:: I'm back! I am currently recovering from my c-section after giving birth to my daughter and finally have time to edit and post while I am on maternity leave. I've missed all of you dearly and can't wait to start another adventure here. This is 'Church Bells', a Browning Sister Saga where our girls learn that not all monsters are supernatural. I have rated this story T so far, but trigger warning: this story begins with domestic violence and will probably get its rating changed as the story progresses. Thank you all for your reads and comments! I can't wait to hear what you think. Thanks so much for the follows as well.

Love and internetty hugs,

The Girl With the Dinosaur Tattoo::

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Chapter 1

Grace had no idea where the phrase 'Indian Summer' originated, but she knew it was her least favorite thing in the world. Kansas was hot this September, hotter than it had been all year, and she wanted nothing more than to fall into an ice cold lake, or, better yet, move back to Portland where the temperature never climbed much higher than seventy-two degrees.

Glancing over at her sister, Grace took a deep breath and pushed the portable table fan closer towards Serra's end of the table. Her little sister handled heat worse than she did, so she knew that rather than hearing her complain about the sweat that was beading on her forehead, Grace would sacrifice a few seconds of cool breeze.

"Oh my God," Serra sighed, closing her eyes as sweat dripped down her cheek. "What the hell?"

"I know," Grace answered, nodding slowly as the fan oscillated back towards her face. "It's awful."

Leaning forward without touching the table's surface, Serra took a deep breath and lifted her dark eyebrows. "Let's go to the grocery store and just sit in the freezer section until they kick us out."

"We did that yesterday," Grace replied, pushing a damp strand of blonde hair back into her ponytail. "They're not going to let us shop there anymore."

Shrugging as the fan turned to face her once again, Serra sighed. "Who cares? It's not like we have any money to spend anyway."

"I'll get my first paycheck soon," the elder said, standing from the dining room table. "I subbed a lot this month and I'll be willing to bet we'll have enough to turn the gas back on."

"Awesome," Serra responded sarcastically. "So we can use the stove in this heat?"

Putting her hands on her hips, Grace tilted her head. "Look, I'm as miserable as you are, so stop complaining about it and get another job. Maybe you can help pay for things instead of bitching about when they get shut off."

"Hey," Serra spat, narrowing her dark hazel eyes at her sister. "I had a job and they fired me for no good reason."

"Eating the French fries out of customers' orders was a good reason, Serra."

The vibration of a cell phone forced both girls to turn and watch as a phone danced across the countertop. Grace reached out and flipped it open, glancing at the screen before looking up at her sister. "It's for you," she commented, tossing it across the room.

Grace Browning was finally starting to get her feet under her after a lifetime of uncertainty. She and her sister, Serendipity, had been immersed in the dark world of monster hunting for as long as they both could remember. For the first two decades of her life, their father had trained both she and Serra in weapons, defense, religious and mythological lore in order to keep the civilian population safe from the things that went bump in the night.

They had lost their mother long ago and more recently, their father had been murdered and the only mother that Serendipity remembered had been discovered dead. The sisters had struggled to put the pieces of their fractured lives back together and go on without them, but without the basic knowledge of civilian life, Grace had found it difficult to find order in their lives. She had no idea how to conduct the normal parts of a twenty-three-year-old's life. She had no idea what the difference between full-coverage and liability-only meant when it came to car insurance, but she could easily tell the difference between a wendigo and a rougarou and how to kill both. Serra had no clue what she was going to do now that she had graduated high school, but she could dismantle and reassemble her twin Colt forty-fives in under three minutes.

It was difficult, having such a wide array of now seemingly useless skills, especially when they were trying their best to become functioning members of society.

Grace poured herself a glass of water and turned to watch Serra as she spoke quietly on the phone. Serendipity flicked her dark hazel eyes to meet her sister's pure blue gaze and lifted one of her eyebrows carefully.

"What?" Grace mouthed, furrowing her eyebrows.

Serra closed her eyes and shook her off, so Grace took another drink and waited patiently. Finally, the younger flipped the phone closed and set it on the table, standing without explanation.

"Sere, what?" Grace repeated, following her sister out of the kitchen and into the living room. "Who was that?"

Throwing things into her dark brown leather bag, Serra took a deep breath through her nose, clenching her jaw tightly. Grace watched carefully and as she was about to reach out to take the memories from her sister's mind with her psychic abilities, she turned and took a ragged breath. "That was Gemma," she grunted. "I'm going to go pick her up."

"Why?"

"Because she needs me to," Serra replied, still throwing her belongings into her purse.

"Serendipity, stop," Grace commanded, pulling Serra's purse out of arm's reach. "What is happening?"

"Give me my bag."

"Not until you tell me what is happening."

Serra took a deep breath through her nose, but refused to make eye contact. "I told her that guy was bad news," she whispered. "I had a bad feeling about him from the very beginning."

"Tell me," Grace pushed.

Serra collapsed on the couch behind her and wiped the hair that was stuck to her forehead out of her face. "Gem started dating this asshole about three months back," she began. "He was really possessive of her…touchy about details being told about their relationship."

"And?"

Finally making eye contact, Serra stared up at her sister. "Stephen pushes her around. Doesn't like it when she talks to other guys." She shook her head slowly. "Thinks her boss at the dry cleaners has some crush on her and he watches her sometimes at work."

Grace narrowed her eyes, still clutching Serra's leather bag. "So why is she with him?" she asked, tilting her head. "Gemma's smarter than that."

"Why does anyone ever stay in a crappy relationship?" Serra asked. "She loves him. They have," she sighed and lifted her hands, using her fingers as quotation marks, "fun."

"You think he's hitting her?"

Serra lifted her eyebrows. "I know he is."

Reluctantly, Grace offered Serra her purse. "I don't like this," Grace replied quietly. "I don't know if you should be getting involved. We're just starting to figure our shit out, Serra."

"I'm not going to do anything to him," Serra argued, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "She just wants me to come pick her up."

"And then what?" Grace asked, putting her hands on her hips. "What happens after you pick her up and then he comes here, looking for her?" She shook her head as she continued. "Gemma doesn't have any family? She can't call someone else?"

Serra stood from the couch slowly, staring at her sister. "You're telling me that you would have gone to the ends of the earth to save a civilian from a vamp or a djinn, but you're not going to waste your breath on a person being beaten by their boyfriend?"

"Serra, this is a completely different situation. Gemma chose him. She's choosing to stay with him. I don't want this getting in the way of you figuring you out."

Taking her purse and swinging it onto her shoulder, Serendipity spun on the toe of her boot and headed towards the front door. "Don't hurt yourself worrying," she said over her shoulder as she reached for her keys. "I'll be back later."