"Whoa," I said, straightening up. "What do you mean-"

"Just stop it, all of you," exclaimed Hugh. "We're not going to figure any of this out right now. Just go to the meeting and find out there. Grace and Mei are trying to manage things for now, and they'll know what's up. No point in panicking now."

We sat there, and I knew that despite his words, we were all indeed panicking. My stomach was rolling, but this time, it wasn't a reaction to the severing of my bond with Hell. This was born of pure terror. When things were bad in my life-particularly after Seth and I had broken up-there had been times when I'd hated immortality. Death had sounded appealing. I honestly hadn't been able to fathom how I could endure the centuries to come and had envied the finite life spans of humans. But now? Faced with the idea that I could actually die? Suddenly, desperately, I wanted to cling to my immortality with every scrap of my strength. Death was bleak, dark, and frightening. All the world's dangers descended on me at once, all the things I'd hitherto been able to ignore. Car accidents. Electrocution. Bird flu. The world was no longer safe.

If the vampires felt any such fears, they apparently decided it wasn't going to get in the way of their last few days as free men. They rose as one and made motions to leave.

"Well, if Jerome's going to get replaced with or without us, then there's no point sitting and moping," said Peter.

"We got cut off without warning," I told him. "We could get reconnected to Hell's circuit board just as suddenly, you know. Aren't you a little nervous about getting caught out in the sun?"

"They're not going to make any decisions in the next five hours," said Peter brashly-too brashly, I thought.

He paused a moment, his gaze drifting to my window and the blue sky beyond it. There, in his dark eyes, I saw the tiniest, tiniest bit of longing. It occurred to me then just how much he must have missed the sun these last thousand years or so. Like the rest of us, he'd willingly sold his soul for immortality. Along with that, he'd gotten superhuman strength and speed in exchange for a dependency on blood, a denial of sunlight, and a job as a dispenser of fear and nightmares. I certainly had regrets about my hellish deal some days; no doubt he did too. And maybe, despite his lax, overconfident attitude about the sun, he truly was aware of the risk of getting fried-and thought it was worth it after all this time.

He and Cody left, leaving me and a still bleak-looking Hugh. I gently touched the imp's shoulder. "I'm sure this'll work out."

He cut me a wry look. "Really?"

I laughed softly. "No, not really. I'm just trying to make you feel better. I never realized before how much you liked your...what would you call it? Imp vision?"

This finally got him to smile. "You always thought of me as a paper pusher?"

"Nah, no one uses paper anymore. It's all electronic."

"Not in Hell," he said, standing up. "They kind of like cutting down forests."

I followed him to the door. "Well, hang in there, and I'll see you tonight."

"What are you going to do with your newfound freedom?" he asked, hand on the doorknob.

I frowned. "What do you mean? This whole thing isn't quite the same for you and me as it is for the vampires."

The look Hugh gave me then was genuinely amused and almost pitying. "Georgina. Your shape-shifting and other abilities are fueled by human life. If you can't do those things, then you don't need the energy-just like Cody and Hugh don't need blood. Can't you feel it? The whole system's probably shut off."

I froze and almost stopped breathing for a moment-which might not have been so wise in my current state. " What ?"

He laughed again. "How could you have not considered that?"

"Well...because I was more focused on the entire fabric of Seattle's demonic hierarchy being unraveled. That and the possibility that we could all die." Inside, my mind was replaying his words over and over, like a record that kept skipping: You don't need the energy, you don't need the energy... I shook my head. "I can't believe that. It isn't possible." I'd wanted it for too long, the ability to be with someone without the dire side effects. It was one of those things you always longed for but knew, deep down inside, could never happen. Like winning the lottery. Or, um, living forever.

"Neither is a vampire going into the sun," said Hugh. "Yet here we are." He leaned down and kissed my cheek. "Think about it. This is a once in a lifetime-er, eternity-chance."

He started to leave, and then something I'd nearly forgotten about popped back into the forefront of my mind. "Hugh? Did you get my message earlier? About the Canadian Satanists?" After everything else, a few signs on the Space Needle suddenly seemed absurdly unimportant.

"Yeah," he said, with a grimace. "They had a huge spectacle there, freaked people out. They made the news and got arrested. Not sure what'll happen now. The international thing makes it all interesting."

"Were you able to tell Jerome?"

"No, couldn't get a hold of him-not surprising if that was near the time of the summoning. I ended up getting a hold of Mei, and I think she did something to minimize how much the media found out. She was hoping that nobody in Management would notice."

"Yeah, well, they're all noticing us now."

Hugh's face was hard as he nodded his agreement. "That's an understatement. Have fun, sweetie."

He departed, leaving me standing there and staring at the door.

I was still breathing heavily, my heart thudding in my chest. I needed to calm down and think this through. After all, who knew what could happen if I had a panic attack? Would I go into cardiac arrest or something? All bets were off now. Anything was possible.

I sank down to the floor, wrapping my arms around myself, and focused on slowing my breathing. This was all too surreal. I couldn't process it. It wasn't possible that I could be mortal. It wasn't possible that I could die. It wasn't possible that I could actually touch a man without harming him. Over and over I told myself those things. Meanwhile, Aubrey strolled over to me and rubbed her head against my leg. Reaching out, I stroked her back, barely aware of my actions.

What was I going to do? We had five hours until the meeting, which couldn't come soon enough as far as I was concerned. I needed answers now . I couldn't live with this uncertainty. My heart started racing again. Fuck. I really was going to have a heart attack. Hugh was a doctor in his day job; maybe I should call him about my blood pressure.


An idea hit me then, and I stood up to go find my purse. Producing my cell phone, I dialed Dante. If anyone might know about this, it would be him. He probably wouldn't know the intricacies of how this affected my infernal standing, but he had to know something about demon summoning. Dark magic was his specialty. Besides, I wanted more than just his expertise. I suddenly just wanted...well, comfort. I wanted to see him. I wanted him to hold me and reassure me. I needed him to tell me everything was going to be okay.

But the phone rang and rang without answer, sending me to his voice mail's friendly message: "Talk."

So much for that plan. I disconnected and leaned against my counter. Slowly, steadily, I felt my brain waking up, trying to find a scrap of reason through my fear. It wasn't in my nature to be passive. I had to do something about this. I couldn't wait until tonight for answers.

"Let's research this ourselves, Aubrey," I said. The average human knew nothing about the true nature of Heaven and Hell and how we operated. Yet, every once in a while, if you looked hard enough into arcane writings, you could stumble across a piece of truth that some adept mortal had uncovered. Ninety-nine percent of what I'd find would be inaccurate, but an Internet search could uncover some grain of truth about demon summoning. It was a total long shot, but it was the best I could do for now.

Only, when I went to get my laptop, I discovered an unfortunate fact: I'd left it at the bookstore. I groaned. Now what? Another plan shot down.

You idiot , a voice inside me chastised. You're a few blocks away. Get off your ass and get it .

That logic made perfect sense, of course. Until I looked out the window.

The same fear I'd had earlier returned. The cars moving along Queen Anne Avenue seemed too fast, the wind stirring the trees too strong, the people on the sidewalk too dangerous. How could I go out there? How could I put myself at risk? Better to stay in here where it was safe.

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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