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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Romance  ➡  Adventure

Freedom Fighters: Lost City (Book 3)

Chapter 1

 

I had woken up my first morning back feeling rough, remembering the celebration party we had the night before. It was about 3:00am when I had finally crashed into bed and I groaned as my alarm went off at 7:00am for work. I had been on a high since we’d returned home from Dragon City, but right at that moment I felt so tired, as if I hadn’t slept at all.

I was still feeling happy because our enemy was finally behind bars and unable to try and kill us anymore. Snider is an evil dictator who was trying to take over Dragon City, but luckily we managed to stop him and now he’s with the police. I thought that everything was finally over.

The first problem of that day started when I heard my mobile buzz on my bedside table. I rubbed my eyes, grabbed the mobile and checked the screen. I’d received a text message from my girlfriend Trish. I felt pretty guilty; I’d been so busy I’d forgotten to ring or text her to say I was home.

I opened the message and saw she was already annoyed with me: Carl, why aren’t you answering my calls? Where are you? Are you home yet? Xxxxx

I decided against trying to explain everything over a text message and phoned her instead, hoping she was awake.

She answered almost immediately, “Finally, I’ve been trying to contact you all yesterday!”

“Sorry Trish, I’ve been really busy. I didn’t even realise you were trying to get hold of me,” I apologised.

“So what’s happened to you all these weeks? I’ve only had random texts and calls from you since you took off.”

“I’ll explain when I see you. I’m home now so we can meet up whenever you want.”

“Okay. You can come around to my place for breakfast, if you like? Or do you have to go to work right away?”

“No, I’ve got time. I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye, Carl.”

I got washed and dressed as quickly as I could, then jumped into my dark blue sports car. I started to feel anxious and wondered what I was going to tell Trish. She had no idea who I really was and about all the stuff that had been happening. The past few weeks I’d just given her vague excuses about having to go away on business because there was no way I could tell her the truth.

Unfortunately I had to confess all. We had been together three months so she needed to know the other part of my life too. The word would get out anyway, especially after the previous night, so she would find out sooner or later.

I parked up outside her posh semi-detached house and felt excited to see her again. I smiled as I saw her come to the front door to greet me and quickly slammed the car door shut before locking the car and going over to her.

“Hi Trish,” I smiled and gave her a tight hug, feeling so happy to be with her again and smelling her expensive perfume. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too,” she looked pleased to see me, but still slightly annoyed. “I’ll make you some toast.”

I followed her into the house and sat waiting in the dining room while she made my breakfast in the kitchen.

“So, how was your trip?” she asked, putting my plate of toast down in front of me and sitting across the table.

I felt nervous at finally having the talk, “it was good, thanks.”

“It’s pretty strange that you were away for so long,” she said suspiciously. “What business did you have to attend to?”

I ate the toast hungrily before answering her, “I guess I have some explaining to do.”

“I’ve heard strange rumours going around,” she told me, looking puzzled as she thinks them over. “One person told me you were a freedom fighter and you’d left to fight against a dictator…”

I looked down nervously. She had already found out the truth.

“…but I knew that’s ridiculous,” she goes on, not noticing my reaction. “You’re the Mayor of the city. Obviously I wasn’t going to believe such a thing…”

“Trish, it is true,” I told her and anxiously waited on her response. “I am a freedom fighter.”

She immediately stopped talking and stared at me in disbelief for a few seconds, lost for words.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I thought you wouldn’t understand,” I apologised.

“You mean all those silly rumours I heard were true?” she looked stunned at the possibility of it.

“I suppose they are,” I answered, knowing she wasn’t pleased about it so far.

“I don’t understand…Why would you do this? You’re the Mayor, Carl. You shouldn’t be running off to another city starting trouble.”

“They needed me,” I explained. “You have no idea how dangerous Snider is. He nearly killed their Mayor just to get control of Dragon City.”

“But it wasn’t your problem to deal with,” she insisted.

“No, it wasn’t,” I agreed, feeling a little annoyed, “but I couldn’t stand by and let things happen. I’ve fought against him in the past because of all the awful things he did here. I couldn’t let him get away with it a second time.”

“I had no idea this was going on,” she looked disapproving.

I started wondering if she ever knew the real me or if she just thought of me as the Mayor who ran the city. I felt sad at thinking maybe she was only with me because of my job. She had been impressed by it at first.

“You do know that being a Freedom Fighter isn’t exactly legal, don’t you?” she tells me.

“It was only illegal when Snider was controlling the law, but he’s not in charge of any city now,” I replied. “We were protecting people, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“There are a lot of things wrong with it,” she said seriously, going into lawyer mode as usual. “It’s rebelling for a start and what about all the crimes I’ve heard about?”

“Whatever we did in the past was because we had to,” I explained, but I’m still embarrassed about some of it.

“And what about blowing up buildings?”

“We did that once, but it was over a year ago and I wasn’t even Mayor back then.”

It’s one of the things I’m ashamed of because normally we would never do things like that. However, Snider had destroyed our own buildings and soon we were pushed into a war and had to do the same to him.

“It was only to destroy his resources,” I explain nervously. “We evacuated the buildings before we did it.”

“It was still criminal damage,” she rants on. “It’s a mystery how you got elected after doing things like that.”

“Fighting against Snider was the reason people wanted me to be the Mayor. You’ve no idea how awful the city was when he was controlling it.”

Trish had moved to the city a few months ago, so she had no idea that an evil dictator was ruling it for years until we finally got rid of him.

“You’re lucky you weren’t taken to court for that,” she continued. “Didn’t the police ever arrest you for it?”

I felt angry, “of course not. The police were no longer corrupt after Snider left.”

I always hated it that we were misjudged a lot in the past or made to look like criminals. I know that it was mostly Snider’s fault for making us look like the enemy, when really it was him.

“All that stuff is in the past now so it doesn’t matter,” I tell her. “The police are busy with Snider right now, and once we get the court date they’ll be more focused on all the horrible crimes he committed rather than what we did.”

She shook her head, “I really thought you were a nice guy, Carl. My father was so pleased when I told him about you, but once he hears this I will never live it down.”

I couldn’t believe she had just said that and I felt really annoyed that she was so ashamed of me. It hurt a lot when she was supposed to be my girlfriend, and now it seemed like she didn’t want anything to do with me.

“If you’re so embarrassed about me then maybe I wasn’t right for you after all,” I snapped, feeling upset and angry.

I didn’t want us to break up. Trish was a nice girl and I cared about her. She was my first girlfriend and it would be depressing to end up single again. However, there didn’t seem to be much hope of our relationship working out if she could never accept who I really was, and I knew right then that it was over.

“Maybe you’re right,” she agreed, her eyes watering. She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.

“I’m sorry, Carl; but I can’t be seen with a trouble maker. It will ruin my career,” she told me tearfully.

I gritted my teeth, irritated at how selfish and self-absorbed she was being. How could I have thought we would ever work out if she cares more about her lawyer job than me and the good things I had done.

“I think it’s best if we end things between us,” she said, struggling not to cry in front of me.

I felt upset hearing her say it, making it official. It’s awful being dumped.

“Fine, I’ll go,” I agreed and walked out of her house, leaving her and our relationship behind.

[] Chapter 2

 

 

Unluckily for me, my day was about to get a lot worse. It was today that everything happened and my life would be turned upside down, although I didn’t have a clue yet. I was too busy feeling miserable about Trish and our break-up.

I drove to work with my eyes watering a little, trying my best to ignore a love song playing. I pushed the memories of Trish and me out of my mind and turned off the radio.

I just wanted to go home and have a long nap, then stay in bed watching TV and feeling sorry for myself. I already hated being single and the loneliness was ready to kick in.

However, instead of hiding out in my bedroom like I wanted, I had to drag myself to work. I parked in my usual space, took a deep breath and walked into the Town Hall.

Bryan was already waiting in my office when I got there. I smiled, feeling relieved that he was here to help out.

Bryan is a little older than me and will soon be twenty four. He’s tall and thin, with short, blond hair and glasses. He’s my best friend and he’s been working as my assistant ever since I got elected for Mayor; after we had freed the people of Twilight City from Snider fourteen months ago.

“Morning,” he greeted and made me a fresh coffee. “Is something the matter?”

Bryan could always tell when I’m upset, even if I tried my best to hide it. I sank into the chair behind my desk.

“Trish dumped me this morning,” I muttered.

He looked at me shocked, “why? I didn’t know you two were having problems?”

“We weren’t,” I answered sadly, “but then she found out about me being a freedom fighter and didn’t want anything to do with me. She’s embarrassed and scared of me ruining her perfect reputation.”

Bryan shakes his head in disbelief, “You’ve done a lot of great things, Carl. I’ve no idea why she thinks so badly of it.”

“Me neither.”

He patted me sympathetically on the shoulder, “don’t worry, there’s plenty more girls.”

I smiled as he left, trying to hide a laugh. I’m hopeless with pretty girls, so I knew I wouldn’t be getting another girlfriend for a while. If only I was as confident as my younger brother Rickie.

I guess he looks a little similar to me. We both have black hair, brown eyes and a few similar features. He’s eighteen years old and I’m twenty. I’m taller than him by four inches at six foot three. He dresses in a trendy fashion while I have sensible clothes. My hair is short and Rickie’s is longer and styled up with gel. He’s also got a flirty smile for the girls that I’d never be able to pull off.

I was always jealous of the way he could get a girl so easily. He was never anxious or shy, like me. He was so confident. He could just walk straight over to a girl he liked, chat and flirt with them effortlessly and end up with either their number or a date.

If I liked a girl, Rickie would always try to encourage me or push me over to talk to her. I’d get so nervous I could hardly speak and end up blushing just looking at them. It was so embarrassing. Rickie would shake his head at me or roll his eyes, but I couldn’t help screwing it up.

Trish had been my first ever girlfriend, which I was really embarrassed about at my age. I was either too busy for relationships or just didn’t have the confidence to ask out the girls I met. It seemed pretty pathetic and luckily only Bryan, Rickie and maybe Starlet knew about it.

Rickie had gone out with seven girls before he met his current girlfriend, Starlet. She’s seventeen years old, thin and good looking. Her eyes are green and she has long blonde hair with light blue streaks. They act like the perfect couple and are crazy in love with each other. It was pretty annoying to be around them, or maybe it’s just me being a little jealous that I don’t have something special like that yet.

I started to go through paperwork, drinking my coffee. I’d soon forget about my break-up with all the work I had to do.

My desk phone started to ring half an hour into it and I picked it up.

“Hi Bry,” I answered. He always takes all the work telephone calls and transfers them to me if needed.

“There’s an urgent call for you from the police station,” he said over the line. “I’ll put it through.”

I heard the call being transferred. “Hello, this is Carl Granger,” I said.

“Hello, this is Officer Thompson speaking. We’ve got some bad news I’m afraid,” he told me and I began to feel nervous. “Snider’s prison cell was broken into last night.”

I felt my heart skip a beat, “he’s escaped?”

“Unfortunately yes, but he definitely had outside help,” he answered. “I’ve put out an urgent alert for police officers to search for him.”

“Okay. I’ll come right over,” I said and quickly hung up.

I rushed out of the office feeling in shock, unable to believe what had happened. We were so close to getting him to court and sending him to prison and I felt gutted that it had all gone wrong.

“Bry, I’m going over to the police station,” I told him quickly as I rushed out. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

I drove over to the police station and burst through the doors, feeling anxious. The police were all discussing it, looking worried, and the sergeant saw me coming and rushed over.

“Thanks for coming over, Mr Granger. We’re very sorry about the break out,” he apologised.

“Do you know when it happened?” I asked.

“We’ve looked over the CCTV footage and it happened just after three o’clock this morning.”

“I thought his prison cell was supposed to be on high security,” I said, feeling annoyed.

“It was, but there were complications,” he explained. “The five prison guards who were on duty that night was all killed.”

I felt sad hearing this. I couldn’t believe he managed to take more people’s lives.

“What about the security systems?” I asked. “Did the alarm sound? Was back-up called?”

“They destroyed it before they broke into the cell,” he answered, “which means no alarms went off and the back-up wasn’t automatically called.”

I sighed in frustration, “I can’t believe this has happened. So he’s been out there for six hours now?”

“Yes, but don’t worry, we also called for an emergency SWAT team to get on the case as soon as we found out,” he told me. “Hopefully they’ll be able to track him and his accomplices down and arrest them.”

“I hope so. He could be anywhere right now,” I felt my heart racing, wondering what he would do now that he was free.

“There’s one more thing,” he said and I can tell it was more bad news. “He left a message in his prison cell.”

I followed him over to the high security prison cell, which had been left open, and walked inside. Along the wall was a message written in black marker with big capital letters. My heart stopped with fear as I read it:

I will track down and kill every freedom fighter’

“Has this been photographed as evidence?” I asked the sergeant.

“No, I’ll do it right away. I’ll let you know if we get any news on his arrest.”

“I’ll need some police officers to stay guard around my office,” I told him, “and maybe it’s best to hire some body guards.”

I was escorted back by two police officers, just in case I was attacked on the way. Once I came through the door, Bryan jumped up from his desk, looking worried.

“Carl, what’s going on?”

“Snider escaped from prison early this morning.”

Bryan’s eyes widened with shock.

“We’ll have to get all the team over here as soon as possible,” I said, starting to ring Rickie on my mobile. “I’ll start phoning everyone.”

[] Chapter 3

 

 

So here I am, waiting anxiously for everyone to arrive after quickly phoning around. Bryan helped me with half of them, so I’m hoping they’ll all be here soon enough.

Rickie and Starlet soon appear at my office, and Josh and a few other freedom fighters arrive too.

“Bro, what’s up?” Rickie demands.

I hadn’t told him anything over the phone other than it was an emergency and he and Starlet needed to get here as soon as they could.

“It’s better if I tell you all together,” I say, knowing that a lot of panic will happen if I don’t handle this correctly.

“It’s about Snider, isn’t it?” he asks, sussing it out immediately.

I nod, not saying anymore.

It takes another fifteen minutes for everyone to arrive in my office. They look nervous as they wait for me to tell them.

“I have bad news,” I announce. “Snider escaped from his prison cell early this morning.”

There are gasps of surprise and worried expressions. Starlet looks angry enough to track him down right now and roughly throw him back into his prison cell. Rickie looks furious too.

“How did it happen?” Mick demands.

Mick is tall with brown hair, green eyes and huge muscles. He’s an expert on fighting and self-defence and is at the gym most nights, sometimes with Rickie since they’re best mates.

“He was under high security, someone must have tried to stop him?” he continues.

“A group of his old employees helped him break out,” I answered. “They killed all the guards on duty that night and the security system was destroyed, so no one else was alerted of the break in.”

“Are the police out there searching for him?” asks Sarah.

Sarah is Starlet’s best friend and she’s tall and skinny, with chin length dyed purple hair and blue eyes.

“Yes,” I answer, “and we’ve hired an experienced SWAT team to track down and arrest him, so hopefully he’ll be back in prison soon.”

“What’s the point?” Rickie asks annoyed. “We tracked him down last time and now he’s free again. He could be anywhere by now. Even if we find him again, someone will just break him out before we can take him to court.”

“I know it’s frustrating,” I say. “I feel annoyed too that all our efforts to find and catch Snider seem to be wasted; but there’s nothing we can do about that. Once we catch him we’ll have to put every effort we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The sooner we can get him into court and charged the better. Then we won’t have to worry about him anymore.”

“Have you heard any news on where he might be?” Kat asks.

Kat is small with green eyes, shoulder length brown hair and aged seventeen, same as Starlet.

“Not yet, but I’ll let you all know once we hear anything,” I promise.

“Will we be helping to track him down?” asks Josh.

Josh is seventeen too, has spiky blond hair and brown eyes. He always wears shades, a tracksuit and trainers.

“I’m afraid not,” I reply. “Before Snider escaped he left a death threat for all of us; which means that we have to go into protective custody until he’s found.”

“No way, I wanna be out there lookin’ for him,” insists Rickie. “He’s been tryin’ to kill us for years; we’ve always been at risk but that never stopped us fighting him. There’s no point hiding away just ‘cause he’s done a stupid death threat.”

“It’s for our own safety,” I reassure them. “I know things were different in the past, but the police are dealing with this case now and we have to follow procedure. It might only be for a short period of time.”

“When do we have to go?” asks Bryan.

“Probably by the end of today,” I reply. “I’ll have to arrange our secret accommodation with the police, but for now you’ll all have to stay here. Later on you can be escorted by body guards to go out and pack some of your belongings to take with you. Any questions?”

“What should I do about my nurse training?” Kat asks. “They’ll need me for shifts at the hospital and I have to attend college. I can’t give them an absence notice if we don’t know how long I’ll be away.”

“The police will sort all that out for us,” I promise. “They’ll get in contact with all your employers to let them know the circumstance and that temporary employment might be needed until we can all return to our work roles. Kat, I know that your studies are important right now, but the college will understand and come to some arrangement.”

“Okay,” answers Kat, but she doesn’t look happy about it.

“The team of body guards are on their way over so each of us will go individually to our homes to collect anything,” I explain, “apart from Rickie, Starlet and I who will go together for obvious reasons.”

We all live in the same house with mum, so we’ll go together to pack our things up.

Everyone looks nervous at the thought of leaving our homes and not knowing where we’ll end up.

“And one more thing, we all need to hand in our mobile phones in case they’re used to track us down,” I tell them.

“We can’t use our mobiles at all?” Sarah looks distraught at the idea.

She’s obviously very attached to it, and others start to complain too.

“I’m afraid so. Please hand them to Bryan before we go.”

[] Chapter 4

 

 

Rickie, Starlet and I get dropped off at our house in a police car so we can collect our things. Starlet’s been living with us for a year now, ever since Rickie and I were reunited with our mum.

Before that, Rickie and I had run away to become freedom fighters and we hadn’t seen our mum until we won back the city and she finally tracked us down. Starlet was an orphan and didn’t have any other family, so she soon became a new member of our family. I think of her as a sort of sister now.

“How are we gonna explain this to mum?” Rickie asks me before we go in. “Y’know she worries about us.”

“Just leave it to me,” I reply, trying to figure out a gentle way to break the news to her. “Hopefully she won’t panic too much.”

We enter the house and I hear a male voice capture my attention immediately.

“So where are they?” I hear from the kitchen.

“I’ve told you they’re not in right now. Please, just leave my house, Eric,” I hear my mum plead, sounding nervous.

I storm into the kitchen determinedly and feel angry when my eyes confirm who is in our house.

“What are you doing here?” I ask crossly.

Eric looks over and smiles, “just the person I wanted to see. Where’s your brother?”

Rickie and Starlet follow me in and Rickie’s eyes fill with anger as he catches sight of Eric.

“You two have grown since I last saw you,” comments Eric, studying us.

“You’d better get out of here right now or I’m throwin’ you out,” Rickie warns.

“Rickie, who is he?” asks Starlet.

I can tell she’s puzzled at having a strange man randomly turning up and causing trouble, but she’s picked up our feelings towards him and knows he’s bad news.

“This used to be our stepdad before our mum threw him out,” I answer to her.

Starlet looks shocked, “the one that works for Snider?”

Rickie must have filled her in on some things from our past, so I just nod in answer. Rickie’s too busy looking angrily over at Eric to notice.

“I have to say I was very disappointed when I first heard the news about you two,” Eric says to me and Rickie. “It was bad enough that you both foolishly ran away from home and upset your mother. Then I had to go to work and find out that the two boys I was forced to raise had betrayed me. Do you have any idea how embarrassed and ashamed I was after working for Lord Snider for years? It could have ruined everything for me.”

I feel annoyed. What does he expect from us, an apology or sympathy? Well that isn’t going to happen.

“You shouldn’t have been working for an evil dictator in the first place,” I reply. “You should have known it was wrong and stayed away from him. Whatever consequences were your own doing.”

“I hope you’re happy with the mess you both caused; and thanks to you two, our marriage was destroyed.”

“Mum is way better off without you,” says Rickie.

“You both disgust me. I can’t believe I was related to such trouble makers. If you had followed my rules then you both could have turned out to be good kids. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort I put into bringing you up, you still turned into lowlifes…just like your scum of a father.”

Rickie immediately snaps and punches him in the face. Eric falls back in shock, holding his face and looking stunned by the blow.

“Don’t you dare insult my dad!” Rickie yells at him furiously.

I hold him back before he can do any more damage, “Stop it!” I tell him. “He isn’t worth an assault charge. You don’t want to upset mum.”

Our mum is already looking scared with tears in her eyes, “I don’t want any fighting in this house,” she tells us, her voice shaking with anxiety. “Eric, I want you to leave now.”

“I’m not going anywhere!” he snaps at her.

Mum cowers away in fear. She’s always been scared of him and done whatever he said. The only time she ever stood up to him was when he drove us to leave home and she finally got the courage to end their marriage.

Starlet goes over and stands beside her protectively. I know if Eric gets any closer to mum, Starlet will sort him out. She’s only five foot five and doesn’t appear to be strong, but she can take on almost anyone. She may deceive people looking all young and innocent, but her fighting and self-defence skills are excellent. If Eric gets on the wrong side of her, he’s in for a nasty surprise.

Me and Rickie are both ready to take him on too, just in case he is stupid enough to think he can try and hurt our mum.

He turns away from her and back to us, “you two are coming with me. Snider wants to see you both right away and he isn’t happy.”

“We’re not going anywhere with you,” I tell him sternly.

“You will do as I say!” he roars and pulls out a gun that he’s been hiding inside his coat.

Rickie goes for him as soon as he’s caught sight of a weapon. Eric doesn’t even get time to aim before he strikes. Our mum screams in fear and Starlet pulls her down behind the dining table so she’s safely out of target.

I help Rickie who has successfully pinned Eric down. He’s struggling and yelling furiously, trying to get away and shoot us. I kick the fallen gun away to the far side of the kitchen, out of his reach.

“Star, get the police officer in here,” I shout over to her.

She reluctantly leaves our terrified mum and runs out to bring the police officer waiting outside.

“I’m warning you, this won’t be the last of it,” Eric threatens us. “There are a lot more people out there ready to get you.”

“I’d like to see them try,” replies Rickie angrily.

I’m relieved when I see the police officer arrive.

“That’s him,” Starlet informs, pointing over at Eric.

The police officer doesn’t need telling twice. He’s grabbed Eric off us and handcuffed him before Eric can figure out what’s going on. The police officer holds onto him and radios a message to the police station, informing them about the capture and asking for back-up.

“Do you know this man?” he asks us.

“His name is Eric Patterson and he works for Snider,” I tell him. “He came over here threatening us with a gun.”

“It’s a good job I was outside,” he replies. “At least no one was hurt.”

We have to wait until another two police officers arrive in a car to take Eric to the station.

“Go and pack your things quickly,” the police officer tells us. “We should leave here as soon as we can.”

“Our mum should come with us,” Rickie tells him. “That guy used to be married to her, so they’ll know she’s related to me and Carl.”

“I understand your concerns, but your mother hasn’t been threatened and therefore won’t be allowed to go into protective custody,” he answers regrettably. “However, I agree that you should not stay here, Ms Granger. You will need to pack your things and stay somewhere else until we know it’s safe for you to return.”

“But where will I go?” she asks anxiously. “I want to stay with my children.”

“We will make sure they are safe and keep in regular contact to check up on you,” he reassures her. “Is there a friend or family member you could stay with? Somewhere away from the city will be more beneficial.”

“I suppose so…” she replies sadly.

“Don’t worry, mum,” I reassure her. “It will be okay. It’s just temporary until the police catch Snider.”

She nods in agreement and goes to make some phone calls.

[] Chapter 5

 

 

It’s really hard saying goodbye to mum and she cries as she hugs us all.

“Take care,” she says. “I’m going to miss you so much, especially with not being able to visit or contact any of you.”

“It might not be for long,” I say, trying to stay positive. “We should be home soon.”

“We’ll miss you too, Mum,” says Rickie. “You’ll be okay on your own, won’t you?”

“Of course, it will be nice staying with my friend for a while,” she smiles, trying to stay brave and positive for us.

She hugs Starlet tight, “you boys look after Starlet and make sure she’s okay.”

Starlet has become like a daughter to her and I think mum’s very happy to finally have the girl she’s secretly always wanted. She says boys are hard work and Rickie and I were forever getting dirty or into trouble when we were younger.

Mum is very protective over Starlet; maybe even more than Rickie or me. She seems to fuss over her more too because she’s the youngest. Rickie and I don’t mind because that means she nags us a little less. She loves us all the same anyway, never picking favourites.

“We’ll take care of her,” I promise, since it’s my job to look after my team members anyway.

“Have a safe journey,” she says, giving us kisses on the forehead before we go.

It’s so embarrassing that Rickie and I pretty much jump into the police car.

Starlet has a few tears as we drive off and wave goodbye, “I hate leaving her.”

Rickie and I are pretty sad too, but obviously neither of us is going to cry. I just look out of the window to distract myself. Rickie puts his arm around Starlet and comforts her.

“I can’t believe Eric showed up,” I say thoughtfully. “I bet Snider was really hoping he could use him to get to us.”

“Yeah, I can’t stand the thought of him anywhere near mum,” agrees Rickie. “At least she wasn’t facing him alone.”

“Why did he bring up your dad?” Starlet asks curiously. “You’ve never mentioned him before.”

Rickie and I share a look. We’ve kept our dad a secret for a long time and we haven’t talked about him since he got sent to prison when I was seven and Rickie was five.

“We don’t really want people to know about him,” I answer Starlet, keeping it vague, “so we never mention anything about our dad in case people start asking questions.”

“Why not?” she asks, shocked that anyone would want to hide who their dad was.

I don’t really want to bring everything up, but Rickie looks at me.

“Can I tell her? She’s part of our family now and she’ll find out eventually from mum.”

I reluctantly nod in answer, “just keep it between us, okay, Star?”

“Sure,” she agrees.

“Our dad used to steal things,” Rickie tells her. “It became a bad habit, especially since he didn’t get caught. Then one day he was arrested and ended up having to do time in jail. We were little back then so we just kept it a secret and didn’t speak about him. We were embarrassed the other kids would find out and tease us, so we made sure they never knew.”

“Do you ever contact or visit him?” she asks.

“Not really,” I answer. “We’ve replied back to a few of his letters, but we were too young to deal with prison visits. Then we left home and got really busy with freedom fighter stuff…”

“I wonder if he’s still in prison…” Starlet says thoughtfully.

“I dunno,” answers Rickie. “Maybe he’s got out by now. I doubt he’d want to come back home after knowin’ mum re-married.”

“You should try and find him once we get back,” she insists, “even if he has done wrong in the past.”

“We’ll see,” I reply, not sure whether I want to go down that road or not. It’s a big thing and it’ll take a lot of adjusting to. It was weird enough coming back home to live with mum at first.

“Aren’t you gonna call Trish before we leave?” Rickie asks me.

I avoid his eyes and he picks up on my sadness immediately, since we’re pretty close.

“Bro, what’s up? Did you two have a fight?”

I nod sadly, “we broke up this morning right before work.”

Starlet gives me a sympathetic look, “Aww, I’m sorry, Carl.”

“That sucks,” Rickie says, looking upset for me. “What happened?”

“I told her about being a freedom fighter,” I reply. “I thought it would be best if I was honest about everything, and she’d already heard rumours about what happened.”

“Guess she didn’t take it well.”

“She didn’t understand at all. She accused us of being criminals and now she’s too ashamed to be around me.”

“If that’s how she feels then she doesn’t deserve you,” Starlet tells me. “You should be proud of what we’ve done, not ashamed.”

I smile since she’s being so sweet to me and feel a little better.

“There are single girls out there that are way hotter,” Rickie says, trying to cheer me up. “You’ll meet someone better.”

“Yeah, easy for you to say,” I tease.

“I’ll help you out,” Rickie grins. “When we get back, we’ll hit some clubs and I’ll get you hooked up with any girl you like.”

I blush in embarrassment, “no thanks, maybe I’ll just stay single.”

“Y’ sure you’re okay?” he asks, looking concerned. He obviously thinks I might take ages to get over Trish.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I reassure him.

Trish was beautiful and I liked being with her, but we were only together for a short time and it never got to be a serious relationship like Rickie and Starlet’s.

“It’s not like she was the one,” I say. “She didn’t really know me.”

“You’ll find the right girl one day,” he tells me. “It’ll happen when you least expect it, trust me.”

Once we get back to my office, we all have to sit and wait until the coach arrives to take us to our secret accommodation.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be driving alongside you to make sure we’re not attacked or followed,” one of the body guards tells me, “and they’ll be two of us on board with you in case they get inside.”

“Thanks for all your help,” I say gratefully. “I really appreciate it.”

“Carl,” Bryan says, trying to get my attention. “I’ve found temporary replacements for us until we get back. I thought it was best if Simon took over and he’ll be able to explain to the city what’s happening.”

I feel relieved. I’ve been working with Simon for a few months and he’s definitely trustworthy and reliable enough to take care of things for a while.

“That’s great,” I reply. “Thanks Bry.”

I see the coach arrive outside and the body guards all stand around on look out, making sure we’re safe. We all load our bags and suitcases into the coach and then get on board.

After I’ve checked everyone is here, we set off on our journey. I still don’t know where we are heading to and the only people who are allowed to know are the driver and body guards.

The journey there takes three hours and we arrive in the middle of a large woodland area. It looks really secluded, mountains in the background and a lake nearby, but apart from that there’s nothing but trees or fields in sight. The coach stops outside a large wood cabin hidden between the trees and we all get out to look around our new home.

There aren’t enough rooms for all of us to have one each, so it’s two people sharing for each room. Starlet and Rickie have no problem with that, so the rest of us split into roommates. Kat wants to share with Sarah; Josh goes with Mick and I partner with Bryan. The other freedom fighters organise themselves pretty quickly and soon we all unpack and settle into our new rooms.

“It looks so peaceful,” says Bryan, looking happy as he gazes out of the window at the scenery. “I could stay here forever.”

I smile, “maybe a few weeks away from the office will be good.”

It’s definitely been stressful having to be the City Mayor, and Bryan almost gets as much work as I do with being my assistant. I can’t even remember the last time I had a break or a real holiday since starting work there, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise. We could all do with some rest and relaxation after fighting Snider and his troops in Dragon City.

Someone knocks on our door and I turn to see a beautiful lady waiting to be invited in. She has short chestnut hair, a few freckles on her cheeks and green, sparkling eyes. She’s thin and quite tall, maybe a few inches shorter than me. I immediately blush.

“Hello, you must be Carl. I’m Maria Yates,” she introduces herself and smiles up at me.

“Hi,” I shake her hand politely and feel shyness kick in. My throat starts to clench with nerves and my mind goes blank.

“I’m one of the police officers dealing with your case,” she explains to me. “Our team thought it was best if I stay with you all in case of an emergency.”

“Oh…okay…thanks.”

“If you need anything just come and ask me or any of the body guards,” she offers, and I nod in answer, trying not to look too excited.

I know the chances of me being able to talk are pretty slim, but it’s nice to know that she’ll be around.

[] Chapter 6

 

 

We’ve stayed in hiding at the wood cabin for four months now, and today I’m eagerly waiting for the weekly call from the police station. I hope that they have finally found Snider by now so we can all return home. However, when they do contact me via Maria’s work mobile, it’s the same news. They are still looking and we have to stay where we are.

I hang up the call and sigh in disappointment. I thought all this would be sorted by now, but I was wrong. Knowing Snider is still out there darkens my mood and makes me feel troubled. I wish he could have been sent down while we still had him arrested.

My mood brightens as Maria comes over to retrieve her mobile.

“Sorry it’s not good news,” she says sympathetically. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed for next time.”

I just smile in reply because I’m too shy to say anything.

It’s been great seeing her every day and getting to know her. I’m still anxious around her, but we’ve managed to have a few conversations so far, with Maria doing most of the talking.

I go and sit on my bed, deep in thought and daydreaming about her for a while. I hear Rickie enter my room and look up, startled at being interrupted.

“Thinkin’ about that cop, bro?” he teases me.

“No,” I lie and feel my cheeks burn.

He smirks, knowing the truth. He knows me too well; I should have realised I couldn’t lie to him.

“How did you know?” I ask, wondering if Bryan’s been telling him.

“I just notice y’ looking at her sometimes.”

“I don’t stare at her,” I say embarrassed.

“Just admit it, bro, you fancy her. There’s nothin’ to be embarrassed about.”

I blush even more and give up the act, “how can you tell?”

“It’s obvious; you blush and get all shy whenever she’s around.”

“Really?” I cringe, wondering if everyone can tell; or even worse if Maria has realised it too.

I sigh, deciding to confess since I can talk to Rickie about anything, “I just don’t know what’s up with me. I can’t stop thinking about her, it’s driving me crazy.”

“Really?” he looks amused.

“And I just want to see her or talk to her,” I say, feeling frustrated. “Why am I getting like this?”

“It sounds like you’ve got it bad for her already.”

I start to feel nervous. I can’t be falling in love with her already, can I? No, that’s silly; it’ll just be another crush, “Great, this is all I need when we’re busy hiding away.”

“I told y’ it would happen when you least expect it,” he reminds me.

“Yeah, you were right. I never thought I’d end up wanting to be with a police officer. It’s just too weird.”

Two years ago I never would have believed it. Back then the police were corrupt and on Snider’s side and we had to fight against them too. Luckily it’s a different story now and Snider no longer has control over them. Maybe liking Maria isn’t going to be so weird now things have changed.

“If y’ like her, why don’t you just ask her on a date?” he asks.

“I can’t.”

“You really have to get over being shy with pretty girls. If y’ never tell her how you feel then she’ll just think you’re not interested or end up with someone else. You need to do something now before it’s too late.”

“She might not even be single,” I say miserably.

“So ask her.”

“I can’t just ask that.”

Rickie rolls his eyes, “You don’t ask them whether they’re single. You try and bring it up in conversation.”

“No, I really don’t feel like asking her anything. It’s too obvious.”

“So just be brave and ask her on the date. If she accepts then she obviously doesn’t have a boyfriend, and it lets you know she’s interested too.”

“But we’re working together, it’s against the rules for us to have a relationship,” I say, half disappointed but half relieved that it means I don’t have to ask her.

“It didn’t stop me and Star gettin’ together,” Rickie grins.

“You know I wasn’t pleased about that at first,” I say, knowing he loves annoying me about it, “but there are no rules about employees in the same team getting involved outside work. It’s different with her and me. It’s her job to look after us. It’s not appropriate for us to get romantically involved while I’m one of her clients. She’ll get dismissed from her job.”

“Then wait ‘til you’re not.”

“I don’t know, we’ve got too much going on right now,” I say, feeling troubled.

I need to concentrate on protecting our team, not getting distracted by a girl I can’t even be with.

“Bro, you really need a girlfriend, let’s face it,” he says, “and there’s no point wastin’ time feeling sad over Trish either. She didn’t deserve you and she’s history now, so just move on.”

[] Chapter 7

 

 

The next week, I hear that Snider still hasn’t been found and feel disappointed again. I’m starting to feel anxious that we could be in hiding for a few more months…maybe even years.

“I’ve had a call from the police officer in charge of our case,” I tell everyone, dreading to break the bad news. “Snider still hasn’t been caught so it looks like we’ll be here longer than planned.”

Everyone looks dejected at hearing this.

“I’m really sorry,” I apologise. “They’re all doing the best they can. Hopefully this will all be over soon and we can get home.”

Sarah leaves the room, looking upset.

“It’s not so bad being here,” Bryan says, trying to keep everyone positive. “We’re all together and safe. That’s what counts.”

“Yeah, but this dump is so boring,” moans Rickie. “It’s driving me crazy. We’re in the middle of no-where without places to go.”

“Rickie’s right,” Mick says, looking troubled. “It’s not good for us to stay cooped up in this cabin with only the woods and lake to go to.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s our only choice,” I reply. “We can’t be in a place where we’ll be spotted. We have to stay out of sight and this is the perfect place.”

Everyone goes back to what they were doing. Mick and Bryan continue their game of cards with two other freedom fighters. Josh goes back to his video game with Kat, and Rickie and Starlet go outside.

I feel concerned about Sarah being upset and go to look for her, finding her stood outside on the patio. She looks frustrated as she gazes out into the woods.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She sighs, “It’s just getting to me being stuck here.”

“Why don’t you go for walk? It’ll help with the cabin fever,” I suggest. “I’ll come with you.”

“Okay,” she smiles gratefully and we begin to walk into the woods.

“I just miss being at home so much,” she tells me sadly.

“I know. It won’t be long until we can return.”

“But how long is that going to be? We could be stuck in hiding forever.”

“Sarah, the entire police force in the country knows about him and they’ll keep looking,” I reassure her. “Don’t worry, they’ll find him sooner or later.”

“But until then we’re stuck hiding away putting our lives on hold,” she says aggravated. “I just want to be able to go out shopping or to the cinema, or even go to work. I’d rather do anything than just sitting around bored out of my mind, waiting until we can finally get back.”

“We’re all finding it hard, but we have to stay strong and get through this,” I say supportively. “Once we’re back we can carry on with everything else and forget all about this.”

“I’ll try…”

A sudden gunshot makes us both jump with fright. Sarah’s eyes fill with horror as she realises the bullet has missed me by an inch and hit the tree trunk behind us.

I feel shaken that someone has suddenly tried to kill me and look around. I see someone crouched behind the bushes a distance away, his gun pointed in our direction. I grab Sarah’s arm and pull her behind the tree as he tries to fire at us again.

We hide behind the thick tree truck, shielding ourselves from the gun shots.

“What should we do?” asks Sarah, looking terrified.

“We have to warn Maria and the others, they’ll know what to do,” I answer.

I peer around the tree truck and see our attacker is still hidden in the bushes.

“Let’s make a run for it back to the cabin,” I whisper to her quickly.

She nods and gets ready to run.

“Now,” I say and we race as fast as we can towards the cabin patio.

There’s only a short distance from our hiding place behind the tree and the cabin, so I’m sure we’ll make it there safely. I see another figure in the woods and run faster, hearing gun shots behind us.

We reach the patio and jump inside the back door of the cabin to safety.

“Everyone back inside!” I yell out to the few people outside. “We’re under attack.”

Sarah has left my side to find Maria or any of the body guards, and I’m determined to make sure anyone else is back safe.

“They might follow you here,” Josh tells me worriedly, thinking of the attackers finding our cabin.

I realise he’s right and my heart beats even faster, “We’ll have to do what we can to keep them out.”

I let a few freedom fighters rush past me into the cabin, then shut the door and bolt it, in case the attackers do arrive any second.

A few people start to panic but Bryan tries to keep them calm. Mick runs over to lock the front door too in case they try to get in that way.

Maria appears with Sarah and looks determined.

“Don’t worry, we’ll handle this,” she reassures us all.

Her and the bodyguards unlock the back door and go outside, armed with guns.

“Lock the door behind us and don’t let anyone inside until I tell you to,” she tells me. “We’ll be back soon and let you know once it’s safe.”

I do as she says and check on everyone else.

“Okay, is everyone here?” I ask, trying to keep calm. “Does anyone notice if someone is missing?”

I swiftly count everyone up and notice that two people are missing. I sigh with impatience.

“Does anyone know where Rickie and Starlet are?” I ask.

Everyone looks blankly at me and doesn’t seem to know. I can remember seeing them going outside but I’d presumed they had followed everyone else back in. Clearly they hadn’t.

I rake my fingers through my hair, feeling worried, “they must still outside…”

“They’ll be fine,” Bryan assures me. “Maria or the body guards will find them before anything bad happens.”

“But why didn’t they return to the cabin like everyone else?” I ask feeling annoyed.

No one wants to answer that question and I feel my stomach tighten with nerves at thinking of a reason why.

“They can handle themselves,” Mick says confidently. “There’s no point thinking the worse until we know for sure.”

[] Chapter 8

 

 

We spend half an hour anxious waiting inside the cabin. My mind is racing with all kinds of thoughts and I’m scared for Rickie and Starlet. I desperately hope that they’re not hurt or worse, and I wish I could be out there looking for them.

Finally there’s a loud knock on the back door which makes us all jump with surprise.

“It’s Maria,” she shouts through to us. “You can open the door, it’s safe.”

I go over and unbolt it, feeling relieved that the assassins have been taken care of. I see Rickie and Starlet behind her and breathe a sigh of relief, thankful that they are safe and unharmed.

“I’ve been worried sick about you two,” I say.

“Relax, we’re fine,” answers Rickie.

“Where have you been?” I demand, feeling angry now instead of worried.

“We helped Maria arrest the assassins,” he tells me, feeling pleased.

“Rickie, do you realise how dangerous that was?” I say, feeling irritated. “So you’re telling me that you and Star ran off to fight against people who were trying to kill us, and you did it with no back-up?”

“No, we knew Maria or the bodyguards would come out soon after hearing the gun shots, so we did have back-up. That’s what they’re here for.”

I don’t have time to argue but I’m still annoyed. I see that the rest of the body guards are keeping the five hand-cuffed assassins under control and away from the cabin. Maria hangs up the call on her mobile.

“I’ve called the local police station and they’ll be here soon to take them away,” Maria tells me. “These criminals won’t be bothering any of you again. It’s mostly thanks to these two,” she indicates to Rickie and Starlet proudly. “They did an excellent job. As soon as those assassins saw us coming they tried to run away, but Rickie and Starlet made sure that they didn’t.”

“That’s good,” I agree, but I’m still too miffed about Rickie and Starlet for running away to feel pleased. “But you should have stayed in the cabin like we were supposed to,” I tell them both. “It was very dangerous for you both to follow them, whether you succeeded or not.”

“I know, but if we’d come back and waited around, the assassins would have got away by then,” explains Rickie.

I’m so angry I don’t say another word to them as they come back into the cabin. They are greeted by everyone, relieved to see they are safe and wanting to know what happened. Rickie starts telling them the whole story while everyone listens in awe and congratulates them. Starlet is being hugged by Sarah and Kat, who are very happy that’s she’s safe.

I cross my arms in annoyance and wait for them all to calm down.

“Rickie, Starlet, I want a word with you both,” I tell them.

They exchange glances, knowing they’re in trouble and I’m about to tell them off. Everyone else looks at them sympathetically or gives them a pat on the shoulder before going back to chatting.

I walk into my bedroom and they follow me inside. Starlet looks a little nervous about what I’m going to say, but Rickie looks slightly annoyed.

“I’m disappointed in you both,” I start. “You know we were ordered to stay safe in the cabin, but instead you both run off following people who were armed and put yourselves in danger. Do you realise how anxious I was? I had no idea what had happened to either of you.”

“I’m sorry,” Starlet apologises, looking guilty. “We didn’t mean to worry you.”

“We had no time to tell you what we were doing,” Rickie tells me. “We had to act fast. Even if we had said something, you would have probably stopped us and we’d have lost them.”

“I know you were just trying to help and I’m happy that you did get them arrested,” I say reasonably, “but you need to think more about safety. The police are dealing with this, not us. We need to stay well away from Snider and any of his employees. In future you follow the orders that are given. You’re both lucky to make it back safe today.”

“We were fine,” Rickie answers back, and I can tell he’s starting to rebel as usual.

“But that’s not good enough,” I tell him. “What if you had been shot or attacked? You were outnumbered and without any weapons to protect yourselves with. If anything bad happened then none of us would have known where you were and we couldn’t have got you any help. You’re very lucky Maria and the body guards got there in time to help. You both put your lives at risk and I’m not happy for you to do that again.”

“Big deal,” Rickie says with attitude. “We used to do that all the time when we were fighting against Snider in the past; but now all you want us to do is run from him and his employees and hide like cowards. We’re not real freedom fighters anymore if that’s what we do.”

I’m a little stunned that he’s arguing back with me, “Things have changed now. I’m only trying to keep us safe.”

“At least nothing bad did happen,” Starlet reminds me calmly, sticking up for Rickie. “The body guards soon arrived so we weren’t alone the whole time.”

“That isn’t the point,” I reply. “You both need to be a lot more careful from now on.”

Rickie just sighs, not caring.

I turn to Starlet first, trying to get through to her, “Star, your parents died to protect you and now it’s my job to look after you and keep you safe. You must realise that life is precious and you shouldn’t risk losing it so easily.”

She looks down at the floor, upset.

“I know you have excellent self-defence and fighting skills,” I continue, “and you obviously want revenge on Snider for what he did; but you still need to be careful and not let your anger control you. You need to think before you act and make sure you’re not putting yourself in danger.”

“Okay, I will,” she replies quietly.

“And Rickie, you should know better than to get Star involved,” I say turning to him. “I know you like to act on things, but you were putting her life at risk as well as your own. How would you feel if something bad happened to her and it was your fault for dragging her into it?”

He looks guilty and sad at this, knowing I’m right.

“You need to stop charging into situations and looking for trouble, and start to realise what the consequences might be. I know you don’t like having your brother tell you what to do; but I am the team leader. You have to follow my orders whether you agree with them or not.”

“Okay,” he replies, but I can tell he’s still in a bad mood with me.

“I’m glad you’re both safe,” I say, feeling a little remorseful at telling them off, but I knew it had to be done. “You can go.”

Once they’ve left the room I fall back onto the bed, feeling tired from all the worrying. I know I might have been a little hard on them, but it was only because I care so much. I feel responsible for every freedom fighter, but even more for Rickie and Starlet because they’re my family. I couldn’t handle anything bad happening to either of them and I want to make sure they’re safe, especially with Snider out there wanting revenge.

Chapter 9

 

Maria tells us we have to move to another secret building immediately, just in case any of Snider’s assassins reported back our location. We can’t risk another attack, so we pack up all our things and prepare to leave. I feel a little sad as we leave the wood cabin. It’s been our temporary home for a while now and I’ve surprisingly grown a little attached to it.

We set off in a coach and drive for hours. It’s weird not knowing where we are going to or what it will be like. I feel my eyes go heavy as I gaze out at the countryside passing through the window and soon drift off.

I don’t know how long I nap for, but I’m suddenly jolted awake. I hear a bang and feel the coach being collided into. I fall to the side in my seat, half asleep and confused. I look out of the window and see a flash of black before it’s gone.

“What happened?” I ask Bryan.

“A Range Rover just swerved into us,” he answers, looking nervous. “I’m not sure whether it was an accident or not…”

Everyone starts talking loudly and looking anxious.

“Stay calm,” Maria orders us. “I’ll find out what’s happening.”

She’s busy on her police radio, listening to what the bodyguards are telling her. Two are on board with us and getting ready to take action. Two are following behind us in a car and are reporting to Maria about what they saw. Maria looks a little worried at whatever they’ve just told her.

“Turn here and park somewhere,” she tells the driver.

He carefully does as she says, driving the coach left and parking at the side of the forest. I hear Maria on the phone to the local police and feel anxious at not knowing what’s happening and how much danger we’re in. I don’t want to interrupt to ask her because I know she’s too busy sorting things out.

She gets another report on the radio and this time looks troubled.

“We need to evacuate the coach right away,” she tells us loudly. “Everyone follow me.”

We now know for definite that something really bad is happening. I feel nervous but I keep myself busy making sure everyone has got out. Maria is running ahead of us with her gun ready. Two body guards follow behind us, keeping watch, while the other two protect us from the sides.

I hit my foot on a tree root sticking up from the ground and gasp with pain, stopping to rub it and expect the damage.

“Are you okay?” Starlet comes over to help me.

One of the body guards at the back notices that we’re behind and stops to watch over us, while the other one continues following the group.

“I’ll be fine,” I answer, trying to force myself forward.

My ankle feels weak and sore and it’s hard to walk, so Starlet puts her arm around my waist and supports me.

“I’ll let Maria know you’re injured…” the body guard says, about to send word on his radio.

I can tell he’s worried that we’re not part of the group anymore and they are growing distance away from us.

A figure unexpectedly jumps out from a nearby tree and attacks. The body guard drops the radio and aims his gun to shoot. The attacker sprays something into his eyes before he can fire. The body guard screams in pain and covers his eyes, then loses balance and falls to the ground, unable to see.

The attacker turns to us, pointing his own gun in our direction.

“Stay back!” he roars at us, mostly at Starlet. She’s automatically gone into self-defence mode and is ready to fight.

I start to worry in case she will try to attack and get hurt, but she freezes unexpectedly. She stares at the attacker in disbelief then looks really annoyed.

“I don’t believe this. Out of all the people Snider could have sent to get us, it had to be him.”

I frown, “Who is he?”

I study the man but don’t recognise him at all. He’s tall with black shoulder length hair and dark eyes. He’s wearing ripped jeans, a bullet proof vest and a white t-shirt. He looks to be twenty five years old and has black inked chain tattoos along both his muscled arms. He’s wearing a law enforcements badge around his neck. His belt has an empty holder for his gun, handcuffs and another holder for the Mace spray can that he used on our body guard.

“He’s the bounty hunter that was after you and Rickie,” Starlet tells me.

I immediately remember back to what happened in Dragon City. He was hired by Snider a few months ago and was desperately trying to hunt down me and Rickie, in exchange for a large sum of money. I never got the chance to meet him until now; but he’s tried and failed to arrest Rickie.

“Starlet Summers, I’ve been wondering when I’d see you again,” he says with a smirk.

“How do you know my name?” she asks, irritated.

He grins, “You’re on my list of fugitives so it must be my lucky day.”

Starlet narrows her eyes at him in anger. I start to feel as annoyed as she looks and want him to stay away from her. I remember Rickie telling me that Drake had a thing for Starlet, so I’m even more protective over her. There’s no way I’ll let him try anything with my brother’s girlfriend.

Starlet is about to use a self-defence move on him, but I grab her arm and hold her back, “Star, don’t!”

“I can take him,” she insists determinedly.

I admire her bravery. He looks tough and very strong, but she’s not intimidated by him at all.

“No. You’re not wearing a bullet proof vest and I don’t want you to get hurt,” I tell her sternly.

She remembers the lecture I gave her back at the wood cabin and backs down. Drake is watching us both carefully, making sure we’re not going to attack and keeps his gun ready.

“You two are coming with me,” he says, approaching us.

He still seems a little wary of getting too close to Starlet, so maybe she’s already used self-defence on him in the past. He obviously knows how skilled she is.

“Don’t try anything,” he warns us in a low, threatening voice. “If either of you make a wrong move then I’ll shoot you both.”

I exchange a glance with Starlet, mentally asking her not to put her life in danger. She understands and doesn’t try to attack him.

“Why would you shoot both of us? Seems a little harsh,” I say.

“I’m good at reading people and I can tell you’re both crazy enough not to care about getting shot at; but you care about what happens to each other so you won’t risk it,” he explains.

I’m surprised at how clever that is. He’s really got us sussed out.

“Start walking towards the road,” he orders, grabbing each of us by the arm and pulling us along.

I limp a little, struggling to walk at his speed and grit my teeth with the pain.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asks me suspiciously. “Hurry and keep up.”

“Carl’s hurt his foot, he can hardly walk by himself,” Starlet informs him crossly.

Drake sighs in annoyance, as if I’ve done it on purpose to slow him down; but he puts his arm around my shoulder instead and helps me walk.

We arrive at a black Range Rover that’s parked up on the roadside, the same one that must have hit our coach.

“Both of you stand against the car and put your hands on your head,” he barks at us.

We do as he says and I can’t help feeling anxious knowing we’re about to be taken to Snider and killed. My heart starts to race at the thought of what will happen and I’m scared about him dealing with Starlet.

“Have you got anything on you?” he asks me suspiciously.

“No,” I answer honestly.

“That’s what they always say,” he replies, not believing me.

He does a quick body search and looks a little surprised when he doesn’t find any weapons or even a mobile phone.

“Well that’s a first,” he mutters and hand cuffs my wrists behind my back.

I’m starting to feel nervous that he’ll throw us both in the boot and lock it, but instead he opens the back passenger door and helps me sit inside. He even puts the seat belt around me before slamming the door shut. I’m relieved he’s nice enough to think of my car safety, but it makes me feel even more trapped with the belt holding me back in the seat.

He goes to Starlet next and I watch him closely through the window, wanting to make sure she’s safe. I don’t trust him with her and I wish I was able to protect her against him right now.

He starts a quick body search on her too and she looks very uncomfortable with him touching her, but he stays professional. I can tell she’d love to sucker punch him in the face and it’s only for my sake that she hasn’t.

He hand cuffs her too before leading her to the front of the car and opening the passenger door.

“Why can’t I sit at the back with Carl?” she asks, annoyed at having to sit next to him.

“I need to keep you two separated,” he answers, getting her seat belt on before shutting the door.

“Don’t worry, Star, I’ll try and get us out of here somehow,” I say to her quickly, before he gets into the driver’s seat.

[] Chapter 10

 

 

I look around the car for a possible escape route as Drake starts up the engine, clips on his seat belt and gets the car in gear. The windows are blacked out, so we can’t try to get help from people outside. I notice he’s got his gun nearby so he can easily use it if we provoke him.

“The doors are fitted with security locks,” he tells us, like he’s said it a hundred times before, “so it’s a waste of time to try the doors.”

We set off, driving along the road until we’re nearly at a motorway.

“So you’re Carl Granger,” he says, looking at me through the rear view mirror. “I got lucky finding you, you’re worth the most.”

I notice from the mirrors reflection that he’s got a gash across his forehead still in stitches. The last time Rickie came across him, Drake had chased after his motorbike and tried to run him off the road. Luckily Rickie managed to swerve one of his hits and Drake ended up crashing his car.

“When did you get out of hospital?” I ask, wishing I’d remembered to do a check-up on him for our own safety.

He looks a little surprised by my question, “A few months ago. I spent two days in there thanks to your lowlife brother,” he replies angrily. He’s obviously still bitter about it, deciding to blame the accident and his injuries on Rickie.

“It wasn’t Rickie’s fault,” I defend him. “If you weren’t trying to hit him off the road then you wouldn’t have crashed.”

“He meant for that to happen,” he insists. “Once I get my hands on him, I’ll make him pay for what he did.”

“You’d better stay away from him,” Starlet says angrily, getting protective over Rickie.

He replies to her in a very low voice, so I can’t hear what he’s saying. I feel angry in case he’s threatening her, but from what I can hear from his tone, it doesn’t sound that way. It sounds almost as if he’s having a polite conversation with her, which confuses me.

I’m surprised when Starlet answers back in a low voice too, but I can tell from her tone that she’s very irritated with him. She probably doesn’t want to get in trouble from me for using violent threats or whatever angry thing she’s saying.

They talk for a while and I wish I knew what they were both saying. Drake mutters something and the conversation ends. He looks a little annoyed and I can only imagine how livid Starlet must look. I can feel her angry vibes from way back here.

Drake continues driving without saying anything else. He keeps checking the rear view mirror every so often to make sure I’m not doing anything. He does quick glances over at Starlet too, but she’s looking out of the window moodily and doesn’t pay attention to him.

I try desperately to think of a way out of this, but I still don’t know what I can do. If only I still had my mobile, but that had been confiscated by the police before we went into hiding. At least if I had it I could somehow phone Maria or even let the police track us with it. However, Drake would have probably confiscated it anyway. Now they had no way of knowing where we are.

We drive for another half an hour before I spot a police car driving nearby in the rear view mirror. It doesn’t have its sirens on but I notice it’s getting nearer and might be trying to follow us. I really hope it’s Maria or someone to come rescue us.

I check on Drake to see if he’s noticed, but he’s concentrating on the road and doesn’t seem to know. I wish I could tell Starlet but there’s no way I can signal to her. I can’t get her attention without making Drake suspicious.

I keep my eye on the rear view mirror, watching the police car pull in behind the Range Rover. Drake looks up, notices the police car and swears under his breath.

The police sirens start wailing and Starlet jumps with surprise and notices them too. The police officer signals for Drake to pull over and I prepare myself in case he speeds off to try and get away from them. Instead he frowns, curses angrily and pulls up on the hard shoulder of the motorway.

He looks back at me, then at Starlet, trying to suss out if we somehow managed to get help. Starlet gives him an angelic look to irritate him and I struggle to keep my face straight. He looks at me and knows I’m trying to hide a smirk. He narrows his eyes at me, but he knows there’s no way either me or Starlet could have done anything.

“Stay in the car,” he growls at us before getting out.

He locks the car behind him and approaches the police officer who was driving. He looks really annoyed at being pulled over and the police officer starts to question him. I feel pleased when I see Maria get out of the police car too and start to confront him.

They talk and she looks at the back of the car in my direction. I feel faint with relief. She knows we’re here and won’t let Drake take us. Drake is now looking a little worried at being caught out. He continues to talk to them and even stops Maria from going over to the car.

I see Maria shake her head in disbelief at whatever he’s said and eventually gets him to hand over his car keys. Drake looks even angrier as she unlocks the car and opens the back door to where I am. She smiles at me and Starlet then turns back to Drake.

“Just as I suspected, it was kidnapping,” she says triumphantly.

She helps us out of the Range Rover while the other police officer arrests Drake. Maria manages to take off our hand cuffs and I feel happy to be free from them. Drake is still arguing with the police officer, so Maria tells us to go wait in the back of the police car and goes to sort him out.

Eventually she comes back to the police car and takes the driver’s seat. She calls for another police car to pick up Drake and the other officer, then straps on her seat belt.

“Are you both okay?” she asks us, looking concerned.

I smile and look down at the floor shyly, “yeah…we’re fine.”

“Thanks for rescuing us,” Starlet says gratefully.

“No problem,” she smiles. “We’ll drive back to the others while the local police deal with him. Don’t worry, we’ll sort everything out.”

She starts the engine and begins to drive back the way we came, “Everyone is waiting at the next placement so we should be there in just over an hour.”

We soon reach a building located on a run-down industrial estate. The factories we pass look quiet and eerie. Our building is hidden away at the back of them all. It’s smaller than the rest, with only three floors. It’s surrounded by iron security fencing, like some of the nearby factories, and I can’t help thinking it looks almost like a prison.

“This place doesn’t look too good,” Starlet says to me, a little uneasy.

“I’m sure it’ll be okay inside,” I reply, “and it’s just temporary.”

We drive through the security gates and pull over outside the building. As we walk through the entrance I see Rickie, who immediately greets us both.

“You found them!” he says to Maria and grins happily.

He gives Starlet a tight hug, looking relieved, and buries his face into her hair. Starlet cuddles up to him, really happy to be back with him again.

“I’ve been so worried ‘bout you guys. Are you okay?” he asks, looking over at me and then back down at Starlet.

I smile, “we’re fine, thanks to Maria.”

“What happened?” he asks. “I noticed you were both missing and wanted to look for you, but the bodyguards wouldn’t let me go back. Maria told me she’d handle it and I had to stay with the others. I hated not being able to help.”

“I hurt my foot and Star stopped to help me,” I explain. “A body guard was watching over us but he got attacked.”

“Drake arrested us,” Starlet tells him, still furious about it. “He was trying to take us to Snider before Maria showed up.”

Rickie’s eyes darken with hatred at the mention of his old enemy, “So I guess he’s out of hospital now?”

“He said he got discharged a few months ago,” I answer. “Snider must have told him to track us all down.”

“He didn’t hurt you, did he?” he asks Starlet, looking worried and angry. “I can’t stand him being anywhere near you.”

I can tell he’s nervous that Drake might have tried it on with his girlfriend while he wasn’t around.

“No, I was fine,” she answers. “You know I can handle myself.”

He smiles, reassured.

“I was looking after her, bro,” I say quietly to him, as Starlet goes to greet the others. “I wouldn’t have let anything happen to her.”

“Thanks,” he smiles gratefully. “So you’ve finally met Drake?”

“Yeah, hopefully I won’t have to again. Star really hates him, doesn’t she?” I grin.

He smirks, “she kicked him in the balls once for trying to arrest me.”

I can’t help but laugh, even though I’m trying to teach Starlet to control her anger and violence, “That’s just like her. No wonder he was scared of getting near her.”

That definitely explains why he was so hesitant in the forest. Unfortunately I’d have to let her get away with that incident, since it would be classed as self-defence rather than an attack.

“Don’t worry, he won’t be bothering any of you again,” Maria promises me. “I’ve just contacted the police officers dealing with his case. They say he’s locked in cell at the station for now. I’ll be going over later to sort out his punishment.”

“Thanks for your help,” I say gratefully, feeling shy again. “I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t got to us in time.”

“I’m just doing my job,” she smiles. “As long as you’re all safe, that’s all that matters.”

After being welcomed back by the others, Sarah comes over to talk to me, looking a little nervous.

“We don’t really have to stay here, do we?” Sarah asks me uncertainly.

“I can’t believe I moaned about the wood cabin. That was way better than this place,” adds Rickie.

“We’ll be fine here,” I say, although I’m not that happy about it either.

Luckily it doesn’t look so bad inside, but it’s not as cosy and warm as the cabin in the woods, and it’s nothing like a home. I can see everyone else is unsure about it too.

“It’s not fair, we don’t even have proper rooms,” complains Sarah.

I check it out and see that there are only three large rooms upstairs that can be used for bedrooms; so this time we won’t even get to have paired rooms. Instead we have to sleep ten people per room, and the only furniture inside are some basic camp beds and blown up mattresses that have been brought over short notice.

“This is just temporary,” I remind everyone, trying to stay positive. “We’ll have to put up with it for now and hope we can go home soon.”

[] Chapter 11

 

 

“Carl, you said we’d be out of here soon,” Kat protests, looking fed up, “This place is awful. I can’t believe we’ve been stuck here for six weeks now.”

I sigh, feeling just as unhappy about it as her, “I know, none of us want to stay here but we don’t have a choice. I’ll talk to Maria about it again, okay?”

Kat seems to accept this and goes back to watching a small TV with some of the other freedom fighters. We only have Freeview channels that are already on the TV, so there isn’t much to choose from.

Sarah begs Maria to let us upgrade to Sky or at least get Netflix to stream movies. However, Maria is still strict on using the internet, or anything that could be used to give away our location, so we are stuck with basic entertainment. It has gotten so bad that I’m desperately missing Facebook and Twitter, even though I hardly have time to use them at home, with being so busy with work. Everyone has some kind of internet based withdrawal and it seems to get worse as the days go by. We are all bored, home sick and desperately hoping to get back to Twilight City as soon as possible.

“Let’s just be patient,” says Bryan, trying to back me up. “The police could ring any day soon.”

The fire alarms suddenly start ringing and we all jump with fright, wondering what the noise is. The sound is deafening and we all cover our ears and wince, realising what it is.

“Do you think there’s really a fire?” Sarah shouts over the alarms, starting to look nervous.

I’m about to make a joke about Rickie burning dinner, like he does at home; but then I smell smoke and realise there is real fire.

“I’ll check it out,” I tell everyone loudly.

I try to remain calm even though my heart is already racing with fear.

Maria starts to take control, “We need to get out. It looks like someone’s trying to set fire to the building.”

Everyone panics, so I quickly try and sort out the situation.

“Stay calm,” I order. “We’ll follow the fire regulations and go to the safety point.”

“There’s just one problem,” says Mick, looking through the window. “There’s no way out.”

“What?!” I go over to the window and look.

My heart stops with fear as I see the fire is outside and it’s surrounding the whole building.

“Someone must have trailed petrol around the building before setting it alight,” I comment. “This is definitely a planned attack.”

“If its petrol then the fire won’t spread from where the trail is,” Maria tells us confidently. “We should be safe as long as we stay inside the building.”

That’s when we hear a crash from the level below as if a window has been smashed through.

Mick points out a figure running away, “he just threw in a petrol bomb!”

“Okay, we’ll have to get out of here somehow,” insists Maria.

Luckily we’re on the second floor and safely out of reach from the fire for now. Maria checks outside the window.

“We’ll have to be very careful, the flames are right underneath us,” she says and grabs a mattress that we can use.

“Hopefully it won’t catch fire,” I add, feeling a little worried.

“We’ll just have to try. Help me throw it out.”

I work with her to lift and push the mattress out of the large window. It falls down to the ground below and lands away from the fire. I sigh with relief at how lucky that was.

“We’ve got no time to lose,” orders Maria. “Everyone take it in turns to jump out and onto the mattress. I’ll phone for the local fire department. Hopefully they’ll get here in time if I tell them how urgent it is.”

I stay behind and let everyone else take their turns to jump out of the window.

Sarah looks terrified at the idea, “Carl, I can’t do this.”

“We have to,” I reply. “It’ll be okay.”

She looks down through the open window fearfully, “what if I miss? What if I fall into the fire instead?”

I admit it does look scary. The fire is still blazing beneath us and we’re going to have to jump over that to land on the mattress.

“You’ll make it,” I reassure her. “See, everyone else is doing fine.”

“I’m just so scared,” she says and I can see she’s shaking.

“Hold my hand,” I offer. “I’ll help you while you jump, okay?”

“Okay,” she agrees and grips my hand tight.

I stand behind her as she prepares to make the jump.

“When I count to three, you need to let go of my hand and jump as far towards the mattress as you can,” I tell her encouragingly. “I’ll push you forward as you jump. Ready?”

She nods in answer, looking sick with fear.

I count slowly and let go of her hand. When I get to three, I push her forward as she jumps. I hear her scream before she lands on mattress and shakily gets off to join the others.

I take a deep breath and jump next, shutting my eyes until I feel my body hit the mattress. I get up to my feet and look over at the building. It’s chaos. We can hardly see because of all the smoke that fills the air. I can make out some orange colour of dancing flames, but most of it is hidden behind the smoke.

I cough and step away, making sure everyone’s safe. I hear a faraway sound of fire engine sirens and feel relieved knowing that they’re on their way to us.

“Who’s missing?” I ask, checking that everyone’s okay.

So far there are fifteen of us, which means half of our freedom fighters are still inside or on their way out.

“Rickie and Star,” Bryan answers nervously. “I don’t know where they were before the alarms went off.”

“It’s pretty obvious they’ll be off snogging somewhere private,” Mick jokes.

Eww, I really don’t want to think of what my brother and his girlfriend get up to.

My heart stops at thinking they’re still inside. There’s no way I can lose my brother and my sort of sister. I feel a little annoyed that they always seem to be missing when there’s trouble. I just hope they haven’t taken off after the assassins again. If they have, they’re going to get another lecture from me.

“Josh is missing too!” Sarah exclaims and looks upset. “They all must still be inside.”

The body guards open the security gates while the two fire engines drive in. The fire officers jump out as soon as they’re parked and run towards the building, trying to extinguish the flames. I run over to the building wanting to help the others that are still inside, but a fire officer holds me back.

“Stand well away from the building, it’s not safe,” he tells me.

“You don’t understand, my family and friends are still in there,” I say determinedly. “I need to get them out.”

“Just leave it to the professionals,” he orders. “If you go back in there you’ll be burnt alive too.”

I can’t stand by and do nothing but wait. I have to help them somehow.

“Mick, start a window search around the building,” I tell him. “Look for signs of anyone still in there.”

“Okay,” he replies and takes off to the left side.

I head to the right, trying to look into the windows. Most are filled with smoke and I can’t see anything else inside apart from the flicker of flames.

I see a window opening on the second floor and feel faint with relief when I notice Rickie is there. I can vaguely make out he’s holding Starlet too, so they’re both safe.

“Bryan! Get one of the fire officers over here! I’ve found Rickie and Star!” I call to him.

Bryan must have heard because I see him running over to me followed by two fire officers carrying a ladder.

“They’re over there!” I point to the window.

They immediately set the ladder up against the building over the fire, and one of them climbs up carefully to help them. The other stays holding the ladder at the bottom securely and waiting in case he’s needed.

Rickie lifts Starlet out of the open window and the fire officer takes her. She isn’t moving, so the fire officers puts her over his shoulder and slowly climbs back down the ladder, one arm holding Starlet and the other holding onto the ladder. Rickie climbs through the window and comes down the ladder after them, looking pretty weak.

“Is she okay?” I ask anxiously.

The fire officer gets down from the ladder and lays Starlet on the ground.

“I’ll bring Kat over,” Bryan volunteers. “The ambulance still hasn’t arrived.” He runs off to find her.

“Star?” I shake her body, worried.

The other fire officer helps Rickie off the ladder and he breathes hard, looking drained.

“Take it easy,” the fire officer advises him. He puts his arm around Rickie to hold him steady. He seems a little dizzy and unstable, but he’s determined to be with Starlet and comes over to kneel beside her, still catching his breath.

“What happened?” I ask him.

“She passed out before I could get to the window,” he answers.

Kat appears and kneels down beside Rickie to examine her.

Sarah follows, looking very anxious, “oh no, she’s not dead is she?” Her eyes begin to water at thinking of losing her best friend.

Kat checks Starlet’s pulse and breathing just to make sure, “she’s alive but unconscious. The smoke must have made her faint. She’ll need to get checked out at hospital to see how much of it she’s inhaled.”

“But she’ll be okay, won’t she?” Rickie asks nervously.

“Of course she will,” Kat answers reassuringly. “You got her out, that’s the main thing.”

“Did you see Josh?” Sarah asks Rickie. “He’s still inside.”

“We didn’t see anyone, sorry,” he answers apologetically.

Sarah starts to cry, worrying even more.

“We’ll keep looking,” I reassure her. “If Rickie managed to get out then maybe he will too.”

I hear the sound of the ambulance arriving and feel relieved, “Quick, you two get Star and Rickie over to them,” I order Bryan and Kat.

Bryan lifts Starlet and carries her to the front of the building, where the ambulance is parked. Kat follows them, supporting Rickie because he’s still weak. Mick and I continue our search, desperate to find the others.

[] Chapter 12

 

 

I visit the hospital once the fire is put out and get directed to a ward where I find Rickie sat by Starlet’s bedside. He still looks worn out and tired. I notice now that his clothes are singed and marked with smoke. I feel thankful that they both got out of the building in time.

Rickie looks up when he hears me approaching and smiles.

“How’s Star doing?” I ask.

I look at her lying still in the hospital bed wearing an oxygen mask. Her eyes are closed and her hair is spread out on the pillow.

“She’s okay. The nurses checked us both over and they’ve tested me for smoke inhalation, but they’re waiting for Star to come ‘round until they test her.”

I grab an empty chair and sit down beside the bed.

“Is there any news on the others?” he asks, and I can tell he’s getting ready to hear something bad.

I look down at the floor sadly, “we only got a few more people out. The rest were found dead, including Josh.”

Rickie sighs sadly and rakes his fingers through his hair, “that sucks. I know me and you weren’t that close with Josh, especially when he betrayed us to Snider; but he was okay. Star’s gonna be gutted.”

“Yeah,” I agree. I feel bad about the whole situation, but I want to find out about what happened. “Why did you and Star not make it out before we got to you?”

“We tried to get out the back door when the alarms went off, but then we saw the fire outside,” he tells me, looking troubled at remembering. “We were heading for the stairs when something exploded and most of the bottom floor caught fire. We got trapped by flames and Star fainted. I was desperate to get her out of there, so I somehow got us to the stairs and found the window. It was our only way out.”

“That sounds horrible,” I say sympathetically, thinking how scared they must have been. “I just can’t believe we could have all been killed in that fire. The fire service confirmed it was a deliberate attack, so we were right about that. There were traces of petrol surrounding the building.”

“Looks like Snider’s assassins found us again,” he replies irritated.

“Yeah, we’ll be moving to another base as soon as Star and the others are discharged,” I answer. “Hopefully they don’t follow us there.”

“What’s the point of all this running? You know they’re going to hunt us down again and…” he stops when he notices that Starlet is waking up.

He takes hold of her hand, “hey gorgeous, you okay?”

Starlet carefully opens her eyes, gaining consciousness. Once she’s fully awake, she sits up in panic, ripping off her oxygen mask, “where am I?…Where’s the fire?” She’s dazed and anxious, looking around the hospital ward a little confused.

“It’s okay, we got out and you’re safe now,” Rickie tells her reassuringly. “You’re in hospital…”

“What’s wrong with me?” she asks, looking down at her body anxiously as if expecting some bad injuries.

“Nothing is wrong, you’re fine,” I tell her calmly. “The nurses want to test you now you’re conscious again. They just want to see how much smoke you’ve inhaled and then you can come back with us.”

She listens to me, starting to calm down, “Okay.”

“How do y’ feel?” Rickie asks her, concerned.

“Fine I guess,” she answers. “What happened? I can’t remember anything since the fire started…”

“You fainted so I carried you over to a window,” he explains. “The fire officers got us down and we had an ambulance bring us here.”

Starlet is touched hearing what he did, “I was really lucky having you there to save me,” she says, looking up at him blissfully, madly in love with her hero.

“If I wasn’t there I’d have definitely ran back in to rescue you,” he flirts with a smile.

Starlet blushes and cuddles up to him. I wish I wasn’t there, I hate watching all their slushy moments.

“Is everyone else okay?” Starlet asks me, looking really anxious. “Did they manage to get out?”

“Sarah, Mick, Kat and Bryan are fine,” I answer, “but a few people didn’t make it out.”

She looks upset but relieved that at least they’re safe, “what about Josh?”

I feel awful, hating to give her bad news about one of her close friends, “I’m really sorry…”

“Oh no,” she starts tearing up and Rickie hugs her tight and lets her cry on his chest. Rickie does his best to comfort her and strokes her hair.

“How’s Sarah?” she asks through sobs. “She must be really upset about him too.”

“Don’t worry, Kat’s looking after her,” I answer reassuringly. “I should go and check on how the others are doing.”

Rickie nods, “I’ll wait with Star until the nurses are done.”

“We’re staying at the local police station for now,” I tell them. “Wait for Maria to come pick you up. We’re not allowed to leave here unattended.”

They both nod in answer and I give Starlet a quick hug, “take care. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Thanks,” she smiles.

Chapter 13

 

I’m too anxious and shook up by what happened today to go to sleep that night. Instead I lay awake in my sleeping bag and think. I’m relieved that everyone is back from the hospital now and that Starlet’s test came back fine. Sarah and Kat were both relieved when she finally came back.

Once its 3:00am I start to feel drowsy and shut my eyes. I must have fallen asleep because I wake up at 6:30am when I hear Maria walk into the room. I feel exhausted from lack of sleep and Maria looks very tired too after all her work.

“Sorry, did I wake you?” she asks guiltily.

“No…I couldn’t really sleep,” I lie, not wanting to make her feel bad. “What are the plans for today?”

“I’ve been talking to the police about our situation and I don’t think there’s much point moving to another secret building. It seems that Snider’s assassins can track us down wherever we go.”

“So if we’re not going to a new placement, what are we doing?” I ask, confused.

“I think it’s best if we leave the country,” she answers. “That way we can be far away from here and it’ll be harder to track us again. Plus it’ll be difficult for anyone involved with Snider to get through any airports or harbours. Snider and his associates are on high alert for being wanted criminals, so I doubt they will be able to leave the country right now, especially if they can’t take weapons through security.”

“I think that’s for the best,” I agree, although I feel nervous at the thought of leaving our country and travelling to somewhere else.

“I know the perfect place,” she says excitedly. “It’s a private island a few hours flight from here, very secluded with only one small airport. It’s only used for very urgent cases, but after the attacks we’ve had and the amount of people at risk, we definitely qualify to go there.”

“Sounds great,” I reply.

“I’ve got everything sorted out with my manager, so we’ll be getting on board a private jet in two hours’ time.”

“Oh,” I’m surprised at how fast this is going. “I’d better start waking everyone up so you can tell them what’s happening.”

“Okay. I’ll go out to get breakfast for us all so we can eat before we go.”

Once everyone is woken up and changed, we all eat the take-away breakfast that Maria has brought back. She breaks the news to them while we eat to save time and everyone is surprised by it. A few people look uneasy about the idea, but the rest look excited and happy.

“So we’re goin’ on a free holiday?” Rickie grins. “This is way cooler than moving.”

“I bet it’s going to be great, living on our own private island,” says Starlet dreamily.

“Where are we staying? Is there a hotel?” asks Sarah nervously. “I don’t want to be stuck living in some beach hut.”

“I’m sure we’re booked into suitable accommodation,” Maria reassures her.

“Where is this island?” asks Mick.

“No one is allowed to know. It’s a secret location that only the pilot will know how to get there,” Maria answers. “All I know is that we’ll be on the jet for six hours.”

“I’m sure it’ll be really sunny,” says Kat excitedly, “and it should have its own beach.”

“And it’s safer than staying here,” says Bryan thoughtfully.

For once we’re all buzzing about our new hide out location and going home seems to be forgotten for now.

We all get a ride in police cars to where the private jet is parked waiting for us. It’s a small, posh jet that has been hired specially for the police, so we’re all really excited to have a ride in it. We all climb in and sink into the leather seats, talking happily. Once we take off, we get to watch movies on a flat screen TV at the front of the jet, and an air hostess serves us free drinks and food.

We land at a small airport six hours later. The island is different from what I expected, although it does have lots of palm trees and hot weather. It looked so small when we were flying, but now we’ve landed I’ve realised it’s bigger than it seemed.

There are four different beaches stretched around the island, with a good sized city in the middle. I look at the signs as we drive through in a coach from the airport. I find it amusing that they named the city centre ‘Lost City’ which suits it. It contains all sorts of buildings; including a shopping centre, cinema, bowling alley, library, hotels and churches.

We drive towards the beach and I look out at all the lined streets we pass, filled with houses.

“I thought this was a private island?” I ask Maria, feeling in awe of the place. “It’s almost got more than our city has.”

“There are just over a hundred people who live here, so it’s been changed a lot throughout the years,” Maria tells me. “It’s very selective on who gets to stay so it’s almost impossible to get a property here.”

The coach stops fifteen minutes later at the hotel where we’ll be staying at and I smile when I see it. It’s pretty big and right next to the beach. It looks amazing and posh, with balconies for every room. There’s a small garden area at the back, and a pool area with sun loungers and an outdoor bar at the right side. It looks like heaven. I would happily stay here forever.

After we’ve got booked into our rooms and unpacked, we eat a buffet style evening meal in the dining room. It’s been four hours since we had lunch on the jet and my stomach growls when I see all the food lay out. I heap my plate up with food and sit at a table near the window with Rickie, Mick and Starlet. Sarah, Kat and Bryan are sat at the table next to us, and we’re all talking together excitedly and making plans.

“I think we should have a welcome beach party,” suggests Rickie. “It’ll be so cool, chillin’ out with drinks and music.”

Sarah definitely needs cheering up. She’s been crying over Josh, and even though they weren’t in a relationship when it happened, I suppose it still hurts that he’s gone. Kat and Starlet have been pretty down too, so we have to get their spirits up, even if it’s just for tonight.

“Good idea,” grins Mick.

“I wonder if we’ll get to meet other people who live here?” asks Kat.

“Probably,” I reply. “The beach is open to everyone so I guess we could meet some people.”

“I hope they’ll be some hot guys around to join our party,” says Sarah, smiling a little.

“‘Course there will, we’ll be there,” Rickie jokes and winks over at Starlet. “I think the girls should come in bikinis since it’s so hot here.”

Starlet grins back at him. Sarah and Kat giggle at the idea.

“Okay,” Sarah agrees, “but that means you guys can only wear shorts.”

I blush at the thought. I’d feel shy being topless if Maria was there with us.

Mick shrugs, “seems fair.”

“Deal,” answers Rickie.

“Since I’m the leader, can I be left out of this topless rule?” I ask.

“No,” they all reply and grin.

[] Chapter 14

 

 

Everyone has already left to go down to the beach when I come out of my hotel room. I can hear the sound of music and chatting as I walk down from the hotel, so I guess Rickie has already got the party in full swing.

When I step onto the beach I get a big surprise. Everyone cheers when they see me and I notice a home-made banner hanging from two palm trees with ‘Happy 21st Birthday, Carl!’ written along it.

I laugh in surprise and try to take it all in. How could I forget today was my birthday? Especially a big birthday like turning twenty one! I suppose with being in hiding and so much going on I’d lost track of the date.

“Happy birthday, bro,” Rickie grins and gives me a bear hug.

“Aww, thanks…I had no idea,” I say, still feeling stunned.

Starlet hugs me next, and soon everyone is wishing me happy birthday and giving me hugs or pats on the back.

“I can’t believe you guys planned all this,” I say, smiling happily.

“It was Rickie who remembered,” says Mick. “We just helped get the party ready.”

“We’ll have to do presents tomorrow,” says Rickie, looking a little guilty. “We’ve not really had time for that part…”

“It’s okay,” I say reasonably. I know we haven’t been on the island long and we weren’t allowed to go out shopping before that.

“We’ve got a cake for you,” Sarah tells me brightly.

Bryan brings a chocolate cake forward with candles on the top and I grin. They all sing happy birthday to me and then I make a wish and blow out the candles. I usually don’t know what to wish for, but this time it’s an easy choice. I want my team and my mum to be safe and for us all to return home soon.

I sit on a beach towel next to Bryan, Rickie and Mick, eating chocolate cake and drinking beers in front of a small log fire. The dance music blasts out of Starlet’s iPod and speakers, and the girls are already dancing on the sand.

“Cool party,” I say, giving an impressed smile towards Rickie.

“I thought we were all following the dress code,” Kat reminds me teasingly.

“That’s right, you’ll have to take your t-shirt off,” Sarah calls over.

“Really? I was hoping it was a joke,” I feel embarrassed.

“Sorry,” Bryan looks sympathetic for me. Still, I guess it’s worse for the girls.”

I sigh, “Okay,” I quickly pull my t-shirt over my head and feel shy as I hear Sarah and Kat wolf whistle and giggle.

“So have you invited Maria?” Rickie asks me quietly, so Bryan and Mick won’t hear.

I blush, “Maybe.”

I saw her before going to my room to get ready, so I invited her and the body guards hoping she would come. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if she turns up.

“Rickie, come and dance with us,” Starlet calls over to him, and he grins and walks over.

Mick looks like he wants to go and join in with the dancing too, but he’s a bit hesitant. Rickie’s confident so he doesn’t feel at all shy and happily starts dancing with Starlet, Kat and Sarah.

“You’re not letting Rickie get all the girls, are you?” I joke with Mick.

Mick smiles at my joke, “I guess not,” he replies and goes over to dance between Sarah and Kat.

“I’m way too tired to dance,” says Bryan. “I’m still recovering from the jetlag.”

“Me too,” I reply. “I could go to sleep right now, but there’s no way I’m missing this party.”

I feel chilled out sitting and talking with my best friend beside a warm fire. The night air is cool and the sound of the ocean brushing over the sand is relaxing.

A few more people come over to join our small party, so it gets more noisy and lively. I greet everyone politely and hand out cans from the drink cooler.

“Someone’s here to see you,” Bryan nudges me.

I look up and blush to see Maria approaching. She’s changed into a pink summer dress with white sandals and she’s wearing make-up. She looks really pretty.

“Hi,” she greets with that smile that makes me feel warm inside.

“Hi….I’m glad you could make it,” I reply, trying not to get all shy over her. “Do you want a drink?”

“Yeah, sure,” she replies and accepts a can of orange Fanta.

Bryan takes over supervising the drink cooler so I can have time alone with Maria. I feel nervous as we both sit down by the fire. This is the first time we’ve ever spent time together just the two of us.

“You look really nice,” I manage to compliment her, although I avoid her eyes shyly.

“Thanks,” she replies. “You do too.”

I realise I’m no longer wearing a t-shirt and feel my cheeks go red. I’d forgotten about taking it off and hate feeling shy and exposed. I quickly grab my t-shirt and throw it back on, even though it’s a little covered in sand and starts to feel itchy.

“So, are you enjoying it here so far?” she asks.

“Yeah…it’s great,” I reply and try to calm myself down. I still feel nervous around her, but I think I can manage not to struggle to get my words out. It must be because of the beer. “I can’t believe how lucky we are staying at a place like this.”

“I guess being in protective custody has its perks,” she agrees. “It feels more like a holiday than work for me.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely better than working all the time,” I say. “I feel more relaxed than I have in ages.”

“You work as the mayor for Twilight City, am I right?” she asks and I nod. “It must be pretty stressful being so responsible for everything and everyone.”

“It is. There are always problems that need sorting out,” I reply and smile, “but I like it, even though I’m working most of the time.”

“At least you’re having a break from all that now. After all the trouble you’ve been through you deserve some time out.”

I nod again, realising just how much stuff we’ve all had to deal with this past year. The memory of fighting against Snider in Dragon City seems like a long time ago, but it was only eight months since it happened. We’ve been on the run for so long that everything in the past seems blurry, like memories you have from a few years ago. It’s like we’ve been hiding away forever instead of a few months.

“It’ll be weird when we finally go back home,” I think aloud. “So much would have changed…”

“Yeah,” she agrees. “I’ve almost forgotten what my real home looks like.”

I smile and think of home. I’ve always lived in Twilight City, so I miss it despite being on this amazing island. I still miss our mum a lot and hope she’s doing. I hope she isn’t too upset over missing us too. At least mum will have her friend and her family to keep her company while she lives with them. It’s better than her being lonely in the house on her own, without me, Rickie and Starlet there.

“I suppose your partner will be missing you?” she asks.

“No…I don’t have one,” I answer quickly, not wanting her to get the wrong idea. Then I feel a little embarrassed and don’t want her to think I’m one of those guys who can’t get a girlfriend. “My ex split up with me before all this happened.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she says, giving me a pitying glance.

“It’s fine, it was a long time ago now,” I answer, realising I haven’t thought about Trish or felt sad about our break up in ages. I don’t miss her at all now.

I remember what Rickie advised me to do and decide to take my chance before I get too nervous.

“What about you? Do you have a boyfriend waiting for you back at home?” I ask, feeling curious to know whether she is single or not.

“Unfortunately I don’t,” she answers, “but I doubt any guy would want to wait around for this long.”

I smile a little, “I wasn’t expecting you to be single,” I find myself saying and blush.

“And why’s that?” she asks teasingly.

“Well…” I reply shyly and look down at the sand. “You’re really…pretty.”

“Thank you,” she says, looking thrilled. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a compliment.”

I can’t believe we’re flirting. I really want to tell her how I feel about her, but my shyness is holding me back. I look away and gaze at the sea, feeling nervous. I know I can’t do it. I’m way too anxious around her and she’s so pretty I can’t concentrate on what to say.

However, I remember what Rickie said to me and it hits me hard.

If you never tell her how you feel then she’ll just think you’re not interested or end up with someone else. Y’ need to do something now before it’s too late.”

I know he’s right. I’ve finally got the right time to tell her and I can’t let it slip away. I don’t know if I would be able to get over losing a chance with her.

I look back at her, my heart pounding fast, and I know I have to tell her somehow.

“Maria…the thing is…I really like you,” I force myself to say.

My heart races even faster and I’m struggling to breathe as I wait for her reaction.

She looks surprised, “You do?”

I nod.

She takes it in for a few seconds and then looks puzzled, “but you were always so distant…”

“I was too shy and embarrassed to let you know.”

“Oh, that explains it.”

She’s sitting quite close and we both look at each other for a while, not knowing what to say. I know this our moment and I need to take it.

I’ve no idea where my sudden courage comes from, but I lean forward and go to kiss her. Our lips almost touch before she backs away, leaving me confused.

“We really shouldn’t do this,” she says awkwardly.

Her words hit me like a truck. She isn’t interested and that hurts. I feel frustrated with myself and wonder why I ever thought she did like me. Why would she? She’s beautiful enough to get someone with a lot more confidence than me, probably more handsome too.

“I’m sorry,” I apologise, feeling upset and mortified. “I shouldn’t have done that…”

I get up and walk away, needing to be alone and get over what just happened. I’m so embarrassed and ashamed.

“Carl…wait…” she calls after me, sounding worried.

I pace faster through the sand and shut my eyes to try and stop them from watering. I don’t want her sympathy; I just want to stay away from her so I don’t have to feel so awful.

[] Chapter 15

 

 

I walk around aimlessly for about an hour, feeling sorry for myself. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do. I can’t avoid her forever; we’re stuck on the same island in the same hotel. Even if I avoid her for the rest of the night, we’re going to see each other tomorrow morning. Then what?

I feel like such a loser. Why did I have to try and kiss her and ruin everything? Why did I even think she’d like me back? I wish I could rewind and go back to us getting along as friends. At least then I was happy and could have a secret crush on her without the awkwardness of her knowing I liked her. I wouldn’t be wandering around now on my own trying to get over the sting of rejection.

It’s my birthday; I should be partying with my friends instead of moping around; especially when it’s my twenty first, that’s a big thing. I think about going back, putting on a fake smile and trying to enjoy the rest of the night, but I don’t think I can do it. I can’t face anyone right now, especially having to deal with the awkward moment of seeing Maria. I just want to go to bed and forget all this happened.

I start walking back to the hotel, taking the road to avoid the beach and the party. It’s dark so no one sees me go back into the hotel, and I can finally escape to my room and get some peace. I know Bryan will be coming back to our shared hotel room, but hopefully he’ll be at the party until late and I’ll be asleep by then.

I don’t even bother turning the lights on or getting undressed; I just sink into bed and finally let my eyes water. I think over everything, cringing because I’m so embarrassed.

I finally start to doze off and I’m half asleep when there’s a knock at the door. My heart races with anxiety in case it’s Maria coming to look for me. What would I say to her? Maybe I’ll just stay in bed pretending I’m not here, ignore it and hope she goes away.

“Carl, are you in there?”

It’s Rickie. I breathe a sigh of relief, glad that I don’t have to face Maria. I’m not sure whether to answer the door. I don’t really want to see my brother either when I’m this upset, but part of me wants to talk to him. He’ll understand and maybe he can help me out.

I get up and unlock the door, feeling glad that it’s dark in here so he can’t see I’m upset.

He looks surprised to see me, “hey, I was wonderin’ where you’d gone. Bryan said you left so I’ve been lookin’ for you. Why are y’ hiding up here?”

I sigh, “I just didn’t feel like it…I wanted to go to bed.”

“What’s up? Are y’ still gutted we don’t have the gifts yet?” he jokes.

I half smile, “no, it’s not that. I’m fine, just tired.”

He looks concerned, “come on, bro. I can tell when there’s something wrong. What is it?”

I avoid his eyes and look down at the floor, wondering how I can tell him. It’s embarrassing enough without my little brother knowing I got turned down.

He waits patiently, not saying anything until I can get the words.

“Maria’s not interested in me,” I say eventually, feeling hurt at saying it out loud.

I don’t know what to expect. I don’t want him to tease me and joke about how useless I am with girls, but I don’t want a pitying look either.

He gives me a pat on the arm, “I’m sorry. You wanna drink some beers and talk?”

“Not really,” I answer. I’ve gone over it enough times in my head torturing myself without having to give him all the embarrassing details.

“At least you know where you stand. They’ll be other girls.”

I nod automatically, even though I don’t agree. I’d rather not know that Maria doesn’t like me in that way; and as for other girls, I’ll probably mess up with them too. It’s not like I have a good history. I’ve only had one girlfriend and even she left once she knew the real me. What’s the point? I’ll just stay single and unhappy.

“Do y’ want me to stay? We could watch TV and try and get your mind off it?”

“No, it’s okay. I just want to be on my own.”

“Sure,” he understands. “I’ll tell everyone you’ve got jetlag and need sleep, okay?”

I feel relieved. At least he’s covering for me so no one will start asking questions, “thanks.”

“No probs. I’ll see ya tomorrow.”

I close the door as he walks back to the party. I can’t wait to fall asleep and forget all this happened.

I wake up the next morning, and for a few seconds it’s like a normal morning of me relaxing in bed and not wanting to get up. Yet, the memories of last night soon hit me and my mood drops. Now I really don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll have to face Maria today and I can’t stay hiding out in my hotel room forever, even though it’s tempting.

“Morning,” Bryan greets me.

He’s always up bright and early, which is good when you’re sharing a hotel room. We don’t have to fight over the bathroom because he’s already used it to get washed and dressed by the time I’ve woken up.

“It was a great party last night. It’s a shame you left early.”

I feel my heart beating fast, thinking that he knows. Then I vaguely remember talking to Rickie and go along with the jetlag excuse we made up.

“Yeah, I was just so tired. I thought going for a walk might wake me up, but it didn’t so I headed back here instead.”

“Feeling better now?”

“Yeah, a little,” I lie.

“It’ll wear off soon.”

I feel bad that I’m not telling him the truth. He’s my best friend and we usually talk about everything, but this time I’m so embarrassed and upset I don’t even want him to know about it. At least Rickie knows and I can trust him not to tell anyone…unless he’s told Starlet. I don’t want her finding out too, even if she would keep it a secret.

“I’ve already had breakfast but I think the others should be going down soon,” Bryan tells me. “I’m off for a swim while the pool’s still deserted.”

“Okay. I’ll catch up with you later,” I say, feeling relieved that I’ll have the hotel room to myself so I can mope around in private.

I take ages in the shower on purpose, dreading the thought of going for breakfast and seeing everyone. I don’t know how I can handle faking that everything’s okay when I’m so hurt inside.

It takes me half an hour to get dressed, which is my slowest record, but eventually my hunger lures me out and I walk down to the restaurant.

I feel so nervous my hands are sweaty. I try and distract myself with picking out food, but I’m so on edge I’m constantly looking around to try and avoid Maria. I haven’t seen her yet but I’m scared she’s going to appear any minute.

I see Mick, Sarah and Kat are sitting at a table near the window, busy chatting about the party. I could go over and sit with them, but I don’t feel up to it. I want to avoid all conversation about last night.

They haven’t noticed I’m here, so I quickly sit at the furthest table away from anyone else in the corner and sit facing the wall. Hopefully no one will recognise me and I can sit alone. I wolf down breakfast quickly so I can leave.

I breathe a sigh of relief as I get safely out of the restaurant and towards the stairs. I can grab some stuff from my room and be out of here in no time.

“Hi Carl,” my heart stops when I hear that voice.

I slowly look up at Maria stood in front of me. I was so busy thinking I didn’t see her enter the stairway and walk down towards me. My heart starts beating like crazy and she looks so beautiful it hurts.

“Hi,” I reply shyly.

I look down at the carpet awkwardly, not knowing what to say or do. Maria seems to be nervous too and trying to think of what to say to me. I hate this moment so much. It’s like every second stretches out into hours.

“Can we talk about last night?” she asks gently.

I don’t risk looking at her, “it’s okay, there’s nothing to talk about. We’ll just be friends and forget this ever happened.”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” she apologises sadly.

I force myself to look up at her and give a fake smile, “it’s fine, really.”

“I can’t be involved with any of my clients,” she explains quietly.

“I know,” I sigh, feeling stupid and wondering why I had tried to kiss her when I already knew all that. “I don’t know why I did it…I should have thought…”

“My manager wouldn’t be happy if he found out about it,” she says in a low voice, looking nervous. “It’s against the rules and I could be fired if he suspected anything was going on.”

“I’m really sorry, Maria. I won’t cross the line again,” I apologise. “I don’t want you to get into trouble and the whole situation was my fault.”

I thought she might be annoyed at me, but she doesn’t look angry.

“I forgive you,” she smiles. “You’re a really nice guy. If we weren’t in this situation then I’d consider letting you take me on a date.”

The surprise of what she’s just said takes my breath away. My heart leaps but it takes a few seconds to register in my mind.

“You like me?” I ask, still trying to take it all in. “I thought…”

I blush like crazy and she smiles at my shyness.

“You thought I’d turn you down?” she finishes for me.

I nod, embarrassed.

“I wouldn’t have, so don’t feel bad,” she reassures me.

I’m definitely not upset anymore; I have the biggest smile on my face. She giggles a little, amused at me.

“But I meant what I said, nothing at all can happen between us,” she reminds me. “So, can we be friends?”

I feel disappointed hearing the word ‘friends’. It’s a guy’s worst nightmare. Why did I have to find an amazing girl, who actually wanted to be with me, when we can’t be together right now? It’s so frustrating. All I want to do is kiss her and ask her to be my girlfriend, but I can’t. I’m stuck in the friend’s zone.

“But it doesn’t mean we can’t be together in the future?” I ask carefully.

I really like her and I can’t let anything get in the way of this when there’s a chance we could be in a relationship.

“I know we can’t be together right now,” I continue, “but you won’t be working with me forever. Maybe once this is all over we could go on a date?”

I’m surprised I managed to say all that. I’m usually a nervous wreck telling girls how I feel.

“I suppose it’s an option,” she considers it. “Technically once this assignment with you is over there will be nothing to stop us.”

“Then I’ll wait,” I insist, feeling excited.

“Are you sure?” she asks, taken aback with my eagerness. “But we could be in hiding for years. Do you really want to stay single for however long this takes just to wait for me?”

I smile, “Maria…I don’t usually get many offers,” I tell her honestly, “and finding someone amazing as you is hardly going to happen. I really don’t mind waiting…”

She smiles, “that’s really sweet.”

“So…do you want to go to the beach…as friends?” I ask.

“Okay,” she answers and gives me that cute smile that makes me warm inside.

[] Chapter 16

 

 

I’m feeling so happy and blissful over Maria it feels as if I actually have a girlfriend, even though I don’t. I love spending time with her, and knowing that she likes me back feels so amazing. I still can’t believe how I managed to tell her how I feel, and even though we have to stay friends, it’s good to know that we could be together one day. We have a chance and that’s all that matters, even if I have to wait.

We have our evening meal at the hotel alone together the next day and I’m nervous people might think it’s a date. Luckily no one says anything about it and must assume she’s discussing work related issues with me. I’m relieved that only Rickie knows the truth about what happened the night of my party. The last thing I need is for gossip spreading on my feelings for Maria, especially when I’m trying to keep her out of trouble.

I feel so happy to spend time with her again, even though I still feel nervous and shy around her. She looks beautiful in her purple dress and hair styled. I can’t keep my eyes off her.

“Is everything okay?” I ask, concerned when I noticed her eyes are looking troubled.

I start to feel worried that maybe she’s changed her mind about liking me, and I wouldn’t blame her with the risk of losing her job.

“I received a phone call an hour ago from my manager,” she tells me. “It’s good and bad news.”

“Oh…” I start to feel even more anxious, wondering what she’s about to tell me. “Maybe tell me the good news first?”

“Drake has helped us catch over thirty people so far working for Snider and they’ve all been arrested.”

I feel happy that the police are getting somewhere, but I still feel on edge knowing that Snider hasn’t been caught yet.

“I’m surprised Drake agreed to help the police,” I say.

“I think it was the threat of a prison sentence that finally made the decision,” she answers. “Lawbreakers usually co-operate when they want to get out of something.”

“So what’s the bad news?” I ask, bracing myself.

“Snider found out he was secretly working for us and Drake has been attacked,” she replies, looking guilty and upset for him. “He’ll be in hospital for few weeks, and after that I think it’s best if he’s under our protection, since he’s now at risk of being killed as well as you guys.”

“That’s awful,” I agree. “I guess that’s the right thing to do. He needs to stay away if he’s made the enemy list.”

I know that Rickie isn’t going to be happy about this arrangement. He’s going to hate being around his old enemy and I’m not sure how I’ll handle it if those two kick off.

“I’ve discussed everything with my manager and Drake will be flown over here by the end of the month,” she tells me. “I just want to get him here as soon as possible. He’s under supervision from police while he’s in hospital, but I’m still afraid Snider might try to get to him and finish him off.”

“He’ll be fine,” I reassure her. “The hospital will take good care of him and I’m sure the police will do their job. Let’s just hope Snider is arrested soon and then this can all be over.”

Drake is discharged from hospital three weeks later and soon arrives at our hotel from the airport. As predicted, Rickie isn’t happy when he sees him walk into reception with Maria.

“What’s he doing here?” he asks me, already mad.

“Drake has been helping the police back home and the plan backfired,” I answer quietly. “He was attacked when Snider figured it out and now he has to stay here with us for safety.”

“You’re joking, right? There’s no way I’m hanging out with him here,” he refuses. “Maria must be crazy.”

I feel a little annoyed since I care about Maria, “she’s doing what she has to. We all know this arrangement won’t be easy.”

“Yeah, obviously it won’t. That psycho tried to kill me.”

“Calm down,” I say coolly. “We’ll work this out and make sure there’s no trouble, okay?”

Rickie doesn’t believe me and still looks annoyed.

“I know it’s hard, but just try to be nice and polite,” I mutter to him, before going over to greet Drake.

I don’t really like being around him either, especially since the last time we met, he arrested me and Starlet. However, I know Maria is counting on me to set a good example and welcome him, and I’d do anything for her.

“Hi Drake,” I say, with my polite, friendly tone I use with strangers I have to talk to.

I can tell he’s feeling awkward to see me again too, “hi.”

I feel sorry for him as I notice his limp and how he’s still healing from a few wounds. Maria is taking care of his luggage so he doesn’t have to carry anything.

“I hope you’re feeling better,” I sympathise. “I’m sorry to hear about your accident.”

Maria flashes me a grateful smile for being nice to him. Drake looks a little puzzled why I’m being so friendly.

“I’ll be fine,” he answers, a little embarrassed as he looks away from me.

He catches sight of Rickie behind me and they narrow their eyes at each other angrily. Maria is scared a fight might break out, so she quickly tries to defuse the situation.

“Listen, I know you two have had your differences in the past,” she says, standing between them, “but since we’ll all be living together until we can return home, I think it’s best if we sort this out and keep the peace.”

“Why should I have to sort things out with him?” asks Rickie, shooting Drake an angry look. “I’ve done nothing wrong, he’s the one who shot at me and tried to run my motorbike off the road.”

“I was doing my job, if you’d just pulled over then it wouldn’t have happened,” Drake argues with him. “Besides, you left without a scratch. I was the one who ended up in a car crash, which was your fault.”

“Really? You were the one trying to knock me off; it’s not my fault you hit against a road barrier.”

“We both know you did that on purpose. You wanted me to crash so you could get away. Well I hope you were really happy driving off and leaving me there, I could have died.”

“How do y’ think the ambulance got to you? I called them as soon as you crashed. You’re lucky I did or y’ might not have got any help at all.”

Drake looks really stunned hearing this, “wait…you called them?” He’s really confused now, trying to figure out why his enemy would get him help.

“Yeah I did, which is totally crazy since you wouldn’t have done the same for me.”

“Why would you do that?” he asks Rickie, mystified.

“Unlike you, I have a conscience. I couldn’t leave someone injured or dying no matter how much I hated them.”

“Well…I appreciate that you did,” he says begrudgingly, “but that doesn’t make up for the weeks I had to stay in hospital.”

Rickie is ready to argue back, furious at still being blamed, so I quickly intervene.

“That’s enough,” I interrupt them sternly. This argument is getting too heated and I’m sure they’ll fight if it gets any worse. “Drake, you have to let go of what happened in the car crash. I’m sure it was an accident and Rickie got you help despite your actions; so you should just be grateful instead of trying to shift the blame onto him.”

Drake looks down at the floor, irritated that I’ve told him off.

I turn to Rickie next, “and you have to learn to let go of your anger and try and get on with Drake. I know he’s done bad things in the past, but he’s paid for his actions and now he’s on our side. After all the help he’s given the police, you should start treating him with respect.”

Rickie looks annoyed while Drake smirks.

“Try and get on while we’re here,” I plead. “There’s no point turning against one another when it’s Snider who is our enemy.”

“Just stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours,” Rickie tells Drake.

“Fine by me,” he replies.

“Well I’m glad that’s sorted,” says Maria, looking relieved. “Drake, I’ll show you to your room. I suppose you’ll need some rest.”

Drake leaves us to follow Maria, and I can tell Rickie’s still in a bad mood even though things have cooled down.

“I can’t believe I have to do this,” he grumbles.

“Come on, let’s go get a drink at the bar,” I say to distract him.

Bryan and Mick are already there, so we sit and chat for a while by the pool. I tell them about Drake coming and they are surprised too.

“Wow. Rickie’s gonna love this, having his best mate around,” Mick jokes and earns a playful punch in the arm from Rickie.

“Are you guys feeling okay about it?” Bryan asks me and Rickie. “I’d feel pretty weird being around a bounty hunter who tried to arrest me.”

Rickie doesn’t say anything, but I know he’s still annoyed.

“Yeah, it’s awkward for all of us,” I agree.

I change the topic so Rickie doesn’t have to stay quiet, and we start to relax.

“I’m heading to the gym. Any of you want to come?” Mick asks us.

Bryan and I shake our heads in answer, making excuses that it’s too hot and we’re tired.

“No thanks, I’ll probably just swim instead,” answers Rickie. “Sorry, mate.”

“No problem. See ya later.”

Bryan goes to order more orange juice for us. I notice that Rickie’s deep in thought with a frown.

“Don’t let him get to you,” I advise calmly, knowing he’s thinking of Drake.

“Bro, I really don’t know how I can do this,” he tells me honestly.

“You can. It’s not as if you need to be best friends with him, just be nice and don’t kick off. It can’t be that hard to avoid him.”

As if on cue, we see Drake walking at the other side of pool. I can already feel angry vibes from Rickie and that’s just from seeing him again.

“You’re forgetting one thing, bro,” says Rickie, watching him closely. “He’s got a thing for Star. How do y’ think we’re going to handle that?”

I look over at Drake and see that he’s gone over to greet Starlet, Kat and Sarah, who are sunbathing nearby. They haven’t noticed him approaching yet and I already feel anxious at how Starlet will react. Hopefully they’ll be no self-defence involved.

“Star’s obviously not interested in him,” I say dismissively. “She’s crazy about you. He doesn’t stand a chance.”

“I know, it just annoys me when he flirts with her,” he says, looking jealous. “I swear, if I see him making a move on her, I’m going to smash his face in.”

“Calm down,” I say, trying to stop him from getting furious again. “You know that Star can handle herself. From what I’ve seen she hates him as much as you do. She won’t put up with any of his crap.”

“I guess so,” he grins. “I really hope she hits him in the balls again. I would pay to see a repeat of that.”

[] Chapter 17

 

 

I have a walk along the beach on my own; thinking of Maria and whether we will be together after all this is over. The sun is shining and the air is fresh. The sea laps along the sand peacefully and I feel so relaxed. It’s almost as if I have nothing to worry about, despite the fact I’m on the run from an evil psychopath. Still, it’s easy to forget all our troubles on this beautiful island.

I return back to the hotel and my perfect relaxed state crumbles when I hear raised voices. As I walk in on the scene I see that an argument has broken out between Starlet, Rickie and Sarah.

“…no idea how upset I am right now. How could you?!” Starlet yells at Rickie in tears.

Sarah is beside her looking mad too and ready to jump into the argument to defend her best friend. Rickie is pretty shocked by the confrontation and doesn’t seem to be arguing back, although he’s trying to resolve things. Kat looks upset by it all but tries her best to comfort Starlet.

I can tell straight away this isn’t some little disagreement. From their reactions this is obviously a serious issue.

“What’s going on?” I ask worriedly, but everyone’s too busy kicking off to notice or answer me.

“I don’t even know what I’ve done wrong,” insists Rickie. “If you’d just tell me instead of yelling then maybe we can sort it out.”

“We saw what you were getting up to last night,” Sarah rants at him, furious. “You’re disgusting!”

“What? I had a few drinks with Mick; what’s the big deal?”

“Don’t even think about playing innocent!” Starlet yells at him. “You know what you’ve done. At least have the balls to admit it.”

“Star, I really don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Do you remember any of last night?” Kat asks him calmly.

Rickie shrugs in answer, “I remember some parts of it. I had a lot to drink…”

“Great, so now you’ll be using that as an excuse,” snaps Sarah.

“Excuse for what? Just tell me what’s going on!”

Starlet tries to say but she’s so choked up on tears that she can’t even speak. Rickie looks hurt seeing her so upset and goes to comfort her.

“Star, whatever it is, we’ll sort this out. It’ll be okay…”

She moves away from his reach, upset and a little scared, as if she can’t stand being anywhere near him right now. Rickie looks startled and hurt at her reaction.

“Stay away from her!” Sarah protectively wraps her arm around Starlet, hugging her. “Can’t you see you’ve upset her enough already?”

“Calm down!” I tell everyone loudly.

People are already gawping over, like it’s an episode of Jeremy Kyle, wondering what’s going on. This public argument is embarrassing enough without having an audience too.

Sarah and Kat back down instantly and look after Starlet, treating her like an injured animal. Starlet is crying too much to continue yelling at Rickie.

“What have I done that’s so bad?” Rickie asks them, determined to find out. He keeps his voice low as he feels people staring too.

“You cheated on her,” Sarah tells him, annoyed and forgetting to keep her voice down.

I look over at Rickie, momentarily distracted with shock.

“Is this true?” I ask, unable to believe it.

Rickie looks as shocked as I am about the accusation, “no way! I’d never do that…Star, you know I wouldn’t…”

“We saw you,” Starlet says in a broken voice. She can’t even look up at him with being so hurt and keeps her eyes on the ground.

“Star and I went into the bar you were at last night and we found you all over this other girl,” Sarah insists.

Rickie still doesn’t look as if he believes it, “I couldn’t have been. I was with Mick the whole time, not some random girl.”

“Then why didn’t we see him with you?” asks Sarah. “Better yet, why didn’t you go back to your hotel room? You obviously spent the night with that tart!”

Starlet sobs, really upset at hearing it. Kat let’s her cry on her shoulder and rubs her back comfortingly.

“I crashed on Mick’s sofa in his hotel room,” Rickie answers, a little annoyed by the accusations. “I’ve no idea why I didn’t go to my room; but if y’ don’t believe me then ask Mick. I’m not gonna sleep with someone else.”

“It doesn’t matter where you slept,” replies Sarah. “We saw what we needed to know with our own eyes.”

I try to intervene before the argument gets worse, “Whatever happened last night, let’s just calm down and talk this through…”

“I’m done talking,” Starlet says. “Rickie, it’s over between us.”

“Star, don’t do this,” he begs her, upset.

She still can’t look at him, “I never want to see you again, and I really mean it. Don’t come anywhere near me and don’t talk to me. We’re done.”

Rickie looks stunned and heartbroken. Starlet turns away, really hurt and bursts into fresh tears.

“Star, it’s okay,” Sarah tries to comfort her.

They both try to look after and hug her, but she backs away from them both too.

“I just want to be alone for a while,” she says tearfully and runs off, making her way towards the beach.

“Now look what you’ve done,” Sarah says accusingly to Rickie and sighs.

Kat is upset at how hurt Starlet is and this makes Rickie feel even guiltier.

“I never wanted to hurt her, you know that,” Rickie tells them, defeated.

“Come on,” Sarah says to Kat. “We’ll wait for her to come back when she’s ready.”

Sarah shoots him another hard look before walking away with Kat, who is almost in tears herself with the confrontation.

“Rickie, what on earth is going on?” I ask, confused.

“I have no idea,” he replies sadly, “but I really need to make things up with Star somehow.”

I can’t bear to see my little brother like this. He looks so lost and broken without Starlet and I can tell he’s really upset, even though he’s being brave and trying to hide his emotions in public. Even if he has done something wrong, I can’t help feeling a twinge of sympathy for him.

“Let’s go up to my room,” I say, deciding it’s better getting him away from here and all the stares. He really needs privacy right now if we’re going to talk it over.

“We’ll try and sort this mess out, okay?” I say reassuringly.

He nods in answer and follows me into the hotel, up the stairs and along the corridor to my hotel room door. Once I’ve unlocked it, he walks miserably inside and slumps onto the sofa. I get us both some cans of Sprite from the mini-fridge and sit beside him, offering a can. He takes it from me absent-mindedly and just stares down at the carpet, leaving the can unopened.

“It’s crazy. Why would they think I’d cheat on Star?” he asks me, really upset. “I don’t get it.”

“You tell me,” I reply. “Star obviously saw something to get this upset. Maybe you were too drunk to remember what happened?”

“I didn’t get with someone,” he insists, frustrated. “I was helping Mick find a girl while we were out, so we sat with a group of girls and talked with them.”

I can’t help but sigh a little. Nights out, drinks and pretty girls don’t mix well if you’re already taken.

“It was just him who hooked up with a girl, not me.”

“Try and think back,” I advise. “You must remember something that explains it.”

“I don’t. All I remember is going out with Mick, having some drinks together and talking with those girls. I think I remember stumbling back to the hotel, but that’s all.”

“Do you think something could have happened by accident?” I ask carefully.

“I don’t know… I really wouldn’t cheat on Star, even if I was too drunk to know what I was doing,” Rickie looks ill just thinking about it. “Seriously, I can’t stand the thought of kissing anyone else.”

“Well, alcohol makes people do stupid things,” I say reasonably. “Maybe next time don’t drink so much.”

“If I really have cheated on Star, I’ll never forgive myself,” he insists, his eyes watering. “She means the world to me. I can’t lose her over some stupid, drunken mistake that has or hasn’t happened. She’s worth way more than any other girl. I love her.”

“I know,” I say comfortingly and give him a pat on the back.

He hangs his head dejectedly, puts the can of Sprite on the little table and covers his face with his hands. That only happens when he’s really upset.

“I’ll leave you alone for a while,” I say, feeling awkward and knowing he won’t want me around. “You can stay here for a few hours, I doubt Bryan will be coming back up.”

I put down my own can and get up from the sofa, “Don’t worry. I’ll go find Star and talk with her. Maybe I can find out what happened and how we can solve this.”

“Thanks,” he replies. “Make sure she’s okay. I can’t stand her being this hurt.”

“I will,” I promise.

Chapter 18

 

It takes forty five minutes of searching before I find Starlet. I hear crying and see her sat hiding behind some palm trees, covered by the shade. She’s crying so hard that she’s shaking and I feel so sorry for her.

I awkwardly go over and sit next to her on the sand, but she doesn’t look up.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask her softly.

“I guess it’s better than sitting here feeling sorry for myself,” she replies.

I put my arm around her and let her cry on my shoulder. I attempt to comfort her and tell her it will be okay, but nothing seems to work.

“I really don’t understand how all this has happened,” I say, feeling sad for them.

I know I usually don’t like seeing her and my brother acting all slushy over each other, but I can’t stand them breaking up.

“Did you two have an argument before last night?” I ask carefully, trying to figure it out.

“No, we didn’t. That’s the worst part,” she sobs, “at least if we did then there would be a reason.”

“I’m sure he didn’t mean to do anything,” I try to reassure her.

“I knew you’d stick up for him!” she says angrily. “It’s obvious you’d take your brother’s side.”

“I’m not on anyone’s side, especially not Rickie’s if he has done something wrong,” I insist. “I hate seeing you upset and I’m supposed to look after you, remember?”

She nods sadly, thinking of my promise to our mum.

“All I’m saying is…maybe you and Sarah got it wrong somehow?” I ask as carefully as I can. I’m afraid she’s going to snap at me again. “Is there a chance this could be a mistake?”

She cries even more, too upset to be angry at me, “Carl, I did see them kissing. She was all over him.”

I feel shocked hearing it finally confirmed. I know Rickie can be flirty and confident with girls when he’s single. He’s even had some trying to chat him up while he’s been with Starlet; but obviously he wasn’t at all interested and turned them down. Starlet is the only girl he looks at in that way and no other person comes close. I know he’s definitely not a cheat and hearing this doesn’t seem like him at all.

“It doesn’t make sense,” I say in confusion. “I know he was drunk, but he’s crazy about you, Star. I know he’d never cheat on you if he was thinking straight.”

“I don’t get it either. I guess all this stuff with Drake got too much for him. You know how those two have been this last week. Rickie’s jealous, even though he knows I’m not interested, and I’m sure Drake is just doing things to wind him up.”

It was true. I was already beginning to regret Drake coming to stay with us and he’d only been here a week. All he’s done is hang around Starlet flirting with her; and the worst part is he does some of it right in front of Rickie.

I’ve no idea how he has the nerve to do that or how Rickie hasn’t fully lost his temper and got into a fight yet. Luckily, Starlet has been able to handle the situation brilliantly and gets rid of Drake before Rickie can punch him.

“It’s still no excuse for Rickie to do this,” I say, thinking about it.

“I can’t believe this is happening. I love him so much…”

It’s breaking my heart to see how extremely upset she is and I’d do anything to make it all better.

“We’ll sort this out,” I promise, trying to figure out what I can do. “Rickie is just as devastated. He hates himself.”

“But how can he do this to me? He knows how much it would hurt me…”

She looks so heartbroken I feel my heart ache. Their relationship was special and I never thought they’d one day be breaking up, especially like this.

“I’m surprised you haven’t lashed out at him yet,” I joke, trying to cheer her up.

We both know how fierce and angry she can get if provoked. She even took on Snider last time we saw him, because of her hatred about him killing her parents. She probably would have put him in hospital for months or killed him if Rickie hadn’t pulled her away. Hopefully I can work on controlling her anger soon.

“I am too,” she replies. “I always thought if anyone cheated on me I’d lose my temper and punch them; but when I saw them…it just hurt so much I couldn’t even breathe. I couldn’t even look because it was so painful.”

She holds her chest in pain, as if someone just attacked her with a knife, and sobs, “I just wanted to leave but it still hurts so much. I can’t get what I saw out of my head.”

“We’ll get through this, I promise,” I comfort her. “I’m always here for you, and all your friends are too.”

She nods, “thanks Carl, I appreciate it.”

“Do you want me to get anyone for you? Sarah or Kat?”

“No, it’s fine. They’ve looked after me so much as it is. I think I’ll just go for a walk, clear my head a little.”

“Star…do you think there’s a way we can fix this?” I ask hopefully, feeling really nervous. “Is there any chance you’ll take Rickie back?”

She looks down at the sand for a few seconds, looking hurt, “I’m sorry but there isn’t,” she says tearfully. “I don’t care if he was drunk or not…he still cheated on me and I’ll never be able to trust him again.”

I’m devastated hearing this and I feel awful wondering how I can tell Rickie. It’s going to destroy him.

“Could you talk to him once all this has calmed down?” I ask her. “I know it will be really hard and you don’t want to be near him, but at least it will give you both closure.”

“Maybe when I’m ready, I’m not strong enough for that just yet.”

“Is there anything I can do?” I ask, wishing there was.

She shakes her head, “I don’t think there’s anything that will help me right now.”

“Just don’t stay out here on your own too long,” I say, worried about her.

She nods in reply and I reluctantly leave her as she goes off for a walk.

When I get back to the hotel room, Rickie is still waiting for me. He looks hopeful when he sees me and that makes me feel even worse.

“Is she okay?” he demands anxiously. “What did she say about it all?”

I sit down beside him on the sofa and consider what to reply with. I really can’t tell him what she said because I’m dreading his reaction.

“She needs some time alone,” I say carefully. “I think you should stay away from her until she’s ready to talk to you again.”

“But I have to see her! I need to make things right!” he insists.

“She’s still very upset. If you go to her now you’ll only make her feel worse. Just be patient and sort things out when she’s feeling better.”

“I can’t stand all this,” he tells me sadly. “She can’t even look at me. I don’t want her to blank me out and refuse to talk whenever I see her. It hurts thinking she hates me so much.”

I give him a sympathetic pat, knowing I can’t help him feel any better either.

“You can stay with me for a while?” I suggest helpfully. “I don’t think Bryan would mind if you sleep on our sofa.”

“Thanks,” he replies, half-heartedly.

“I could help you get your stuff while Star is out? It will be easier for her that way.”

He nods, looking so dead inside that it makes me feel awful. I hate seeing my brother so heartbroken and miserable, and I think going back to their hotel room and removing all his stuff was one of the hardest things he’s had to do.

Chapter 19

 

When I wake up the next morning, I feel so dejected seeing Rickie lying on our sofa, looking even worse than yesterday. He looks as if he hasn’t slept much and has dark circles under his eyes. His skin is pale and he looks ill with grief. I feel pretty anxious about him.

I get out of bed and walk over, “Rickie?”

He doesn’t even notice or hear me. His eyes are glazed over, zoned out on his thoughts. He doesn’t look like himself anymore. He seems dead inside and I don’t know how to bring him back.

“Rickie?” I try again and shake him.

“What?” he answers in a voice that’s too weak to be anything like his.

“Do you want to go get some breakfast?” I ask.

He shakes his head in answer.

“Are you sure? You don’t want any bacon or sausages?” I tease, knowing he loves those.

“I’m not hungry,” he mutters in reply.

Now I’m really worried. He must be really upset to lose his appetite like that.

“Okay…I’ll be back soon,” I promise, and quickly get washed and changed in the bathroom before leaving.

Mick sees me in the restaurant and looks really concerned, “Is it true? Has Rickie and Star broke up?”

I nod sadly, presuming he’s already heard everything what happened yesterday. The gossip must have spread like wild fire, especially after their argument outside.

“I really can’t believe it,” he replies sadly. “Those two were the perfect couple. I never thought they’d split up.”

“I know, I didn’t see this coming either.”

“How’s Rickie doing?” he looks just as anxious about him as I am, since Rickie is his best friend. “Is he okay?”

“He’s not so good right now,” I tell him honestly.

“Can I come over and see him? Maybe I can help?”

“You can try,” I answer, feeling a little hopeful that maybe Mick could cheer him up a bit. “I’ve got to get some breakfast first, I’m starving.”

I get a table and eat breakfast while Mick sits across from me, telling me his plans to fix all this. I don’t have the heart to say that maybe it’s past being fixed and Starlet doesn’t want to take him back.

We both go to my hotel room once I’ve finished, and we find Rickie still on the sofa. He’s not moved at all since I left. Mick is shocked to see the state of him.

“Whoa, he’s really cut up about this, isn’t he?” Mick says quietly to me, looking sympathetic.

I nod in answer.

“What are you still doing in bed?” Mick asks Rickie as he goes over to him. “Come on, dude. Get up.”

“Just leave me alone,” Rickie mutters in reply.

“You can’t stay on the sofa all day not eating,” I tell him.

He doesn’t seem to care either way.

“There’s no way I’m letting you get all depressed,” Mick insists. “You’ve got two choices; you can stay here feeling miserable and do nothing, or you can get back up again and do whatever it takes to fix this. Don’t you want to get Star back?”

He nods in reply.

“She won’t want you back when you look like a zombie,” he jokes. “Now go get washed and dressed before I drag you off that sofa.”

Somehow it seems to work and Rickie gets up and goes to the bathroom.

“Thanks,” I tell Mick gratefully. “It means a lot that you got through to him.”

“It’s no problem,” he replies. “He’s done the same for me; and obviously we need to get him and Star back together.”

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea if he tries to talk to her yet…” I warn.

“I know she’s upset, but Rickie will win her back, I’m sure of it,” Mick says confidently.

I don’t have the heart to him that this plan probably won’t go well. It’ll probably end in disaster and I’m already feeling nervous.

Rickie comes out of the bathroom washed and changed, his hair perfectly styled. He still doesn’t look like his normal self yet, but he’s looking more determined now.

“Looking good,” Mick gives him a pat with approval. “Now let’s go get her.”

I still try to gently talk them out of the idea, but they won’t listen and walk out of the hotel looking for Starlet. I follow them, wishing I could be brave enough to tell Rickie what Starlet said yesterday, but I’m still too afraid to hurt him even more.

Rickie spots Starlet right away and smiles a little. She’s hanging out on the beach with Sarah, Kat, Bryan…and Drake.

“Maybe I should go ask Star if she’s ready to talk to you,” I suggest, not wanting to ruin it when she’s looking relaxed.

Rickie ignores what I’m saying because he’s noticed Drake has moved closer to Starlet, almost sitting on her beach towel. Rickie looks furious and this time I don’t blame him for getting jealous.

“He’s not wasted time to swoop in, has he?” says Mick disapprovingly.

We both watch Drake put his arm around Starlet and it’s obvious he’s flirting with her again.

Rickie’s eyes darken with anger. I dread what’s about to happen and feel anxious.

“Stay cool. You know she’s not into him…” Mick tries to reason.

However, Rickie ignores him too and storms across the sand towards Drake. I quickly follow him, knowing there’s going to be trouble.

None of them have spotted us yet, since they’re sat looking out towards the sea. Drake is too busy looking at Starlet to realise he’s in danger yet.

“Just give me a chance,” we hear Drake say to Starlet. “You deserve better than this and I want to be with you.”

I can’t tell how Starlet is reacting, because she’s got her back to us, but Rickie is too angry to stop and let her handle it herself.

He shoves Drake crossly, “I told you to stay away from my girlfriend!”

Starlet turns, surprised to see Rickie suddenly appear.

Drake stands up to face Rickie and smirks, “she’s not your girlfriend anymore. Too bad; she’s obviously going to get someone better than you.”

Rickie immediately snaps and lashes out at him furiously. Drake falls down to the sand from the impact of the punch and looks a little stunned. Rickie doesn’t stop there. He gets down on the sand too, continuing to hit Drake hard with his fists.

“Rickie, stop it!” Starlet tries to plead with him, but his attention is on nothing else but fighting Drake.

Drake finally gets over the shock and starts hitting back until they’re both fighting viciously.

Everyone watches in shock. Starlet is upset and feeling guilty, thinking it’s her fault. She tries to stop them, but Bryan holds her back.

“Stay out of it,” he advises her, worried that she might get hurt.

Sarah and Kat are both really anxious.

“Please stop fighting,” Kat begs them, upset.

“Come on guys, this is silly,” Sarah tries to reason.

Both pleads are ignored as they continue to fight.

“Break it up! Now!” I shout at them both, taking charge.

I pull Rickie away from Drake so they’re apart, but it’s still no use. They’re desperate to fight each other, and the only thing I can do is stand in the middle and try preventing them from fighting more. Rickie shoves past me and lunges for Drake again.

Luckily, Mick gets involved and holds Rickie back strongly. Rickie is still determined to lash out at Drake some more, but Mick is a lot stronger and holds on tightly, keeping him away.

“Rickie, calm down,” Mick says loudly “He’s not worth it.”

I stand in the way so Drake can’t try and attack Rickie.

“Your brother is out of control,” he tells me angrily. “I’m not putting up with that behaviour.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t cause trouble and leave Starlet alone,” I retort back. “You’re obviously provoking him, stirring things up and trying to steal his girlfriend. How do you think he’s going to react?”

“It’s none of his business what I do. He’s blown his chances with Starlet, we all know that,” he says smugly, looking at Rickie.

Rickie doesn’t even bother about him this time. He looks over at Starlet instead, wondering if it’s true and looking hurt. Starlet avoids his gaze, looking down at the sand with tears in her eyes.

“Star, we really need to talk and try and sort this out,” Rickie says to her.

Mick lets him go now that his focus is on sorting things with Starlet, rather than attacking Drake again.

“I think you should go,” I say to Drake pointedly, knowing that Rickie and Starlet need time alone together without him lurking around causing more problems.

“That’s funny, I don’t remember you being my boss,” Drake retorts, annoyed.

“There’s been enough trouble here already,” Kat tells him gently. “Come on, let’s go find a first aid kit so I can clean up your wounds.”

Luckily Drake gives up the argument and follows her back to the hotel. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Star…” Rickie approaches her, but she moves away sadly.

“I don’t want to hear any of it,” Starlet tells him, avoiding his gaze with pain in her eyes. “You’ve done enough.”

“Seriously, what have you done to cause this?” Mick asks Rickie, looking puzzled.

It seems that he’s the only one of us who doesn’t know the whole story of the split. Even Drake seems filled in on everything and he’s not even part of our group.

“Rickie was hooking up with some tart last night, that’s what happened,” Sarah informs Mick, still annoyed, “but he’s still insisting he hasn’t and was with you all night.”

“He was with me,” Mick answers, confused even more. “Nothing like that happened! I would have seen it if he had.”

Mick looks over at Starlet, checking if she thinks the same too, “do you really believe he would do that, Star? I know he’s my best mate, but if he ever cheated on you, I’d be one of the first to have a go at him,” he tells her reassuringly. “I know Rickie; he’d never do that, especially not to you.”

Starlet looks up at Rickie for the first time, “but I saw you,” she insists, looking wounded and confused. “You were kissing a girl at the bar…I didn’t imagine it.”

“I saw it too,” adds Sarah. “We can’t have both got it wrong.”

“But I was with him the entire time, I would know!” insists Mick, confident that he’s right.

“Well obviously he got that one past you,” Sarah replies with attitude.

“Okay then, what did this girl look like?” asks Mick. “I’d have at least seen her at the bar.”

“Brunette hair…clingy red dress,” Sarah tells him, remembering.

“I know who you mean,” says Mick, thinking. “Oh…” He sounds as if he’s remembering something bad.

“What?” Rickie asks anxiously. “If I’ve done something bad then I need to know.”

“She was the really drunk girl, do you remember?” Mick asks him.

“No…”

“Well, she was totally out of it, trying to make out with anyone nearby. She jumped you when you were getting drinks at the bar. It was so funny. She was trying to kiss you but you weren’t happy at all. You pushed her away so hard she fell over a table and landed right into this guy’s lap. Then she started making out with him instead and he was well chuffed. I wish I’d got a video for YouTube but we left our mobiles at home.”

“I don’t remember any of that…” Rickie says, looking stunned as he tries to take it in.

“Star, I promise you nothing happened at all with that girl,” Mick tells her. “She just went for him unexpectedly and he was in total shock. Plus he was drunk so his reaction time was slow, but he definitely didn’t kiss her back. He was really annoyed.”

“So I really didn’t do anything last night?” Rickie looks so relieved.

“No, ‘course not,” answers Mick. “You think I’d let you get away with that, mate?”

“I guess that’s what we saw…” says Sarah. “We didn’t exactly stick around for long.”

She looks over at Starlet to check if she thinks the same.

“You must have missed the rejection part,” agrees Mick.

Starlet doesn’t know what to say and keeps her eyes on the sand, embarrassed.

“We didn’t even see you there,” Sarah tells Mick, laughing a little with embarrassment at the misunderstanding.

“I was at our table hanging out with all the girls. We were only with them ‘cause Rickie was helping me get a girlfriend,” he explains and looks over at Starlet. “I admit, they were all pretty hot, but Rickie spent the entire night telling them about you. Isabelle can’t wait to see one of your dance shows.”

“Who’s Isabelle?” asks Sarah curiously.

“My new girlfriend,” Mick smiles proudly. “It’s all thanks to Rickie, my wingman. He knew I liked her and introduced us.”

Mick exchanges a grateful look at Rickie and he smiles in response.

“Aww! That’s so cute,” squeals Sarah, excitedly. “You’ll never guess what? Star and I actually thought Rickie had stayed the night with that girl at first.” She laughs at how ridiculous that is now.

Mick laughs too, “He was too drunk to get up the stairs last night. We only just got him to my hotel room before he passed out on the sofa.”

“I’m sorry, Star,” Rickie apologises, looking embarrassed.

“I feel so stupid now,” Starlet tells him, looking embarrassed that’s it’s all been a big misunderstanding. “I cried so much that night I hardly slept and just waited, thinking of you being with that girl instead of me…” her eyes water a little, remembering her pain.

Rickie looks so guilty and sympathetic, “I’d do anything to go back and avoid the whole thing. I can’t believe how much trouble it’s caused.”

“I should have told you where he was,” Mick says to Starlet, looking remorseful. “It was really early in the morning so I thought you’d be asleep and didn’t want to wake you. I should have known you’d be worried…”

“It’s okay,” says Starlet, but it’s obvious that the phone call would have helped the situation.

“I’m really sorry for all of this,” Rickie apologises to her guiltily. “I never wanted you to feel hurt and I know how torn up I’d feel if I thought you were with someone else…”

“It’s fine. I’m the one who misread what happened,” she replies, looking shy but relieved. “I guess I looked at the wrong time and should have waited long enough to see the whole picture.”

“I’d have probably done the same…or gone over and punched the guy kissing you,” he replies. “If I really was cheating then you should have come over and attacked me the way you did with Drake,” he jokes. “I’d have deserved it.”

She smiles a little at his joke.

“She was too busy feeling heartbroken to sort you out,” Sarah tells him. “I had to stay with her all night because she was so upset, and you still hadn’t come back which made things worse. You’ve got a lot of making up to do.”

“I’ll do anything to make this right,” he promises, looking into Starlet’s eyes.

She smiles and blushes a little.

“I don’t think we can go straight back to the way things were before, even though you didn’t do anything wrong,” she tells him honestly. “I went through so much and had my heart broken and nothing can undo all that; so it’ll take a while to get over.”

“It’s okay, I get it,” he replies, but looks a little put out. “We’ll fix this and I’ll make you happy again, then we can forget this ever happened. I love you, Star. There’s no way I’m going to lose you again.”

He goes over to give her a hug and she hesitantly goes into his arms, still a little nervous after all the pain she’s been through. Rickie has a big smile as he holds her close for a while, looking so happy to have her back. Even Starlet has watery eyes and smiles too.

They part and get lost in each other’s eyes. It’s as if they’ve completely forgotten we’re all still here and they’re back in their own Rickie-and-Star world as usual, just like old times. Rickie looks as if he wants to kiss her but isn’t sure whether she wants him to yet.

Sarah looks so pleased for them both, and Mick wolf whistles to tease them. I’m so relieved to see them both hugging again that I forget to be repelled by it.

Starlet realises we’re all looking and blushes, staring down at the sand instead, embarrassed. Rickie doesn’t mind and grins over at us.

“Maybe we should go talk it over alone?” he asks her hopefully. “I can’t stand it when we fall out.”

“Okay,” she replies shyly, and they walk off down the beach together.

“Well, now this has been resolved, I need to tell you guys all about Isabelle,” Mick says happily.

Sarah’s eager to hear it and starts asking questions, so I roll my eyes and go get us some drinks.

[] Chapter 20

 

 

It’s been a peaceful few weeks with no more trouble, arguments or tears. Starlet and Rickie are back to being a happy couple again and it looks like they’ve sorted things out. Every time I see them they’re all loved up, even more than normal. Fortunately, Drake seems to have backed off now, although it’s probably because of the fight.

I relax on my sun lounger, feeling happy that there are no problems to worry about. The sunrays are warm against my skin. I listen to sounds of water in the pool and leaves from the palm trees swaying in the breeze. Music is playing quietly from the outside bar and I chill out, half listening to it. I don’t even feel home sick anymore. I just want to stay here in paradise forever.

I jump with fright as I hear a scream nearby. My heart starts to pound hard inside me as I open my eyes and look around. I hear gun shots and see people running towards the hotel for safety.

“Bry, what’s going on?” I ask, as I see him run towards me looking panicked.

“It’s Snider, he’s here!” he answers, his eyes wide with horror. “His troops are coming over to the hotel with loaded guns.”

I feel shocked and scared, “How did they get on the island? The airport shouldn’t have let them through.”

“I’ve no idea, but we’ve got to get to safety quick,” he says.

“Get everyone inside the hotel,” I order him. “Maria and the bodyguards will handle it.”

There’s a huge panic as everyone rushes back into the hotel to hide, but somehow all the freedom fighters get organised and come together. Some of the body guards are still at the hotel and stand outside, getting their guns ready to fight against Snider and his troops.

Inside the hotel is chaos. Everyone is screaming, running or hiding; and I feel anxious wondering what we should do.

“Hide in the ballroom,” I order the freedom fighters loudly and lead them there.

As we run, we hear smashes, thuds and more gun shots as Snider and his team fight against the body guards and try to enter the building.

We keep running, but I see one of Snider’s troops appear at a nearby window. Before I can warn anyone, he smashes the glass and starts firing at us. Bryan yells in pain and falls to the floor. I look back and feel sadness rush through me as I realise he’s dead.

Rickie grabs my arm and pulls me along, scared that I’ll get shot too. A few more freedom fighters are shot down, but most of us make it into the ballroom. I quickly block the door with furniture, so that Snider and his troops can’t get in. Mick and another freedom fighter help me.

“They’ll know we’re here,” says Sarah worriedly. “That troop might have seen where we were heading.”

“We’re safe for now,” I say, trying to keep everyone calm. “This room is perfect, there are no windows and only one way in that’s now blocked, so hopefully we’ll keep them out.”

“But what if we don’t?” Kat asks anxiously. “If they do get in we’ll be trapped!”

“Hopefully Snider and his troops will all be arrested before they can get here.”

We wait nervously, hearing turmoil outside the walls. I feel awful thinking of what could be happening outside and wish everyone could be safe. At least Snider and his troops won’t be interested in the hotel staff and guests; it’s just us that they’re determined to find and kill.

I hear a loud thud at the doorway and feel worried. It seems like they’ve found us and trying to get in. Kat and Sarah gasp in fear and hug each other, scared. Starlet stays close to Rickie, looking nervous. He puts his arm around her protectively.

There are a few more thuds as they continue to try and break in, and then I watch in fear as the wooden doorway is smashed through and destroyed. The furniture that we piled against it falls to the floor with a crash, and things are thrown out of the way as I see Snider climb over them and enter the room.

My heart stops in horror. He’s followed by two troops armed with guns and I know immediately that we are in big trouble. Snider and the troops shoot down a few people closest first, working their way further towards me. Rickie protects Starlet, and Drake pushes Sarah and Kat to the floor so they’re out of range.

“I’ll try to fight him, you make sure everyone gets out of here,” Mick says to me over the screams.

“It’s too dangerous,” I warn him; worried that Snider could shoot him down before he even reaches him.

“I’ll take my chances,” he replies, and before I can stop him, he runs towards Snider.

Snider isn’t ready for a surprise attack, so Mick manages to reach him and tackles him to the ground. They both begin to wrestle, Snider yelling and lashing out furiously while Mick tries to get the gun off him.

The troops quickly aim their guns at Mick, ready to defend their leader, but Starlet and Rickie both attack one each before they can try to shoot.

“Get out of here quick!” I shout to everyone else.

Drake pulls Kat and Sarah up so they can rush over to the door. Others look startled but make a run for it too. I look over and see that Starlet’s already knocked out the troop she’s taken on. Rickie’s still fighting his opponent, although the troop’s gun has fallen to the ground and he now has to fight back with his fists instead. Rickie punches the troop hard and leaves him unconscious on the floor.

I hear a loud gun shot and see Snider getting up off the ground, holding his gun. Mick is lying dead at his feet and I feel horrified, wishing he hadn’t risked his life to fight him.

Rickie is in shock and upset at losing his best friend. Starlet cries in despair and tries to go over to help Mick, even though there’s nothing we can do.

“Star, stay away from him!” Rickie warns her anxiously, knowing it’s too dangerous to go any closer to Snider.

He manages to grab hold of Starlet’s arm and pulls her back, but Snider’s attention has been caught as he looks towards them. His eyes narrow angrily as he recognises Starlet. My heart thuds fearfully, knowing he’s remembered Starlet beating him up the last time we had a run in with him in Dragon City.

He strides towards her and Starlet looks both nervous and angry, but she’s ready for a fight either way. Rickie stands in front of her protectively, furious that Snider is trying to take on his girlfriend.

“You’re not getting anywhere near her,” Rickie growls at Snider, his eyes filled with fury. It’s clear that he’ll kill Snider if he has to just to protect Starlet from being shot.

“Stop wasting time playing the hero, Rickie,” Snider sneers back. “Unless you’re too stupid to realise, I’m the one who’s armed with a weapon.”

“I don’t need a weapon to take you out,” Rickie tells him threateningly. “I’m not a coward like you. I don’t have to hide behind a gun or have troops to fight for me.”

“If you want to take me on, then go ahead, try it,” Snider challenges him.

Rickie’s so angry that he’s about to.

“Rickie, don’t move!” I yell at him, noticing the smirk on Snider’s face.

Rickie stops himself and realises that Snider is trying to trick him into moving so he can properly aim at Starlet. He stays where he is, determined to keep her safe.

“You’re not killing anyone else, Snider,” I tell him firmly, determined to stop him from shooting at Rickie or Starlet.

He has a malice smile as he looks over at me. It’s as if he’s telling me he is the one in control and there’s nothing I can do to stop him. As much as I hate to admit it, I know he’s stronger than me right now. He has a loaded weapon while the rest of us are defenceless, and we’ve been shown that trying to fight him will lead us to death.

“I’ve waited so long for this moment,” he says and aims the gun at my forehead.

I stand still, holding his gaze, “Go ahead and kill me,” I say bravely, “but that won’t stop people fighting against you. I took over when you killed our previous leader, so someone will replace me just as easy.”

“We’ll see about that,” he replies angrily. “Once I’ve got rid of all your freedom fighters, I’ll kill anyone else who stands in my way. Soon everyone will fear me and stay in line with my rules.”

“All evil dictators get taken down eventually. Your day will come,” I reply.

I see him go to pull the trigger and hold my breath, ready to die…but then he stops and smirks. I frown in confusion, wondering why he hasn’t shot me yet.

“That would be too easy. I want you to watch your team die first,” he says and the gun moves away from me and to Rickie and Starlet instead.

Panic rises inside my chest and I feel terrified. This is my worst nightmare; seeing my family and friends be killed because of me, while I’m still alive and unable to help them. Knowing they’ll die is like torture and I’m sure Snider knows this and loves every second of using this as his revenge.

“No!” Starlet hugs Rickie tightly, feeling terrified of him getting shot.

Tears run down her face and I can’t bear to see her so heartbroken.

“Stay back,” Rickie tells her, gently pushing her out of range while still shielding her from getting shot at. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Don’t worry, she’ll be next,” Snider tells him, “and you won’t be alive to protect her from the bullets.”

Starlet looks scared, although it’s mostly for Rickie’s life than her own. Rickie looks back at Snider furiously for threatening his girlfriend.

I feel hopeless. I can’t let Rickie, Starlet or any of the others die. It’s my job to protect them all and I need to stop this. It’s all getting out of hand and I can’t let him kill more people.

I have no idea how I can prevent all this from happening and there’s nothing I can say or do that will stop him firing his gun. However, I catch sight of something and feel a little glimmer of hope. The gun from one of Snider’s unconscious troops lies on the floor nearby and I don’t hesitate. Before anyone can realise what I’m doing, I pick up the gun and aim it at Snider.

“Put the gun down!” I yell at him in warning. “If you pull that trigger then I’ll shoot too.”

Rickie looks over at me in surprise. He knows I would never use a loaded gun, so this must be a shock. He obviously didn’t expect this to suddenly happen.

Snider looks over at me too and laughs, not the least bit scared or threatened, “We both know you’ve never used a real weapon in your life. You’re not man enough to pull that trigger on me even if you could use it.”

I feel anxious that there’s no way he’s going to give up. He’s right; I don’t want to use a gun to take someone’s life, no matter how evil they are. The weapon seems useless in my hands.

It’s too late now as he turns back to Rickie and pulls the trigger.

[] Chapter 21

 

 

I stand frozen in fear. Everything happened so fast I can’t focus. My mind is still bleary, trying to understand what I’ve just seen. The gun falls out of my hand in shock and I look over at Rickie and Starlet. They’re both lying still on the floor and grief and sadness rushes through me.

I run over, anxious and desperate to help them. Drake gets to Starlet first, looking nervous too.

“What happened?” I ask, wondering if the bullet managed to kill them both.

“She pushed him out of the way,” he mutters, upset and angry.

“Oh no,” I groan.

Rickie will never forgive himself if Starlet died to save him and I feel so upset.

Drake tries to check on her and I almost jump with surprise when I see her move.

“Star! Are you okay?” I feel faint with relief knowing she’s alive.

Drake helps her get up and she tries to steady herself, her body trembling with shock. Luckily she seems to be unharmed and I’m so thankful. She doesn’t register Drake or me; she’s too distracted worrying about her boyfriend.

“Rickie!” she looks anxiously and goes beside him, her eyes beginning to water.

I see blood coming from his body and my heart plummets. My eyes start to water. How can I live without my little brother?

“I’m so sorry,” she sobs to me. “I tried to…”

She looks as devastated as I feel and starts to cry hard.

“It’s okay, Star. You did your best,” I reply gravely.

I’ll always be grateful that she tried to save my brother from the shot and risked her own life to do it.

“Rickie? Can you hear me?” she asks tearfully, desperate for him to still be alive.

I kneel beside him too and carefully turn him over so I can examine the damage. He groans softly in pain and we both feel relieved that at least he’s alive for now.

His eyes are shut and he’s cradling himself in agony, his arms crossed tight over his chest.

“I’m here. It’s going to be okay,” Starlet tells him softly.

He doesn’t reply with being in too much pain but Starlet carries on talking to him comfortingly.

I try to assess the injury but I can’t see anything yet with all the blood. I notice that his hand is covering the top part of his right arm and realise that’s where he must have been shot.

I quickly pull off my t-shirt and try to clean up his arm so I can find the wound.

“He needs medical help soon,” comments Drake. “He could still die with blood loss.”

“He’s not going to die!” I snap at him, a little angry that he would suggest it.

Drake shoots me an annoyed look, but his face softens a little when he sees how upset Starlet is.

“Please, go find someone who can help,” Starlet begs him.

I think she’s too afraid of leaving Rickie in case he won’t make it; and I’m too busy trying to do what I can to save him. I doubt Drake will assist us, especially since he hates Rickie, but he surprises me by rushing out to search.

“I’ve found it,” I tell Starlet. “Now all we have to do is stop the bleeding.”

Starlet pulls off her vest top and hands it to me, “use mine.”

I take it from her, feeling a little embarrassed and keeping my eyes on Rickie. I know she’s wearing a bikini top underneath but it still feels awkward. I cover the small vest over his wound and tie it around his arm. Rickie grits his teeth and tries to be brave, but I can tell it must be very painful.

“We need to tie something above the wound,” Starlet tells me urgently. “Kat taught me, it stops the blood flow.”

I tear a strip from my used t-shirt and do as she says, fastened a tight knot. Rickie winces as I do it and I try not to feel guilty. I have to do whatever I can to help, even if it causes him more pain.

“What happened to Snider?” Starlet asks me anxiously.

We’d forgotten about him with all this going on.

“It’s okay, he can’t hurt us now,” I reassure her.

Starlet looks over to where Snider had been stood and gasps as she sees him lying dead on the floor.

Starlet looks back at me in shock, “You shot him?” she asked stunned, but also looks relieved that we’re safe.

I feel shaky and sick, my head spinning at realising what I’d done. I can’t even recall doing it. All I can remember is Snider firing at Rickie…then I must have pulled the trigger, because the next thing I saw was Snider lying motionless on the floor, then Rickie and Starlet.

The memory flashes in my mind like motionless pictures separated by blankness. It feels weird not being able to remember clearly. I must have been in too much shock to register it all happening.

“I’m a murderer,” I mutter, hanging my head in shame and feeling disgusted with myself.

“No you’re not,” Starlet insists. “It was self-defence. You only did it to stop him from shooting Rickie.”

My mind is so misty that I only just hear her. The only thought rushing around my head is: I killed someone.

“Carl?” I jump with shock as I feel Starlet put her hand on my shoulder. I look up at her.

“Are you okay?” her eyes are concerned.

I register what she’s saying and shake my head in answer, trying to block everything out of my mind.

“Don’t feel guilty,” she tells me. “He was an evil psychopath who wanted to kill us all. I would have definitely got rid of him if I had the chance.”

“Don’t say that, I’d never want you to be in that position,” I reply. “I’m the leader so it’s my responsibly to protect you all.”

We both look after Rickie, who is still in pain and resting. I think of trying to carry him out, but I’m scared of moving him and causing more pain. We stay waiting anxiously, and finally I see Drake arrive back, followed by Maria and two medical nurses.

Maria has a gun ready and looks shocked as she sees the scene before her. She goes over to Snider and checks him in case he’s still alive. The two nurses rush forward to Rickie urgently.

“He’s been shot in his right arm,” I tell them quickly. “He’s losing a lot of blood but we’ve tried to stop it.”

They listen and carefully lift Rickie onto their stretcher.

“We’ll take him to hospital, our ambulance is waiting outside.”

“What about the rest?” Maria asks me, looking around the room.

“The two troops are unconscious,” I answer. “The rest are dead.”

“I’m so sorry,” Maria says sympathetically. “I wish I’d got here sooner…”

Starlet follows the two medical nurses as they carry Rickie outside.

“I should go with Star to the hospital,” I say, worrying about my brother.

“Sure. I’ll handle everything here.”

I quickly follow Starlet and look around at the chaos of the hotel. It looks as if the fight is over and everyone is still in shock, looking anxious and helping anyone who’s injured. The body guards are rounding up the arrested troops ready to hand over to the police when they arrive.

Kat and Sarah are waiting outside and run over to us, looking relieved. They both give Starlet a hug with tears of happiness in their eyes. They look anxiously at Rickie as he’s carried to the back of the ambulance. Starlet leaves them to jump inside the ambulance and sit beside him, holding his hand.

Sarah and Kat rush over to give me a hug too and I can’t help smiling a little.

“We’ve been so worried…” says Sarah.

“I’m glad you’re safe,” adds Kat.

“What happened to Rickie?” Sarah asks me, concerned.

“He was protecting Star when Snider tried to shoot her,” I explain. “Don’t worry; I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Kat asks me a few medical questions about him, looking anxious, but I reassure her that we helped him as best as we could.

“Where are Mick and Bryan?” Sarah asks me, fearing the worst as she notices they haven’t come out of the building.

“I’m sorry. They didn’t make it,” I answer gravely.

She’s devastated to hear this and starts to cry, so I put my arm around her sympathetically. Kat is shocked and comes in for a hug too, beginning to cry.

I see a police car pull up in front of us with its sirens blaring and the local police officers jump out with guns ready. Maria reassures them that it’s all been taken care of and points them in the direction of the arrested troops.

“I can’t believe this has happened,” Sarah tells me. “I wish it was all just some awful nightmare.”

“Me too,” I reply, knowing things will never be the same again.

Maria checks that everyone is safe and unharmed and then starts questioning about what happened. I look down nervously, knowing it’s my fault they found Snider dead instead of alive.

Kat tells Maria most of the story, up until when she and Sarah escaped from the ballroom.

“What happened after that?” Maria asks, looking at me and Drake for answers.

I can’t speak because I’m too scared of saying what I did, but luckily Drake starts to fill her in, seeing me hesitate.

“And how did Snider end up dead?” she asks, confused that this part has been missed out of the story.

Drake glances at me. I can tell from the look on his face that he’d seen what I had done. He doesn’t answer Maria and looks awkward, so I decide to come forward and tell her, since she’ll find out sooner or later anyway.

“I was the one that shot him,” I confess shakily.

Maria looks at me in surprise and Sarah and Kat stare in shock too, unable to believe what I’ve just admitted to. I feel disgusted with myself.

“I didn’t want to…I thought I couldn’t,” I try to explain, “but everything happened so fast. He’d already killed people and went to shoot Starlet and Rickie. I tried to scare him off with one of the troop’s guns but it didn’t work. I saw him pull the trigger and thought he’d killed my brother. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d pulled the trigger too. I was just so scared that he would try to shoot Starlet next and I wanted to protect her.”

I’m terrified that they’ll all hate me and think I’m evil. I look down at the floor, feeling horrible and avoiding their eyes.

“If Carl hadn’t done it we’d all be dead right now,” Drake tells Maria.

I look up at him in shock. It’s strange that he’d stick up for me, but he’s probably just grateful that I saved his life.

Sarah pats my shoulder and smiles up at me reassuringly.

“That was really brave of you,” Kat says in awe. “I don’t think I could have done it.”

I feel so relieved that they haven’t reacted badly like I imagined.

“You did the right thing, Carl,” Maria tells me approvingly. “It was self-defence and you were trying to prevent him from killing you and anyone else. I would have been forced to do the exact same if I had got there in time.”

Even though I know they’re right, I can’t help still feeling awful. I hate weapons, I always taught my freedom fighters not to use them, and we never killed anyone even when they tried to kill us. Now here I am haunted by the fact that I used a loaded gun to take someone’s life. There’s no way I’ll ever forgive myself for this…

Maria notices how guilty I look, “I know it’s hard to deal with, but it’s something that has to be done if there’s no other option.”

“I’m not getting arrested for it?” I ask nervously.

“Of course not,” she answers confidently. “The law is on your side for this; and the fact that he’s an escapee criminal with a death threat against you helps even more. I doubt it will even get investigated.”

“Oh…” I’m relieved I won’t be going to prison, but it still doesn’t stop the guilt. I’m starting to feel like maybe I didn’t make the right decision, even though I’d never take back saving my team.

[] Chapter 22

 

 

I get a cab over to the hospital and look anxiously for Rickie and Starlet. Luckily it’s a small hospital, so I find my way around quickly after the receptionist gives me directions to the ward.

I find Starlet in the waiting area and sit in the chair beside her, “how is he?”

Starlet looks just as anxious as I’m feeling, “they took him in for surgery. I don’t know how long he’ll be in there…”

Her eyes tear up and I put my arm around her comfortingly, “they’ll take good care of him. He’s in the best place now.”

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” she asks me, scared.

“Of course he will,” I answer reassuringly. “We’ll just wait until the doctor says we can visit him. There’s no need to worry.”

It’s agony waiting around and the time seems to drag on forever. There are some magazines on the table but I can’t focus enough to read. My mind is too filled with thoughts of Rickie and what I’d done back at the hotel.

Starlet is too worked up to eat or drink anything and squeezes my hand nervously whenever she sees a doctor or nurse walk by. I can’t help feeling worried too, but I try to hide it so I don’t make Starlet feel worse.

After what seems like hours later, a nurse finally comes over to us and I feel my heart race.

“Surgery went well,” she informs. “The patient is still under aesthetic so I’ll send you through once he’s awake.”

Starlet breathes a sigh of relief and hugs me tight. I smile, feeling thankful that Rickie’s okay.

“I’ll phone the hotel and let everyone know,” I say, going to look for a pay phone.

When the nurse pops back to say we can visit, I generously let Starlet go in first on her own.

“Are you sure?” she asks uncertainly.

“I know you’ll both want some time alone and I’d rather not witness all the slushy stuff,” I joke.

“Thanks,” she grins happily and rushes off to him.

I check the clock to see when fifteen minutes has passed and then go through the door Starlet went in. There are a few beds on this ward but I spot Rickie immediately. They’re still busy talking and don’t notice me yet, so I stop and wait at the bottom of his bed, not wanting to interrupt.

“…still can’t believe you pushed me out of the way,” Rickie says, looking so in love with Starlet. “You could have been shot. If anything happened to you I wouldn’t have forgiven myself. Y’know I’d rather be dead than let you get shot at. ”

“I know,” she replies since he had warned her to stay away, “but I didn’t care about the risks. I wanted you to be safe. Besides, I owed you for protecting me.”

“Next time, don’t even think about doing it,” he warns her.

“I can’t help it…I care about you too much.”

He smiles, “I know I’m not happy about it but…thanks. I love you, Star. You’re the most amazin’ girl ever.”

“I love you too…” she replies dreamily and stops when she realises I’m there. She looks away from Rickie shyly.

Rickie grins, “hey bro.”

“Hi. How are you doing?” I ask.

The top of his arm is now wrapped tightly in a real bandage instead and he’s attached to a blood pack. He looks a little pale and weak from the previous blood loss.

“I’m fine,” he answers. “The nurse gave me some pain killers and they’re starting to kick in, so it’s not so bad.”

“At least you’re alive. You had us worried,” I say, feeling relieved that I haven’t lost him.

“I’ll go and get us some drinks from the vending machine,” Starlet offers, and I smile gratefully at her for giving me and Rickie some time to talk.

“You okay, bro?” he asks me, sensing that something is wrong.

I nod in answer, “I guess I’m still upset about Bryan, Mick and the others…and there’s a lot of bad stuff we have to deal with now it’s over…”

“It wasn’t your fault what happened to Snider,” Rickie tells me, knowing I’m feeling bad about it.

I sit on the chair beside his bed and sigh, “I know…but there must have been some other way,” I say hopelessly. “I could have tried to knock him unconscious and the police could have arrested him. I could have just injured him so he couldn’t shoot…”

“We didn’t really have time, you had to make a quick decision,” he reassures me.

I still feel frustrated and angry with myself, “I don’t want to be a murderer…”

“You’re not!” he insists. “I know y’ feel bad, but it’s better than if he’d shot us all and gone on to kill more people. It was self-defence and I’m glad he’s dead. We couldn’t even get him to court the last time we tried.”

I think it over, but there’s always this nagging feeling inside telling me maybe I should have done something else…but there’s no way I can go back in time and change it.

“I know…”

“Just let it go,” he advises me. “We’ll be dealin’ with enough trying to get over losing our mates and getting everything back on track. He’s already ruined people’s lives; don’t let him drag you down too.”

I nod, feeling a little stronger, “I’ll try.”

The next morning, Rickie is discharged from hospital and arrives back to the hotel to a warm welcome from us all. We’re still in a state of shock after what happened yesterday and upset about the people we lost, but we feel a little happier having Rickie back safe and healthy.

I’m really tired with not sleeping well last night. I was too upset about Bryan and Mick and it’s still not sinking in that they’re gone forever. Seeing Bryan’s empty bed in our hotel room just made it worse.

I still feel haunted by what happened with Snider and feel sick whenever I remember. Luckily Maria has been very supportive and tried to teach me how to block the thoughts and memory out of my mind, but I’m still getting the hang of it.

“I’ve got good news for you all,” Maria announces. “Our private jet has been scheduled so we’re finally going home.”

I feel warm inside thinking of returning home and seeing mum again. Everyone else is really happy and excited too.

“We’ll leave here tomorrow morning at ten o’clock and arrive back by late afternoon, so make sure you pack tonight.”

I head to the bar, since I’m feeling too tired to start packing yet; but Rickie stops me on the way.

“Bro, I want to talk to you about something,” he says quietly.

I follow him outside to somewhere private at the side of the hotel and I feel intrigued to know what’s so important.

He looks excited but nervous, “I’m going to propose to Star tonight,” he reveals.

I feel surprised. Okay, we all suspected Rickie and Starlet might get married one day, but I didn’t think it would start happening right now.

“So…what do you think?” he asks, waiting for me to get over his announcement.

I consider it, “Well…she’s already like a sister to me, so I guess having her as an official Sister-in-Law will be cool. Just make sure it’s what you really want…It’s a big thing getting married.”

“I know. I’ve never been sure of anything as much as this,” he answers confidently.

“Why are you doing it now?” I ask, a little puzzled at the timing. “I mean, can’t it wait a few years when you’re both older? There’s no rush…” I feel nervous as I think of something. “Oh no, she’s not pregnant, is she?”

Rickie laughs, “No! I want to propose ‘cause I love her, that’s all.”

“But you’re only nineteen, Rickie,” I say unsurely. “Don’t you want to wait until you’re thirty or at least late twenties before you get married?”

“All I know is I’ve wanted Star to be my wife ever since we met,” he answers honestly. “We’ve been together for two years now and I wanted to ask her on our anniversary, which is today. I know we’re still young but it’s not like we’ll be getting married right now. We could book the wedding in two years and I’ll be twenty one by then. That way we’ll be older and have time to get everything ready. I probably should wait longer but I know she’s the one and we’ll still be together if I propose now or years later. Why should I keep holding back when it’s what we both want and we should just go for it and be happy?”

“I suppose so,” I agree. “I know I think getting married young is a bad idea…but I do know that you and Star are perfect for each other. If it feels like the right thing, you should do it. Beside, most people take one or two years to organise a wedding, it’s hard work.”

Rickie nods in agreement.

“Aren’t you going to discuss it with mum first?” I ask, feeling sad that she isn’t here.

Rickie sighs, looking sad too, “I wanted to call her but Maria won’t let us contact anyone from here ‘cause the location has to be kept secret.”

I nod understandably, feeling disappointed for him.

“But I need to propose to Star today because of the date, and it’ll be way more romantic doing it on an island like this. I want it to be really special for her, not just a boring proposal back home at some restaurant.”

“I’m sure Mum will love your idea,” I reassure him. “I know she’d want to know but I guess you’ll have to talk with her as soon as we get back.”

“Do y’ think she’ll be happy for us?”

I laugh. Mum will burst with excitement when she finds out, “Of course she will; she loves Star.”

Rickie grins, “I’ve even got the ring. I was thinking it all over for a few weeks and then I saw it as I passed a jewellery store here.”

He produces a small, velvet box and opens it to show me. I smile as I look at a stylish silver ring with an oval shaped diamond in the middle. It’s definitely Starlet’s type of jewellery.

“It’s beautiful,” I comment. “She’ll love it.”

He hides the ring before anyone else can see. “I was thinking of asking her on the beach,” he tells me excitedly. “Will you help me out?”

“Sure I will,” I agree, and despite it not being my big night, I feel really excited too.

[] Chapter 23

 

 

Everyone is having a leaving party at the hotel later on, so it’s easy for Rickie and I to get everything set up on the beach without being seen.

“I’ll go and get Star,” I suggest. “She won’t suspect anything’s going on if it’s me.”

“‘Kay, I’ll wait here,” he agrees.

I set off back to the hotel with nervous butterflies in my stomach. I can’t imagine what Rickie must be feeling, he’ll be way more anxious than me.

I find Starlet having drinks with Sarah and Kat and manage to drag her away.

“I need your advice about something,” I tell her. “Maybe we should go for a walk? It’s quieter out there.”

“Okay,” she agrees and follows me out.

We walk out of the hotel grounds and along the promenade.

“So what did you want to ask?” she says, looking at me expectedly.

I start to panic a little; I really hadn’t planned this part through.

“Err…well…” I try to think of something but the only thing my brain comes up with is Maria. “I wanted to take Maria out for a date when we get home,” I admit, feeling really shy that I’ve just accidentally brought that up.

“Aww, really?” she smiles, excited for me.

I nod, embarrassed, “so…I was wondering where you think I should take her…y’know, to get a girl’s opinion.”

Starlet thinks it over and I feel relieved that I’ve distracted her enough. She suggests a few ideas and I nod in the right places, feeling too nervous to concentrate properly on what she’s saying. I’m afraid of her seeing anything before we get there and try to block her view of the beach.

Once we get close enough, she notices lights on the beach and looks surprised, “What’s that?”

I can’t help smiling, “why don’t we go find out?”

We walk over the sand and her face lights up with happiness when she sees Rickie there waiting. We’ve made it really special and romantic for her. A white rug is laid out on the sand, with soft pillows and scattered rose petals, surrounded by lit wax candles in the sand.

“Hey gorgeous,” Rickie greets her with a grin.

She takes it all in, looking dazed and thrilled, then excitedly goes over and hugs him.

“What’s going on?” she asks, grinning.

“It’s for our anniversary,” he answers innocently.

Starlet giggles, “I thought you’d forgotten about it.”

“No way,” he smiles and then looks at me.

I take the hint, “I’d better go back to the party,” I say quickly. “See you both later.”

I walk back along the sand, but there’s no way I’m really leaving them and missing out on the big proposal. It’s nearly as important to me, since Rickie is my brother and Starlet might be my future Sister-in-Law. I’ll be worrying all night if I don’t know her answer. Plus I helped Rickie get all of this organised, so I think I earned the right to see how it goes.

I hide behind a palm tree nearby out of sight and watch them. Luckily I can hear them from here too, since the beach is deserted and quiet.

Starlet sits beside Rickie and snuggles up to him.

“It looks really beautiful,” she says blissfully. “I love being out on the beach. It’s so peaceful here at night with the sound of the ocean and the stars.”

“Yeah it is,” he replies. “I’m glad y’ like it.”

Rickie has collected all of Starlet’s favourite things to eat and drink. There are two fruit boxes, one with sugared strawberries and the other with apple slices. We’ve ordered her favourite meal: double cheese pizza and fries with Pepsi. We also bought a special Sundae ice cream, with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream in a glass container, with chocolate and strawberry sauce, sprinkles and wafers.

“You brought all my favourite food?” she asks as she notices it inside the basket.

He smiles and serves the pizza and chips on the plates we borrowed from the hotel. She accepts it and starts eating hungrily.

“You’re so sweet,” she says happily. “I can’t believe you’ve done all this for me.”

“You deserve it,” he replies, and I can tell he’s trying to put her off any suspicion of a proposal. He wanted that to be a complete surprise. “We’ve been through a lot together since we had to go into hiding and we haven’t had time to go out on proper dates, so I had to make up for it tonight since it’s our special day.”

“It’s the best date ever,” she agrees. “Even better than our second date when you asked me out.”

I get bored and sit behind the palm tree, thinking of Maria instead while I wait. Watching them eat is making me hungry, but I can’t leave in case I miss anything.

After about half an hour, I look over and notice they’ve finished sharing the ice cream and are eating the left over fruit. Maybe he’ll propose now they’ve finished eating? I don’t think I can stay hiding here much longer, my stomach is begging for food.

Rickie puts his arm around Starlet and she rests her head on his shoulder, cuddling up to him again.

“You mean so much to me, Star,” he says, stroking her hair.

I feel relieved. Finally it seems as if it’s going to happen.

“I can’t believe it’s been over two years since we met.”

She smiles, remembering, “Yeah, it seems so weird how fast it’s gone by,” she looks down shyly. “I know I’ve never told you this but I fell in love with you the night we met.”

“Really?” he looks stunned. “Why didn’t y’ tell me?”

“’Cause you would have freaked out. It’s a lot to feel for someone I didn’t really know back then and you weren’t even my boyfriend.”

“I’d have been really chuffed havin’ a gorgeous girl like you falling for me,” he grins at her. “Do you remember how awesome our second date was?”

“How can I forget about that? We got involved in a police chase and nearly got shot at, but it was all worth it when you asked me out.”

“I fell in love with you that night, even though we’d only just got together.”

“Really?” she looks touched. “So why didn’t you tell me?”

“It was way too soon to say it. I only finally got myself to tell you that night I rescued you from the police station. I’ve never been as scared as I felt then, apart from when Snider threatened to kill you twice.”

“Yeah, it was very romantic, especially after you being my hero and saving my life.”

“We’ve had some really cool times together, haven’t we?”

“Yeah, we have,” she squeezes his hand. “Every second with you has been amazing.”

“I don’t ever wanna lose you. You’re a really cool girlfriend and you’re one of my best mates too. I’d do anything for you.”

“I know, I would for you too,” she says looking into his eyes lovingly. “I love you so much, Rickie.”

“I love you so much too,” he replies, looking back into her eyes. “I always want to be here for you and look after you. I want to spend the rest of my life keeping you safe, making you happy and taking you out on dates just to make you feel really special.”

She smiles, looking touched.

“I’ve always known you were the one,” he says and produces the engagement ring. “Star, will you marry me?”

I hold my breath in anticipation and watch Starlet’s stunned reaction. She stares at the ring in surprise then back up at Rickie. It takes her a few seconds to get over the shock of what’s happening and then she has a big smile and tears of happiness in her eyes.

“You really want to?” she asks. “But what about the stuff you said? About being too young and not having been together long enough.”

“It’ll take ages to organise. We can get married when you’re twenty or wait longer. We’ve been together for two years now and that’s long enough to know whether it’s right or not; and we’ll have been together more than that by the time we get married anyway.”

“Are you sure we can afford all that?”

“I’ve been saving for it,” he reassures her, “and we’ll both keep saving until the wedding happens. I don’t want money to stop us gettin’ married. We love each other and if it’s what we want then we should just go for it. So, what do you think?”

Starlet realises she hasn’t given him an answer yet and smiles, “Rickie, I’d love to,” she replies and hugs him tight.

He holds her close, looking relieved that she said yes.

“I hope you like the ring,” he says and takes it out of the box to place on her wedding finger.

She admires it blissfully, looking so happy, “It’s perfect, so beautiful.”

“Just like you,” he smiles and they share a long kiss.

That’s my queue to finally leave. I look away and head back to the hotel, a big smile on my face because I’m so thrilled for them.

Chapter 24

 

The next time I see Rickie and Starlet is the following morning. They come down from their hotel room, looking really blissful and so in love as they walk together holding hands. They can’t stop smiling and they’re lost in their own world as usual.

I smile and wonder if I’ll ever feel so strongly about a girl one day, the way they feel for each other. I glance across at Maria and smile at her, feeling butterflies in my stomach. She smiles back and I go over to talk to her for a while.

“It was a great party last night, it’s a shame Rickie and Star didn’t make it,” she says.

“They were pretty busy last night,” I reply with a secretive smile.

She looks at me questioningly, wondering what’s going on.

“We’ve got something to tell you all,” Rickie announces while we’re all together.

Maria looks excited to find out what’s happening and I wait to see everyone’s reaction. They all stare at Rickie and Starlet, wondering what they’re going to say. I have to keep quiet and act like I don’t know.

“Don’t tell me you’re pregnant, Star?” jokes Kat.

Sarah gasps excitedly, hoping it’s true. Rickie and Starlet exchange glances and laugh.

“Are you saying I look fat?” Star jokes back, not taking offense.

Rickie catches my eye and grins, remembering I thought the exact same thing.

“Why does everyone keep thinking that?” asks Rickie, amused. “No she’s not, but maybe one day…” he winks at her and she blushes. “Last night I asked Star to marry me and she said yes,” he tells them.

Sarah and Kat squeal with excitement and rush over to hug Starlet.

“Aww, you’re so lucky!” exclaims Sarah. “Let me see the ring!”

Starlet shows it to them proudly and they both admire it.

“Wow! I bet it cost a lot,” says Sarah, impressed.

“It’s beautiful,” Kat says in awe. “I’m so pleased for you both.”

I go over and give Rickie a bear hug, “Congrats bro, I’m glad she didn’t turn you down.”

Rickie grins, knowing I’m joking, “thanks for helping me out.”

“No problem.”

I give Starlet a hug, “I’m really happy for you both,” I say, “and it’ll be nice having a Sis-in-Law…even though you’re part of the family already.”

“Thanks,” she smiles excitedly.

Maria congratulates them both too before going back to checking through our suitcases. I listen to Rickie and Starlet telling us about the proposal. I have to pretend I wasn’t spying on them and feel a little guilty that I did.

I notice that Maria is talking to Drake and looks as if something’s wrong, so I go over to check up on them.

“Have you found something?” I ask her, a little worried.

“I found this on his jacket, it looks like some kind of microchip,” she answers, holding something in her palm.

My heart stops when I see it and my eyes widen a little, “Snider used them to track people so he could find out locations.”

We both look up at Drake, wondering if it’s his fault that Snider managed to track us down.

“Drake, did he give this to you?” Maria asks him sternly.

Everyone in the lounge stops talking and looks over to see what’s going on. Drake looks embarrassed.

“No. I had no idea about it, I swear,” he protests.

Sarah comes over, “Drake, what’s going on?” she asks, looking puzzled.

“Why would I want him to find out where we are?” he asks me and Maria, annoyed. “He wanted me dead too, remember?”

“That depends on whether you’re still working for him or not,” answers Maria. “He would have obviously rewarded you for finding the location he needed.”

Everyone looks at Drake like he’s a traitor, but I’m not sure whether he really has betrayed us or not. He seems to be telling the truth since I can’t see any signs of him lying.

“I’m not!” he insists. “I stopped working for him the day you arrested me; then I nearly got killed for helping you out. I’m not going to stand here and be called a liar after everything I’ve done.”

“I think he’s telling the truth,” I tell Maria. “When Snider used them last time no one knew it had been planted on them. It was done in secret so he could track people without them knowing.”

“So you’re saying someone must have planted that thing on my jacket so it would lead Snider to you guys?” he asks, feeling awful.

“Looks like it,” I answer.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he planned the whole thing,” Maria says thoughtfully. “It’s obvious that if he tried to kill Drake then we’d have to put him in protective custody along with the rest of the freedom fighters.”

“You mean the only reason I’m not dead right now is so he could use me?” he asks, angry. “So I wasn’t so lucky to stay alive from their attack at all? They just did as much as they could without me dying from it.”

Sarah puts her arm around him sympathetically.

“It’s a possibility,” Maria replies, considering it, “or maybe he came up with the idea after his assassins failed to finish the job. They couldn’t exactly try again with the police watching over you. Someone could have easily attached it to your jacket before you left the hospital.”

“I was wearing the jacket when I got discharged,” answers Drake, “but I had it on the day I was attacked too.”

“Who knows what happened, but it’s obvious now how he found us,” says Maria, “although the police will have to investigate how he managed to get here.”

“I’m really sorry,” Drake says guiltily, looking down at the floor. “It’s my fault what happened yesterday.”

“No it’s not,” Sarah insists. “You didn’t know he’d planted it on you.”

“But if I hadn’t come here then you guys would have been safe.”

“It was my choice to bring you here,” says Maria. “Maybe I should have thought it through more.”

“There’s no point any of us blaming ourselves,” I say. “It’s Snider’s fault that this happened and no one else’s.”

Maria’s mobile suddenly starts ringing and she answers the call.

“The private jet has arrived,” she informs us after she ends the call. “We should make our way to the airport.”

Chapter 25

 

After a six hour flight in the jet, we finally land at the airport back home and return to Twilight City. Everyone’s relieved and pleased to see us back, since we’ve been in hiding for ten months, and we’re all happy to see our family and friends again.

I see that Mum has returned and is looking for us anxiously. I feel a tug at my heart at seeing her again. She spots me first and comes rushing over to hug me as soon as I get off the coach.

“Carl, I’ve missed you…” she says, already starting to cry.

I hug her tight and try not to let my eyes water, “hi mum. We’ve missed you too.”

I feel a sad twinge at realising just how long we’ve been away from her and thinking how she must have felt, not being able to contact or see us. It must have reminded her of the three years we spent as freedom fighters after running away from home.

“I’m so relieved you’re finally here. I was beginning to worry you might never come back.”

“I know, it seems like forever,” I agree, feeling so weird to be home again.

“I’ve been so worried, hoping that you’re all safe.”

“We’ve been fine,” I reassure her. “Maria took excellent care of us.”

I remember Rickie’s hospital visit and dread to see her reaction. She’ll freak out when she hears what happened.

I’m beginning to think she’ll never let go of me, as if she’s scared I’ll go away again; but finally she does when she sees Rickie. She goes over greet him and Starlet, breaking into fresh tears. She fusses over Rickie’s bandaged arm and sets Starlet off crying too when she hugs her.

“You all look so tanned!” mum says, studying us. “Don’t tell me you all went on holiday instead?”

“Well…we did have to go into hiding on a small island,” I say, trying to break it to her gently. “I’m sorry we weren’t allowed to tell you about leaving the country.”

She looks shocked to hear it, “It’s okay, I understand,” she replies, although she still looks a little upset at not knowing. “So what’s new? I bet I have a lot to catch up on.”

I grin across at Rickie and Starlet, who exchange glances and look a little shy.

“Mum, we’ve got something to tell you…” Rickie begins.

“They’re having a baby,” I interrupt, smirking.

My mum looks surprised for a second, believing me.

“Bro, shut up!” Rickie nudges me playfully.

“He’s joking,” Starlet tells mum, rolling her eyes. “I’m not pregnant.”

“Oh…” Mum actually looks disappointed it isn’t true and she won’t be a Grandma. “So what is the good news?”

“Star and I got engaged,” Rickie tells her excitedly.

“Aww! How wonderful! I’m so pleased for you both,” she exclaims, looking delighted.

She hugs both of them excitedly and Rickie and Starlet get pretty squashed, although they can’t help smiling.

Starlet holds out her hand so mum can admire the ring, “Oh Rickie, it’s magnificent! You chose well.”

Rickie smiles proudly, his arm around Starlet.

“When did this happen?” Mum asks them.

“Yesterday night,” answers Rickie.

“I wish I could have been there to see it,” Mum says, wiping her eyes. “You’ll have to tell me all about it when we get home.”

It doesn’t take long to grab our bags and drive home in a taxi. I feel warm inside when I see our house again and feel so happy to be back.

I dump my bag into my bedroom, too lazy to unpack yet, and mum makes us toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with orange juice. We all chill on the sofa, eating and drinking while we catch up on everything.

Starlet tells mum all about the magical night that Rickie proposed to her on the beach, and mum gushes at how romantic and sweet it is, while Rickie blushes a little and looks shy. Starlet looks so happy as she looks at Rickie, like she’s the luckiest girl in the world to have my brother for a fiancé. Rickie’s thrilled too and can’t stop smiling.

“We’ll have to sort out an engagement party,” mum says excitedly, “and I can’t wait until we start organising the wedding.”

“It’s going to be two years off,” Rickie reminds her. “We still have a lot of saving to do.”

“I’ll contribute towards it,” mum reassures them. “There’s nothing more important than my son’s wedding day so it’s my job to worry about the money.”

“And I’ll put some towards it too,” I offer, generously, “as an early wedding present.”

“Thanks, we really appreciate it,” Rickie says gratefully, hugging Starlet.

“So, what about you, Carl?” mum asks, looking over at me. “What’s been happening with you?”

“Not much,” I answer. I can’t possibly compete with Rickie and Starlet’s big news. “I met a nice girl called Maria, but we’re not together yet.”

Mum asks me a million questions about her anyway, and I have to answer them, feeling myself blush.

“He was too scared of asking her out,” Rickie jokes and I blush even more.

“But he’s going to. Aren’t you, Carl?” Starlet sticks up for me, remembering our conversation.

I nod shyly, feeling nervous just thinking about it.

“I’m sure she’ll like you,” mum says sweetly. “Who wouldn’t like a charming young man like you?”

“Thanks,” I say, embarrassed.

[] Chapter 26

 

 

It’s a hard week trying to settle back into work. Things have changed and I’ve got a lot to catch up. Luckily my replacement gets me up to speed pretty quickly, and it’s good to be at my desk again. Everyone is thrilled to have me back and I feel happy that I was missed as City Mayor.

However, being back to the office has its bad parts. I can’t even look at Bryan’s old desk with missing him so much. It hurts that I’ve lost my assistant as well as my best friend.

Maria comes in to help with the task of contacting all the families of the freedom fighters who died. I feel awful giving bad news like this, especially as they were hoping to see them come home. I’m too upset to contact Bryan and Mick’s family, but Maria is very sympathetic and offers to do those calls for me.

We’re both very busy organising a funeral for them all and sending out invitations, so I don’t get a chance to ask her out for a date. I’m too upset with grief to think about that right now.

On the day of the funeral, it’s feels as if the grief gets stronger and hits me like a truck. It’s a painful closure and I miss Bryan and Mick more than ever.

Everyone cries throughout the service. My eyes sting with watering and I hold Maria’s hand for support. She’s trying to be professional, but she’s having trouble holding back and gets out a tissue. Even Rickie has to wipe his eyes and I haven’t seen him cry since we were little. Starlet is snuggled up to Rickie, crying on his shoulder. Sarah and Kat are sobbing into their tissues too.

I feel weird and numb as I stand over Bryan’s grave. I never once thought I’d lose my best friend. It feels just as horrible as I imagined it would be. I feel tears again and wipe my eyes, embarrassed and hoping no one sees.

We all throw a white rose into each grave, starting with Bryan’s. Sarah and Kat stay crying over Josh’s grave for a while before passing. Rickie and Starlet are holding hands at Mick’s grave and he looks as devastated as I am. Starlet must really miss Mick too since she was his self-defence student as well as his friend.

I move over to Mick’s grave too and Sarah and Kat follow.

“I can’t believe he died to help me and Kat escape,” Sarah sobs.

“We’ll always be grateful for it,” agrees Kat.

“He’s a true hero,” I say, feeling proud and guilty that he had to die for us.

I wish I’d done more to try and stop him from sacrificing his life for us; but maybe if I had then Kat, Sarah and the other freedom fighters might not have escaped in time.

Things slowly start to get back to normal and I feel settled at home again, even though I still miss Bryan and Mick every day. I work hard at my job as City Mayor, and then on my lunch hour someone arrives at my office and I smile for the first time since the funeral.

“Maria, what are you doing here?” I ask, feeling very pleased to see her again.

She smiles at me and it’s as if the whole room lights up.

“I just wanted to check up on you,” she replies. “How are you? Is everyone else okay?”

“I’m fine…still upset obviously,” I reply. “And everyone’s doing okay. How are you? Are you happy to be back?”

“I’m fine too,” she answers. “I guess it is good to finally be back, but I will always miss Lost City, it was an amazing place.”

“Me too,” I agree. “I’d give anything to be back on that beach right now.”

“I know! We could do with another holiday.”

I start to get shy and don’t know what to talk to her about. Maria looks around at my office while I’m awkward and quiet.

“So…don’t you have something to ask me? Or have you forgotten?” she finally asks, looking at me teasingly.

I blush and look down at the carpet. How could I forget, I’ve been worrying about how to ask her for days.

“Yeah…I do.”

I brush my fingers through my hair nervously. My palms are getting sweaty and my heart starts beating faster.

“I was wondering…since we’re not working together now…maybe you still wanted to…” I’m so anxious I can hardly get the words out.

Maria waits patiently with one hand on her hip, looking at me.

“Do you want to…go out for dinner with me?” I ask, avoiding her eyes shyly.

“Of course,” she answers, smiling. “Where are we going?”

I feel so relieved. She said yes! “Whichever restaurant you like best.”

“Okay. So I’ll meet you at Nandos? About seven?”

“Sure,” I have the biggest smile on my face.

Maria and I are going on a date tonight! I can hardly believe it. I don’t know how I’ll get through the rest of today. I’m already excited and nervous for going.

“I’d better get back to the station,” Maria tells me. “They think I’m just picking up lunch.”

I feel sad as she makes her way to the door.

“I’ll see you later,” she flashes me a smile before going.

“Maria,” I say.

She stops, half way through the doorway, “yes?”

I walk over to her and finally kiss her lips. I’m surprised I actually had the courage to make a move, but I’m happy I did. I’m so relieved to do this after waiting so long. My heart is racing like crazy and her kiss feels so good.

I smile when we part, feeling kind of dazed, “I can’t wait to see you tonight.”

She smiles up at me too, looking so beautiful, “me neither.”

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Starlet has always wanted to be a Freedom Fighter like her parents. However, being a Freedom Fighter has a lot of risks and life on the run isn’t easy, but Starlet is determined to put her life on the line for the price of freedom, no matter how dangerous it is.

 

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Lord Snider is now planning to take over Dragon City instead and wants to kill the Mayor in order to dominate. Rickie, Carl, Starlet and the others must return to their roles as freedom fighters and begin a new fight to protect another city from evil. 

 

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Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Starlet ‘Star’ Summers

Age: 18 years

Occupation: Dancer, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: Self-defence, Performing Arts.

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Richard ‘Rickie’ Granger

Age: 19 years

Occupation: Car Mechanic, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: Engineering, Hacking computers and systems.

 

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Carl Granger

Age: 21 years

Occupation: City Mayor, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: Giving orders, looking after the city/team.

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Sarah Appleton

Age: 21 years

Occupation: Make-up stylist, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: Beauty, Flying jets.

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Bryan Harper

Age: 24 years

Occupation: Personal Assistant, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: Teaching, Administration.

 

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Kaitlyn ‘Kat’ Thompson

Age: 18 years

Occupation: Nurse, Freedom Fighter.

Specialties: First aid, Medical Knowledge.

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Joshua ‘Josh’ Davison

Age: 18 years

Occupation: Spy, Freedom Fighter

Specialties: Computers, Being undercover.

 

Freedom Fighter Records

 

 

Full Name: Michael ‘Mike’ Charlton

Age: 24 years

Occupation: Martial Art Instructor, Freedom Fighter

Specialties: Fighting techniques, Self defence

 

About the Author and Illustrator

 

Michelle Leyland was born in 1990 and spent all of her life living in Lancashire, England. She has always loved writing and drawing and since the age of 13 has dreamed of becoming a published author and illustrator one day. She has written several fiction stories for children, teenagers and adults, and illustrated all her children’s books.

 

Michelle also loves to play drums, dance, sing, go to concerts, daydream and read.

 

Visit her website:

  • www.michelleleyland.com*

 

Twitter: @MLeylandAuthor

 

Facebook page: Michelle Leyland (Author and Illustrator)

 

Books by Michelle Leyland:

 

Farm Frenzy (children’s)

 

Lunar Eclipse (children’s)

 

Freedom Fighters: Twilight City – Book 1

 

Freedom Fighters: Dragon City – Book 2

 

Freedom Fighters: Lost City – Book 3

 

Bounty Hunter (Teen’s)

 

Dating Dilemma – Book 1 (Teen’s)

 

Sexy Love – Book 1 (Teen’s)

 

Secret Love (adult’s)

 

Coming soon:

Freedom Fighters – Book 4

 

Freedom Fighters:

Lost City

(Book 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Violet Star Publishing

 

 

Published by Violet Star Publishing.

United Kingdom

Category: Teenage, Fiction

Published in e-book format 2015

Copyright Michelle Leyland © 2015

Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design Inc

www.gobookcoverdesign.com

 

Starlet photography © Maksim Toome (Dreamstime.com)

Rickie photography © Alexey Poprugin (Dreamstime.com)

Carl photography © Verkoka (Dreamstime.com)

Sarah photography © MegWallacePhotography (Dreamstime.com)

Bryan photography © Tracy Whiteside (Dreamstime.com)

Kat photography © Sheftsoff (Dreamstime.com)

Josh photography © Kadettmann (Dreamstime.com)

Mick photography © Jose Manuel Gelpi Diaz (Dreamstime.com)

 

ISBN: 978-0-9926320-4-5

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Contents

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

 

 


Freedom Fighters: Lost City (Book 3)

  • Author: Michelle Leyland
  • Published: 2017-05-31 17:05:32
  • Words: 40411
Freedom Fighters: Lost City (Book 3) Freedom Fighters: Lost City (Book 3)