Just as I thought he might shoot it, Nathan’s shoulders relaxed and he pointed the gun to the floor, un-latching the top, and shoved the gun back down the backside of his sweats. “What the heck, Hyene? You know there’s a front door!”
The door swung open even more as Hyene came out, her perfect profile coming next to mine. The perfect girl from the forest stood tall before me. Her caramel skin seemed to glow even more and her dark hair swayed down to her mid-back. “Sorry. Stephan wanted me to come here and help out the new girl. Said to help her into Claire’s room and we’ll go from there.” Her Brittish accent came through with every word and side-tracked me for a second.
Then I interpreted what she said. “Wait, where is Claire? I’ve gotta call my family or something.”
Nathan swiped one arm in my direction, motioning for Hyene to have a stab at trying to make me understand. Gee, thanks a lot. I feel so smart, I retorted, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me.
“I’m sorry, but Claire is staying at a building not too far from here while she gets herself under control. You will get to see her once she regains her self-control. And as for your family, well, Spencer is taking care of them right now.”
“What do you mean ‘taking care of’? He won’t—”
“Goodness, no! No, we’re not that cruel. They won’t be harmed in any way, I promise.”
I released a breath I never realized I’d been holding. “Wait, Claire is where? Why can’t I see her? She won’t hurt me, I know it.”
“Maybe not intentionally, but she could accidentally lose control. Anyone that could rouse strong emotions in her should stay away while she tries to learn to control herself.”
“But she needs—”
“Look, I don’t want to be rude, but Stephan told me that I can’t tell you anything until morning. Just so we can be sure with what we’re dealing with here. I’m gonna get you up to bed, then we’ll fill you in after we’ve all had a good night’s rest.”
“No—I need to know what’s going on. What is happening?”
“Look, Blondie, no matter what happens, we are not going to tell you anything today, so you might as well give it up and wait ’til morning. It’s not that far away.” Nathan’s outburst caught me off-guard, his knuckles gripped at his sides so hard they turned white.
“Come here, let’s get you out of those clothes, then you can crawl into bed,” Hyene soothed, grabbing my shoulders, shooting a dark look at Nathan, and guiding me down the catwalk.
For the first time since I got out of the fire, I glance down at my clothes. I have blood all over my pants from the previous wound and there is dirt sticking to it, making it appear darker than it is. Ash and other gunk stuck thickly to my clothes, making them appear as though they weren’t the familiar comfy clothes I put on this morning. We go into a room with tons of fluffy pillows. There is an over-sized armoire in the corner. Hyene releases my shoulders and marches up to it and throws the doors open.
“The only problem is that you’re about five inches taller than me,” she informs me, not once turning to look at me. She was right. Not because she was short. No, she looked like a normal height for a girl—5′5″. It was me that was the problem. I was almost 6′, and for a girl, that is really weird. That and my skinny frame made it hard to find any clothes to fit me, yet alone anything from a random girl’s closet.
She pulled out an over-sized T-shirt and tossed it on the bed, followed by some shorts that looked like you would work out in. “I’m sorry, it’s not ordeal, but I don’t think I have anything else that would fit you. Is this okay?” I saw a light blush crawl up her cheeks as she looked down at her feet, as if she’s embarrassed about her perfect body compared to my awkward one.
“This is perfect, thanks, Hyene.”
She smiled lightly and looked back up at me. “I’ll show you your room, then I’ll take you to the bathroom so you can change and stuff.”
She shuffled out of her room, going down the hall into the hidden part I couldn’t see from the foyer. The hallway continued forever before we came to a door at the end, with one adjacent from it. When I approached the door, though, I saw the hallway never ended, just turned and continued going.
“This is your room. Well, for the time being. The bathroom is two doors down when you need it. And don’t worry, this room here,” she gestured to the door right next to mine, “is Nathan’s. So it you need anything, you can just ask him.”
I rocked on my heels and glanced at my feet, nodding. I don’t think she understood that Nathan hated me.
“Hey, he’s not so bad, he just has to warm up to you. Give him a chance, he’s actually a great guy.”
If you call some self-centered loud mouth jerk a great guy, ya. I thought, but instead opted out and nodded, biting my lip from telling her just how much he hated me.
“Good. Well, you know where my room is, too. Hopefully. Don’t hesitate if you need anything.”
I turned and offered a small wave as I entered my designated room for the first time. It looked similar to Hyene’s, but instead of having one of those clothes holders from Beauty and the Beast, it had an actual dresser. The room was a little smaller, but I wasn’t complaining, it was still bigger than the one I had back home.
Stop it, don’t think about it. You will go back. Someday.
I decided it was best for me to hurry so I can rest and get the night over with. As much as I was not looking up to the sudden change in my life, I wanted to know what was going on.
Crap! What room did she say the bathroom was? My mind stopped working hours ago, and caused in my apparent short-term memory. The doors down the hall looked the same, how could you distinguish them? Okay, did she say first or second door?
Taking a few more steps towards the first door, I raised my hand to turn the knob when I suddenly stopped. I felt something. I felt movement from behind this door. That is the only way to describe it. I could feel someone behind the door, pacing a hole in their floor.
Backing away from the door, I went to the next room and turned the knob. Not locked. I swung it open and reached inside to find the switch. The bathroom illuminated itself and I stepped in with my clothes tucked under my arm.
The shirt barely covered my butt, and I was suddenly glad Hyene had given me shorts as well, even if they didn’t cover anything much more. I slipped them on and was surprised when they came almost to my knees. They were much longer than they looked folded up.
I exited swiftly after doing my business and scurried over to my room, as if I would get caught out in the open. Doing a perimeter check around my room, I started to hear a faint putter of rain hitting the window. For the first time since I arrived here, I looked up and found myself staring at the rivulets of water streaming down the skylight. Geez, what does this place not have?
When I finally crawled into my designated bed, I felt exhausted. I stared up at the ceiling and studied all the sounds of the night in this new place. Everything was different than it was back home. Even the smells. I have already slept so much today and thought I might never be able to sleep, but my exhaustion was so complete that I was out in minutes.
I startled awake hours later and lay still in the dark, heart pounding, as I tried to decide what woke me up. The rain was coming down hard, and I just laid there and listened for a moment, trying to calm myself down. My mouth felt dry and chalky and I desperately wanted something to drink.
After a minute, I got up and tiptoed down the hall. Nathan’s door was closed, and it seemed unlikely that he would be up near midnight, but I decided not to test my luck and hurried down the stairs as quickly as I could, wincing when the floorboards creaked slightly beneath my bare feet. I walked lightly across the tile foyer to get the kitchen, trying not to step too hard in fear of my still dirtied state fouling the light tile. A bolt of lightning outside threw everything into sudden illuminated fear and I jerked my eyes to the shadow outside the sliding glass door.
Then I froze. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my face prickled.
Someone is watching me, I thought.
But then I blinked and all I saw in the space between the curtains was the occasional strobe of raindrops falling in the moonlight, almost like blinking eyes.
Shadows shifted; something was moving out there.
Trees, I tried to convince myself. Squirrels.
Fear ran through my body again as I realized I didn’t know if anybody locked the back door. Inhaling a deep breath, I stepped forward, but then… scratching. I took a step backwards. Scared, I flew across the kitchen, smacking my hip against the edge of the counter. A sting immediately shot down my leg and I felt it go numb. Wincing in pain, I turned, limping on my leg as I fled as fast as I could.
I hobbled all the way up the stairs into my room. I clutched my pillow to my chest and started up at the skylight. The rain poured down, hard, almost like someone knocking to come in.
But there was knocking—on my door.
“Elana?” Nathan called through the thick oak. “Everything okay?”
I grimaced, embarrassed, but I couldn’t deny the soothing feeling of relief that coursed through me—followed by the prickle of alarm, in case there was something out there.
“I just thought I saw something outside,” I called from the other side of the door.
“Let me check.” I heard with pounding of feet echoing softer from my room and instantly felt alone.
“I’ll go with you,” I announced as I got out of bed, crossed the room and cracked open the door.
He was already half way down the hallway with a rifle in his hands. He turned around, “No, Elana, you go back on your bed.”
“Why do you have a rifle?” I asked.
“Stay in your room,” he ordered, and I flinched from the harshness of his voice.
I did as I was told, crossing my arms and standing in the center of the room, certain something was about to happen. I uncomfortably shifted my weight, bracing for another catastrophe. I could feel panic circling me and hunting me as if I was defenseless. At the same time, I was. The walls of the room seemed to press in the longer Nathan was out there.
It felt as if I stood there, for hours, tense, frightened, waiting. Finally, I decided I had enough. I strode to the door, yanked it open—
And Nathan was on the other side, with his fist raised to knock. His drenched clothes hung tightly to his body, showing every one of this muscles. His hair was dripping water onto his face, but he didn’t seem to mind any of that. “Are you okay?”
Now he cares? “Yeah, I just thought I saw something outside.”
He gently pushed me from the doorway and let himself in. “There’s nothing out there now. What do you think you saw?”
Feeling foolish, I bit my bottom lip and went to sit down on the bed. I shrugged my shoulders as an only response.
He sighed and came and stood in front of me. Yanking on my shorts, I felt suddenly under-dressed. “Look, I know it’s a new place and everything, but nothing is going to happen to you. You’re safe here. I know it’s not exactly the same as your home, but it’s what we’ve got to keep you safe.”
I looked back up to see him crouched in front of me, hand on either side of me on the bed, soaking it instantly. I locked gazes with chocolate brown eyes. “It’s not just the place. I’m not the scaredy cat you think I am.”
“What do you mean it’s not only this place?”
I bit my lip and looked away. I didn’t want to tell him a couple of guys were able to scare me just after one visit. I already looked weak.
He grasped my chin between his thumb and pointer finger and pulled my face back down to his so I was staring at his chocolate pools again. Their enchanting demeanor begged be to tell all my secrets. “Elana. I need you to tell me.”
Over my dead body! “A few days ago, I got cornered by a few guys telling me to stay away or they’d kill me. One of them was the same guy from the parking lot today.” What was I doing?! “Then they went after my family.” Stop, Elana! Stop now! I clamped down on my tongue to keep from saying anymore.
He shifted as if he were uneasy and his face turned back to stone. “What guys attacked you?”
I swallowed hard, trying to rid of the lump in my throat. Don’t tell him anything! You don’t trust him, remember? “Probably another one of your friends.”
Nathan stood back up, clenching and unclenching his fists at his side. “That wasn’t us, Elana.”