“So, let me get this straight. Dad was a Dragoon, making him superfast and strong and able to fly. He worked for the regency. His office was located at the American headquarters in Connecticut, but he worked for the London headquarters,” Sierra summarized as their silver Chevy sped past the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign. “Since you don’t trust the regency, we’re going to hide for now in a small town, away from everyone.”
Apparently, it only took ten hours of nonstop driving to become acclimated to the idea of a secret society existing within the human world.
“Not quite,” Gran replied, brushing back Sierra’s wavy hair. “Savannah does have supernaturals, but it’s a tight-knit community. And I know the marshal there—Gavin McLoughlin. We can trust him.”
Sierra wondered what it would be like to meet an Ardere marshal. Would he resemble a human sheriff? A middle-aged man with a beer belly and perhaps a mustache? Or would he be fit and charming like her father? Like her father had been. Her father who was gone. Forever. This wasn’t another business trip, which would end in a few weeks’ time. Dad might not have tucked her into bed daily or helped her with homework the way other fathers did, but when he’d been off work, he’d been truly present. Quality time, that’s what he had called it, which included yearly skiing trips to Stratton and hiking on the Equinox Mountain. He’d told the best stories, and he’d always made her laugh.
“Turn here.” Gran pointed at a motel sign. “We’ll rest and then do the remaining six hours tomorrow.”
Sierra stepped outside and stretched her legs and spine. She prayed she could fall asleep, turn her mind and reality off for a few hours.
Gran paid with cash for the night. “You don’t need to see an ID or credit card.”
The concierge nodded mechanically, and Sierra blinked at the confusing exchange. Had Gran just used some mind manipulation skills?
They settled into their room on the ground level. The beige carpet sported several stains, and the two single beds creaked from the lightest of pressures. Still, it was better than sleeping in the car.
“I’m setting the alarm for seven. I want us to leave as early as possible,” Gran said.
Sierra nodded. Six hours of sleep would have to do. With a start, she realized it was 1:00 a.m., meaning her birthday was over. Her eighteenth birthday had come and gone without candles, toasts, or a party. In her hurry to arrive at graduation on time, she hadn’t even opened her presents that morning. She bet Gran had given her another book and a self-made bracelet or necklace with gemstones. It didn’t matter, though. In light of everything that was happening, it was just stuff. What mattered was that her father was gone forever and that she had lost her home. How could someone be so cruel as to kill her father? Leaving her behind as an orphan.
Sierra’s throat constricted. Needing to be alone, she made her way to the bathroom and locked the door behind her. She flipped the switch, and fluorescent light flooded the space. She hopped into the shower, allowing the tears to come as hot water pelted her skin, masking her sobs.
When her skin became pruny, she turned off the water and pulled on her favorite pajamas with clouds. Ensuring her shoulder-length waves hid her blotchy skin, she hurried toward her bed and turned to the wall.
Maybe closing herself off was wrong. Maybe she should share her pain with Gran, but right then, Sierra wasn’t ready to be soothed. Her sadness and confusion felt too raw for that.
Exhausted from everything, she fell into a deep slumber.
A hand on her shoulder, shaking her, awoke her sometime later. “Sierra, get up!” Gran’s voice sounded urgent. The sleep haze dissipated quickly, as Sierra remembered the events of the previous day.
“What’s going on?” Sierra rubbed her eyes. The clock on the bedside table displayed 5:45 a.m.
“Come here.” Gran tugged on her sleeve, motioning for her to crouch between the wall and the bed.
“Shh.” Gran put a finger against her lips. “We have company.”
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