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       Lost Girl, p.9

           Chanda Hahn
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  “Well, then you should come with us.” He smiled.

  The words shocked her, but the sight of another shadow moving over his shoulder made her desperately want to trust the boy in front of her.

  “I don’t even know you,” she whispered. “You’re strangers. You saved me from that thing—and then you tried to kidnap me. I overheard what you were going to do. You were going to take me away.”

  “Tried is the key word here,” Tink said. Peter shot her angry look, but she continued. “You’re right. He could be some kind of crazed psycho killer trying to lure you away to your untimely death,” Tink spat out. “But no, not Peter. Peter would never do that. Me, on the other hand…” she let the sentence drag. Tink fidgeted with her remote, and it continued to beep faster the closer the antenna came to Wendy’s body.

  “Stop it!” Wendy commanded, shoving the antenna away from her.

  Tink ignored her and nodded at Peter with a one-shouldered shrug.

  “I hate to admit you’re right, but she shouldn’t be left alone.” She glanced around Wendy into the park and her face went white. Her voice dropped, and she mumbled something under her breath, but it was hidden by the sound of chiming bells.

  A loud growl came from somewhere behind them in the darkness, and Wendy immediately imagined another monster coming out of the ground to get her.

  Tink looked like she really wanted to leave, and she casually looked at her watch and noted the time. “Uh hey, yeah we need to run, if we want to make it in time.”

  Wendy bit her lip and heard a loud branch snap in the distance. She gasped.

  “Peter. My name’s Peter. Nice to meet you.” The boy rushed out, offering his hand to her. “And Wendy, you need to trust me. Come with us…now.”

  She stared at that open palm and felt a moment of déjà vu. Somehow she knew she needed to grasp that hand or she’d regret it.

  She thrust her palm into his hand and felt him grip it tightly as he pulled her off the bench, out of the protective beam of light, and into the night.

  Tink clicked off her device and tucked it into her bag before following them. Peter and Wendy ran hand-in-hand through the park.

  Once, Tink stopped. Wendy looked back and saw her pull out a silver ball that looked like a grenade. She pulled the pin and tossed it into the spot they’d just run from. A few seconds later, a flash of light illuminated the night. It flickered awhile, and they heard pained screaming.

  When they neared the road, Peter let go of Wendy’s hand, jumped deftly over a park bench, then turned and slid across the hood of a car. She was in awe of his ability to practically fly over any obstacles in his way.

  Instead of weaving around a fire hydrant like she did, he jumped up and over it.

  His dare-devil antics continued and he ran in front of an oncoming city bus. Just as the bus slowed to a halt, he was at the door, tapping at it impatiently, before the driver got the doors opened.

  The driver yelled at Peter to back off, then pulled the lever and opened the doors with a hissing sound.

  Peter grabbed Wendy’s elbow and ushered her in before him. He swiped his bus pass for three fares just as Tink leapt onto the first step.

  “Step on it, buster,” Tink barked. Grabbing the handle, she closed the bus doors behind her.

  The driver shot her a disbelieving stare, but she shrugged it off and marched to the back, muttering under her breath. More loud bells rang.

  Wendy sat at what she thought was a safe distance across from Peter and Tink and studied them both. They were an odd pair—one tall and dark, the other short and fair. One relaxed and mellow, the other uptight and cranky. Then you throw a young, tired and confused runaway into the mix. What a bunch of vagabonds.

  “So Wen-ndy…” Peter drawled her name. His eyes seemed to twinkle, and her heart fluttered. Oh, this was so not good.

  “Pe-e-ter…” She answered back in similar fashion and waited.

  Tink, clearly a bit peeved, spoke up and drawled out her own name. “Ti-i-i-nk.”

  Wendy started laughing. The girl was adorably rude. Wendy relaxed as they continued riding the bus toward the outskirts of town.

  “So—” Peter continued. “You’re welcome.” He stretched his long legs out in front of him and crossed his arms behind his head. He grinned.

  “For what?” Wendy asked, irritated at his attitude.

  “For saving your life.”


  “Just now.”

  “But you didn’t do anything.” She lowered her eyes, unable to bring up what she had seen before, from that other night—when his saving her life had been obvious. She wasn’t ready to tread there, to the monster she saw. What if her sanity came into question? She sat back in her seat and stared out the bus window, watching as the streets passed by in a whirlwind of lights.

  “Doesn’t matter, just so long as you know.” He leaned back and watched her through lowered lids while Tink pulled another odd gadget out of her backpack and opened the back. She seemed to be making some adjustments. She stopped abruptly and pulled out a bag of Skittles.

  “What’s that beeping box?” Wendy gestured to Tink.

  Tink pulled out the green apple-flavored Skittles and handed them over to Peter, a few at a time. He gladly took the offending candy. “Oh that? That’s my psycho detector,” Tink said between mouthfuls. “And you totally made it go off the charts.” She twirled her finger around her temple and rolled her eyes. “Cuckoo.”

  “Tink,” Peter said her name with more than a hint of warning.

  “Excuse me?” Wendy’s temper went through the roof. “You’re the one dressed like a mechanical circus freak.”

  Tink flashed a smile at Wendy, wiggling her eyebrows in response. “Why, thank you.”

  “Girls,” Peter cried out in exasperation.

  Wendy crossed her arms and glared at Tink. She didn’t know how she’d offended the blonde. She wasn’t sure she could convince the petite girl to like her—ever.

  Wendy’s head started to throb, and she pulled her knees to her chest. She pressed, rubbed her temples with both hands. Please not now. Pain, accompanied by flashes of white, pulsed in her skull. The headaches had come back with a vendetta ever since—since the night of the shadow beasts at the football game.

  Peter watched her carefully, his brows furrowing with worry. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah, I’ve just got a headache.”

  Peter shot Tink a look, and she shrugged her shoulders, crumpling up the red candy bag into her pocket. “Do you get those often?” he asked.

  “Monthly, I bet.” Tink snickered before wilting under Peter’s ugly glare.

  “A lot lately,” Wendy answered.

  “Maybe it’s a tumor?” Tink popped up cheerily. When no one laughed, she sulked in her seat.

  Deciding to ignore Tink, Wendy asked, “Where are we going?”

  “We’re going to take you to a refuge for tonight. Then tomorrow, we’d like to talk to you about your living arrangements.”

  Chapter Seventeen

  Peter turned down a crowded backstreet, rank with the smell of garbage and urine. Wendy paused. She knew better than to follow handsome young men down dark alleys.

  He pushed a large dumpster over to the side of a building, climbed on top, and gestured for her to watch. A fire escape ladder hung way above his head. Even on top of the dumpster there was no possible way for Peter to make that jump. Peter stood on the edge of the dumpster, ran toward the building, leapt into the air, and propelled himself off of the brick wall, turning midair to catch the bottom rung of the ladder. He grinned widely at her as the ladder slid down.

  “My lady,” he called out to her. She found herself grinning and running toward him. He pulled her up onto the dumpster. When she reached for the ladder, her foot slipped. Peter caught her, his arm tight around her waist.

  She blushed and apologized as she regained her footing.

  Tink spoke, but angry bells covered her words.

/>   When Peter’s arms left Wendy, the bells stopped.

  “How did you do that?” She reached for the ladder again.

  “Do what?” He shrugged.

  “Well, practically fly to grab the fire escape, for one.”

  Tink called up to them from the ground. “It’s parkour, you @%#.” The bell noise covered her expletive.

  “What’s that noise whenever she talks?” Wendy asked Peter.

  Tink speared Wendy with a glare from the ground and turned her back, mumbling under her breath, walking in circles. The tinkling bell noise continued, covering her words.

  Peter laughed. “Oh, that’s her censor band. Her own invention. Tink is working on her temper. The band monitors her vitals and can tell whenever she’s about to lose it. Whenever she cusses, it matches her pitch with a bell tone in the same decibel.”

  “Oh, that’s funny!” Wendy laughed at Tink, until loud chiming drowned it out. Then, she quickly changed her tune. “I mean that’s…um…horrible?” The bell chimes got even more aggressive. Wendy had to cover her mouth with her hand.

  Peter grinned. “It’s okay. It is funny, but she’s determined to correct this bad habit and become a lady.” Peter pulled the ladder back up after him and followed her up the steps.

  “Is she not coming up?” Wendy asked. Tink walked to the end of the alley, pulled out her remote box, and extended the antenna. Peter joined Wendy, pausing next to a window on the top floor. “No, Tink is terrified of heights. She’s actually terrified of a lot of things, but she tries to hide it behind her tough-girl attitude. Really though, deep down she’s a sweet girl. I think you’ll like her.”

  Wendy doubted that. She listened to the way he spoke about his blonde companion and felt certain there was something more between them. He wasn’t going to elaborate on their relationship, and now wasn’t the time to press.

  Besides, even if he felt safe and familiar to Wendy somehow, the truth was they were practically strangers.

  He slid open a window, pushed the paisley curtain to the side and disappeared into the darkness. “But about the um…parkour, as Tink said. I can teach you if you want.”

  “I think I’ll pass.” She stared into the window with trepidation. What was behind the curtain?

  Peter leaned back out and grinned at her. “You coming? Or are you going to sleep on the fire escape?”

  “Depends.” She sat back down on the step, keeping a safe distance from the window. “What’s in there?”

  “Someplace safe.” A light clicked on, and he pulled the curtain open so she could see into a small attic.

  A crash made her jump and peer below. A cat yowled and darted out of the alley. Wendy jumped through the window into the small room and closed it behind her, locking it for good measure.

  The attic, with its slanted walls and rough wooden support columns, felt surprisingly cozy for its size. Outdated wallpaper, a tattered futon, and a mismatched table and chairs were the only décor. A couple of old trunks, which had seen better days, stood stacked in a corner. Wendy paused, taking it all in, while Peter immediately relaxed and pulled out a chair to sit in. Kicking both feet up on the table, he leaned back dangerously.

  “Make yourself at home, Wendy.” Peter stretched his arms wide, before folding them behind his head and grinning.

  She had a flash of déjà vu when he smiled at her, and her head pounded suddenly. Unsettled, she rubbed her arms and moved over to sit on the futon across the room. “Why?” She narrowed her eyes, studying him.

  The front chair legs touched the floor as he leaned her direction. “Why what?” His voice was soft, gentle.

  “Why did you bring me here?” He’d been kind tonight, but too recently, he and his friends had held her in the science lab. Trust wouldn’t come easy.

  Peter folded his hands in his lap, looked down, and took a deep breath. “I don’t know. You just looked like you could use an act of kindness.”

  That wasn’t the answer she expected, and it left her momentarily speechless. Her mind ran through possibilities that left a crater of doubt. “You were following me,” she accused.

  His shoulders twitched, confirming her suspicions.

  How dumb was she? She’d just locked herself in an attic with someone who had been stalking her, who’d charmed her into following him into a dark alley and would now keep her prisoner.

  He looked up, his green eyes accusing her just as fiercely. “Why can you see the shadows?”

  “I don’t. I can’t,” Wendy choked out. “I mean, everybody can see shadows. Don’t be stupid.”

  He smiled wryly. “Not the shadows you and I see. You know what I mean. And you were terrified of them tonight—ready to faint. Until I showed up.

  “Them?” She repeated.

  “It. Well…” Peter stumbled over his words. “Well, the shadows to be exact.”

  “Is that what I saw at the school?” she challenged.

  “No, that thing was a morphling. Way more dangerous. They’re hunters. The smaller shadows—are the seekers. For some reason, you keep showing up right in the middle of where they appear. But I think you’ll be safe here for the night, and I know you need rest, so I’ll go. We can talk more later.” He stood.

  “Go? Go where?” She panicked. Sure, she’d considered him her captor moments before, but that was when she thought he was going to imprison her. Now he was abandoning her, a lifeline quickly floating out of her reach.

  Peter smiled reassuringly at her. “I’ll just be outside.” He popped his thumb out gesturing to the window. “Standing guard.” He grabbed his leather jacket off the chair and left.

  She stifled a sigh of relief as she stood to follow him. She still had to be sure. “Standing guard,” Wendy spoke softly and leaned out the window after him, “or keeping me prisoner.”

  Peter leaned in close, and she caught a pleasant whiff of his aftershave. A small dimple appeared in his cheek, and she swallowed nervously. “No, Wendy, you’ve got it backwards. You’ve already captured me.”

  She knew he was teasing, trying to calm her fears, but the compliment warmed her cheeks. Who was he? Did she really care how he’d come to rescue her, when he was here now? She rubbed her temples.

  He closed the window, ever so slowly, that pane of glass separating them with a soft thud. Peter tapped the glass and pointed to the latch. “Don’t forget to lock it.”

  “What if you need to get in?” she asked much too loudly.

  “Trust me. It’s better if I don’t.” He peered through the window, and—something about those eyes—was it longing? Danger? Something else? She didn’t know him well enough to read his expressions.

  “Okay then.” Wendy locked the window, and he sat on the top step, giving her his back. She grabbed the wool blanket she’d seen on the trunks, but when she glanced at the window again—he was gone.

  She pressed her face against the glass and looked down and up, but he wasn’t there. Strange. She had only looked away for a few seconds. There was no way he could have made it down the fire escape that quick. Besides, wouldn’t she have heard his steps on the rungs?

  Wendy sat in the chair facing the fire escape with the blanket wrapped comfortingly around her shoulders. She sat and waited up for him for close to two hours, but he didn’t return. It bothered her that he’d lied—promised to stay and then left.

  But finally, eyes heavy and body exhausted, head aching, Wendy moved over to the futon and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

  “What do you think now?” Peter asked, his feet touching down on the pavement.

  Tink jumped. “The shadow box is definitely reacting to her.” She kept her voice down, even though they were out of earshot of the window. “But how is that possible? I thought it only reacted to shadows. This is out of my wheelhouse, Peter.” Tink shook her head and rubbed the back of her neck. “Plus, she vanished after that night. Don’t tell me she’s been surviving on her own out here the last few days. I thought she had been taken.”

/>   “Well, I don’t expect her to tell us right off the bat. We’re strangers to her. We need to earn her trust, which is why I’m taking this slow. We messed up that night by not taking her straight to Neverwood. Then we lost her after she left her house, and now she looks ready to bolt again. We can’t lose her again.”

  “But don’t you think it’s odd that she’s shown up where a morphling appeared—twice? That girl is seriously messed up.”

  Peter tried to calm Tink by putting his hand on her head. “We’re all a little messed up, Tink. It’s why we do what we do.”

  She looked down and kicked a piece of trash. “You were right to bring her to the safe house, but we should leave her here and be done with her. She’s not one of us, Peter. We can’t start taking home every stray kid we find. They wouldn’t understand our lifestyle.”

  “So should we let her roam the streets until she gets picked off by the next morphling she attracts? We know there will be more of them. She’d be safest with us.”

  “If she keeps attracting morphlings, I think we should dump her in the farthest regions of the state, but I doubt you’ll go for that.”

  “No, I won’t.” Peter shook his head. “We’ve got to give her options, earn her trust.”

  “How are we going to do that?”

  “Give her what she wants most right now. She wants to feel safe and secure. So we’ll give her a job where we can keep an eye on her.”

  Chapter Eighteen

  A soft tapping woke her.

  Wendy opened her eyes and saw Peter outside the window. Daylight streamed in around him, enveloping the attic with its warm morning glow.

  Sometime during the night, Wendy had kicked off her boots, so she shuffled slowly to the window and gave Peter an accusing look. “Password.”

  Peter smiled and held up a white paper bag with a familiar golden arch logo. “Breakfast.”

  Wendy pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow at him, but then her mouth started to water at the promise of hot food. “Correct.”

  She opened the latch and Peter crawled in through the window, placing two still hot breakfast sandwiches on the table. She pulled out her leftover hotdog and shyly put it on the table as well.

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