There was a jerk at my waist and I came to a standstill in mid-air. I opened my eyes slightly and saw Alexander gripping my harness with both hands, his knuckles turning white. His face was red under my weight, he leaned backwards slightly and the muscles in his arms heaved me towards him.
I placed my feet on the wall and began to walk up it.
A couple of steps forward and I tumbled over the top edge of the building onto the roof, crashing into Alexander sending us both toppling to the ground which we hit with a tremendous thud. I leaned up onto my elbows, panting, and realized I was face to face with Alexander. Our noses were touching, I could feel the heat of his breath on the skin of my face. He was looking at me through those beautiful hazelnut eyes he had,
I grazed my teeth across my bottom lip.
“I never knew you were scared of heights?” He questioned me with an arched eyebrow.
“It’s not that I’m scared of heights, I’m not scared of falling either. It’s the landing that scares the living hell out of me.” I laughed shakily, unable to take my eyes of his prominent cheek bones, the glint in his eyelashes. “Alex?” I asked, leaning in a little closer, breathing in his scent.
“Yes?” He asked, exhaling. His breath was warm on my face.
I hesitated and then cuddled up to him so we were both looking up at the stars, “How would you describe love?”
I felt Alexander take a deep breath, he whispered slowly, carefully, “I think it’s impossible to describe love. Don’t you think? I think it consumes you. Imagine you are a balloon, filling with water and it keeps filling and filling until it bursts. Now think of your heart as the balloon and it’s about to explode out of your chest.” He cleared his throat, “I consider myself lucky to be breathing the same air as you do. I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve you. I’m scared that one day you’ll wake up and realize this for yourself so, every day I will protect you when you’re frightened and comfort you when you’re sad. I will sit awake by your bedside through each night you’re sick or crying.” He swallowed down hard, “If a person isn’t prepared to do that, then it isn’t love.”
We sat in a comfortable silence, he traced his thumb nail up and down my upper arm. Sitting in his arms I never felt safer, never felt more alive.
Finally I spoke, “Only you could see the similarity between love… and a balloon.” I laughed.
“I thought it was a wonderful analogy. I’m rather proud of it actually,” His normally deep voice broke when he next spoke, “We doing this or what?”
I shot him a look, my face scrunching up into a scowl, “Doing what?”
“Stealing this thing?” He curved an eyebrow in confusion, “Why? What else did you have in mind?” He winked again and my chest caved inwards, I wanted him right there on the rooftop.
There was a job to be done. I swallowed down and got to my feet, I focused my attention on Alexander’s rope still attached to my harness and started to untie it in attempt to hide my blushing cheeks. “Nothing, come on, the other’s will be getting anxious.”
“We both know what Phoenix can be like,” He chuckled throatily, “Like a grumpy canine.”
I smirked a little at the comment, “The resemblance in uncanny.”
We both tied the loose ends of our rope to a metal grid that was screwed tightly into the surface of the roof. He began to kit ourselves out with locking carabineers and more rope.
The night was clear and the stars twinkled like diamonds, elegantly placed upon a sheet of navy velvet. The wind was warm and rustled through my hair, which was tightly tied up into a bun. Alexander pulled a pair of night-vision goggles out of the shoulder bag and I carefully slid them over my eyes. Switching the light on, I bent over the glass trap door and peered inside.
The room was dark, I couldn’t make out much. “So, where is this thing?” I asked. I slapped my lips together, they were parched and crackling.
“Inside,” He muttered under his breath and he opened the glass roof, “Don’t worry we’ll find it.” He smiled as he crouched over the gap in the floor.
We glanced at each other and nodded. I tugged on my rope once to make sure it was secure and then both Alexander and I were lowering ourselves into the room below us. The light from the night vision goggles brightened the room in a foggy, green haze. I kept my eyes wide despite wanting to squint to ensure the maximum amount light to enter my irises.
I ran my line of vision around the room, “What does it look like?” I whispered, almost inaudible.
“It’s a cup,” Alexander said.
I rolled my eyes, “What kind of cup? I doubt we’re looking for a souvenir mug here Alex.”
“It’s a chalice, made of gold with silver runes running through it. It’s as tall as my forearm is long. You’ll know it when you see it.”
We inched down lower and lower. Around me there were countless artifacts on marble stands, they were encased in glass displays and all of them looked old. I searched for what we were looking for urgently, searching for the little red box.
We hovered two or three feet off the ground, to avoid setting off the pressure sensors. “There!” I pointed, I caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye.
Alexander span around swiftly and I watched as he eased the knife out of his shin guard and twiddled it around between his fingers. Slowly, ever so slowly, he carved a wide circle into the top of the glass case holding the goblet, then he replaced the knife back where he had placed it.
That’s when I heard it.
The clatter of metal against a granite floor.
It echoed loudly around us, bouncing off the walls and into my ears over and over again. I cringed and tried to shrink deeper into myself, attempting to curl up mid-air. I felt the heat rise to my face, I knew what was going to happen.
Sure enough a split-second later the alarm bell chimed angrily. “Grab it!” I yelled.
Alexander flipped himself upright and quickly kicked the glass container, shards of crystal shattered under his touch and spread all over the floor around us.
“Subtle.” I said dryly.
He glared at me, swiped the artifact from the floor and began to pull himself back up to the roof. I followed smoothly behind, leaving behind the knife, my only knife. Eztil will get antsy if I keep having to borrow his.
We scrambled up onto the top of the building and sprinted to the edge. I promptly threw the shoulder bag off the roof and launched myself after it. I didn’t think twice, I twisted my body in mid-air so I could land on my side and roll comfortably to safety.
I landed with a soft release of air from my lungs and nothing more. I got to my feet and moved almost faster than my legs could carry me. I grabbed the shoulder bag that had dropped at the foot of the wall and darted away into the pitch-black. I ran across the courtyard and over to Phoenix, hearing heavy footfalls to the rear and knowing that Alexander wasn’t far behind me.
“What the hell did you do?” Phoenix screeched in greeting.
I waved my arm at her, “I’ll tell you later, just move!”
She didn’t question it, Eztil already had their backpacks in his grip, they both turned and bolted into the trees. With the alarm sounds blaring loudly behind us, the four of us shot off into the night to refuge.
“We need cash,” I groaned, glancing at the cost of four burgers and two Cokes, “What we have isn’t going to last for much longer the way we’re going.”
I laid my head onto the cold surface of the table and let out a long sigh. I’d had enough of this.
We were sat in a diner somewhere, we had passed Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and we cruised to a rusty building with a gas station. It was a small restaurant with a long counter and red leather booths, housed in a building designed to resemble a dining car. It was as if we had been transported back into the 1950′s.
One of the waitresses, who had her blonde bomb-shell hair styled like that of Marilyn Monroe, came over and smiled sweetly, her piercing blue eyes danced under the lamps. She held a pad of paper in her hand and a pen was poised in the other, “Is there anything else I can get you guys?” Her voice was annoyingly chipper. I winced as it cut through me like a blade – she was too awake and happy for me to handle at that moment it time.
“Fine, thank you,” Phoenix grumbled, swirling the ice round in her otherwise empty glass with her pink straw, “I think we’re done.”
“Okay,” The waitress bounded off like a rabbit and I moaned at her enthusiasm.
“How can she be that excited about her job?” I mumbled.
Alexander laughed softly and began to stroke my hair in attempt to soothe me, “Her life is simple. She doesn’t have to fend off Shadows all day, every day.” He explained wisely.
I exhaled a half-hearted giggle, “I wish I had her job.” I wish I had a normal life. I used to always dream of travelling across America, but not in these circumstances, not like this.
“Why?” Phoenix frowned, “You’d have to be nice to people all day... That’s not like you.”
I felt my mouth open into a grin, “Thanks darling, I love you too.”
She laid her hand on mine, “I know babe, I know.” Her tone was drizzled heavily with sarcasm and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Alexander was playing with two silver coins. He was concentrating hard on them, flipping them over in his hands so when they caught the light it momentarily blinded me. These were another thing we found in Eztil’s black box and ever since we’d discovered them Alexander had been obsessed with them. He wanted to know what they were, what they did, how we could use them. We all knew the coins were important but we just didn’t know why, or for what.
Eztil, who had been rather quiet during our meal and table chit-chat, said, “So, how are we going to get some more money?”
We were silent for a moment then Alexander suggested, “We could rob a bank?”
“We’ve done one job and now you think we’re world-class thieves. We are not in Ocean’s Eleven Alex,” Phoenix smirked.
“What do you mean ‘we’? It was Ivy and I who did the hard work!” He said through a snicker, not taking his eyes away from the coins.
“I’d like you try to rob the MGM Grand without my help,” Phoenix fired back.
I sat up straight, fireworks going off in my head, “Could we?”
Phoenix’s face fell, “What?”
“Could we rob the MGM Grand?” My eyes were wide, I edged forwards slightly hungry for Phoenix’s answer.
She looked stunned, her eyes were alert and I could see the cogs in her mind clicking away and ticking off limitations, brewing up a step by step plan.
Alexander had also leaned over the table, excitement danced behind his eyes which brought a positive glow to the skin of his face. “We could be rich,” He said giddily, “We would never have to worry about money again, ever.” His mouth spread into a wide grin.
Eztil rubbed his chin with his hand, “If we were successful, how would we split the money?”
“Evenly,” I stated.
“And if we got caught? If we were unsuccessful? What then?” Eztil cocked his head to the side, raising an eyebrow.
“He’s right,” Alexander cried glumly, putting the coins down on the table just to pick them up again a second later, “We couldn’t rob a bank, it’s not feasible.”
Silence settled upon our group like rain in a forest during autumn, sticky and awkward.
“We could just gamble instead,” I suggested, “We could cheat at roulette or pontoon, we just need some luck,” I faced Phoenix, “Could you do a spell to bring us luck?”
Eztil answered for her, “That is a much better idea. We could fix the game, it is more likely we will not get caught if we do it this way.”
Phoenix looked at Eztil for a while, her eyes lingering on his face for a moment longer than they needed to, then she stared at me, her eyes were as blank as her expression, with her jaw set tightly together she said with a level tone, “If we’re going to do this, we need to go to an apothecary. I need supplies.”