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Devil's Own

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“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
- Anthony Brandt

**

Prologue

The snow swirled around him like a miniature cyclone, wind gusting without mercy as they stood facing each other on the barren rooftop. He was breathing hard, shoulders heaving with the effort, lips slightly parted as though trapped between gasping for air and trying not to scream. His hands—half curled into fists, blood-crusted knuckles visibly swollen in the pale light—shook at his sides, the motion a confession of vulnerability his lips would never utter.

He was swaying, not just from the force of the storm, but from his rapidly weakening body, yet he refused to move. It was as though he’d frozen there, trapped in a world that betrayed him by suppressing the fire that had always guided him. His expressionless eyes darted, fear drawn in blood and bruises on his face.

Foggy started to reach out, to offer a hand and guide his friend to safety. The storm surged then and turned the snow into icy pellets that sliced and burned. Matt stumbled forward, hand out in a helpless gesture of defiance against the forces buffeting him from outside and within.

“Foggy?”

A world of questions captured in a word.

“Here, buddy.” The emotion in Foggy’s voice was practically a living thing, stepping forward and standing between them, demanding to be recognized.

“I can’t….”

Whatever Matt was going to say was lost to the storm. He wavered, his legs buckling. Foggy was out of the doorway and across the roof before Matt’s knees hit the surface, his friend collapsing against him in a tangle of trembling limbs.

“I gotcha,” Foggy promised. Karen felt tears blend with the smack of snow across her cheek. “I gotcha, buddy.”

Matt said nothing, as if he already knew this was going to be one of the longest nights of his life.