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Sunlight glistened off the polished dresser and vanity. The rays that reached the bed heated her skin, making her sweat and seemed to intensify the aches that coursed along her back and arms.
Kat blinked and shot straight out of bed. Her head throbbed with a dull pain, yet she seemed physically unhurt. She knew something had happened to her, but what? Something like magic or at least a kind of trance. She didn’t enjoy the feeling of manipulation one bit. Not only did she need answers and fast, but she needed a new approach to defense. Clearly, modern weapons or tactics didn’t work well against her new adversary.
She also needed to identify that part of the problem as well. Who exactly was her adversary? This new vampire, Uriel, the Templars, the Order? All of it seemed eager to slice out of piece of her, and she was done with it.
The scent of fresh cooked bacon and eggs wafted up to her room, pulling her from her thoughts.
Her stomach growled in response, but it was near the end of her list of worries.
As she rose, her hand brushed against a mass a black fur sprawled out at the end of her bed. Kat jumped back, yet hesitated, meeting the eyes of the massive hound that lounged at the foot of her bed. It wagged its tail and seemed neither alarmed nor disturbed by her presence. In fact, it seemed more interested in snoozing on the plush comforter than giving her much thought.
She had seen dogs like these patrolling the grounds with the guards before. Maybe this was Walter’s way of keeping an eye on her while the vampire slept. She shivered at the thought.
The dog stood, rotating its orientation, until its massive head came to rest on her hand. It wagged its tail, looking up at her with big, brilliant blue eyes.
“I wonder if you have a name, doggy. Hopefully, it’s something more imaginative than Guard Dog One. Let’s see if we can find Walter, and some answers.”
Kat stood and the large hound followed suit. It rose, bounding off the bed to her feet and shook its shaggy body. It seemed eager to follow her; maybe hoping for some of the bacon that continued to scent the room.
She patted its head, rubbing at his ears and scruff. “I think I’ll call you Pepper for now. At least until I figure out whatever your name actually is.”
Kat scratched behind his ears.
The dog reminded her of a German Shepherd mix, yet the more she stared at him, the more wild his features seemed to appear, almost wolf-like in nature.
She paused before getting ready for the day; her mind clicking, thinking back to the previous night once more. Uriel was the only vampire she had ever met; however, that new vampire showing up in the house couldn’t have been a good thing. She tried to remember what he said, but the memories seemed to be clouded with fuzz. She knew he had been there looking for her. He told her something. His name was…Remiel. She thought that Uriel had shown up at some point, but it was all a haze. It made her head hurt. Kat needed answers, but first perhaps a shower. Combined with the last few day’s activities, she knew her skin could use a good lathering.
Kat grabbed an outfit from her bag, resting it on the bed. She found plenty of towels, soaps, and a washcloth in the lavish bathroom, which thankfully had a shower and not just some huge bathtub in the corner.
The steam and hot water sounded like heaven to her. She knew that the reading of the will would be tomorrow, and it wouldn’t hurt to be ready for it, despite the chaos. Seeing her brother again was just one of the many reasons she needed to be prepared. A plethora of questions bubbled up inside whenever she thought about Michael. Mostly, she wanted to know why he had lied to her and joined up with the Order.
After she showered and dressed for the day, a knock came at the door. She adjusted her jeans and t-shirt before calling them in. One of the maids entered, pushing a stainless-steel cart. A platter of food sat at the top with a small vase of white roses on the edge. Kat recognized the woman as Mary, the head maid, and one of the ones who had raised her and her brother.
“How are you feeling today?”
“Better, thanks. It’s been a long couple of days, I guess,” Kat said.
“I can imagine. I am sorry for the trouble the last couple of days. You were supposed to be safe here.”
Kat shrugged and leaned over to scratch Pepper behind the ears again. He had resumed his spot at the foot of the bed.
“You do what you can. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just be happy when Michael gets here.”
Mary paused and bit her lip. “Oh, you haven’t spoken to Walter, have you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just see Walter after you finish eating.”
“I can go now,” Kat offered and stepped toward the door.
“No need to rush,” Mary smiled. “Take your time this morning. Walter should be in the garden after eleven if you wish to speak to him then.” Mary bowed and left the breakfast.
Kat sighed and walked over to the cart. Pepper yawned and sat up from his spot on the bed. He shook his fur, then jumped down to the floor.
“Hey, now. This isn’t for you, pup.” Kat glanced over the dish of sunny-side-up eggs, crispy bacon, toast with strawberry jam, and a glass of milk.
Pepper sat on his haunches next to her.
“Sorry, I know you smell the bacon, but we don’t need you throwing it up later.” She winked.
The food disappeared before long and Kat left the cart outside her door.
She brushed her teeth. Pepper lay sprawled on the wood floor in front of the bed. He raised his head when she left the bathroom. “Come on, boy. We need some answers.”
Vibrant white roses lined the edge of the walkway. Kat could smell their blissful fragrance before she had even reached the backdoor. When she’d stepped into the sunlight, the garden seemed to sooth her unease. It made her smile and reminded her of past springs. She and her brother would run through the garden looking for frogs or snakes to catch. She would play with the snapdragons while Michael climbed the large Oak trees at the back of the garden.
“You children used to love playing in this garden,” Walter said, ambling up to her side.
Kat turned and eyed him holding a pair of shears. At this time of year, Walter always enjoyed helping in the garden with some of the routine maintenance before the season bloomed in full.
“Mary said you wanted to see me.” She brushed one of the roses with a fingertip.
He set down the gardening tool on the ground next to him and sighed. Walter wiped a light layer of sweat from his brow. “I have made the decision to cancel the reading of the will.”
She blinked and her mouth fell open. “What are you talking about? Why? Is Michael still coming?”
Walter shook his head. “He will come visit you at school soon, but you are returning tomorrow. It’ll be safer for you to stay away from here, for now at least.”
Kat ground her teeth. They seemed to be evading her questions and cutting her out of matters once again. “There are too many unanswered questions for this to happen. Why are we cancelling the reading? Why can’t I see Michael?”
He tried to give her a comforting smile. “You remind me of your younger self when you act like that.”
Kat sighed and waited for him to continue with her arms folded.
Walter sighed and looked her square in the face. “Uriel told me something disturbing last night.”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to explain.
“He said you had a visitor. One that was much like himself.”
Her stomach churned into knots, remembering the previous night’s events. “So, what does that mean?”
He sighed and rested a hand on her shoulder. “It means, Miss Katharine. That there is someone within our walls that cannot be trusted.”
The knots in her stomach tightened.
“It means there is a spy. I will take you to the airport tomorrow. There is a flight leaving in the morning. You will be safer at school than here.”
“Well, I agree with that at least.”
Walter gave her a quizzical look.
“I’m tired of the lies. This whole other life here, the knights, my family, all of it is full of secrets and lies. I don’t want anything to do with this anymore. Honestly, after everything I’ve seen, I think I can protect myself better alone than anything anyone is willing to do for me here. You know, I came here looking for peace and closure, and I see now that, in this family, those are the two things I will never have. If you won’t tell me what I need to know, then I will find out for myself.”
Walter rested a hand on her shoulder and gave her a wary gaze. “I never intended for this to happen to you. Your family and I only wished to protect you.”
“Why? Because none of you believed I could handle it? None of you thought I was a capable enough person to handle the truth. It’s fine. I have my training from the Academy, and I told you I don’t want anything to do with any of you.”
“Please reconsider, Miss Katharine. If you wish, I can ask the Order to–”
“No, thank you.” Kat huffed out a breath and kicked at a loose clump of dirt. “I need to go pack.” She turned and stomped down the stone path.
“I’m sorry,” Walter called, but she didn’t turn around.
She didn’t want to see his face or his lies.
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