Updated: 6 days ago
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Chapter 12: Still staring at the now-closed front door, Sabrina knew she could descend into a mess of worry too easily, wondering whether the HPAC was going to find her. Whether they were right outside. And whether Mr. Smiley would in fact get permission to come to Scotland and hunt her down like he seemed so hell-bent on doing.
Knowing that was a possibility made her shudder enough for Deanda to notice.
“Hey, about before.” Deanda trailed off, glancing at Richard and Michael, who stood a few yards away, well within hearing distance.
Sabrina understood full-well that apologizing in front of an audience was less than preferable, but she stayed quiet, determined to not make it any easier. She waited for Deanda to take a deep breath and actually say the necessary words.
Even then, Sabrina had to resist snapping her best friend’s head off. It was the second time in a mere week they’d gotten into a significant-sized fight. Living as roommates, they did get on each other’s nerves often enough. That was inevitable. But before the whole faerie deal had come to light, she couldn’t remember the last time they’d gone without speaking because of an argument.
“I probably could have handled things better too,” Sabrina admitted after she got herself in check. “And I really am sorry about that, but why couldn’t you have believed me?” She hated adding the qualifying “but” like she was a recalcitrant adolescent, yet she felt driven to understand.
“You didn’t believe me at first either,” Deanda pointed out, though not unkindly.
Sabrina acknowledged the point with a nod. “You’re right. At the same time, I wasn’t brought up thinking that any of this existed. You were. I needed support back there, and you weren’t there for me.”
Jon chose that moment to wander in from the kitchen. He took one look at the girls’ faces, and announced to Michael and Richard that he was headed outside to do a perimeter check. Judging by their skeptical expressions, the task wasn’t an immediate necessity.
“Yeah, you go do that,” Michael agreed, his eyebrows raised in mockery. “Good thinking.”
Their conversation wasn’t loud, but being in the same room made it difficult to miss. It wasn’t like she hadn’t already known that, but the exchange between her guards highlighted the fact. It made Sabrina regret her spiteful decision to force an apology out in the open, which wasn’t fair to any of them.
“You’re right, and I’m really sorry.” Deanda looked completely chagrined.
So Sabrina patted the couch beside her, and Deanda accepted the peace offering for what it was.
It was a good thing they made up as quickly as they did. Otherwise the rest of the morning and afternoon would have been strained on top of being emotionally agonizing while they waited for a call from Aileen. With too many unknowns, everyone had agreed it best for them to remain indoors.
Sabrina considered drinking cyanide a few times just to do something other than watch a string of TV shows she couldn’t understand the appeal of. Humor on this side of the world, she decided, wasn’t quite her style, though it seemed to amuse Deanda to some degree. And she caught all four of her bodyguards stifling laughter whenever it was their turn to keep watch in the living room area.
Sabrina seemed to be the only one who didn’t find it entertaining. Or distracting.
She was left with dozens of questions and no answers until well after eight o’clock, when Aileen called to give some good news. She had been able to determine what bonding solution the deranged humans had used, and knew of a safe formula that would loosen it. Even better, she could be over within the hour.
Somehow, the promise made the time move that much more slowly.
When the doorbell rang forty-five minutes later, Jon went to answer it, letting in her cousin, Geoffrey and a third visitor: a young man who was striking enough to capture Sabrina’s attention. His presence didn’t make her focus any less on whatever was inside her ear; it just added a new worry, shallow though it was. She was suddenly all too well aware that, with the little time she’d put into grooming herself that day, she didn’t look at all her best.
He, on the other hand, looked hot.
Probably around her own age, he had rich brown eyes that were downright mesmerizing. And the way his dark blond hair brushed his forehead made her want to run her fingers through it, just to see if it felt as soft as it looked.
The rest of him wasn’t half bad either, with his muted jade wings and wide shoulders. The way his polo stretched across his broad chest left Sabrina concluding that the boy had eaten his Wheaties. Or whatever equivalent Scotland offered.
So caught up in the view, it took her several additional seconds to understand the significance of seeing his wings at all. Her own might be coming in painfully slow fashion, but it appeared her special eyesight had started up just fine.
He must have caught her staring because his lips, which were already slanted at a rakish angle, twitched like he was trying not to laugh. That realization snapped her out of her paralysis, and her opinion of him dropped a significant degree.
Confidence was sexy. Arrogance was not.
Sabrina transferred her attention to smile at Aileen and Geoffrey, thereby ignoring the arrogant but insanely attractive jerk who’d accompanied them.
If that bothered him, he didn’t show it. He just continued to smirk.
Aileen may or may not have noticed the unspoken exchange. If she did, she was decidedly taking her companion’s side. By introducing him, she forced her cousin to acknowledge his presence, which was the last thing Sabrina felt like doing in that moment.
“Sabrina, this is Dallas. Dallas, the Princess Sabrina. Dallas is my acting nurse, you might say.”
Sabrina extended her hand coolly, letting her own lips curve into the smallest indication of condescension. A nurse, was he? She wondered how he looked in a little white skirt and matching cap.
If he recognized her expression for what it was, he kept that to himself too, taking her hand and shaking it firmly. “Princess.”
Nodding with feigned disinterest, she tried to ignore how much she enjoyed the way her hand felt in his. She withdrew her digits from his far more quickly than she would have preferred.
“So what do we do now?” She asked Aileen.
“From what we can tell from that sample I took, whatever’s in your ear does appear to be a bug of some type, most likely designed to pick up whatever you hear, including your own voice. It’s unlikely that something that small and transparent could also work for tracking purposes, unless the Committee’s technology is much more advanced than we know of. I spoke with Human Knowledge to be on the safe side, but they agree the organization shouldn’t have that kind of capability.”
“You can take it out, right?” Sabrina asked, doing her best to keep her voice steady. It wouldn’t do to sound like the frightened little girl she felt she was in that moment.
“Yes, we can,” Aileen assured. “If you want to have a seat.” She nodded, indicating the couch.
Sabrina did as requested, her back straight and her mind as prepared as possible for whatever the next few minutes would bring. As she took deep breaths through her nose, Dallas came over with cotton swabs and a vial in one hand, both of which he gave to Aileen. In his other hand, he held a flashlight, which he shone on her ear.
The actual removal of the item took half an hour, in which time Charlie, Jon, Michael and Richard all left to be replaced by James and Jack. Apparently, the team of four had clocked in extra time because of the uncertainty surrounding the device. “Greater safety in greater numbers” was how Geoffrey explained it in his brusque manner.
Really, Sabrina was grateful for them staying on, and she hoped they were well-compensated for their efforts. But their proper pay wasn’t her main concern right about then. She was much more focused on Aileen.
Her cousin began the process by moistening a cotton swab with whatever formula was in the vial, rubbing the gelatinous stuff into Sabrina’s ear, and then delicately sliding one of her smaller knives inside to peel back the glue. That process, repeated about thirty times, resulted in the removal of the teeny tiny implement.
Sabrina didn’t know which emotion she felt more of when it was finally over: relief that her ear was still intact or fascination with the itty-bitty chip the HPAC had somehow slipped her.
Despite those overwhelming concentrations, she still couldn’t help but notice with some smug contempt that Aileen’s “nurse” had done nothing more than hold the flashlight the whole time.
It seemed evident, at least to her, that he wasn’t as important as he seemed to think he was.
Important or not, he bowed over Aileen’s hand right alongside Sabrina and Deanda to get a better look at the foreign object. Ever the stoic, Geoffrey stood back to wait his turn. The longing in his eyes nonetheless proved he was just as curious as the rest of them.
After getting his chance as well, he placed the device inside a small plastic baggie, which he reluctantly gave back to his colleague. Aileen slipped it into her purse.
They left soon after that, complete with assurances that they’d be seeking further results and some more meaningless pleasantries from Nurse Dallas. Despite her general relief, Sabrina could barely help but refrain from wrinkling her nose at his back when he followed the other two out.
Deanda, however, didn’t seem to give any of them a second thought. As soon as the door shut behind them, she was talking about something completely unrelated with an energy that was as enviable as it was worrisome.
“Well, now that that’s taken care of, let’s go to a club or something. We could check online, or maybe the boys know of a good place; but one way or the other, we’re getting out of here. If I spend one more second inside, I’m going to lose it.”
Taken aback by the abruptness of the miniature tirade, Sabrina stared at her roommate like she’d lost her mind. “Have you forgotten the crazies who put that thing in my head?”
“They said it wasn’t working, right? Which means they don’t actually know where we are. Besides, it’s only stupid if you don’t have backup bodyguards,” Deanda pointed out with a nod at James and Jack.
James gave no indication of his thoughts, but both of Jack’s dark brows rose in what Sabrina suspected was some form of disagreement.
“You mean they’re going to be watching us dance the whole time?” She shot them an apologetic look. “Sorry, guys. No offense.”
“None taken, Princess,” James assured with a shrug.
Deanda waved that concern off. “You won’t even know they’re there unless you need them.”
Sabrina eyed them again, this time in evaluation. They were both sturdily built and obviously had been trained to protect people, so maybe there wasn’t as much harm in Deanda’s suggestion as she’d first thought. She could use some serious distractions, and a night out on the town in a different country would doubtlessly provide that.
“Fine, I’m in. What should I wear?”
“It’s Europe. Pick out something bright and skanky, and wave your hands around in the air like this.” Deanda proceeded to do her imitation of raving, which rather resembled the movements of an overenthusiastic junkie. “Right, guys?” She asked the bodyguards.
“Aye, more or less,” Jack said, unable to keep a smile off his face.
James seemed capable of hiding his thoughts a lot better. His lips barely turned up despite how ridiculous Deanda looked.
Sabrina, on the other hand, outright snorted. “I don’t dance like that.”
“Oh come on!” Deanda stopped for a minute to brush her now crazed hair out of her face. “It’s very freeing.”
Casting her a single skeptical look, Sabrina started walking up the stairs to go get ready. Her friend stayed behind for several more minutes to grill the two bodyguards on where the best local hotspots were. They must have been fairly forthcoming, since she showed up in their shared bedroom well before Sabrina had picked out an outfit. From the way Deanda pounced on her own apparel, she wasn’t nearly so undecided.
“What do you think of this one?” Deanda held up a clingy, purple top with two medium-sized silver chains that connected the scooped neck together. “I could wear it with that pair of black slacks I got at Top Shop.”
“You looked really good in them, so why not,” Sabrina said with approving dismissal. “How about me?”
Deanda didn’t hesitate. “That jean skirt you bought yesterday and your black boots.”
Sabrina went rooting through her bags and pulled out the bottom in question, which she proceeded to regard with hesitation. She’d known it was on the shorter side when she bought it. But looking at it again, she was beginning to think it was a bit too much so.
“You’ll look hot in it and you’ll fit right in,” Deanda assured, seeing her friend’s obvious misgivings. “Trust me. I’ve been here before and you haven’t. Therefore I know better.”
Sabrina made a face at her but decided to go with it anyway. Slipping out of her previous outfit, she did a quick shave of her legs, then pulled the skirt and boots into place. It only took one glance in the mirror for her to admit that Deanda was right: It was a sexy combination.
While Deanda accessorized with purple glitter eye shadow and dangling silver earrings, Sabrina selected a crazy-patterned top that was five-sixths zebra print patchwork and one-sixth sunshine yellow. Both modest and trendy, she hoped it would combat her less-than-conservative lower half.
To finish up the look, she put on strawberry-flavored lip gloss that gave her an automatic pout, and added a pair of thin yellow hoops that matched her top perfectly. With that last touch complete, she stepped back to regard her image again.
A visible smirk formed on her lips while she let her eyes rove up and down the mirror’s length approvingly. Technically, over half of her legs were covered since the tight-fitting black boots came to just below her knees and the skirt came to mid-thigh. What did show was sexy, however, the muscles tightened by her elevated heels.
Giving herself one last appreciative stare, she turned to find Deanda standing across the room in all her sultry glory. The black flared pants she wore highlighted her already attractive legs, and Sabrina’s ego fell a tiny notch as she got a good look at her roommate. Overall, she took it in easy stride. She already knew Deanda was gorgeous. Changing clothing just accentuated various parts of her.
Sabrina crossed her arms over her chest. “So do we have any rules for tonight?”
Applying a touch of mascara, her friend pretended to consider. “You’re only allowed to make out with half a dozen men, and bonus points if you get two guys to come back with you at the same time.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes. “I am not sharing a room with you if you’re going to slut it up.”
“You ruin everything.” Deanda sighed with dramatic flair, then went right back to brushing at her eyelashes. “Come on, why do we need rules? It’s not like we’re prone to bad behavior. At least not really bad behavior.”
“Yeah, well,” Sabrina pointed out with her nose raised slightly in the air and a decidedly knowing tone. “We don’t know what damage sweet Scottish nothings being whispered into our ears might do. So better safe than sorry.”
“Speaking of ‘sweet Scottish nothings.’” Deanda made a point of trailing off, looking quite impish while she slid her mascara wand back into its tube. “What did you think of Dallas?”
“He was about as arrogant as he was hot. I didn’t like him a bit,” Sabrina responded with haughty conviction.
“Maybe not,” was the skeptical reply. “But he was a pretty piece of eye candy, wasn’t he?”
“Eye candy, I’m sure, is about all he’s good for,” she said, turning toward the door. It seemed to be the best means of escaping the conversation.
Deanda managed to beat her out though. “Oh, I’m sure you could think of a few more uses.”
She smirked, leaving Sabrina to gape indignantly as her friend sashayed out of the room with the smug certainty of someone who knew she’s right.
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