Cleo had fallen into bed the minute they’d gotten home from The Blossom Step’s show in New Hampshire. It wasn’t even that late and she’d been almost embarrassed to admit that she wasn’t up for going out partying in Manchester afterward with Tyler and Ryan. Sometimes it sucked being the older one in the relationship, even if Edie generally went to bed at nine. But Edie had been perfectly content to come home too and by now they’d probably both been asleep for about an hour.
But here was the phone, ringing from her bedside table. She groggily reached for it, swearing internally at whoever was waking her up already.
She hit Answer, then grunted a greeting into the phone.
“Cleo, it’s Noah.”
Noah’s tone sounded serious. Maybe frightened. She sat up. “Noah, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Liv. She’s with Celine now, it’s going to be okay, but something got to her. One of the ghosts? Something? I don’t know.”
Cleo was already getting out of bed and pulling on pants. “Where are you now?”
“I’m at home with Mia. Andrew has Liv.”
She didn’t bother with socks, just slipped her feet into her shoes, then grabbed her car keys. “What do you mean it got her?” she asked as she scribbled down a quick note for Edie.
“She’s possessed. I don’t know exactly, I don’t know about these kinds of things. But it was controlling her, trying to get in the house.”
Panic rose in Cleo’s throat as she hurried down the stairs to the front door. This wasn’t the kind of thing that happened, especially to people like Liv. Not calm, sensible mothers who made pancakes and kept her couch open for her wayward friends.
“I’ll be there in half an hour,” Cleo said.
She slid into the driver’s seat as the call disconnected. Hands shaking, Cleo turned the key and her car roared to life in the silent winter air. Half an hour, she repeated in her mind. It was going to be okay.
By the time Andrew, Olivia, Celine, and Roman made it back to Olivia’s house, it was past two and Andrew was exhausted. The second they walked in the door, Noah was there, Cleo right behind him. Andrew didn’t know how Cleo knew to come, but he accepted her embrace gratefully. Meanwhile, as he let go of Cleo, Olivia fell against Noah and he squeezed her so tightly with one arm that Andrew reckoned it looked a little painful for them both. He also reckoned he wouldn’t say no to that kind of hug either.
Noah said something too quiet for Andrew to hear, and Olivia nodded with tears in her eyes. Then, with one last squeeze, Noah let go and steered her toward the couch. He came back and, before Andrew realized what was happening, Noah had him in the same bone-crunching grip. Andrew let his head fall against Noah’s chest for one indulgent moment, savoring the warmth of Noah’s arm around him. The sling was scratchy against his face, but he could easily fall asleep here as the events of the night rapidly caught up with him.
Liv had been possessed. Honest to God possessed. And they’d been able to save her. How in the hell was any of this possible?
Andrew realized that maybe this was lasting a little too long and reluctantly untangled himself from Noah’s grip. “Thank you,” Noah said, his voice almost a whisper and directed toward all of them.
“I’m going to take a minute and just check all of your entrances,” Celine said. “Noah, would you mind showing me all the access points in the house?”
Noah led her into the kitchen as Olivia stood up. “I’m going to check on Mia,” she said, voice shaking slightly.
Again, Andrew and Roman were left alone in the living room. They looked at each other, both clearly thinking about the same thing. But it would have to wait until morning, Andrew thought. Nothing good was going to come of confronting Iris at midnight. Maybe she’d have some kind of explanation for her behavior. Andrew actually hoped she would. She was his friend, he didn’t want to think the worst of her. But after the horror he’d seen tonight, it would have to be one hell of an explanation.
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As cold as it was, Celine welcomed the brisk night air as she followed Noah through the backyard and toward the dark forest behind his home. She could feel the charms Andrew had put up and even though they were shaky, they were impressive for someone who had just started working with these kinds of energy.
“He did good work,” Celine said, running a finger over the sigil Andrew had drawn onto the stone wall.
“I had no idea he did this,” Noah admitted, his voice rough. “When Liv couldn’t get in the house, it was like the town line. And for a minute I thought maybe something huge had happened.”
“In a sense, it did,” Celine said as she shined a flashlight down the rest of the wall. She could see another sigil further down, close to the corner of the property.
They spent a few more minutes walking along the property line. Noah didn’t speak again unless he was answering her questions. Instead, he kept looking toward the house as Celine added her own protections alongside the ones already there.
When they came back inside, Roman was holding the sleeping baby while Olivia sat on the couch beside him, her head on his shoulder. Noah immediately sat down beside her as Celine took one more look around the room for anything else that needed to be protected.
Despite everything that was happening, the sight of Roman rocking baby Mia on his lap made something bloom inside of Celine. He infuriated her regularly, but she was so in love with this man. Maybe the tragedy her dreams had warned her of had been averted and they could spend the next few decades together.