his eyes turn cold. “I won’t let you take hold of me again. I don’t care who you shroud yourself in, I won’t let you hurt my family. I am much stronger now and have the most important reason in the world to defeat you.”

Knowing he means Laurel, I try to use this to connect with him. “I would never hurt you or your daughter.” His eyes widen and I know he is surprised that I am aware of his secret. “I know what it’s like to fear for your children and want to fight to keep them safe from harm, to protect them at any cost.”

His eyes soften, but then he shakes his head as if trying to rid himself of an errant thought. He mumbles to himself. “It’s not her. Don’t get confounded.” He inhales deeply. “I don’t know how you got hold of my connection to who you are pretending to be or how you got help, but just because you have connected with people here who have somehow convinced Renee that they are helping Laurel, it doesn’t mean that you will fool me.”

I can’t understand his antagonism or who he thinks we are, but I need to dispel this, for his sake and for Laurels. The snow is falling harder and his face appears ashen as he struggles to remain upright. “Anthony, I was just going to go to the nursery. Would you come with me out of the snow and talk just for a few minutes, please. I promise not to come near you.” He stares at me, I don’t know whether it is disbelief that I would have the gall to ask him to come with me or if he is considering what I am asking, so I try again. “Anthony, you have spent the last week with people who trust us, a man who knew me years ago and trusts me, trusts us enough to have his own children stay with us. Considering what a vulnerable state you were in, you have to realize that if we wanted to hurt you we would have done it then. No one has tried to hurt you or Laurel. You heard Renee, your daughter is better. Please all I’m asking is for you to come inside and enlighten me as to who you think I am and why you would think that I would want to hurt you.”

“You move and I’ll follow as long as you keep your distance.” The trepidation in his voice is obvious.

Moving slowly down the pathway, he follows at a distance. Entering the nursery, the warmth blankets me immediately, warming my cool skin as the sweet scent of the herbs fills my nostrils conjuring wonderful memories and healing my still guilt ravaged soul. Immediately pulling myself to the here and now, I move inside enough to give Anthony room to come in while maintaining a comfortable distance between us. Stepping inside, he does not move to a bench, but instead, remains near the door, supporting himself against it, with his hand remaining on the handle as his eyes quickly scan the room, probably to determine if we are alone.

As his gaze returns to me, I try to reason with him. I implore him to talk to me. “Would you tell me who you think that my husband and I are pretending to be?”

He continues staring at me as if weighing my inquiry. Suddenly, his voice is swimming in my head. “If they are pretending to be them, obviously they chose them to get into my head and know who they are. Maybe this isn’t a trick. Could it be a coincidence? Could she have somehow survived? No, if she survived, she would have moved heaven and earth to find you.” He shakes his head. “You know they couldn’t survive that disaster. You saw her fall, not even the wolf could have saved her. But he is a vampire, did one of them save him, but then how is she here. She isn’t one of us and she isn’t one of them. It has to be a trick. It has to be back, it said it would return and finish, maybe she was wrong and nothing can protect me.” He stares at me. “Yet it hasn’t moved against you, the wolves did help, and Christian and Jeff do claim to trust them.” He opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again, yet he remains mute.

Fighting through the shock of being able to hear his internal struggle, I try to gauge my voice. Despite his thoughts, I am no closer to learning who he thinks I am. “Please just talk to me. What harm could telling me do? You already don’t trust me and it is not as if telling me will give me any power over you or make you suddenly trust who I am.”

“Despite your claiming to be a doctor at Mercy and this Mia person, you and your husband bear a remarkable resemblance to Lucinda and Angelicus.” His tone is clipped and angry.

“Maybe we just have similar features. I have never had or used a name other than Mia.”

He shakes his head. “Just because you are claiming a different name now, why would you cross my path looking like her and why would your supposed husband look like him. One of you having similar features, maybe, but you two haven’t changed for centuries and your features are identical. That isn’t possible, not for both of you. That’s why you have to be pretending, but you won’t confuse me and I won’t become complacent and allow you to attach to me again. I won’t do your bidding. I won’t hurt people again.”

“I don’t want you to hurt anyone.” I hold my hands palm up and make no movement toward him. “The men with us who saved you from Peter’s men did so to help you not so that someone would come and hurt you. The people you have encountered, the people up here, have dedicated their existences to helping those who don’t want to be impaired by the darkness. I know you have no reason to believe me, but I know what it is like to feel helpless, to feel as if the darkness is trying to grab hold of you and not let you go, my husband felt like that for centuries, and although I am not as old as he is and have only been familiar with this realm for a little over a decade, I have encountered the same feeling on a few occasions when demons have tried to grab hold of me.” I can feel the fear anew of the struggles that we have endured, the fear for my children when they were in danger and the thoughts of the darkness grabbing hold of him. As the images of this flash through my mind, his stare becomes more intense, he stumbles back and opens the door causing a burst of cold air to shoot through the small space between us. Quickly he rights himself, closes the door, and as his eyes once again meet mine, his thoughts become one with my own.

“What the h…was that? How did I see that? Is it possible it is getting into my head once again or are those visions real? Can it be? I don’t understand any of this.” His hands shoot up grasping his temples and then one moves to whatever is hanging around his neck.

I chance speaking to him, knowing what flashed through his mind as it echoes back through my own, but surprised that he could somehow connect to me. “What you saw was real, somewhat. The first image was more of a different realm experience, when the darkness tried to get hold of me through trickery, so I do understand how you feel, fearing that I am some sort of trick to control you.” His hand moves the handle and I wonder if he is about to bolt. I try to keep him inside as I sense someone approaching. Considering how long he has been out of sight it is probably a wolf trying to assure nothing is going on with him. “Please open the door slowly, one of the wolves is approaching probably looking for you.”

Opening the door, Jeff steps in. He eyes Anthony and then turns to me. “Is everything alright?” The concern in his voice is evident and I know that he fears because of our positioning, space, and my hands held forward, palms up that Anthony has cornered me here.

“Everything is fine, we were just talking. I thought that if we talked, maybe I could clear up any misconceptions he has of me and he would be willing to stay and allow Laurel to stay for a while to continue receiving help from Eva.”

He nods but makes no move to leave. “Jeff, it’s alright really, I was just trying to find out who Anthony thinks I am. I invited him in here because of the weather. You can go, we won’t be long.”

“Would you like me to wait outside and walk back with you?”

I shake my head. “I’m sure that everything will be fine here. Go and spend some time with Sarah, she’s missed you.”

He eyes us one more time before Anthony opens the door and he is gone.

I can see Anthony is still stunned at what he saw and quite frankly, I’m stunned that he could see it and how I am aware of this, but I need to stay focused on the misconception at hand. “Anthony, please who do you think I am pretending to be, who are Lucinda and Angelicus to you?”

“My…” As he says this, the door flies open, he is pushed off balance falling against a small apple tree as shadows quickly swirl around us creating a vortex. Plants are flying everywhere and I gasp as Jeff follows quickly inside, but cannot seem to get past the whirlwind. They move closer to Anthony who is still on the ground, struggling to get up and coughing as dirt catches in his open mouth. Not knowing what their intent is or how much power they have, I hurl myself at him, hoping to somehow get between him and the shadow who now has his talons outstretched toward Anthony. As I turn, I feel a strange sense that I have seen them before and that they are not just random shadows. I can’t believe that I realize the shadows resemble those around Ruth at the hospital. How can this be and how do I know this? Instinctively, I curve my body, throwing my hands out in front of me and instantly, the shadows are thrown back. My mouth drops open and Jeff jumps in front of me as the shadows come toward us again. Pushing him aside so that I can get to my feet and get in front of him, I thrust my hands out again and this time three are tossed as far as the rafters, but the other two somehow grab hold of my arms, lifting me off the ground. I try to free myself, shocked that they could even grab hold of me, I thought that wasn’t possible. Lifting me into the air, one of the ones I sent flying comes at me, pushes through me, swipes at my back before somehow thrusting me forward. Bashing into the nursery wall, I fall like a lead weight, slamming into the floor. Quickly, they descend upon Anthony, tossing Jeff aside and begin lifting him. Struggling, I scramble onto my hands and knees. They barely have him off the ground. I thrust my arms forward again, shocked that they drop him and are thrust through the nursery wall before disappearing. Quickly looking up for the other three, they are gone and all is quiet. Sitting back on my heels, I can see their stunned features which probably match my own. Jeff moves toward me.

“Are you alright?” I’m sore, but nod. As I rub my back, I feel wetness. I must have hit some watered plants when I hit the floor. Pushing off the ground, I try to rise, and Jeff helps me to my feet, but I hear him gasp. I turn about to ask him what’s wrong, but the door flies open again. Anthony, Jeff and I turn quickly, each ready for a return fight, but it’s Andrew who enters.

Assessing the mess, his tone reflects his concern. “What happened? Are you alright?” Walking toward me, his eyes never leave Anthony’s and I realize what he is thinking.

Grabbing his arm, both for support and so that he won’t do anything foolish, I implore him to look at me. “Andrew, it wasn’t him. We had visitors.” As the words leave my lips, his face whips toward mine.

“What type of visitors?”

“Shadows, the ones who were surrounding Ruth.”

His eyes register his shock. “How do you know?”

“I somehow recognized them.” My words are still a little breathless as he scoops me in his arms and looks at my back.

“Mia, you’re bleeding.”

“She was thrown against a wall” Jeff’s quick reply causes Andrew to turn with me in his arms, but again his eyes shoot over to Anthony.

“Andrew, it was the shadows. They lifted me and threw me.”

“How is that possible? They can’t do that? Mia, you’re not bleeding from hitting the wall, you have scratch marks on your back.”

I gasp. “They can and they did.” Anthony chimes in. “Are you alright?” His voice sounds genuinely concerned.

“He must have scratched me, but how?” I can see Andrew’s skepticism as I wriggle out of his arms and place my feet back on the floor. Pain lances through me, but I fight to ignore it. Supporting me with one hand, I can feel the other quickly sweeping my back to close the lacerations. As my eyes meet Anthony’s I can see genuine concern and try to seize the opportunity to speak with him. “I’m fine. Are you alright?”

“I’m unharmed thanks to you. Why would you step in front of me like that?”

“I didn’t want you to get hurt.” I can tell my response surprises him.

Andrew interrupts. “Do we know what they wanted?” Pausing a moment, I think about the timing of their arrival and then my eyes shoot back to Anthony. “Who do you think we are? Please you need to tell me.”

Without hesitation he replies. “You are dead ringers for my dead parents.”

Andrew’s embrace turns rigid telling me that he is as shocked at this response as I am. Out of everything I expected him to say, this truly throws me. All sorts of thoughts permeate my medulla oblongata and I wonder if he is referring to my time in New York, but that could not be possible. I wasn’t there long enough to have an adult child and Cassandra told me that although Alex was real, he didn’t have a wife, nor does Andrew look anything like him. After what seems like an eternity, I finally find my ability to speak. “When did your parent’s die?”

“They died during the eruption at Pompeii.”

Andrew’s muscles tighten even more as my jaw involuntarily drops, feeling as if it hit the floor. Thankfully Jeff fills the silent chasm which blankets the nursery. “Anthony, neither one of them has been around that long. Maybe they have some similar features to your parents and considering the time span you got confused.” His voice doesn’t quite hold the conviction of his words.

Anthony shakes his head. “They don’t just look similar; they are identical, down to the flecks in his eyes. Believe me I have their images burned into my memory, especially considering, I watched as my mother peeled my fingers from her wrist to save me and how my father leapt in to try to save her. If they only looked similar, that would be one thing, if it was only one of them, but both, if it’s not a trick to get back in control of me, you explain it.” His voice is accusatory, but I can see the doubt flash in his eyes as they shift to me.

“I can’t but I can tell you that it’s not possible, Andrew hasn’t even been around that long.”

I shrug out of Andrew’s embrace, but immediately fall forward. Anthony steps forward and catches me. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. I must have just hurt my ankle.”

Andrew lifts me and takes me over to the bench. Removing my boot, my ankle is swelled. “We better take care of this.” He lifts me again and we all go outside. “Jeff can you let Gabriel know I need to see him about our visitors and ask him to have someone stay in our suite until we get there.”

“Sure. He and Anthony head in the direction of Laurel’s room, but I can see Anthony staring at my bloodied back and shaking his head as Andrew turns and moves toward the terminal building.

“Maybe we should go back to the suite, considering what just happened.” I mutter into his neck as I rest my head on his shoulder, really feeling the pain radiating through my extremities from the fall.

“No, I need to get an x-ray of your ankle and check you out. If they wanted to come at the rest of us, I’m sure that we would have heard something by now. Whatever business they had here seems to be attached to you or maybe you were correct in your assertion that they trying to stop Anthony from talking to you. Why though I’m not sure.” After a thorough examination, he begins to heal my ankle, raps it as a precaution and we head back toward our room.

Gabriel is sitting on the couch before his computer and raises his head as we enter. “It seems you had quite an interesting evening.”

“We have been having a lot of those.” I try to sound amused, but can feel the tension creeping back into all of us.

Andrew places me gently on the loveseat and sits beside me.

“Mia, how did you recognize the shadows? They are usually very non-descript. We have come across quite a few in our day and never would I be able to tell them apart.” As Gabriel says this, their images flash through my mind and he nods, probably seeing them as well.

“Do we know if there have been recorded cases of wolves who can see or detect like you?”

He shakes his head. “Although, if you ever said that the shadows would be able to physically lift someone and hurl them against a wall, I would have told you that was impossible too. Our understanding is that they are only able to exert energy toward someone at most, I tried to see if there were cases of what Jeff described to me and there haven’t been, at least not as far as Reginald has recorded.” For the first time, I notice the phone lying next to the computer.

He rises. “Mia, you look spent, maybe you should get some rest and we can hash this out in the morning. I know that Jeff said that he made Anthony go rest after checking on Laurel. I’m sure that everything will be fine here tonight. We’ll keep a watchful eye and Rachel and some of the others are working on some spells to cloak the grounds.

The length of the day is taking hold of me and I feel world weary. Andrew is already lifting me before Gabriel is even out the door. He whispers in my ear. “You need your rest. After helping me shower and change, I snuggle into his arms and drift into a restless sleep.

The air around me is heavy and the sky is dark, showing what at first I think is snow around me, but as my hand reaches for a flake, I realize it is not snow at all, but ash. For the first time, I feel the ground shake beneath my feet. As the realization of what is occurring finally touches my mind, I run toward a group of houses, their columns disintegrating before my eyes as the roofs collapse causing screams to echo in the wind. Pushing myself up as I stumble once again, I finally manage to stay upright as I reach the first pile of rubble. Climbing over it to get to my home, I see the crushed skull of Beth and can’t help but choke as I gasp, breathing in the heavy air around me. Knowing there is nothing I can do for her, I move quickly past, desperate to see if my house is still standing and the condition of my family. Finally, I see our home, it is under a cloud of dust, but only half of it has collapsed. Hoisting myself over the last of the rubble, I can see a young boy, hanging on to the front column as the ground around him opens up. Hurling myself forward, I reach the landing and grab his hand, pulling him forward. Embracing him for a second, I begin pulling us past the now opened sinkhole. Near the side of the house which is somehow still standing, I grasp his arms. “Where is your sister and father? Were they in the house?” He shakes his tear stained face. “Mary is with Rebecca and dad didn’t come home from the fields.” Hearing another roar of the volcano, the last of our home’s columns collapse as resounding screams are all around us. We have to move. We have to get to Mary. Rebecca’s house is about one-half mile away and if the lava flows…Can we get far enough away to high ground to survive. Pulling him behind me over the rubble, he freezes. Turning, there are two dead bodies below. “Look just at me, we have to move!”

Tearing his eyes from those below, he begins moving again. I hear my name. Scanning through the thick clouds of dust, Andrew is running wildly toward us. As we cross to him, the ground rumbles and shakes. There is no ground below my feet and I’m surprised that I have not fallen into the fiery gorge below. Anthony is holding on to the remnants of a column with one hand and is grasping my wrist with his other, but as reason returns to me, I see his hand slipping, I am going to drag him into the abyss. Grasping his hand, I begin peeling back his fingers from my wrist as Andrew is yelling to hold on. Anthony desperately tries to hold on, but as I pry some fingers free, his now sweaty palm slips over my fingers and it is gone. “Get to safe ground.”

In my room, Andrew’s arms are grasping mine as I meet his concerned eyes. “I’m sorry for shaking you, but you were having a nightmare.”

My heart is pounding out of control, pushing heated blood through my veins, I’m sweating and coughing and my throat feels dry as if it was actually breathing in the air I dreamed of. Andrew rises, returning with a glass which I drink down quickly. Sitting beside me, his voice is low. “What were you dreaming of?”

“I could see us at Pompeii with Anthony, but he was a young boy. Andrew I felt as if I was actually there, it’s so strange but I dreamt of it in detail. The detail and clarity reminded me of when I dreamt of …”

“What’s wrong?”

“We were searching for his sister, Mary.” Knowing that he did not mention a sister, but did say something about someone coming for Mary to Renee, I wonder if it is possible and if I am somehow seeing a past event like I did when I was in Italy all those years ago. Admittedly, I have seen history after that, but only a handful of times have I seen such detail. How is it possible? Why would this happen now? I shake my head wishing that I had answers. Could I be dreaming about this because I was close to him earlier and because I tried to protect him? Maybe I projected myself and Andrew into the dream because that is what Jacob and Gabriel said they saw, but then again, they would only see what Anthony sees, what if I can somehow break through his misperception to the truth, to see what the individuals really looked like.

“What are you thinking?” Andrew’s soft touch pulls me from my introspection.

“I just wish Anthony was up and that I could touch him. I wonder if I am projecting us into his dreams because he said that we looked like his parents and Gabriel and Jacob saw the images Anthony was projecting. Maybe if I dispel that thought and could touch him, I could see what his parents actually looked like.”

“Mia, I know that you anxious, but Jeff did tell him to rest and considering what happened to you today and what he has been dealing with, maybe we should do that in a few hours when he is awake.”

Rising, despite the night, my anxious heart tells me that I will not fall back to sleep. Moving amongst the children’s rooms, they are all sleeping with peaceful, contented looks playing upon their beautiful faces. Going into the kitchen, I prepare a cup of tea and when I turn around, Andrew gently stokes my cheek. “I smell the scent of a holly-berry fire downstairs maybe that will relax you.” Following him downstairs, we see Eva and Jackson cozy by the couch. They rise, but I motion for them to stay. “We were just retiring, enjoy the fire.” Jackson smirks as they ascend the stairs.

I haven’t been here in so long, I am about to sit, when I notice a beautiful picture of the lake and the new willow tree. Going over to stroke the canvass, I can see William before the lake sketching it as the children lay flowers in the water. My breath hitches as I see their saddened faces. Tears spring to my eyes. I caused them so much pain. Andrew gently wipes a tear from my cheek as he reaches for my hand to remove it from the canvas, probably realizing what I am seeing. Leading me to the couch, his tone is filled with understanding. “Don’t, they are truly happy now and we are blessed.” He pulls me into an embrace and gently kisses my temple. Closing my eyes, I try to wipe the vision from my mind, not wanting to cause him more concern or pain.

Trailing soft, gentle kisses from my temple, along my jawline, to the corner of my mouth, he claims my lips, kissing me passionately as he pulls me toward him. Soon we are lost in each other.

The next morning, the children wake early. After their breakfast, they serve the patients and then join the other children for a snowball fight. As they enjoy themselves, I go over to the psychiatric building in hopes of seeing some of the patients who were asking about me when they saw the children and in hopes of running into Anthony who is with Christian, visiting Laurel.

After speaking with John and William for several moments, I catch site of Anthony, Christian and Renee leaving Laurel’s room as Eva enters. Waiting for them to move closer, I excuse myself and walk over to them. “Anthony, could I talk to you for a moment downstairs?”

He stops short, opens his mouth to reply, but before anything is said, Renee gently strokes his arm and his features soften. “I guess so.” I can hear the uncertainty in his tone and am now nervous about how to voice my request, knowing that I cannot just reach out and touch him. He turns to Renee. “Why don’t you stay here and then you can stay with Laurel once Dr. Angelis comes out.” Hearing the worry in his tone, she immediately turns and heads to the chair just outside the doorway as he follows me downstairs.

Moving to a more remote corner of the room, hoping that no patients will come over and interrupt us, but not wanting to remove him from the building in fear of causing him more concern, I sit and begin speaking, deciding that maybe the best approach is to be honest with him, anything less, will only cause him to distrust us more.

“How are you feeling this morning?” He inquires, innate politeness taking over, but I can see the questioning in his eyes as to why he agreed to speak with me.

“I’m feeling fine. How are you and Laurel this morning?”

“She is doing very well.” I hear the edge in his voice.

“Anthony, please, you don’t have to be concerned, nor do you have to run with your daughter. No one here is trying to harm her or you. I know that you don’t believe me, but I’m sure that Renee has seen enough to reassure you that all we want to do is help her and I know you trust Christian and Jeff. They are not lying to you when they tell you that we only want to help.” His features waiver and I see his uncertainty. Hoping my actions last night have weakened his distrustful resolve, I push forward. “Anthony, I know that you don’t trust me, but I have no reason to harm you. I know how bad encounters with the dark forces can be and from the sounds of your discussion with Renee last night, it sounds as if some such encounter took someone very close to you. Was Mary your sister.”

His eyes widen immediately and his features freeze, telling me that I am correct. I must have been seeing a past event in my dreams. Now the only question that remains is what his parents really looked like. “Anthony, I know that this may sound very unusual, but sometimes, I am able to see things that people have experienced in their past when I touch them or touch an object close to them that relate to the past event.” His eye widen as his body turns rigid. “When I do this, I can see things that they may have missed or didn’t even realize they saw. I was wondering if you would let me touch your hand as you thought about your mother and father so that I could see what they looked like.” He is on his feet before the words even sink in.

“I knew it was a trick. How could I have been so stupid? Last night, I couldn’t help but doubt it, but now…He moves quickly past me, flying up the stairs. Before I even get to the top, I can hear the commotion from Laurel’s room. It was too soon to be honest with him. Why did I try? Now he is arguing with Eva to take Laurel out. What more could I do to cause my family trouble? As the door opens, I can see Jacob rising from the edge of Laurel’s bed, moving quickly between an arguing Laurel, Renee and Anthony. He appears hesitant and I know that he is afraid to leave in case Anthony loses control. I hesitate knowing that my entrance will only escalate the turmoil which Eva is trying to quell. Gabriel is coming down the hallway and as he comes toward me, I know what happened registers with him. He quickly moves past and whispers something to Jacob who retreats to just outside the room with me.

From the sounds of the argument, Laurel and Renee want to stay, but Anthony is becoming more unreasonable by the second. Jacob steps into the archway. “Sir, please your scaring Laurel, she’s been scared enough.”

Seven little words seem to stop him in his tracks and I watch as reason returns to his eyes and he moves to his daughter, embracing her. His shoulders slump as the tension dissipates and I hear him whisper. “I’m sorry”

Leaning back, her face is wrought with concern. “Anthony please, let mom and I stay, they are helping me and the children here are really nice. I want to stay, this is the first place I have felt good in a long time, the first place I have felt safe in since what happened with dad.”

Jacob hesitates, but moves forward slightly. “No one here wants to hurt your family. You have seen all of the children around here. All the families who live here and the patients my mom, dad and family take care of. Do you really think that this is all a lie to get to you? Why would you think that they want to hurt you? My parents have never wanted to hurt anyone. We know what it is like to get hurt and have bad things happen and we wouldn’t want to do that to anyone. Please, my mom didn’t mean to make you upset, she was only trying to help, get some answers, especially after what happened last night.”

I can’t help but gasp. He turns slightly and I can tell from his features that he saw what happened, but immediately redirects his attention back to Anthony, who is still holding on to Laurel as she continues pleading with him.

A cold set of hands on my back makes me jump. “What happened?”

“Oh Andrew, I tried to talk to Anthony he stormed off insisting that Renee and Laurel leave.”

“What is Jacob doing in there?”

“He was visiting with Laurel when Anthony burst through and he seems to be the only one that Anthony is not arguing with.”

Christian is now just outside the door.

Jacob’s voice is pleading. “Please I can’t tell you how bad I felt when I fell into Laurel and caused her to lose consciousness, but now, I’m glad that I did.” Jacob hesitates when he sees Anthony’s shocked expression. “I know that it is going to take her some time, but I can see that she is feeling better now. The other kids told me that she is talking to them and not just hiding and wishing she would disappear like in the other school. At least now, the images in her head aren’t always of the negative retorts and being treated so badly that she was falling into a hole that she couldn’t escape from.”

Anthony’s body whips around to Jacob, if Renee hadn’t stepped in, Laurel would have fallen. “What do you mean her images? Have you been in her head?” His panicked voice and his stepping toward Jacob causes Jacob to step back with his hands up as Gabriel jumps in front of him.

Laurel and Renee each grab at Anthony as a snarl rips up his throat. “Stop” Laurel screams.

Andrew is next to Gabriel as I enter the archway. Jacob inches his way around both of them. I am about to grab his arm, when he glances quickly at me and shakes his head. “I didn’t’ mean to see the images, it happened when I was pushed into her. I didn’t do anything to her. It’s more as if the images jump from her into my head, not my going into her head. I can’t really explain it, but I could see events that happened in her life that made her feel very badly about herself and …” He stops as Laurel gasps.

“Does that mean you can see what’s in my head now?” Her voice cracks and Jacob tentatively moves closer so that she can see him past Anthony.

He shakes his head. “It’s not like that. It’s hard to explain and I don’t really know how it works, but it doesn’t always happen and when the visions are over that’s it. But it only happened twice, first when I was knocked into you and then the first time I visited you and you shook my hand.” He is completely guileless in explaining to Laurel, even Anthony doesn’t interrupt and I can see him assessing the information. I’m surprised as Jacob moves closer to Laurel that Anthony does not stop him. He sits down on the chair once occupied by Renee so that he and Laurel are eye to eye. “I wasn’t trying to invade your privacy, but in some ways I’m really glad that it happened because otherwise you wouldn’t be here getting help and feeling better. I’m sorry for what happened to you, but Brian really does like you. He wants to help you and be your friend. He knows what they say and it doesn’t matter, especially when they are trying to drag you down. Don’t let them. You have to remember that you are strong. I know what happened in your life was really bad and you can’t wipe the visions of Charles coming after you, but you survived and he didn’t mean it. What that Peter and the others did to him made him act that way, not you, not your family. I’m sure that he loved you very much. Use the bad things that happened in your life that you survived to reassure you that you are strong, I do. Let my aunt help you, she is really good.” He smiles widely as she nods. “I’ll let you talk.”

He rises and turns to Anthony. “I know that you think the people here are trying to get into your head or do something bad, but the worst thing that you could do is to believe that because then you will give the darkness an opening to you. All the people here really do want to help and fight every day to stay in the light, especially my parents.”

Anthony’s features reflect his surprise at Jacob’s speech, but then he puts his hand on Jacob’s arm to stop him and Jacob turns. “Jacob, I’m sorry if I frightened you that was not my intention.”

After a moment, “It’s fine, you didn’t. I hope that you stay. Christmas here is really special and I know Laurel would enjoy it.” He moves past Anthony and comes next to me.

We leave, giving them some time to talk. When we are outside the building, Jacob looks up at me. “Mom, dad, could we talk a minute?”

“Sure honey, what’s wrong?”

“Is there somewhere private we can talk?”

“Why don’t we go to my office.” Andrew interjects, knowing that Jacob probably walked out of this building so that no one could hear what he has to say.

Sitting in Andrew’s office, Jacob turns to us. “I know why Anthony is so frightened. After he saw the fall and finally began moving, he began searching for his sister.” He shudders.

“What’s wrong?”

“So many people died.” He shudders again and as I hug him I grab Andrew’s hand and put it on Jacob’s arm, hoping that he can see what Jacob is seeing like the last time too.

The screams and roar of the volcano are deafening. I can feel the confusion, panic and desperation of Anthony as he calls out for Mary. Crawling over the rubble a hand grasps his leg from the cracks and he stumbles. “Help me please” a faint voice cries to him as he falls. Scrambling, he desperately pulls at the pile on top of her, finally freeing the small girl whose legs and arms are bleeding, but seems surrounded by a bright light. Grabbing her hand, he pulls her as she cries out for John and he cries out for Mary. They see a group of people running. Catching up, Anthony moves with purpose toward a woman, pulling the young girl behind him.

“Have you seen Mary, she was with Rebecca when this started?”

The woman shakes her head but points ahead of her. “Peter is up ahead. Maybe he has seen them.”

Anthony moves quickly to Peter. “Where’s Rebecca and Mary.” He shakes his head and then everything momentarily turns black. Anthony next wakes among a group of people lying on mountain top. Scrambling to his feet, some are still unconscious; others appear dazed and confused, while others are tending to their wounds. The little girl jumps back giving him room. “How did we get here?” She says nothing, but as the sun catches her eyes, I realize what she is and how he got there. She motions him to follow and leads him to a girl, unconscious and laying on the ground. Falling to his knees, he pulls her to his chest, holding her tightly, he begins to cry. Her eyes flutter open, but there is flame reflecting in them and I now see as her hands reach around his back, talons are growing. She is about to swipe at him, when the little girl grabs Anthony, wings spreading out behind her and she whisks him up as she yells out to some others. “The shadows are among them.” As soon as the words are out of her mouth, the sky darkens. At first I think it is the ash from the volcano eclipsing the sky, by as Anthony looks up, the sky is covered in shadows all moving quickly. He is screaming for Mary, but as she jumps up to him, her face contorts and she bolts with superhuman speed, jumping up and swiping at his chest. I feel the pain and for a moment cannot breathe, as he looks down, he is bleeding and I can feel the life force leaving him. The angel pulls him higher, wrapping a protective wing around him. As she does, the darkest of shadows turns fiery and his voice booms, cutting through the screaming below.

“You failed and now you will pay!” It is upon Mary whose cries of pain rips through Anthony more violently than her talons. He watches in horror as she is ripped apart, something dark escapes from her. As it turns into flames, it comes at him, a shadow, eyes fierce and talons out once more. It is upon Anthony and the angel, swiping at her wings and grasping at him. As the pain rips through him everything turns black.

Opening his eyes, I can smell the musty decay and can barely see as the flickering light from a single torch reveals a dank cave. “Don’t move. You need to regain your strength. A young man is washing his wounds. Anthony struggles to sit up, but the boy puts his hand on his shoulder. “Please don’t move, you haven’t quite healed, Charles bit you once and I don’t want to have to bite you again.

I hear his gasp and his eyes scan the cave wildly and then settle on the serene blue eyes that dance as the light reflects on them.

“Who are you? How did I end up here? What happened?” His questions flow fast and furious. “Where’s Mary? What happened to her?” He struggles again to rise, but the boy places one hand on his shoulder and one on his forehead causing Anthony to immediately calm.

“I’m sorry, we could not get to her. Balance claimed her. We thought this time would be different…” He trails off letting out a long sigh. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I get away from myself.

“Please, tell me what happened.” Anthony pleads, grabbing his hand.

“We thought those we saved were fine, but didn’t realize the shadows infiltrated. They were being masked, probably to get you.”

“Me, what are you talking about?”

Before he can answer, someone appears at his side, whispering in his ear. Where did they come from? Who else is in here? As Anthony’s eyes strain to see if anyone else is inside. The boy rises. “Excuse me a moment. Please don’t move while I’m gone. You are safe here.”

Suddenly the cave is filled with a blinding light and then they are gone. I can feel Anthony’s fear and confusion, but as the image of Mary being turned overwhelms him, he brings his hand to his face and I can hear the sobs. Everything turns to black. The next image flashes. The angel is back trying to comfort him.

“It is safe to go outside. Would you like some air?” Anthony nods and follows him through long tunnels until they step out into a clear twilight sky. As he scans the area, he can see buildings below and flickering lights.

“Where are we? This is not Pompeii.”

“We are in Greece.”

“What!” His boisterous voice cuts through the silent milieu.

“We needed to hide you, give you a chance to settle and adapt to your new powers and this new age.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Anthony, we needed to save you, maintain the balance, one of his was already here for so long. She was injured, you were so injured. We thought one of ours changed her because we felt the shift in immortality. When we realized we were being fooled and then she tore at you, there was no other way to repair you to remain on this plane than to turn you immortal. They should have never sent new ranks, but there was another fight going on and those closer to the originals could not break away.”

Anthony interrupts. “I don’t understand what are you rambling about?”

The moon rises and instantly Anthony falls to the ground, contorting violently, changing. As he transforms, fear overwhelms him and the boy once again becomes illuminated, piercing the night sky until his wings spread out like an elegant eagle shrouding them both, allowing them to fade into the darkness. As the sun rises and Anthony returns, the angel’s wings retract and he is the boy once more.

“What happened to me?”

The boy’s voice is soft, his tone reassuring. “You will be fine in time and I can grant you the gift of only converting when you want, but to save you, we had to turn you into a werewolf.” Anthony gasps as the blood rushes from his cheeks, leaving him pale.

He mutters to himself. “That can’t be. They don’t exist. The stories can’t be true.”

“They are true, but you should see it as gift, not a curse. You will see time and places that people can’t even imagine. You will be strong and help many, just like your father.”

Anthony’s eyes tear and I can see him staring at the city below. “You said a new age, what did you mean by that?”

“When we were in the cave, it wasn’t really a cave. It was a different dimension where time does not pass in the same manner as it does out here. You are looking out onto the Seventeenth Century.”

Anthony’s head whips around to the angel as his knees buckle. “I don’t understand.”

“Let me show you.” He raises his hands to Anthony’s temple and I can see flashing images bombarding his mind, but somehow calming it. When the angel removes his hands, Anthony’s jaw is locked in the down position for several moments before he snaps it shut and regains his ability to speak. “That’s amazing, but why me?”

The angel chuckles and a smile plays upon his lips, “Because of who you are and your ability to stay strong and good.”

The image is now replaced by a new one. Time has shifted and Anthony is standing on a cobble stone street, dressed in gentleman’s attire. He turns and smiles as he brings up the delicate hand of a woman dressed in a Nineteenth Century gown. “Are you ready?” He kisses her hand gently.

“I have been looking forward to this all month.” She raises her other hand, revealing a diamond before stroking his cheek.

The image shifts again and Anthony is now lying in bed next to the woman as a translucent image rises from her and moves to whisper in his ear before laying in his position, entering him, enshrouding him, becoming one with him. The shifting is quick now, image after image of Anthony tearing apart men, women and even two screaming children. I feel the horror, desolation and desperate need to stop the carnage as he looks on helpless as his body is doing things his mind tries but fails to repel, just like Daniela so many years ago. I feel his panic and Jacob’s panic at seeing the carnage, feel Anthony’s helplessness and desperation to gain some sort of control over what he is doing and somehow return to controlled person before this occurred.

Thankfully the image shifts again and he is walking with another wolf in grounds that appear to be some sort of temple or sanctuary. As they reach a pagoda, each turns back into human form. “The only way to free yourself of her is to destroy her, cast her out and send her to hell.”

“I can’t. Now that I know who she is, how can I fail my sister again? How can I send her to suffer? Isn’t there any other way?”

“No!” He shouts. “That is not your sister, not your true sister, I believe she is gone but look at what that vessel has influenced you to do. That is not you. You are strong, but if you do not send it back to its own kind now, you will join them. You will become theirs, always doing their bidding, always fighting to lead those away from the light. If you send it back, you can go back to saving lives, not taking them, unless you find you now enjoy the death and destruction from which we are giving you a temporary reprieve. Your time here is running out, we cannot protect you here any longer, once you return to the world you know, it will return and unless you defeat it, you will once again see yourself as an instrument of destruction.” He motions to a woman who comes over to them and opens her palm which contains a small amulet.

Her voice is melodic. “Cast it out, sever its connection to you on this plane now and close the door. If you do so, even if it returns, this will help protect you. If you don’t cut its tie to you now, you will participate in the carnage throughout eternity. They will claim you. You can’t let that happen. You don’t know what that will mean.”

“Enough” The gentleman commands. Handing him the amulet, she retreats. “Your sister died in Pompeii. You need to cast it out, send it back to them before they claim you.”

As the image fades, I open my eyes knowing that they reflect my astonishment over what Jacob got in such a short time. I can’t hide my worry that it might all be too much for him. My eyes meet his and although he appears concerned, I’m surprised that he doesn’t appear overwhelmed. “Jacob, are you alright?”

He nods, but says nothing, rises, and moves to the window staring at the now falling snow. Andrew and I rise, move closer to him, but as I move to go next to him, Andrew grabs my arm and motions for me to give him minute. He turns slightly. “Considering the clarity that Anthony remembers this and what he believes about you, is it possible that you really were there?”

“Jake, I’m not that old. Maybe we look similar to the people he remembers.”

“But dad, he seems to see things so clearly, remembering even small details and the woman falling really did look just like mom. Could it be that she was there but had her memory of this wiped like when Michael wiped her memory and she went away?”

The pain in his eyes as he says this rips through my heart. I move closer, hugging him. “Jacob, I’m so sorry I left you.”

“Mom, don’t it’s alright, I understand. You did nothing wrong, I just brought it up because I’m wondering if maybe it happened to you and dad back then.”

Andrew interrupts. “Jacob, if something like that did happen, even if our memories were wiped of that event, we would remember living through the times following and although I’m ancient, I’m not that ancient.” He chuckles, probably trying to lighten my darkening mood. “Besides, Cassandra seems to imply that although it happens, it doesn’t happen often, not to mention we would have to be immortal back then to have lived until now. I remember every detail of when I turned and it was long after Pompeii.”

He stares at us, hesitating as if he is considering something. “Jacob what are you thinking?” I prompt gently.

“Dad says he remembers every detail of his conversion and Anthony seems to remember every detail of the horrific things he saw, so there has to be some explanation that we are missing.”

“But Jacob, it could be as simple as we look similar to the people he remembers. Considering the traumatic event that he has gone through with Charlie and then what we just saw he may just be confused and scared. Just think about how you felt after coming home and our problems with William started. I know that you were concerned that they could take you again and I know that at the new school you feel the need to protect your siblings from anything that could happen because you are the strongest.” Jacob’s eyes widen probably from surprise that Andrew knows exactly how he feels. “Anthony lives with the fear that he will lose control over himself again and that those he loves could be used in a way to trick him. We just need to give him some time to see us and not what he fears that we are. Maybe then, his picture of his parents will shift back to who they really were.”

He turns to me. “Mia, we can’t push him. Not now. It may be best if we back away from him. He trusts Jeff and I think Renee can convince him that Eva is helping Laurel. I see the change in the aura around her, it is less encumbered and this family needs to heal. If we back off, maybe he’ll allow Laurel to stay and get the help she needs.”

Despite wanting desperately to see if I could break through and see what Anthony’s parents really look like, I nod.

The next few days are fairly quiet. Despite Gabriel reading his continued suspicions regarding Andrew and I, Renee’s adamant pleas for him to look around and truly see what is happening and how Laurel is improving has at least forestalled his moving her. To my surprise, he even allows Jacob back into her room when she asks. Brian is doing much better and Stephanie is out of the woods. Ben and Claire are arriving this afternoon. Thankfully, the patients are wonderful regarding my return and do not asks questions, but from the looks I catch William giving me and the thoughts that Gabriel makes me aware are running through his head, he knows that much more is going on.

While I’m checking on Stephanie, the door opens and Ben steps in. “Is this a bad time?” He inquires, halting whoever is behind him at the archway.

“No, I was just finishing so I’ll let you enjoy your visit.”

He steps inside and a tall, dark haired woman with the greenest eyes I have ever seen steps in behind him. As her eyes meet mine, she gasps, but before I can say anything, Ben is shaking my hand. “It is good to see you again Dr. Angelis. How is Stephanie doing?”

Tearing my eyes from the woman, I turn to Ben. “It’s Mia, please. She is doing much better and if you stay a few days, she may even be able to travel home with you.”

Ben smiles and then turns. “I’m being rude, Mia, this is my wife, Claire.”

As I hold out my hand, she smiles widely and shakes it. “Ben said you were a witch, but he didn’t tell me that you are one of “the witches.” It’s an honor to meet you. I never thought that I would have the privilege of meeting you. Does this mean you will be contacting your followers?” Before I can answer, she turns to Ben and hits him on the shoulder. “Why wouldn’t you tell me that it was Saria, you know how obsessed we have been with all of the history. Why didn’t you tell Casey that she was here, she would have cancelled her trip immediately and come up here, she is going to be so mad when she finds out?” She turns to me. “Ben said that you are working in New York now. Will you be returning there or was that just temporary? Would it be possible for her to see you there or are you trying to keep a low profile? I mean it’s one thing to read about someone, but to actually meet them. Wow” Her tone is excited.

I interrupt. “Claire, I think that you have me mistaken with someone else. I’m not Saria, I’m Mia.”

She stares and shakes her head. “I didn’t mean to offend you. Is that the name you are using now? Are you hiding? Are you expecting trouble?” Her tone turns nervous.

“That is the name I always used. Like I said, you must have me confused with someone else.” Although as I say this, the way she stares at me and how exited she became when she thought she knew who I was makes me wonder if something is going on here, especially considering what Anthony thinks and what we have seen in his memories. “It’s been happening a lot lately.” I say hoping to lighten her concern. It works and she laughs.

“It’s so strange. You look just like her pictures. Let me try this again. Mia, I’m Claire, Ben’s very embarrassed wife. I have heard great things about you and this place.” She holds out her hand again, shaking mine, but even as she does, I can see her shaking off her earlier thoughts.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too. Stephanie has been telling me a lot about you too. I’m glad that you could come and enjoy the holiday with us. After you have a chance to visit, if you need anything to settle in, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

As I exit, Andrew is coming toward me. “How is Stephanie? Did I see Ben come in?”

“She is doing much better. Although I had the strangest encounter with Ben’s wife, she thought she knew me.”

Andrew’s eyes widen revealing his surprise, but his tone remains unchanged. “Who did she think you were?”

“She thought I was a witch by the name of Saria and from the way she looked at me, this witch is to be revered and maybe even feared. I told her she was mistaken, but I’m not so sure she believes me.”

“What makes you think that? Did you tell her she was mistaken?” We begin walking towards his office.

“I did, I even tried to make light of it because she seemed nervous, but she just kept shaking her head and inferred that I looked just like the witch she saw and she wondered if I was hiding.”

I feel his arm around me tense and know what is running through his mind. “Mia, did she say where she saw you?”

“No, she didn’t see me. She said I looked like the witch in the picture.” He stops dead in his tracks and begins to turn back to the room. I grab his arm.

“Maybe we should wait until they are done. I don’t want to make Stephanie uncomfortable. I know that she seems to trust us, but considering what happened with Anthony, his continued distrust of us and now another case of mistaken identity. I would hate to have suspicions running wild considering how many around us are trying to heal and deal with traumatic events. Has Gabriel gotten a read on how Stephanie and Brian are really doing considering she shot her son? I know it was an accident, but still, the repercussions from such an event I’m sure will stay with them.”

“He said that Brian is doing much better than Stephanie. She is still having horrific nightmares of his not making it.”

“Is there anything that we can do to help?”

“Eva has been trying to work with her and they are a strong and loving family, they will work through it. They just need some time. Why don’t we go help out in the recreation center and then we can see Ben and Claire once they settle into their room.”

Although our bodies are working at the recreation center, my mind is reeling wondering who this Saria is and if Claire could show me a picture of this witch. From Andrew’s features, it appears his mind is out on the same distant plane as my own. As my thoughts drift, I begin wondering what I could really derive from a picture even if it did look similar to me. Sometimes, people do look like distant relatives, maybe this Saria is some distant relative and I will learn another part of my history, the same way I discovered my relation to Emma. Inadvertently, I hit my head with my palm, why hadn’t I considered that with Anthony. Maybe I wasn’t projecting myself into his images at all; maybe the woman is some ancient relative. People look like their relatives all the time. I remember seeing a picture of my great, great grandfather. My father looks so much like him, you would swear it was my father, but for the style of dress and antique building he is standing before and I did look like Abigail but for the eyes. Andrew moves toward me.

Leaning into me, he whispers. “What just occurred to you?”

“I was thinking that maybe Anthony is right, he did see someone who looked just like me. Maybe he saw a very distant relative of mine.”

He opens his mouth, but then closes it again. “Mia, if that is the case, how would he think that he also saw me. He seemed pretty adamant that we were both there.”

Pulling him into the corner, “Do you remember how Emma told us that sometimes generations of souls cross paths until unresolved matters finally find some conclusion? I remember asking Emma back then if you could have fallen in love with me because of unresolved issues between Nicholas and Abigail.” He starts shaking his head. “Don’t, I’m not bringing up that old chestnut again, but think about this for a moment, what if your ancestors and mine have crossed in the past, what if there is some other issue that is unresolved that we are unaware of that has made our ancestors who others can mistake as being us cross paths before. I know it is highly unusual, but considering what we have seen happen and the strange happenings that our realm can sometimes bring, that could be a possibility.”

His sharp intake of breath tells me that although he is considering how he has crossed my ancestors before, he finds it highly skeptical. “Mia considering the union I came from, I highly doubt that. Even if they did have ancestors on this plane, how would I look like them? Besides, even if that is possible, I don’t think we will convince Anthony of it. Christian said that he was pacing all night and although he seemed to waiver for a while, by the time dawn broke, he was vowing to himself that he could not take any risks, especially considering that Laurel is now involved. I don’t think that we should try to broach that idea with him, at least not until we have more information.”

I nod, knowing that we could only make the situation more volatile. “Should we walk over to Ben and Claire’s room, I know the children are staying at Jeff’s until late, they were all watching a movie together.”

“Sure, let’s see what we can find out.”

Ben opens the door and I can see Claire on the telephone. “Is everything alright with Stephanie?” His eyes widen as he sees us both.

“She’s fine. We actually came here to talk with Claire if that is alright with you.” Claire must have heard Andrew’s reply because she hangs up the phone immediately and walks over to us.

“Claire, I was wondering if you and Ben might come downstairs for some coffee and maybe you could enlighten me about this Saria that you thought I was.” She looks to Ben who nods slightly and they follow us downstairs. As I get the coffee ready, Andrew lights a fire in the hearth.

Sitting down, I can feel the butterflies spreading their wings and fluttering anxiously wondering what they may reveal. “What would you like to know about her?” Claire inquires her eyes assessing me carefully.

“Anything that you are willing to share, maybe we should start with who she was.”

“From the research Casey and I found, she is a powerful witch born in Egypt. It was even rumored that she is the descendant of its powerful sun goddess, but we never seemed to get confirmation on that. But then considering how ancient she is, that isn’t surprising.”

I interrupt. “How ancient is she?”

“We found accounts which refer back to her as far back as the rule of Amenhotep. She formed a powerful coven and mastered control over the elements. Some even say that she could travel back and forth through dimensions touching the dead before they entered their final realm. Her powers seemed to know no bounds. All those who followed her were granted strength and victories in their battles, but those who fought against her or tried to destroy her soon found themselves trapped between dimensions in the netherworld. Some even say she could destroy souls. She is a powerful one that is to be revered, but also feared.”

Although I know witches can choose immortality, I don’t know why I couldn’t seem to comprehend that such a creature could still exist today, but I can barely get the question to my lips. “Where is this Saria now?”

“No one knows for sure. It is rumored that she went into hiding or that she hovers around the first dimension of the netherworld.”

Andrew interjects. “Why would a witch do something like that?”

“Saria and her coven joined with Sahir and his remaining men, a group of powerful warlocks who fought for justice and good, but their coven was practically decimated by the Reabin group, a coven which practiced very dark magic and killed all those who would not swear allegiance to their leader. It is believed that they were not only dark witches but had joined with some of those who Saria had banished to the netherworld. Reabin was somehow tied to demon forces that traveled through the dimensions of the netherworld. He and his demons collected the most powerful souls that Saria had banished and transported them back to this dimension in exchange for their pledge of revenge against Sahir, Saria, and all of their followers. As they returned, they too turned to powerful demons with powers unlike that known before, it is said they had the fires of hell within their fingertips.” She takes in a jagged breath as she shakes her head and I wonder if she is trying to rid herself of some awful image.

“Reabin, his men and the demons sought out and tortured several of Saria’s followers to find the location of the sanctuary she and her coven had secured in the heart of the desert and where she was caring for some of Sahir’s survivors. Although it is said that they did not speak the truth as to the location, the demons tortured them and were said to have extracted the true hiding place of the sanctuary from their blood before impaling them and riding back to the sacred place. Reabin rode at the head to show his strength. He came to the entrance, a horned demon carrying the head of Saria’s strongest witch to scare those who were held up in the sanctuary to turn over Sahir and his men. As the demons approached, they shot fire at the sanctuary, but as Sahir and Saria joined together, they combated the fire with that of their own. The desert was said to be consumed with the fire for three days covered in white and black smoke until the dust finally cleared. Little did Reabin’s men know that during such time, most of Sahir’s men and Saria’s coven escaped through portals and scattered to the four corners of the world in all different times. Sahir and Saria tried to escape, but before they could reach the last returning portal, one of the demons grabbed hold of Sahir and sent him to the netherworld. After that, Saria’s whereabouts became sketchy. Although there are reports that some of her coven did connect with her, she did not stay with them. Instead, she warned all those left standing to disburse and join with others that had no connection to her. Some say that she provided them protection and shielded them from being able to be found by the demons.”

I can’t believe how much she seems to know about this fight. “Did anyone see her after she appeared to her people?” Andrew inquires and I can hear the amazement in his voice as well.

“There were rumors that she had been seen by her brother shortly after to warn him to get out of Egypt. Although her brother was a warlock, he was not strong, and to protect him, she begged him to flee and said that she would stay away from him because Reabin’s men were actively searching for her. At the time she was carrying Sahir’s child and such a child would be very strong. Reabin wanted to find the child and destroy him before he came of age and could cause Reabin trouble. After that, rumors began that Saria would travel between this plane and the netherworld to be near Sahir but those were never confirmed. There was also an attack on a group that had entered the portal together so they were much more easily traceable. They traveled to England and were said to be on a ship which was returning home. Demons followed them through the portal and attacked the ship.” She stops and hesitates.

“It is believed that Saria fought them and that even Sahir had appeared, somehow escaping from the beyond, they were successful at first in banishing the demons and protecting those on board, but then the strangest thing happened. The events shifted and the coven found themselves twice more caught in the loop. The third time they came back to the event, Sahir was destroyed and Saria and the unborn child were badly injured, but somehow got away with the protection of the four that escaped through the portal. After that, there have been scattered reports of her return, but the time shifts appear to be getting greater and greater.”

I can’t help but shake my head. Knowing a little about ancient history, most pictures of even those famous Egyptian deities were merely statutes carvings or drawings, “Claire, how could you believe that I was her? It isn’t as if you could have seen a picture of her and thought that it was me.”

She chuckles. “No, but I have seen carvings and your image…” Her eyes shift and she shakes her head before speaking again. “I was also privileged to see the image of her which has been transferred through the centuries to trusted witches so that when she reemerges as her coven hopes, those who continue on fighting in her name will once again fight alongside her or her son.”

Now I really don’t understand. How could they pass images of her? “Claire, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound dense, but how could they pass images of her, do you mean that there have been statutes or pictures of her statutes passed?”

She shakes her head again. “No, that could never pass on a realistic picture of her. There is an ancient spell that some of her coven utilized to share mind images. When Casey and I began delving into the history of this coven, we were introduced to one of her followers who shared the image.”

My jaw inadvertently drops. I don’t know why I’m surprised considering the images that Jacob, Andrew and I have shared lately, but still, this world keeps stunning me. She stares at me intensely and when I finally recover my ability to speak, my voice is barely a whisper. “Would it be possible for you to show me her image?”

Alarm immediately fills her eyes and I can see her jaw tighten. I’m about to tell her it’s fine and apologize for asking but Ben interjects, putting his hand on her shoulder. “I think considering what I have seen up here and what they have done for Stephanie you could show her.”

Her body becomes more rigid with each passing moment and I reach over to her. “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have asked. I…” As my fingertips brush her arm and an image flashes through my mind but instantly dissipates as my hand recoils from the intense flames which feel as if they are engulfing me. As my eyes come back into focus, I see the utter fear in hers and she is rubbing the wrist I touched. “I’m sorry, I don’t know how… I didn’t mean to do that. I wasn’t trying to… Are you alright?” As I move toward her, she recoils and Andrew puts his hand on my shoulder.

“What happened?”

Turning to him, “I saw us throwing flames, the heat was so intense, so strong…I don’t…” Pulling in a jagged breath, I don’t know how to explain to him the strange image of us. There is no explanation for this, no reason for something like that and no way to describe the feeling of being burned alive, but not. How do I explain to him that I could see a strange version of us shooting fire, being engulfed, but not actually burning?

Pulling me into an embrace, I can hear Ben trying to comfort Claire, telling her it will be alright and she did nothing wrong and there couldn’t possibly be retribution for such a stolen thought. I am about to pull away from Andrew when I notice his eyes are unfocused. Giving him a minute before doing so, hoping that he is seeing what I saw, I carefully move in his embrace to face Ben, trying not to break contact.

“Ben, I didn’t mean to see that. I had every intention of telling Claire to forget about it. I’m sorry. I should have realized that something like that could have happened. I guess I was so engrossed, that I didn’t stop to think. What did you mean about retribution?”

Although my question is directed at Ben, Claire seems to regain her composure and answers. “There has been stories that those who shared Saria’s image with her enemies have had their powers stripped.”

“I am not her enemy. I assure you. I am no threat to her or you. I didn’t mean to take the image from you. Although I know how to concentrate and see past images, I wasn’t trying to do that to you and I have never done it without the person’s consent. This time, the image just appeared.”

Ben interjects. “Mia, it you don’t mind, I think that Claire and I will return to our room. We can talk about this later.” He rises and I can see now that Claire is fighting back tears. I move aside immediately to let them pass.

After they ascend the stairs, I turn to Andrew. “Do you think that she will be alright? Maybe I should call Emma and see if she knows anything about this and see if there is anything I can do to make it right. Andrew, I really wasn’t trying to take her image.”

Hearing the anxiety exuding from my tone, he embraces me. “Mia, calm down. I know you didn’t do anything intentionally. Before you call Emma, maybe we should give it time to settle with Ben and Claire. I think we have a much more pressing question to answer, don’t you?”

Knowing he means the issue of their images looking like us, but in a different time, like those images I saw so long ago, I nod. Taking in a deep breath to clear the images now running through my mind, I finally meet his concerned eyes. “None of this is making any sense. First Anthony thinks we were in Pompeii, now she mistakes me for someone in Egypt…Andrew, why didn’t she mistake you? The person standing next to me, holding my hand and exuding fire, looked exactly like you?”

“I don’t know. We need to find someone with answers and the only ones I know that could have them may have entered Hell because they are not answering their cell.”

“What about Celene, do you think that she might know any of the information that Reginald or Amanda knows, they did seem to be close.” He shakes his head. “What about the information on the key or on Reginald’s last key that he gave to me. Maybe there is something there about generations of souls continually crossing paths.”

“You still think that it is what Emma told you, don’t you?”

“It has to be. I appreciate what you said about the union that created you, but we know your mom was a human on this plane, she had descendants, maybe your father was too before he became an angel. How else do you explain all of this, my visions, their visions and what you saw just now? I know that we let it go all those years ago when Reginald said he knew nothing about it, but you said back then you thought that he was holding something back, maybe he was and maybe now it is time to figure out what that might be since everything seems to be colliding since my return. If there is some unresolved issue, don’t you think that we should try to figure out what it is and solve it before something unforeseen happens? Andrew, I don’t want to leave it for our children or future generations.” I can’t stop the shudder which runs deep into my core remembering what happened with the demons on the ship or the way the fire emblazing us in this vision felt and knowing from her story that demons and warlocks were just behind that fiery wall waiting for their opportunity to destroy those who looked like us. If this situation is following generations of those connected to Andrew and I, they will follow our children as well, I need this to be resolved now, before anything else happens to destroy us the way I saw one or both of us destroyed then.

Heading back to the residency, Andrew ascends the stairs to the attic and brings down both keys.

After several hours of searching through tremendous amounts of data on both keys, only stopping to eat dinner with the children, Andrew looks up from his computer and beckons me over. He has come across a detailed account of Ricardo Miranda during a trip through Argentina in the Nineteenth Century. Mr. Miranda is warlock but claims to remember past life experiences in great detail. On two other occasions he has been part of the surreal plane as a vampire and a warlock, but in three other accounts Mr. Miranda was human. There is also a footnote which references an additional circumstance, but Mr. Miranda refuses to go into detail. All he would say is that he recalls superhuman strength, a horned crown, and red, blazing eyes, but could not define what he was. During his time in Argentina, Mr. Miranda had a near death experience which he claims somehow triggered visions of his former lives. Despite the detailed accounts of events and happenings during each time period which to me seem to be far more specific than any book which may reference such ancient history and Mr. Miranda’s belief that he was the one who was there during each time experiencing what he saw and felt, Reginald’s notes appear to be quite skeptical of the theory. Reading on, Reginald notes seem to indicate a theory based upon the belief that energy never disappears but only changes form. Reginald believes that the experiences which Mr. Miranda somehow described could be due to energy from events which his ancestors experienced. Although he tried to confer this theory to Mr. Miranda, Ricardo never backed down from the belief that it was he who experienced the happenings first hand and not some relative who may have had similar features to his own. Reginald’s notes set forth that Ricardo even made claims of remembering something which he could only describe as heaven, but still, Reginald appeared to be skeptical regarding the whole matter. Reading Reginald’s notes, I am surprised that he seems to dismiss the account so casually since he always appeared to seek knowledge and keep his mind open to any possibility, especially considering how strange this realm can sometimes be.

Although I want to search more through some of the remaining files, considering tomorrow is Christmas and we will be helping out, Andrew insists that I go and rest while he continues to look through the data.

Waking a few hours later and before the children, I see Andrew still reviewing the files, but he now has Alexander in his arms. Taking Alexander from him, “Did you find anything else about Mr. Miranda or his theories?”

He shakes his head. “I did find something interesting though. On several of the files, there appears to be a reference. Do you remember how Reginald told you that if he disappeared this key would lead us to others?” I nod. “Maybe the references in the files are to files held on other devices. Maybe Reginald came across someone else who claimed to have past life experiences or who projected themselves in visions of past events because their relatives appeared to hold similar features to their own. We know how much perceptions can color ones recollection of something. What if those who have such visions see people similar to themselves, but since they are more familiar with their own features sharpen the features with their own. Just think about how many times people say twins look so much alike you can’t tell them apart, but to a parent, they see different features that don’t make the twins indiscernible at all.”

“Do you think that is what I did with what I saw because Claire said that she thought I was this Saria and Anthony was so convinced that he saw us as well?”

“All I’m saying for sure is that it is possible. Honestly, thinking last night while reading this over and over again about what we saw before we got together, it could be something else, but I just don’t know. At this point, I am not willing to accept or dismiss anything.” He rises and wraps me in his embrace and his eyes fill with mischief. “The only thing I can say for sure Mrs. St. Cloud is that I love you and am so happy to be spending this Christmas with you and our family.” He gently strokes Alexander’s head. “Why don’t we put this aside for now, considering all of the new faces we have up here and the miracles we have been granted and ensure that everyone has a peaceful and enjoyable day.”

Although the day is pleasant and the children, patients and our guests appear to be having a wonderful Christmas, even stopping to enjoy a snowball fight out in the courtyard, I can’t reel in my thoughts, especially when I catch Anthony and Claire staring at me as if they are trying to pull the truth from my brain. I want to approach Claire and ask her why she did not seem to hold the same mistaken identity recognition with Andrew, but considering that we are surrounded by others and I don’t want Anthony to become more skittish and pull Laurel from here, especially after Eva says that she is making strides and is very happy here, I refrain.

Exhausted from the long day, the children retire and although Andrew suggests that we do the same, I know that Claire will still be up and want to talk with her. “Andrew, I’ll be back shortly, I need to approach Claire.” I see the skepticism in his eyes and although he opens his mouth to object, he closes it quickly.

“Let me get Gabriel and we can go together, but Mia, if Anthony is anywhere near them you can’t open this up. Gabriel was reading him today and although what you did for him in the nursery shocked him after what you asked, he is still fearful that we are some sort of deception and that he will be overcome again. We can’t risk Laurel’s health.”

As luck would have it Ben and Claire are both downstairs talking with Brian who when he sees us, excuses himself probably knowing that we want to talk. “Would you mind if we join you?” Andrew asks. When they gesture, we sit on the couch opposite them. Not knowing whether they really think that I stole the memory from Claire, I allow Andrew to take the lead. “Ben, Claire, I know that you are concerned about what happened, but I assure you that it was unintentional. I’m sure that you realize sometimes our powers are uncontrollable and things just occur. Mia would never try to hurt you or steal anything from you. That is not how our family operates. I’m hopeful that you have been able to discern that about us and that maybe you would be willing to answer some of our questions.”

Ben looks to Claire knowing that Andrew is really addressing his plea to her and nods. “What do you want to know?” Claire inquires looking at me, but I can hear the trepidation in her voice.

Leaning forward, “I was curious as to why you seemed to believe that I was Saria, but didn’t seem to say anything to Andrew about Sahir?”

From the change in her facial features, I can tell that this was not an inquiry she expected. “I have never seen Sahir.”

Now it is my turn to be shocked. “I don’t understand. The man that was next to Saria, wasn’t that Sahir?”

Her mouth drops and she stares at me. “Claire what’s wrong?” Ben inquires several times before she seems to shake herself from her immobility to respond. Finally turning to him, her voice is barely a whisper.

“I knew there was someone standing next to Saria in the vision, but I couldn’t see him. His appearance has always been blocked. Witches can only pass on pictures of Saria, not Sahir. I just can’t believe that she could break through the distortion to see him.” She turns to me, her eyes wide and assessing.

“Claire, I don’t understand, when you see that image, do you see anything of Sahir?”

“I can see a figure standing next to her, but his features have always been distorted, whited out. When I look at him, I can see his figure, but whenever I have tried to see his face it is like someone is shining a powerful flashlight in my eyes. How could you see him? I don’t understand, I was told that only those who were there could see him, none of the witches who have had the image passed to them have ever been able to see him? What are you?”

“Claire, I don’t know what to say other than maybe I could see him because of my ability to see past events, but I assure you , that, that was not even my intention when I touched you. It truly just happened. I never meant to cause you concern and I don’t want to harm anyone. I assure you that from what you have told me about Saria, she wanted to fight against the darkness. I am not an enemy of her or anyone who wants to combat that. Believe me. I have seen enough of the dark forces to never want to assist them in any way. I only want to help the way we help the people here. I’m sure that you can see that this facility is a place where all of our kind work together.”

“I will say that when Ben told me about this place, I didn’t believe it, but over the past few days, it has really shocked me, despite our bizarre encounter.”

“Claire, can I ask, did anyone ever share any other images of her with you?”

From the way she shifts in her seat, I know that they have and that she is nervous about answering. “Claire, please, there are so many unanswered questions. I am sure that you have spoken to Ben and know what Anthony thinks of us, but there seems to be something here, some question that needs to be answered and if you have another image, I am begging you to share it with me. I am hoping that you would do the image sharing spell with me because I would like to see if Saria’s image changes at all if I go into it with an open mind instead of expecting to see myself.”

I can tell by the shocked faces surrounding me that this was not what anyone, including Andrew expected. “Mia do you really think that this is a good idea? You don’t know what type of ramifications such a spell would have. Maybe you should call Emma first and see if she has ever heard of this image sharing and what it could cause.”

Turning to him, “Andrew, look, we have questions, considering what Emma has told us in the past about generations crossing paths and how we already know that you have crossed paths with my ancestors, maybe we are now projecting our likenesses in situations we are mistaken for because that is what we expect to see and our ancestors have some similar features, but maybe this spell would cut through those perceptions, especially if I go into it thinking it is more of that.

Claire rises. “If you’ll excuse me a moment” I watch as she ascends the stairs to her room and when Ben rises, she gestures for him to stay. We stare at each other and I can see the questions raging in his eyes, but at least it appears to be curiosity and not fear that we are trying to do something to his wife. Counting slowly to three hundred ten, trying to calm my raging thoughts and not to appear anxious, she finally reemerges and I can tell by her features that although she is concerned, she is going to capitulate to my request. I sit back, my shoulders hunching in relaxation as Andrew turns to me. I nod infinitesimally as she whispers something to Ben which I am sure that Andrew can hear.

Looking over to us, “When do you want to do this?”

“Can we do it now?”

“We might as well get it over with, but I suggest that we do it somewhere private. I would hate to have a patient see us.”

Rising, “We could go over to the residency, there is only family there.”

She rises, but does not move. “Mia, is there somewhere else. I would rather do this with as little people around as possible. I understand that you said it just happened and everyone here seems fine, but considering we don’t know you that well and the repercussions that arise if it is deemed that I have somehow alerted an enemy, I would rather do this in private.”

“Of course. We could go to the nursery.” I move forward, but Andrew puts his hand upon my shoulder.

“Mia, considering what happened the last time you were in the nursery, maybe you should go over to Catherine’s office. I’m sure that there isn’t anyone there.” Moving swiftly, we enter her office and Claire immediately sits on the floor and I follow suit.

She looks up at Andrew. “I need three candles.” He disappears and returns with a plate with three candles on it and hands her a lighter. I sit stalk still as she lights the wicks, closes her eyes and begins chanting. Staring at her, I await instructions. After what feels like an eternity, I see the candles flare and she puts out her hands, palms up and I lay my hands on top gently before closing my eyes. As soon as I do, I can see the desert before me, feel the intensity of the heat pounding upon my back, but cannot see my face. I am traveling toward the sand and then suddenly just drop out of sight. Moving toward a figure, which is at first obscured by a bright light, a man with sandy hair raises his face toward me and I can see it looks just like Andrew. As I gasp, I hear Claire gasp as well. Gently grabbing her wrists for fear that she may break contact, I am grateful that she does not pull away. Hearing the thunderous roar of hoof pads, I see the woman turn and I am staring at myself, a strange reflection of who I am, but not quite. My hair is even longer than it is now, my face tanned with worry lines boring deep into my features. My eyes are bright, but filled with concern. Turning back to the man, I can hear my voice, but with a foreign accent telling him to stay put. Running down a tunnel, I find myself standing in the desert, the sun is blaring as dark shadows, men, and creatures which I have never before seen are on camels holding large stakes with heads. I can feel the bile rise within me and fight to hold it down. I cannot afford to break the connection considering Claire may never give me another chance. I feel someone behind me and for the first time realize that Andrew is injured and he is now standing amongst a sea of faces which I do not recognize.

A woman behind me shouts. “They impaled Jarir” She falls to her knees and vomits violently as another woman pleads with her to rise, stay strong, and work together before that is all our fates. I can hear the panic in their voices as they watch the horror before them. As the leader gets closer, he shoots one arm forward and a flash of fire is upon me. Throwing my own hand forward, I can’t believe I deflect it. Too afraid to turn my back on the approaching nightmare, I yell to those behind me. “Get back inside and use the portals, take out the wounded and do not return.” Throwing out both my hands, I partially turn my upper body. “Sahir, you need to go too. You are wounded. I will hold them off and then join you at the basin.”

“You can’t hold them off alone. We will do this together and give the others time to go.” Grabbing my hand and holding his side where the wound is bleeding once more, he begins turning and we are soon building a wall of fire surrounding us and the entrance.

A young man stands at the entrance, holding his hands out and there appears to be a white transparent wall building before him, humming with electricity. Sahir yells to him. “You need to leave with the others.”

The boy’s soft spoken voice is unafraid. “I have told the others to begin the evacuation but it will take time, if too many of us travel at once, Reabin will be able to follow our energy and we will never escape his tracking abilities. I told them to travel three at a time so that one can return with the portal each time. Let me build the energy field at the door to protect them and then one around you. Then I will leave. You need help.” As he says this, I feel the intense heat hit my side and can feel the burn. The boy quickly flicks his wrist calling up the sand which turns to water as it hits my side, extinguishing the fire. Sahir removes his hand from his side and it is no longer bleeding and brings it to mine. I can feel the energy pass through me and I no longer feel the intense pain. The vision shifts, I see the earlier vision with us fighting against the oncoming demons, but I can feel the power draining from me and Sahir appears to be struggling to stay upright. To my horror, this is the first time I see his clothes stained with blood. As Reabin jumps through the fire, he hits Sahir and they are gone.

I am no longer in the desert, but am instead floating through gray hues and I am holding someone’s hand. Looking down, I see a young boy with sandy hair, but as I stare, he almost appears semi-transparent. His voice is low as if not to disturb the silence of where we are. “Is it much further until we reach father?”

Gripping him tighter to me, I can see tears veiling his widened eyes. “No, he is never too far from the entrance.” Scanning the area for him, I realize the gray hues are not a mist, but souls floating around us. As my mind’s fog dissipates, the vision before me clears and my senses register the environment surrounding us. As some souls pass us, I can see their faces taut with angst and suffering. From these souls, I feel cold, but as we pass others, I feel warmth and love. A moment later, we are entrenched in the warmth of a brilliant light just as Andrew comes into view. With each step, his soul takes on a more corporeal nature. As our hands meet, the boy and I are now flesh as well. A sudden gasp from beside me causes the image to shift again and I see an all too familiar sight. I can’t understand why, but I am being carried through the water by the man who rescued me from the vision of the ship which was attacked and left me a widow before everything turns black and Claire breaks contact.

Opening my eyes, I see Ben shaking a shocked Claire, his voice filled with worry. “Is everything alright, Claire speak to me please.”

She slowly turns, opens her mouth, but no words come out.

Andrew’s soft voice tries to convince Ben to give her a moment. I notice for the first time that his hand is on my back and wonder whether he was able to see what I did. Knowing it is best to wait until we are alone to ask, I instead focus on Claire.

Finally, as Ben pleads with her again, she responds, her voice barely a whisper. “She’s right, the man does look like Andrew and I saw the boy, but Saria was also pregnant with another.” She turns to me. “How were you able to share the images back with me? They have never bounced back like that and how were you able to show me Sahir and the boy. My daughter saw the boy, but he was blocked from me. Mia, were you chanting too because I did not hear you?”

“No. I don’t know how it bounced back to you, I only held on to you and I have never been able to bounce back an image, nor have I ever practiced that spell.”

“I don’t understand any of this. What type of place is this?” She mutters under her breath and turns back to Ben. “She is right about one thing Sahir looks exactly like Andrew except with longer hair and the boy has his eyes with a hint of hers.”

Looking down, the candles are no more. All that is left is a small drop of liquid wax. Looking at the clock behind Claire, only two minutes have passed. “Who removed the candles?” My eyes flash between Ben and Andrew, but both shake their heads.

“Mia, the candles are used to create a dimensional type vortex to absorb the energy of the image, that is why we use three and they disappear after the image is shown. As I told you, the image of Saria is not to be shared lightly and the image of the boy is mostly protected, only those who were there and special ones have been chosen to see him that is why I am shocked that his image was revealed to me. Although my daughter was given the privilege, I was not.” Surprisingly, she lets out a sigh of relief.

“What just occurred to you?” Ben puts his hand on her shoulder.

“Maybe it is a sign to alleviate my fears about Mia seeing the image earlier.” She throws her arms around Ben and he falls backwards. Her relief is evident and her features lighten. They rise and so do we.

“Claire, thank you for sharing those images with me.”

“I hope it was helpful.” She notes before walking out with Ben.

Hearing the door shut down stairs, Andrew turns to me. “Those were some remarkable images. I felt you tense as the one where you were being carried through the water appeared, why?”

“Do you remember my telling you of the vision where I saw us on a ship and that it was attacked? That is the man that I saw carrying me to shore. It is the same image. I don’t understand, I expected to see people who looked similar to us and in some ways they do, but in our features they are exactly like those that I saw in the past. How could that be? Is it possible that we somehow shifted through…” I can’t even finish the thought. Something that fantastic cannot be possible. Despite what we have seen and read, no one can shift through time and if they did, how could their facial features be identical to that of the present day? It has to be impossible, Andrew was not immortal back then and I wasn’t even alive. If we were, we would remember running through the time periods. Wouldn’t we? I know what just happened to me caused me to forget, but Cassandra said it happened very rarely. “Andrew, is it possible that what I experienced with Michael has happened to us before?”

“Mia, I don’t know how to answer that. I want to say no because what happened to you now served as a sacrifice to right a wrong, but seeing us there...I mean seeing them there…actually, I don’t know who I saw there, but those images and the ones that Anthony sees, I’m not sure what to believe.” As he says this, I hear something in his voice, something he is holding back.

“Andrew what aren’t you telling me?”

“The boy who was with …who was in the second image, when I looked at him, I felt the same weird sense of familiarity that I had when I was in the school checking on Scott.”

As my eyes shoot back to his, I can see him shaking his head, not knowing what to make of this. “How is that possible and what could that mean? I don’t understand any of this.” I can’t help the shudder that runs through me as I fear this is the start of a new inexplicable challenge with terrible unforeseen consequences.

Pulling me into an embrace, he rubs my back and his voice turns soothing. “Mia, it’s alright. I know that we don’t have the answers, but other than the encounter with the shadows, nothing bad has happened and they did not come this time when you were connecting with Claire, so I think that it would be best if we stay calm regarding this. We will get answers. We just need to be patient. In the meantime, why don’t we go back to the residency? I will call Jason and see if he ever came across anything in his studies of the ancient writings that may be of some help to us.”

Making a cup of tea, I hear Andrew on the phone talking to Jason, but before I can join him, there is a knock on the door. Opening it, I’m surprised to see Claire and Ben. Moving in to let them in, Andrew goes into the other room. “Is everything alright?”

“Yes” Claire is breathless. “I spoke to Casey and told her what happened. She believes that she has a message for you…: Her voice becomes shaky. “Not a message, images which can be passed on to only you. I know that you are planning on returning to New York tomorrow. Would it be possible for her to meet you at your home?”

“That will be fine, but why does she think she has a message for me?”

Ben moves Claire to the couch and I sit across from them, but it is hard to concentrate on what she is saying as I hear Andrew’s surprised response to something Jason must have told him. “Are you sure? Can you contact your friend and ask him to do some more digging?”

Tearing my concentration from his now hushed conversation and returning to Claire, I can see that she is anxious. “When I told Casey what happened she told me that when she saw the boy, she did not only see one image, she was given a gift of seeing him grow into a man.” I can hear the shock in her voice and wonder if it is from the image or that her daughter may have kept this from her. “Since she was in college at the time, she continued studying on with the one who shared the images, but I needed to return to my job and my family. When I told her about seeing the boy and Sahir, she became very excited and started screaming to her husband that it had finally happened. When she finally calmed down, she told me that she had to meet you, pass on the image because Castore told her that I would come across the one who would finally reveal his image and that when I did she would be called upon to share with that one the key to Saria’s son on this plane. She said that when the son was finally revealed Saria could be reunited with him on this plane and those in her coven who survived and those who are guardians of the image would in turn be rewarded with increased power and strength to come out of hiding and fight those who are trying to still claim this plane.”

“Claire I wasn’t lying to you when I told you that I am not Saria. I am not even a very good witch. I don’t know how I bounced the image back to you, I have only…” I pause momentarily debating whether to tell her that I have shared images with Andrew, but then again, considering what she was afraid of in revealing Saria to me, I don’t want her daughter to lose her powers under some mistaken belief that I am this person. They seem to embrace their powers even more so than those up here who are dealing with the surreal every day. “Claire, I don’t know exactly how I shared the image back to you, but I don’t think that I am the one your daughter was meant to share the image with. I have been able to show Andrew and a man up here images before.” For some reason, I don’t want her to know about Jacob seeing and sharing images, despite her and Ben being good people. “Claire considering how worried you were, I think it may be best that your daughter refrain from meeting me and showing me the boy. I am not Saria and I’m sure that I can’t reunite them”

“Mia…” She rises, but then sits immediately and drops her voice. “You are the one who unlocked the image, it has to be you, you have to…” Ben places his hand on her shoulder and she stops. “Mia, please consider meeting her. Saria’s coven has been hiding in the shadows for centuries only picking a few people every fifty years to share the image to ensure that when the time is right, her coven can finally emerge. You can’t deny them that. Please from what we learned, they have been waiting for so long to complete their mission, to serve their purpose and forever ban Reabin and his men from interfering with their lives and those on this plane. You say you and your family fight the darkness and coming here, I believe you, but why would you refuse to help those who have waited so long to come out of the shadows and into the light.”

I shake my head. “It’s not that I don’t want to help them, but I’m afraid that I’ll do you more harm than good. Maybe your misconception of who I am…who you thought I was is coloring your judgment and if that somehow influenced what you said to your daughter, I don’t want to be the cause of her losing her powers.”

She reaches across and grabs my hand. “Mia, please, Casey said that it was imperative that she carry out her assignment and help Saria’s followers, they have suffered over the centuries as Reabin’s men reemerge and pick them off, you could make that right. You could reunite Saria and her son.”

“Claire, I could do you more harm than good. I don’t think that I am the one meant for those visions.”

“Mia, that may not be entirely true.” Andrew emerges from the room and all eyes are now glued to him, following him until he comes to rest next to me.

“What did you learn from Jason?” I squeak.

“You remember the story I told you of my father?” I nod. “If this Saria and Lucinda are somehow connected and have attached themselves to you similar to the way guardian angels attach themselves to someone, Jason said that he did come across some scrolls that talk about instances where people who are connected to them may see you more as the one who is attached to you.”

“But how does that explain what we saw?”

“Mia you need to remember that we are seeing their images, their perceptions, maybe you are not seeing the historical event as it happened but the historical event clouded by their perception and colored by the one who is attached to you.

“How did Jason learn about this? What else does he know?”

“Gabriel contacted him after the incident with Anthony; that is why he isn’t here right now. He began researching the issue that night.” He turns to me and picks up my hand. “I don’t want you to panic, but he said that you may be correct in assuming that there is some unfinished business, some event that needs to play out. They may be attaching themselves to you and I now because the people who have information, who have knowledge of who they were are emerging in one area, but they need to connect in order to start the event. They may not even have attached themselves to you and I that long ago, it may be as recent as our first contact with Anthony and Claire. We may be the first opportunity they have because of some convergence of energy and individuals to rectify unfinished business. ”

I can feel the panic seizing my heart as I remember the unfolding events the last time we faced unresolved issues. What if this time the unresolved issues involve our children having to enter another realm to finally put whatever this newest conundrum is to rest? What if this boy or what Anthony fears somehow entangles themselves with us?

“Mia, you need to calm down, nothing has happened. This is only one possibility. Maybe it is that this Saria and Lucinda are somehow connected and when Anthony and Claire crossed our path, they attached to us because of who we are. We could simply be acting as messengers or conduits for them to gather their parties together.”

“But then what makes you think we are descendants and how would they attach to both of us to make this happen?”

“You know if you trace back far enough you can find some connection probably with anyone. Jason said that it is easier to manipulate the image if they are working with descendants when changing the image in the one who is seeing it in their mind. They need someone with similar features so that the altering is easy. Mia, please your heart rate has spiked, take in a few deep breaths and calm down. This may be as easy as finding Saria’s son and allowing her to pass some image or instruction to him and have them unite that way.”

Although his tone is calming, I detect the traces of anxiety in his voice. Knowing that nothing can be that easy, but realizing who is around us and how without more information panic will only cause mistakes, I close my eyes and force my heart rate to slow.

After agreeing to at least meet with Casey, Claire leaves relieved. They will meet us at the house early tomorrow evening and then return here a few days later to take home Stephanie and Ben. Eva wanted to work a few more days with Stephanie before she has to return to the agency.

“Did Jason say anything else that might be helpful in all of this?”

Andrew shakes his head. “He is traveling to meet up with a friend who has in the past been in touch with ancient spirits. Where this Saria is said to have traveled between realms, maybe someone there can be of help. Either way, he will meet us at home tomorrow and maybe by then he will have some more light to spread on the subject.

The next morning as we pack the car, I can see the children looking around, saying good-bye to their friends and wonder if, considering what might be brewing, it may be better to leave them here where they would be safer. A hand on my back makes me jump. “Mia, they will be fine. If anything develops, we can all be there within in a few hours. It would be very detrimental for them and even you to leave them behind now. They just got you back and the people in New York see you now with them. Too many changes will cause questions and you will constantly be worried about whether leaving them here was the right decision. You will become more distracted than I fear you will become with this newest endeavor to stay the course of what you originally went there to finish.”

“But what if this newest issue takes me away from that anyway and worse, puts them in danger. I can’t do anything more to them.”

“Then take them home. Home is where you and Andrew are. They need to be close to you. They are strong and so are you, but all of you are stronger when you are together. If you need us, we will be there. We have plenty of coverage here now and can leave at a moment’s notice.”

“But what if I’m exposing them to more than we can handle?”

“Mia, the unknown always feels like more than we can handle because we never know what will happen next, but hiding because of what can occur, hiding from fear is no life at all and allows the darkness to take one more thing from us. A very wise woman said that once.” He smiles ruefully at me. “Seriously, they need to experience life and they have seen what our world can begin to throw in their path, shielding them from this type of reality will only make them more vulnerable.” I open my mouth to say something, but he leans down and begins whispering in my ear as Jacob approaches. “I’m not saying put them in the line of fire, but it is better to keep them in the loop than have them try to fight their way to you as you are in the thick of something. If you see anything at all, feel insecure, I promise, we will come and if you want the children to return then, we can come and you can talk to them about it, but shutting them out will only make them feel insecure about their abilities and feel as if their family is fragmenting instead of staying together.”

I nod as Jacob stands before me. “Is something wrong?”

“No sweetie, I was just thinking how much I will miss our home.”

“Mom, please stop treating me like a child. I know that you are worried about what is going to happen when we return because you are meeting someone who either thinks you are someone else or can help someone from a long time ago.” My mouth drops open. “Uncle Gabriel is right, you can’t keep us out of this or locked up here. We are much stronger than you give us credit for. I know Nicole gets concerned, but she is stronger than she gives herself credit for and when she needs to, she finds the strength. You can’t protect us forever and isn’t it better that we learn while we are with you and can draw strength from our being together?”

“Jacob, were you listening last night?” I manage to squeak out when I recover the ability to move my jaw.

“No, I actually heard Claire talking last night in my dreams. I must have somehow connected to you or dad. Although it was dreamlike last night, I did hear uncle Gabriel now and it confirmed it wasn’t a dream.”

“Jacob, I wasn’t trying to treat you like a child. I know that you are extremely mature, but as you know, we have been through a lot and you are more comfortable than the others using your powers. I just don’t want to force the others into using their powers or into a situation that they might not be ready for.”

He moves us away from the car as the others approach with their suitcases and Gabriel helps them pack them into the trunk. “Mom, maybe pushing them to use their powers would be a good thing. You never know when they may be in a situation where they need to use them and we are not around. Mom, they need to get strong too and comfortable in situations, hesitation will hurt them.” I open my mouth about to ask him if he has seen anything, but before I can, he raises his hand up. “I’m not saying I saw anything, all I’m saying is that sometimes, forcing them into doing something they feel uncomfortable with but in a situation where there is no immediate danger or when they have you and dad for back up, may get them prepared if something does happen.”

“When did you become so much wiser than your mother?”

He laughs. “Not wiser, I’m just not a parent yet who always wants to keep her children from harm, which as we both know is an impossible goal, but which I will probably try to do too when I have children of my own.” I hug him and we are both laughing when the others approach.

“What’s so funny?” Nicholas asks approaching us.

“I was just telling mom, if she really likes how the wing comes out, maybe we can bounce back and forth and that will be just one more hospital to add to the list of the family hospitals started.”

“Would you really want to bounce back and forth? Why wouldn’t you want to stay here and let someone else run that, someone who is supposed to be there?” I can hear the panic undertone in Nicole’s voice as Kayla puts her hand on Nicole’s arm, she quickly changes direction. “If you wanted to that would be great, but wouldn’t it be too much for you to bounce between practicing psychiatry and surgery?”

Smiling, I move closer to her. “That would be confusing, wouldn’t it? I think I would much rather stick to the original plan of breaking ground and moving toward my replacement taking over so that we can fade back into our life here.” I feel her relax.





Chapter Seven - New York On A New Day





The drive home is quiet. Anthony is staying with Christian for a few more days and everyone seems to be entrenched in their own thoughts.

Settling back in as the children get ready for school, I prepare dinner and Andrew is poring over responses to letters he sent to various agencies as Jonathan. At 8:30 there is knock on the door. Opening it, Claire, Ben a young woman whom I assume is Casey and a tall gentleman who must be her husband are on the step. Moving back to allow them in, I see the astonished and excited look on Casey’s face as she flashes a glance to Claire.

Moving into the library, I can see Jacob coming down the stairs, but waive him off. I don’t want the children involved in this, not yet anyways, too much is still unknown.

Shutting the door behind me, I see his disgruntled look.

Casey holds out her hand. “It’s amazing to meet you. I never….”

Before she can say anymore, Claire touches her shoulder and she stops talking and I can hear Claire whisper. “Remember, she said she is not her.”

“Please sit down, would anyone like some tea or coffee?”

The gentleman beside her speaks as they sit. “I’m Adam. If it’s not too much trouble, I would love a cup of coffee. I have to work the late shift tonight.”

Andrew moves, but I need a minute, I can see Casey’s excitement and I am still not sure whether Andrew is right or that James is for that matter. In fact, I’m surprised that he hasn’t arrived yet. Hopefully his flight is not delayed much longer. He was supposed to arrive two hours ago. I was hoping to talk to him before she revealed anything to me. I don’t want to be the cause of her losing her powers or worse, any type of retribution which may come her way.

A cool set of hands causes me to jump, spilling some of the coffee on the counter. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, but you were gone a little too long and I became concerned.”

“Help me grab some refreshments for the others. I was just thinking about…”

“Me I hope” James comments as he slips in the back door.

“Yes in fact.”

“I had to catch a later flight so that I could meet up with Mark and convince him to come back with me.

As the tall gentleman enters behind him his eyes shift wildly between Andrew and myself, but then lock on mine. He drops to his knees and my world becomes black.

Waking on the couch in the living room, I can see Andrew’s concerned eyes staring at me and can feel the cool cloth upon my head. “How long have I been out?”

“Only a minute or two. I sent James in to tell them that you got an emergency call from the hospital and wouldn’t be long.”

Sitting up too quickly, my head begins to spin. Andrew hands me a glass of water, take a few sips and just rest a moment. “Andrew, do you know who that is?” I can barely push the words past my lips?

“I know who he looks like and from his reaction, I know who he thinks we are, but Mia, we need to deal with the Casey situation first. Once they leave, we can talk to him. James asked him to go wait in the office.

As we enter the library, I can hear Casey whispering to her husband in the corner that her mother has to be wrong and I know they must have been arguing about who I am. As we cross the threshold, I hear her husband caution her that if I am Saria and want to stay anonymous, she shouldn’t push it or they could both be gone in the blink of an eye. I can’t help but gasp. Could this witch really be able to make someone disappear? Adam’s eyes meet mine before giving Casey one more cautioning glance and moving her forward.

As we all take our seats, I can feel the change in atmosphere, the charge of anxiety and concern building around us. I wonder briefly if this is what Andrew meant by feeling the energy building around us and if this too is something new. Staring at the faces staring at me, I can see a haze in the room emanating off of each of them.

“”Mia, I know that you tried to convince my mother that you are not the one that I should be sharing the images with, but you are wrong. I don’t understand why you are hiding. Consider how much your coven has suffered through the centuries. You need to stop the hunt, let them complete their mission and stop hiding, cowering. Obviously, you have the power to defeat death, look who is still at your side, look who you have brought back. Are you so afraid to lose him even for a moment that you would let your people, your followers suffer and be hunted without …” Before she can say another word, Claire jumps from her seat, stands before her and half turns to address her while straining to keep cautious eyes upon my folded hands.

“Don’t. Remember what I told you, please, it is not good to challenge someone so ancient. Most back then sought revenge for such disrespect.” She turns to me. “If you need to seek revenge, take it out on me, please leave her alone, she is young and sometimes too impetuous for her own good when she believes those around her are needlessly suffering.”

I hold up my hand and her eyes grow wide as she braces for some ill-provoked impact. “Claire, I am not going to do anything to you or Casey. I have no reason to harm either one of you.” As she relaxes and moves back next to Ben, I turn to Casey. “I am not Saria, nor would I hide from anyone if I knew people were being slaughtered because of me. You talk of this ancient being and we have learned that her spirit or someone close around her may be around us, but I am not her and Andrew is not this Sahir you speak of. He has been Andrew for over five hundred years.” I can see the skepticism in her eyes and I shift forward. “Casey, you say that Saria’s coven has been hunted in some way by this Reabin and his men. If that is the case, wouldn’t after so many centuries of Andrew walking this earth someone from his coven have told Reabin that Andrew was here and wouldn’t they have gone after him if he was Sahir?”

Andrew interjects and I can see he is impressed with my reasoning. “She’s right. If I were this Sahir, I traveled all over in my early days, been through many countries, made many friends and have fought many an enemy. You said that Saria’s people believed that Reabin was part demon, the demon world has known where I have been for quite some time and if I were this Sahir the demon and his followers have been hunting, someone from the underworld would have come hunting me, since you say that they hunt Saria and Sahir’s followers?”

Casey stares at us and I can tell from her expression that she is seriously considering what we are telling her. She shakes her head and I can see Adam’s arm move closer to her. It appears that he is trying to inconspicuously touch her arm. I wonder if they are somehow communicating without the spoken word. I hear her sharp intake of breath and her tone is now contrite. “I apologize for my outburst. I became more involved in this than I ever anticipated and considering when I look at you I see those from history standing before me, I got carried away. In any case, you are the one who showed my mother the images which require that I now share what your son…” Adam nudges her. “Saria’s son looks like on this plane so that you can reunite…them” Standing up, I raise my hand cautioning her and motioning for her to sit back down.

“Casey, please hear me out before you do anything. It is imperative that you consider what I am saying before you decide to show me anything. I have been involved with some very strange occurrences, granted nothing like that of the event I saw when I touched your mother’s arm, but my seeing that was unintentional Then when she conducted the spell, I know that she saw what I saw, but that has happened to me with past events before. Individuals who have connected to me in certain things when I have seen past events have seen what I have. I did not purposefully show your mother the images, maybe it is because of my fluke with sharing with some images of past events before and when you were told that you are to share with the person who shows your mother Sahir, they must have meant a person who purposefully shows your mother this image. I know how concerned your mother became when I saw the first image that she would lose her powers and there would be some form of retribution against her, you need to consider this possibility before making another move. Maybe you could even speak to whoever gave you this instruction. I am going to be here. I am not going anywhere, if you then want to come back and share the image with me, I will be happy to see it, but for now, I don’t think that it would be a good idea, I could cause you more harm than good if you are wrong. Although I am not an enemy of this Saria and one of our researchers says there is a possibility that she or someone close to her is around me and that is why everyone is confusing me with her or seeing me more like her than I may be, I would like everyone to take a step back before we take actions that may have irreversible and dire consequences.”

Although I see her disapproving features, I can tell that Adam appears relieved and that he is in agreement. Casey opens her mouth, but as Adam stares and me and realizes that I am aware they are non-verbally communicating, he no longer appears worried about being inconspicuous and grabs her wrist. She immediately closes it and half turns to him. Staring at each other for several moments, I turn my attention to Claire who appears to be considering what I said and assessing our arguments as well. Adam finally rises and he has the attention of the room.

Holding his hand out to me, he smiles. “Mia thank you for meeting with us tonight. You are right. Considering the repercussions of making a mistake in this area, we will step back and possibly talk to the one who instructed Casey. If it is alright with you may I call you in a day or two and let you know where we are with things?”

Reaching into my pocket, I get out one of my business cards and hand it to him. “My numbers are listed here and you can reach me at any time.” I turn to Casey. “Please think about this carefully no matter who you speak with.”

She nods, but I can still see the aggravation in her eyes.

Ben comes up to me as the others are in the foyer, “Mia, thank you for being so cautious, I know what Casey thinks, but you may be right and I would hate for anything to happen to her.”

“So would I that is why I wanted her to stop and talk to whoever gave her the instructions.” I grab his wrist and my features implore him to look at me. “Ben, please try to talk some reason into her, I don’t think that I am the one she is to tell and I can see her resolve to share the images with me. I can tell Adam was trying to dissuade her and she was digging in her heels.”

Despite the shock in his eyes as my implications seep into his consciousness, I can also see his understanding at my concern. “I will see what I can do, but when she gets something into her head, there is no dissuading her. I’m sure the next two days in her house will be pure hell. She hates waiting and will torture Adam about it and then contact you as soon as possible, but I will try to talk to her.”

As we join the others, Andrew opens the door. The cool air rushes in and I shiver as we say our good nights. I turn hoping to go into the library to speak with Jason and the man of my past vision. Stepping away from Andrew, I hear Adam scream for someone to watch out. Turning, I see shadows whirling around Casey and panic. Running through the doorway, I flick my wrists forward and see Claire do the same, but our energies somehow collide and we are both knocked down. Andrew is by my side, helping me to my feet. Casey is about two feet off the ground and I can see the panic in Claire’s eyes as Ben is helping her up. Andrew is pulling me to my feet and has my left hand as I thrust forward my right. Gasps echo through the darkness as a fiery stream of energy hits the two shadows holding Casey, thrusting them back and causing Casey to fall towards the ground.

Adam immediately thrusts himself forward and is upon her protectively, probably fearing the shadows’ return and Claire and Ben rush to stand protectively in front of him. I am frozen to my spot, stunned and staring as the remnants of the glistening stream echoing against the darkened night sky like the remnants of an extinguished firework.

As my eyes dart through the darkness, the shadows, now five are coming at us all. Adam rises with Casey, pushes her protectively behind him as Ben jumps before Casey and Claire. The shadows begin whirling a vortex around them. Knowing what this could mean, I force myself from my immobility and throw my hands forward, but my energy doesn’t penetrate the dust storm now surrounding them. I can see their feet leaving the ground. If they get too high, a fall will finish them. Something inside of me screams to grab Andrew’s hand again before my flicking wrist completely extends. As I do, another fiery bolt of energy is thrust at the vortex. As the cyclone bursts apart, a force of energy unlike anything I have felt before thrusts us deep into the sinking earth below our feet. Andrew rises quickly with me in his arms and climbs out of the three foot deep hole which was once our perennial garden. Staring up, fearing the shadows will come at us, I am shocked to see a shimmering gray mist forming between us and them before they flee into the darkness.

Moving quickly toward Claire, Ben, Adam and Casey, we are joined by Jason, Jeff and his men.

“Mia, what’s going on? Were those the same shadows that we encountered with Anthony?”

I don’t know why, but as I step back and think about them, I realize that they were not and shake my head before turning to Casey.

“Is everyone alright?’

Casey jumps to her feet. “Mia, Reabin’s men, they found you, you have to let …” She grabs my wrists and an image of a young boy leaning down over me, no more than five or six years old flashes before my eyes. His face wrought with concern and as I stare into his teary eyes, I catch my ashen reflection. Feeling something trying to push its way through, another image, I try to rip my wrist from hers, but as I do, I am thrown off balance and Andrew grabs me, steadying me. As he does, my will to block the encroaching images waivers and flashes of this boy growing into a man bombard my consciousness. I hear Andrew gasp as I finally rip my wrist from Casey. My eyes shift from her to him, he appears stunned. “What wrong?”

My high pitched voice pierces through Adam’s worried words as he now has Casey’s hand in his grasp. “What have you done?”

Ripping her hand from his she shouts. “What I had too. We can’t wait. If they found her, found him, they can’t hide any longer. They have to act now before it’s too late.”

“They aren’t them! Weren’t you listening? Even if they are connected to them somehow, maybe you weren’t supposed to show her. What if they are the catalysts to lead you to who you were supposed to show the image too? You know you only had one opportunity to share the image. If you are wrong…”

Before he can finish, I interrupt. “Maybe we should go back inside.” I urge.

They head in, but I can see the concern in each of their eyes and know it is not merely the shadows. Surprisingly, the children did not appear to hear the commotion, all is quiet upstairs.

As Adam opens his mouth, Jason speaks before he can start on Casey again. “Adam, what did you mean that Casey only had one opportunity to share the image?”

Entering the living room, once more, I can see the door to the library is ajar and can hear soft whispers coming from the low lit room. Andrew moves toward the door and I can see surprise and maybe even worry in his features at whatever he is hearing and wonder who is in the room with Jason’s companion.

Adam sits and turns to Casey. “There is no use in keeping anything back now.” Trepidation rips through his tone as he begins speaking and despite his words, I can tell he is still worried about what can come of revealing what they know. “When Casey received the image, Castore explained to her that because the knowledge of what Ma’at looks like on this plane in this century is so dangerous, that those they pick to hold his secret only have one opportunity to share the image and once they do, they can no longer recall the image themselves.”

All eyes shift towards Casey who for the first time appears nervous and to be questioning her choice. As Adam’s eyes meet hers, I can see the mist forming at the corners of her eyes. “I can’t see him anymore.” Her voice cracks as a tear escapes and I can see for the first time her resolve waiver. “What if you’re right? I …” Her head falls into her hands as sobs now rip from her chest.

Cradling her to his chest, Adam’s voice becomes soft. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have jumped all over you. No matter what happens, you will be fine. You didn’t blow anything. They are not Saria’s enemy. Nothing will happen to you.”

Before he can say another word, she pulls back. “I’m not worried about me. If you are right and I blew it when Reabin or his men are here, I have put everyone in danger, including Ma’at.” She jumps out of his embrace, moves swiftly to the hallway and can’t seem to contain her pacing. Mumbling to herself, I catch some of her words “…stupid …impulsive…suffering… demon.”

Her last word stops me dead in my tracts as Claire, Ben and Adam are now trying to calm her down.

“Give them a minute.” Andrew is at my side and is now whispering in my ear. He turns his back to them and is now looking at, Jeff, Jason and I. His voice is barely audible to me, but I can tell, Jeff and Jason hear him clearly. “She is worried now because if Adam is right, she fears she just showed someone tied to a demon the one image Saria’s people have fought for centuries to protect.” Although I am at a loss, Jason and Jeff shake their heads. Catching my confusion, Andrew directs his attention at me. “Mia, I’m the demon she now fears.”

“You’re not a ….”

Before I can finish, he puts his finger to my lips, silencing me as I hear the voices in the hall abruptly stop. Andrew’s lips are at my ear. “Mia, vampires are seen by witches as having ties to the demon world and considering who made me, she is closer to the truth than she realizes.”

I shake my head vigorously, but his hand is upon my lips silencing me before my boisterous objection can escape. Pulling me back to his ear, his soft rebuff is also a warning. “I know what you are going to say and I am not opening up that argument, but considering how spiked her heart rate is now, we need to calm her down and the less said to alarm her the better.”

Stepping back, I can hear that Jason has joined them and is trying to reassure Casey that everything should be fine. “They have never sided with the darkness. Their family suffered greatly because dark forces came after them so believe me when I tell you that you have not shared the image with someone who will hurt the child or their men. If they ever did come across him, I’m sure they would fight to protect him if they saw harm coming his way. They have always fought to protect people.”

Ben interjects. “Casey you know what we said about Sanctuary. Being there, I believe that they do fight the demons. I even heard some of the wolves talking about fights against their own where they took out vampires.”

“But…”

Before she can continue, Adam places his arms around her now shaking body. “Casey, you believed we were all wrong telling you not to share the image and you know that you would have come here in a day or two all hell bent to share the image no matter what. Don’t lose your resolve now. You need to stay strong. We can even go and speak with Castore.” He turns with Casey in his arms. “Mia, considering what happened this evening, would you mind if we returned with Castore if she wants to meet with you?”

Moving into the foyer, “I am working the early shift, but should be here after four.”

Casey is still shaking as Adam says good-bye and they all leave. Jason is already inside as Andrew and I enter with Jeff behind us. I am surprised to see that Jacob is there talking with the man. Entering he rises quickly and Jacob runs toward us. “Mom, this man has seen you and dad too.” I am shocked that from his tone he appears convinced that it is us and not people who have similar features. “He showed me images of dad fighting demons on a ship and then you in the water and …”His tone rises to a crescendo and he can’t get out the words.

The gentleman speaks. “I didn’t mean to, he saw the image of you dying…” Before he can finish, Jacob has my wrist and the image is flashing through my thoughts. I feel Andrew place his hand on my shoulder. My frame is gaunt, except for my bulging stomach, my face is ashen and filled with pain. I can feel the contraction as my eyes meet the man who is standing before me. He is delivering my child. As the child cries, he places her on my stomach and I grab his wrist.

“Protect her and promise me to get her to her brothers.”

“I promise, no harm will come to her, but what can I do for you?”

I am struck with the strangest feeling and realize I can feel my soul fighting to escape the confines of my body. Placing my hand on his heart, I can see a glow escaping out from underneath. “I know who I am now and cannot stay on this plane, but I need you to protect the children and accept immortality. I have no one else to give it to. It is a gift and a curse. I’m sorry.”

He nods. “I told you I will protect them. I’m sorry we could not save the captain, but your family is safe, they will not find them. I will get to your brother-in-law and get your daughter to her brothers.” The glow beneath my hand flares and then the light fades as the final burst of energy escapes my corporeal confines. He kisses my forehead and raises the child to my lips. I am too weak now to even lift her. Kissing her forehead, “Remember, I love you always and will be watching you Cass….” The image fades and I know it is because the woman in the vision is gone, at least her body is.

As I come back to the here and now, Jacob is staring at me and I can see the mist in his eyes as all other eyes are upon Andrew and I.

“Jacob, how did you see that?”

When all of the commotion started, I came down the stairs, I was going to come outside to help you, but Mark told me to come inside, he said that the shadows were not a danger, they were here to reveal something.”

My eyes shoot from Jacob to him and he nods. “I couldn’t let Jacob assist you, I could see and feel the energy surrounding those spirits; they were not here to harm anyone; they were here to help. I assume they must have been here to reveal the power you and Andrew have on this plane together. I imagine from your surprise, you did not know of this before.” Seeing our shock, he smiles in understanding and continues. “When I convinced Jacob to come inside, we observed through the window. Shadows are not what attacked you, they were shrouded spirits.” I can feel my mouth fall open, but he continues. “I have seen it before, spirits shrouding themselves in darkness to bring out powers of the ones they seek to help. It happened to me shortly after I laid you to rest. I didn’t understand that when you gave me your immortality that you passed along powers as well.”

I interrupt. “That could not have been me.”

He shakes his head. “Of course it was you. You saw the visions, it is unmistakable. I never thought that you would come back. I wasn’t aware that you could, but then again, I have seen so many inexplicable things since our last encounter.”

“It couldn’t have been me. It must have been one of my ancestors that you were with.” Even as I say this though, I wonder if in some way he is correct considering I saw the visions before ever seeing him. Before I can even continue my train of thought, Jacob interrupts.

“Mark, why would spirits want to look like demons? That doesn’t seem right.”

Sitting down, he motions for Jacob to sit in the chair next to him. His features relax and his tone sounds like that of a centuries old teacher. “Jacob sometimes fear motivates us to attempt things that we would not otherwise try. It touches something inside us to do all that we can to achieve an escape or a result which we may not believe is possible, but in a moment of need our desperation for the outcome spurs actions which we may never consider. Desperation and the thought that we have nothing to lose sometimes overpowers our self-doubt and we just try our hardest without restriction.” I can see Jacob’s eyes light up and realize he is thinking about the first time he was at this house.

“But isn’t it dangerous for spirits to shroud themselves in darkness?”

He smiles. “Most of the time no. Even if they were to be removed from this plane, they will return home and if they cannot get back here for a while, a new spirit would be sent to help complete their mission.” His eyes cloud over momentarily and his tone becomes a whisper. “On occasion, however, it can be dangerous if they go up against one who can abolish their soul to the other side for all eternity or they come across one who causes the soul to dissipate entirely releasing the energy like energy released into the atmosphere never to be joined again.”

Jacob gasps. “That happened to someone you knew didn’t it.” His voice cracks and he reaches over and touches Mark’s hand. A moment later a tear escapes down his cheek and I can see that he must have seen whoever was close to Mark.

Mark leans across. “Jacob, it’s alright, it happened a long time ago.”

“Do any of them ever come back?” I can see desperation and surprise in Jacob’s expression.

Mark smiles. “I was privileged centuries ago to have my daughter return for a short time, but she needed to return, she had obligations home and only came to force out the powers of a young woman who swore she didn’t have powers and that even if she did, she would never use them and enter the world that ripped her family away.”

Considering all that has happened I have to ask even though my own thoughts scream that it cannot be a possible. “When your daughter returned, did she return in hu…” I shake my head as my throat closes refusing to let such an impossibility escape my lips. Closing my eyes momentarily, I change to a somewhat more reasonable question. “Did she come back as a spirit?” Although I can’t believe that this is a more reasonable question, knowing that I saw my mom and sister, at least my mind allows me to acknowledge this type of possibility.

“She did but did not stay long so she did not need to borrow a body to complete her task, like some of those who stay longer. Although, I must say, I have never seen a spirit come back corporally as itself. I knew the two of you were special considering what we experienced that day on the boat, the loop, but I never imagined this.” He is now staring at Andrew and I. As Mark recounts the loop experienced by Sahir and Saria’s escaping coven ring in my mind, I barely hear Mark. “How did you do it? You haven’t changed. I never thought after they destroyed you.” Then he turns and stares at me. “I buried you myself. How did you …” He stares with such intensity, it is almost as if he is trying to will out what happened.

Jacob’s stare is also intense. “Mark although I appreciate you traveling all this way, it couldn’t have been me.” Although even as I say this I can hear the doubt in my tone and wonder why so much is now happening around us. As this thought occurs to me, a question unfolds. “Mark how did Jason find you so quickly?”

“He didn’t. I sought him out.” My eyes glance to Jason and he nods. “Cassandra contacted me and told me that Jason would be searching ancient scrolls for answers to questions regarding events in which I could help and that it was crucial that I contact him and that you see me. She said that I would be able to help you with some unanswered questions and I can see now why she was insistent that I see you immediately. For so many spirits to surround you, something big of which you play a central role must be unfolding. I have never seen such a contingent nor have I ever felt the presence of such energy, but then again, considering the numbers in this house and that surround you, I can see why she said things are moving quickly.”

He is talking as cryptically as she is now. “Mark can you help us decipher what is going on and who is around us or are you tied like Cassandra is to our having to find out most of this on our own?”

“I am not tied to the same rules as gatekeepers. However, I am also not in the loop of knowledge that they have. I would love to tell you what is going on, but I am not privileged to know that at this time.”

“Can you tell us how Cassandra got in touch with you?”

“She called me and gave me Jason’s number to call and said that he would be called upon within twenty-four hours from my speaking with her to begin researching some events and that I needed to call him by then because it was imperative for me to travel with him and meet some people.”

“Did she say anything else?”

“She told me that I would understand when I arrived the importance of my journey and that I was to stay and assist you in any way possible until she and someone named Reginald returns. “

The silence which descends upon the room becomes unbearable and Andrew final interjects. “On that little she told you, you left to find Jason and traveled here.”

“I called Jason first.” He chuckles. “As soon as he told me of the situation, I left to join him immediately. When Cassandra or the others call, one moves immediately.”

“What others, are the woman’s other children still alive?”

His eyes turn sad. “Only one besides the girl still resides on this plane, her older brother. Your other two children died in battle. I’m sorry, we tried to protect them, and did for a century, but as time changed and they ventured out…” He stops suddenly as tears escape my eyes. “I’m sorry, I did try to protect them…”

I raise my hand. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t even know why I’m crying.”

Andrew interjects as he pulls me so that my back is against his front and his hands are rubbing my upper arms in a soothing gesture. “Mark, did Cassandra give you a way to get in touch with her?

“No, she said she would be unreachable, but she did say that she was hoping that it would only be a few days and then they were planning on returning.”

Wiping my tear, I hope he is right and that Reginald and Amanda are retuning and are not in too bad a shape that they can’t give us some answers because from everything I discerned from Andrew, Cassandra’s cryptic ways will only send us in further circles and if Mark and Andrew are correct in the increasing energy around us, I don’t want this unfolding without something to go on.

I see Jacob yawn. “Why don’t you go to bed?”

As he rises, so does Mark. “If you don’t mind, I would like to retire as well. It has been a long few days.”

“Of course, let me show you to a room.” Jason interjects.

“Mia, would you mind showing me the room?” He inquires and I can see Andrew’s curiosity as to why Mark wants to get me alone, but he keeps his mouth shut and moves toward Jacob before they exit the room.

Moving toward the foyer, he is right behind me, but doesn’t say anything. Opening one of the vacant rooms, I move inside and flick on the lights and turn to leave. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, but I think I have an answer to your unspoken question. Slowly he places his hand on my wrist and closes his eyes. As he does an image begins forming in my mind of a young man. He is tall, statuesque with chestnut hair. As the young man turns and his eyes meet mine, I gasp. Mark’s hand retreats from my arm and the image vanishes. “I’m sorry, I thought you wanted to know what he looked like.”

“I did, but…” I am about to tell him that the image he showed me is the same young man that Casey showed me, but I just can’t seem to find the right words and wonder if I have the right. “How did you know that I wanted to see him?”

His eyes drop, but as they return to mine, I can see a resolve in his eyes as if he made a decision. “I could hear you debating the idea of asking me in your mind and the fear that it would somehow validate what I was saying if you remember seeing your son.” My mouth drops open, but he continues to shock me. “I cannot tell you why Ma’at and Peter are the same for sure. Maybe you traveled with him to the time when I knew you and you had your daughter, but you do not have to be afraid to ask me anything or show me anything. Maybe I can help. I would never harm you or your family. I swore to protect all of your children, no matter what period they come from.”

We stare at each other for what feels like hours until I finally find my tongue. “Are you saying you believe that I was in more than one time period and that this boy traveled with me? If that were true, why wouldn’t he and my daughter be with me now?” I don’t mean to but I find that I have involuntarily fisted my hands and hit my upper thighs.

Grabbing my upraised hands, “Mia, please, don’t get frustrated. I’m sure that there is an explanation. Maybe when Cassandra returns all will be revealed.”

“Do you know where the boy is now?” He shakes his head. “I thought you said you were protecting them.”

“I did until they became of age and then we kept in touch and I would come wherever they were whenever they needed me, but we all had our jobs to do. I can tell you this, about a year ago Peter said he had to come to the Continental United States because he feared someone he was close to was going to get themselves into trouble. I wanted to meet him here, but he said that this was something that he had to do himself and then ranted about rules and how he couldn’t get anyone else involved in breaking them.”

“Have you spoken to him since or was that the last you heard from him?” I can feel the panic rising within me for fear something happened to him.”

“Mia, I have heard from him. As of a few days ago he was doing fine. Please calm down, it is not good for you to get upset. If you would like, I can try to reach him in the morning, find out where he is and see if he would be willing to come here and meet with you.”

“Would you do that?”

“Of course, but I think that it would be best for you to calm down and maybe you should go and rest and let us see what tomorrow brings.”

I grasp his hand. “Mark what about the girl, can you show me what she looks like?” His features fall. “What’s wrong?” I can feel the panic rising within me, what if something has happened to this girl?

His voice turns very soothing, but I see him taking a step back and wonder if it is so that he will not show me her. “She has asked that I not reveal her image, she said that all will reveal itself in time, when you are truly ready.”

I can feel my frustration heighten with this new puzzle, but know better than to push him, especially since he has already been so forthcoming and we may need him to help us locate the boy “Thank you Mark for showing me Peter and thank you for coming.”

“Are you kidding, it is my pleasure. Actually it is a shock to see you again. A good one for once though.” He shakes his head in disbelief. “I will see you in the morning.

Retreating to my room, Andrew is sporting a cup of tea. “Are you alright? What took you so long?” He inquires handing me the cup.

“Mark showed me the boy but said that the girl has asked to stay anonymous at this time.” Looking up at him, I can see curiosity raging in his eyes. “Andrew is it possible that we are not seeing our ancestors but are actually seeing ourselves in another time?”

He stares at me and I can see he is searching for an answer himself. “I think that it is more likely that we are seeing ancestors, but honestly, I can’t say anything for certain. “ Putting down the cup of tea, I take hold of his hand hoping to show him the images that were shown to me.”

“Mia, I thought that we agreed that I would be the only one who went around Scott. We don’t know how much he knew of the real Jonathan and his mother’s relationship. What if he knew about Jonathan and his mother and his memories of their involvement have not been wiped, we don’t want to upset him thinking he is coming into contact with the woman who replaced his mother. I would rather any encounter be with me directly.”

My concentration is broken and I stumble backward onto the bed. Looking up, I can see the concern in Andrew’s eyes. “I was showing you Ma’at and Peter, they appear to be the same person.” As the realization of his words hit me, I can see the importance of this discovery has hit him too. Staring at each other, we are both left speechless. Could this be why Andrew felt familiarity with Scott and why everything seems to be coming together now? I don’t know whether to feel relief in that we could just be messengers for the ancestors around us trying to get the new faces around us together or fear for what may be culminating into some new path that will lead us right into the thick of a world that could crush my family. Rising, I want to grab the children, get them to Sanctuary where at least they would have their family and some protection even if we are being called upon for some other purpose, but as I take a step forward, I’m bombarded by the vision of hell with my family trapped in the all-consuming fires. I feel the fire consuming them as Jonathan emerges at my side once more stopping me from burning, but also imprisoning me within my own being from freeing those that I love. I’m frozen, watching helplessly as all those I love, all those I want to protect and all those who deserve to live free from the darkness that appears somehow connected to me are desecrated by the piercing flames surrounding my existence. I hear myself gasp and can feel the sulfur on my tongue before the image is extinguished and I feel Andrew’s strong arms lifting me to his chest. I blink, but still I cannot see. New images are flashing before my eyes too fast. A pit of rising lava, darkened burned out caves, crumbling tunnels, each filled with springing shadowy and fiery creatures leading to the cavernous room and faces which feel familiar but which I do not recognize.

I feel Andrew pulling me back to the surface and we are now in a room with a fiery Pentateuch glowing from a wooden floor. Andrew and I are standing among the flames in the middle as cloak enshrouded individuals are holding flaring candles and spouting chants in various languages. As our eyes finally focus, Jacob removes his hood and throws himself at Andrew and I as the floor opens once more and the veil before my eyes is lifted. As my eyes meet Andrew’s I know he was with me and saw the room.

“Are you alright?” Andrew’s tone reflects his anxiety as he moves me back toward the bed.

“I’m fine, but how much did you see?” I rasp. My throat is dry and I reach for the tea.

“I saw some shadow filled caves and the room with the Pentateuch, but Mia, before that, I felt a flash burn as I pulled you to my chest in hopes of cooling you.

Grabbing his forearm as he sits beside me, “We need to get the children back to Sanctuary! Jacob was in that room with us.”

Embracing me tightly, he fights to make his tone calm. “I saw him, but Mia, nothing is going to happen to him. The room is not here that you saw.”

“You recognize the room!”

“I do, it is where my imprisonment started and I will not let it be the start of his.” Although I can hear his resolve and know that he is much stronger now, we are no match for what I saw consuming them and I did not see who else was in the cloaks surrounding him.”

“Andrew, we need to go home, they need all of the protection that they can have. We have nothing here to help protect them.”

“Mia we could go home, but that won’t make whatever is building go away. We can’t hide and admit it, you really wouldn’t be happy waiting for the darkness to find a new way in. I know that you are scared, so am I, but you have always told me that we are strong and you’re right, we are strong and we will stick together and face this. We need to get some answers, open our minds to the possibilities that we are fighting and see where that leads. Running won’t solve anything and you know that.”

Releasing a breath, I didn’t even know I was holding I pull him closer. “I know you’re right, but Andrew, how can we protect them here? How can we stay? What if the vision of our family being consumed is what is facing us, how can we protect them, how can I not make them return to Sanctuary hoping to offer them some protection from that horror?

There is a knock on the door. “Come in Jeff”

Stepping thought the door, his features appear strained and he focuses on me. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but you sounded so scared. Whatever is going on, you have never backed down from a fight and things are happening around you for a reason. We are here and can help protect all the children, I can call more of my men down and” he turns to Andrew, “maybe you should call your family to come down as well, but you shouldn’t hide from this.” Turning his attention back to me, “Mia, you saw how powerful David became because they allowed it.” Disdain as he refers to his former pack drips like Vermont syrup being extracted from a tree. “I know that you are scared after what happened for your children and Andrew, but just think about how you will feel if you allow this to go and whatever is building around you gets stronger, grows, destroys more, influences others to cause more havoc, you won’t be able to live with yourself, you won’t be able to deal with the feelings that you put your family in further danger or are hiding them away to postpone you know what will not be stopped unless you allow us to work together and fight it. They don’t go away, you know that, unless you destroy it, face it and send it back, you will never be free and neither will your family.”

I know he’s right and that fear is motivating my desire to run. Can I find the resolve and strength to move forward with this? Lost in my own thoughts, I close my eyes searching for the strength to commit to doing the right thing. Somewhere his conversation with Andrew is registering before he apologizes again to Andrew for interfering. “I have just learned that sometimes a neutral voice is better heard than someone close to the situation.”

“Thank you.” The door shuts and I can feel Andrew sit beside me, but cannot quite open my eyes, not yet. “Mia don’t hide from me, talk to me, please.” He pleads.

My eyes flutter open. “I’m not hiding, I’m searching for what you always believe I have, the resolve to do the right thing.”

Pulling me to his chest, his fingers lift my chin so that my eyes meet his. “You are the strongest person I know and we will face this together. We aren’t alone in this. I’ll call home and have them come so that you will feel better and we will gather everyone who seems to have information and try and piece this together and decipher what our next move should be. I know that it will be hard, but for now, you need to rest. I have a meeting with Jonathan’s Board members and you have a shift, but Mia, you need to stay away from Ruth if she is there, especially until we know what is going on and we need to allow the children to go to school as usual tomorrow. I think it would be best to go along with the daily routines we have established, remember, Cassandra said it was important for us to get this accomplished as well and we can’t move until we gather everyone together and get a clearer picture of what is going on.”

Knowing that he is suggesting this not only to keep my mind off of my fears, but because the importance of this good deed brought us back together, we need to see this through too. “You’re right” Snuggling into his side, I close my eyes, but sleep won’t find me. I hear the chimes of the passing hours on the grandfather clock downstairs.

Hour after hour passes, Andrew has played the music box, tried humming, softly whispered in my ear wonderful memories, but my heart and mind just can’t relax. The house is silent and the chimes begin again, one, two, three. As the fourth chime rings, I feel a strange pull as if I’m moving, but am somehow aware that truly I am not. I am no longer struggling to sleep, but to relax and see where whatever I am experiencing is trying to take me. This journey is not my own, it is something else, something I have only experience rarely. Concentrating only on the floating I feel, the pitch black of my thoughts lightens and I can make out the shape of someone before me crawling through a tightened space and I can feel the uneven, hard surface below me. After a few moments, it feels as if we are crawling over coals and I can feel the hard rock crumbling and getting into the crevices of what can only be shredded pants. My palms feel as if they are on fire and a flare of light emblazons the shadow before me. It’s Amanda. She quickly stands and as the one behind her reaches the superheated cavern I am instantly aware I am Reginald and they are traveling through some passageway. His eyes are moving slower than I want them to be. I wish I could force him to look around, but he is staring at a nervous Amanda and I can hear him comforting her as emblazoned shadows begin circling them.

“Don’t look at them, Cassandra said they cannot truly hurt us, they are too immobilized by their own pain to gather and inflict lasting pain as long as we dodge them. Remember, if they hit the walls they recoil, so let’s pass through this area quickly and stay away from the walls.”

They begin running but the figures appear to be closing in on them. What if Cassandra is wrong. As Reginald looks at their encroaching figures, he appears unconcerned and it hits me that they are seeking relief by gathering close to Reginald and Amanda’s cool skin. I can’t help but wonder as this realization hits me as to whether I somehow connected to Reginald and this is his conclusions, because even though they are closing in on him, he does nothing to stop them.

Amanda calls out as she reaches two walled up archways. “Reginald come on, we need to hurry.” She shouts as she places her hand in some type of pattern on the stony wall to the right. As she does, the stones turn to dust and a wave of unimaginable heat bursts through the now opened entranceway. The fiery shadows instantly recoil to the other side, but as Reginald now moves quickly forward, I can feel a pull building around him. “Go through before they are pulled in!”

She rushes through as he is forced forward by an inescapable force. As he passes through, I feel the fire at his back. Throwing himself to the floor sideways, he just misses being engulfed by the ball of fire rolling through the passage. Some of the creatures escape before the ball is plunged into an emblazoned lava pit which spews up illuminating the area. As Amanda helps Reginald to his feet, she is up against a burnt coal wall crumbling under her touch. Reginald takes a quick look around assessing the area, but as he looks up, the cavern’s black roof is coming closer and closer, closing down on them. Grabbing Amanda’s hand, he inches his way along the narrow ledge under his feet.

Suddenly, amorphous like creatures emerge from the pit as the swishing of what I now realize are dark shadows traveling overhead becomes overwhelming. I have an urge to cover my ears, but reminding myself that I am experiencing this through Reginald’s perspective, unless he blocks his, it will do no good.

A shadow as black as a moonless midnight with blazing eyes, shoots between Amanda and Reginald knocking them off balance. Another comes at Reginald’s side and I feel his fall before Amanda even screams. “Get to the next archway” he yells and in that moment I see his fingertips on the ledge, as the amorphous objects are now taking shape and moving closer, but I also see the rocky cliff before me and feel it against my cheek. How can this be? I cannot be in both Reginald and Amanda that is not possible. As the fire hits Reginald’s fingertips, the scorching burn awakens the synapses of my mind and I now feel a familiar energy surrounding me. Energy connected to my heart and soul. Andrew is here with me, I am somehow seeing a different perspective from him. He can’t be here!

Forcing out everything else around me, I concentrate on Andrew and breaking our connection. I have to cast him out. I never tried doing this before, but fear if something somehow goes wrong, the warning I received when I was traveling down the dark paths about not being caught here applies even more so to him. I’m not sure if connecting to Reginald in my dream can cause the same problem, but I will not take chances, not where he is concerned. Blocking everything else out around me and what is going on with Reginald and Amanda, I instead concentrate on pulling every ounce strength I have and gathering all the energy around me. I can feel it gathering, strengthening, and building until it courses through me. As I push him out, I can feel myself gasp as I see his brilliant essence being thrust through the ashen wall, through the darkened shadows, through a fiery veil and finally settle upon his being which is stretched out beside me in our room, pleading something which I refuse to hear. I need to concentrate on staying here, staying with Reginald. As the shock of doing that to Andrew tries to settle in my mind, I force myself to instead concentrate on Reginald, fighting to stay connected to him, I need to see what is going on. I need to know if Reginald and Amada are coming back to us and what is coming for us. It must somehow be connected to this. Otherwise, I would not be here. I would not be seeing this.

As my resolve strengthens, I no longer see Andrew. I feel the intense heat around me and can see Amanda’s skin cracking because of the fire ripping up all around her. They are now surrounded, I can feel the hostility, hatred, anger, and blood lust of those encircling us. The darker, the more fiery the shadow, the deeper the hostility and acrimony cut though Amanda’s core. I can feel her fear. “Maybe you should go, I can handle this. I feel Sebastian. He is close. Go back to the entrance, fear feeds their ability to touch us and I can feel yours.”

“I’m not leaving you, they feel your presence, I can see that now, if they break through, you will need my help.” I can feel the stress in her body as she rights herself and her building new resolve. “Let’s go, you need to push past them, they are too close to you.” As Amanda moves forward, a glow emanates from something she is now gripping in her hand and she moves closer to Reginald and then past, the demons gravitate toward her.

“Amanda don’t Cassandra said that she didn’t know how long that will provide protection, save it until we are closer. These ones can only affect our skin; it will heal when we leave. Hand it to me so they will stay around me when I put it away. Handing it to him, they now swarm around his open palm and the amulet sparks a red luminous light as a burning hatred touches her soul. “Block them, bock it with everything you have, if you let it get hold of you, we will get trapped here or if we escape it can come out with you. Stay focused! Move!”

They jump through a tight hole in the ground and I feel sick as Amanda’s body is bashed against the jagged, heated, emblazoned rocks which surprisingly, I can feel shredding her outerwear and ripping though her exterior as she falls through and endless tunnel.

Grabbing hold of a protruding rock, Reginald swings himself into a radiant inlet and I do the same. The searing heat blisters our flesh and the pain, agony and hatred ripping through me imprisons me to my spot. Looking around quickly, I am shocked to see that there are bright white souls amongst fierce, flaming figures, horned beasts, and powerful, spectral shadows discharging fiery lassos around the enlightened, imprisoned souls.

Despite their translucent appearance, the agony they are suffering is unmistakable. Reginald’s gasp pulls Amanda from the illuminations. “Sebastian”

Amanda’s eyes follow his. Before them stands an illuminated Sebastian surrounded by spectral midnight shadows creating a fiery cage with their lassos while white spirits appear to be trying to create their own cage blocker. Scanning him and his surroundings, although his radiance is brighter than some of the others, the brilliance emanating from his enfolded arms is so bright that Amanda turns from it. “We need to get him and get out.”

Reginald removes the amulet from his pocket and throws it to the side. As it hits the rock, a red pulsating glow overpowers the darkness in the cavern and I feel a blinding moment of fury touch my soul. Reginald moves closer to Sebastian and although some creatures imprisoning souls move slightly from their captives, the ones surrounding Sebastian do not. Sebastian’s face contorts and he struggles to push his voice past his clenched jaw which escapes as barely a raspy whisper. Get her and the others out! If they catch her, she cannot free him. She is his only hope. Go now!”

“She’s here” A shocked Reginald turns instantly. “Amanda, toss me the dagger. As she reaches for something in her pocket, Reginald thrusts his hands out and the force pushing Amanda back has the strength of a tsunami as we are thrust through ashen rock, fiery creatures, horned demons, and winged shadows until we are alone in a darkened and cool cave. She rises quickly and begins tearing at the encrusted rock, screaming Reginald’s name. Roaring in frustration, the shock tosses me out, throws me through the blackness of my own mind and I am instantly aware of cool hands grasping my shoulders, shaking me.

Andrew’s panicked voice is pleading with me to come back. As my eyes flutter open, they meet Andrew’s alarmed ones and I soon realize we are no longer in the house. Pulling me to his chest, I hear his choked relief. “Thank God…Thank God.” After several long moments, he relaxes his hold on me. Looking down, his tone becomes accusatory. “How did you cast me out? Why did you do that? What if something happened to you?” He stares at me as if trying to pull the answers from my very soul.

Raising my hand, I stroke his cheek gently and his features soften slightly. “It was dangerous for you to be there, you could have been trapped and I couldn’t bear that.”

“What if you got trapped there, do you really think I could take being without you again.” As soon as the words escape, his body tenses and I can see regret instantly in his eyes. “Mia, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply anything. I just can’t stand the thought that you would have done that to protect me.”

The lump in my throat makes it difficult to push the words past my lips. “Andrew, I’m sorry, but considering where Reginald is…” I can’t even finish the thought. What if when he forced Amanda out he got trapped there! “We need to try and get in touch with him, see if he got out!”

“What did you see?” His tone rises and his embrace stiffens.

“Please, I’ll tell you later.” I plead. “Call him, make sure he got out!”

Pulling the phone from his pocket, he dials, but as his features drop, I know the call went to voicemail. Dialing another number, that goes to voicemail too. Hanging up, he struggles to make his tone soothing. “I’ll try in a few moments. We should get you inside before you freeze.”

“Why are we out here anyway?” I inquire as he lifts me and starts back to the house.

“After you cast me out, I could feel the heat emanating from your body, it felt as if you were on fire and your features appeared strained. You were also yelling and I didn’t want you to wake and panic the children.” Sliding open the side door, he slips inside. We are instantly in the living room and he is starting a fire.

Trying Reginald as Andrew gets the fire roaring, my heart sinks as first Reginald’s and then Amanda’s phone go to voicemail. Dialing Reginald’s number once more, I plead with him to call me. “Reginald, I saw where you reached and how you threw Amanda out.“ As I say this, I wonder if where I saw her, she didn’t get out alright, maybe demons entrapped her and dragged her back. The encased wall collapsed once, maybe it did again. What if they only made her think she was safe to keep them separated and destroyed them both. As the thought sends images of just this through my mind, my heart rate spikes and I fight my constricting lungs to beg Reginald to call me. “Please you have to let me know you are alright and you made it out!”

I can feel Andrew take the phone from my hand and realize that I am rolled in a ball on the floor. I wasn’t even aware I got off the couch. His cool hand is stroking my back and his lips are at my ear. “Mia, relax, you won’t help anyone by panicking. As he unwinds my pretzeled body, he moves me back onto the couch and strokes my cheek with his knuckles. “They will call, but you need to calm yourself.”

Grabbing his shirt, “Andrew there were white souls trapped by demons, enslaved and I saw Sebastian.”

“Mia, you had to suspect that David would be there, especially after all that he has done, the generations of families and lives he’s destroyed”

I shake my head. “No, I don’t mean David, I saw Sebastian, his soul was white, pure, and he was being tortured, held in a cage of fire. There is no way that Reginald would have been able to get him out. Although I have to admit, if he really did throw Amanda to a safe area, the power he has acquired in the past few months is beyond anything you can imagine.”

His expression is a mix of skepticism and concern. “Maybe you should start at the beginning and tell me exactly what you saw after tossing me out.” After carefully explaining all that I saw, worry lances through him and he shudders. “How many good souls do you think are trapped?”

I shrug as tears prick my eyes at the thought of good souls suffering so that demons can wreak havoc on this plane. Andrew pulls me into his embrace trying to comfort me as he calls up to Gabriel. Considering what we saw and the strange goings on with shadows and strangers believing they know us, our family has decided to join us.

Gabriel, Martina, Jackson and Eva will come by morning while the rest of the family should arrive within the next day or two. Andrew and Gabriel have agreed that since there appears to be something brewing, it would be best for them to be here and make arrangements for extended coverage at Sanctuary. Although they have staff to cover, it would be best to make arrangements for more if they are needed with us for an extended length of time.

After hanging up, Andrew turns to me. “Are you ready to get some sleep? Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Don’t forget we have that annual dinner with Jonathan’s different Board members. I groan internally, but then again, this is part of what we were sent here for. The phone rings in the office and Andrew rises. “I’ll meet you upstairs, Mia you really should try to get some rest.”

“I’ll wait for you and then we’ll go up.” Staring into the flames, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of what Reginald, Amanda and all those captured souls are suffering so that demons can have a new sandbox to play in. The thought makes my stomach roil, the bile rises up my throat, and I swiftly move to the bucket as I can no longer hold it down. I don’t realize until I am ensnared in a lasso of fire wrapping itself around me at my waste and spiraling up ensnaring my arms that I am in trouble. I want to scream for Andrew, but my mouth which was only a moment ago open wide is now sealed shut.

Being lifted in the air, I am now in a horizontal position. Rising, I can see in my immobility that the fire is emanating from the fireplace. As it circles my shoulders, my neck and is at the base of my chin, I hear the voices of a thousand men screaming out in pain. I cannot distinguish what they are saying, but I can feel agony crushing me as the lasso tightens around me. As a spark hits my ear, the bellowing of an all too familiar voice that has haunted me since his final days at Sanctuary roars through my consciousness. “I AM WAITING AND THIS TIME YOU WILL COME TO ME. EVERYTHING IS ALIGNED. FIND THOSE YOU NEED. I HAVE WAITED LONG ENOUGH AND SEBASTIAN WON’T BE ABLE TO PROTECT YOUR…” Falling, the other voices retreat and I am in the cool arms, pressed against Andrew’s chest.

“Are you alright? Are you burned anywhere?” His questions are fast, but I can tell that physically nothing is wrong.

I shake my head and finally my lips part. As my eyes drift from his, I can see the extinguished fire, the water splashed against the walls of the fireplace and the discarded bucket. As my voice returns, I grab Andrew’s shirt. “Jonathan sent me a message, he must have Reginald. He said he was waiting for me and knew I would be coming to him. He said something about everything being aligned.”

“Mia, do you know how that happened?”

“No, one minute I was vomiting and the next, I was ensnared.” Jumping up, I turn, but Andrew grabs me.

“Mia, stop, what are you doing?”

“We have to wake the children, get them out of here before he comes back. Call Gabriel, tell him we are coming home.”

Pulling me towards his chest, he rubs my back gently. ”Mia stop. The children are fine. They are safe upstairs sleeping in their beds. If Jonathan could have done more than his mere parlor trick, he would have done it by now. I know it was frightening, but even you said you are not hurt.” Pulling me back toward the couch, his tone turns soothing. “Our family is on their way. We have so many unanswered questions that seem to center here, we need to see this through. We need to finish what you and the real Jonathan started and face whatever is going on here because everything that has happened led us here.” He can’t help the sigh that escapes his lips. “I know you are frightened, I am too, but we both know that no matter how far we run we can’t escape. We need to stand together, gather as much information as we can to decipher what is going on and face this head on with those we love around us to help us. Running will only separate us and make us vulnerable.”

Knowing he is right, I pull him closer. I can’t believe we are facing something else so soon. They said that we would be stepping away from the surreal to make our family strong. Instead we are engulfed in surreal events, with no real answers, or maybe just no real answers that we are willing to accept.

The tips of his fingers lift my chin and I know he is waiting until my eyes meet his. “We will figure this out. Jonathan can’t come here, even what he said to you confirms that and I will ensure that you do not go to him.”

“He must have Reginald and that’s why he thinks that I will come to him. He said that Sebastian cannot protect him much longer. We can’t let all those there suffer, we have to do something!”

“Mia, we need to figure out what is going on. We can’t do anything right now. I know that this is impossible, but we have to wait and get a better understanding of what went on tonight and what is gathering around us before we make a move.” Picking up the telephone, he calls Gabriel again and convinces him to speak with Christian and Anthony about returning. This involves him too and if Scott and Ma’at are the same and all those who are mistaken me for someone else are correct, we need them all to put together the pieces of whatever puzzle is trying to form.

The breaking dawn piercing the graying the sky peaks through the drawn shades alerting us to the morning’s arrival. “We should get you upstairs and changed before the children wake, we don’t want them seeing your singed clothes.”

As we walk up the stairs, I whisper to Andrew. “Maybe we should tell the others no fires for now. I don’t want any surprises with the children.”

“I’ll let everyone know as they arise.” As we pass Mark’s door, Andrew stops, puts his fingers to his lips, and motions for me to keep going.

Hesitating for a moment to see if I can hear anything, I begin moving again, my mind raging with curiosity. Entering my room, I decide that the next time I speak with Emma I am going to ask her for a spell which enhances one’s hearing. Gathering some clothes, I step into the en suite bathroom. Staring into the mirror, my clothes are singed and my face looks like it has been through a coal shaft. Raising my hands, soot covers them as well. How did I not notice this before? Not realizing Andrew has entered, I jump as his hand takes mine.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You didn’t. What did you hear from Mark’s room?”

Moving his hand to the knot in my robe, he deftly unfastens it and slips the cindered covered garment to the floor. For the first time, I notice not only my smoke covered skin, but also blistering bubbles beneath the grime. Did all of this happen from the moments I was ensnared? Thinking back, I didn’t really feel the heat. How could this have happened? As if reading my mind, Andrew’s softy voice pierces my introspection. “I didn’t realize the dream could have done this, I would have gotten you clean sooner and healed you.” He leans past me and turns on the shower. As his hands return to the straps on my nightgown, I can’t help but grab his hand.

“What do you mean, I’m soot covered because of my dream?” I rasp and for the first time, notice he has traces of ash on his face as well. Stroking his cheek, “This has never happened before.”

Moving his hands to the top of my strap, he gently glides it off my shoulder. “We should get you clean so I can heal you.” Stepping back, I allow the nightgown to fall to the floor and step inside. The water pooling at my feet turns gray as my nostrils now register the sulfur smell which settles on my tongue. Quickly he removes his clothes and steps inside. Reaching for a facecloth he pours some soft scented foaming soap and gently washes away the residue on my face, my neck, my shoulders, and then moves down my arms. As the soap removes the soot, his light touch heals my wounds and after a moment, I return to myself once more.

Taking a cloth and mimicking his moves, I wish I could cure him and take the worry from his eyes. Stretching I kiss his sculpted lips as my thumbs brush his cheeks. His arms circle around me and he pulls me into his sculpted chest as he backs us under the gentle, healing turret of water. As the last remnants of our troubled journey wash away and his love surrounds me, I feel healed enough to face another day. Although I am still scared of what it may reveal and what it could unleash, at least we will face it together.

Lifting me in to his arms, he turns off the water and carries me to our bed. Even after all this time and despite the concern of what is to come, his gentle kiss and sweet caress are like an incendiary device lighting a passion within me that touches my very soul and awakens a desire that is all consuming.

As the room brightens and reason returns, I shift onto my side. Staring into the heavenly eyes staring back at me, I need to push past my distraction to get lost in him again. “What did you hear from Marks’ room?”

“He and Jason were arguing.”

I’m surprised by this since I didn’t even hear a peep. “About what”

He takes in a deep breath. “Mark is convinced that we are the Greysons” I can’t help but gasp as the name escapes his lips and I hear the echo of it ripping through ancient times filling my ears with Andrew’s unmistakable tone.

“Andrew what if he is right, what if we are them?”

I can see my comment or maybe my tone takes him by surprise. “Why are you suddenly convinced that it is not our ancestors?’

“I was thinking about the looped events described to us. What if we are somehow caught in it still? What if we are still somehow jumping through those portals, but each time we do, we can’t remember who we are?

He interrupts. “Mia, from what Casey seemed to show you, when the others escaped through the portals, they still knew who they were, still knew who they were escaping from. Although I will admit, that I am seriously questioning our connection to the images we keep seeing, I don’t think that it is us. I still think that maybe Jason is correct and that their spirits are attaching through us and that there is some type of balance we must restore or some role we must play in joining battling forces, but Mia, even from your dreams, it appears more that the help needed is on their plane not ours. If it was something truly tied to this plane, wouldn’t both sides send more of whom can fight on this plane?”

Shaking my head, I drop it into my hands. He could be right. The only thing I know for sure is that something is building around us and whether we are these people caught in a loop or the people are connecting to us, we are going to need to be ready for anything and be mindful not to dismiss anyone. I can hear the children in the hallway. Andrew and I jump up, throw on our clothes and are quickly out the door.





Chapter Eight - Past Events Reveal Certain Truths





After breakfast, the children head off to school, I head off to the hospital and Jason promises he will call me as soon as everyone arrives and Mark gets in contact with Peter. The emergency room is bustling with patients and I am grateful for the real world distraction.

The hours fly by quickly. I have heard from Jason and not only will Peter be coming this evening, but so will Casey and Anthony is returning with Christian and our family. Maybe with everyone together, we will finally get some real world answers on this plane at this time. After two very long surgeries and an unpleasant encounter with Geoffrey and his wife, I am finally heading home. Unfortunately, the clock reads nine o’clock when I pull into the driveway. Considering the number of cars in the driveway, I know everyone remained and I run in to apologize. As I enter, I see Jacob going to his room and he doesn’t even turn to say anything. Entering the archway I see my family, but not even Eva moves toward me, she and Jackson are whispering in the corner, Gabriel is speaking with Jason and I am met with what I can clearly see as a division. But is it a division due to disbelief or because of something they learned. Looking closer at the stress driven faces and defensive body language, I wonder if there was more than just words passing.

As I walk further into the room, Jeff, Christian, and Anthony are huddled in a corner deep in conversation while Cassie, Adam, Mark, and Peter seem to be shielded by Ben and Claire.

Andrew approaches me and his concern is evident. He places his hand on my elbow and immediately I feel energy coursing through me that is not my own. The room is before me but everyone’s position has shifted.

I see Peter enter with Mark and then fall back into a chair as Andrew turns from his conversation with Gabriel. Numerous emotions flit across Gabriel’s face, concern, wonder, and maybe astonishment, but as his eyes widen, anxiety dominates his features and he is now staring at Peter who is mumbling to himself that he knew his mother had returned, but is astonished that somehow we both returned.

Before he can contemplate further, Anthony interrupts his thoughts and is moving slowly toward him. His voice is as quiet as a whisper. “Whatever, you are thinking, it has to be black magic; he is not your father. Don’t be fooled, I was fooled once and when they got hold of me, I did terrible things, things I can never take back and never seek redemption for. Don’t let that happen to you.”

Peter rises and moves toward Andrew. As he stretches out his hand, Anthony immediately blocks it and grabs his shoulders. “Don’t, touch will let him in.”

Peter shrugs out of Anthony’s hold. “It’s fine. I just need to confirm who he is.”

Anthony shakes his head vigorously. “No you don’t. They are not what you think they are. They are very clever. They have surrounded themselves with good people, have even fooled their own family who believes that they have been with this one since his birth, don’t let them fool you.” He shudders and I know it is because of the unimaginable horrors that he was forced to participate in when he did not have control over himself.

Christian moves forward. “Anthony, we talked about this, you agreed to leave Laurel up at Sanctuary. You said that you could see how good they are up there and how much they are helping her.”

“I still believe that, but have you ever considered that you are all being fooled by the two of them?” His head nods toward Andrew.

Jeff opens his mouth and moves toward Anthony to interject, but Anthony holds up his hand. “I know you say you know them and trust them. At this point, I am not sure either way what is going on. That’s why I told you I would come back here, but before he does anything that could allow the evil in if I am right, he should step back and think about this.”

“Anthony, please step aside.” Peter’s voice is measured. “I have to know if they have come back again.” As these words escape his lips, a deafening silence from all of the stunned faces fills the room and every eye is now intensely focused on Peter who moves past an immobile Anthony and touches the wrist of an absolutely stunned Andrew.

As he does, the image quickly shifts to a young boy holding my hand as we are passing through fast moving spirits and then are before Andrew. I can hear the young boy say that he will find a way to get his father out.

The image quickly shifts again and now the boy is older, a teenager, but definitely the same young man, his eyes are unmistakable. He is on a boat and Andrew is showing him how to tie a slipknot and how to wield a sword.

Shifting again, Anthony grabs Peter and rips his hand from Andrew’s wrist and he is pleading with Peter. “Are you alright? Please say something.”

“I’m fine” Peter replies, but I can see he is amazed, but doesn’t’ seem surprised.

Casey interjects. “Anthony, I don’t know what your role in all of this is, but considering who Peter really is, he is too strong to be taken over. His followers, his parent’s followers are here because they have been running, running from one who wants to destroy them all. They are not evil, although why they are hiding when they are all here on this plane, I don’t understand. From what I saw, they stood against evil, fought with everything they could to allow their people to escape. Why they would hide now, I’m not sure.” As her tone becomes more and more accusatory and her stare at Andrew becomes more and more aggravated, Mark steps forward and interjects, probably trying to focus the attention back to the task at hand.

“Anthony, I know that you are concerned, but the thoughts of the people here are not sinister.”

Anthony steps back from Mark. “This is what I mean, too many people getting into too many minds. What is it with you people? Mind control is what almost destroyed me.”

Mark’s tone turns conciliatory. “It is not mind control. Sometimes, we are allowed to share thoughts, but never have we used this gift to control anyone. I know what grabbed hold of you. I have been fighting it for centuries, I lost my daughter to it, but we all have a part to play in this war and you are being called upon to do something now, something that I know is very difficult, but if you don’t you will be giving the darkness a way in to this situation that they would not otherwise have. You need to see beyond your fear, beyond your self-doubt and open your mind to the possibilities that not only Jeff’s men are good, but Andrew and Mia are good as well.” I see Anthony bolt, but as I return to the here and now, he is back.

I can’t believe that those images happened so quickly, Andrew and I are now with Gabriel, Martina and Jason. Eva and Jackson now move towards us and I can see Peter giving me an assessing look as a smile plays upon his lips.

Turning to everyone in the room, for the first time, I notice a new face, a woman with Casey and Adam. As my eyes meet hers, she steps out, extending her hand. Moving, I extend my hand to her, but as I shake it, she pulls it up to her cheek. “I never thought you would come back. So many of us with you that day have been found and destroyed. I felt Reabin here for a while, but then he disappeared. Was that you?” As my confusion registers with her, she drops my hand. “I’m sorry.”

As she backs away, I now see Jacob in the archway. Moving towards him, he grasps my hand, but he is staring into the room, his eyes shifting between Anthony and Peter. “I know that I was asked to wait upstairs, but I know how to help.” He has the attention of the entire room, but seems to now be addressing Anthony. “You spoke with Laurel, you know that she trusts me despite what happened. I am no threat to you and neither are my parents, but obviously something is going on here beyond all our comprehensions, something that needs resolving. You and Peter think that my parents are the same people.” He shakes his head. “I mean you both think that they are your parents.” He sees Anthony shaking his head and Jacob quickly corrects himself. “Alright, you fear that they are being used to reflect your parents to allow some evil to grab hold of you again, but they are not and I think that I can show everyone the connection, but everyone needs to trust me.”

I put my free hand on his shoulder and he looks at me. “I know you want to protect me and have tried not to let on to others what I can do, but the time for hiding is over. Mom, I have heard you and dad, I saw what you did last night.” I can’t help it, but my jaw drops and I am about to ask him why he didn’t say anything when he answers me. “I couldn’t tell you. You are too scared already. You want to go home, but everything is culminating here. Everything here is happening for a reason and we have to see it through. I love you and know you want to protect us, but you can’t protect us from everything. I am strong, we are strong, and there will always be danger. We can’t ignore it and everyone is right, we can’t hide.” His face turns worried and he quickly glances around the room. “I’m not saying that they are they hiding on purpose or even that I know for sure that they are the people you believe they are. If they are, they don’t know it. They wouldn’t hide, not the way you believe they are. They are not cowards.”

He turns to Anthony and Peter and from Peter’s expression I can see that he agrees with Jacob’s assessment, but is staying silent, letting Jacob take the lead. “We all need to stop guessing at what the other knows, what the other sees or what his interpretation is. We need to all see exactly what each one is seeing, feeling and believes he knows. I can help with that so that we are all on the same page.” He moves past me and is standing right before Anthony. “I won’t let anything happen to you. I know that you are afraid, but the only way evil is going to grab hold of you is if we keep floundering to determine what is going on, ignoring signs that we are afraid to face, and shooting in the dark at what might be asked of us now. You have been running your whole life, Peter has been hiding for his, waiting for a return, waiting to be called upon to do whatever he was born to be, my parents have gone through unspeakable things, been thrown in realms they have had to fight to get back from, but have never stopped striving to do what’s right. We all need to do that now. We have been brought together for a reason. Please let me help you, let me help them. If darkness is coming, we need to stand together and fight this.”

Jacob stands stock still as Anthony stares into his eyes, assessing every word. We wait in silence for what feels like hours. He grasps Jacob’s hand. “I hope you know what you’re doing, what you are letting in. I have seen horrible things, done the unimaginable. Once that becomes a part of you, it never leaves you. You are still so young. Are you sure that you want to see such things?” Jacob swallows hard but nods. “If you are willing to see it, I will show you.” His other hand touches something below his shirt and I know it is the amulet.

Peter interjects. “I’m ready when you are.” He smiles at Jacob.

Jacob turns next to Ben, Claire, Casey, Adam, and the woman they are with who speaks quickly. “Thank you for everything. You showed the right person Casey. I’m sure that everything will be fine, but I’m sure they want to do this privately. She looks as if she wants to say something, but then closes her mouth and begins to move toward the door. As the woman passes Jacob, he places his hand on her arm. “Realin, could you leave a number where they can reach you on the table in the foyer? I have a feeling they will want to talk with you once all of this plays out.” Listening to him, I can’t believe how old and wise he sounds. He truly is no longer the young boy I left behind a year ago. In truth, he sounds older and wiser than his parents.

As she nods and passes, he leans my way. “You didn’t leave me behind. You gave me time to find myself, my strength. Although I am fearful, have not truly experienced the horrors you have, and am not limited by the fear that my children will be hurt, I know what I’m doing is the right thing so don’t worry. I need for you to come into this with an open mind. You always felt that if you could do that, you would be able to see the truth, let me help you with that. Let me help all of you and if what you saw is something that I need to do…” He turns to his father. “I won’t let it be my hell. I won’t let hell grab hold of me, but I am going to help.” He whispers and I nod and so does Andrew.

He turns to Gabriel and the others. I think that Anthony would feel better if you waited outside too. This way, his attention won’t be torn by what is happening around him. He can just concentrate on his memories.” As they begin leaving, he stops Christian. “Can you stay and watch Anthony’s back. I know that he trusts you implicitly and it may help him relax.” He nods and goes to stand behind Anthony who visibly relaxes.

As the door closes, Jacob moves to the mantle, removes three candles, lights them and places them in a triangle. I am not the only one surprised by this. Peter nods and sits. Anthony sits beside him and Jacob sits on the other side of Anthony effectively boxing him in so that he does not have to hold Andrew or my hand. Despite his agreeing to this, I can see his relief. As I put my hand in Jacob’s and then in Andrew’s, they each give me a reassuring look, probably in hopes of calming my raging heart.

Since Jacob seems to have command of the room, everyone stays silent awaiting his instruction, but he immediately lets go of my and Anthony’s hand bringing his to his head. Andrew places his hand on my shoulder indicating that I should give him a moment, but I worry because he looks in pain. Andrew mouths to me that he is fine, just received an overload, so I wait.

A moment later, Jacob’s strained voice pierces through the pounding of my heart in my ears. “I have never consciously done this before with so many, so if we could maybe do this one at a time that would help.” He picks up our hands again; “if everyone could just envision a blank television screen that would be helpful.” After several moments, he speaks again. “Anthony if you could show us your life before the incident of your mom and dad’s death that would be helpful. Try picking out a really peaceful, special memory to share first.

As he says this, I see a beautiful blue sky filling my thoughts. Trees suddenly spring up around me and I can feel my head moving as they do, but am careful not to break contact. I feel someone holding my hand, and as I look down, it is a young girl with sparkling blue eyes and auburn hair. She is no more than five or six, smiling and whispers ever so softly. “Do you think daddy and Anthony will catch dinner tonight?” As she does, someone pounces on her.

“Of course we will, just wait and see. Then, I’ll show you how to hunt.” She giggles and he puts his index finger on his lips, he can’t be more than eight or nine. He crouches and indicates for us to do the same. I can see Andrew behind the bush holding a bow as Anthony sets his arrow, he moves deftly and silently forward. The brush moves and Anthony rises and releases his arrow. The arrow strikes the mark and Mary squeals in delight. Andrew comes up from the bush and we all approach the down deer carefully. I see Anthony smile, but then the scene changes and the sky is gray, thick with what I now realize is smoke as ash falls all around us. Again I see Anthony traveling over the rubble, calling for Mary and reaching the house but freezing. As we join hands, and begin moving the world is collapsing and crashing around us and then we are at the moment that we were so many times before. This time I concentrate on the people and try to detach myself, but as I do, the image of myself and Andrew only becomes clearer, more defined even down to the unmistakable flex in Andrew’s eyes. Before this image even has time to finish it shifts again and I can see the image of me transposed over an image that looks like Mary, but I realize as I look over at that woman and concentrate it’s not me and the eyes are not Mary’s, not really. I hear someone gasp and know that it must be Anthony. I can feel him fighting to keep control over the images that are shifting so fast. Death after death, horror after horror at his hand, but not, the images that are holding him, once cloudy are now clearer, the darkened shadows surrounding him, but to my horror and I think his, we see an apparition sporting white wings, fighting to grab him, but then the wings turn black, the beatific face fiery and the eyes turn from blue to blood red as the fires of hell itself spring up around it. It looks as if it is consuming him, but I do not feel the burn and from the look on his face, neither does he. I don’t understand how, until I see something emerging from behind, a white glow and then white wings begin wrapping around him, shielding him. I can now see a head close to his ear, but can only see the soft brown hair. As the angel lifts him up, a black amorphous shape escapes from Anthony and is thrust past the wings. The angel lifts their face to the heavens and I can hear the collective gasp. The beautiful angel is the mirror image of Eva. She lifts him higher and higher and then places him gently in the sacred Sanctuary which I know he believes gave him the strength to rid himself of the evil.

As the image goes black, I hear Jacob’s strained voice, and know it is from a combination of the atrocities he has just relived through Anthony’s eyes and the shock of seeing the image of Eva. “Peter, you are next. Think of something quick.”

Before the echo of Jacob’s words vanish. a new image is forming and from the surroundings, I can see that it is the netherworld from a past image. The young boy is begging his father to come back with them while his father tries to explain that it is not possible and he cannot break the barrier of the world that he has been sent to. “But mom does it all the time to bring me here to be with you.”

“I know, but that is to get in, she doesn’t belong here and neither do you. My rights to enter that plane have been severed, but I will always be with you and if you need me, your mom will take you here and when you are older, she will show you how to punch through. Ma’at just remember be careful, hide your identity, Reabin will not stop looking for you or your mother. Stay safe son and know that I love you.” I can see the unbelievable strain in Andrew’s face with each word, but as he says this, his voice and stature are unmistakable. As I look in to his eyes, the flecks that glisten are also unforgettable.

The image quickly shifts. Peter is now older, and is standing on a dock near an open marketplace watching a ship come in. The image shifts again and he is standing before an embracing Andrew and I. As we turn, his astonished face greets us and he staggers back. “I knew I saw you standing on that deck. I can’t believe it, how did you return?” He throws his arms around me. “Mom” Andrew rips his arms from mine.

“Who are you and what are you doing to my wife?”

Peter staggers back. “Dad, I’m sorry, is someone watching.” Andrew shakes his head, I can see an angry expression cross his face, but then he quickly closes his eyes. Opening them again, his features are softer. “Are you alright, son?” Peter smiles, but it quickly fades as Andrew continues. “Were you in an accident? Is that why you are confused as to who we are? Is there someone that we can take you to? Do you know who you are?”

Peter looks around and his voice cracks. “You don’t know who I am?”

Stepping close to him, I place my hand on his wrist. “No, but we would like to help you. Why don’t you follow us back to the house, you can get a good meal and maybe we can find a way to help you.”

The image shifts again and I am saying good-bye to Peter and Andrew, they are going off on the ship and Peter turns to me. “Don’t worry about dad I’ll make sure he gets into plenty of trouble in port.” He laughs and Andrew punches his shoulder. Pulling him into a hug, I’m laughing too. “You be careful too and both of you come home safely to me.” They both laugh and say they will in unison.

The image flashes again and Andrew and I are seeing Peter and what appears to be his family off. They board a ship and Andrew turns to me. “They will be fine. He wants to spread his wings and start a new life with his family. We knew this day would come. He is a grown man and knows how to take care of himself. He is a father and husband now and wants to see what the world holds for him.”

The image fades and I am about to open my eyes, when the image of Andrew’s transformation flashes before us and I hear the others gasp. As the image finally fades and I open my eyes, I look toward Andrew who is shaking his head and I know, from his expression, that he did not intentionally think of that event and did not intend to share that.”

Looking at the others, Jacob is visibly upset, Anthony is stunned and Peter appears shocked. Rising, I hug Jacob. “Are you alright?”

“I am” His tone becomes more determined. “I told you I am getting older and stronger. It just took me a little by surprise.

“When I first saw it, it took me more than by mere surprise. Jacob, you may be strong, but it is still extremely disturbing.”

As I say this, I hear Anthony speaking to Andrew. “I’m sorry I thought you weren’t…I mean I should have never thought you were…” He struggles with the right words to say. “How did you live through that? Can you ever …”

Before he can even finish, Andrew raises his hand. “Anthony considering what you have been through, I would have made exactly the same assumptions. Mia had a similar experience where the underworld tried fooling her. We all know what it can bring.” He looks over to Jacob. “Maybe we should bring in the others and try sorting this out.” Jacob moves out of my embrace and goes to the door. As he does, Andrew whispers in my ear. “Maybe you are right. Did you see us there?”

“I did and honestly, I think we are caught in some type of loop. I saw the flecks in your eyes, Andrew that can’t be a descendant. It somehow has to be us, but how?”

“I can’t explain the how” Peter interjects. “They never seemed to be able to figure out how you escaped the underworld, or maybe they just weren’t allowed to tell me, but I may be able to explain the why.” Andrew and I both stumble back as the others enter.

From Gabriel’s expression, I can tell he saw exactly what we did and must have shared it with the others. Everyone sits and every eye is upon Peter. After I found you again, I punched through to the plane. The story that I was told is that after Mia joined you, you tried every spell, unleashing mystic energy, utilizing amulets, mystics and even white witches to break through to this plane so that you could hunt down Reabin. You couldn’t live with more and more of your men being caught in the nether plane never being able to enter paradise and being forever hunted down like animals because Reabin was looking to stop the threat that we somehow are to him and his plans. Marcus, one of your men that I met while I was seeking you out, said that you had finally found a way out with your daughter, Selene, when she was banished by one of Reabin’s lesser minions.”

I interject. “Do we know what Reabin’s plans are and what type of threat he saw us as?” I can’t believe that I just said that, but after seeing those images, they have to be us.”

He shakes his head. “Not even after all these centuries was I able to find out what his plan was or what he thinks we are capable of doing to stop him, but I have been on my own for quite some time..”

“Is your sister still alive?” In inquire as my heart constricts.

“No, and she was not my sister.” He shakes his head. “In some way, I guess she was, but she was from another period and I never got to know her.”

Although I know it seems irrational, pain fills my eyes for someone I don’t even know. Seeing this, his features turn sympathetic. “Mia, she could be back, I just haven’t run across her. Considering what you have been through and the memory alterations, it may be possible that something similar happens to those who are banished to the netherworld.” He looks at my confusion and continues. “It seems that every time you disappear, you somehow have been able to punch through again. Maybe she has done the same. It may be possible that you keep returning because you have unfinished business to resolve and cannot rest until that happens.”

“But how is that possible?”

He moves toward me. “How are any of us possible? How could you throw fire and hold off Reabin to allow your people to escape. I know it sounds terrible saying that we lost so many, but hundreds escaped and most who embraced immortality are fine. They knew the risks and accepted them a long time ago, but still today do wonderful things and help people. You swore one day that they would live in peace, not fearing Reabin’s wrath and that he would be banished from this plane once and for all. Maybe when you were in the underworld and one of your children was facing eternity caught in that nothingness” his attention is now focused upon Andrew, “you found the strength through your desperation to find a way to break through and then when Mia joined you, you both keep finding a way to punch back to this plane, but unfortunately, you come back not remembering who you are. There is always a price that must be paid. Up until this point, I would surmise that you are sent back before you can carry out the deed. That must be why you keep looping back.”

Despite my shock from tonight’s reveal, maybe he is right. Even Emma’s theory of souls crossing until something is resolved backs up his theory.

“So what do we do now?” Anthony interjects.

Andrew’s eyes glance toward the window and the graying sky indicates that morning is close. “We will contact Realin in a few hours. In the meantime, why don’t you catch some rest. We will do better if everyone is rested and has time to process tonight’s information.” He turns to Peter. “Would you like to crash here, there is plenty of room?” Peter steals a glance at Mark and then nods at Andrew.

As some of the others leave, Gabriel moves next to Andrew. “You and Mia should show Peter his room. He has something to share with you. I’ll go with Jacob.”

Jacob nods and we move toward Peter who is waiting in the archway. When we open the door to an empty room, Peter turns. “Can you come in a moment?” He backs away from the door and we enter. “I know what happened to Jonathan and Kim. They were wonderful people and he would be extremely happy that you are continuing his work. You don’t have to worry about the task he asked you to complete with me though. Although Scott is a poor college student on paper, I have plenty of money.” He chuckles. “You can use it to set up a scholarship in his name for students studying business finance.” As my mouth falls open, I catch the same stunned expression on Andrew’s face.

“How did you know?” I squeak as my voice barely recovers.

“I have known since the day it happened. I have been watching you Mia since you first came here. I needed to know that you were safe.” His words leave my head reeling and I feel dizzy.

Andrew’s arms snake around my waist holding me up. “If you knew that we were here, why didn’t you approach us? Did you know I came to the university?”

He motions for us to sit on the bench at the end of the bed. No, I don’t mean when you and Mia first came here. I mean I have been watching Mia since she first arrived not knowing who she was.” Before we have a chance to ask him anything, he continues. Kim and I had a very strong connection. She found me and hid me away, giving me time to heal after I lost a fight with a demon. After that, I worried that they would track her and destroy her because she helped me so I placed a protectionist spell on her so that I could find her if she was ever in danger. For the longest time, it worked better than I had hoped. I was able to detect trouble for her and thwart it before she was aware that there was any danger.”

I have to interrupt. “I thought that the spell would only allow you to find someone, see where they were and help you locate them if they were in trouble so how did you stop trouble, before she knew she was in it? How fast are you?”

“You are right for the ordinary witch, that is exactly how it would work, but with some of us, as you both know, it allows you to step through gateways or in my case it allows me to transport to the one who is in trouble.”

“How did you know about the gateway?” Andrew inquires staring at Peter.

“Your unintentional image sharing of your conversion was not the only thing that I was privileged to see during our little exercise down stairs. I’m not sure how, but the longer I have walked on this plane, the more I have been able to gather, compartmentalize as you will, many images of those around me at once. While I was sharing the images I had of you both, I also saw other clips from your life together here and saw that you crossed over realms to help someone in your party who was in danger of being lost forever. It would have been ashamed to lose her and may have even weakened you, since she imprinted on a part of you.”

“What else did you see?” I manage to whisper.

“I saw most of what has happened in your life, but not so much Andrew’s. You are still the same always worried about others.” His voice softens. “But I am getting off track. When Kim was in trouble, when they came for her and Jonathan, I arrived as the demons were torturing them threatening to bring down the plane. I tried to combat them but I just wasn’t strong enough to go against so many directly empowered by the underworld. They must have been fresh up from that plane, usually demons who are here for a long time, even in numbers, I have been able to defeat, but these ones, I could not even penetrate the darkness around them to get a shot at stopping the copter from crashing into the sea. Despite throwing everything I had at them, all I could do was punch a hole through and hear them torturing her. One of them really liked to talk. He spoke of their dying to serve the all-powerful one and that their deaths would open the doors to a whole new world where those who have a right to this world, a right to the souls upon it would finally be heard. I thought he was mad, but considering where they come from.” He stops and shakes his head, his eyes appear temporarily unfocused and I wonder if he is trying the erase the images which must be bombarding him. We sit silently and finally he continues. “One of the others he was with became very aggravated and began yelling at him that he shouldn’t declare victory until the deed was done considering how their boss had failed before. The first one bellowed that there was no way he was going to fail this time because he had a whole different tact and you were without your memory, without your powers and without protection. The other one argued if it was so easy why was everything so dependent upon them taking out these two. When he responded that it was because Jonathan was the perfect cover for some infallible plan, I came back here after I failed as saving Kim. I was shocked to see Jonathan arrive a few hours later, but as I watched, I realized, it wasn’t Jonathan at all. Jonathan’s image was being used to encase something dark, shroud something so tied to the underworld that I could not break through their façade to see what was truly housed within. I needed a way to stop whatever they were planning. I would not let them accomplish whatever they had killed Kim and Jonathan for.” His voice is absolutely livid and he closes his eyes, fighting to calm down before continuing. “As luck would have it, the demon had an accomplice, a driver, Anthony. I knew that after they had first made contact, whoever had taken over for Jonathan would pay little attention to the one he was with unless he got into trouble so I…” He takes a few steps forward and Anthony is standing before us. I gasp and quickly jump before Andrew. “I’m sorry” Peter quickly states before he is standing before me again. “I didn’t mean to make you nervous. It’s only me, really, sometimes when I get caught in the moment, it happens automatically. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“How did you…”

A nervous giggle escapes his lips. “That happens all the time. One time I was at a concert and got so lost in the moment that the people next to me thought they were staring at the performer. Luckily, he had stepped to the side stage. Never mind. Shrouding myself in darkness and becoming Anthony was easy. Although I must admit, I almost blew everything when the demon led me to you. After that, I stayed very close and paid attention. I could tell something big was going on and that you had no idea who you were. I could see flashes of your life, but they were buried so deep and were so hard to see, I couldn’t really get a handle on them and then when I finally started piecing it all together, this Cassandra contacted me and said that I couldn’t interfere and lead you back to the life you lost. She told me that I could observe and try to throw Jonathan off his game, but that I would serve everyone best if I played my part, let Jonathan believe that I was on his side, that I was helping him. She went on and on about how if I made contact with you as myself or interfered by helping you reconnect with those you sacrificed for, you would be lost forever and I would be exposed. I did try to help you, but the more I tried, the more things were going wrong.” He is now kneeling in front of me. “I am really sorry I drugged your wine that evening. I knew Jonathan was planning on seducing you, trying to make you commit to him. I thought by getting you sick, you would go home and the evening would have been ruined, instead, it played into his hands better than if I had let him go forward. Knowing you, you would have slapped him and his plans would have been thwarted. I never saw what was coming and it was all my fault.” His tone rises dramatically and I can feel the panic within him.

“Peter, you didn’t do anything wrong. You were trying to help me. I’m here and back where I belong and now so are you. It all worked out as it should.”

“But you accepted his ring and were going to say yes, I could see it and it was all because of me, I didn’t think it through. I should have seen that he would have found a way to turn the situation to his advantage, I should have thought it out better, I should have…”

Seeing the panic in his eyes, I interrupt him. “You were trying to help me and I am fine, really. Everything is fine and we are all together now and are probably stronger than we were before this incident.” I didn’t even realize that he had grabbed my hand and that I am stroking it comfortingly until I look down at him.

I rise. “It has been quite a day. Get some rest. We will all think clearer with some sleep under our belt.” I move to leave, but he throws his arms around me.

“I’ve missed you. I’m so glad that you’re alright. I’m so sorry for my mistake.”

Wrapping my arms around him, “Everything is going to be alright.” As he releases me, I stroke his cheek and he leans into my hand. “Peter if I’m not here in the morning, stay. I only have to go to the hospital but will be back by four and Mark is only two doors down from you.”

He nods and I can see him watching Andrew carefully, but then he puts out his hand. “Good-night, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Andrew shakes his hand and I can see him hesitating as to what to do next, but he smiles and his voice is full of emotion. “I’m going to get the children to school in the morning, but if you want to come by there and talk, I don’t have a busy schedule at all.”

Peter smiles widely. “I would really like that. I’ll see you later.”

As we stroll down the hall, we stop to check on Jacob who is fast asleep. Entering our room, Andrew enfolds me in his arms and I feel the anxiety of what could have happened in his embrace. “It’s fine. We’re fine and we are together.” I pull him tighter for a moment and then release him. “Andrew do you think that they are our children? Could this really all be possible?”

“He changed even quicker than Jacob. If you asked me before tonight, I would have said no, but after what we saw, what I felt when we were connected, now, I’m just not so sure that it isn’t possible. Just think about what we know, we know that souls can come back for shortened period of times to act as guardians for souls on this plane, I mean just look at my mom and dad. We have seen demons possess bodies and know how shadows and spirits fight on this plane for souls, I just never thought that individuals could come back and play different roles over and over again, but considering what we saw tonight, maybe we never entered one realm or another, maybe this netherworld that Peter kept talking about is a no man’s land that those who learn to punch through can come back from until they have gone to the ultimate destination. Maybe last time I punched through, I turned into this so that the cycle stopped and then when you embraced your inner witch and immortality, the loop stopped for you as well.” He smiles and I know it is because he is trying to lighten my introspective mood. When I don’t smile back, he places his fingers gently beneath my chin, lifting my face so that my eyes are forced to look at his. “Mia, maybe we don’t remember the time before, not because angels blocked our memories like they did with you this last time, maybe we are more like that Giovanni we read about and in those other lives we were not immortal but when we died, our spirits were not allowed to travel to one plane or another but were instead part of a different dimension, one that could not hold us.” He lifts me into his arms and moves me over to the bed. “You need to rest at least. The children will be up in two hours. I can already hear Gabriel and Eva making calls and Jason is going through more of those ancient books he took back with Mark. Maybe when you wake they will have a better perspective on all of this.”

Stretching out beside me, I want to cuddle into his chest, feel safe, but I know he is thinking about this and would rather be searching with the others for answers. Reaching up and stroking his glorious cheek, “Why don’t you join the others and I’ll see you in a few hours.”

He smiles, but does not move. “I think I’ll stay right here and ensure you at least try to rest.” He pulls me into his chest, reaches across me and opens the music box.

Stretching, Andrew is not beside me and I turn quickly to the clock. It’s five thirty. I have only been out for forty-five minutes, but know it would be useless to try to go back to sleep and the children will be up soon. Showering quickly, I can hear the others downstairs.

Reaching the bottom step, Andrew emerges from the library. “You should really be trying to get more sleep.”

“I’m fine, have you found out anything?”

“The books and scrolls that Jason brought back talk about demons that we have never even fathomed in our wildest imaginations. There are some stories which talk about powerful beings fighting them and banishing them to different dimensions so that they could no longer serve the darkness and other stories that talk about imprisoning beings sworn to uphold the light, but they are all ancient stories and could be just that, stories, myths. We have no way of knowing whether or not they are true and there does not appear to be any recent accounts of such beings on this plane.”

I stare at the numerous scrolls and books which are splayed out over every conceivable surface and a drawing of a horned demon catches my eye. Moving closer to it, the drawing is the strangest depiction and I am surprised that for something so ancient, it almost jumps out at you like a 3-D changeable. It reminds me of the image that you hold different ways to uncover the picture underneath. As I move closer, depending upon my angle, the demon looks like either a man with a crown or a horned demon. Staring at it, I get the strangest feeling, but cannot concentrate on it for long as I hear the children up and about. Unconsciously, I look out at the others, but do not see them. “I better make breakfast. I’ll shut the door so you have privacy.” I move past the archway and shut the door, not wanting the children to see some of the strange drawings.

A moment later, Andrew is in the kitchen with me. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine” I answer absentmindedly.

He turns me around. “What’s wrong, tell me.”

“Nothing really, the pictures they are just very strange that’s all. I thought we were strange enough, but I guess not.” I try to joke, but my voice is off and Andrew pulls me into an embrace. Mia, they could be just ancient stories, I have never come in contact with anything that we have been reading about and I have been here for a very long time.”

“I don’t know, there is something too real about that drawing, didn’t it jump out at you. What if they are on this plane?”

“Mia, don’t you think that we would have come across something like that. Don’t you think Reginald or some of his men, some of the people that we have come in contact with would have talked about such a thing? They don’t appear to be blenders.” He smirks. “If a seven foot horned demon walked into a convenience store, don’t you think that some great rag would have published that picture by now.” He laughs and looking at it that way, he does have a point. “Come on, let’s get breakfast ready.”

I never thought a busy emergency room where I didn’t have a second to think about anything but what is directly in front of me could bring me such peace, but it does. By two in the afternoon, everyone is at least in recovery or assigned to a room and there appears to be a moment’s breather. Going into my office, Janet steps in behind me. “Did you hear?”

Figuring she is going to tell me Geoffrey is pulling more shenanigans, I roll my eyes at her and cross my arms. “What has Geoffrey done now?”

“Not him, the boy who was in here, the boy from the drug bust.” Immediately I stiffen and am all ears. “He killed himself.”

“How, when did this happen?”

“Mia, I know your new life is busy with your new nieces and nephews and all, but I would assume that Jonathan is at least reading the papers, to keep up to date with all of his investments and the like.”

“Janet, what happened?”

“He was being arraigned yesterday and was going to be held without bail. When he heard this, he went crazy in the courtroom, started yelling and screaming that he was not going back there and when the guards tried to restrain him and take him back, he somehow got hold of one of their guns. In the struggle, he shot his mother and then as she fell to the ground, he blew his brains out.”

Falling back, if it weren’t for my desk, I would be on the floor. I can’t even find my voice to ask what happened to the mother. An emergency page pulls me from my immobility, but I haven’t quite engaged and instead find myself moving robotically toward the emergency room. The blood oozing from the chest of a young stabbing victim finally pulls my mind back from wherever it has been.

Emerging from surgery several hours later, I am dead on my feet. Entering the lobby, I see Ruth and Geoffrey entering. Not wanting to engage in any additional unpleasant sparring with Geoffrey when there are so many other issues to deal with, I deftly try to avoid them while crossing the lobby so that I can speak with the young man’s parents who are sitting in the waiting area before leaving for the evening.

Half-way across the lobby, I catch someone’s quick and erratic movement from the corner of my eye. As I turn, he shouts my name, pulls a gun, and immediately discharges his weapon while screaming. “You killed my brother and now I’m going to kill you!” I should move, but I am frozen to my spot and watch detached from my surroundings as the security guard tries to grab hold of him but is pushed to the ground. I hear another round discharge from its chamber. Instantly, someone jumps before me but is pushed back into me. I feel a piercing pain in my head and chest as I crash against the concrete floor.

Images I cannot grasp are spinning out of control around me. My chest is on fire. Fighting for air, I cannot manage even the slightest breath to offer me some relief from the burning.

Shouting from an all too familiar voice inside my head that I cannot die now because he is too close for mere mortals to thwart his plan rips my attention from my searing chest to the pain and oozing of blood from my pounding head. Panicked shouts around me rip the voice from my thoughts and my eyes flutter open, only to be blinded by the halogen lights above.

Julian’s face comes in to focus. “Mia, I need you to concentrate on me. You need to stay awake, don’t shut your eyes. As I fight the darkening tunnel, pain rips through me and I can hear the shouts for gurneys and what can only be police sirens in the background. I fight to focus on the confusion around me, but dip into my unconscious peace once more.

A strong odor invades my senses, pulling me from the darkness. Pandemonium surrounds me and I hear Geoffrey’s muddled voice asking someone why she would do that, but we are on the move and Julian’s screeching for me to stay with him pulls my attention from all else. He shouts to Janet to call Jonathan and let him know what’s happened and asks who else in on surgical rotation, but as pain overloads my senses, I feel each drop of blood escape my head and chest and dip once more.

Floating through graying hues as cold envelops my every cell, the images swirl around me once more like the funnel cloud of a tornado, too fast for my mind to process. Descending closer and closer to me, this spiraling cone interweaves the images which begin covering my essence like a blanket. As they wrap themselves around me, I feel a warm sensation coursing through me and a peace unlike anything I have ever felt before, calling to me, comforting me, wrapping me in love and tranquility. Just as my body begins to relax, fear, despair and panic wrap around me like a mummy’s shroud entombing me. From somewhere in my desolate abyss a woman’s voice whispers to me. “Hide here, I will lead him away, I will not allow him to rip your choice from you or take you away. Your brother made his choice and so have you. Just remember, no matter what happens I love you. Do not come out until he is banished, someone you trust will come for you if I can’t.”

A booming voice around me rattles my entombing shroud. Terror touches my very core, I’m going to be lost forever, ripped from paradise, torn from Andrew, all for being…

A brilliant light forces back the darkness, ripping me from tomb as a gentle voice floats through my thoughts. “Allow the images to show you the way, you need to be strong, you are being called upon, the time has come.” The light fades and the vortex is before me once more, as it slows, the images now come into focus.

Beep…beep…beep, the steady rhythm calls to me as the last image fades. Swimming toward the surface, familiar voices lift me closer to the surface. “She is healing and will be fine. You could not have seen this coming. No one could have predicted the twisted thoughts of a drug dealing maniac.”

“How is Ruth?”

Eva’s response is barely a whisper. “She didn’t make it. Does anyone know why she jumped in front of Mia?” Her tone immediately becomes concerned. “I didn’t mean that I’m not grateful for her jumping in front of Mia to protect her, but weren’t you frightened of her? Didn’t you say she had dark demons around her?”

“When I followed her, I did see a light, but thought I was being fooled, maybe she knew what was going to happen and came here to protect Mia.”

Breaking through to the surface, tears prick my eyes and Andrew is at my side. I hear Eva say she’ll go and tell the others I’m awake as he strokes my cheek. “Welcome back. We’ve missed you.” Relief floods his face and he smiles.

“How long have I been out?”

“Only about twelve hours since we completed your surgery.”

I shift and can’t help my surprise as I realize my chest and head no longer hurt. Leaning down, he kisses me gently and whispers in my ear. “Don’t move around too much, Julian is on the floor and if he comes in, we don’t want to raise suspicion. We’ll have you out of here in a few hours, but until then, relax Mrs. Taylor.” He jokes and I can’t help but wrap my arms around him, holding him tightly to me.

After several moments, he gently moves from my embrace. “Mia, it’s alright, I’m here, the children are outside and you are going to be fine. What can I do to help you?”

I want to tell him everything, but know that it not possible now. “I’m sorry it was just the thought of Ruth dying because of me and then seeing you, I’m just so grateful that you are here.” Needing a distraction, “Who operated on me?”

“Gabriel and I, although the staff thinks that it was Mark and Dr. Meyers. Jackson took care of them while we operated on you.”

“Isn’t it a bad idea for a husband to operate on his wife?” I joke hoping to lift my dark mood.

“It may be, but I was not going to take any chances with you. We even snuck Jacob and Nicole in to speed up the healing process.”

“Are they still here?”

“Yes, would you like me to go get them?”

“Yes, but Andrew before you do, I need to tell you something and I need you to sit down.” He sits and concern overshadows his features, but he waits for me to gather my thoughts. “I saw everything. I saw our lives here, it was us. Everything that Anthony and Peter believe is correct. We have been together before here and not only the times with them. My visions from before, two times in England, we were there as well, I am certain of it now.” He doesn’t seem as surprised as I thought from my revelation.

“I know.”

Forgetting, I scramble to sit up, but he jumps up and places his hand on my shoulder guiding me back down just before the door swings open and Julian steps in. “I heard you were conscious. How are you feeling?” Although he is addressing me, I see his eyes scanning the monitors before they come to meet mine.

Knowing that patients so soon out of surgery sound weak, I force a raspy tone from my lips. “Very lucky.”

He reaches for the glass of ice chips by my bed and feeds me a spoon. “This will help.” Then he turns to Andrew. “Jonathan would you mind stepping out for a moment so that I can examine Mia?”

Before Andrew can even respond Mark enters. “Julian, Tracy and the children have just arrived and are looking for you. Weren’t you supposed to clock out hours ago. I can examine Mia.”

He turns to me and smiles. “Never a dull moment with you anymore. I’ll see you in the morning, I have the early shift.” He leans over and kisses my forehead before he is out the door.

As it closes I can see a look pass between Andrew and as Mark comes closer, I realize it is Gabriel. “That was a little too close, we need to get Mia transferred out soon. What is Taylor’s ETA?”

“He should be here in about fifteen minutes. He was on his way to the airport before getting our call, not even our kind can overcome rush hour traffic.”

“You’re not really transferring me, are you?”

“No, but we can’t have anyone looking too closely at you, all of your scars are gone.”

As he says this, my fingertips tear at the corner of the bandage on my head and I cannot even feel the trace of a scar.

“Thankfully, Ruth knocked you off balance and the bullet only grazed your head. Do you feel any residuary effects in your chest?”

A move around quickly and feel fine. “No.”

Gabriel interjects. “The children are anxious to see you.” He opens the door and they come rushing in and to my surprise, I see Anthony and Peter shuffle in and stand near the door as Nicole launches herself at me.

“I’m fine sweetie, really.” She squeezes me tighter and I can feel the tension radiating off of her. “Nicole, I’m here.”

“I thought we lost you again. We should have never come back here. Mom, please we need to go home.”

Before I can even say anything, Jacob whispers something in her ear that I cannot hear and she kisses me on the cheek, releases me and then steps back.

Nicholas and Kayla also hug me and their relief that I am still with them is evident.

As soon as Jacob embraces me, I can feel him stiffen and immediately realize my mistake, knowing that he is seeing what I have seen. I try to grab hold of him, hoping to somehow whisper in his ear that he cannot let on, but before I can, he rips himself from me. “No, No, it’s not possible!”

Before he can utter another sound, I interject. “Andrew take the others outside, Jacob just saw the shooting, give me a minute with him.”

Despite Andrew’s concern, he ushers the others out knowing it is best to keep a low profile with the staff still milling around.

“Jacob, please calm down. You need to listen to me so that we can save your brother. He is an innocent who cannot be made to suffer and cannot be left there to become an instrument of destruction. Sebastian cannot protect him much longer, I felt his power waning and if the other gets hold of him, it will destroy this world and we will have brought about the greatest force of destruction on this plane.”

I can’t stand seeing Jacob immobile and I want to get up and comfort him, tell him that everything will be alright, but he has stepped out of the leads reach and if I set off the monitor, others will rush in. Knowing I am already fighting Andrew’s return, I need to get Jacob to listen to me, to understand and to agree to undertake his part without hesitation and without alerting his father.

“Jacob, please, there is not a lot of time before your father returns, there are things I need to show you, things you need to know that I fear you did not get. Please.”

“Mom, I’ve seen enough and it’s a lie. I know it is; it has to be.”

“Jacob, please we are running out of time, please you need to see it all. You are the only one who can help me.”

His features soften as he meets my pleading eyes and he stumbles forward. Embracing him hoping to comfort him and to allow him to see all that I have seen before Andrew returns, I can feel the energy, visions and power passing between us.

As Andrew enters and Jacob finally pulls away from me, he looks as if he has aged a century in only minutes and he cannot hide his escaping tears. Andrew places his hand on Jacob’s shoulder and I can see Jacob fighting to shield him from the images and knowledge which can only bring about the destruction of all our worlds.

He turns deftly shrugging out of Andrew’s hold. “I’m alright. Did I frighten Nicole?” Before Andrew can even respond, Jacob moves toward the door. “What am I saying, I know I did. I should go out and talk to her and give you a moment.

Ten minutes later, they are loading me up into the ambulance when the real Mark stops them. “Jonathan, where are you transferring her?”

“I arranged for a private staff and some equipment at the house. There are too many press people milling about waiting for their chance to talk to her about the ‘deranged drug dealer who tried to shoot the doctor who released his brother.’” Andrew can’t hide his aggravated tone.

“But it wasn’t even Mia, I released him. She was in surgery.”

Moving away from the others, and looking around, Andrew’s voice drops. “Mark, we know, but Walker holds it against Mia because he asked her to stall Greg’s release and she didn’t. You don’t want to clear up any misconceptions Peter’s men have regarding this. Greg has two other siblings and we don’t want to give them another target.”

“But…”

Before he can finish his objection, Andrew interjects. “I have the resources to protect Mia, you have a family you need to worry about. I don’t know if the other members are as deranged as Peter, but you can’t take any chances with your family.” I see Mark nod and then Andrew moves back toward us and shuffles the children into a car next to the ambulance as Gabriel, much to my dismay climbs in with me.

Fighting desperately to fill my thoughts with anything but what I have seen, I decide to sit up and start taking off the leads and equipment they have on me and jump as he places his hand on my shoulder. “Mia, it’s alright, you don’t have struggle, I know.”

My eyes shoot up to his. “What…how…what do you know?”

“Everything that you have seen. I operated on you with Andrew, remember. As you saw it, so did I and I know that Jacob knows now as well.”

Grabbing his wrist, “Tell me that you didn’t tell Andrew, you can’t! You know what will happen if you do. You know what will happen if they grab hold of him!”

“He does” Says a voice from nowhere and then instantly Reginald appears before me.

Without thought, I throw myself at him. “I thought you were lost for good. How did you escape? Did the others get out? How did you get here? Where did you come from? How did I not see you?”

Shrugging out of my stranglehold, he leans back. “I survived the hell dimension, but may not survive your hug.” He jokes and in making me laugh, he stops my stream of questions and I sit back down, releasing him.

“You didn’t see me because I gained a few tricks on my last journey.” He smiles. “You shouldn’t have been there, that was extremely dangerous and you could have gotten trapped there before we knew what was going on.” He admonishes.

“I didn’t mean to, it just happened.”

“I know and in some ways it was good because by throwing Amanda out, I left myself a pathway from her tethering me to escape.” His features fall and he shakes his head. “I got out many of the others you saw, but Sebastian and your son are still there. Some stayed to try and help protect them, but it won’t be long. We are going to have to go after them soon.” He glances at Gabriel and then back to me. “He didn’t tell Andrew what he knows and you know why he won’t.”

The words escape my lips before my mind even processes the true meaning of them. “Because he sacrificed heaven to stay with him and protect him and knows the importance of protecting him still.”

Gabriel smiles and nods and I can’t help but ask. “Knowing who I am why would you allow him to find me again?”

Reaching across, he takes my hands in his. “Mia, you have been joined since the beginning. He has loved you since the very first moment his eyes met yours. I could no sooner stop him from finding you again than I could extinguish the souls in heaven. That is not my place and not my job. Nor would I. You should not be punished, you did not choose wrong. I came here to watch over him and help him when I can. I always come with him here and am never that far, but hopefully this time, knowing what I truly am, I can utilize my powers to help him. We have never had this knowledge going into a final fight before. But then again, the alignment has never been right and the stakes never as high.”

My head drops into my hands as I consider the weight of what could happen all because of who I am and our union. I can’t help but wonder if I had gone with him originally, if all of this could have been avoided. Gabriel sits beside me, placing his arm around me. “You need to stop thinking that way. He has no right to claim that you belong to him and you still are not seeing the entire picture, you still do not have all of the pieces to the puzzle. You won’t until you are there, but Mia, you need to remember what you always tried to convince Andrew of, just because he made Andrew what he is now, doesn’t mean he has the right to him. You have done nothing to be claimed by him and you do not belong there. I know what you are planning, but Mia, I can’t explain why, but you need to concentrate on getting out as well.”

“I have a feeling that may not be possible. No matter what, your priority needs to be Andrew and my children’s protection. Promise me.”

“Mia, I promise, but I know that we still do not have the entire story. I can feel it. We are closer and this is the first time you and Andrew are not facing it alone and some of us are armed with knowledge that we have never had before. You know that he has to know, he has to know what you are planning.”

I shake my head forcefully. “He can’t know what I am asking Jacob, you know his feelings for me will cloud his judgment.”

“The way your feelings for him are making you make decisions for him that may hamper your eternity.” He retorts and from his expression, it is a little more forceful than he expected.

“Despite my feelings you know my decision is right. They will torture him for their situation; blame him for the consequences of their own decision. He doesn’t belong there.”

“Neither do you.” Gabriel’s tone turns angry. “I know what you are thinking, but you did not hide because you are a coward, you hid because you exercised your free will to stay and he had no right to try and rip that from you to drag you down. I know you want to rescue your son, but you need to fight for yourself as well, you belong with Andrew and your family.”

I turn to Reginald. “Did Cassandra and Amanda come back with you?

Knowing I am seeking a momentary reprieve from and argument that will get us nowhere, he smiles. “They are at the house. Mia, do you know what caused you in this lifetime to gather the knowledge you did? I wouldn’t ask, but you know how much I can’t step away from gathering information.”

“I don’t mind your asking. The images of Andrew and my lives were flashing around me, probably while they were operating on me. I saw some additional flashes of Anthony and Peter after Andrew and I had left and even saw some of my daughter, but I couldn’t get a handle on her face and still am not quite sure why pentagrams and the images of only five of my children kept flashing before me.” Looking into Reginald’s eyes, I see a spark. He knows. “Are you going to tell me?”

He shakes his head. “Cassandra can explain it better and I don’t really have all of the information. Besides, it’s better if everyone hears it together.”

“Do you know how my son ended up there?”

“That wasn’t revealed to you?” He sounds surprised. I shake my head, but know that he is aware of how it happened. He places his hand upon mine. “We can talk about that when we are all together. Mia, do you know what the catalyst is that unlocked the knowledge for you?”

I shake my head and wonder if he is asking because he believes that this situation will arise again with Andrew and I in another time where Reginald’s immortality will take him, but considering where we are heading, I can’t see this opportunity presenting itself again. “I have no idea, but I’m sure, even if I did, the information wouldn’t matter for the future.”

I see the look pass between Gabriel and Reginald, but thankfully the ambulance has come to a stop and our conversation for the moment is over. The children are already outside at the ambulance doors when they open. Huddling around me as I climb out, I can feel their anxiety. “I’m fine, really. Why don’t we get inside and I’ll make some hot chocolate.”

“Why don’t you rest and I’ll make it.” Kayla replies. Taking her hand, she turns to me.

“Honey, I’m fine. I’m healed and everything is going to be alright.” Catching Jacob’s skeptical glance, I want to say more, but considering I feel the strain in my voice as I’m trying to sound normal, I do not want concern them, not yet. I need to talk with Andrew first.

I can see Jeff scurry into the office with Amanda and Cassandra as we enter and Julianne and Paul are toting trays of hot chocolate and cookies. “Charley, Peter and Anthony are already in the living room starting a fire.”

“No, have them stop!” Every eye is on me now.

Reginald places his hand on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. “Mia, it’s fine, it won’t happen now.”

“Mom, what’s wrong.” Nicholas asks concerned.

“Nothing, honey, I’m sorry, I just didn’t want them going to all that trouble considering how late it is.” Despite all of my children’s skeptical looks, they decide to go along with my explanation and go into the living room. I can’t help but keep one eye on the fire.

After seeing them off to bed, Andrew and I join the others in study.

Andrew moves toward Reginald. “Since I don’t see Sebastian here, I take it your trip was unsuccessful.” I can hear the trepidation in his tone and know that he is concerned that Reginald is going to ask for our help in rescuing him and is torn because of everything that the children have already gone through.

Taking his hand in mine, “Andrew I think we should sit down there are some things I need to tell you.” After telling him about seeing our lives and how everything Peter and Anthony told us was true and that we were there, I finally come to tell him what he needs to know in order for us to move forward, hoping that once I do, Cassandra will explain the rest. “Andrew, the white light that I saw with Sebastian in hell, it’s the soul of Alexander’s twin brother. He is trapped there. If he falls into Satan’s hands, he will be used to bring the Anti-Christ to this plane and cause unimaginable destruction. Reginald didn’t get Sebastian out because Sebastian refused to leave our son behind. He is somehow protecting him in that realm with some others, but their power is waning and he will be taken if we don’t rescue him soon.” As I touch him, concentrating only on what I saw in the hell dimension that I want Andrew to see, I notice Andrew turn to stone before my eyes. Calling his name several times, his eyes do not even glance my way and I begin to panic.

Eva puts her hand on mine. “Mia, give him a minute, he is seeing for the first time what you saw. I think he’s fighting to hold on to the connection of images.” As I release him, she releases me.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, he manages to focus on the here and now. He stares at Cassandra. “Please tell me how this happened because I know Mia doesn’t know.”

Shocked that he somehow is aware of my lack of knowledge regarding this, I can feel the panic, what if he saw the other images that I was trying to hide from him. I see Cassandra shake her head and hear Andrew’s angry voice. “Don’t you think since it is our son being held down there we have a right to know?”

“Of course you do and I’m going to tell you.” Turning to Andrew, I can see his confusion and realize that she shook her head in response to my panicked thoughts. Forcing aside all errant thoughts, I focus on her.

“Do you remember the story you were told regarding certain souls capturing and imprisoning innocent souls to come back as their being unhampered by having to fight the soul within from a mere possession?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with this situation. He wasn’t even born yet, his soul hadn’t even entered this plane, nor was there a body to grant access to this plane.” As the words escape Andrew’s lips, it clicks, but still it is beyond comprehension. How could it even be possible? As this idea flashes through my thoughts, I hear Cassandra voice my fears.

“When you were in England and Mia encountered David and Marlena, his connection to the demon world and transcendence among planes made him more powerful than most of the demons you have encountered. I told you they could entrap souls and in some cases for rebirth, they needed two. In David’s case, that is exactly what he accomplished when he bit Mia.” She now focuses on me. “Think back, when he bit you, his hands were not just on your shoulders, there had to be an instant where they were on your abdomen and he had contact with Marlena. Closing my eyes, trying to envision what she was saying, even before the image can form, I know it’s true.

“Mia, he was trying to take both, but only got one. Alexander’s soul was stronger as the first formed, he was tethered to you tighter and David only got one chance to come back, once chance to transfer a being to Marlena. He did not count on what happened nor did he count on Sebastian’s soul having the ability to tether to child and protect him.”

“So what do we do now? How do we get in, it looked like the opening that Reginald and Amanda went through closed when he threw Amanda through. Is there another way in? Did Reginald get out another way?” I inquire and those who are unaware of what I saw in my dreams are now staring at me.

Cassandra liens forward. “Mia, what you originally thought was never a way in for you or for them. Although they went in the way of your dreams, they were in more of an observatory, they could see and in Reginald’s case with the dagger, he was able to puncture the realm to entrap some of the good souls and then release them. Unfortunately, he also released the ones captured since our encounter with Caleb. However for where you have to go, utilizing that route would be futile.”

She pauses, taking in a deep breath. “When David stole the soul of the child and it was banished to hell, he put the final piece into the puzzle. He provided an opportunity which Satan has been waiting for since his banishment. Everything now is aligned and to prevail you must both be willing to risk it all, make whatever sacrifice is necessary and fight like you have never fought before, otherwise we are all doomed.” As she says this, she is staring at Andrew and I realize it is because she already knows where I stand.

With a resolve in his voice like I have never heard before, he leans toward her and speaks forcefully. “Just tell us what we have to do.”

“You have already accomplished part of it. You have accepted that you have had past lives and that that your children are before you.” I can’t help but glance at Peter and Anthony. “What you are not aware of and neither are they, are that they are your first born from those lifetimes, you will need a drop of blood from five of your first born children to mix with the blood of five of Jonathan’s first born children and then five souls from each realm, children lost from you and Andrew and Jonathan in order to gain access to where you need to go.”

The room is silent as eyes dart from one person to another trying to absorb such an impossible task. A shot of adrenaline pulls me from my stupor and the questions on everyone’s mind comes shooting out of me like a rocket at takeoff. “How is that even possible? Why does there have to be five? How can we get souls from other realms? What does Jonathan have to do with this? You said that everything is aligned, but that can’t be possible even with Anthony and Peter that only gives us three first born children. How are we ever going to find two more before Sebastian loses his hold? I couldn’t even see my daughter, and I didn’t see an image of another child. Even if I had, how could we ever find them in time?” Panic seizes my heart and I fall silent.

“Mia, you need to relax. Save your energy for when it is truly needed. You already have the five children around you. You don’t have to search for anyone. As far as Jonathan’s children on this plane now, they will come to you. They believe they will prevail and have been called upon by him already. As to the souls from heaven and hell that are needed, you have seen some of them already and the rest wait in the wings. Each side is prepared to release them for this battle.” As she says this, I know what souls she is referring to, but I still do not understand how she thinks that we have five first born children around us.

She inhales deeply and answers my unspoken question. “Mia, Alexander is considered a first born child because you were taken out of your life and technically placed in a new one and as for your daughter, she is here. The reason you could not see her face is because I was blocking it. I wanted to introduce myself.” She glances quickly at Peter and I see him smile.

From the corner of my eye, I see Andrew leaning forward. “Why didn’t you say anything when we first met?”

“Considering all that was going on, would you have believed me?”

The answer registers in Andrew’s features without him even saying a word. “With your gift of sight, you must have known we were here before our encounter, why didn’t you seek us out?”

“It was not time and there are rules, especially with you. Balance must be maintained. Although I can see, I told you free will sometimes changes everything and we could not predict what would have happened if Mia made other choices. Even now, you suspect things, but still do not know the whole story. All is not yet revealed and before you ask, I cannot reveal it, and even if I could, I am not privileged in this matter to have all of the answers. I only know that to get in and save the soul of the child trapped you must go to where this timeline began with your first born children, draw a pentagram with each standing on the tip, the oldest at the top. Once that occurs, Jonathan’s children will materialize, the souls will gather and the amulet shall open the door for passage. However, this does not come without a price, opening the rift between dimensions, between the planes will allow some to escape. If it closes before you escape, those caught inside may not be able to get back out, not even with using the blood of the ten on the amulet as a key. If you are trapped, what you are will not protect you, it will make you an even bigger target there than you are up here and your powers will be used against you to torture you and gain access to all that you possess.”

I cannot help the shudder that runs through me and Andrew draws me closer.

Jeff interjects. “What would happen if they do not go?”

“The soul of their son will be used to bring forth the anti-Christ. The world as we know it will be gone and lying in its wake will be a world filled with the creatures of the stories that you read about in the scrolls. This realm will be filled with demons that have the power to devour humanity, one soul at a time. Champions will rise to combat the evil, but none of us have been privileged to see whether or not they will be strong enough to destroy it before it rules this plane. Either way, this world will be plunged into a supernatural war ground possibly for centuries until balance can be restored and the demons can be forced back into their hell dimension once more.”

There is so much to take in, but finally something she says registers and I cannot stop shaking. In trying to rescue our son and prevent the anti-Christ will we be opening up the doorway for Satan himself to enter this plane? “Opening the gateway, does that mean the devil himself may pass through?”

Cassandra’s features turn understanding and her tone becomes more of a mother comforting a child that that of a daughter addressing her mother, but then again, considering I only have images of past lives and no true understanding of how much they held, she is the wiser one. “No one really knows, but he was only allowed a short entrance in this world to reclaim one he sent here and who defied him. We do not believe that he himself can just enter this dimension and stay because he chose to reign in hell when he went through the gates of heaven for the final time. No demon has defied him since Ann and the one he feels he has a right to is going to be in his realm, not here so we believe that he would stay where his power is strongest.”

“What will happen to those closest to the gateway if some of his minions can escape?”

“That will depend upon those who you convince to come with you on this journey and how strong they are in fighting to contain them or send them back. You have powerful friends and allies, more than you realize.”

As she glances around, my eyes follow hers and I see not only those we have come across and fought with but new allies in Peter, Anthony, Mark and those who they have come into contact with. As my focus intensifies on Peter, Casey’s words about Saria’s followers swims through my thoughts. “Is that why we were shown Saria’s life because her followers are to play a role in this apocalyptic journey?”

She smiles. “Do not give up hope, I know that you see this world being harmed either way because of what is happening, but the energy toward this has been building and this is the first time that you are truly not alone, you are stronger now than you have ever been and you have amassed an army of those who are willing to fight on your side. It is not like before where you, Andrew and those around you had no real information to combat what was coming for you. This time hopefully it will be different and may even close the gateway for good.” She leans across and takes each of our hands. “You cannot give up hope. You have to believe that you will prevail. If you don’t, all those around you, those who have been waiting to support you, to serve their purpose will fail before they have even had a chance to fight.” She cannot stifle her yawn and rises wearily. “It has been a very long journey.” She looks to Reginald and smiles. “If someone could show me to a room, I really need to rest.”

I rise, but Peter moves forward. “The room next to mine is unoccupied. I’ll show you and you can tell me how you slayed the riptar demon.”

She laughs and nudges in to him. “That is quite a dark bedtime story. Besides, aren’t you supposed to tell me a bedtime story older brother.” Watching their interaction, I catch Anthony’s forlorn look and know he is thinking of his own sister.

Approaching him cautiously, he smiles and I move forward. “Are you alright?” I inquire, my eyes now glancing at Peter and Cassandra.

“I am, it just brought back some memories, that’s all. Mia, I’m glad that you are alright and I’m sorry about how we met.”

Raising my hand to stop him, I speak confidently. “Don’t. I would have done the exact same thing. Truthfully, even seeing it, I don’t think it has truly sunk in. I’m sorry that I left you so young and that you went through all of that alone.”

He smiles warmly. “You left me to save me and I wasn’t alone for long. Charley and I got together shortly after I woke up and then Renee came along. I have been alright, really. If you don’t mind, I am going to call and check on Laurel before it gets too late.”

As I watch him go, Peter calls him brother and tells him to come up after his call. I also hear the others making plans on who to contact and what we may need in order to even hope to prepare ourselves for what I hope will not be a futile mission and even worse, one that brings an end to life as those in this world know it.

As they begin to disburse, Eva hands Jackson her cell and he talks to whoever is on the other line. “Do you need someone to talk to? A lot has happened and it is quite a lot to take on.” As the image of her as an angel flashes before me, I know I could talk to her, but feel that the less words spoken at this point the better.

“I’m fine, who should I call?”

Andrew comes beside us both and I know I made the right decision. “You shouldn’t be calling anyone, you need to rest, even though you’re healed, your body has taken a beating. Come on, let’s get you upstairs.” As I turn, I catch Eva’s sympathetic glance and know it is because she is aware that I am less able to control my thoughts when I sleep. I need to fill my thoughts with all things present and not what is to come.

He lays beside me, but as weariness settles in, I can feel my thoughts drifting and the worry touching my heart for all my children if we should fail. Gathering the little energy I have left, I turn in his embrace. “Andrew, would you do something for me?”

“Anything, but you know that. What do you need?”

“I was thinking about what Cassandra said. It sounds as if we have lost five of our children to the darkness, if five souls can be gathered from each realm. I do not want to lose any more. If we are going to somehow open a gateway to hell, I would feel much better if you would call Emma tonight and see if she will come too and then work with Jason on those scrolls, I know it showed evil, but somewhere, maybe, if we are lucky, it will show a way to contain the gateway so that we do not unleash evil on the ones who are around the gateway. Could you also find out if there is any indication as to whether we just need their blood or if they need to be there too? If they do…” I can’t even finish the thought because I know I’m correct in my assumption that they have to be there. Otherwise, why would I see Jacob on that floor in my visions? “I know where the gateway is.” I sit up, but for the first time, I realize he is not surprised by my revelation. “You know too, don’t you?”

He nods. “It is back in Italy at the original house and you are right to fear that Jacob is needed at the opening. I don’t have to go downstairs and confirm it with anyone. I know that much is true. I also know that you fear whatever is being held from us is going to hold you down there.”

My face falls. How much more does he know? Are we both keeping things from each other to protect the other? I want to come clean, tell him everything. Be honest with him, knowing that secrets have always hurt us in the past, but in this case could the truth hurt our family more. Despite what Gabriel said about my having free will and hiding so that it would not be ripped from me, maybe he was wrong, maybe this life, this world never really was mine to enter. It is rather ironic Andrew always thought he was never good enough because of the hold that “he” created when he transformed them, holding them to this world, but in truth, it is I that he has the greatest hold upon. I’m the one who had no right to stay with Andrew. Could I have stopped all of this if I had not hidden and just left?

“What has you so deep in thought?” He moves to embrace me and I force my thoughts to Jacob immediately. As he touches me, he whispers in my ear. “Jacob will be fine. I’ll go down and call Emma and search the scrolls.” He rises and I am thankful. My fears that now when he touches me, he is aware of my thoughts are now confirmed. Maybe he is just so good at reading me that my actual thoughts are not his unless we are trying to share them, but as we gain more knowledge and come closer to the time of reckoning, I can feel powers strengthening inside of me and I’m sure they are also growing inside of him that we blocked out or which we were unwilling to accept. Can I dare to hope that we may succeed in our quest?

“Sleep will not find me; my weary thoughts cannot escape what we are facing. I want to check on the children, spend time with them, even if they are asleep, not knowing what tomorrow will hold, but if Andrew hears me up, I know he will come looking for me and I will not be able to block my thoughts when I’m this fatigued. For the first time, I wish that my kind did not need sleep.

Turning over, I begin to count backwards hoping at least to drift enough to reenergize my thoughts which are becoming cloudier and cloudier. Reaching 49, I feel myself floating, my body is weightless and I can see a beautiful wispy cloud sky stretching out beyond the horizon. Looking down at myself I am dressed in a cream colored, floor length sundress. I am moving toward a man whose back is turned to me. He is wearing a white linen shirt and white pants. As he turns, my heart skips a beat and I float forward. His eyes are the color of diamonds and as Andrew reaches for my hand, I feel warmth from his touch, which courses through my palm, up my arm and touches my heart, filling it with love and serenity. I am blissfully happy as his lips caress mine. Opening my eyes, his sparkle with love and joy.

Mist forms around us, getting thicker and thicker. Suddenly two boisterous voices boon through the sky. “I considered you my son. You are one of my first creations. A part of my highest ranking legion and all the while you have been plotting against me, plotting to destroy paradise, and the world that the children could learn to grow, to experience new things, to experience an extension of this world.”

“I will never again serve you or your coveted creation. You are through.” I hear the crack of thunder and see a flash, but the fog between us and those who are fighting has grown too thick to see the men.

“It is you and yours who are through. I created this realm and it is time for you and your betrayers to leave. You are forbidden from ever entering paradise again. Gather your followers and leave before I cast you out. I am giving you this one opportunity to leave peacefully, with only those who choose to follow you, try and take anyone else and I will cast you into eternal damnation, building a prison that will forever hold you and yours.”

“You cannot do that. You gave us free will and we are exercising that will now, we choose not to follow you, not to serve you.”

“You may exercise your free will outside of my house, this is my creation and the ones who love one another, love me, and choose to stay are not yours to take. Leave my house!”

The world shakes around us and I can feel the fear gripping my heart as Andrew pulls me to his chest. “You are with me, I will protect you.”

“You can’t protect me against him, he’s …” A scream echoes through my thoughts and I am falling, descending deeper and deeper into a gray, darkening mist. The temperature is dropping around me as the sky is darkening. There is no earth below us, no sky above us, only piercing screams and darkness.

I see a shooting star piercing the pitch sky. It is moving quickly and as it illuminates the terror filled faces of the falling souls, screams of panic turn to screams for help, but the blazing star appears to be dodging and weaving the sea of plummeting spirits, almost as if it has a purpose. As is zooms closer to me, I am expecting it to weave by me, but as is approaches, it is no longer a star, it takes shape, its Andrew, shrouded in pure white angelic wings with golden tips. Swooping past me, suddenly I am being lifted, flown through the darkness as white wings envelop me, carrying me through the darkness.

A threatening voice cuts through the surrounding pleas. “She is not yours to take she belongs to me! She had no right to make a choice to stay. She is mine to take. She belongs to me. This is not over, she is tied to me. She is mine! She is…” At that moment, his wings open and I fear that I am going to fall once more, but instead am met with bright light from a sparkling, sunny sky. Gliding to a stop, he places me so that the cool earth is now touching the soles of my feet.

The wings that carried my protector and blanketed me, are no more. Andrew pulls me closer. His hand gently strokes my cheek. “Are you hurt?” Still stunned, I can’t find my voice, but shake my head. He pulls me into his chest. “I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner. If anything had happened to you… If he had dragged you down…” His voice chokes with emotion and I can feel the tension in his embrace.

As my hands move across his strong, muscular back, there is not even a trace of his breathtaking wings. They have disappeared as fast as they appeared.

Steeping slightly back, my hands fall off his back, as his hands glide down my arms so that he is gently cupping my hands. As his thumb gently strokes my knuckles, he stares into my eyes. “Mia, you are safe, it’s alright. He had no right to you.” Looking around, I tense, this is not his plane and as I turn back to him, he answers my unspoken question. “To come after you, I made a deal. We need to stay here for a while. We’ll be fine and we’re together.”

Looking up, I can see the worry in his eyes. “You should have let me go. He will never accept this and will come after you. At least at home, you would be safe, he could not enter that realm again.”

“He had no right to take you. You did not choose to go. You belong with me, you chose to stay with me. He had no right to rip you away. If he had just left you, they would not all be falling now into the abyss. They will be falling for a long time. Even if he does somehow manage to reach beyond his prison into this plane before we get home, his power here is limited and we will face him together.”

A cool set of arms around me causes the image to dissipate and Andrew’s soft voice is at my ear. “We will face this together as well.”

My eyes flutter open to meet his. “How long have you been here?”

“Since the fall” His breath hitches and I softly stroke his cheek.

“I always knew you are my rescuing angel.”

“We rescue each other.” He moves to sit up and takes me with him. “Mia, when we do go, you cannot run away from me in hopes of keeping me safe.” My face drops, how much more does he know of what I am hoping to accomplish? “We need to face this together, stay together, and rescue our son.”

“Andrew I don’t know what to say.”

He interrupts me. “Say that you hear what I am saying and understand that we need to stay together in this, we need face this as one.”

“But you cannot risk getting trapped there, he cannot claim you, but he has a right to me.”

“No he doesn’t!” Andrew’s voice is angrier than I have ever heard it. “You fought so hard to convince me that he does not have a hold on me because of what he turned me into and yet you believe he has a hold on you.”

“It’s different and you know now who I am. It’s not the same.”

“Stop that right now. I don’t want to hear you talk like that ever again. You have never, not in any lifetime from what I can see, done anything that remotely indicates he should have a hold on you.” His voice turns softer. “This is going to be difficult, but we need to cut off his opportunity to use our son to bring about destruction. If Cassandra is correct and balance is what needs to be maintained, then the powers that be have taken one opportunity on this plane and maybe we can stop his opportunity to affect this plane now. No matter what happens though, we need to stick together. Promise me.”

A knock on the door is a welcome relief. “Come in.” It’s Eva. “The children are up and are getting ready to go to school. Mia, you may want to talk to Jacob before they leave, he had a rather rough night.”

Andrew and I rise. “I’ll start breakfast while you talk to him.”

Walking into his room, he is alone and the circles under his eyes tells me he got no sleep at all. “Can we talk?”

“Mom, I know what you are going to say. I heard everything that went on last night.”

“Then you know how important it is that we are successful. We can’t allow this world to be overrun.”

I know, but mom, I think I can do what you asked me for both of you. I don’t understand why I can’t try.”

Grasping his shoulders, “Jacob you need to promise me that you will do exactly what I asked you. We both heard that a mother’s sacrifice must be made to save the child. We can’t ignore that and your father cannot be caught there.”

“But you are choosing to leave us again. Why?”

“Jacob, if the antichrist is allowed to reach this plane you will not have a life and I could not bear that.”

“If I agree to do what you have asked, will you promise me something?”

“I guess that depends upon what it is that you want me to do.”

“I want you to promise me that you will try to get out too. Maybe the sacrifice that you heard doesn’t mean what you think it means, maybe your request to me is the sacrifice.” He rolls his eyes when he sees my skeptical look. “Mom, when has that world ever followed any type of clear meaning, everything is always twisted, so don’t discount what I’m saying so quickly. Mom, please I’m not a kid and I do know what I’m talking about.”

“Look Jacob, I know that you are no longer a kid, despite your years, but you and I both know the claim he thinks he has on me and considering who I am, I am his most legitimate claim.”

Jacob’s features twist and pure anger tightens his lips. “The same could be said of me, Kayla, Anthony or Peter if you use that logic. Stop sacrificing everything because you don’t have enough faith in yourself and the courage of your choice to stay with dad to have cut his right to claim you.” His body trembles and I know that I must try to calm him down.

Placing my hand upon his, he stills. “That is not true, your father’s light shines in everything you do and are. You were all born of this plane and he was already cast out. That fact and your father’s nature are much stronger than any tenuous claim that he could make.” As he refuses to let go of his tenacity and aggravation over this, I change tactics. “If you promise to do exactly as I asked of you, then I will keep an open mind about what you are saying and if there is a way out, without condemning you all, I will take it. No matter what happens, remember that I love you.”

“I know. I love you too, that’s why I want you to fight for us to be a family for as long as we can. I’m sorry about what I said earlier, I didn’t mean it. I’m just afraid.”

“I know you are. I am too. Come on, we better get downstairs before they come looking for us.” I turn and reach the door, but stop. “Jake when you are around your dad, you can’t even think about what I have asked you. Our connections are getting stronger and if the time comes, I don’t want him having advanced notice to stop what may need to be done.”

He hugs me again. “I promise, but don’t forget what I said either.”

“I won’t. I know you are right and nothing of that world is ever what it seems.”

As the children head to school with Andrew, I call Julian who is surprised that I feel well enough to talk but is happy that I called. He tells me that Ruth was there to actually meet with him because she felt it was imperative that the children’s wing be built as soon as possible and even gave him the names of wonderful contractors and investment managers who are willing to donate some time to bring about this project. Although Geoffrey is not too happy considering he was hoping Ruth would have convinced the Board otherwise, it seems they are more committed than ever to satisfying the expectations of benefactors and members alike. I am relieved and thrilled to hear this. At least one thing is going as planned.

Hanging up, I am surprised to see Cassandra when I turn.”

“Mia, I have to go and meet with a few individuals and Andrew said it would be alright if I took your car. Before I go, I want you to know that we will do everything that we can to protect Jacob and Alexander near the entrance, but what Jacob said is right. Although you are right to prepare, you don’t have the full story yet, and not everything is as it seems. You can’t discount anything. This battle is like nothing that we have ever fought upon this plane before and although you are willing to make certain sacrifices, you need to be open to every possibility, because the consequences of a misstep here will be fatal, not just to you and your family, but to the entire human race. We cannot fail.”

“Cassandra, you need to protect yourself too. You are all my children. I am so sorry that I wasn’t there for you.” As I say this, a realization hits me and I feel as if someone has punched me in the stomach. Is this what I do? Make children only to leave them on their own for one side or the other to claim. What kind of a monster am I?

“Oh my God. The wonder why he has been able to pick you off so easily, deceive you into doing what you do. We will lose this fight if that is what you believe and you really will have a hand in bringing this world to the darkness. Mia, you did not choose to leave me, you did not choose to leave Anthony, and you did not choose to leave your other children. It is not your fault that some of them chose the darkness. That was their choice, not your doing. Don’t you understand that? Don’t you understand that everything has always come down to a fight about free will? You lost in those other lives because you have never believed that you have had a right to make your own choices, to exercise free will, to fight to stay with your children, fight for the right to stay in this world, fight to stay with Andrew. You need to believe that now more than ever.”

“Even if what you say about the past is true, aren’t I choosing to leave my children again now?”

She shakes her head in disgust. “You are making a choice to save them, to save humanity if the circumstances you fear arise. In the same way you and Andrew both made a choice not to let Anthony die when he tricked you into believing that darkness came to claim him. The same way that Andrew thought that he was protecting me from the encroaching darkness taking over me when they came after you both.”

“I don’t understand, I let go of Anthony so he wouldn’t fall and Andrew jumped trying to save me and then with you, I stopped fighting.”

“Is that how you see it?” Her tone drips with disgust. “No wonder he found it so easy to trick you into ending your time here. He didn’t even have to send in his strongest fighters because you never felt you had a right to this world, a world other than the one he was trying to force you to enter. Can I show you something?” I nod and she leads me to the couch in the library. Sitting down facing her, she touches my temple briefly. “This is what you and Andrew truly saw and which Anthony could not have seen because of his humanity. It never seems to fail, you get some inclination just before he is able to rip you from this world.” She seems to be talking more to herself. As she comes back from her contemplation, she places her hands back on my temple, closes her eyes and I do the same.

Once again I am plunged into the erupting world of an exploding volcano, but this time, as my eyes search for my children and Andrew, not only do I see the falling ash, but I see the sky above my house filled with descending demons. I rip Anthony from the area, but we get only a few feet before we are both pushed down on the rocks, not by the rumbling ground beneath our feet, but by shadowy creatures whose whispers I can now hear. They are instructing each other to separate us and to grab hold of the boy, get him to commit before the tethers are severed. Find the father, we must gather them all, if one is lost, so is this opportunity. We only have one shot, he is not committed to one side or the other. We must act now, before it is too late.

Getting up we are running again, but now the ground below me is consumed. I can feel the nothingness, the emptiness as I hang between this world and the next. I can hear the demons whispering around Anthony. “Commit yourself to darkness to save your mother, commit, agree to do his bidding and we shall save her, commit.” I can see his head whipping around, and I can feel his thoughts, his confusion as to what is going on, he can hear but cannot see what is coming for him. Andrew and I am the tether and I realize now as I peel my hand from his and hear Andrew shouting to hold on, he is not shouting it to me, he is shouting it to Anthony as an angel shrouded in light is now combating the demons around him.

As I fall, I feel myself caught and Andrew is with me now. “It will only hurt for a moment. Our first born is safe, he cannot claim him.” Our bodies bash against the rocks as we descend further and further into darkness as pain engulfs us and then there is nothing.

The image shifts and we are fighting on the boat. Demons are everywhere, but so are witches, warlocks and white apparitions. I feel shocks of energy bursting through me, throwing me against walls. I can feel the dark tunnel forming around me as I fight not to lose consciousness. I see Andrew fighting. I can hear spirits shouting that they must protect us and demons arguing that they must grab us that the master is waiting, while shipmates are shouting incantations about banishing souls. As two demons grab me, I am being lifted, and I can hear them shout that he is coming to extract the child, and to grab Andrew, as they do, I see the terror in Andrew’s eyes as he is grabbed and lifted high off the deck. As the darkness approaches me, I can see him struggle and hear him shout. “Do it now!”

As he does, a bolt of lightning hits the demons and Andrew free falls toward the deck. I see the demons trying to grab him once more, but he passes right through and lands with a final thud on the deck. I can feel his loss as my body goes limp and the thunderous “No!” shrieks through the surroundings blocking out all other sounds, even the sound of my own scream.

I am now enshrouded in light and can feel myself being carried on the wings of a spirit. Gliding to a stop, we are surrounded by woods. As the angel departs, I can hear her whisper. “You know who you are now, but he has touched you in this life. Andrew died to cut the tether but in separating the two of you, you are too weak to stay. You must fight to bring the child to term and cut all ties to protect her, you have no right to this world, but she can grow and choose her side. As the angel backs away, I now see shrouds of darkness before it fades to nothingness.”

The image fades and I can feel Cassandra’s hands retreat from my temple. As I open my eyes, I can see determination in hers. “Mia, the angel you thought you saw, wasn’t. Think about what you saw the other night, you need to put more of this together or we will all be destroyed. Please it is imperative that you consider everything I showed you and put the pieces together correctly. Think about what I have told you about the battle, what I have showed you and you need to discuss what you know with Andrew.” I shake my head and she places her hand upon mine. “I am not saying that you need to discuss what you asked of Jacob, but he needs to know more, especially if it comes down to what you fear.”

She rises. “I have to go, although I can keep some of my party waiting, others, I cannot for fear that they will be discovered.”

“Why didn’t you have them come here?”

“Some are better left in the shadows until the time comes when they have to fulfill their jobs. I will be back soon.”

That evening, after the children have gone to bed, Andrew and I take a drive, away from the many ears and eyes which are now listening and watching us intently. After clearing my thoughts, I show him what Cassandra showed me and we begin to dissect her plea.

Requesting that I close my eyes and concentrate only on the words spoken, Andrew has me go over not only Cassandra and my conversation, but also others since we returned from Sanctuary. He has me repeat them over and over again. After going over every detail of my conversations, which seemed to get more detailed as I repeat them, we sit dissecting them, contemplating their meanings for what seems like hours.

Finally, Andrew grabs my wrist, breaking the silence and pulling me from my whirling thoughts. “What if we have been wrong all the other times, what if we are ending our lives hoping to save our children from the oncoming darkness, not realizing that darkness couldn’t claim them, at least not at the time when we gave up on this life.” Seeing my confusion at his quick rattling, he stares into my eyes and speaks very deliberately.

“Mia, you hid not to allow him to rip free will away from you, we saw the demons come for Anthony and thought they could take him to the darkness, but they were whirling around him practically begging him to choose to serve the darkness to save you. What if they didn’t take him because they couldn’t? Think back to the fight on the boat to extract the child, while grabbing us, not killing us. Why not just kill us and extract our child?”

He hits his head and begins mumbling to himself. “Why didn’t I realize this sooner, see the game earlier. Mia, everything is about connections, ties, free will, and what happens during our lifetime.” Although I can see he is making connections, I still fail to see where he is going. “Mia, when he came for my mother, deals were made, rules were set in place, and limits to his claim upon us were imposed. Even a time frame was established. What if we are facing the same type of situation, but in this case, whatever is going on has to do with our first born? Think, the gateway that we are trying to open now can only be accessed with our first born children.” He drifts again. “Although why Jonathan and his first born children play a role in this, I still can’t fathom.” Again, he drifts, mumbling to himself and although I want to shake him, to bring him back, I fear that in doing so, I will let him lose whatever tenuous connections he may make and knowing that this is the closest we have ever come to knowing what is going on around us and who we are, I remain immobile hoping that we can end what appears to be some vicious cycle.

Finally, he comes back and his eyes meet mine. “The winning of free will is the prize and the time frame is our lifetime, or at least it was. Mia, just look at our children, how strong they are, how strong they are becoming, if he were to control them, bring our first born to the darkness, maybe he would control the rest. Think about what we were told would happen if I had committed to the darkness, he would have had the ability to lead and control the rest of my family. Maybe that same situation applied to our children in the lives we were shown and the ones that we have not yet seen. What if he needed the control over the first born to manipulate the others, to gain power on this plane, more so than the mere influence he has now?”

I hear his sharp intake of breath and know that something else has occurred to him. “The rules may have changed when he entered this plane to reclaim what he proffered as his own. When he transformed us, hoping to strip us of our free will and claim the souls he extracted, the game they were playing, the control they were fighting for, took on a new set of rules, something else happened. Something I’m still not quite sure of, but I believe that free will is his Achilles heel, that is what limits all of their powers here. People need to choose their sides, to mar or brighten their souls by what they do here. Then, when they die, they join one army or the other. He has always wanted more control here, puppets to do his bidding beyond mere influence, beyond the limitations caused by free will. What if he could get that by having our first born commit, he could do exactly what I always feared, utilize their powers to directly impact those here, to strip humanity of their free will, the way he tried to strip you of yours and take you with him. We died trying to protect the children from being taken by the darkness, but what if they couldn’t be taken?” I cannot help but shake my head considering what we saw around Anthony and what came after us on the boat. “I’m not saying they could not die, because Anthony was definitely human and I don’t know if Cassandra as a baby could have been anything but. What if they could have died, but could not be taken?”

Suddenly, he bolts from the car and is pacing wildly. Scrambling out of the car, I wrap my coat tightly around me and listen intently to his mumblings. “What if his time to claim our first born before he took matters into his own hands with me was limited to our joint lives and his ability to claim them and utilize them as puppets ended with our death? That has to be why we are being shown the images with Anthony and Cassandra, but what happened to those that Cassandra said are part of the shadows now, did we fail to cut the connection before they committed? Am I wrong, could he take them if we are alive without their committing? What if they are suffering because of our lack of knowledge, our ability to unravel these puzzles in the other lifetimes?” His hands press against his temple.

I have to interrupt him, “Andrew if you are correct, does that mean that he can forever go after Jacob and Alexander now that we are immortal?”

He stares at me and my heart is now pounding in my chest, each beat like a sonic boom in my ears. He says something, which I cannot hear, but then finally shakes his head and waits for my heart to slow so that I can hear him. “I don’t think so, I think everything shifted when he transformed me, the rules changed and this is why this fight is so important. This may be his last chance. I don’t know if it was planned or that he got an unexpected opportunity when his man somehow stripped the soul of our son, but either way, this is different than before. I can feel the energy that has been building, our knowledge is greater and the fight is bigger than anything we have seen before. Mia, get back in the car, we have to see Cassandra. She said that we don’t have the full story, but I will wager that if I am correct about this part, she can at least confirm this for us.”

Jumping back in, we race to the house and rouse her from her sleep while the others gather in the living room. After recanting everything that he surmised to the others, Cassandra does in fact confirm that he is correct and that this is the biggest fight that we have ever faced. “I have to caution you, although you have come farther than you ever have in knowing what is going on and the stakes, you do not know everything, you are still missing some crucial pieces of the puzzle that are essential to what is going on around you.”

“Is there anything you can tell us without breaking the rules you are bound by that could help?” I plead.

She smiles. “I can tell you that the lives you have been shown were chosen, not just to show you that you have five first born children on this plane to open the gateway. You are on the right track and are on your way in gathering those from our realm to help, just don’t forget that everyone plays an important part and unfortunately there are things that you will not learn until you are there. You are going to need to be strong, vigilant and hold on to the courage of your convictions and never forget the most important lesson that you have learned so far, things are not always what they seem.”

She turns to me. “Although you are immortal, sleep deprivation will interfere with your abilities and you cannot go into this impaired, none of us can.”





Chapter Nine - Entering Hell





Over the next few days, our family and friends gather those that we have not had to call upon in quite some time. Peter, Anthony, Cassandra and Casey introduce us to those they trust and I am in awe of not only how large of a following Saria and Sahir managed to inspire despite the centuries that they have been gone, but how many more creatures there are in this world, masking themselves as all sorts of animals, objects and individuals to influence or lead this human race into discovering a future they might not have otherwise imagined.

Those who have not joined us here will meet us in Italy. Everyone seems to be of the same mind regarding the need to be at the gateway opening to stop what may come through. My stomach fills with trapeze artists flying out of control through the air as we board the first plane with family and friends. I always thought that when we took the children to the house it Italy it would be to show them a part of history, not to plunge them into a culminating war. Peter insists on boarding the second plane that includes some of Saria and Sahir’s followers so that he can strategize with them to determine what their role in all of this may be. Considering that one of their powers has been unleashed now, he is convinced that they will be major players in this upcoming battle.

Although we try to spend the next several hours, strategizing, planning and trying to convince the children they are strong enough to handle whatever comes next, only Jacob truly appears convinced of this. For the first time, I see him separate himself from his siblings and go off with Julianne and Paul while Charley tries to comfort Kayla and Nicholas tries to convince Nicole that everything will be alright. I can’t help but wonder if Jacob is separating himself because of what I have asked him to do or if it is because he wants to keep his siblings as far away from the gateway and this task as possible. My answer comes when Andrew whispers that Jacob is not closing himself off, he just wants to protect his siblings in case something goes wrong.

Standing before the once cozy cabin, I cannot see how everyone is going to fit. Cassandra comes behind me causing me to jump. “They won’t and they don’t need to. We are going to set up many layers, hoping to entrap whatever comes through.”

“Will that even be possible?”

“It won’t be possible to stop them from coming through without closing off your escape route, but we are hoping to contain them long enough so that we can send them back once you are out.” Catching my skeptical look, she chooses to ignore it. “Come, you should meet some of the others who came directly here and are anxious to meet you.”

Following her, I am stunned to see the make shift village starting at the back of the modern house and stretching out toward the orchard. As we move past the corner of the main house, dozens upon dozens of individuals collectively exit their tents. I hear their unison gasp. As Andrew comes next to me and places his hands on my shoulder, I can see their stunned features and hear their whispers as they gather closer. From the sounds of it, most of them are Saria and Sahir’s people and their descendants. I see Mark go over to a smaller group of individuals and even recognize a few as the ones who were fighting on the deck.

Peter approaches us to let us know that they have all been briefed about the situation, but requests that we take time to talk to them, encourage them; strengthen their resolve and determination considering what we all will be facing.

We spend the next two hours speaking to all the new faces that have come to help, as some of the familiar faces join so that we can all act as one unit, one force against the darkest of fights. I am amazed at how many have fought to come to this point, have waited for this moment to fulfill what they believe they were put on this plane to do. Speaking with ones even older than Reginald, I am stunned at what some of them have seen, fought and endured to bring them to this moment in time.

As evening falls, despite all of our conversations and attempts to prepare the children for what is to come, they not only seem to have aged years in hours, but Nicholas is more withdrawn, Nicole and Kayla more distraught, and Jacob more resigned. Even Alexander, who has never been a fussy child, shows signs of the building tension around him. Although they each assure us that they realize we have been called upon to do this and that no matter what happens they know they are not alone and will be fine, my heart breaks knowing that if we are unsuccessful we will be plunging them into a world open to demonic presence and even if we are successful may be once again plunging them into a life without me and possibly without their father.

Curling up in sleeping bags after the children finally pass out from sheer exhaustion, I cannot tear my eyes from scanning the beautiful faces of the family I have been blessed with and will probably never see again. After several moments, Andrew grabs my shoulders. “Stop thinking that. You will see them again. We will see them again. You have to hold on to that hope and the desire to return to them. We need to fight our way back to them. We need to be clever enough not to be deceived and to beat them at their own game. You have done it before and you will do it again. You are stronger than they are, we are stronger and we will get through this together.”

I can’t help but shake my head. “This is not the same, this time we are not going after his minions, he is going to have a direct hand in this and he has a direct hold which if we can’t break free of it, will assist him in …” I can’t even finish my thought as my thoughts reel with the possibilities and revealed realities, even those he cannot see. Blocking my mind with stronger thoughts of our children’s birth and the connection to them here, I can see that Andrew registers my change in direction. Before he can question me about it and despite wanting to spend what may be our last moments with the children, I rise. “Let’s see how the others are getting along and if they have come up with any new ideas on how to handle this.”

He rises with me, but I can see a change in his features and he grasps me harder as if hoping to dig into my psyche and retrieve what he is missing. He finally releases me as I step toward the other room. I cannot believe how many are together in one room and are speaking so low that they cannot be heard throughout the house, they all seemed to be crowding around someone in the center, I cannot see. Moving closer, I gasp as my eyes meet a horned beast with red eyes, shard teeth, skin like burning coals, but rough as rock, and where the joints on a human would be, his has space with only the flowing fires below holding him together. Grabbing Andrew’s hand, has something already broken through, why aren’t the others fighting him, are we even prepared for this? He tugs me toward him and whispers in my ear. “Mia, it’s fine. Cassandra brought him.” My eyes dart throughout the room and for the first time I realize that no one appears concerned by his presence.

Cassandra rises and so does the creature. They move toward us. “No one is concerned. Chaos works for our side now and will be your guide through hell.”

My eyes dart to the creature who now has his hand extended. Forcing my hand forward, it is stiff as I shake his, but in that brief moment, visions flash before my eyes of an ancient world filled with warring demons. Armies of Chaos like creatures, fierce vampires, red eyed, blue skinned demons spurting acidic blood at their prey and bulldozing others, blowing them apart like a mountain top. They are not only desecrating what appears to be a primitive human population, but not quite, but they are also fighting each other, leaving in their wake a war torn battlefield. “That is how it was, all the time for the creatures he created. We were in perpetual battle, perpetual night, never really having a direction for our destruction. When we were finally banished to hell and the world was recreated anew, I was sent to restart the war and desecrate the blossoming new life force that was forming. Instead, love gave me direction and purpose. Although my kind cannot leave hell for long, those of us who have changed work to hamper his influence here, we do not want to return to what we were, the nothingness of hell and the torturing our kind does to those who truly made a choice by what they did to end up there, is better than the killing of our brethren or destroying those that hell should not claim. He stares at me and I wonder if it is because my jaw just clicked in place and I am now straining not to allow it to drop to my knees.

His eyes shoot to Cassandra, then Reginald and finally after they both nod, back to me. “I know you do not trust me, nor should you. I am a full-fledged demon after all in charge of ensuring that chaos reigns in his world and no one gains power even close to his own, but you are going to need a guide. He knows you are coming to release the soul of the child before he can send it through the open portal as the anti-Christ. He would not have released the souls to open the gateway if he did not believe he has everything in place to convert the child and win, he has never been this close before.” His eyes glance at Andrew and then he seems to make a decision before continuing and I wonder if he too somehow knows what I am considering. “If you are to have any hope of releasing what could be his greatest source of power on this plane and his ability to re-infest this world with his creatures to directly tear apart and claim the souls he has been aching for, you are going to need help from a source that we hope he doesn’t even see coming.”

“You said that …um” I have to stop and think of how to phrase this question so as not to offend the demon whose life my son may depend upon. “When you were here before, what banished you to hell then? I thought all of his creatures were banished to hell when Satan and his followers decided to leave heaven.”

“You are correct, almost. The angels who followed Satan are mostly bound to the underworld, although a few have surfaced for short periods of time similar to the shadows he can send, except they have more power than his shadows. These are only rare breeds with certain strong ties that have yet to be tethered. But that is not the information you truly seek. There was a time, when a group of fallen angels who had strong enough ties were able to briefly open a portal allowing many of Satan’s newly formed creatures, true creations of hell who were not punished from above, to escape and desecrate a newly forming earth. We ruled and fought each other for ions until one of the original angels found the source and with the help of two others, banished him back further into his own realm, narrowing his ability to affect this plane further and closing some of the holes punched through to this plane that could transport his demons. When they did, it opened a certain gateway for the others who were fighting us to banish the demons back to hell only allowing the shadows and the ones created on this plane to exist here.

He turns to Andrew. “When you enter, this may help repel some of the forces that come after you. It is held by the overlords in order to keep those of us in line who may act up.” Andrew stares at what could only be described as a septa with a bright stone at the end which appears to hold the fires of hell within its confines. “Use it wisely, it only has a limited amount of blasts within, when the stone goes dark, the power is gone and must be replenished by an overlord.”

He then turns to Cassandra and Reginald. “I must get back before I am missed. I will be one hundred feet from the opening within minutes and if for some reason, I cannot be, I will send one of mine to be your guide.” He scans the room. “Good luck to you all and remember, all who sense your presence will be only too happy to capture, enslave and torture you. You have all sent some very powerful people there, some who have discovered your plan and others who will soon. Those who enter, beware and those who remain here trying to defeat the ones who escape, don’t forget, here they have powers to take on many forms, do not be fooled and be prepared to banish them back immediately. Any hesitation and you too will be lost. Pulling a weapon from behind his back, he bashes his own head and in seconds only a pile of sand remains where he once stood. The room falls into silence for a moment before bursting into numerous side conversations regarding additional preparations. As the others disburse, only our family, Reginald, Amanda, Jeff and Grant remain.

Catching a glimpse of the breaking dawn through a parlor window, my body begins to numb. It’s time. Paul running in saying that he sees shadows and white apparitions circling the house confirms that the others are gathering as well. The children shuffle out of their room and their dead faces have aged at least ten years overnight. I can feel the desperation in their hugs. The weight of knowing and resigning himself to do whatever is necessary to fulfill this task no matter what the cost has caused Jacob to cut off all emotions, he even moves robotically.

Picking up Alexander we say our good-bye’s to the other and Nicole grabs my hand. “Can’t I be at the site, maybe I can help?”

My heart breaks as I stare into her pleading eyes. “Honey, once the gateway opens it is going to take all they have to protect those who are opening it from being destroyed or thrown through. You need to stay outside with the others or here. Splitting the attention of those who have to focus on the ones who have to be there is too dangerous for everyone.” Handing Alexander to Andrew, I kneel before Nicole, Kayla and Nicholas. “We know that you are strong and your strength will be needed with the others to help. We love you always and no matter what happens, you will be alright, but you have to stay back with the others.” They hug me once more. As I take Alexander, they throw themselves at Andrew hugging him. Looking at the scene, we have to succeed for their sake, for all of our sakes and one of us must come back, we cannot let history repeat itself leaving our children on their own to fend for themselves as both Andrew and I disappear from their lives. Looking at Cassandra, Peter and Anthony, although they are strong, I can now see what doing that did to them. Watching their faces as this scene unfolds before them desire burns within me not to be fooled into our both leaving behind our family again.

As our family members, all but Eva and Gabriel, stay behind to protect and comfort the children, I can hear the sobs rip from Nicole’s chest as we exit and I catch Jacob glance back. His emotionless façade slips away and he looks as if someone has staked him. Within five steps, his features shift again and an emotion that I cannot quite determine flits across his face before it turns to stone once more. I want to pull him aside and remind him of what he needs to do but know that it is too dangerous. I quickly shift my thoughts as I see Andrew’s hand move toward mine. “We stick together no matter what,” he whispers as we move forward through the crowd which has arranged itself in far spread out circles around the cabin. Grant, Jeff and his pack are in the outermost rim and Julianne brushes Jacob’s hand as we pass just before turning with Paul and Charley to go back toward the house. Emma and Celene’s groups are already chanting, Cassandra is giving instructions to creatures I have never seen before and although I want to ask her who they are, I know there is not time to do so. As she moves past the creatures, I see new faces with Mark and he nods when she asks if they have the weapons ready. As she passes another strange face, I hear her inquire whether we know if Jonathan’s children are on their way and the woman replies that they should materialize the moment blood is spilled. As we move closer, Peter is speaking to the ones who were introduced as Saria and Sahir’s followers, he instructs them to move in as soon as the portal opens and try to create a vortex if possible to keep the demons contained.

The door opens from inside and Reginald steps out. “We’re ready.” Moving up the steps, this is it, the point of no return. Stepping through the archway, my eyes are drawn to the blood red pentagram that dominates the floor. I wish that our family were here to protect our children as they move, one toward each tip, but Reginald assures us that they would not be anywhere as near as strong as those that line the cabin walls. Despite his reassurances, they are strangers and I cannot help but be concerned that they would not protect the children the same way as our family, but then again, more than just our family is dependent on the successful outcome of this endeavor.

Eva takes Alexander from me and goes to stand at the last point. As she does, five fully grown adults, three men and two women appear out of nowhere grabbing Eva and our children as shadows and apparitions descend from the ceiling. As the dark haired man, with eyes of pitch grabs Jacob’s shoulders, he growls. “Get your hands off of me.” His tone is low, angry and he speaks deliberately.

“I just want to make sure you don’t leave.” His booming voice rings throughout the cabin and the tensions are mounting.

Jacob’s tone is unwavering. “We aren’t going anywhere, but if you don’t get your hands off me this instant, you will be.”

“You didn’t even start using your powers until your mommy deserted you. You could never move me, you runt. I have been destroying lives for centuries.” He taunts, but before he can even say another word, Jacob flicks his wrist and the man is suspended in midair, frozen, except for his glare. His eyes brighten and one of his hands breaks free from the hold Jacob has and instantly he flicks bolt of fire Jacob’s way, but before it strikes him, Jacob’s seems to catch it with his other hand and deflects it back toward the stranger. As it hits him, Jacob lowers his other hand and the man falls to the ground, his clothes singed where the bolt hit him.

He jolts up and takes two steps toward Jacob, raises his hands, but the woman behind Cassandra, steps between them both. Although she does not turn her back on Jacob, she seems to be focused on the man. “Don’t cause trouble, not now. We have our instructions and you know what will happen if we don’t follow them to the letter” As she says this, she steps around him and goes to stand behind Jacob while the man moves behind Cassandra. I can’t help but wonder as her words truly hit me, why he is letting us open the portal and enter trying to save the soul of our child before he uses it to destroy the world as we know it. It can’t be just because of who I am and that he wants me down there. Cassandra did say that we are missing something. Maybe the missing link is the answer. I just hope that when we are down there, the answer hits us before the situation envelops us because for this to happen, the missing link must be essential to the survival of all we love.” My introspection is interrupted as I hear two of them rumble and Anthony’s sarcastic tone rings out. “I’m sure that you can understand why we wouldn’t want to turn our backs on you.” Our children shift so that they are standing next to Jonathan’s.

The one next to him snickers. ‘We can wait.” He turns frontward. “Can we proceed or are we just going to yammer.”

He mumbles something else which I cannot decipher but know that the others have heard and from their faces, battles are going to be waged on all fronts. Jacob winks at me reassuringly and I know it is because his powers are growing by leaps and bounds, but what if the one he went up against was only pretending to be caught in his power to see how powerful he truly is. Surely one around for centuries is stronger. “Mom, trust me, I am not fooled and I won’t be caught off guard, you do your job and I’ll do mine, I have help.” I can’t believe he is in my head without contact and as his words swim through my thoughts, the apparitions around him become brighter.

Anthony removes the amulet from his neck, pulls out a knife and his blood drips first onto the crystal white stone. By the time it gets to Eva who is holding Alexander, the amulet is blood red. My stomach churns as she slits his little finger and his blood drips covering the others. To my surprise, he doesn’t cry. As the last drop hits, a burst of light shoots from the stone and the apparitions and shadows descend from the ceiling and begin circling those at the point of each pinnacle.

Reginald moves Andrew and I toward the middle and drops the amulet at our feet. Looking down the crystal which now holds the fires of hell within its confines reminds me of the prison which once held Andrew and his mother’s soul. A small stream of fire escapes from the stone slithering like a snake along the lines of the Pentateuch painted on the floor. Jonathan’s children begin chanting, calling forth the fires from hell to open the gateway and let us pass.

I feel the pull building around Andrew and I as the cabin begins filling with the new faces that Peter and Cassandra recently introduced us to. Gabriel and Eva hover closer together holding Alexander tightly as the hum of the energy building becomes more pronounced and new shadows and apparitions begin swirling around us all. Following the shadows, the children’s images are now difficult to decipher.

My head spins, my stomach drops out, and I hear the collective gasp just before the floor drops from our feet. We are falling, surrounded first by darkness, but as my eyes begin to focus I can see the fiery lines piercing parts of the stone and I feel as if we are passing through a massive chaos. The rock and light are so similar and I can hear the cry of tortured souls all around me. Andrew holds my back tight to his front as his arms tighten around me. I know he is bracing for when he hit the bottom. The longer we fall, the more pronounced the moaning becomes, I can decipher their cries, their taunts, they know we are coming. My only hope is these are the ones I hear want us to pass to hamper Satan’s power and not those who are happy to serve in his ranks.

“Shift left” Andrew screams as talon claws swipe out from the wall. I shift just in time and can hear the talons rip down Andrew’s arm, but he doesn’t even loosen his grip. Something hits Andrew from behind and we begin free falling, tumbling. I hear Andrew crash against something and scream for him, but his unwavering tone is at least reassuring that he is alright. “I can see you, I’ll catch you. I’m fine.”

A moment later, I am in his arms, my hands quickly sweeping over him. “Are you sure you are alright?”

Seeing the panic in my eyes, he tries to lighten my mood. “Considering where we are, I am as good as I can be, but physically I’m fine. Mia, did you forget what I am? It would take a lot more than talons to hurt me.”

As he places me on my feet, I can feel the intensified heat and am more concerned for him than ever. “Andrew, fire can destroy you.”

Pulling me close to him, his index finger lifts my chin. “Mia, he would not have gone through all of this just to kill me quickly with fire, I’m sure that he could have accomplished that on our plane. We need to keep moving. His eyes begin scanning and we appear to be in some sort of rotunda with several tunnels. A loud swishing noise seems to be coming from the tunnels and a screeching has replaced the moaning. Shadows fly out at us, talons extended from two of the tunnels as red eyes emerge from another. “Come this way, they are already gathering.

Moving quickly toward him, I am not quick enough. Demons with oversized bat wings are now swirling round us, screeching. They tear Andrew and my hands apart as they pass through and I scream as talons rip into my shoulder and the demon heads skyward. Andrew rips at my feet trying to pull me free, but as I scream louder as the talons rip through me, he is caught off balance and a demon knocks him off of me and thrusts him into the wall. A burst of flame shoots out and Andrew ducks before it hits him. I can see him grab the legs of another who is taking off.

The screeching now turns to shouting in my head, I hear what the creatures are really saying. They are shouting instructions to move quickly upward. I hear one shout. “They need to be stopped by us and we need to be the first ones out. We will rise to power if we kill them all.”

Another screams loudly as he hits the one who has me. “Stop lying. If we kill them the gateway closes and only those ascending now will rule.”

The one holding me hits the other with such force I am now hanging by only one talon. Grabbing his foot, I try to wrench my other shoulder free as he struggles to throw him against the wall. “If we close the gateway, we will get hold of that world before the anti-Christ can be released. We will rule. We may even be strong enough if he later gets released to destroy him when he comes through. With the others trapped here, we can pick them off as the few stragglers are allowed to come up, but at least we will not be fighting them all. No more taking orders, maybe we can even convince the vampires to join with us.”

The one against the wall struggles. “Stop fighting me then, if he gets knowledge of your plan, we will all be tortured. Get to the top.”

As he releases the other, a booming voice shakes the walls. “You think you can defy me, I know all in my world. Rocks begin to fall and so do some of the demons. The one holding me moves steadily upward, digging his talon further into me, so that I cannot wrench free.”

Andrew screams. “Hold on, I’m coming.” Looking down, I see him climbing up one of the demons on its back and strangling him screaming for him to get closer to me, but as he begins flying further away, Andrew rips a huge hole in his wing and the creature begins moving toward us just as the one holding me screeches in pain and I can see his upper wing is on fire. Fire is now raining from above as the tunnel shakes and more rocks descend.

Andrew grabs me and we fall twisting and turning, but as fire now shoots from below as well, we are going to burn! He tries shielding me, but a demon hits us trying to flee the fire below into the fiery rainstorm from above, dodging them as they descend and he ascends higher. Falling through the fire ball below which consumes the lower tunnel, I’m shocked that we are not burning as the demons surrounding us quickly turn to ash. Through the rising fireball as the ash falling around us hits the ground, the demons reform, lying prostrate on the ground, but their wings are now tiny and cannot be used for flight.

The same booming voice emanates from every tunnel. “You tried to defy me and now you will pay the price!” Fiery chains fly out from the tunnel and begin wrapping around their necks as roars and pounding hoofs fill the room.

We fall upon them and they are like a springy cushion. Andrew quickly moves us off them deftly shifting us so that chains do not entrap us. I can see his head scanning the tunnels and he rolls us toward one where the chains seem to be more erratic or interrupted.

Huge centaur like creatures emerge from some of the tunnels and grab the fiery chains, yanking the newly formed demons up. “You now work under us. They begin pulling them in while others wait for the rest of the ash to form.

Andrew’s hand is healing my shoulders as some of the ones forming seem to escape the chains and are flush against the wall. I hear one of them instruct the others “We’ll crawl up. The fire is fading, hug the walls.”

Their sharp talons begin clawing up and their eyes are now redder, they move with determination and desperation to escape the torture that I’m sure those captured will face. Andrew whispers. “Mia, they will be fine, they had to be the ones sending the fire from above, they can handle themselves but we need to move before this tunnel becomes filled with the demons as well.

Halfway into the tunnel, we hear the approaching hoofs, but before we can panic, we are covered in rock as the centaurs pass. When they do, Chaos steps away from us. “Come, let’s move quickly, they are already infighting and some are crowding around Sebastian hoping to free the child and win Satan’s favor.

More rock like creatures emerge from the walls along with shadows and I gasp. Chaos turns to me. “They are with me. Let’s move.”

The ground shakes below us, the heat becomes intense I can barely breathe when Chaos knocks Andrew and I into a crevice in the wall and we are once again covered. When he finally releases us, I see the backs of a fire army moving quickly down the tunnel. As he pushes us forward, “They are going to deal with the climbers.”

We hit a dead end. There is nothing but wall before us. Fearing that he is leading us in circles so that the others can escape and our son can be used, I am about touch Andrew hoping that he can hear me and shout in my head to run, but Chaos instructs us to jump down and for the first time I see a hole big enough to fit one. Andrew’s eyes reflect his concern.

“Go, I’ll be right behind you.”

He jumps down and as I’m about to, Chaos grabs my arm. “You need to let us get Andrew out of here. Do you know who he is? Do you know who you are? If he gets captured, there’s no telling what power Satan can yield and the war that will break out between all planes, God will not stand for his first creation to be held here. The torture we face now will be nothing compared to the wrath brought upon all in the recovery.

“What, what are you talking about, His first creation?”

“I thought you knew who you are.”

“I finally do” I shout back. “I am the daughter of Lucifer, but what did you say about Andrew, I thought that he was an angel.” Grabbing Chaos, my hands are trembling. “What more is he, what part of this puzzle don’t I know. Is he in more danger down here than I feared? Tell me now or I’ll…” Opening my hand, I am wielding a fire ball and staring directly at him. I can feel a power surge through me, one that I have never felt before and anger. Is being here changing me, am I becoming what I fear? No! But I will protect Andrew and someone will tell me what it is we are missing. Chaos opens his mouth, but before anything comes out, a flash veils my eyes and I see two of the brightest lights up against a crystal sky floating just above white fluffy clouds. I hear arguing.

“Father she did not choose to go with him, she was taken. She belongs with me. She too is one of yours. You created us all. You are father to us all and all of your creations. She may have come from his union with another, but she is not his. She does not belong to him. She did not pledge loyalty to him. She hid from him! She chose to be with me, to fight with those loyal to you. You said that he would only be able to take those who chose to follow him. She. Did. Not. I love her and you must give me the opportunity to go after her. I beg you. Let me go after her, save her so that we can both return to you, to our home.”

“They are falling, they are banished, if you go after her, you will be caught in the fall. Don’t defy me, you need to stay here and help rebuilt, help those who have lost love ones to the banishing. We must strengthen the souls of the ones who chose to remain in heaven while those they love are cast into the darkness. You know the ties that bind and if they are still intact when those souls pass through earth, they will be in danger, they could be traced, found and all those souls that they will create there will be in danger too. You must stay here, help here, next to me, you are the strongest of my original creations, and you must stay here and do you duty.

“I cannot stay while she is being ripped from me, from a world she chose to remain in. You cannot punish her for being his.”

“That is not what I am doing. I have sent Damian to go after her with Francis. If they are successful, she will be returned to you, but they know when to stop, where the point of no return is, but you, you will follow her all the way down and get trapped.”

“I am the strongest. My love for her will help her break free. You know who grabbed her. You know what a hold he has on her. Only I can break her free. Release me and let me go after her. All of your creatures are allowed free will, don’t rip mine from me.”

“Why do you defy me, I need you here.”

“I need her.”

“No you don’t.”

“Please let me go to her, I don’t care what it costs me, I need to save her.”

“Defying me and going after her will come at a price. If you leave, you will be cast into a cycle where you cannot return here for all eternity. You will be sent to earth like the others to create new souls, there you will suffer and know things that you do not know here, you will both suffer and considering who she is, he will do everything he can to get her to come to him, commit to him, and claim her to his world. If you get caught down there that will be his realm.”

“Please let me go, we are wasting time.”

“You have your will, follow her at your own risk, Damian and Francis will help you.”

As the image fades, Chaos eyes meet mine. “Mia did you even hear me.”

“No but I know who he is now. You need to get him out, get my son out.” Jumping down the hole I know now more than ever I did the right thing in instructing Jacob, I just hope he can feel his father. Traveling swiftly through the darkness, I feel my strength building with my determination. Andrew has always believed he needed to protect me, but I realize now that I need to take control in this realm.

Landing in his arms, he quickly moves aside to allow Chaos to come through. “What took you so long, did you have more trouble.”

“No, I had to communicate with some of my men and where we are not as adept at feeling new souls as the others, I wanted them to see Mia. I’m sorry we worried you. We should really get moving.” As he says this four more of his men come through and we begin moving forward. The path is narrow. I force myself before Andrew and can see his surprised face before turning forward.

I see the flames up ahead and know that we are about to enter another area. My heart is pounding. I wish Andrew would just turn around, but would telling him who he is help him to do the right thing to go back or would he insist that he is powerful enough to fight his way through here so that we can reach our son?

“Mia, I know who I am.” His voice swims through my head and I stop short. I forgot that we are holding hands.

“When did you know?”

“I saw the same vision you did. Mia, don’t you feel our connection growing since we entered here? I do.”

“Then you know you can’t be caught here and you should go, now.”

He pulls me closer, twists around me and moves us forward together with him in the lead. “First and foremost I am your soul mate and nothing is going to tear us apart, not even your insane plan with Jacob.” His tone is angry.

The blood rushes to my head, my knees buckle under me, and I am on the ground. “When did you figure this out? Please tell me that you didn’t do anything to stop what I put in place.”

“No I didn’t. If I had known what you and he were planning on before we entered, I would have stopped it instantly. I would never have allowed him to agree to it and don’t think for one minute I am going to allow this to happen.” His tone is beyond livid.

“Andrew, please, you have to allow Jacob to do what is right, you cannot be caught here. Don’t you understand what will happen to you if he grabs hold of you? He won’t do that to me. I’m his daughter, he will use me, but he won’t torture me like he will torture you, please you have to go when the time comes.”

He stops and I slam into him. Turning, this is the first time I have ever seen his eyes flash anything beyond serene blue since we were married. “You may be his daughter by creation but he abandoned any and all right to you when he chose his own selfish desires over your well-being when he put you in harm’s way and tried to drag you against your will to eternal damnation. Mia, I think there is something more to your connection with him than you or I realize and you cannot be caught down here anymore than I can. We need to stick together.”

Chaos interrupts. “Can we stop the chit chat and get down to business? Follow me and beware these next demons are Satan’s favorite workers and will not let you pass without trying to rip you apart.

Entering the next opening, all seems quiet and clear. I can see the tunnel opening at the other end of the open rotunda. The screeching has even died down and silence is noticeable. As we reach the middle, I realize this is not right, something is wrong. Hell is never quiet. Taking another step forward I fall into what I can only surmise is some type of quicksand, it blinds my eyes, fills my lungs, I cannot breathe, my mouth is filling and even the smallest opening to dispel the sand only brings forth more. I can’t feel Andrew’s hand. What if he is trapped or worse yet captured. Grasping at the sand, there is nothing to hold on to and I descend further and further downward. We failed. I lost Andrew, lost the chance to save my son and am drowning in a sea of sand. My lungs are imploding within me, the harsh sand rips through my flesh, and I cannot open my eyes for fear the grains will strip away my corneas.

Descending deeper and deeper, falling to only who knows where, is this the end, not just for me but for my children, my family, humanity? Suddenly I am moving upward, but cannot see how, cannot feel the tether pulling me from the grainy grave. Finally emerging, Eva’s white wings shake off the grainy sand and Gabriel emerges with Andrew. We hover over the abysmal abyss and I can see the relief in Andrew’s eyes.

Gabriel and Eva move toward an upper ledge within the tunnel and place us on our feet. I stare searching for my voice, but hear Andrew verbalize my inquiry. “How did you get here?” How did you know we needed help?”

“Did you really think that we were going to let you face this challenge alone?” As Gabriel says this, the Chaos like creatures around us shed their skin and our family is standing before us, winged angels who are bright, shimmering beacons against the fiery background.

Throwing my arms around Eva, my voice shakes. “I love you.”

“I love you too and would never abandon you when you need us most. They quickly adorn their Chaos like skins as new winged shaped demons with fierce, human-like, pale faces come at us and swipe their long, steel like nails forward. From their erratic swings forward, and the lack of focus on their cataract type eyes, I know they do not have sight.

Chaos whispers. “Hide behind the others and they will not detect you. No one move.” They pass before us and four of them stop. I hear them sniff deeply and immediately stop breathing. Standing immobile until the lack of air is strangling my muscles, I fight with everything I have not to move, locking every muscle within a vice grip, fighting against my desire to inhale deeply and relieve my starving lungs.

My head spins from the lack of oxygen and my knees buckle. Thankfully they move on and Andrew catches me causing my fall to remain silent. They move to the tunnel opening and extend their ashen wings flying upward. Trying to keep my intake of air silent, I take in only enough to relieve my lungs until they have all past. Turning to Eva, “If you are all here, who is guarding the children, are they safe?”

Gabriel responds before she can. “They are as safe as they can be considering what we are all facing. Martina, Jackson and the others are up there, they have protection, people who love them, people who will die for them. We are needed here.”

Chaos interrupts, we will not be so lucky on the next level, you arrived just in time. The green horned demons are working the mine we must pass through. They view any intruders as soul stealers. They are in charge of conditioning imprisoned souls to prepare them to work here or send to another dimension. You can only go down one at a time so I suggest the strongest of you go first.”

Andrew jumps down first and I dive in after him. Landing, I scramble to my feet and see that Andrew is already detected and fighting. Grabbing his hand, “We need to push them back so the others can come through.” Moving quickly in a semi-circular motion back and forth, fire bolts from our palms. Many move back, but others jump through, unaffected and we are embroiled in hand to hand combat. Being lifted and thrown against the wall, shadowy hands emerge, pinning my arms to the emblazing rocks. I feel the strong heat at my back and expect it to burn, but for some strange reason, it does not. It is bothersome but not crippling. Something grabs my legs and I feel it fingertips grasping at my hair. I cannot let it secure my head. Shifting quickly, power surges within me and I rip one of my hands free. Grabbing my other arm, I rip that free as well, quickly bending to avoid it grabbing me again as I wrench my legs free and fall to the ground. Francis and Catherine are moving opposite each other creating a strange vortex. Ash and soot are pulled from all directions forming a strange wall, that the others are having trouble penetrating. Only one has entered so far, and Gabriel is fighting him, holding his own in an area that appears perfectly calm.

Scrambling to my feet, I see Andrew moving toward the edge of the vortex. Before I can scramble away, he thrusts a hand through and is immediately sucked in, but before his other hand disappears, he grabs me, sucking me in as well. “I told you we stick together. Stop thinking that you are going to go off on your own. We are stronger all together. No heroics or we will all fail.”

“Francis and Catherine move forward. Surprisingly, from this side of the vortex I can see more clearly. I see the walls moving with us and know that it is Chaos and some of his men. A few more get through while others move past and are now crawling up the tunnel we just jumped through. I wonder if they too will head to the surface causing our family above even more trouble. Another jumps in and this time knocks Francis to the ground, the vortex ceases and we are overrun by demons trying to claw through us. Chaos and some of his men have jumped upon me, ripping the demon from my bloodied body and I hear the shouting and the building combat around me, but cannot see what is going on. I want to throw them off me, but they hold tight momentarily. My heart races, we are fighting too many enemies. Wriggling my way toward the dimmer light knowing it must be a gap and not their blazing joints I push them aside and squeeze through. The battle appears to be over and the demons are bounding toward the tunnel, done with us, but appearing ready to begin the battle above. Serena is on the ground, she appears badly beaten. Looking around, they all look pretty bad off. Eva and Andrew are at her side and Andrew is running his hands over her. Although some of the damage must be healing because her features no longer hold agony, others appear to be taking longer to heal. Andrew looks up at Gabriel. “You have to get her out of here, another encounter could finish her. Healing takes longer in this realm and our protections are not the same against demon forces. Take her out now, we will be fine.”

“I am not leaving you to fight this without as many of us as possible.” As he says this, he closes he eyes, looks upward and I hear him mutter Damian’s name. I shake my head, my eyes must be deceiving me. Serena is becoming more transparent by the minute and then is gone.

“How?” Andrew mutters.

“She’s fine” Gabriel replies but then eyes Andrew cautioning him not to ask any questions and I wonder if it is because of where we are or the company we are in.

Andrew instead turns to Chaos. “How much further?”

“If Sebastian still holds the child, one more passageway, but if you think the others were nightmares, they were nothing compared to this. Come it is time to see what you are really made of; what you can truly see and do, I hope you are ready.” His tone has suddenly shifted, it’s harder, more menacing. Before I can reflect upon it or his words, we are moving.

Looking around the reflections emanating from one of the tunnels tells me where we are going before Chaos and his men enter. Halfway through the tunnel, I feel the heat emerging from the entrance and we hear a sudden crash behind us as the ground shakes below our feet. Collectively turning, the opening we just entered is now solid stone and as we turn back, Chaos and his men have disappeared. Quickly we move forward but as we reach the end, the only thing before us is a pit of bubbling lava, no ledge to crawl around, no visible opening on the other side, searching the walls, there is no visible opening above either, only red burning rock all around, like the lit charcoals of an old BBQ. Before we even have a moment to contemplate our next move, the walls around us are closing in and we are being pushed closer to the burning lava. It was all a trick, we failed. Cassandra had to have been fooled, Chaos was not sent to help us, he was sent to destroy us after we opened the gateway. We fell right into their trap and now we are falling to our doom. As the wall pushes me forward, despite our all trying to beat it back, the floor now shifts below us and we slide into the blazing pit.

As we free fall through the fire, although he heat is intense, no one seems to burn and as my anxious eyes scan the others, I can see relief, fear, wonder, concern, and pain as the realization of what may be happening hits us all. A booming, yet somewhat familiar voice bellows in our ears. “Did you really think that you were going to defeat me? Your small pitiful victory over my simple trap gave you a short reprieve from my control, but then again, I got the soul I have been craving for oh so long. Daughter, you should not have run from me, hidden when I wanted to offer you the world, a seat beside me, a place to rule and opportunity to be free from he who should have never been worshipped, followed, He who wasted his creation by giving them free will. You cannot give creatures free will, when you do they fail, they fight, they struggle between serving their own interest and that of their master, they have conflicting directions, desires, and nothing gets done. I am still struggling to correct the wrong, but now, your failure will help me with that. I was going to give my faithful minions a treat in allowing them to begin ripping you apart, but since you made me look like a fool I will have the pleasure of torturing you first. I am sending you back to see what you have allowed me to accomplish. You will be nothing but invisible apparitions, no longer able to engage in the fight, no longer able to protect the ones you love as my followers destroy them, destroy the world you have fought so hard to protect and slowly take away everything you love, then when you return, as you are ripped apart, you will be able to see them get ripped apart once more as they too join you here and serve the one who will rule all!”

We land with a thud. The cabin walls now surround us as demon after demon ascends from the gateway still open in the floor. Barreling toward the one Jacob had a run in with earlier. My worst fear is realized. Jacob lies immobile, surrounded in a fiery lasso as the demon rips him apart. Running toward them, I pass right through him. Turning swiftly, I try again, but only manage to crash into a swift moving Andrew. Turning, I see Cassandra lying on the floor, blood dripping from her slack mouth, her eyes vacant, staring unseeing at the horror unfolding around her as the last remnants of life drip from her immobile corpse.

I hear Eva gasp as she passes through the demon tearing at Jackson who is pinned to the wall. The demon thrusts his talons through his sternum and rips out his heart. She flies to him, but passes through him and is gone.

Concentrating, I try to gather energy around me to move the demon who continues to rip at Jacob. I see the deep gauges and try to move his hand, but fail again. Andrew and I entangle, but still we are useless and our son is dying because we failed to protect him, we engaged in a useless quest hoping to save everyone and instead our actions are destroying them all. The demon swipes at him again, but this time, the one who shouted at him earlier grabs his hand. “You can’t kill him. He is to be used to serve grandfather. If you kill him, you will not get to enjoy the fruits of all our hard work. Maim him if you must, but we need his power.” She quickly moves outside.

The other quickly rips Jacob’s arm from the socket. “I know you can be repaired, but for now, all you can do is watch as I do the same to your siblings.” He lifts Jacob by the collar dragging him outside. Seeing a tear roll from his eye, I know that it is not for himself but the horror to come.

I throw myself at him again, but only manage to hit Gabriel who is desperately trying to rip at the arm of a demon who has a hold and is grabbing her head. All Gabriel’s attempts are useless. He passes right through Martina and the demon. I hear the snap and the demon tosses Martina aside, already moving toward his next victim as Gabriel wails and falls to his knees.

Going to him, I tug on his arm, but he barely budges, just stares at me a moment and his eyes shift back to his lost love. “Gabriel please there is nothing that you can do for her now, we have to concentrate, we have to find a way to fight, to do something, there must be a way. Please, help me before they get the others, but as I say this, more and more demons are emerging, mayhem and chaos surround us as the screams of those we brought to the slaughter bellow in my ears.

Andrew darts past me drawing my attention as he bolts toward a brown wolf that is surrounded by the bat like demons. I see Nicholas in his wolf form running towards Kayla, and howling for help, but everyone around us is engaged in this losing battle, it doesn’t appear any of our side is making even the slightest of headway against our enemies. Andrew goes through the bat demons and appears to crash. He falls to the ground. Nicholas is grabbed and being ripped apart as Kayla is being clawed at. Running toward, them, I jump, but I too go through the demons and my children crashing into Andrew. Jumping to my feet, our children are dying and I cannot even hold them. Sobs overwhelm me and I quickly blink the veil of tears from my lids. Serena screams and Damian falls.

Scanning to see if there is any help at all, all I see is body upon body, fight upon fight, and slaughter upon slaughter, it cannot be that not even one can infringe the slightest upon these demons. We have angels, witches, demons of our own, and people who have survived for centuries against his creatures, yet not one can even put the slightest scratch upon even the first lower demons that we came across. Can it truly be that all those who have fought the ones here have gained nothing in our battles, no power, not even the slightest to impair their approach to dooming humanity and all those who fight the darkness?

Considering all that are here, all that have survived, and what we have seen, it is not possible. Looking around, I see the desperation, the whispering of my family kneeling at the corpses of their loved ones and then hear Serena moan. “Damian, I’m so sorry, this should be me, I should have protected you, I would give…”

“No! Stop! Don’t! This is not real, this is not reality. Don’t say another word.” Rising, I run toward her and can see my family looking upon me as if grief has caused me to lose my mind. “Serena, please, this is not reality. This is a nightmare, Chaos clued us in, remember he said that those other tunnels were nightmares, but this would be the worst, and isn’t this what we all fear, our worst nightmare. She disappears and I shout. “We need to find the boundaries, find an exit.” As the others rise, their features have not changed, but they move anyway.

As we do, the demons attack, they are real, and fierce. Knocking me to the ground, I twist in its claws, fighting fiercely, ripping at its wings. I cannot and will not fail, knowing that if I do, the life that we just saw will become a reality. Tearing at the demon, he turns to dust as I snap its neck. Stumbling to me feet, I see the others battling just as fiercely.

Andrew screams as he rips the head off a horned demon. “Mia, find the exit, we won’t be able to hold this for long. Running as fast as I can, finally, I hit a wall. Moving along its rim, my fingers push, feel, and tear at every rock underneath the façade, but I feel nothing that indicates and escape. I must be missing something. Of course I am. Inadvertently, I hit my head with my open palm. How stupid can I be? Head to the cabin. Now!”

Andrew looks up and in his distraction, two horned beasts grab him and are about to rip him apart. Running toward him, I am only halfway when I see Gabriel throw himself at one of the demons, but flies past it as Andrew pulls them so hard together their crash resonates off the walls and they turn to ash.

Racing toward the cabin, the demons are at our backs. They are going to capture Eva and Catherine. Stopping, I turn suddenly and Andrew crashes into me. Grabbing his hand, I concentrate on the intense heat around us and flick our wrists together, trying to direct the resonating fireball over Eva and Catherine’s head to hit the much taller demons. As it closes in, the demons shift and Catherine has a clear path. She tosses herself toward the cabin, but one of them grabs Eva and begins pulling her back. “No!”

Trying to concentrate again, I flick our wrists, but nothing happens. Why isn’t anything forming, do we need time to regenerate. That does not make sense. From what I saw with Sahir and Saria the fire lasted longer. Before I can contemplate on this any longer, Andrew bolts from me, and is on the demon that is ripping at a screaming Eva. Her back is bleeding as she falls to the ground and the demon still has his claws in her, ripping at her. “Not this time!” Andrew shouts as he leaps at the demon and tears his head off before his feet even touch the ground. Quickly scrambling, he lifts Eva and is running toward the cabin. The gateway is in the floor, I know it despite it looking solid, I jump and fall through and can hear the others following.

Once again we are freefalling down a tunnel whose only light is the burning flames which lie just beyond the thin rock which shines through the cracks and crevices. Landing and rolling as I hit the hardened ground, I hear shots all around us. The others fall through.

More shots ring out and there is screaming. Inhaling, I notice for the first time smoke is filling the air, and I now see fire engulfing trees and a house is on fire. Is this another one of Satan’s tricks, another test to see if we can see through his facade? Flames burst through the floor beams of the porch as the door bursts open. My jaw drops as I see the flames shooting upward and Emma throws herself forward. This has to be another trick but somehow, I am being compelled forward, to her, expecting to once again pass right through her, but she grabs my arms. “Mia, tell me you were successful, did you free the child. We need to close the portal. There are too many, we can’t contain them to this area much longer, we have to send them back before it’s too late” As she pleads with me for information, she is pulling me to where more shots ring out.

But how could we be back here, we didn’t even see our son, we didn’t have a chance to grab him, this cannot be real, this has to be another test, another deception, another challenge. “Mia, focus please did you release your son? Can we send them back?’

I pull at her hand and stand my ground. “This is not real, you are another trick and I will not be deceived. I don’t know who or what you are but get away from me. I have a job to do.” She falls to her knees, Mia, please you need to help me, I have lost Shaun, Carol is hurt and your children are hiding in the woods. We need to go to them, send the demons back and be done with this. Please tell me he is still not holding your son. Please tell me you stripped him of his power.”

She pulls at my arm again, trying to get me to move toward the wooded area. “I said stop!”

Jacob emerges from the trees, running toward me. “Mom, you made it out.” He throws himself at me and we tumble to the ground. “I can’t believe it, you came back. You did it, just like you promised and came back. I’ll get the others. We need to close the entrance. The demons are too strong, they killed Nicholas and if we don’t close the portal, they are going to get Kayla and Nicole too.” He sobs and I can’t breathe.

This can’t be a reality, this can’t be happening. Mom please, we need to get the others, close the gateway, and send the ones here back. Please tell me that dad made it out. I can’t remember what I need to do. I don’t know how to get him.” He lifts his head and starts looking around. “Oh no, Oh no, I don’t see him. Mom, help me, what do I need to do. We have to get dad, they are too strong to hold off any longer. We have to shut the portal.

Scrambling to my feet, I do not see Andrew or Eva. Jacob is pulling at my shirt. Come on, instruct me and I will get dad. Mom please before it is too late! Moving swiftly toward the cabin, I turn on my heels and push away the demon who is Jacob. As I do, the illusion dissipates and a Chaos like demon bears his jagged teeth. “I don’t care who you are, you will not boost his power and you will not succeed.” He thrusts himself at me, pain lances through me as he sinks his teeth into my shoulder and thrusts my head into the ground..

Forcing myself to shut out the pain, I realize although my arms are pinned my legs are free. Shifting myself, I kick and wriggle beneath him, but I cannot get his jaw to release. Dust chokes me, and I have to shut my eyes tight before it blinds me. I can’t stop myself from coughing and can barely hear Eva tell me to open my eyes. “Mia, open your eyes.” As I do, Andrew’s hand is already healing my shoulder.

“How did you know?” Andrew inquires as he pulls me to my feet and we are all moving.

I know that the ones around me are real and as this gets more and more complicated and I fear other things are going on around us that I am missing, I need to share the information despite the risks and information he will acquire with my words. I only hope that more eyes and more minds will mean we are victorious in the end.

“I know that the demons are strong, but considering everyone we brought, everyone that we met here, and everyone who survived centuries and faced attacks, one of us had to at least slow them down a little bit, get somewhere, but in his arrogance, he couldn’t even give us an inch. That couldn’t be possible and then we passed through all those around us, but were crashing into things, into each other, that just didn’t make sense, but he quickly corrected his mistakes in the next one and allowed us to interact, but he made the fatal mistake of not really knowing the character of those he imitates. Jacob would never leave his sister and Kayla especially if Nicholas had died, nor would he forget what I needed him to do. Jacob would have held that information with everything he had knowing how much is at stake.

“You really have grown my daughter.” His voice is sultry, cajoling. “Your foresight comes from me. You have outgrown those around you, those who stole you from me, deceived you into a life you should not have lead, wasted time fighting your true nature. Look at what you have figured out, while those around you, those you thought were good, stumble through. Although they deceived you once, you are in the realm you should be, the realm that will make you strong, make you see the right path, remove the veil they placed over your eyes. Come to me and we shall release the anti-Christ together to set that world right, to allow my children and my creations to rule, to make the worlds as it should be, to serve the one who should be served. You have done well in getting them down here, now they cannot interfere with our plans, our new world. It is time that you come to me, that they be used as the tools they were meant to be, to destroy the old worlds, and begin them anew.”

His speech sickens me and as my eyes scan my family, I can’t help but fear that they may think I lured them here as some part of his sick plan. Andrew moves toward my ear, “We don’t…” Before he can finish, he is thrust into the air, suspended above us as his limbs involuntarily jerk about. He looks like an out of control puppet.

“He looks like one because that is what he is my daughter. He is nothing more than a tool to be used, a gateway into realms he himself cannot freely enter, a prop to be manipulated; a means to an end. Just look at what he lost, look at the years of suffering and torture he endured because he was not a good little puppet to one who proclaims to allow his servants free will. Free will is an illusion that he gives you to make you believe that you are choosing to follow him, he proclaims free will because he cannot control you directly, he does not have that strength so he manipulates you instead, dangles a carrot before the horse to make him jump through hoops. At least I am truthful in what I am, how I rule and how my servants shall serve in my name.” He slams Andrew into a wall, I can hear the crunch of his bones, but instead of sliding down, talon hands extend outward and pin him, suspend him against the rocks as others emerge and begin the climb towards him.

As they do, I see Gabriel, Eva and Catherine spout wings, whiter than snow from behind, they span out and almost touch the walls. They lift off their feet and begin spinning wildly. Their wings cutting though the rock like creatures, fragmenting them, causing rocks to rain down. It sounds as if we are in the middle of an avalanche. As the rocks become bigger, Serena reapparates and she and Francis sprout wings and arch them covering me like a bridge as larger stones fall and finally, Andrew is free.

Coming beside me, his stark white wings hold flecks of gold. Wrapping them around me, we are cocooned and he whispers in my ear. “Don’t listen to him. You may have been the daughter of Lucifer before he left, but you are not the daughter of what is here now, you do not belong to him or this world. We belong together. You belong with our children in a place far from here.” He is tossed back once more and as his wings open, I fall to the ground.

“Do you really think that you can block me out of her head, her heart. I created her. She belongs with me. She belongs to her family here. She must fulfill her destiny here.”

“She has no destiny here, she belongs to no one, she has free will and she uses it to stay with me. You have no claim on her!”

Wrenching himself free from whatever had him careening back toward the wall, he is at my side. “We need to finish this, I can feel the energy building with each fall, we are getting closer to him, we need to find our son and get out of here.

Looking around, there is no way to move forward, but then again, he is the king of deception. Why isn’t Chaos here, has he been found, has he just lead us in circles to waste time and deceive us? Is that what this has been, a rouse to buy time, time they needed to get through the gates, to free and use our son to bring destruction. “You really are a clever girl, but slow. What to you seemed like only hours has been decades on what was your world. You children have made very useful puppets in my plan and the one I stole from you the way you were stolen from me has proven invaluable along with Alexander. You are free to go, the way you came, you are too weak to save any of them. They played into our hands beautifully and are now enslaved to me. Go! Go and witness your destiny fulfilled.” His bellowing is deafening. The ground shakes below us, hurricane winds swirl around us and we are being lifted on the apex of a vortex created beneath our feet, higher and higher, I can see the tunnel that we fell through, Andrew grabs me and follows the others through.

I can see the desperation in his eyes, the crushing concern that we played right into his hands and now all is defeated, all is lost. As we reach the first rotunda, I can see the same look upon the others as they search feverishly for the opening which we came through which opens as Eva’s hands brush against the rooftop. Flying up once more, we repeat the process over and over again until we are standing in a darkened, emptied and tattered cabin which holds only the remnants of a long forgotten fight under the years of dust. My heart sinks. Moving robotically across the floor, Gabriel tentatively opens the door. Stepping out, it’s twilight. The sky is gray and murky as if a storm is brewing. The silence surrounding us is absolutely deafening. There is no sign of life anywhere. We are surrounded by deadened trees, dust where lush grass used to be and I can see the other house in the distance, or what is left in the wake of destruction which stretches from the abandoned grounds before us.

“Come on, we can cover more ground from the air.” Spreading his wings, Gabriel immediately takes flight and the others follow. Andrew grabs me and we soon join them, flying higher and higher, I can see them sweeping their wings as if hoping to find that we are trapped in another deception, but their faces turn ashen as there are no signs of any boundaries and the world below us is a desolate, burnt out wasteland, devoid of life. We fly over a place that I recognize which was once a beautiful lake, now lined with the bones of hundred that died in only who knows what kinds of horrors.

Flying out further, we see a battle raging below between what could only be warring demon species. As they rip at each other, I can hear the cries for someone to help save them from a building below. Andrew heads toward the church where the cries ring out, but lands several buildings away so as not to be spotted by the warring factions. Sneaking around to the back so as to avoid detection from those in front, a red aura is before the doorway and I can hear those inside pounding upon it desperate to get out. Andrew steps toward the glow and turns. “Cover the area with your wings, try to muffle the sound. I am standing just outside the wings, and hear nothing. Suddenly, they break and those held inside flee like a hoard of cattle.

After they pass, Andrew does not come out, so we step in. A collective gasp fills the now deadened space as we stare upon the desecrated figures which once adorned the church and an altar which now has two huge statues facing each other, each some deranged rendition of Andrew, but with red eyes, dark hair and malevolent features.

The feverish screams from outside tear us from this horror. Rushing forward, we see fire raining down. Looking up, it can’t be possible. They can’t be real. Shaking my head, it must be. Demons can take on any shape they desire. Why couldn’t they be dragons? Fire rains down from the dragon twins upon the people we freed who stand there like sacrifices waiting to be slaughtered. Although some scream as they burn, the others around them do not move. Catherine and Francis fly toward the dragons, but their wings are immediately burned and they free fall to the earth. Andrew and Gabriel grab boulders from the ground and begin hurling them, but they deftly maneuver and not one touches them. The people finally flee and as the dragons fly toward us, they transform and land on two legs.

“Mother it has been so long. Don’t you have a hug for your son?” He taunts as he rips me from Andrew. Staring at him, his red flecks glisten. There is no sign of goodness, no hint of redemption as his tone drips with malevolence.

The other one shouts as he grabs Andrew in an inescapable hold. “She is not your mother, they were just vessels to our arrival, do not address her with any type of respect. If she had done what she should, all of our siblings would be assisting us instead of enslaved in shackles, compelled to do what they must.” He turns. “Come, I am sure that you want to see your children and family” He taunts as his eyes sweep the others. They have made wonderful tools for our rule here. You bred wonderful work horses. They have secured many a soul here and will soon overrun his world as well. Then nothing will be out of our realm, our reach. But I’m sure that you are not interested in hearing of our victory, but there is something that we would like you to see.”

Pushing off the ground, each with one of us in their arms, they immediately transform to dragons once more, and we are flying too fast for the Gabriel or Eva to catch us. Soon, they are not even a blip against the darkening sky.

Above the ancient remnants of the once grand Coliseum, there is a crowd of demons looking toward the center. My stomach rolls and I can’t breath as I see an aged Nicholas and Kayla slack against two rock columns held by fiery cuffs holding their hands and feet, while Jacob and Nicole are twenty feet away, encircled in a lasso of fire, their faces pained, aged, worn, their bodies gaunt and weary. We must have lost at least twenty or thirty years of this time while we were in hell. My now grown children are being forced to separate the souls from the beaten, but not quite dead bodies as an announcer boasts to cheers of the demon crowd that this is what happens to those who think they can resist. The demons jeering and cheering are deafening, some of them even fly at the newly released souls and then disappear, while others call for the taking. Suddenly, shadows rise from earth and pull the screaming souls to hell. Nicole struggles against the lasso to cover her ears as Jacob vomits profusely.

If you had not tried to escape your destiny, your children would not be suffering now. What made you think that you could hide me from a fate I was born to after you failed in your destiny? How could something so weak and stupid bring me forth? How could you think that weak little Jacob could forestall my connecting with my brother, bringing him forth? Why did you ever think that he could hide with Alexander? You couldn’t hide during the fall, you were not even smart enough to tell him to hide on hallowed ground, please enlighten me as to your thinking. Maybe if your story amuses me, I will give your children five minutes respite before bringing forth the new souls for them to take. Just look at your poor Nicholas and Kayla. I’m sure they would give anything for five minutes off the pole and away from the lashings that keep your other children in line. Please enlighten me and save them.” Twisting, I see nothing but pure evil before me.

“We failed only because I underestimated your ability to reach them before they reached…” I gasp. “Andrew you can break free, these are not our children.” My voice screeches from the excitement of my revelation. “Father you failed again, this is not real, I know it, they were successful and you need to find them to succeed. You won’t!” I scream and call forth a banishing spell that Amanda taught me before we entered this realm. The demon quickly reverts back to form before burning. He thrusts me forward before his ashes float to the surface. Flames burst up around us, and Andrew swoops me up just before I am about to crash against a jagged stalagmite.

Grabbing at his shirt, “We need to get our son and get out of here before we slip.”

“Mia did you arrange to have Jacob and Alexander hide?” I nod. “Please tell me that no one knows where you instructed them to go? Tell me they are safe, they seem to be essential for what he is planning and from what we have seen, we can’t fail. Are you sure that they are in a safe place and that he cannot find them.”

“They are safe. He must not have figured that I would have them change…” Oh no, my hand grips the tip of the stalagmite and with never before used strength, I rip it off and drive it into Andrew. My body shakes violently as he burns before my eyes and I am once again freefalling.

Splashing into a fiery pit, I feel the heat, the burn, I feel my skin sear. As my world darkens with the pain, his voice is in my head. “This is a taste of your future if you do not start to cooperate.” My world goes black and silent.

My eyes flutter and I struggle out of Andrew’s hold. “Get your hands off of me, scrambling to my feet, I grab a rock and hold it as a weapon, getting ready to throw it at him.

“Mia, it’s alright, it’s really me. We got separated, but we found you.” He holds up his hands, palms up, and his tone is as if he is speaking to a cornered animal, which right now, maybe that is exactly what he is trying to reason with. So many deceptions, so many lies, so many tricks are forcing my instincts to overpower rational thought. The savage is growing inside of me. The one that drove a stake into what appeared to be Andrew without hesitation is growing bolder. Was I even sure, or do I just want to destroy all that is around me, find my family, get my son and Sebastian and leave this place?”

“Mia, we can do just that, but I need you to put down the rock and think, you are not a savage, we have just been thrown into a situation that causes us to do things that we would not otherwise do, but that does not make you a savage, it makes you a survivor, a fighter, and we will save our son, but you need to see me, we need to do this together. I’m sorry they separated us when those demons began flying, I should have tried to hold on to you, to ensure that we were not out of each other’s sight, but I was able to see what you saw.” He flinches, probably at the memory of what appeared to be our children suffering, being forced to bring forth the evil which he has always fought against. “Mia, you knew that was not me, you know I would never ask anything that may jeopardize our children.”

Staring at him, he knows what I’m thinking. He knows what I am feeling. I feel the rock slip from my fingers as I throw myself at him and wince at the contact. “Are you alright? Your skin is still tender; you were pretty badly burned when we found you.” He slides his hands over me once more and I feel his energy. Despite the pain, I pull him closer, I need him. I need him and only him to hear me. “Listen” I whisper before touching his forehead to mine in hopes of sharing with him the questions I have about what I saw with the demons and spirits.”

“Mia, I don’t know what it means, but we need to get moving, maybe we can figure it out on the way, but I can feel his anger growing and with his anger comes his power, he feeds off of fear, confusion and desperation. The longer we are here, the more we fear losing, the more power he will have over us.” He speaks out loud now and looks to the others as well. “We should get moving.” He moves us toward the far end of the cavern and lays his hand upon a rock and suddenly Chaos emerges, touches two more stones and a tunnel is revealed.

Quickly traveling through I can hear the low agonizing moans and taunting. “Let him go, this is your last chance and I will ensure that you are released and have a place of honor in his army. I can even ensure that you are placed on the plane you have longed for. They are almost here, if they reach the child, I will personally ensure that you are tortured for all eternity and are sent to Satan’s inner realm where he can personally rip you apart every day for jeopardizing his plan. I can hear them breathing, they are almost here, choose the winning side, this is your last chance. Hand me the child.”

“Never”

Running, we burst into the room, and are immediately thrust backward into the cave which now shakes and is collapsing around us.

Gabriel springs to his feet with Francis and they stretch their wings, curving them taking on the weight of the rocks and the heat of the raining flames. Serena joins them. Crawling through their makeshift tunnel, from their features, I can see we do not have much time. Hurling myself through, this time, I somersault into a corner as the demons concentrate on pushing back Eva and Andrew.

Only one demon grabs hold of me. Unfortunately, this demon slithers on at least eight tentacles, six of which are coiling around me. As I rip one away, the others tighten. Hearing a clang behind me, suddenly the tentacles release and drop at my feet. I quickly twist and see one of Chaos’ men, but he does not have the red eyes of the others, his eyes are blue and as the rock falls from him, Reginald emerges.

Kicking the tentacles at my feet, we quickly move toward Sebastian. “You came back!”

“I told you I would. Let’s get you out of here.”

“Watch out!” He pulls the child closer to him as Reginald twists quickly with his hands outstretched, he grabs Chaos who is holding a boulder just above his head and sends him crashing against the jagged rocks. As the boulder slips I flick my wrist and it careens into the demon attacking another white soul trapped I this realm, knocking it off balance enough that as the apparition swirls around the demon, he is lifted off the ground and thrust into the jagged rocks above. The demon bursts and hot embers are now raining down on us all.

More Chaos like demons emerge from the rocks around us, attacking Reginald, grabbing me, closing off access to Gabriel, Serena and Francis before others descend going after Andrew and Eva who are already embattled with several tentacle creatures.

Chaos screams to another, we brought them to you, do your job, capture them, bring them to their knees. A burst of energy emanates from Sebastian and the two rock creatures before the cave, burst into flames. Serena abandons her spot in the tunnel and hurls herself at Chaos before he can slam into the back of Andrew.

Another rock creature sheds it mask revealing Amanda who is wielding a sledge hammer. Lifting it over her head, Chaos cries out. “Master I led them astray as you asked reward me with power so I may destroy them.” Before her hammer strikes, he is gone.

Amanda turns quickly and screams out, to the apparitions chained by fire. “You are strong, break your chains, your captures cannot reinforce them while fighting. Help us, help yourselves to escape.”

Two break free and join the white cage that is before Sebastian and I realize that they are reinforcing the protection if we fail, as three others break free, they flee immediately.

The demons holding Reginald, bash him against the rocks and he falls, limp and lifeless. The demon hovering above him yells to some others. “Help us rip him apart. We will take them out one by one.”

I scream to Amanda who still has her hands free, but she does not raise them to help him. Sebastian screams to his sister, pleading for her to help, but still she does not move. As two others move off of me, I struggle to regain the use of my hands, to do something, but they are locked tight. Reginald is going to die and I can’t summon enough strength to break free and help. What if he is stuck in this realm because he tried to help me? I struggle more and can see the light growing by Sebastian, but it quickly dims.

As my head whips around everyone is engaged in battle and Reginald is going to be destroyed by the three rock like demons and two tentacle wielding monsters which are now piled upon him, probably ripping away every part of him.

The ground shakes, a blast rings out, and a blinding red light beams in every direction as pieces of tentacles fly everywhere along with jagged shards of rock.

Struggling to fold myself into the crevices of my captures, I do so just in time to hear the clanging of rocks against rocks, followed by strategic blows to their heads with the sledge hammer until their hands release me and I crawl out from the rubble that just moments before had me pinned.

Scrambling to my feet, Eva, Andrew and Serena too seem to be holding their own. Amanda and Reginald are now at the bars which are dissipating before my eyes.

Gabriel yells from the tunnel. “Move quickly, we can’t hold this much longer. The white apparitions that were once bars flee immediately.

Sebastian collapses on the floor, the child still in his arms. Leaning down, I try to grab our son, but my hands pass through them both. “Mia, you need to concentrate. There is no time.” Trying again, my hands still pass through him.

Sending the last of the demons flying and bursting into flames a deafening “No” vibrates the already shaking walls and they begin to collapse around me. Andrew is at my side, grabs the child as Eva grabs me, and Reginald grabs a collapsed Sebastian. Moving quickly, we have to squeeze through the now sagging wings of Gabriel and Francis.

As Amanda and Reginald squeeze through the entrance way trying to push away some of the fallen rocks as they crawl over them, a boulder falls behind them and the entrance is cut off while the floor falls out from under us.

Falling, shadows are now all around us, ripping at me. I can hear their steel nails grinding against the others iron skin and see white feathers flying before me. Gabriel free falls, his wings no longer extended. I hear his hard landing just before I slam against the ground.

Shadows circle all around us. Andrew pulls the child closer to his chest as Eva and Francis try to shield me. “No, you must protect Andrew, I’m fine. They can’t grab our son.” Pushing at them, Eva moves to shield Andrew along with Gabriel and Serena, but Francis stays with me.

“Enough” an all too familiar voice bellows. “Get my children. Your job is done here.” They are off of us immediately, disappearing through the walls. Francis jumps up and flies at Jonathan, but as Jonathan fades to transparency, Francis hits the wall and as he falls back, Jonathan rotates his hand and bubbling lava springs up all around him forming a wide chasm. “I will leave you as a treat for my children when they return home. Francis stands and as he spreads his wings to take flight, Jonathan flicks his wrist and Francis wings are now tied to him with a fiery lasso. “I said you would be a treat.”

He disappears and then appears as a ghostly apparition stroking the child in Andrew’s arms. I can hear his voice. “I have been waiting for you my little pathway.” Andrew’s rapid swipes finally knock him from our son. Jonathan sends Eva flying against the wall, pinning her with yet another fiery lasso. Gabriel spreads his wings and suddenly, he too is nothing more than a bright apparition. Jonathan, once again fades and they are locked in battle.

“Andrew, get out before others get here. You can’t get caught here.” He rises and his features turn pained as he looks around.

Francis yells too. “She’s right, go now or the worlds we saw will be a reality.” Spreading his wings, he appears torn as he lifts off, and in that moment of hesitation, he is now surrounded by those who must be Jonathan’s children. Grabbing at him, they knock him off balance. He grips our son closer. Rising, I wish I had wings to meet him up there, but as he tumbles, I concentrate on righting him and he appears steadier. Rising up again, Jonathan, kicks Gabriel back, re-apparates spreading his own dark wings before chasing Andrew.

“We are just getting started. It’s not time for you to leave.” He screeches as he shoots a fiery lasso from his hands, but this time, I am waiting, redirecting the energy, it now begins to coil around him, yet Andrew is thrust back toward the ground and falls hard as fire springs up around him. The loud cackling draws my attention and I now see two girls flying toward him, hands outstretched, but as they try to rip the child from Andrew’s arms, the child soul grows whiter and whiter, as its form becomes smaller and smaller then as it is no more than a sparkle before Andrew’s heart, it thrusts itself inside and Andrew is thrust back causing the two girls to crash into each other before falling to the ground.

Andrew flies toward Eva and with the strength of Hercules, rips away her imprisoning lasso. Jonathan comes at him again and all three crash toward the ground. Concentrating on Francis, I levitate him off the narrow island in the middle of his prison, but as two of the others come at me, I have to quickly throw Francis from his spot causing him to crash into Gabriel.

Several more shadows appear from nowhere and then form into beings, most having Jonathan’s features. Grabbing hold of one, it disappears before my eyes, only to reappear and push me toward the ground.

Tuning swiftly, just as I grab hold of its leg, it disappears again and reappears with its hands on my head. Struggling, I can’t manage to shake it as it bashes my head against the rocky ground.

A booming voice momentarily distracts everyone. “Jonathan, stop wasting time. Send your children forth to do my bidding before you fail me again! The child on their plane is not far from the site, take their scents and track him.”

Pushing Andrew off of him, several shadows appear and grab hold of his wrists and ankles pulling him apart and suspending him in midair. Hundreds of bat like creatures descend upon Gabriel, Francis, Eva and Serena, attacking them, as fire form shadows emerge from the lava, barreling toward me. Forcing the first few back, others break ranks and now they are coming at me from all sides, I can’t seem to escape. Backing up, I force a few more back, but then am lifted off the ground by two of Jonathan’s children who are now sporting dark wings. Trying to wriggle myself free, I wrench my hand from one of them and flick it in hopes of sending him back, but he grabs hold of me, dissipates and his apparition somehow still grabs hold of me, moving me forward.

“Children now, go.”

I see two children pass through Andrew and disappear. Jonathan growls viciously. As the next one moves toward him, Jonathan knocks him down. “First her then him”

“But Father we were instructed to…”

“I know your instructions but to get there you must pass through her plane first. Now go.”

The demon swoops down passing through me and then Andrew before disappearing. I feel as if someone pounded my chest from the inside out, it is getting harder and harder to breathe as they pass and I can feel my heart becoming slower and slower. The next one rushes toward me, but does not phase out in time and knocks me to the ground.

“Get her!” Jonathan shouts, but as I twist, I see Andrew and see a way out. Moving as fast as I can to put distance between us, I somehow fade into an apparition myself. Concentrating on moving and hiding with the shadows which appear to be passing me without noticing me, I travel further and further into the darkness concentrating on only Jacob and my message. “Do it now and hide.” I repeat my mantra over and over again as I struggle to keep spiritual. Reemerging before Jacob accomplishes our task will give them another chance.

Knocked to the ground, I am corporeal once again. “No!” The shout is everywhere and I know now that at least their passageway has been closed, Andrew and the others have been yanked back.

“I’ll take her.” Jonathan shouts as he pulls at my hair, dragging me down the tunnel of my visions. “Father what should I do now. Where should I go, Katie, Scott and Georgiana did not make it through either.”

Jonathan stops, turns on his heels, pulls me to my feet and slams me against the wall. His eyes reflect the burning fires of hell as he stares at me and then turns to the boy. “You let her escape and she closed the most important pathway. Now I will never reach the one I’m seeking.” Acid drips from his mouth causing smoke to rise where it falls.

“Go through her and destroy the resistance in her children, make them your puppets or when I arrive, I will destroy you!”





Chapter Ten - The Final Reveal





He passes through me and is quickly followed by the others before Jonathan yanks me forward causing me to fall and begins dragging me once more. “So you think you have won, you don’t even know who I am do you?” Pulling me to my feet once more, he bashes me against the wall. Pushing at him, I knock him to the ground, but I am not fast enough, those passing through me have made me too weak. Catching me, he pins me and as his hand passes over my shoulder I scream out in pain as my skin sears. “Oh my dear sister, I have waited so long for you to join me here. Don’t worry. I am not going to kill you that will end my fun too early.” As he says this, an image of us running through clouds when we are not more than five and six flashes before my eyes. We are playing hide and seek. I hear a man’s soft voice calling to us saying here he comes. The image fades as Jonathan’s contemptuous voice calls me from the illusion.

“You must admit my dear, dear sister that this time I chose wisely and you did everything you needed to do. You were very clever at dodging all of our past attempts to get you here, although I must admit, I thought I had you when I dragged you into the first realm of hell and offered to restore your life. I thought of coming back and tricking you into believing that you made that choice, but then you up and made that deal, providing me with the opportunity to have you come to me.” He takes in a deep savoring breath.

“This time, the set up was perfect. You were still off balance from what you put in motion, questioning all sorts of possibilities which you would have never accepted if your own life hadn’t been changed. I knew once your past and present collided your memories would be freed and the mystery of who you are would lead you home. No one can escape fate forever and now you are here with me and it’s my time to rule.” His eyes become dim, unfocused and then he shakes off whatever image flashed before him.

“If mother had only hidden me instead of you, I would not have wasted my opportunity the way you did yours, flitting through time, creating beings only to leave them without the knowledge of their destiny, trying to teach them to follow a righteous path, when all you did was set them up for their doom. For each child you bore, the darkness through me bore one more powerful, more committed, one who knew his or her place from birth and prepared for this moment while you left your family weak. For each soul you and Andrew nurtured and saved, I corrupted hundreds who now fight in my army. You thought love would save you, but all it did was confuse you, cloud your vision, mask who you are and create weak tools which I will now manipulate to do my bidding, if I don’t kill them first.”

His tone turns taunting, “I guess all good things do come to those who wait though. It took ions, but you have finally opened the gates to the middle plane while your dear Andrew in coming here to protect you and your son from being used as some anti-Christ has opened the gates to his plane.”

Staring into my eyes, he sees my confusion, his features turn irate. “You know who he is. How could someone so dense, keep us at bay for so long? He belongs to heaven so passing through you grants them access to the middle plane, while passing through him, opens a passageway for my children who still have a strong tie there to enter. Father has sent forth my children to deal with those who fought against us to protect his realm and banish us here.”

A voice whispers through the darkness. “They will fail Jonathan, I am not there so their tie is incomplete, they will be trapped like the two who passed through Andrew and they will be taken care of.”

Jonathan appears stunned. “Mother” He grabs me and drags me quickly before tossing me into the room I saw in my vision. Crashing against the back of the chair, it shifts and I hear a soothing voice from the other side. “So nice of you to join us my little missing in action girl” Coming around the chair, a tall man with green eyes, and gentle features leans down and takes my hand, helping me to my feet. I gasp as I realize this is the image that emerged from the silhouette when we saved Abigail. My mind clicks as I realize who he is, my peripheral vision catches Jonathan entering the room. Backing away, I know I have nowhere to go and am not even sure what to do. This is not the image I expected.

Holding out his arms, “Don’t you have a hug for your father? I have been waiting for your return ever since he ripped you from me.” He steps forward and I step back, but quickly run out of room and find myself pinned against a wall.

Stopping, he stares at me. “Mia, you have nothing to fear here. You are home. I know I scared you while you were with them, but your son and Andrew are gone now, they served their purpose and you are home with me, where you belong. No one will hurt you here, you are among family. We only scared you then to get you here, if they thought it was too easy, Jacob would have never pulled Andrew back, his divided loyalties may have made him try to pull you back and I would have lost you again.”

“But father, you promised that I could go and destroy mother before …”

“Quiet! We will have no talk of such things, you accomplished your mission, your children are ready for the battle they are facing and they will secure a victory in your name.”

“He is playing you Jonathan. Even passing through Andrew, you could never enter His plane again. You chose not to follow him, you were part of the banishing, your father does not have that power to grant your deepest desire, but then again, I’m here.”

“Ruth, stop your tricks. You cannot come to this plane, you made your choice!” Satan screams into the air.

I gasp as a figure of the Ruth I know forms, becoming clearer and clearer as she moves closer to me.

Jonathan hurls himself at her, but she disappears and he crashes into the wall, cracking it.

Satan is upon Jonathan instantly. “It’s a trick. She is trying to distract you in a lame attempt to save her. Don’t be fooled, haven’t you failed me enough already?”

“Father how could you say that to me? I have done everything you asked. I left paradise, no questions asked and followed you down here, have done your bidding, have done everything you wanted of me.”

“Up to this point, you have failed me. If you were as clever as your sister, you would have had her here ions ago, yet even when she was only a mere mortal she managed to thwart your half whit attempts to claim her, to get her to fulfill her destiny. If you truly listen to me, do so now, your mother is not here, she did not save you then and she is only trying to trick you now to save Mia. Don’t be fooled again. Mia may be down here, but you let Andrew escape. Now you are getting distracted by tricks and deception that will cause you to fail me again.”

“Jonathan, he is deceiving you, using you, I tried to save you, but you would have none of that. All you wanted to do was follow him, please him, but if he was truly a father he would never have put you in the position of cajoling you into his folly. He would have never allowed his own selfish desire for control and power to destroy his family.”

“My folly, how dare you. You know nothing. You have spent ions trying to validate your existence and betrayal of the one you chose to build new creations with, a family, the one who you chose as your partner. You claim to be doing good, protecting those who are helpless, yet the one you serve leaves them hanging in the wind, leaves them to their own devices when they truly have no tools, no sense. He claims to love them, yet calls them imperfect. I am the one who loves them. I embrace their imperfections, make them my own, and give them direction. I do not watch from my pedestal and then condemn them from their follies, lock them from my haven claiming that their embracing the devil’s ways has banished them from my door. I embrace them, I give them purpose. I give them meaning to their eternity.”

“You give them nothing. You are not capable of giving. You only take. You feed off their power, stripping them of strength and use their souls in your futile quest to regain access to a haven that you will never reenter.” Ruth reappears next to Jonathan, and he grabs her by the neck, begins choking her. Hurling myself off the floor at him, she disappears as I crash into Jonathan who turns and tosses me across the room.

“Mia, this is not your fight, let me handle this.”

“This is her fight, this is her destiny. A destiny she would have fulfilled if it weren’t for your interference. Her power is because of me, it belongs to me, she belongs to me, and you will not take her from me again with your tricks Ruth.”

Ruth’s voice booms. “I did not keep her from you, she chose not to go with you, not to defy who she is in an ill attempt to please someone who could never love, never feel, never repent, and never admit to his own shortcomings. I have no tricks Lucifer, only love and you will not keep her, you will not consume her, and cajole her the way you fooled our son. The way you turned him against the light, against me, turned him from his family, turned him away from what could have been his life.”

“My life, what a joke, you were never worried about my life. You knew what would happen to all those who chose not to follow him, yet you didn’t warn me. You never fought for me, not the way you fought that day for her, the way you risked everything for her, allowed her to live the life I should have lived, the life I would not have wasted, the power I would not have turned my back on, the power that I would have embraced to make me equal with him, better than him, more powerful than you all.”

“And that is why you chose to leave us that day. That is why her powers could never be yours. Even if you keep her down here, torture her, and strip her of her power, you could not use it, could not control it or win an advantage with it. Her power comes from her unconditional love for her family, the compassion for those around her, the empathy she feels for those who suffer undeservedly, those who suffer at your hands just because you are bored and need amusement. Such power would only wither and vanish in the cold, heartless depths of your darkened sole.” Jonathan swirls around wildly looking for some sign of Ruth, some sign as to where the voice emanates from. The wilder he gets, the more she taunts. Confusion and concern even flit across Satan’s features as her controlling voice captures the attention of their son.

“How many good souls have you truly captured and kept? Considering the ions you have been trying, the souls you should not have are minimal and tonight your world lost even more. You lost a big one in Sebastian, the one who kept Mia’s son from you, kept you from manipulating and controlling him the way your father controlled you. I’m sure that by now, he is safely at heaven’s gate and you will never be able to touch him again.”

“My children will take care of him, if they haven’t already, the way they will find you and enslave you. You will know no peace and even when you beg, there will be no one left, no one there to help you. My children will ensure that you have the pleasure of seeing all your children overtaken, servile to us, and then you too will fall. I will not be confounded by your trickery any more. I may not reach you, but my children will, and I will just have to satisfy myself with the pleasure of watching Mia’s children fall and bringing Andrew to his knees.”

Before I can scream, Ruth appears. “Your children will not have the pleasure of destroying anyone on that plane because they never ascended to it. I was gone and so were your siblings. You had no connections so they could not enter.”

She materializes and this time Satan turns. “I don’t know how you entered, but you are through, finished.” He grabs her and begins crushing her.

“Disappear, he’ll destroy you. Go, you can’t get caught here.” As I scream, Jonathan jumps inside of me and I know he is trying to pass through me because he cannot go through the gateway. Slamming myself against the wall, I can see his apparition jostle, he is half in me and half out for a moment.

Ruth screams. “Mia concentrate on entrapping him within you. Think about keeping him with you, about the love you shared as children. You need to hold on to him, he must not make it to the surface again.”

I don’t know how she escaped Satan’s grasp, but she is moving quickly, trying to prevent his recapturing her. “Mia concentrate! If he makes it to the surface with you here, you will be trapped and he could destroy all you hold dear.”

I can feel the war waging within me, his soul struggling to get out, my soul fighting to hold him. I need to remember the time we spent together, the time both sides have spent tearing away. The images I only get glimpses of before they fade to nothingness. Struggling without even the hint of a memory, I can feel him slipping from my grasp. Quickly I change gears and concentrate on the Jonathan, I can draw images upon, the helpful Jonathan, the one who inadvertently led me home. The one who nursed me when I was sick, the glimpses of the man I saw when his façade slipped away. These images are clearer, I can feel him still with me, but with each passing minute, he is getting stronger, probably because during this time he was only pretending, they will not let me hold him for much longer. Concentrating on the image of us playing hide and seek, as it comes in clearer I feel him struggling more vehemently. I am being beaten from the inside out, while I watch an incomprehensible battle before me, each of us fighting a battle of wills, knowing that if we fail, all for our side will be lost.

Suddenly, I’m lifted in the air. As I scream, I feel him slipping. Chanting, repeating my mantra, “Jonathan you belong with me. You belong here with me,” I rein in my focus. Once again, we are in the clouds and I can feel the clicks in my head, unlocking the draws that the images have been stored. One pops open and I see him and I sitting amongst the clouds, a little older and with our right hands engaged in a battle of thumb wars as Andrew and a beautiful young girl look on. As I hear our laughter, I feel stronger than I have since we entered this desolate abyss. Despite his fiercer struggle, he is not easily breaking free of the chains that are encircling him now.

Another vision comes. Clear and the bold colors of a newly forming earth fill my thoughts. We are there. Andrew, Jonathan and I watch as a world is created around us, mountains form, oceans fill and trees spring up from the earth. We are laughing, running and enjoying each other’s company. Jonathan’s eyes sparkle as the light of a new formed sun shines on his benevolent features. He punches Andrew playfully in the arm. “You take the blame for her being here. I may have brought her, but you wanted her here.”

Andrew laughs. “Of course I will, if you will do the same for her.” Andrew looks to his left and a beautiful auburn haired girl, with sea foam eyes, and delicate features walks toward us and I can see Jonathan’s eyes sparkle as he looks upon her.

Coming closer, she wraps her arms around him. “Shall we explore this new world and see what possibilities it holds?” He nods and they are off.

I can feel the binds tightening on Jonathan, but then a flash of Jonathan and I embroiled in battle as we tumble through a darkening cave overshadows the light. He screams at me. “The power was given to you because you were coming to our side, we gave you the power to capture his soul, destroy it and what do you do, you hide him, protect him. For that, you will lose everything.”

Falling to the ground, I lose my focus and feel his strength pulsating, growing. He is breaking free. Ruth is on the ground struggling. She is losing the battle too.

Crawling toward her, I pull at Satan’s hand as he is about to strike, but he sends me flying with very little effort. I hit the desk and it crashes beneath me. “Mia, don’t worry about me, focus on Jonathan, he cannot leave this place. Focus!”

Trying to pull another memory, I see the day of the banishing. I am running, hiding as father’s voice bellows, calling to me. Running without knowing where to go or how to hide, I am grabbed by one of my father’s closest friends.

“You must be looking for your father, he is looking for you. Let me help you.” His tone is menacing as he lifts me off my feet and carries me forward. Opening my mouth, I want to scream, but something is blocking my voice. Struggling, I cannot even force the slightest sound past my lips. I need to focus. I need to free myself from his grasp before be reaches my father or I will be lost. Kicking my legs, I hit him several times, but he seems unaffected. Bending as far back as I can, I thrust my upper body forward quickly and hit my head straight into his neck, winding him. He falls and I run.

I can’t get caught again. My father’s voice is closer. I see Jonathan in the distance. Running toward him, “We have to hide. We need to get away from here. Father is looking for us. If he finds us, we will be lost too.”

A glint enters his eyes that I have not seen before and he stands in front of me. “Father already found me. I was only looking for you. It’s time to go.” He grabs my wrist and begins pulling me.

“No, I don’t want to go and you can’t either. It’s wrong, he will destroy you!” I pull back and he stumbles, but then jerks me forward. “Jonathan please you don’t know what you are saying, you don’t know what you are doing. You can’t leave Rachel, she loves you. Mom loves you. I love you. Father is not what he used to be, he’s changed. Don’t let him change you. You have to stay here. Come, hide with me please.”

“Never, you are coming with me and that is the end of it.” He pulls me forward and I fall. Dragging me, I wriggle and twist until I am on my knees. Thrusting at the back of his legs he falls over me, but is up immediately.

I cannot escape him, he has always been faster. If I want to stay, I need to fight my brother. As my head rams him forcefully in the stomach, I feel the Jonathan inside me falter, but so do I. As the battle before me unfolds, so does the battle within me. Each punch we threw then, I feel now. My body contorts as if in battle and I’m writhing on the floor with pain. My body convulses, I vomit, and my eyes roll back into my head.

I can hear Ruth shout to fight with everything I have and that the gateway is closed so that I am the only entrance for him to escape this dismal abyss that has been his home since the banishing. Relief that no more demons can flow towards my children and Andrew revitalizes my spirit as my fist now pounds upon Jonathan one last time before I get up and begin running. Stopping suddenly, I know what I must do to toss him from me.

Walking toward him, I grab him in a stronghold which turns to an embrace. I see the vision of what occurred before me, right before he left paradise. “I love you but we are not going the same places. I refuse to be your puppet. With all the strength I can muster, I hurl him back, turn, and begin running as far and fast from him as I can, right into Andrew.

“Come, you must hide, they’re looking for you.” As my vision fades, I see the battle between Ruth and Satan is fierce, but I feel lighter. Rising, I realize that Jonathan is no longer with me, but was I successful in casting him out of me to this world or did he escape into mine. Sweeping the room, I do not see him, I failed. He is up there unleashing unthinkable horrors upon my children, my family, and humanity while I am trapped helpless down here.

Ruth breaks free from Satan’s grasp, grabs me and quickly we are gone from the room, we are in a gray fog, the air thick, musty and filled with death as shadows of beings pass around us, unseeing as all lay quiet and still around us. “Where are we?”

“You have passed through here before, when you were searching for Andrew, but he was deeper, not on this realm, do you remember? This is the first level of the netherworld, a place where the remnants of energy of dissipated souls goes. We can’t stay long, we don’t belong here and we will be kicked back to his lair.” She takes in a deep breath. “Mia he will be going for your children and Andrew you have to get to him and use the power he transferred to you to destroy Jonathan to dissipate his soul. That is your only hope now to save your children. If he gets to Andrew before you do, he has passed through you and taken some of that power back, Saria’s followers are on that plane probably using the power now to destroy the demons who have come through the gateway, if he passes through them or calls upon their power to boost his own, he will have enough to claim Andrew and then he will go after your children, enslaving them will not be enough for him, he won’t be able to control them fast enough to satisfy his blood lust, especially Jacob. He will lash out and they will be destroyed.”

“How can I defeat him, especially if he has his children who are so strong there and steals the power of Saria’s men?”

“You are the one who commands her men, seeing you they will fight his influence, they will fight against his stealing their power, they will fight for you, die for you, but you have to fight to win, fight to defeat him and I will help you because you will pass through me, it is the only way back and with that you will take my power with you. Do not hesitate, fight with everything you have, you belong there. You will suffer loss, but remember, you belong to that plane with your family. You must believe that, because it is coming down to a battle of wills and he has waited and wanted what you have since the fall. He will play you, play on you compassion and will use your goodness against you, don’t hesitate, you know what he has become, it was his choice and now he must reap the consequences. This will help you.” From inside the folds of her flowing gown, she pulls a dagger with the strangest handle. Staring at it, I remember Andrew had this dagger when he came after me.

“I see you recognize this. You know it is very powerful, but Mia, this will help you slow him down, cause harm to him, but you must not kill him with this, if you do, his power, his soul cannot be held by this, he will destroy it and all the souls that they once captured will be stronger than ever. Use it carefully. Banish him before the dagger kills him. I know it is a fine line, but you must skirt it, you must not kill him with this, but it will be very useful when you return. Use it wisely.”

“What about his children who have come up? What am I supposed to do about them? Am I supposed to use this against them or will that be wrong as well.”

“Those who have passed between you and Andrew already have their fate sealed, they are probably already human, contain them, you must not kill them, let them be, the fates have other plans for them and in that, a long unanswered question will finally reveal itself. Those who only passed through you must be banished as well. Their power too would be too strong for this dagger to contain them for any period of time. I know you think that they have only known this world of hate and destruction, but some of Jonathan’s other children who did not take part in this, who are on our side, turned their back on this evil, those who you face embraced it, they must be banished. Cut as many ties as you can.”

She begins to fade and I know that I too must be fading. “Mia as soon as we are back there you must pass through me and fulfill your destiny, abolish him and continue your good deeds, you and Andrew have changed everything.

“What about you, what happens to you?”

“You will carry me with you always. Tell my brother, not to try and retrieve me. He cannot and it will only bring suffering. I love you.”

She fades and we are back in Satan’s den. He grabs me as I materialize as a demon grabs Ruth. Quickly spreading her wings, she knocks him to the ground. Shedding his skin, he turns into a tentacle demon with three blazing heads. His tentacles wrap around me tightly, squeezing. One slithers around my neck, constricting my windpipe. I can’t breathe. My world is getting darker and hotter as I fight for even the smallest relief, the tiniest bit of oxygen to revive my withering, searing body. One of his tentacles flies across the room, swiping Ruth and as she stumbles, he breathes fire upon her wings, quickly turning them to ash and singing her. She screams. “Mia, dematerialize now, pass through me now, there is only seconds left!”

Fighting with the last vestiges of strength I can muster, I see my hand begin to fade, feel my body become lighter and I slip out of his grasp. As he closes in upon her and breathes fire my way, I fly at Ruth, pass through her probably right before he envelops her.

I can feel myself flying! Passing through a darkened realm of howling, screeching and cries for help, I realize as I hear echoes of my own tormented past, I am traveling through at such a speed, I see nothing, I just hope it drops me at my children and Andrew. I cannot fail.

Instantly, I find myself standing on what was once a chasm in the floor of the remnants of what was once the cabin. Its roof has been blown off, the windows are shattered and the walls, broken. The demons all but destroyed the once happy haven, but at least there are not bodies. Maybe those who entered are alright. “Not if you don’t get to them!” My subconscious screams.

Moving quickly, I jump over the rubble, hear the battle raging outside and am through a shattered wall. My eyes scan quickly, witches are casting spells everywhere. Energy is visibly crossing every plane. Demons, witches, vampires, and wolves are combating each other, some flying high up into the atmosphere. Demons are locked in battle alongside shadows and apparitions. Dragons are forming and in the midst of the dragons, I see angels, with wings of white and gold, moving quickly to push the fire breathers away from the fight, to contain the hell fires spewing down on the war. Catherine and Francis catch my eye, they are moving in the same manner they did in hell, Francis causing an atmosphere above the fight, where the dragons fly to be tumultuous, tornado like, while Catherine moves just below him, causing the air to be still, creating a chasm where the fires of hell are redirected away from the fighters below.

Running toward the battle, I see many of the faces I was recently introduced to, now devoid of life, their bodies crumbled on the cold ground. As I get closer to the battle, the sound of moaning, screaming, and clanging of weapons is all around me, but still I see no sign of Jonathan, Andrew or my children.

A demon grabs at me, its talons ripping at my skin. Turning, I immediately send it flying into one of its own. Turning back to the fight, Peter is at my side now. “Come, I know who you are looking for, I know where he is.” Grabbing my hand, we are now shadows, passing through the fight, then instantly, there is nothing. I see a new fight raging before me among the burnt out trees that were once a lush orchard. As flesh and bones return, I catch sight of Jonathan, he is moving towards Andrew shouting something in a language I do not understand. Peter shouts something similar back, causing Jonathan to halt. Andrew disappears instantly and as Jonathan turns, he flicks his wrist, Peter pushes me left as he breaks right. A stream of fire that turns all before it to ash flows from him.

Scrambling to my feet, Jonathan now heads for Nicole whose arms and legs are grabbed by demons. I scream to Saria’s men to help, but now I can see they are struggling against some invisible hold and cannot move. As the demons hold her up, Jonathan passes through her, ripping at her, the demons drop her. Reaching her, her eyes cry blood, her body is withered and I can hear the bones crushing to dust beneath her battered flesh, struggling, she rasps out. “Mom, it hurts” He is ripping her apart from the inside, knowing what he is doing, I force myself to change, I know now that I can, and am inside her instantly, throwing him out.

Materializing again he is now running after Jacob, who immediately sends him flying back, but Jonathan changes again and I know what he is going to do. Peter yells. “Go after Jonathan, I have Nicole.”

Turning once again, this time, I stand before him, feeling the power within me and I effectively block his advance, striking him with the dagger. Grabbing at me, I didn’t expect that he could hold me and in that second, I de-materialize and he passes through me, flying at Jacob once more.

From out of nowhere, Cassandra appears and throws Jacob out of his path before disappearing once more. Flying at him, this time, I grab him from behind, forcing him to materialize. As he does, I strike at his side, but he blocks it and only his hand is cut. Someone screams from below. “Father, help us, what’s happening?”

In his moment of distraction, I get a better swipe at him and can see Saria’s men break free of whatever power draining hold he had on them. They are gathering below, but now so is Andrew, he is bending over Nicole as Peter and Gabriel fight to keep the demons from his side.

“Children, get them, destroy them!” He shouts.

“We can’t, we are powerless.”

In those five words, I know the shift in power has changed, the battle we are fighting can be won. I yell to some of the men below. “Capture but don’t kill them. Get them out of here!” I take another swipe at Jonathan, this time he turns to me, crashes his head into me, I drop the dagger but hold on to him. We both tumble toward the earth, hitting it with force that knocks the remaining remnants of wind from me. Rolling, with each blow, I can feel power transferring back and forth between us, it is such a strange feeling, but one I cannot dwell on. Demons roar around us, and as we move, swipes from them tear at my flesh as a gray wolf tears at his flesh, we materialize and dematerialize, we are in this realm, but not, I hear chanting from around us and then nothing, all the fighting around us is devoid of sound. He is transforming before my eyes now, his face blackens to burning embers, his eyes turn red, horns spring from his temple, curving forward like some strange halo, small wings shoot from his back as white wings spring from mine and I can feel myself changing.

“You’re done, you may have destroyed my creations, but your time is over!” Shooting toward me, he knocks me down, but I do not fall to the ground, I bounce against something I cannot see and spring to my feet. Thrusting energy at him, he falters backward, but instantly forces himself forward whipping a sharp tail at me which rips open my chest. The blood oozes from me, but I do not feel pain. Swiping at me again, this time he rips at my legs as they give way from under me. Spreading my wings, I am floating. With my wings fully expanded, Jonathan is held against whatever is holding us to this area. He shoots fire at the wings, but they do not burn and I can see his shocked expression.

Recovering quickly, he swipes his tail again. Pulling a wing inward, wrapping it around me, I hear the clank as if metal hits metal, but they feel soft upon me, brushing my skin, healing the wounds on my chest and legs. Spinning, I hit him and the fire he is spewing trying to burn his way through is turned back on him and I can see his blackened face flash human, burn, and the pain registers in his features.

Cowering against whatever is binding us to this spot, hovering over the earth below, his desolate features catch me off guard and his soft voice now pleads with me. “You had your time here while I suffered, burning in fiery pits that took all that I once was from me, stripping me of my decency, but I can get that back, I can have the life I was meant to live, the life that father stole from me, the one he tried to steal from you. You were granted a reprieve, you lived a life, give me a chance to live, a chance to experience goodness and light.” He is now on his knees before me, begging.

I can feel myself falter. Would he have been different, been who I knew, who I loved, if he had not been cajoled by the demon within? If I let him live now, can I free him, change him, save him? Caught off guard by this surprising event, he thrusts through me as his features turn demon once more and I feel him tearing at me, but quickly cast him out. Changing again, he is now a tentacle demon wrapping himself around me, but as I disappear, his form quickly changes once more and I know what I must do. Changing gives me a split second in time where I can grab hold of him, but I have to put things in place so that many things can happen at once. I only hope that I’m correct and can get my message out of this bubbled dimension that we are now locked in. Passing through him in hopes of weakening him to get my message out before he can pass through me again and gain the knowledge that must pass to defeat him, he barrels over and I send my message to Jacob. We will only have one shot at this.

Thrusting toward me, I cut off communication just as he passes through me, but this time, I feel his tear at my heart and can feel its slowing beats. As he re-corporealizes, he thrusts fire toward me before I can close my wings, searing my skin. Closing my mind to the crippling pain, I gather the energy that comes with the fire and thrust it back at him, slamming him through the bubble encasing us. It shatters, and my wings are now fully extended. Flying at him, I physically embrace him, pulling his physical being into me. As we tumble towards the earth, I fight to separate my physical being from the soul within, pushing it out as I trap him within my wings. As I fight myself, I can feel him fighting himself, each of us now leave our lifeless bodies tumbling as our souls are now interlocked in battle. Spinning around him, for the first time in our existence, unhampered by form, I am faster than he is and am creating a spiritual vortex. As he countermoves, I can feel him trying to drain my energy, he is aware of what I am doing now and he is trying to do the same. Commanding not only my strength but the strength that I can feel coming at me from those who have fought through the centuries for this one moment in time, it feeds my will, my power, and as I cut through the last vestiges of his will, I embrace his dark soul to mine, fill it with light, love and the strength of all those who have come forth to fight with us, who are giving their energy and some their lives, to overtake his soul and turn it to nothing but remnants. The tighter I pull, the more he breaks apart and as I feel my energy building, the brightness of all around me, pass through me, explode within, so too do I feel his dark soul vaporize from within and burst into nothingness. Dark embers emanate from me and are scattered around me, but a soft gentle wind, now creates a vortex around me, gathering the ashes. As those who are now hovered around Jonathan and my lifeless body begin to chant incantations, his body bursts apart, flaming from within. The floating particles join the embers, the bubble forms once more surrounding every fleck, every ounce of what was once Jonathan. A scream diverts my attention. “Father, you can’t leave, you can’t leave us like this.”

Peter comes next to my lifeless body, looks up to the sky and calls for my return. Descending, upon myself, I feel the pain of entry, the retraction of my wings, and can hear his voice swimming through my head. “You need to arise. You have one more thing to do, one more task to complete. You need to send him to the netherworld, break the hold and scatter him throughout so he cannot return.”

As my eyes flutter open, I can see the battle still waging forward, but this time, it is not the combat of my return, this time, it is the banishing of demons by those of Saria’s men who still survive. Seeing my scanning eyes, Peter speaks deliberately. “We will finish here.” He hands me the orb that has now formed around what once was Jonathan. Placing it in my hand, it reminds me of a snow globe just shaken. “You must cast him out once and for all, break his tie to you. You can do it. You know the route.”

My eyes flit to Nicole, Andrew is still bent over her, but pitch shadows loom overhead. Jacob has battled through demons blocking him and remnants of additional battles between Saria’s people and shadowy demons to reach her. They both appear to be feverishly working to save her. “I can’t leave her.”

Peter grabs my arms. “Mia he can only be contained in this orb for a few more minutes, you need to leave now, get the orb where he can do no harm. If he rematerializes here, he will be fierce and stronger than anyone.” He shakes me as my attention is again pulled to Nicole. ‘Mia, he absorbed the souls of many of Saria’s followers, they died protecting others and to give you the strength to banish him. Do not let them die I vain, if he rematerializes here, he has their power, he captured their souls, and all in this area will die. He will claim you all. It took all we had to contain him. Go now, you can’t do anything for her here, but you can protect her by ridding this plane of him.” As he pleads with me on this plane, I can hear Ruth’s words screaming to me in my head. Wrenching myself forward, I hold the orb close to my chest and force myself to open the gate to the netherworld, stepping inside, it closes immediately behind me and I am engulfed by the energy of souls stuck between worlds, lost souls, never to travel onward to another realm.

Traveling deeper and deeper into the gray mist, I can hear his energy hum, telling me that I must move quicker. Picking up the pace, the images of Andrew, Gabriel, Evan, Jonathan and I enjoying our day, playing as young children, falling in love as young adults, Eva with Jackson, Gabriel with Martina, myself with Andrew and Jonathan with Rachel fills my vision. We were so happy together and I realize how souls who are truly meant to find each other never lose that connection. I see us traveling to the middle plane before the fall, when life was right, but the visions that once brought such happiness and peace, now haunt me, showing me what the choice of one cost us all.

I see the day of reckoning, the day of choosing sides, the families being ripped apart, the newly formed souls whose innocence was ripped away as parents fought as to who would claim them. I feel the fear and desperation of parents trying to hide their young from a fate that would forever change us all.

A bold, sultry voice calls to me. “You can still make it right; you can join the families who have been torn apart. Release me, I will reunite those on your plane and then open up the gates to His. We can reunite them all; bring them a life they should not have been stripped of because He would not allow anyone to challenge His power. He claimed to love all his creatures but then would not let them question Him. He claimed compassion, but then refused to show it to all the ones who sided against him. He claimed to give free will, but banished those who exercised it, just like you are banishing all the souls of your men who died in the protection and preservation of your children. You are denying them peace after they sacrificed, gave their lives, their blood, their souls to give your children as they lay dying the protection of their bodies and essences until Andrew of Jacob could come and restore them to the plane you so don’t want them to leave. They did not die just to contain me. They died in service to you. How could you so callously banish them here to this desolation, this nothingness? Getting rid of me also banishes them to this plane, you banish them from claiming what you people think is the reward of paradise. Can you do that after all they have given to you? Can you do that knowing that I will be here and once I regain my power, they will be the first ones that I claim? Can you torture them for all eternity Mia, just so that you can return to what you claim is your home? That is not your home. They are not your family. You are destroying your true family and your followers. You are banishing me, you have forsaken father when all he wanted to do was be reunited with you, yet you forever foreclosed his possibility of joining you in any place but hell and you are destroying our mother, leaving her there to be tortured throughout eternity by father. I assure you, now that he feels like he has lost, he will be ruthless. She will not know a moment’s peace. Torment will be her only friend, but you can still change that. Free me, free the souls that I have stolen in our battle. We can still open the gateway. We can still release father and mother. Everyone will win. Opening the planes means you will never have to be separated from Andrew again and can finally meet all of your children, all of your forgotten family.”

My heart constricts, I knew that my leaving had condemned Ruth, but I did not realize I was now also condemning souls that fought for centuries on the side of right, those who fought for and protected the family I know now and probably in centuries past for the family I can no longer remember. They should not be here and they should especially not be condemned here for all eternity by the hand of someone they trusted to follow, to fight for, and to believe in. My heart splinters at the paths before me, the knowledge that no matter what I choose, I am condemning innocents. The humming becomes more pronounced and now dozens of voices are swirling around me, calling for action. “Banish him. Throw the orb into the pit now. This is our destiny, you must fulfill yours. Rid your plane of him now and we will try to hold him here, prevent those in hell from reclaiming him. Do it now, you must return. This fight is never over, you are needed there and we are needed here. Do it now!”

Running toward the pit, I throw it down and feel the energy hum within me as a stream of fire shoots from my palm directed at the orb which blasts apart, incinerating the contents within. The gentle hum of the netherworld suddenly sparks and I am immediately engulfed in a tidal wave of dark energy that feels as if it is tearing me apart. I feel like Pandora who opened the box and is overwhelmed by the plagues that now pass through me, crushing me under their weight. A strong pull jerks me from the drowning wave, pulling me toward the surface.

Quickly searching my burnt out surroundings, I see my exhausted, beaten, but jubilant loved ones, family, friends, and new acquaintances sprawled out on the deadened earth. Thankfully, the fighting on this plane appears to be over.

I hear Nicholas scream. “She’s back, mom made it.”

Struggling to my feet, as he jumps in my arms, someone grabs me from behind so that we do not fall. Kayla immediately follows. Hugging me, they move toward Andrew, Jacob and Nicole who is still lying on the ground, her head resting upon Jacob’s knees. At least color brightens her cheeks and a smile crosses her lips causing her eyes to glisten as she sees me.

Falling to my knees, I hug her, Jacob, Nicholas, Kayla and can feel Andrew’s arms around us all as Peter, Anthony and Cassandra who is holding Alexander circle around us. A flash of light in my mind’s eye veils the scene in front of me and I can hear the booming voice address Andrew.

“You followed your heart, you have endured so much, proven that no matter what lifetime engulfs you, what trouble finds you, what temptations are placed before you, you will choose the path of right, the path that saves humanity. You have earned your right to come home, to re-enter paradise to take Mia and return to the light and happiness that can forever be yours. You disobeyed, but again in protection of the underdog, to bring safety to one in trouble, and rescue a lost soul. It is time for you to come home and rejuvenate, enjoy the fruits of you labor.” I can feel the light, the love and the absolute peace which envelops Andrew’s heart and soul. My own eyes sting with unshed tears as I feel the tear that rolls down his as the resolve builds within him.

Father, I did not disobey you and leave paradise to spite you or to hurt you. She is my other half, but you always knew that. You created us all and then allowed your closest angels to accompany me, fight beside me and ensure that I was never far from your guiding hand and loving nature, but we all know the fight is not over and the plane you created to give the undecided a chance to truly choose their realm will always be in danger from his deed and his shadows. I will not leave the family I created on this plane, the children I still need to know, the family members I must rediscover and I will not leave the world of souls fighting for a place to struggle on their own with no champions, no help. I will pass the message on to your other children if they so desire to return, but I must stay. I love you always and will always fight in your name.

I feel the love enveloping him, the approval whispered in his ear and the promise that the gateway is always open to him and those who chose to fight the darkness. As the veil lifts from my eyes, and I pass on my thoughts of staying with Andrew wherever he is to him, and see Jacob’s nod as well, Nichole’s quit, beseeching voice, pulls me back to the present. “Did we really stop it? “Is it really over?”

Andrew and I nod together. “Yes it’s over.” As I say this, I glance around and see that although the demons were banished so too were good souls whose bodies line the war torn land and know that although we have by some grace avoided the apocalypse, the war itself is never over. I want to ask Andrew what happened to the soul of our son, but looking around, I see Reginald’s relieved face and know that Sebastian is home. Andrew’s soft unspoken response swims through my thoughts. He is safe with the angels.

Nicole’s quiet inquiry pulls me from my thoughts. “Mom did you feel me? I embraced my powers. I fought to hold on to Jacob when the demons came through and protect him and then helped Jacob hold on to dad just like you wanted and we fought.” She coughs. “I know I got hurt, but I think before that I really helped too.”

“You did. I saw how quickly your father disappeared with the others, you did so well. I am so proud of you.” I look around. “I am so proud of all of you. We couldn’t have done this without everyone working together, doing what they needed to do.”

She smiles weakly. “Can we go home now?”

Francis responds and for the first time, I notice Stephanie and Brian by his side. “I’ll let the pilot know he is to get a flight ready for Sanctuary immediately, if everyone is ready.”

Nicole struggles and looks around. “We need to bury our friends first, make sure they are at peace.” Her eyes tear and as a tear falls, I can see the others getting misty. Brushing away her tear, she clears her throat. “Uncle Francis, we have to go back to New York to finish what mom started.” She glances around at the surprised faces.

“Honey, I know you would much prefer to go home and considering what you have been through, it would be best.” I stroke her cheek and am grateful that if feels warm.

Straightening herself up, she winces from the pain. “Mom, we need to finish what we started first. I know that I always shied away from new things, from our power, but I helped today. I helped get the others out. I know what our role is now. I know that we cannot turn our back on even one good thing that we can accomplish because too many of them are waiting in the wings for another chance. I know they won’t get a chance like this one any time soon, but we can’t give them even one victory. We need to play our part and although Sanctuary is our home and is an important part of protecting people, we have to do more, I see that now. That project brought you back to us and needs to be finished because it is going to be a new beginning for many of our kind and a new way to help. We need to keep moving forward, spreading out.” She struggles to her feet. “Come on, a lot of our friends are really hurt, we need to help them.”

Taking a few steps forward, she stumbles and Jacob grabs her. “You’re healing, but not fully healed, let me work on you a little longer.”

“But…”

“But nothing, I’ll work on you, dad and the others can work on those around us.”

“I’m fine, you have been coddling me for months, but I’m stronger now. Jake, it’s alright, I will heal in time, don’t worry.”

Paul comes over and sweeps Nicole in his arms. “You may heal in time, but he can heal you quicker and you have been through a lot, let’s get you somewhere where Jacob can work on you and you can rest.” She opens her mouth to argue. “Don’t” He smiles. “You are at a disadvantage now, so just relax.”

I can’t believe how many we lost. As we bury them, I can see the fight they fought, the demons they protected our world from and the suffering that they went through. I gasp as I see all of my children, even those who are only spirits fighting together, with those they have come to care so much about. I see Jacob and Nicole struggling to repair the damaged bodies of Lucas, Paul, and Damian. I hear Kayla’s panicked whisper to Nicolas that if they cannot get Damian and Lucas back, she fears that they will lose the connection to Catherine and Serena. Although he reassures her that they love them too and that will help hold on to them and maybe pull them out, the look between he and Jacob tells me that they know only true soul mates will make extraction possible without children of their own.

Touching the body of the one Peter called Johanna, I see Nicholas fighting to save her as a young girl screams out for him to watch out and throws herself at a demon about to pounce. Turning to help her, Johanna is attacked by three demons and is lost instantly. Nicholas fights off the demon attacking Amy and then carries her almost lifeless body to where Nicole and Jacob are working on others who are wounded. Talking to her the whole time, I can see how his attachment to her is growing and he begs her as she lay healing to get better. She rasps asking about her mother, but then sobs as his face drops. “I’m sorry, I tried to save her, but I promise, you won’t be alone; I’m here. I’ll help you always.” As He says this, I catch a glimpse of his future and know that they will be forever connected.





Epilogue





Boarding the plane, I still cannot fathom how we managed to stop him from sending forth our son to destroy this world as we know it and wonder what new type of battle he will wage and what new advantage he will try to glean.

Reginald comes behind me. “Mia, we know he will always try and I know that it is weighing upon you knowing some of what your children endured while you were fighting him and to learn that he fathered you, but you must remember, that happened while he was still one of the good guys. His works after the fall are not on you.”

Grabbing my wringing hands, “Mia, I know what you are concerned about, but this is a victory. We have never, in any of the prior battles, had so much information; had so many working together. His own actions have led to this, his changing Andrew, did not put a mark on him the way he hoped. Then neither course to claim you worked. Mia, he stopped the cycling, he caused his own folly and then when he captured your son’s soul, he thought that he had you and Andrew right where he wanted you, he never counted on the strength of your family, the turning of some of his own, or his destroying his own creations and Jonathan’s children as they passed through Andrew and your son. Come, let’s sit, I will fill you in on some things you missed while you were fighting the big man.” He laughs, but I can hear the edge in his voice, because he knows that it is not over.

As we pass the group that screamed to Jonathan for help, I hear their nervous inquiries to Cassandra about what shall happen to them, what torture we have planned in retaliation for what they tried to accomplish, who they tried to destroy. Passing her, I can see the concern in her eyes. “Considering your condition, I wouldn’t plan on destroying anyone anymore, you have choices, I suggest that you use this opportunity wisely try to make up for some of what you have done so when your life is over, you may not return to where you were, but that is not my call, nor is it my department. You are human now, you will have to go through this life and what you do will decide where you go, but I strongly suggest you make the right choice this time. Jonathan is gone and he will only torture you for your failure. You will be delivered to Saria’s council members and they will determine whether to help you or just let you out on your own.

“Come, Mia, sit.” I see Nicole resting on Paul’s shoulder as he strokes her temple, Kayla is sleeping wrapped in Charley’s arms, while Nicholas strokes Amy’s hair and talks soothingly to her, trying to get her to rest. Jacob is holding Julianne’s hand and they are whispering. His eyes meet mine and he begins to rise, but he looks dead on his feet. Waving my hand for him to sit, he looks relieved and picks up Julianne’s hand once more, while Cassandra is in Mark’s embrace, Anthony is whispering on the phone telling Laurel that he will see her first thing tomorrow and Peter is kissing the cheek of Amber.

Sitting next to Andrew, I take Alexander from him and my voice is horse as I consider the child we saved but will never know. “Reginald, did we really succeed? Is there any way of knowing that he doesn’t have our son and could do this again? Are we absolutely sure that the baby is not within his grasp? I mean considering everything, can the gateway be opened again?”

He shakes his head. “No, a lot happened while you were fighting on his plane. You saw some of it, but you may not realized that Jonathan’s children who opened the gateway began fighting as soon as you were through, hoping that if they killed your children, the gateway could remain open and they would control it, but we got Alexander out immediately, As they were fighting Jacob and the others, your men worked on banishing them. We wanted to banish them all, but two souls escaped, and three of his children on this plane were killed and taken by the demons back to hell. We did manage to banish the others and in banishing Jonathan, we believe that this could not be repeated. Mia, you saw the very specific circumstances for this to culminate into an apocalyptic type situation. Such circumstances are unlikely to ever be repeated. He does not have the spirit of your son.”

I can’t help but interrupt, but he did have spirits of our children, where did they go? Couldn’t they be utilized for some type of new revenge plot to cross the planes? How did you stop him from crossing into heaven anyway?”

Amanda and Cassandra join us and Cassandra interjects. “We didn’t allow any of your children’s spirits who were in hell to return. We banished three of them to one of the netherworld realms. We could not risk their returning there if you were not successful and the other two we ah...”

Amanda interjects, probably to distract Cassandra who is now fidgeting nervously. “We forced them to become human. Seeing my confusion, Amanda sits back and speaks very deliberately. “You always wondered how Lucas, Sebastian and Marlena became human. They became human because they bit you while you were pregnant with Alexander. Alexander’s blood has the power to convert the supernatural and since his twin was denied a corporeal existence, his spirit carried the power. We learned this when Jonathan’s children came through and started forming into corporeal beings with beating hearts instead of passing right through to the next plane. We knew Jason came across ancient writings where one would hold the power to change demons into what they feared would be the lower form of life, humans, but we never thought we would see if first hand. Your plan to have Jacob grab Andrew and your son had some unintended consequences which none of us were privileged to until after the fact. When Andrew came back, we utilized your son to change your two children.” Looking around I wonder who they are. “Mia, they are not here. When they began to fight us, we didn’t want to kill them. We let them go.”

As the information she revealed sinks in, I pull Alexander to me. I lost one child already and he has a power that will make him more of a target than ever. Andrew pulls down on my hands. “Mia, relax you are going to hurt him. He will be protected and he will be strong when he gets old enough to watch out for himself.”

Reginald interjects. “Mia, you have seen how strong your children are and we are getting stronger all the time. He will be fine and so will you. Just look at how many people you have on your side and how much he is losing. If the time ever comes, we will face this battle together, but right now, I think it would be best to concentrate on dealing with the repercussions from everything that has happened.” He looks over at the children and then touches my hand, revealing even more horrific images of what they faced, demons whose lives they took, and the pain, fear and loss they experienced as friends who fought with them died before them, for them.”

Nodding, I then turn to Amanda. “Do you know if it is possible for Satan to come for my children the way he came for Andrew’s mother? Was she Andrew’s true mother, I mean considering…” I look to Andrew hoping that I did not offend him, knowing that he thinks of her as such. Knowing what I think of him, he smiles and then turns to Amanda hoping she will answer.

“Mia neither you nor your children are his to claim, not the way he came to claim Ann.” She glances at Andrew, but then continues. “He could not even rise above his own realm in hell to claim the child that Sebastian was helping to protect, but Mia, you need to know that your child was also protecting himself, the same way that Alexander played a role in your coming together with Andrew. Your children are strong and they did nothing to have chosen Satan’s side so he cannot rise to this plane to claim them like he did for Ann. So do not let that thought haunt you any further.”

Gabriel comes up to me. “Why don’t you let me take Alexander. Mia, your mind is racing, you should try to relax, we have won a considerable battle and you are still here. This time, you even have pieces from your past.

I rise, hugging him. “You have been there since the beginning, always protecting him, protecting me. Thank you is nowhere near enough.”

Embracing me, “I am glad this time, I returned as family, it makes things much easier. I am also relieved that we get to keep our memories. He smiles and his eyes glisten as he looks over to Martina. “Relax on the plane ride home. We have a lot to be grateful for and those who sacrificed their lives did not die in vain, they can rest in peace while those who continue on with their duty in the nether realm, know that their choice will help ensure that our side maintains an advantage we never had before.”

Despite his words and the overwhelming gratitude I feel that my family has survived this ordeal, I know what happened after we gained a small victory, this loss is so much greater, so much more devastating to his side that it will make him fiercer in the days to come.

Although we still have unfinished business in New York, the people there still believe that I am recovering and in truth, I am and am grateful that Andrew insisted on going home for a few days.

Nicole appears much stronger physically and I can see the changes in her attitude toward embracing her powers. The children’s help during the battle has not only strengthened their resolve, but has also affected their choices on this realm. Gone are the children who loved being with friends and classmates at Sanctuary, learning, playing, and practicing their powers. Although they love being with the children who are here, they now appear more focused on helping them reach their potential, teaching them how to use their powers, focus their energies and avoid the temptations or despair in life that could lead them astray. When they are not engaged in helping serve the patients, they are spending time assisting those with terminal illnesses with ways to find peace before their travels.

Although they were always mature, they have aged years in just days, even their physical appearance is older, their eyes holding the torment of a thousand lifetimes. I wonder if they too are truly old souls returning here to make new soldiers for a war that will never end.

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