“You don’t have much of a choice!” I said, exasperated. “Matt’s not usually like that, and he would never hurt me. He’s just had a really hard day, and he blames you for upsetting me, and he’s not wrong.” The panic was wearing away, and I realized that I had just used persuasion on Matt again. I felt nauseous. “I hate doing that to him. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”
“I am sorry.” Finn looked at me sincerely. “I know you did that to protect him, and it’s my fault. I should’ve just backed down, but when he pushed you . . .” He shook his head. “My instincts kicked in.”
“He’s not going to hurt me,” I promised.
“I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you.”
Finn glanced back at the door, and I could tell he really didn’t want to leave. When he looked back at me, he sighed heavily. He was probably fighting the urge to throw me over his shoulder and take me with him. Instead, he climbed out the window and swung back down to the ground.
With that, he turned past the neighbors’ hedges and I couldn’t see him anymore. I kept looking after him, wishing that this didn’t mean we had to say good-bye.
The awful truth was that I was more than a little sad to see Finn go. Eventually, I shut the window and closed my curtains.
After Finn left, I found Matt sitting on the steps, looking bewildered and pissed off. He wanted to yell at me about Finn, but he couldn’t seem to understand exactly what had happened. The best I could get out of it was that he vowed to kill Finn if he ever came near me, and I pretended like I thought that was a reasonable thing to do.
The next few days, school dragged on and on. It didn’t help that I found myself constantly looking around for Finn. Part of me kept insisting that the last week had been a bad dream, and that Finn should still be here, staring at me like he always had.
On top of that, I kept feeling like I was being watched. My neck got that scratchy feeling it did when Finn stared at me for too long, but whenever I turned around, nobody was there. At least nobody worth noting.
At home, I felt distracted and ill at ease. I excused myself from supper early on Thursday night and went up to my room. I peered out my curtains, hoping to find Finn lurking around somewhere nearby, but no such luck. Every time I looked for him and didn’t find him, my heart hurt a little more.
I tossed and turned all night, trying not to wonder if Finn was still hanging around. He’d made it painfully clear that he’d soon have to move on and end this assignment.
I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t like the idea of him moving on when I hadn’t.
Around five in the morning I gave up entirely on sleep. I looked out the window again, and this time I thought I saw something. Nothing more than a shadowy blur of movement in the corner of my eye, but it was enough to indicate that he was out there, hiding nearby.
I just needed to go out and talk to Finn, to make sure he was still there. I didn’t even bother changing out of my pajamas or fixing my hair.
Hastily, I climbed out onto the roof. I tried to grab on to the branch and swing to the ground like Finn had. As soon as my fingers grabbed the branch, they slipped off and I fell to the ground, landing heavily on my back. All the wind had been knocked out of me, and I coughed painfully.
I would’ve loved to lie on the lawn for ten minutes while the pain subsided, but I was afraid that Matt or Maggie might have heard my fall. I gingerly got to my feet and rounded the hedges toward the neighbors’ house.
The street was completely deserted. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself to ward off the cold that seeped in and looked around. I knew he had been out here. Who else would be moving around out here just before dawn? Maybe my fall had scared him away; he might have thought it was Matt.
I decided to walk a little farther down the street, investigating everyone’s lawn for a hidden tracker. My back ached from the fall, and my knee felt a little twisted and weird. That left me hobbling down the street in my pajamas at five in the morning. I had truly lost my mind.
Then I heard something. Footsteps? Somebody was definitely following me, and based on the dark chill running down my spine, it wasn’t Finn. It was hard to explain how I knew it wasn’t him, but I knew it just the same. Slowly, I turned around.
A girl stood a few feet behind me. In the glow from the streetlamp, she looked ravishing. Her short brown pixie cut spiked up all over. Her skirt was short and her black leather jacket went down to her calves. A wind came up, blowing back her coat a bit, and she reminded me of some kind of action star, like she should be in The Matrix.
But the thing that caught my attention the most was that she was barefoot.
She just stared at me, so I felt like I had to say something.
“Okay . . . um, I’m going to go home now,” I announced.
“Wendy Everly, I think you should come with us,” she said with a sly smile.
“Us?” I asked, but then I felt him behind me.
I don’t know where he had been before that, but suddenly I felt his presence behind me. I looked over my shoulder, where a tall man with dark, slicked-backed hair stared down at me. He wore the same kind of jacket as the girl, and I thought it was neat that they had matching outfits, like a crime-fighting duo.
He smiled at me, and that’s when I decided that I was in trouble.
“That’s a really nice invitation, but my house is like three houses down.” I pointed toward it, as if I didn’t think they already knew exactly where I lived. “So I think that I should probably just get home before my brother starts looking for me.”
“You should’ve thought of that before you left the house,” the guy behind me suggested.
I wanted to take a step forward to get away from him, but I thought that would only encourage him to pounce on me. I could probably take the girl, but I wasn’t so sure about him. He was like a foot taller than me.
“You guys are trackers?” I asked. Something in the way they stared at me reminded me of Finn, especially when I’d first met him.
“You’re a quick one, aren’t you?” The girl smiled wider, and it didn’t sit right with me.
They might be trackers, but not the same kind as Finn. Maybe they were bounty hunters or kidnappers or just big fans of chopping up girls into little pieces and disposing of them in a ditch. Fear crept through me, but I tried not to let on.
“Well, this has been a blast, but I have to get ready for school. Big test and all that.” I started taking a step away, but the guy’s hand clamped painfully on my arm.