Gran pulled into a gas station and took Sierra’s phone. “You can’t tell her what happened or where we’re going.”
Sierra snatched the cell back. “She’s my friend! Plus, she’ll keep texting me if I don’t reply. If we’re both gone for a few days, Tammy might call the police.”
“She won’t. An Ardere will take care of her and sell the house.” At Sierra’s raised eyebrows, Gran elaborated. “Her memory will be altered. It won’t hurt her, but she won’t remember you.” Gran pushed the car door open and strode to the mini store.
It took Sierra several moments to recover and dart after her. “That’s crazy. There has to be another way!”
“I’m afraid there isn’t.”
Sierra stared into blank space. Certainly, Gran didn’t mean that. No, she couldn’t. Tammy had been Sierra’s best friend since elementary school. And what did Gran mean by the house being sold? “Our home. You can’t just—”
“I’m sorry. I have to. We’re not coming back.” Gran reached out, but Sierra took a step around her and ran out of the store. She unlocked the car with her key set, sat down in the passenger’s seat, and pulled her legs up. Despite the temperature being in the mid-seventies, she shivered. Everything was crumbling around her. Dad was gone, and Gran was adamant to leave their lives and everyone behind. No, Sierra couldn’t do that.
She typed into her cell.
Sierra: Don’t worry, I’m fine. I had to go out of town for…
For what? Being a supernatural? Because her father had been murdered?
She deleted the text and tried to think of something better. They had recently crossed the state border of New York. She could say she was going to NYC for the summer, but that was too close. Tammy might try and visit.
Sierra: Gran has a birthday surprise planned for me. We’re going to the South for the summer.
She stared at the message.
Sierra: It’s a painter’s retreat.
There! Perfect. Tammy didn’t enjoy art or, for that matter, anything that didn’t have to do with boys and parties. She wouldn’t want to visit. Sierra hit send.
Gran returned and Sierra quickly stashed away her cell.
“Here.” Gran handed Sierra a cup of coffee and an apple Danish. It looked nothing like Gran’s homemade apple pie. The list on the back label bore more resemblance to a chemistry book than edible ingredients. “You need to keep your energy up. I want us to cover as much of the drive to Savannah today as possible.”
“As in Savannah, Georgia? Why?” Sierra’s stomach rumbled, and she opened the stale pastry; it was better than nothing.
Gran shifted in her seat. “I don’t trust the regency. They’ll find out soon if they haven’t yet that your powers are manifesting. I won’t let them use you as a weapon, take away your ability to choose.”
“The what?” Sierra chewed on the pastry, focusing on the first part of what Gran had said, the second half too scary and foreign to consider.
“The regency is the government of the Ardere. Each city with a supernatural population has a marshal, who reports to a regional ruler. The US has five regional rulers. Clement Fielding is the Northeast’s ruler and also the regent of North America.”
“A whole society.” Sierra balled up the paper bag that had held the apple Danish. How easy it was to destroy, much easier than to create. “And no one knows about it?”
“For the most part, humans are kept in the dark. High-ranking politicians know the basics, just enough to ensure they cooperate and notify us when something important happens on their end.”
Sierra didn’t quite understand this, but decided to drop the subject. Talking had helped for a while—but not anymore, not when a stabbing ache was building in the back of her skull.
She must’ve drifted off or spaced out, she didn’t know which one, because the next time she read a sign, they had left New York and arrived in Pennsylvania.
“Let me drive.”
Gran gave Sierra a skeptical look.
“I’m fine, really. You must be tired.”
At the rest stop, Sierra sneaked a glance at her cell.
Tammy: OK. Bummed you’re bailing like this. Your Gran is weird. Have fun. You better make up for the lost time when you get back.
Sierra sighed. Nearly 6:00 p.m. Right now, Tammy was probably straightening her blonde hair and sipping on cherry vodka with Diet Coke. Sierra had always preferred a good book to a party, yet right now, she wanted nothing more than throw back a few drinks until she forgot everything.
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