"Boy, things are pretty screwed up for you."

Carter materialized beside me, his angelic signature filling the room. Dressed as ratty as always - except for his hat - he strolled casually to the desk and picked up the magazine. "That's a good shot of you, though."

"Shut up," I said. The agony I'd tried to keep locked up with Maddie began to burst out. "Just shut up! I can't handle your commentary right now, okay? Not with everything else. Certainly not with this..." I sank to the floor, leaning against the door and raking my hands through my hair. When I looked up at Carter, I expected one of his laconic smiles, but his face was all seriousness.

"I wasn't being sarcastic," he said. "Things are screwed up."

I suddenly wished I had a cigarette. "Yes. They certainly are. Erik's dead, you know."

"I know."

I closed my eyes for a moment, allowing myself to feel the full grief over that. With so much going on, it didn't seem like I'd really allowed any of these problems to have the full mourning they deserved. Someone, I realized, would have to do the proper things for Erik now. Did he have family somewhere? Dante of all people might know. Otherwise, I was willing to take on any funeral arrangements - no matter the cost or work. I owed Erik that much. I owed him so much more.

"It wasn't a coincidence," I said softly. "It couldn't have been. Jerome says it was some revenge from the Oneroi's master...but I don't believe that. Erik had been trying to figure out my contract. Before he died...before he..." My voice caught as I recalled how I had been the one to take that last breath. "He told me there were two contracts. That it wasn't mine that was the problem. I don't know what that means."

Carter still said nothing, but his eyes were fixed so intently on me that they might as well have been pinning me to the wall.

"But you know, don't you?" I asked him. "You've always known. And Simone..." I frowned. "Before Jerome sent her away, he mentioned something about her knowing Niphon and 'fucking up things even more.' That's a piece of all this too, isn't it?"

Carter still remained silent. I gave a harsh laugh.

"But, of course, you can't say anything. You can't do anything. Hell's always got its hands in mortal affairs - or even lesser immortal affairs - but you guys? Nothing. How can you be a force for good in this world? You don't help bring it about! You just wait and hope it happens on its own."

"Most of the good in this world happens without any of our help," he said evasively.

"Oh good God. What a lovely answer from you. And you know what? I don't believe there is any good in this world. All this time...ever since I sold my soul, I've been clinging to this idea that there is something pure and decent out there. That there was something to give me hope that even if I was a lost cause, at least there was something bright and good in the world. But there isn't. If there was, Seth wouldn't have fallen. Erik wouldn't have died. Andrea Mortensen wouldn't be dying."

"Good can still exist when bad things happen, just as evil persists when good things happen."

"What good comes from Andrea dying? What good comes from leaving five little girls alone and motherless in the world?" I was choking on my own sobs. "If you - if any of you - could really affect the world, you wouldn't let that happen."

"I can't change fate. I'm not God." He was still so f**king calm that I wanted to punch him. Yet, what could I expect? Jerome had no attachment to humans, and at the end of the day, angels and demons weren't so different.

I buried my face in my hands. "You can't change anything. None of us can change anything. We're resigned to our fates, just like Nyx showed."

"Humans change their fates all the time. Even lesser immortals do. It starts small, but it happens."

I was suddenly tired. So, so tired. I shouldn't have come here today. I should never have left my bed. I no longer had the energy to argue with him or berate his frustratingly useless attitude.

"Can Seth change?" I asked at last. "Are good intentions enough to redeem a soul?"

"All things are possible. And I don't mean that as a cliché," he added, no doubt seeing the scowl on my face. "It's true. Mortals and mortals-turned-immortals don't always believe that - which is why Hell has such a foothold in the world. And I'm not saying that if you believe it, it will happen. Things don't always turn out for the best, but miracles are real, Georgina. You've just got to lift yourself out of the muck to make them. You've got to take the chance."

Yes, I was definitely getting a cigarette after this. Carter probably had one on him. I gave him as much of a smile as I could muster. "Easy for you to say. Can you make miracles?"

"I try," he said. "I try. Will you?"

And with that, he vanished before I could bum a cigarette.

Fucking angels.

But his words stayed with me when I went home that night, maybe because even as depressing as they seemed, they were still more cheerful than enduring that shift. My managerial mandates were still obeyed, but otherwise, I could see the seething disapproval and condemnation in the eyes of my colleagues. It was a startling reminder of my village's reaction when everyone had found out I'd cheated on Kyriakos. Only this time, I had no way to blot it from these people's minds. I had nothing more to bargain with Hell.

At the condo, I found a note from Roman, saying he'd be staying at the school for a while that evening to finish up some setup. If I wanted, though, he'd be happy to take me out for dinner as he'd promised. That gave me time to stretch out on the couch, seeing as I was still exhausted from the emotional miasma I'd been wading through this last week. No sleep came, just a kind of bleak malaise as I stared at the ceiling. Probably just as well. God only knew what I'd dream.


I sighed. The man in the dream. It had been bugging me over and over in my subconscious, and without even mentioning it, Carter had somehow brought it back to the fore-front of my mind. The Oneroi had claimed Seth was the man in the dream. I told myself for the hundredth time that it was a ridiculous fantasy. I couldn't have any real relationship with a mortal. Seth had fallen from grace, and I'd refused him. It was all impossible now.

All things are possible.

Erik and Mei had said it was impossible for Seth to find my soul across the vastness of the dream world - yet he had.

Kristin had told me my contract was airtight - yet Erik had sworn there was a flaw somewhere. He'd died for that knowledge, I was certain.

Seth had claimed nothing could bring him back to Seattle - yet I had.

Everyone who worked for Hell had told me darkened souls almost never redeemed themselves - yet Seth was striving to regain my good opinion. He was also sacrificing what he loved - his writing - to help the family he loved more. Would that be enough? Could he be saved?

All things are possible.

I sat up from the couch, my gaze falling on the spot where Aubrey and Godiva slept next to each other. Godiva had come to me after I'd dreamed her. The dream I still maintained was impossible.

Miracles are real, Georgina. You've just got to lift yourself out of the muck to make them. You've got to take the chance.

Could I? Would I? Was there a miracle somewhere in the muck of this despair, heartache, death, and betrayal? I couldn't see through it. I didn't know where to start. Carter had said change happened through small acts. All I had to do was pick something. Anything. Take the chance.

Again, I focused on Godiva. The man in the dream. Maybe it was Seth. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe I could make it him. His love had been great enough to rescue me and then try to rescue himself. I realized now what had been bothering me. He was doing all of this - how could I do any less? All my life, I'd hidden from hard choices. I'd always found some compromise to avoid bad things, the results of which never really turned out that great. If anything, they'd become worse. My love for Seth was no less than his for me, but I hadn't been willing to do the things that might hurt.

He'd told me there was no way the universe would let us stay apart. He was right - and this time, I would be the one who made sure we came together again. I wouldn't abandon him.

I was moving toward the door, my coat and purse in hand, when Roman came home, carrying flowers. He took one look at me and offered a small bitter laugh that carried all the woe and resignation in the world. The bouquet sagged in his hands.

"You're going to Seth."

"How did you know?"

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