The officers and I stood there awkwardly. We didn’t know what to say to each other. After what had happened last night and this morning, I’m sure we were all a little confused and overwhelmed.
Sarah came out of her room with a small bag over her shoulder. Her hair was braided, and she looked stronger and more determined than before.
“OK, let’s go,” she said briskly.
Sarah locked the door behind us. Before I could go any further, she stopped me. “Remember, we are not protected. As soon as we start walking away from this cottage, we’re on our own. He can attack us at any time. Only the cottage is surrounded with a protection spell.”
I nodded my understanding and took a brave step away from the front door. The officers and Sarah followed. But each step I took, I felt the panic clawing at my throat. I clenched my hands to stop them from trembling.
“Where are we going, exactly?” Sarah asked.
Her voice was so unexpected that I jumped and let out a small yelp. My heart was beating faster, and I put my hand over my chest. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Sarah looked at me sheepishly.
“It’s OK. She’s been really jumpy,” McAdams replied.
I shook my head and responded to her earlier question. “We’re going back to town. We need to have more weapons with us, and I also need to check on my brother.”
“Oh, OK. Well, we’re going the wrong way. The town is this way.” She pointed to her left.
I looked in that direction and saw a small trail. “Are you sure?” I asked nervously. I didn’t want to get lost again. I looked at the men for confirmation, and they nodded their agreement.
“Alexia, I take that route every day to go into town.” She gave me an impatient look.
I raised both hands in surrender and nodded towards the trail. “OK, lead the way.”
It didn’t take us long to reach town. I was surprised to see no activity. All the shops were closed, and there wasn’t anyone roaming the streets. All the windows and doors seemed to be closed. People had taken our warning seriously, which was a good thing. We didn’t want anyone else to get hurt, when we could actually prevent it.
When we got to the hospital, McAdams and Grant decided to go to the station so they could re-arm themselves.
“We’ll meet you guys here in front of the hospital in one hour,” Officer Grant stated solemnly.
Sarah and I nodded our understanding and went into the hospital.
“I’ll be here in the waiting room. Go ahead and see your brother,” Sarah said to me softly. I nodded my agreement and left her standing there. I made my way to Aric’s room, where the door was slightly ajar.
I pushed it open and saw Xavier sitting on the chair beside Aric. His head was resting on his folded arms on the bed. I went in and realized that they were both sleeping.
When I reached Aric’s side, I smiled a little. He looked so peaceful. There was the touch of a smile on his lips. I leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I’m back. Just like I told you I would be,” I murmured against his hair.
I looked around the room and saw another chair. I brought it next to Aric, so that Xavier and I were sitting on either side of him. I took Aric’s hand in mine and gave it gentle squeeze. I don’t know how long I sat there, staring at him and murmuring soothing words because the next thing I knew there was a knock at the door.
I glanced back quickly and saw Sarah poking her head in. I nodded at her to come in, and when I turned around, I saw that Xavier was waking up.
He opened his eyes and I saw the shock in them. He jumped from his seat and came around the bed. He grabbed me by the arms and hauled me up into a big hug.
“Thank God, you’re OK! I was so worried,” he said urgently.
I hugged him back and whispered, “I’m OK but I need to go again right away.”
I was aware of Sarah, who stood quietly by the door watching us.
I stepped out of Xavier’s arms, and gave him a serious look when he started shaking his head. “No, Alexia, you can’t go back. Aric woke up and has been asking for you. He was so worried. He went ballistic when I told him where you’d gone.”
I tried to say something, but he raised his hand and shook his head. “What if he wakes up again and sees that you’re still gone? You can’t do that to him. When he found out about your mother, he broke down. You need to be with him right now. He needs you, and more importantly, you need him.”
Xavier’s voice was rough and urgent. I could see the desperation in his eyes and I could hear it in his voice. He didn’t want me to go back, but I needed to. It was the only possible choice.
“Xavier, I have to go. I’m the only one who can stop Michael,” I said softly. I was worried if I stayed in that room any longer, I would break down. My emotions were all over the place and seeing Xavier and Aric again made me want to stay at their side and not leave.
“Who is Michael?” Xavier asked, confused.
“Hmm, he’s the baby, who is all grown up now and killing people,” I answered while looking into his eyes for any reaction.
He stared at me for moment, blinking in confusion before erupting. “What?” he yelled. Xavier grabbed his hair in frustration and pulled. “He has a name?” Before I could answer he continued. “But why are you the only one who can stop him?”
Before I could respond again, Sarah interrupted. “Because Alexia is Michael’s mate.”
Xavier looked at Sarah and his eyes widened. I was shocked too. I didn’t expect her to be so direct. “Who are you?” Xavier asked quite rudely.
Sarah frowned at Xavier’s tone but answered lightly. “I’m Sarah, and I will be helping Alexia to get rid of Michael.”
He stared at her a little longer before returning his gaze to me. “Alexia, what’s happening?”
I touched his arm and looked up at him sadly. “I don’t have time right now, but I promise when I get back I’ll tell you everything.”
Xavier grabbed my hands and shook his head furiously. “Alexia, no! Please don’t do this.”
I went on my tiptoes and gave him a small kiss on his cheek. “I have to do this. Take care of Aric while I’m gone. I promise I will come back to you guys and when I do come back, I have something important to tell you.”
I stepped away from him and motioned for Sarah to step out of the room. I was about to follow her when Xavier grabbed me roughly from behind and pulled me back into his chest.
I gasped and tried to face him but he kept me still with his hands on my arms. Sarah turned around and furrowed her eyebrows at Xavier. “Is there a problem?” she asked me while glaring at Xavier.
“No. Wait outside for a second. Alexia will join you after I talk to her,” Xavier replied.
Sarah looked at me for second to see if I was OK with that. When I gave her a small smile and nodded, she gave Xavier a final glare before walking out and closing the door behind her.
I struggled against Xavier’s hold, but he held firm. “Xavier, let me go! What’s wrong with you?” I said in a hard tone.
He turned me around but didn’t let go of my arms. There was a different look in his eyes now. He was looking at me sadly but also lovingly. He pulled me close until I was against his chest.
“Xavier?” I whispered. He continued to stare at me, without saying anything.
Before another word could come out of my mouth, Xavier leaned over and kissed me squarely on the mouth. I made a surprised sound, but he didn’t stop. He held me against him and gave me a final peck against my lips. He pulled back slightly and looked me in the eyes. We were both breathing heavily. He leaned towards me and placed his head on my shoulder. I didn’t fight him. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged tightly.
“Promise me you will be careful, Alexia. I can’t see you hurt. I need you to come back home. Safely,” he whispered against my neck. I had to fight my tears. They were so close to spilling over my cheeks. I could feel my eyes and nose burning from my attempt to stop them.
Xavier had never showed that he liked me in this way. I knew he cared about me, but I thought only as a sister. But his actions had just proved me wrong.
I took a deep breath and determinedly pushed away from him. I looked up at him and finally nodded. He gave me a sad smile, and my heart started to thump so loudly that I swore he could hear it.
I leaned over and gave him a small but gentle kiss on the lips. “I promise. I’ll come back safely,” I whispered and then walked away. The pang I felt was indecipherable. I closed the door behind me without looking back. I couldn’t bear to see his desperate, sad eyes.
I’m not sure how long I stood there holding the doorknob, but it was long enough that my fingers were hurting from holding on to it too tightly.
“Are you ready to go?” Sarah asked softly.
I couldn’t form any words, but I did give her a small nod.
“Who was he?”
I looked at the closed door “He is someone important. Really important. And I promised that I would come back to him and to my brother.”
Sarah surprised me by embracing me in a warm hug. “I will make sure that you get back to him and your brother,” she whispered before stepping away. We stared at each other, silently agreeing that she would protect me no matter what.
We walked side by side out of the hospital to find Grant and McAdams waiting for us.
“Hurry up!” Grant said impatiently.
Sarah and I hurried down the steps and joined them.
“Where are we going first?” Sarah asked.
“We talked to the other officers, and they didn’t see anything last night. They are going to keep looking around, and if they see him, they will use a tranquillizer to put him down and wait for us to come join them.”
Sarah immediately started shaking her head. “You can’t put him down using a tranquillizer. It’s impossible. You need the spell.”
Officer Grant muttered a curse, his jaw clenched. “OK then. I think we should be looking around the town first,” he said in a low voice.
“No. The forest first,” Sarah said, cutting Grant off before he could proceed. “It’s more important we check the forest first. It’s Michael’s hideout. As you said, he already attacked your brother last night, so he wouldn’t be looking for food right now. He’s probably resting.”
I sighed. “So then it’s easier for us to get him. I agree with Sarah. Let’s search the forest first.” McAdams glanced up, meeting my determined gaze. I didn’t wait for his answer, but started walking towards where we’d come from an hour before.
I heard footsteps behind me, so I knew they were following. When we reached the edge of the forest, I paused and took a deep breath.
“Are you guys ready?” I turned around and faced them. Officer Grant’s face was tight with exhaustion. His mouth worked up and down, but no words came out. Then he shook his head slowly. I knew exactly how he felt. The two officers hadn’t had any sleep last night. He wasn’t ready, but we couldn’t give up now.
I looked at Officer McAdams and saw that he had the same expression. Sarah’s lips tightened. “We can’t back out now. Let’s go.”
She took the first step, and we followed her. The forest became denser as we walked further in, but it looked so peaceful. A light wind was making the leaves and branches move slowly from back and forth. The sunlight looked beautiful as it shone between the trees.
We walked for a long time and still didn’t encounter Michael. “Where is he?” Officer Grant gritted out when we stopped to take rest. He was staring at Sarah for answers.
Sarah shook her head, took a deep gulp of water from her bottle, and then wiped at her mouth. “I can’t answer that because I don’t know. He must be hiding or maybe sleeping.”
Grant exhaled and his expression eased. He looked weary, and he rubbed at his forehead. “What time is it?” he asked Officer McAdams.
“It’s 11:22,” he answered quietly. “We still have time to continue the search.”
“Well, let’s keep going then,” I said through gritted teeth. Being in the forest again was making me feel unsettled, especially when we stayed in one spot for too long. I still kept feeling that someone was watching me. From a distance. It made me shudder just from the thought.
“Wait!” Sarah stopped me by the arm before I could take a step. I looked at her in confusion, and her hold became gentle.
“I need to ask you something, and think carefully before you answer.” I continued to stare at her. “Can you sense Michael?” She stumbled over her words, but I heard the question clearly and so did the officers.
My jaw went slack, and I gaped at her speechlessly. She waited for my answer, not letting go of my arm. “What?” I finally croaked out.
“Since Jessica was the one who cursed him, she would have been able to sense him whenever he was close by. You are her reincarnation, so I think you can sense him too,” Sarah explained slowly.
When her words finally registered, I stumbled back and would have fallen flat on my butt if it hadn’t been for Sarah’s hold on my arm.
I shook my head in confusion. “I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. When Sarah’s determined expression didn’t change, ice slid into my heart. I went numb with the realization that maybe she was right. “Sarah, since the first time I saw the baby, I’ve had a feeling that I was being watched. Even at home and even now.” When Sarah’s eyes widened at my answer, I quickly continued. “But I’m not sure that’s what you mean by me sensing him.”
We were all quiet for some time, each of our expressions showing the fear that we felt. I started rubbing my arms, to get rid of the chills.
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s just you being paranoid and you’re not actually sensing him,” Sarah said, her words dropping like stones in the silence.
The men and I stared at her. “But what if she is actually sensing Michael?” Officer McAdams asked.
Sarah’s brows furrowed, but she didn’t respond.
“Then we need to be careful because Alexia mentioned that she is feeling like she is being watched at the moment,” Officer Grant replied tightly. I looked at him and saw that he was holding his gun. He turned in circles, gun pointing outwards. When he didn’t see anything, he stopped and glared at the trees in disgust.
“Let’s keep looking,” McAdams soothed. We were all growing frustrated with each passing minute. It was like Michael was playing hide and seek with us.
Sarah and I led the way while the officers followed. After a few steps, we heard crunching sounds. I looked at Sarah nervously, and she gave me a frightened look. We stopped and so did the officers.
“What was that?” Officer Grant whispered. I shook my head because truthfully I didn’t know. When we stopped, so did the sound. The forest was calm and quiet.
I took another step, but this time I heard growling. Sarah stiffened beside me, and we both swivelled around at the same time but again, we didn’t see anything.
The officers were looking everywhere but the growling, that sounded like a wounded animal, had already stopped.
“Was this Michael?” McAdams asked urgently.
“Yes,” Sarah answered simply.
“The sound came behind us,” Grant said cautiously. “He’s following behind us.” Sarah nodded. Her face looked grim.
“Maybe we should stay in one spot. He’ll eventually come to us,” I suggested quietly.
Grant’s eyes darkened., then widened in surprise. “You’re right!” he said in a low voice.
Sarah grabbed my hand. I turned my head to look at her, and she gave me a concerned look. “Are you OK with that?” she asked gently. When I nodded, she continued, “I know you are scared to stay in one spot.”
My hand trembled inside hers, and she squeezed it to reassure me. “I promised to protect you, Alexia,” she reminded me with a small smile.
“What do we do now?” Officer McAdams interrupted. I glanced around us and saw nothing appropriate to sit on. “Let’s keep walking until we find somewhere we can rest. We’ll wait there,” I replied tensely.
Before we could resume our walking, McAdams’s walkie-talkie went off. “Hello? Officer McAdams?” A deep voice came through the walkie-talkie. McAdams pulled it off his belt and held it close to his mouth.
“Yes? Is everything OK?” he asked urgently. After a few seconds, the voice came again. “The hospital was attacked.”
“What?” Officer McAdams yelled into the walkie-talkie. I glanced at Grant and saw him tense up. His body went tight, and I could see the anger assaulting him. I took a step towards him, but flinched when he pushed me away and stalked towards his fellow officer. I stared dumfounded after him, as Sarah came to stand beside me.
The hospital was attacked. Xavier and Aric were there. What if they were hurt? What if Michael had gone there on purpose? Maybe to hurt them? When the realization set in, I started to shake. With fear. Distress. Dread. Dismay. And anger.
God, I was furious. Furious that Michael was playing such a game. We were just pawns to him. Little by little, he was going to destroy everything. And no one deserved the destruction he was going to bring upon us.
“How many casualties?” I heard Officer Grant ask through gritted teeth.
“None, sir. We’ve got two injured people and one has disappeared. He wasn’t a patient, but he was there visiting his friend.”
“Name?” Officer McAdams asked.
“Xavier Colleway,” the voice replied.