The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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The Same Living Nightmare

Present Day

Ivan wasn’t certain how much time had passed before he slowly returned to consciousness, his head throbbing as he let out a painful groan. He forced his eyes to open, wincing as he made the mistake of brushing his hand across the side of his face. He tried to remember why his body had ached so badly, why it hurt to breathe, sit up, or move.

Once he had successfully sat up, his vision cleared enough for his eyes to take in the small hallway around him, confusion settling in as he tried to piece together what was going on. It wasn’t more than a few seconds later that he remembered the Whittaker agent holding Elinor hostage, her tear-filled eyes as the doctor from the previous day threw him off his guard before he was knocked unconscious.

“El,” Ivan mumbled, panic washing over him as he glanced over to the bedroom doorway. That was the last place he had remembered seeing the Whittaker agent hold her against her will and he was disappointed to see that they were no longer there.

What stood out most in his mind about this entire attack was Elinor and the way her voice pleaded with the agents just seconds before he was knocked unconscious. The Whittaker agents should have killed him when they had the chance but he had a suspicion that Elinor had done something to get them to spare him.

He knew he should have probably let himself rest for a couple more moments before he tried to stand but he couldn’t take sitting in his thoughts any longer. Grimacing slightly, he struggled to push himself up onto his feet. He glanced around for his gun, muttering a swear under his breath when he realized that it was gone. With this knowledge, he silently prayed that no one was planning to double back to try and finish him off.

He pushed himself to enter through the doorway that Elinor and the one Whittaker agent once stood. He was led into what must have been Elinor’s bedroom. Her bedroom was like every other area of her life, filled with books, and antiques. The only thing that was missing was her, as his eyes took in the room that was now devoid of her light.

Glancing around the room, he noticed that there was shattered glass just next to her dresser. Kneeling down to get a better look at the floral shards, it appeared that a teapot was what was shattered all over the floor. He had no doubt it was the glass object he heard breaking earlier, right before everything went to hell.

When nothing else appeared to be out of the ordinary or of any help to the situation, Ivan stood up and turned towards the doorway to leave the room but something caught his attention quickly. It was a lonely, opened backpack sitting by her closet. It had a strange camouflage design that seemed peculiar for Elinor’s taste, but upon stepping closer he realized it was actually more of a floral and tropical design, the bag had a logo and a name on it for what he could only assume was a musical group of some sort.

His curiosity getting the better of him, he picked up the backpack and placed it on the surface of her bed. He glanced inside expecting the first thing he was going to see to be books but was a bit surprised to meet the worn out face of an old teddy bear staring back at him. There were other things in the backpack, like a small Bible, Brackston’s hoodie and another book but the bear was the thing that caught Ivan’s attention.

He pulled it out of the backpack, carefully holding it in his hands as he looked the raggedy bear over. Its head was balding, no doubt from where a child had constantly nestled its face into the stuffed animal. Its brown nose had hints of felt leftover but that too had worn off from years of wear. Ivan could see that this bear had been loved, and he had a feeling that it was Elinor’s from her childhood and she couldn’t stand the thought of leaving it behind.

Seeing the bear brought a heavy feeling over Ivan, his thoughts going back a couple years before he had lost his family. His young daughter had a stuffed bear that she couldn’t stand to leave the house without, and if they did accidentally leave without it, they’d have to turn around and go back for him. She called it Bear, and wherever the little Hayes went, Bear went with her. Unfortunately, Bear was the last thing he remembered seeing in her arms the night that damn accident took everything from him.

It stole everything from him that night. His love, his life, his humanity. He never thought he’d find these things again in his life and if he did, it would be with the avenging of his wife and daughter. Then Elinor happened, and she challenged him. Over this span of watching out for the woman and trying to figure out what Whittaker wanted from her, he found those things again. As he stared into the face of this sad, lonely teddy bear - he realized that Whittaker had stolen it all from right underneath him and he was at the risk of losing it again.

He wasn’t aware of the heaviness that he felt in his chest had been building up over the last few moments that he had been left alone with his thoughts. It wasn’t until he swallowed that he felt the lump forming in his throat and the bitter warmth of a couple tears running down his face.

Being faced with the thought of losing everything all over again terrified the hell out of him. He couldn’t even fathom the thought without feeling angry and broken. If Whittaker stole this all from him…

The sudden sound of Ivan’s cell phone ringing startled him out of his thoughts, nearly causing him to drop the old teddy bear out of his hands. Gently placing the bear back into Elinor’s backpack, Ivan pulled out the cell phone quickly.

“Hello?” Ivan answered weakly, grimacing at the heaviness in his voice.

Not cool,” the sound of Brackston’s voice came through on the other end, an irritable tone in his voice. “A sock on the door? Seriously? Here I thought that you were pulling a Lula and Carter and that I was going to have to sleep in the lobby, but apparently you two teenagers snuck out-”

Brackston,” Ivan cut him off, an edge to his voice. Brackston must have picked up that something was wrong because he grew silent on the other end for a moment.

“What’s up?” Brackston asked finally, Ivan could hear that Brackston’s tone was nervous.

Ivan hated that he had to break the bad news to Brackston. He knew that Brackston was starting to befriend Elinor and Ivan had no doubt that the news was going to upset Brackston just as much as it was upsetting him.

Blinking back the tears that were forming in his eyes, Ivan carefully propped the phone on his shoulder as he zipped Elinor’s backpack shut. “We need to get back to the lab. Whittaker has Elinor.”

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