40 // PARADISE

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Snowflakes tickled my nose and I reached up with my free hand to wipe them away

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Snowflakes tickled my nose and I reached up with my free hand to wipe them away. My other one was gripping Mr. Tumnus' hand tightly.

Behind me, the door to the wardrobe was open, the thick wall of fur coats being the only barrier between this world and my own. I knew if I wanted to, I could push my way through them and feel their warmth engulf me. I could go back and yet somehow, I knew that nothing would feel as warm as Tumnus' hand did around my own.

'You could go now, daughter of Eve,' he said, softly. 'You should go now, before they get here.'

I looked up at him, smiling at the snowflakes that were melting in his hair and settling on his woolly red scarf. The snow was falling heavier now, the wind catching it and making it look like a flock of tiny white birds, spinning and diving in the air. Tumnus blinked as a flake settled on his eyelashes. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he must have thought better of it in the end, because he swallowed it down, his Adam's apple bobbing inside his throat.

'I think...' I said. 'I think I would very much like to stay here, Mr. Tumnus.'

The faun cocked his head to one side, as if he was listening for something and I could see the icy flakes had settled on his face, looking like tears where they had melted against the warmth of his skin.

The light from the lamppost was flickering.

'Are you afraid, Casey Brogan?'

I squeezed his hand, not taking my eyes from the light that continued to blink on and off.

'No, I am not afraid. Not anymore.'

'Good,' Mr. Tumnus replied, squeezing my hand back. 'It is best not to be afraid.'

He looked down at me, his eyes glinting an inky-blackness in the moonlight.

'They enjoy fear most of all.'

*

The lights were flickering.

On. Off. On. Off.

I turned to stare wildly at Ethan, who was looking up at the lights as they now flashed violently above us.

'Ethan?' I wanted this to be his doing. I wanted him to be causing this. His anger, maybe. His rage. His power.

'It's not me.' He shook his head. 'Casey, it's not me.'

A distant rumble of thunder rolled over head and the walls began to shake, the floor trembling underneath. Dust filtered down from the quivering ceiling, as the first light shattered, followed quickly by the others closest to it, a domino effect of splintering glass and fading light. When they stopped exploding, the ominous thunder remained, growing louder with each passing second.

'It's them,' screamed Juliette. There were sparkling glass fragments in her hair and a small trickle of blood was snaking down her forehead where one had pierced her scalp, making her look more insane than usual. She glared at me, thrusting out her hand and jabbing a finger in my direction. 'The Endorian's sorcery has led them right here. The Angels have found us!'

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