“That’s not possible,” Cole said softly to himself. Then louder to Ian, “You’re lying. Put her down.”

Ian’s eyes swept over Cole’s enraged face and he smiled, shaking his head. “You know, you’re kind of annoying. I think it’s time for you to be quiet.”

Cole scowled. “Don’t even fuc—”

Ian smiled cruelly and put his hand to his ear. “What was that? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.”

Alex and Tessa looked alarmed.

While Cole gripped his throat, he squeezed his eyes shut and screamed. He screamed until he couldn’t breathe, but it was no use. There were no words, no sounds, coming from him. He slammed his fist into the door and slid down it, taken to cradling Ari in his arms. He wanted her to wake up. He wanted everything to be okay again.

Tessa frowned, her eyes filling with tears. She looked back at Alex. “What do we do?” she asked. “He’s going to do worse to us.”

“I won’t let him touch you,” Alex said, gripping her hand tightly. “I’ll hurt him before he can get his hands on you.” He leaned in to kiss her, to let her know that it was going to be okay, that they would come out of this alive.

The stairwell trembled suddenly, and an explosion sounded, ripping away the railing. Tessa lost her footing, screamed, and grabbed Alex. He held her up so that she dangled, her feet not finding anything to grip. They were lucky the door was further from them, it meant Cole and Ari were safe.

Another hit, this time on the left side, had catapulted Alex. He screamed, trying to keep a hold on Tessa as they fell. They both slammed into the floor at the same time, rolling away from each other.

Alex’s lungs burned as he tried to breathe in. Thick smoke billowed around him, covering his surroundings. “Shit,” he whispered, gasping. He couldn’t see a thing, but he could hear it all; the hissing of the oil burning, the crackling of the fire, the creaking of the railing overhead, and most of all the laughing.

The laughing for once had changed. It did not belong to a bitter demon in the form of a boy. It was high and shrill, almost hysterical, like a girl. It was exactly that.

She emerged from the smoke, brown hair whipping around her head like a halo, though she was no angel at this time. She reached out and grasped him by the throat, her small fingers squeezing. And through it all she was doing one thing. One horrific thing.

She was laughing.

Amazed and terrified at the same time, Alex was brought to his knees. As the smoke started to clear, he watched her face come into view, her beautiful green eyes now a dark abyss. She had stopped laughing and was smiling eerily at him. He wasn’t even sure that she could see him.

“I can,” she murmured in a deeper voice than she owned. “I can see everything, Alex. I can see the fear in your eyes. You know you’re going to die, don’t you?”

Against his own mind’s commands, he nodded. He watched Ian come up beside her, his own smile in place. His eyes were blue again, but they were dark, sharp. He was angry for some reason.

He slid his hands around Ava’s and drew them back, allowing Alex oxygen. “You were going to crush his windpipe if I didn’t stop you, darling." Then, "Would you like to see now?” He was addressing Alex.

“Please,” he mumbled. “The smoke is so thick.”

So, this is what it had come to. He was bargaining with a demon to be able to see the carnage they caused. But he needed to see Tessa, needed to see that she was alright, with his own eyes, before they killed him.

The End

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