I woke up slowly. My head was pounding and there was a pain coursing through my body that I didn’t understand.
“Lexy?” I mumbled before I opened my eyes to realize that I was nowhere that I recognized.
“Hey, it’s okay.” A voice told me soothingly. “It’s okay. Relax. You’re okay.”
I turned toward the voice. I didn’t recognize it. In fact, I didn’t recognize anything. This wasn’t my room. This wasn’t my stuff. But a part of me wished it was… it was beautiful.
“Where am I?” My voice sounded hoarse even to my own ears. “Who are you?”
“You’re at a safe house. Where you will stay until danger passes and then we will reevaluate. I’m Aiden. I’m one of your guards.”
“A safehouse?” I couldn’t think straight. None of this was making sense. “Guards?”
“Yes. It’s for your protection. All of us are dedicated to your safety.”
“Why do I need protection?” I asked, as I began to slowly sit up.
“Uh, it’s kind of complicated. Viviana wants you dead.” He stuttered uneasily. “I’ll let Alex tell you the important stuff.”
I shook my head, trying to ignore the pain that was coursing through it.
“Who’s Alex?” I mumbled. “Why does anyone want me dead?”
“Take it easy, kiddo. You were hit pretty hard. You were lucky they were able to find you.” He gently redirected me lay back down. “Alex is who’s in charge right now during the crisis.”
I heard the last part, but only one part stuck. ‘Lucky they were able to find you.’
“Where’s Lexy?” I asked, sitting up ignoring his prompt, suddenly everything was very clear.
He looked at me with a weird expression. I could feel that he didn’t want me to know. And that sent panic through me.
“Aiden, where is Lexy?” There was emphasis on every word.
He still looked hesitant, but he couldn’t help himself. He blurted out, “She went home…”
“What?!” I shouted.
Suddenly the door burst open, and I laid back down as the pain returned.
“What’s wrong?” To my surprise it was Jake from school who came running in with a sword. “Oh, you’re awake.” He looked bored again.
I closed my eyes trying to think. Why would Lexy go home? Why would she leave me with a bunch of strangers? And why was Jake here holding a sword?
“You’ll feel better if you eat,” Jake told me nonchalantly as if this was a totally normal situation.
I opened my eyes up and shot him a glare. I couldn’t even think about food right now.
“Why did Lexy go home exactly?” I asked turning to Aiden. He seemed the nicer of the two.
Again, Aiden looked hesitant. “She said she had to get some stuff… We all told her not to go. Seth was furious when he found out she left. But she was insistent that it couldn’t wait any longer. I believe Alex went with her though, you know for protection.” He paused, and no, I had no idea what he was talking about, but I figured my best chance at survival was going along with this. “Come on,” He continued. “Jake is right, we should get food in you and get your strength back.”
“Wait, how long have I been here?” I asked as my feet touched the ground. To my surprise, my body was stiff. I could tell that I hadn’t moved in a while.
“3 days,” Aiden answered putting his arm around me to help me up. “You’ve been unconscious since you got here with Seth and Lexy. Lexy has hardly left your side. She’s going to be mad that she wasn’t here when you woke up.”
We moved slowly. My body ached with every step, but as we moved, I realized the grandeur of the place we were in. There were fresh flowers in gorgeous fancy vases on huge dark wood tables between every room. There were beautiful blue curtains covering the windows. Everything seemed to match and appeared elegant and sophisticated. But when we reached the stairs, the eye candy appearance changed. The stairs themselves were a lovely wood, and they were curved just slightly, but past the stairs lied an abundance of mixed matched furniture. There were 3 different tvs, each sectioned off by the furniture. Then there seemed to be a game area on the other side, there were 6 different chess boards set up and a shelf with all sorts of other games, though they mostly looked like all strategy games.
“What is this place?” I muttered more to myself than to anyone else, and I definitely was not expecting an answer.
“This is our home, the base. It’s got enchantments on it so no one can see it from the outside, unless they know it’s here. It’s technically public knowledge, but there are strict rules on who can enter and who can’t and how. I’ve lived here most of my life. It’s home to me. And it’ll be home to you too once you get used to it.
I stopped. “I’m sorry, I must have missed something. I’m staying here as in this is going to be my home?”
He nodded, and we began to walk again.
“Despite how it looks, we don’t really spend a lot of time here in the family room. There’s a media room down the hall past the kitchen, that’s where we typically all hang out.”
“Uh, who’s we all?” I felt like my head would never stop spinning.
“Oh right, uh, it’s me, my brother Jake, Matt, Rae, and Seth just moved in, and now you and Lexy. Plus guards who need places to stay as they go on and off duty. Then there’s Alex. He’s in charge here but he splits his time between the castle and here, but now that you’re here, I think he’ll be here more.”
He pulled a chair out from the counter bar in the kitchen, and I sat down. I was so sore, and I didn’t understand why. I honestly couldn’t remember anything past leaving the school in a panic.
The kitchen was a navy blue with white wooden cabinets. The counters were some sort of granite. There was an archway directly in front of me that led to another large room. I could see a long table through with at least 20 chairs in it. I wondered how big this place really was.
“So, what would you like to eat?” Aiden asked bringing me out of my thoughts. “We have anything you can think of. There’s ham, turkey, chicken,” He was scanning the refrigerator as he talked to me.
“I’m a uh- vegetarian.” I told him uncertainly.
His eyes lit up as he turned toward me.
“Me too!” He exclaimed. “I have the best veggie burgers, want one?”
I really didn’t feel hungry, but I found myself agreeing anyway. I knew I shouldn’t, but I felt safe here. And while he was getting my meal ready, I had a moment to study him. His hair was long for a guy. Not so long that he looked like a surfer dude, but long enough it was past his ears. He had a sort of goth look to him. His dark hair didn’t really help the look either. I realized then he was wearing a black zip-up with a logo of a castle on it and skinny jeans. An interesting outfit, I wondered if all the guards had a castle logo on it.
“Princess,” Jake stated, his voice deep as Aiden placed my plate in front of me.
For some reason, I didn’t even question it. I don’t know if I was now truly crazy or if somehow, I had realized that my fate seemed to make sense.
“Yes?” I responded.
“I tried to warn you.” He said gruffly.
“You could have been more specific,” I retaliated, but I felt an overwhelming calm mixed with some prestigiousness. “You could have said, 'hey someone’s trying to kill you', and not just tell me to be careful.”
He rolled his eyes as I took a bite of my veggie burger. He had dark hair like his brother and grey eyes that made it seem darker. It was much shorter than his brother’s though and you probably couldn’t tell they were related except for they had the same noses.
“If I had told you someone was trying to kill you, would you have believed me?” He asked.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. You didn’t give me the opportunity to.”
I could feel his repressed frustration and anger. I could tell it wasn’t necessarily at me, but still, it seemed to bubble out of him.
Then I saw her. Her blond hair was in a ponytail, pulled out of her face, but not at all as neat as it normally was. She was in the same clothes as the other day which took me slightly by surprise, but what was worse was when I noticed that she was holding the hands of Sari and Calynn. My stomach dropped.
“Annie!” She exclaimed in surprise, but something in her voice sounded off. “You’re awake.”
“I am,” I answered, feeling a new wave of confusion and pain. “What, what’s going on?”
“Um,” She hesitated as a guy with dark wavy hair pushed past her. “Hang on, let me go get them into bed.”
I turned to Aiden the second she walked away.
“What the hell is going on?” I demanded. “Why are her sisters here? Where are their parents? They would never let Lexy just take her sisters away.”
“It’s a long story…” Aiden started hesitantly. “I’m not the one who should tell you. Lexy’s parents were not who they said they were, and her sisters were probably left.”
I felt my stomach clench.
“So what is she going to do?” I asked quietly.
“What do you mean?” It was Lexy.
“How are you going to take care of your sisters and go to school?” I questioned uncertainly.
“Annabeth,” The guy with the wavy brown hair interjected, “You can’t go back to school. You would be putting everyone in danger.”
“Right,” I replied. It felt like I had been punched in the gut. “That makes sense I guess.”
“I’m sorry, Love,” Lexy said as she took the seat next to me and stared at me for a moment. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m alright,” I lied, trying to ignore the pain still coursing through my body.
“You don’t sleep for 3 days and wake up fine.” She stated firmly, still looking me over. “I can hear that you’re in pain.”
“Is that true, Annabeth?” The guy with wavy brown hair and hazel eyes asked with a sense of urgency.
“What?” I felt taken aback by the sudden question.
“Are you in pain?” He repeated.
“A little, yes, it’s like a pulse.” I told them.
The guy nodded, but I still had no idea who he was.
“That’s Alex,” Lexy whispered to me, “He’s in charge. He’s helping keep us safe right now. They all are.”
“How do we know we can trust them?” I asked.
I felt small. And Lexy didn’t give me the usual comfort she normally provided. In fact, despite the fact that she was answering my unasked questions, she seemed far away.
“We don’t,” She answered after a moment. “But as far as I can tell, they are our only real option right now.”
She sounded so grown up. So resigned. Like I slept for 3 days, and she grew up in that time. And maybe she did. Maybe everything had changed. And that was terrifying. I couldn’t understand how she wasn’t freaking out right now.
“I am.” She whispered. “I’m totally freaking out right now.” Her voice was low. I could barely hear her, but I suppose she didn’t want the others to know.
“We’ll go to the castle first thing in the morning.” Alex stated, and I looked up to pay attention again. “You both should try and rest.”
“I’m fine.” Lexy said almost a little too quickly. “We can go now.”
“You haven’t slept in 3 days. You need to go to bed.” Alex argued.
I looked over at her and realized she hadn’t made eye contact with me since she sat down. She had just been staring at some spot on the wall. But after looking at her face, I saw there were dark circles under her eyes, and it almost looked like she was trying not to cry.
“I’m fine.” She answered, looking up this time.
“This is not debatable.” Alex had the authority.
“You may be in charge, but you are not in charge of me.” She replied coldly.
“Lex,” I felt my stomach sink. “Have you really not slept in 3 days?”
She turned to me. “Of course not,” She answered matter-of-factly. “Why would I sleep when my family was in danger and you were unconscious, and we were in a stranger’s home?”
She had a point, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty that she was so worried, and I was just passed out, overall fine.
“Stop.” She whispered. “You are thinking very loud.”
“It’s only very loud because you are tired,” I corrected her, “And listening for danger to the point of paranoia.”
“I am not paranoid,” She snapped.
“Go to bed.” I ignored her tone because I knew this was a lot. “I know you’re tired. It’s okay.”
“It’s not, you only just woke up.” She argued.
“I’m good, promise,” I replied.
“You’re back.” I turned to see the old best friend staring at her in surprise.
“On second thought, I’m going to bed,” She let out a sigh. And I realized she was ignoring him.
I felt a small smile tug at my lips at this new revelation. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he might be the good coming to fruition in all this bad for Lexy. Because she looked like hell and deserved some good.