Take Her (Vamp Hunters 0.25)

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Take Her

by Elle Q. Sabine

Copyright 2016 by Elle Q. Sabine. All rights reserved. For permission, write to elleqsabine@gmail.com.

All rights reserved, do not reprint in paper or electronic form without prior permission of the author. This material is supplemental material to books in the series Vamp Hunters (beginning with Hunt Her, published July 2016), published by Totally Bound. By reading further, you are stating you are 18 years of age, or over.


Vamp [vamp]: n. a seductive woman who uses her sensuality to exploit men; vb. to use feminine charms upon; seduce.

“Operation Mother-in-law is a go.”

The announcement echoed in Dean’s mind, not in the headset clipped to his ear. He sighed. The headset was both disguise and redundancy. It contributed to the image that the soldiers around him were projecting – that of a SWAT team conducting a raid – while also providing a backup to their usual silent telepathic communications.

To Dean, the precautions they took to appear wholly human were overkill.

The care facility they were raiding wasn’t precisely a hotbed of criminal activity. Indeed, it was a well-run and luxurious nursing center, catering to families that didn’t depend on government dollars to keep their loved ones confined. It had excellent security, to keep unwanted visitors out and patients in. The staff were respectable and unlikely candidates for bribery. So the entry team had both the equipment to take the front doors by force and the forged papers to distract security and administration long enough to accomplish their mission. The soldiers would ensure the small night staff wouldn’t remember what had happened when the morning shift discovered them locked in a room. Nor would any security footage remain to reveal their presence.

The only evidence of their raid would be a missing patient: Evangeline May Flynn, known to the staff as Lena Doe.

Evangeline was the only reason Dean was on this mission. He was a doctor – a healer – but not a soldier. Given his heritage, he could certainly fight when needed but battles took a toll on his soul, his Anima, weakening his healing gift. His cousin Master Valor and uncle Lord Valiant, who ruled Dean’s people, had long understood and tried to spare him the suffering of battle, when the pain of those around him caused a great weariness in him. But this mission was an extraction, not a conquering. Evangeline Flynn needed removed from the facility and she was known to have neurological damage causing amnesia from an accident two decades earlier. She’d been hitchhiking along the interstate when a well-known athlete had hit her. To his relief, she had neither identification nor her memory when she awoke. The care facility kept her safely away from attorneys and subsequent high-dollar lawsuits, as well as any ambitious investigator seeking to reunite her with an avaricious family.

Tracking her down had required two private investigators and six months of research, but her daughter was reluctant to leave this world for their homeland, TirNa Og, without knowing the fate of her missing mother. Once the investigators had identified the woman they believed was Evangeline, they’d taken the precaution of hacking the hospital records from the original accident and taken the DNA markers to match to Willa, who had been a toddler when her mother vanished.

He followed the soldiers – the warriors – to the glass front doors, staying in the shadows as the uniformed men deployed ahead of him in their black tactical gear. General Enna, Dean’s cousin and the team’s commander, pounded his fist against the door in warning, his other hand holding up an ID and badge case. It was deliberately smudged, unreadable, but they only needed to gain entrance. A soldier, Richard, would take over the mind of the guard who came and compel him to open the doors. Inside the outer gates but too far from the front door to see that the actual vehicles weren’t there, blue and red police cruiser lights flashed ominously. “Ten seconds and we take down the door,” Enna called. “I have a warrant to search the premises.”

Two others moved into position, a modern battering ram between them as they prepared to forcibly enter.

Inside, an older man, a security guard, appeared, his mouth gaping at the display they made. He lifted his radio to summon someone but Richard seized his mind. As a precaution, they’d already disconnected the facility’s Internet and phone connection, plus turned on the jamming device that would interfere with cellular and mobile data. Unless the building had a satellite phone at the ready, the staff and patients would be disconnected from contact with anyone outside.

The guard moved forward, his key card in hand. He swiped it to open the inner doors, then moved forward to grant entrance to the outer doors. Behind him, another appeared from the offices beside the front doors. Dean saw the flash of golden blonde hair. From behind the doors, he heard her voice. “Carlos, why are you–”

His entire body seized in primal recognition, his Anima and Conscientia both crying out.

She lifted her eyes, looking past the guard, and halted abruptly. The sentence was cut off, but her eyes widened. Dean, behind the entry team, saw her clearly now. He might not have the mental powers of his Uncle Valiant or Dean’s cousin, Master Valor, but Dean was still an ancient fabled creature who had wandered Earth for millennia under more than one name. He was a powerful Tuatha of the ruling Dannan clan, and he had waited and worked forever for his one mate, his vamp, to appear.

Richard seized her mind even as Dean himself reached for her. Dean took in her spirit, her Conscientia, and absorbed the glowing light of her soul, her Anima. He could not yet scent her Vitam – her lifeblood – through the glass but he would soon take it into him. Once he connected her Vitam to him via a blood exchange, he would be able to find her anywhere, if they were in the same world. And they would be in the same world. She was his, only his. He had found her and he would take her.

Not Richard.

A primitive roar rose from his gut, both audible and telepathic, so offended by Richard’s invasion of her mind that the urge to dismember the legendary warrior, a companion and friend for several centuries, was very real. His hand clenched the knife he carried for self-protection, outrage pouring off him and flooding the mind of others.

Instinct ruled. One part of him saw the guard swipe his key card and heard the magnets disengage to allow them entry, but most of him was concentrating on forcing Richard’s mind away from her.

Enna shoved the door back, his commanding voice unmistakable. Outwardly he repeated his statement about having a warrant, holding out the documents and insisting the security guard summon the night manager. They all knew there would be more security in the building, wherever the cameras were monitored.

Inwardly, along the common telepathic link all of his soldiers used, Enna was terser. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

All of them knew he was addressing Dean. Richard, who never submitted to anyone until a sword was at his throat, resisted Dean’s mental push. The woman, Dean’s woman, cried out and lifted her hands to her head. She knew something was wrong inside her mind.

Dean couldn’t bear the idea of her agony. “Get the fuck out of her head or I’ll put this knife through the back of your very vulnerable neck,” Dean managed aloud. He didn’t shout, scream, or shriek. He didn’t remember putting the tip of the blade against Richard but there it was, in place. He didn’t know if his vamp could hear, but the words were loud enough for the other warriors to grasp that Dean was deadly serious.

Even Enna froze and turned his head toward the two men. Richard stilled.

“I’ll let you bleed out right here, goddamnit,” Dean growled, low in his throat.

Richard didn’t move a muscle but Dean felt him withdraw from the woman. Even so, Dean held his blade in place. “No one touches her,” he growled. “Not her mind or her body. She’s mine.”

Around him, the men sucked in sharp breaths as they comprehended his meaning. The woman sighed, the invasive presence gone, and Dean slowly lowered the blade and re-holstered it.

“Dean, follow up while we find Ms. Flynn,” Enna directed. It was a pointless command as Dean wouldn’t have any other objective but all took it as a signal to return to the task at hand. Richard caught a suddenly drowsy Carlos and led him to a lobby sofa, urging him down. Two others raced past the woman into the office while two secured the door. The remaining three shot down the corridor, hunting the security center, while Enna strode past Dean, who had finally managed to reach his woman’s side.

Enna didn’t bother to hand over the forged warrants. He tucked them into his vest and inquired coolly, “Will you wish to take her along with us as we leave?”

“Of course,” Dean returned immediately, not hesitating to claim her. “She is my vamp and I will be her guardian, now and for all time.”


* * * *


“What?” It was the most idiotic word Clara could utter, though a sudden barrage of questions filled her brain. Why were the police here? Why was Carlos out cold in the lobby? What had he done, other than cooperate? What had they done to subdue him? What had happened to her mind just now? She never heard voices but the demand that she comply with whatever these men asked had been there in a husky English accent, the voice of a soft-spoken man. Who was this man and why had she calmed as he spoke, the voice of that other instantly banished? And what had he said? That he would be her guardian?

Dazed, she looked up at him. He took both her hands in his, stood tall and proud before her. Dressed all in black, with his Kevlar vest, tactical gear and boots, he was masculinity personified, but not the crude, rough sort. A gentle self-confidence permeated his aura, one she could see clearly was light and whole. His soul was white and clean. Beyond his soul, what she could see of him was sinfully handsome. His hair was cut short around his ears and only slightly longer on top, so it could be combed to each side of the part. It was surfer blonde, touched by frequent exposure to the sun and, she expected, chlorine. The crown gleamed in the light of the front entrance, and framed a square face so perfect she wanted to cry. His bright blue eyes were focused on her, intent, softer than she had expected. They sparkled with a ferocity that she didn’t understand, but it hit her forcefully in the stomach. She trembled, shocked at the sudden craving inside of her, the one that demanded she give this man all he wanted and beg him to allow her to give him more.

It was a ridiculous notion. Clara had never begged anyone for anything and never intended to do so.

“My name is Dean,” he murmured. To her surprise, Clara found her hands were trapped in his much larger ones. He lifted them and kissed her knuckles. “And you are?”

“Cl-Cl-Clara Lipton,” she replied, stumbling over the simple response. Behind him, another officer and their commander approached.

Clara knew a sudden, terrible fear that Dean would be reprimanded for the caress of his lips against her fingers, but the officer beside him only said, “Are you in charge here, miss?”

Shock immobilized her. This man’s voice was the one she had heard in her head. Her mouth opened to respond but Dean answered for her. “She’s the night manager, yes.”

On Dean’s other side, the commander’s eyes narrowed. All three looked to be of a similar age, but their commander was hard, the lines of his face etched with a world weariness Dean did not have.

How did he know?

“Lena Doe? Where is her room?” The commander asked the question brusquely.

“He will search the records anyway and find out,” Dean explained. “Go ahead and tell him.”

“I’ll need the warrant,” Clara insisted. She knew Lena’s case well. More importantly, Lena wouldn’t have any idea why the police were looking for her, so Clara would need to explain it. The reason would have to be at least twenty years old. Lena had lived at the site longer than that.

The commander reached inside his vest, finally giving Dean a sharp look. The officer, still holding her hands, winced. “Clara,” he said, his voice sensually alluring. “The room number?”

She thought of it before she could stop herself, but bit her tongue to keep from speaking it out loud.

“Good girl,” he murmured.

Two words, spoken quietly. They reverberated inside Clara’s head, a rich sensuous experience that caused her entire body to ache. She met his eyes with hers, recognized a deep understanding of her, saw her soul reflected there. She froze as realization struck. How was it possible that he could do this, see inside her head?

Beside her, the commander was speaking. “Dean, we do still need you to determine if her memory can be restored.”

Beside her, Dean nodded. “Of course, General.” Even so, his eyes did not leave Clara’s. She trembled, foolishly. “Clara and I will lead the way.”

We will? She asked the question inside herself, unsurprised when Dean answered, “Yes, we will,” and tucked her arm close inside his. It seemed apparent he could read her thoughts. She walked calmly beside him to the elevator, noting that he correctly pushed the fourth floor button as the others boarded. Was she even willing to go along beside him?

Yes, she realized. She knew they were headed to Lena’s room, though she didn’t know why, and she needed to know. Lena was a special woman who lived a secluded life, both by circumstance and by choice. If she’d done something in her former existence that warranted arrest –

“No, we’re not here to arrest her,” Dean objected. He released her arm but slid his around her waist and clasped his fingers over her hip, anchoring her next to him. “We’re here to rescue her.”

Clara frowned. “Rescue her?” she parroted, despising herself for the inconsequential repetition.

“We’ve been hunting for her more than half a year now,” the commander explained. “Her daughter needed to know what happened to her, so we’ve finally succeeded in tracking her down. Along the way, we acquired a new investigator, solved three missing persons cases and found two other amnesia patients in the United States that Dean treated and helped recover their memories.”

Clara jerked. She hadn’t really looked past the facial expressions of any other than Dean, but the commander – the one Dean had called General – had spoken enough that her attention was drawn from Dean’s fascinating white aura beside her. The General was powerful. He had a strength of mind and will that Clara had never seen before. Usually she had to study a person carefully to decide what their aura meant, but these men, and the other one with them, blazed with color when she stopped to look. No introspection was needed. The general glowed with intention, focus and integrity. His core, like Dean’s, burned white, but he was wrapped in a royal purple and his mind was wrapped in a self-confident dove gray.

She stared at the General, awed.

Dean cleared his throat as the elevator halted and its bell dinged. “Clara sees auras,” he announced. “Perhaps she is descended from a combination of the old bloodlines, or perhaps she was just designed by the Creator to be my mate.”

The General’s eyebrows rose. He gave her another searching look. “Interesting,” he mused.

Clara didn’t think he could read her mind, or at least that he wasn’t reading her mind. She didn’t feel him probing.

No. None of them will be able to read your mind now, not unless I allow them in, and I can assure that won’t happen. The words were Dean’s, and they were inside her, not said aloud. He guided her out of the elevator after the other two, again tucking her arm inside his so that her hand rested on his forearm. Tell me about Evangeline. Is she depressed? Medicated? How does she cope with being shut in this place for twenty years? Why is she still here and not out in the world?


Lena, he explained. Her given name is Evangeline.

She pictured Evangeline, the woman’s generosity and tender care for them all a testament to her nature. Whatever had happened to the woman before her memory loss, afterward she had become a gift to the care facility’s staff and patients. She was no burden, no drain to the staff or the other patients, not even to the benefactor who paid her expenses.

Ahead of her, the General and the other officer paused outside of Lena’s door. “You’re not going to arrest her?” she asked again, suddenly recalling how they had arrived.

“No,” the General repeated Dean’s earlier assurance. “We’re going to rescue her, hopefully heal her, and take her home to her daughter.”

Take her? The words alarmed Clara. Lena was safe here, her gifts treasured if not completely understood. Clara had stayed here, close to Lena, knowing she was different, even more special than Clara was. They couldn’t take her away from the people who loved her, and certainly not like this. Not in the dead of night, secretively.

She won’t be alone. Dean followed his commander inside the room, and Clara followed, still anxious.

Lena was already sitting up on the bed, still in her nightgown but with her rainbow-striped garden shoes on. “I heard you coming,” she said softly, her eyes passing over them one by one. “I knew you would come eventually.” She stopped, her eyes on the general, explaining, “I have seen that you would come.”

All three men froze. Lena’s voice was melodic, almost angelic. She was in her mid-forties, more than a decade older than Clara, though no one knew for certain as they had no birth date. Even so, the life in her was not fading. Her presence was vibrant and her aura unusually vivid – as vivid as the men who now stared at her.

She’s amazing, Dean murmured. His voice, at least the voice she heard in her head, was filled with awe. Clara looked at him, saw his gaze was intent on Lena, and felt a curious wrenching inside. But then, who wouldn’t be stunned by Lena, especially someone like Dean, who was himself gifted with a talent for telepathy?

The other officer and their commander thankfully distracted her from the curious disquiet in Clara’s heart. The general sank to the chair beside the bed and took Lena’s hands in his. “We have been hunting you for a long time,” he said, oddly gentle in a way that Clara hadn’t expected. “We’ve come to take you home.”

Lena tilted her head curiously at him. “Not to study me?” she asked. “In the early days when I was in the coma, I dreamed you would take me away, not just from here but perhaps out of the very world itself. I assumed it would be to study me, or display me to those who could benefit from my gift. In my dream, many men would demand the right to visit me. I find the idea wearying. ”

“You can’t subject her to that!” Clara objected, not caring that she was interrupting.

She has a life to lead, a daughter and son-in-law to treasure her, and a people who will recognize and appreciate her, Dean informed her. She is not an exotic pet to be put on display or a guinea pig for research. Such outcomes are anathema to us.

“You have my word that you will never be studied, not as long as you remain with my people,” the general pledged. Clara felt the solemnity, the vow, in his tone. “And though I imagine a great many of my people will wish to visit you and see the wonder that you are, your family has the resources and the will to protect you from such zoo keeping, as does my clan. Clara can see any dishonesty in my aura and tell you if I speak an untruth. Did you know she has a gift too?”

Lena smiled at him, radiating the inner happiness of her spirit even more strongly. Clara knew what it felt like to be the recipient of that energy – that smile. It was a blessing, the benediction of a living saint. “Clara is dear to me,” Lena told him, “I should not want to lose her.”

The general sobered. “We will take her with us too,” he affirmed. “But there is another who waits, who has waited for you for years to come home. She understands you do not remember, but you have a daughter who grew up lost without a mother. She needs you in a way no other ever has – she does not need you to heal her but she needs to love you.” He cleared his throat. “We have a gifted healer here. We had thought to repair the neurological damage to your brain, so you might remember but—”

“Not now, not here,” Dean refused, instantly adamant. “I would want to consider carefully, not to cause any unintended changes to Lena’s Anima or Conscientia. From what we understand of Lena’s life before the accident, she likely did not understand or perhaps even have access to this ability she has to project her spirit and soul so powerfully on others. The damage she sustained probably helped unlock the talent.”

Clara felt a spurt of anxiety when Lena turned to Dean. Even at the news that Lena had been lost to a daughter for twenty years, the serene glow emanating from Lena’s soul did not falter or diminish. Now Lena considered Dean carefully. From their long acquaintance, Clara knew that Lena was looking into his heart, instinctively looking for damage to his soul that she could repair. “You use your spirit to heal the body,” Lena whispered, her tone astonished.

Dean bowed slightly. “You use your spirit to heal souls,” he returned. “In my long existence, I have only ever met two others with your skill and they were of my kind, not of Earth. You are a truly a blessing to all who meet you. It will be an honor to count you as one of my people. I pledge to protect you from those who would exploit you. I concur that you would be safest with my people, who will value you and your gift.”

Lena stood. “I will go with you. I do not know of my daughter, but if she came from my former self, I would like to know her. Not even for this gift I have been given would I have abandoned a child.”

“She can’t spend too much time with people, not too many and not too long,” Clara fretted. “It drains her.”

“We will take her first to the lord’s guest house, where Ms. Flynn can meet her daughter Willa, and learn her own story if she wishes. No others are in residence, so her solitude will be assured.” Enna’s answer was measured, but he glanced at Dean as he replied, as though he did not wish to speak to Clara directly.

Clara’s spurt of temper was abrupt. Now that she had found her voice, the questions poured from her, even as the other one – Richard, Dean supplied – slipped a gray cloak around Lena’s shoulders and helped cover her head. “Where exactly is this guest house and who is your lord? This sounds more like a bizarre Jesus cult and I cannot permit Lena to depart against medical advice, especially like this. She’s a ward of the facility after all. You mentioned a daughter but what about the girl’s father? Lena can’t go back to a marriage she doesn’t remember. What exactly is your name and what are you a general of?”

Lena looked to Clara, and Clara’s flow of questions halted abruptly. It wasn’t Lena’s intent gray eyes that made Clara pause. Lena’s spirit focused on her. Warmth bathed her insides, always a delicious experience, but this time Clara could identify the rich emotions, so powerful that Clara might have stumbled without Dean supporting her: hope, joy, peace and love all entwined in the beautiful cleansing whiteness that simply shone from Lena’s soul.

Soft amusement rippled through Lena’s melodic words. “You have the power to determine his fate, and yours. He cannot betray you, especially not with me. He has no desire to do so. You are safe with him. Now is the time to believe. Come with us.”

Clara swallowed hard. She’d stayed here for Lena. Her parents were gone, her apartment lonely except for her cat. “I can’t leave without Isis,” she commented.

“Isis?” Dean quirked a brow at her.

“My cat,” she explained. Clara narrowed her eyes at him. “You do like cats, don’t you?”

Dean swallowed hard. “Yes, of course,” he mumbled, turning her toward the door. The general was escorting Lena, with Richard close behind, so the couple exited the door together and trailed them down the corridor to the elevator. The five descended in silence and entered the front lobby again in the same order. But at the office door, Clara stopped abruptly.

“I can’t leave now,” she blurted out. “We can’t just disappear.”

Dean’s grip on her arm tightened. “Yes, yes you can,” he murmured, turning her into the office. “Sit down and write a note to your supervisor. Explain that you’re taking Lena home, to her daughter. Say she’s remembered, if you like.”

Clara glared at him. “I am not lying,” she insisted.

Dean raised his eyebrows and stared right back, not cowed by her refusal in the least. “You can’t tell the truth,” he returned reasonably.

“Exactly what is the truth?” she demanded.

Dean stared at her. Clara suddenly wondered if he would tell her. She couldn’t, simply couldn’t, disappear without a word to anyone, not knowing herself where she was going and who she was with. Even if her family was gone, the patients and other staff would worry. And disappearing with Lena would likely turn her into a wanted felon. Lena wasn’t considered independent, she had an attorney who oversaw her medical needs and represented her interests.

Unexpectedly, Dean smiled down at her. Unhurriedly, he raised his hands and cupped her face on each side, lifting her face to his. “Are you sure you want to know?” he asked.

Clara blinked. For the first time, he seemed uncertain, as though her answer would be a turning point. But she did want to know, even if she didn’t understand the consequences. And if she was to accompany them – accompany Lena – then she would have to know more than she knew now.

You will accompany me, Dean insisted, not breaking eye contact with Clara.

“Then I must know,” she whispered, almost holding her breath.

Dean lowered his head and brushed his lips to hers. She whimpered instinctively when he started to draw back, so he lowered his head again. This time, his lips pressed harder. Clara shuddered, shocked by the contact. She had always withdrawn from physical contact with men, a byproduct of being able to read their auras. But Dean didn’t have the wavering colors and faded, brownish auras of the men who had pursued her, or the taint of dishonesty and immorality. Lena had been right when she said Clara was safe with this man.

The kiss imprinted his character on her mind, in her memory. Clara gasped, and suddenly she tasted her own blood in her mouth. One second later came a heady, coppery taste that hit her senses as she realized what she was experiencing. His blood. Instinctively, she swallowed, but his blood had already hit the puncture wounds where he’d bled the inside of her lower lip. His lifeblood came in contact with hers. Her heart contracted inside her chest and found the rhythm of his, beating hard in the instant that his mind suddenly opened to her.

Along with her understanding came a flood of information that swamped her mind. War, healing, tragedy, family, battles, and history converged. A scene from his young days, when he’d been reborn from a gifted boy to a fully-fledged healer with fangs and a dependency on blood was followed by the blessing of a prince, with light that spilled through crystal oriels and splintered across him and the man Dean called Lord. My uncle, the Lord Valiant, he said a moment later, releasing her mouth to meet her gaze again. He rules our people.

“You took my blood,” Clara said shakily.

“You are my treasure. Your soul sustains me,” he answered seriously. “Tu fortitudo mea. Anima tua suscepit me.

I didn’t know vampires were real,” she whispered. The questions raged through her mind. What did he expect from her? Would she be expected to provide blood for just him, or for others too? Her body burned from the kiss, aroused in an unfamiliar and unsettling way. Would she feel that way if others like him touched her? Would he force her into captivity? Would he take her somewhere scary and unfamiliar? What about Lena? Would they feed from Lena?

A veritable wall of possessiveness and outrage came out of him, a projection of emotion that answered all her questions in a rush. You are mine and only mine. “I am your shield and your shelter,” he growled in a low voice. “I follow wherever you might go. Ego protector tuus sum et sedes. Sequor, quocumque iret.

The words were in Latin, Clara knew, but she didn’t speak Latin. Still, they were familiar, as if they were branded on her heart. She lifted on her toes and pressed her lips to his, reaching out with her tongue to trace the hard fangs hidden behind his lip. She stroked them with her tongue and felt him tremble against her. He wrapped his arms around her, using his palms to stroke up her spine and gather her closer. One of his hands ended on the back of her head, so that she couldn’t pull back.

Then the kiss intensified. Dean turned his head slightly and pressed back, opening Clara’s mouth with his and holding them apart with the fangs pressed into her lower lip. She stilled, but Dean didn’t hesitate. He deepened the pressure of their lips and used his tongue to trace her teeth. Clara experienced a sudden rush of erotic heat that screamed from her womb up to her head and erupted into a little lightning storm she was certain Dean could see. Her knees wobbled when he lifted his head slightly to look into her eyes. Only a fraction of the pleasure you’ll feel soon enough, he tempted. But aloud, his deep sensual brogue said a string of words that affected Clara so deeply that only his arms kept her standing. “Here and in all creation, now and forever more, I pledge to you all of me, in defense of your lifeblood, your spirit, and your soul.”

She choked back a sob, feeling the tug of his spirit against hers now. Whatever was happening between them was changing her, she knew. He repeated the words in Latin, and Clara felt the tears spill from her eyes. “Et hic est in universa creatura, Nunc et semper, Omnia tibi polliceor me, In defensionem corporis tui, Spiritus vester et anima.”

As the last word fell, the truth of what he’d done reverberated in her soul and her mind. He couldn’t hide the knowledge from her, nor the understanding that the vow would not have had any impact if she hadn’t been the mate that Fate had destined for him. Dean had bound them together, irretrievably. She could never leave him. But just as certainly, he could never leave her. He would never want to.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, cutting to the chase. “And where is Lena going?”

“For now, all of us are returning to our outpost here in this world. We call it MONA. There are others there, like you. Human.” Dean didn’t waver.

“I need to stop at my apartment first,” Clara insisted. “I must bring Isis. And I am not going anywhere, until you tell me exactly where we are headed.”

Dean stared at her for a second, then a small smile lit his face. It was a joy to see, his smile, and Clara felt re-energized by the simple gesture. Reaching up, she cupped his cheek in her hand and smiled, blinking when his small smile turned into a boyish, glorious grin. Her spirit didn’t just brighten with his expression, it swelled and boiled until Clara understood the true definition of miracle.

“Michigan,” he finally answered. “We’re going to Michigan.”