Unprotected

Chapter Two

A Broken Doll

Genna yelped and jumped back down the two steps she managed to get up as the man above her smiled broadly. He had to be in about his late twenties, maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven and thin. He wore an interesting look of a simple black sweatshirt and black jeans. His hair was a short choppy blonde color that went well with his bright blue eyes. "W-who are you?" she asked, shaking her head, confused and embarrassed, never having seen this man before. Her mind immediately went back to the summer three years ago when she took self-defense lessons at the insistence of her father. You should always know how to defend yourself in sticky situations, Genna, he'd said during the entire twenty-minute ride to the instructor's home every Tuesday and Thursday for five weeks. She had private lessons, of course. She balled her fists at her side, ready to jump into stance if she had to. Kick first, she thought to herself. Find his weak spot. Hopefully, he has one.

"I'm your new bodyguard, Genna," he replied, chuckling, eyes twinkling. "And I must say, those were some interesting ninja moves." He watched her relax and fought a laugh. "And I'm guessing that you have more?" He pointed to her balled fists at her side.

Genna felt her cheeks burn, and she looked away from him, trying to find something to say that would make this situation less awkward as she released her hands, "Ninja moves?" she asked, absently pulling on her braid and playing with the unraveling end, braiding it and undoing what she had just did only to do it over again.

He moved from against the banister and stepped down to stand in front of her, hand held out, "The name's Layne Nelson, bodyguard extraordinaire." She peered up at him, her cheeks still redder than a ripe tomato and hesitantly took his hand. He grasped it tightly and nearly shook her arm off, grinning all the while with teeth that literally glistened against the light from the chandelier. His eyes were very bright and happy, reflecting the amused disposition he sported. He seemed to be a laid back kind of guy, lean and a bit lanky, and Genna wondered curiously how he came to be a bodyguard. She didn't ask.

"I'm… Genna," she said softly once he finally released her hand. "It's...nice to meet you?" Was it really? She felt so confused, like she had stepped into the Twilight Zone. Her words felt weak as she spoke them.

"Is that supposed to be a question, Genna?" Layne asked her, laughing again. His laugh was loud and boyish, and Genna had to wonder if anything could make this guy laugh. She didn't answer his question that poked fun at her. Instead, she just stood there, her path to silence and safety blocked by a man who was supposedly here to be her bodyguard. She suddenly hated that word. Layne saw no amusement in her face and bowed, "Forgive me, Miss Roiley. I can come on too strong for some people, apparently." The shock on her face was not from his playfulness but more from the fact that he had actually just called her "Miss Roiley." No one ever called her that. Ever. Not even the servants called her "Miss Roiley." It was always just Genna. She had no special title.

"What?" he asked, trying to meet her eyes that focused downward at his black boots that more suited carpentry or heavy-duty work. If Edmund saw those, he'd certainly have a fit. "What's wrong?" he asked, suddenly fearful that he had done something to upset her. She still didn't respond, lost in thought. "I'm sorry?" He shrugged and reached out to shake her but recoiled back, thinking that wouldn't exactly be appropriate.

"Genna!" Edmund called from across the parlor. He hurried over to them, looking at Layne with a reserved curiousness, but he would save his questions for later. He wrapped a careful arm around her shoulders, snapping her back to reality and causing her cheeks to blush again. "Have you met with your father yet?" He looked quickly back up at Layne who was chuckling nervously. He met Edmund's gaze and waved awkwardly.

"Uh, yes," she replied, a bit dazed. "I just did." She shook her head, trying to find some coherent thoughts that would make sense to all of them. "He told me about...him." She pointed to Layne, who now silently replied with two thumbs up and broad, overly excited smile.

"Stop that," Edmund snapped, disliking this man immediately. He surveyed his outfit with some prejudice from his shirt to his gravel-coated boots. He then looked down at the floor and saw the tiny path of muddy foot prints and discarded gravel that trailed from his current perch on the stairs to the now closed door. His face twitched angrily, and Genna couldn't help a small giggle that slipped out. Layne looked lost and kept looking from Genna to a now infuriated Edmund.

"...what?" he asked.

"Don't speak!" Edmund snapped, gently releasing Genna to rub either side of his temples. He breathed deeply while Layne looked nervously to Genna who kept a hand covering her mouth, shoulders shaking ever so slightly.

"What did I do?" he whispered to Genna. She bit her lip, still hiding behind her hand. Her eyes watched Layne more so than Edmund. His reaction was highly amusing, and the more she thought about it, the more she wondered just how he had become a bodyguard when so far he reminded her more of a flighty rabbit.

"Don't speak!" Edmund repeated. He took another deep breath before dropping his hands to his side. "I just swept that floor," he said dangerously to Layne. "Genna, schoolwork, please." He pointed up the stairs. Genna excused herself and slipped past the still-confused and partially terrified Layne up the stairs, half tempted to watch the scene from the second floor, but she knew what was going to happen. "You!" She heard Edmund say harshly to Layne. "The floor!"

"W-whoa, wait! You want me to mop?" Layne's loud voice drifted up the stairs to the second floor where Genna was heading to her room.

"Well, I've already done it once today!" Edmund said heatedly. Genna walked into her room, leaving the door open as she settled at her desk. She could still very easily hear them from below without the help from their loud voices. This mansion was very open and the acoustics were amazingly good.

"Hey, buddy! This isn't in my job description!" Layne argued with Edmund. Genna wished she could have warned him about Edmund's obsession with keeping things sparkling clean, especially his floors. He swore by the phrase "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and whenever someone made a horrific mess, he made sure that the culprit clean it up while he stood over them, repeating the phrase over and over again. Oddly enough, the only room he seemed to disregard with his cleaning rules was the kitchen, but Chef was far worse than Edmund when it came to cleanliness.

"It is now!" Edmund said sarcastically. "Welcome to Roiley Manor." Genna rolled her eyes at the name her father called this place when they first moved here. It hadn't been too well received, but he used it so much that it unfortunately stuck.

A loud crash came from downstairs, and Genna guessed that whatever struggle had taken place previously between Edmund and the strange man who would be her bodyguard until her father deemed otherwise was now over, and she didn't need to find out who won the battle. Edmund always won when it came to household duties. He was the one who kept everyone in their place while her father went off on his many business trips and galas with clients. Her father actually preferred to remain out of the house and stay in Washington during the week in a townhouse he had purchased during the 9/11 scare when all flights had been cancelled and he was stranded in the terrified nation's capitol for well over a week. Genna had been nine at the time and didn't remember much from the event except what everyone else remembered: the falling of the twin towers and the thousands of people dying. She also recalled her mother pacing back and forth, worrying mindlessly over her father when she heard that the pentagon had been attacked as well. Her mother loved her father, and Genna was sure that somewhere, when his mind wasn't dominated by screwing people to a wall with their own words, he loved her too, just as he loved Genna.

"He hired a bodyguard for me, after all," she said softly to a wallet-sized picture of her mother she kept taped on the inside of her laptop, beside the built-in mouse pad. She always had a picture of her mother nearby and looking into her mother's warm chocolate eyes always managed to calm her down in times of high stress or panic. "That counts for something, right?" she asked the woman in the picture who could never answer her back, no matter how much Genna wanted her to.

Genna sighed when no reply came, as usual, and went back to the Calculus homework she tried to focus on. It wasn't particularly hard, just derivatives. She'd encountered them before in Pre-Calculus with a teacher who had to go above and beyond the proposed syllabus, but her mind continued to drift away from schoolwork to other less pressing subjects. Today, she was thinking about this bodyguard business. She'd only met Layne for maybe five minutes, and he wasn't at all what she had been expecting, not that she even knew what to expect. She'd never had a bodyguard before, but when she thought about them, she pictured the men in the Secret Service, mysterious and well-trained donned in black suits, matching sunglasses and earpieces. They were men who hardly ever smiled. Genna had always found them just a bit creepy, and the instant her father told her that she was to have a bodyguard, she thought of one of the men from the Secret Service, after she had gotten over the initial shock that she would be having a bodyguard, of course.

Layne certainly didn't fit that profile of typical bodyguard, but she felt that she couldn't really pass judgment on a man she'd just met, although it was hard not to. After all, everyone at her school passed judgment on her the day she moved to New Hampshire without even bothering to get to know her. All they cared about was the things they heard in magazines and newspapers about her father. She was nothing like him, inside or out, but that didn't stop them. They hated her and reminded her of that fact everyday.

She groaned and pushed away from the desk, letting her chair slide across the floor in the direction her bed. She didn't quite make it but didn't care, standing and going the rest of the short distance to her queen sized bed. She looked longingly at the pastel covers and thick pillows, wanting desperately to climb in and allow herself to get lost in the warmth and sleep the rest of the day away, but dinner would be served soon and Edmund or her father wouldn't hesitate to wake her from sleep, no matter how deep. So instead, she dropped to her knees and grabbed for a tub that remained hidden behind the bed skirt. She pulled it from underneath the bed, lifting out a large sketchpad and some oil paints. She dug around some more inside before remembering that her brushes were still in the bathroom where she'd left them last time. Gathering all her supplies, she left her room intending to set up in the sunroom for a painting session to ease her wandering mind. Painting was her favorite hobby but it was also therapeutic in calming her and giving her an outlet that otherwise she would eventually suffocate under the pressure her life placed on her. She found that she did most of her painting during the winter months when New Hampshire was covered in a thick blanket of snow and life around the lake and town was quiet. The icy air and the scene were inspirational for Genna, perhaps because she connected best with Winter and its solemn presence.

She descended the stairs to see the parlor empty and the floor back to its normal shine. Edmund and Layne were nowhere in sight, and Genna didn't stay long to discover where they had wandered off to. She assumed that Edmund was attending to his duties while Layne was most likely meeting with her father, if he hadn't already. He didn't mention that Layne was there when she saw him, so chances were that he didn't know yet. At any rate, Genna slipped through the parlor to the sunroom that stood at the right side of the house overlooking the lake. It wasn't a particularly large room about half the size of the entrance parlor and enclosed on all sides with large glass planes that were bulletproof, not that they really needed such protection in New Hampshire. A table and chairs including a recliner sat in the carpeted room along with a few plants that Edmund had purchased with his own funds to "liven the place up a bit."

She pulled one of the chairs from the table and set it in the center where she could easily see the lake and their property. Her easel was hiding in the corner by the wall of the house, and she pulled it up to her seat, setting her sketchbook on it and daintily picking which colors she wanted to use. She typically always started her sessions with a warm-up piece, something she had drawn over and over again and knew well enough that she could resort more to memory than the actual thing. Just outside the sunroom, lining the boxed room was a flower garden her mother planted their first summer here. She had a series of hollyhock plants, and there was one in particular that outlived its expectancy of being a biennial plant, having returned every year since her mother first planted it. She always started with this flower, even when it wasn't in bloom, like today. It was already hibernating for the quickly approaching winter, but Genna didn't actually need to have it there with her. She glanced around the easel to the green stalk of the plant and watched her mind fill in what was missing: the beautiful flowers towering upwards toward the sun, blooming with elegance and a desire to be seen in a swirling lilac colors with a deeper center, entrancing those who bothered to stop and admire it. She saw the sun warming the flower, cradling it in its rays like a mother would hold a newborn baby, protecting it and loving it only to eventually let it go.

As she watched the ghost of the flower bloom in an unnatural time, her left hand worked with such diligence to match her mind, spreading her oil colors across the white space on the paper in smooth, fluid strokes. Genna found that her paintings came out best when she wasn't paying attention, when she gave her hand free reign to do what it wanted and control the brush. All she had to do was close her eyes or focus on the model and let her hand do the rest. She listened to the rhythm of the brush, scratching against the surface of the paper, switching back and forth between long and short notes. It was music to her, sweet beautiful music that sang to her soul, showing her the colors of emotions: happy, sad, angry, and calm. They entwined with each other, wrapping around the stem of the flower in a gentle climb from the cloud-like soil to the top bloom, still cradled by the sun, rocking its sweet child with help from the breeze.

Genna's hand seemed to stop virtually on its own as the ghost flower faded into the wind, breaking the spell of nature. She sat back in the chair and looked finally at her finished work. It was the best yet of this version. The flower stemmed from an actual cloud and rose, substantially larger as it filled the rest of the page with multicolored music notes dancing off the leaves and around the plant from rippling streams twirling up the stem in a swirling ecstasy, but the blooms were breathtaking. They fluttered at the center, left, and right, encircled by a soft glow that had to be the sun. The petals seemed to be inclining to close, a symbol Genna took as getting ready for the winter nap that was soon to come.

"That's beautiful!" she heard someone gasp behind her, causing her to jump in surprise. Turning around, she saw Layne standing behind her. He had shed his black sweatshirt and currently wore a tight-fitting black t-shirt. He was gazing at her painting in awe. "You did that just now?" he asked, dropping his gaze breifly down to Genna. She sat in her chair, unsure of what she was supposed to say.

"Y-yes..." she replied, nodding once before looking back to teh painting. It was less awkward that way. "Thank you," she added.

Layne walked around her to stand behind the easel. He was looking out the window into the sleeping garden. "You have some talent, Genna, some real talent," he commented, still looking out the window earnestly, trying to find something.

Genna watched him curiously, "Um, excuse me," she said timidly. "But... what are you doing?" She still saw him as a stranger in her life, having only met him just recently. She knew almost nothing about him except that he made his living as bodyguard. Well, she didn't really know that. She only knew that right now he was a bodyguard. He could be a master of some other trade.

He whirled around to face her, reaching a hand behind his head, elbow extended and wearing a wide grin. "I'm trying to find that flower." He pointed to the painting on the easel. Genna cocked her head curiously. Layne threw his head back and laughed. "I want to see the real thing!" He moved his hands to his hips, standing in a wide stance in front of her. It was almost comical.

"The real thing?" she asked. She looked down to the painting. "There isn't one..." She shook her head. "Well, there isn't one now."

"Huh?" Layne asked. He stepped up against the back of the easel and looked over the top down the painting, observing it upside down. "Whaddya mean?"

Genna bit her lip, feeling silly now. "I did it...from memory." She lifted a now shaking hand to point behind him at the garden. He followed her hand. "The hollyhock isn't in bloom right now. It's gone into its winter state." She dropped her hand almost lifelessly back into her lap. "There is no model."

Layne moved again to the glass to look down at the garden. He saw the empty plot of soil and whistled lowly. "Wow!" he exclaimed before turning back to her. "Genna, that's really cool!" he said with so much excitement that she recoiled back unintentionally, shock mixing on her face along with fear. He chuckled at her reaction, completely unbothered by it. "What? Don't know how to take a compliment?"

Genna furiously shook her head, eyes widening in rising fear, "No! I mean, yes!" she rambled nervously before deciding she would be much better off if she just stopped talking. "I'm sorry..." she whispered, dropping her head to focus on the floor, cheeks burning brightly.

Layne stepped back in surprise and forced out a nervous laugh, "Hey, don't get so worked up! It's ok!" He watched her closely as she continued to focus all attention the floor. He hadn't really noticed it before, but she was a pretty thing, slender and well-developed. And he knew she was smart, too. Judge Roiley had bragged about her earlier, but there was something else about her, something...sad.

"Hey, c'mon!" he said brightly. "You should give me a tour of this place!" He motioned to the house and the land. "It's huge!"

"It's just a house," Genna said softly, almost sadly, not raising her head but hunching her shoulders up like she was trying to fit into an invisible shell.

Layne frowned at her and walked around the easel, hands laced behind his head. He swaggered to the door, watching her with the hints of a playful smirk. Genna slowly lifted her head as she heard him walk past her, hoping that he had left finally and she could go back to her painting. But when she looked behind her, he stood there, grinning, leaning back on his heels, hands still locked in place. She bit her lip to save a laugh that wanted to come. He looked slightly ridiculous standing there like that.

"What...are you doing?" she asked with as much respect as she could muster.

He shrugged, "I'm waiting for you to show me around."

"W-what?" she stammered, confused. She looked into his eyes and while he was still smiling, he looked to be actually serious.

"I'm serious!" Layne exclaimed brightly. "If I'm going to be living here, I have to at least know where I'm going. Can't get lost, you know. That would be bad." He dropped his arms to shake a finger at her.

Genna found this all quite bizarre. "Um, not to be rude," she said tentatively. "But can't you just...um...explore?" she asked, briefly fearing that he would yell at her for such a suggestion. She supposed that technically she was his hostess, and it would be respectful for her to give him a tour. But she wanted to paint...quietly.

Layne shook his head, feigning seriousness, "Nope. No can do," he answered, walking back and forth in front of the door. "You see, I can't leave you alone. Especially not in here." He winked at her through his blonde bangs that had fallen out of place.

"W-why not?" Genna asked, her confusion growing. She studied him carefully. Did her father intend for this man to follow her around like a second shadow the whole time? A great horror dawned on her: would he be going to school with her, too? She suddenly felt nauseous.

"Because I'm supposed to be guarding you, silly!" he laughed through his words, mostly at her face and the horror-stricken look she wore. He wondered what she could be thinking to produce such a comical expression.

Genna touched a hand to her forehead, feeling a devastatingly bad headache coming on, "Do I really need protection in my own home?" she asked wearily. That was intended to be more of a rhetorical question, a hint one might say to get him to leave her alone.

"Hey! Haven't you heard that some of the most serious accidents usually happen close to home?" Layne demanded. "Some high percentage of car accidents happen within ten miles of the home!" he argued.

Genna peered through her fingers to look at him skeptically. "'Some high percentage?'" she asked.

Layne crossed his arms over his chest defensively, "Hey, I don't know the exact number, but I do know that it's high," he said defiantly. "I just don't care to remember useless numbers."

"If the number is so useless," Genna said, again through her hand. "Then why did you use it in your argument?" She didn't even bother to comment that neither of them are in a car, nor were they even remotely near one. All her father's cars were in the garage where they were supposed to be. "Wouldn't that be contradictory?" she added.

Layne raised his eyebrows in surprise before tightening his arms across his chest, "Hey! I'm no genius!" he said. "I just do my own thing, and I get by." For some reason, that response made Genna incredibly nervous, especially since he had been hired on as her bodyguard.

"That's nice," she muttered, turning back in her chair and retrieving her brush that had fallen from her hand during the course of their conversation. She reached for the paints and surveyed the scene outside again, this time looking for something else to model. She decided to just go ahead and return to her activity and that he would leave eventually once he realized that she didn't plan to go anywhere anytime soon.

But she was obviously wrong when he suddenly plopped on the floor beside her, stretching out his legs and laying down. Genna looked down at him unhidden astonishment with a strong desire to ask what he was doing this time.

He must have sensed her lingering her eyes since he looked at her. "I'm not leaving until you agree to show me around," he said seriously. Genna just shook her head again and returned to her painting, looking still for another perfect model. He would leave eventually. Everyone always left eventually.

But she was proved wrong. He was still there long after she finished searching the outside and was half done with her next painting: a tree that seemed determined to hold onto its leaved before winter wind stole them away. He sat quietly at her side, moving only once to sit up with his legs crossed over each other and back rigid. After awhile, she forgot that he was even there, drawn into the serenity of her activity. Neither one of them made any sound and the only ones heard came from the brush against the paper and occasionally the wind. This section of the house usually remained silent, visited only by Genna and Edmund, but the butler was probably busy helping Chef prepare for dinner. She was accustomed to the silence that dominated this room and embraced it, and oddly enough, it felt like another regular day in here for her, despite her obvious company. She painted continuously, closing her eyes to allow her hand to take over while her mind drifted away to things unimaginable in her life. At one point, while she was mixing another set of colors for the leaves on the tree, she coyly glanced down at Layne. He still sat in the same position, Indian-style, with his hands resting on his knees and eyes closed. He looked completely at ease, and Genna found that she didn't wish to disturb him.

Even when she completed her second painting that was the lone tree, Layne still sat beside her, silent and still as stone. She watched his chest for a few seconds just to make sure that he was still breathing. She thought about moving on to a third painting but a quick glance to a digital clock on the table told her that dinner would be in about half an hour and there wasn't much point in starting something she wouldn't be able to finish in the same night. Instead, as quietly as possible, she put her things away and stood up to fold up her easel when she saw Layne spring to life out the corner of her eye. He jumped to his feet and stood facing her.

"Ready for our tour now?" he asked enthusiastically.

His sudden movements made her jump and nearly caused the easel to fall over on her, but before she could even comprehend that something large and wooden was about to topple on her, Layne had grabbed it and was on his way to putting it away. She relaxed, breathing deeply and feeling quite silly.

"I hope you're not one of those klutzy girls," he said as he carried it to the empty corner. "I had to deal with one of those on my last job. Man, what a challenge!" He grumbled on about something inaudible, but Genna didn't care. She had latched onto the reference to his other job. So he did had a history of being a bodyguard. This made her feel a little bit better. At least he wasn't completely new to the game. "You're not, are you?" he was asking her.

"Not what?" she asked before her mind could process that he was referring to her being a klutz.

"A klutz," he answered patiently. "You're not a klutz, are you? You know, falling down all the time, attracting danger in a padded room... That sort of thing."

"I'm usually pushed," she blurted out. Layne gawked at her, surprised at that response, his smile starting to fade as Genna realized what she had just said. "I meant no," she said quickly, grabbing for her paints and sketchbook and hoping for a quick getaway. "I'm not a klutz." She moved quickly for the door, braid smacking almost painfully against her back, but unfortunately, Layne was quicker and closer to the door. He jumped in front of her path, blocking the door.

"How about that tour, hm?" he asked, looking her sternly in the face. She returned his gaze uneasily, knowing that she couldn't refuse this time around and nodded slowly. "Good!" he said brightly, taking the art supplies from her hands.

* * *

As per his request, Genna took Layne outside to show him Lake Winnipesauke. They walked out of the house from the back deck and down the small, well-kept gravel path that led down to the docks on their property. Layne seemed much too excited to be visiting a lake that Genna saw everyday as just a large body of freezing cold water, but he literally bounded all the way down the path. When they got to the docks, he headed straight to the very edge and looked out over the water, even dropping down to peer into the water. Genna stayed on the solid ground, not even setting foot on the wooden dock, and shivered against the cool winds.

"This is awesome!" he exclaimed from his spot on the dock, jumping up and down in excitement. Genna watched him with a startling confusion, trying to remember how old he was supposed to be. "C'mon, Genna!" he said, racing back to where she stood. She said nothing but looked up at him, eyebrows raised at his strange behavior. "What?" he asked, noticing the look she wore. He folded his arms over his chest in what Genna figured was his defensive stance. "Where I come from, we don't happen to have massive lakes."

"Where do you come from?" Genna asked carefully. She remembered that she didn't know where he was from.

"Out west," he answered with some hesitance. "It's so small you've probably never heard of it." He dismissed the question quickly, too quickly and made Genna suspicious.

"Oh," she said softly. He suddenly grabbed her arm and tried to pull her onto the dock. "What are you doing?" she exclaimed loudly, fear rising in her voice. She dug her heels into the ground and tried to pull away.

Layne laughed at her efforts, "Come out with me!" He kept pulling her, but he wasn't even trying, finding her resistance much more entertaining. If he really wanted to get her out there, she wouldn't have stood a chance against him.

"No!" she replied sternly, still fighting him. "No!"

"Aww, why not, Genna?" he asked with a laugh. "You're not afraid of a little water, are you?" He tugged playfully on her arm, enjoying this too much. She was freaking out and wasn't even over the water yet.

"N-no!" she stammered, desperately trying to pull away from him as he dragged her closer to the dock. Her feet were almost on it. "T-that's silly!"

"Then what's the problem, Genna?" he laughed, now swinging her arm wildly. She still didn't let up on her struggle, but he had a good hold on her, and she wasn't going anywhere unless he allowed it.

"N-nothing!" she snapped. "Let go of me!" She pulled and flailed but to no avail. She was his prisoner.

"If it's nothing," he taunted playfully. "Then why are you fighting so much, huh?" He grinned at her only to receive a deadly glare in return, but it didn't affect him in the slightest. In fact, he laughed again. She didn't say anything and tried again to gain her freedom. "Oh, I don't think so!" He twisted her arm down and swiftly grabbed her other arm and pulled her with one easy movement onto the dock in front of her. Her bare feet hit the cold wood, and she winced, yelping and struggling still. Before she could even say a word, he spun her around so that she was facing the house and both arms were crossed across her abdomen and her back was pressed against his back.

"Game over, Genna," he whispered in her ear, and she could hear the laughter in his voice. "And you lost." He finally let go of her, and she scrambled for the solid ground again, falling down onto her knees as she reached it, panting breathlessly, hands gripping the earth. She wanted to scream. Her comfort-zone had been completely breached, and she felt like a broken doll. Her chest tightened painfully.

Layne watched her, eyebrows raised, but there had been a point to that exercise. "Genna," he said tenderly, still standing on the dock. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Just my pride, she thought bitterly. She shook her head but didn't say anything else.

"Good," he said and walked to her side, kneeling beside her. He touched her shoulder gently. "There was a reason to that." She lifted her head and looked at him. His face was serious now with no hints of his smile of laughter anywhere. "I may be your bodyguard, but there will be times when I can't protect you. You've got to learn to defend yourself when I can't be there to do it for you."

"I...know..." she panted, still trying to control her excessive breathing. Her heart pounded recklessly in her chest. "How to defend myself."

"Oh?" he doubted. "Then what happened?" He stood and held out his hand to her. She refused it and grabbed the ground harder, turning her head away from him. "Genna," he said, the seriousness in his voice growing steadily. "If I had been your enemy, you would be seriously hurt right now. You should have fought me."

I did! her mind screamed. I did! "You cheated," she whispered bitterly.

Layne fought a laugh when he realized that she was serious. "I what?" he asked. He kept his hand outstretched to her, and she continued to refuse it.

"You cheated," she replied, remaining in her spot. "I was led…into a false sense of security."

Layne threw his head back at this and laughed in borderline hysterics. Genna finally looked up at him but more in annoyance than anything else. She remained silent but her eyes were like daggers. "Genna," he said finally once he finished laughing up his left lung. "A good enemy will do just as I did. He'll lead you into believing that he's your friend, and then he'll attack when you have your guard down." He reached over to forcibly pull her to her feet. She didn't even bother to fight him this time. "This isn't the movies. Your enemy won't be announced before the opening credits even start. You might not even know what he looks like. He won't walk up to you and say that he's going to hurt you because he's the bad guy in this blockbuster. He's going to be cunning, and he's going to find your weakness long before you even know him." He reached out to flip her braid back over her shoulder. She winced as his fingers grazed her neck unintentionally. "You have to learn to always be on your guard, always know what's going on around you. Not once," he pointed his finger in her face warningly. "Not once should you ever lose sight of your surroundings."

She smacked his hand from her face and took a step back, "Isn't that your job?" she demanded, very tired of this game. She crossed her arms over her chest, shivering. She glanced up at the house and wanted so desperately to be back in the safety of her own room…with the door securely locked.

Layne sighed, watching her shiver and he held out his hand again to her. She eyed it suspiciously, wary of what he had planned this time. "I told you before, I can't always be there. I may be your bodyguard, but there are going to be times when you're going to have to fight on your own. It's part of my job to make sure that you know how." He shook his hand, trying to entice her to take it. "Come on, now." She finally grabbed his hand when she decided that he wasn't going to make a fool of her again, and he walked with her up the path back to the house. "By the way," he whispered, looking down at her feet. "It's called 'shoes.' They're quite helpful in winter." He winked at her.

"It's autumn," she snapped bitterly, walking ahead of her, wincing with every step.

* * *

Edmund called dinner at half-past seven. Genna was in her room, working once again on her dreaded Calculus homework, and once again, she was having difficulties paying attention to what she was doing. By the time Edmund did call for her, she found that her had doodled all over her worksheet in black ink. In the top corners there were different-sized suns covered by large, dense clouds. Paintbrushes lined the edges and a pallet even covered an entire problem she was originally working on.

She grumbled at her mess and stuffed the paper in the desk drawer before heading out the door to join her father at dinner before Edmund's head fell off from all the yelling. He stood at the foot of the stairs, hands on his hips and foot tapping impatiently.

"Five times, Genna," he said sternly. "I had to call for you five times. Your father doesn't like a cold dinner, and Mr. Nelson looks absolutely starved." Genna did a double take at the last name, finally understanding that he meant Layne, her new bodyguard.

"He's eating with us?" she asked, slightly annoyed. She'd had enough of Layne already, and he'd barely been with them for a full day.

"He's already made himself at home," Edmund grumbled. He tugged her off the final step and towards the dining room. "Now, come along before your dinner gets cold and Chef starts complaining. He simply slaved." Genna looked up just in time to see Edmund roll his eyes at the crazed Chef.

She walked into the dining room to see the large table barely filled with her father and their newest member, Layne. He grinned up at her, throwing a wink her way, and she knew that he was going to annoy her. Edmund pulled out her seat for her beside her father and across from Layne before taking his own seat on the other side of her.

Chef carried in the dinner moments later, and the judge stood to carve the massive hunk of meat that Chef had cooked, placing a piece on everyone's plate as the supporting dishes came slowly around the table. Genna took a bit of each, not because she was that hungry, but because if she didn't someone's feelings would get hurt or someone would comment on her lack of appetite. No, she would eat a bit of each to appease everyone.

"So how was your day, my little darling?" the judge asked, once he settled down into his chair again, grabbing for his fork and knife as he did so.

"Wait," Layne said suddenly interrupting. "You're not going to say grace?" he asked the judge. The table fell silent, and Genna and Edmund looked at him in shock, almost afraid of what he had asked. The judge's face tightened. Layne felt very uncomfortable and shifted nervously. "What?" He looked to each of them, looking for an answer in their faces, but he saw none. He searched Genna's face especially, but she turned her head.

"We do not have a religious affiliation in this house," the judge said sternly, an edge in his voice that meant Layne should never bring this subject up again now that he knew. "Too much time is wasted on silly beliefs. There are no gods, no higher beings that assign predetermined destinies. There is only science and logic. We have facts, and we must always stick closely to them." As he spoke, he stuck his fork heatedly into the meat and dragged his knife across it with an unnecessary force, ripping apart the meat like a savage animal, and the look on Layne's face suggested that he now saw him as one.

"There is nothing wrong with religion," Layne replied darkly, defensively. "Some people need something to believe in. They need to have the feeling that there is someone constantly watching them and taking care of them!"

The judge scoffed at his words, "Well, in this house, we have no such desires, as you might call them. We are factual people, therefore we are intelligent, and we don't associate ourselves with such nonsense. We take care of ourselves." He continued to jab at his meat, completely unaware of the escalating anger in Layne.

"But don't you care about what's going to happen when you die? Aren't you concerned with the destination of your soul?" Layne demanded through his teeth, pounding a fist on the table. Edmund was discretely trying to catch his attention and make him stop before this got out of hand, and it would get out of hand. Genna stared at her plate, pushing the food around with her fork. She didn't dare to enter this dangerous conversation.

The judge laughed harshly now and threw down his knife and fork angrily. "Listen, boy, there is no Heaven. There is no Hell. When we die, that's it! Your soul doesn't go to some special place based on how good or bad you were during your lifetime." He shook a finger at Layne, who was holding on dangerously to his knife, eyes glaring at the judge. "And there is no Savior! There is no person on this Earth who creates miracles by healing the sick, the dying, and the blind!"

"That's because he died for our sins!" Layne growled. "He sacrificed himself so that we might me saved!" His voice was growing at such a steep rate that he would soon be yelling at the judge, something that was met by most with intense regret.

Already the judge was growing annoyed, his stance on religion quite clear by now. "No one, boy, no one loves mankind that much to die for them. Human beings are all selfish creatures with bad habits, including your so-called savior."

Layne was on his feet by this point, throwing his utensils and napkin onto the table in pure rage, "Jesus Christ was a good man, no, he was the perfect man! He did things that people could only dream of!" he exclaimed, shaking with anger. Genna and Edmund watched in horror. A fight would soon ensue, and its outcome would not be pretty. "He spread the good word of our Father! He taught the good book – ,"

"Oh, you mean that pack of useless lies?" the judge demanded, also rising to his feet to stand several inches above the bodyguard. "Admit it, that book is nothing more than an ancient short fiction! It serves no purpose!"

"You're wrong!" Layne yelled. "It influences people every day! It has lessons in it! Every word of it is truth! It is His word!"

"Where is your proof of all this, boy?" the judge asked, mocking Layne now. "Where are the original drafts? Where are the signs that prove that Noah made a massive ark, that this Jesus was killed on a cross? Where is your proof?"

Layne had a rebuttal ready, but Edmund jumped to his feet, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, that is enough. This is a dinner table, and this dinner is not going to eat itself." He pointed to the table and their still full plates. "Shall we?"

"Thank you, Edmund," the judge said with a small bow to the butler that cleverly hid his smug grin.

An eerie silence fell back over the table, and they returned to their meal. But when Genna looked up to Layne, she saw that he was not eating. He sat in his chair very stiffly, glaring down at the food in front of him. His hands were in his lap, and at first she thought that he was just angry, and then it hit her: he was praying. She looked quickly to her father, but he was busy with his meal, chewing happily at his assumed victory. Edmund was also engrossed in his meal, and only Genna saw the scene before her. She could not take her eyes off Layne even when he looked up at her. He smiled, but his eyes were sad, wounded. When he was arguing with her father, he wasn't just making any old argument, he was arguing for his own beliefs. Her eyes drifted to his neck where she noticed a gold chain that fell beneath his shirt. She was willing to bet everything she had that at the end of that chain was a cross.

I'm sorry, she mouthed to him, but he only shook his head and excused himself from the dinner table.

Genna wanted to follow him, to apologize for her father's crude behavior when he was supposed to be a guest in their home, but all she could do was sit there, staring at the plate of food that she no longer had any desire to eat. She felt nauseous again, and the sounds of Edmund and her father eating around her greedily when another human being was wounded in this house made her sick to her stomach.

"Hmph," her father said as he put down his fork for the second time. He reached for his customary glass of wine. "He's an odd one, wouldn't you say so, Edmund?"

Edmund knew it was better to agree with the hand that paid you, and he nodded. "Yes, sir, a bit odd indeed."

"I can only imagine what could have set him off," the judge wondered allowed, and Genna wanted to scream at him, to scream that he was what set him off. But she could only sit there, not daring to stand up to her father, only looking at her food and wishing she could throw up. "I've heard such good things about him, but I wasn't prepared for this on his first evening here."

"Perhaps you hit a nerve, sir?" Edmund inquired tentatively. He glanced over to Genna's plate and nudged her. When she looked up at him, he pointed to the plate before her. Eat, he mouthed, but she still couldn't move.

"Nonsense, Edmund!" the judge exclaimed with a boisterous laugh. "Don't you know anything about bodyguards, Edmund? They are trained killers and worry only about their jobs. There's no room for religion in the art of such services." He picked up his fork again and helped himself to another round of meat. He was completely oblivious of the state of his daughter, who continued to sit there, refusing to eat or even speak. The only thing that kept her there was the fear of his response.

"You sound like you speak from experience, sir," Edmund commented bravely, almost like he was challenging the judge.

Another laugh erupted from him, but this one was more sinister. "I have had experience with such men, yes, but that was long ago. I am assuming that things have not changed." He looked to the empty seat previously occupied by Layne with a disappointed expression. "Of course, one should never assume anything. We all what happens when we do that."

"Yes, sir, of course," Edmund agreed quietly, thinking exactly along the same lines as Genna.

"You'll have to keep an eye on that boy, Edmund," the judge said matter-of-factly. "Make sure you do so."

"Yes, sir."

"I have another trip lined up to visit a client in the west," the judge said, steering away the conversation from Layne finally. Genna was relieved. "I leave once the case in Washington is completed."

"And how long will you be gone, sir?"

"A week or two. This client and I have much to," he glanced briefly at Genna finally. "Discuss." There was something in his eyes that neither Genna or Edmund saw, but it couldn't have been good. "Darling!" the judge boomed, and she jumped upon realizing that he was finally addressing her now. "You haven't touched a bite of your food!" He pointed angrily to her plate. "You need to eat to keep up your strength! I will not have any weak daughters running about!" He had meant for there to be humor in that statement but it was lost in the transference from mind to mouth.

Genna finally couldn't take it anymore and pushed the chair back, "Please excuse me," she said quickly, keeping her head down. "I don't feel well." And she fled the dinner table, but when she left the room, she had little intent to go back to her room. For some reason or another, she wanted to find Layne. She thought it was her responsibility to apologize to him, seeing as how her father never would.

She stood outside of the dining room, thinking of what she should do. It was obvious that Layne had been hurt by her father's harsh words; Genna knew that feeling all too well, but she didn't know if she should approach him yet or give him his space. When she found herself wounded by her father, all she usually wanted to do was hide from the world, nursing her wounds and tightening her skin so that next time it wouldn't hurt so much. Over the past five years, since the sudden death of her mother, Genna and her father had been at ends, agreeing only to disagree. He would say things to her that she wanted to believe that deep down he had never meant, but she still found herself hurt. They battled back and forth until it just stopped hurting when he attacked her. Now, for the most part, she could tune him out or let what he said roll off. It was rare that what he said actually hurt her now. No longer did she cry herself to sleep over him, but tonight he was found a weak spot in her that she didn't even know she had. And she had hurt a guest. Genna's mother had always told her that one must be as gracious a host as humanly possible, and Layne was their guest.

She ultimately decided to find Layne and apologize on behalf of her father, but as she prepared to step away, she heard the voices of her father and Edmund drop lower, secretive. She couldn't help her curiosity and leaned in to listen.

"Sir, with all due respect," Edmund was saying. "When are you going to tell her?"

"Never," the judge replied tightly. "Genna does not need to know."

"Sir, this has to do with her life, her safety and she deserves to know!" Edmund hissed, his voice threatening to raise.

"And that is why I have hired a bodyguard to protect her! She doesn't need to know the facts or the why of the situation. All she needs to know is that she is safe," the judge replied, snapping.

"But what of her curiosity, sir?" Edmund asked seriously. "If she's anything like her mother, then she's going to try to find out why. What will you do then?"

"What will I do?" the judge asked. Something behind his voice suggested that he didn't care. "I'm not going to do anything, Edmund. You are." Genna could picture her father pointing one of his long fingers threateningly at the butler.

"M-me, sir?" Edmund asked, startled. "What in the Heavens can I do?"

"Keep her from asking questions. She's your responsibility, Edmund, make it so." She heard the loud clanging of utensils and knew that her father was done with his evening meal. To escape detection, she darted silently away, heading straight for the sunroom.

By the time she reached the room, her heart was pounding, and she was confused. What was happening? She didn't know and had only thought that this bodyguard business was because her father was paranoid about images and safety. She hadn't believed that the situation actually had merit. So someone really was after her, but who? And why?

Genna fell into a chair of the dark sunroom. She didn't understand why someone would bother going after her. She was hardly important. She was just Genna, the daughter of a judge. If anything, she felt that whoever sought her was confused. Shouldn't they be going after her father, not her? He was the one with the money and the power. Genna didn't have anything of her own except for a trust fund that she couldn't access until she was twenty-one, and she didn't even know how much was in there.

"I'm so confused," she whispered to herself, dropping her head into her head.

"Join the club," she heard a soft voice reply from the corner of the room. She jumped from surprise, falling out of the chair and onto the hard floor. She hadn't noticed anyone when she came in, but then again, she hadn't exactly thought to look.

"Jeez, Genna," she recognized the voice as belonging to Layne. He snapped on a light, and she saw the outline of his face where he sat in the corner in an armchair. The shades had been drawn over the glass windows and behind them, the sun was hidden completely below the horizon. "You are a klutz." He stood and reached over to help her back into the chair. She took his hand, shaking and too surprised to argue. "Either that, or you're just jumpy."

She nodded, not exactly sure what she was agreeing with. "What are you doing in here?"

He shrugged. "It was the closest place to go, and I wanted to think." He returned to his seat.

"O-oh," she stammered and attempted to stand again. "Then I shouldn't interrupt."

"Nah," he said, shaking his head and smiling at her. "You don't have to go. I shouldn't be sulking anyway."

"I'm sorry," Genna blurted out and then frowned. That wasn't how she wanted to do that at all.

"For what?" he asked, looking shocked.

"For my father," she answered, struggling to push those previous thoughts that drove her here from her mind. "He had no right to - ,"

Layne laughed, interrupting her. "You really must be naive, Genna," he said.

"What?" she asked, her confusion continued to plague her.

Layne chuckled again before sighing. "What happened at dinner, that was nothing, ok?" he said seriously, looking at her.

"But he upset you!" Genna argued. She wanted to rectify this situation. She wanted to make things less awkward in this house.

"Nah, I wasn't upset," Layne said with a wave of his hand. "I let things get too far. Of course your dad isn't going to be a deeply religious man. Not all people are alike, and while some choose to put their beliefs into a higher being, others choose something that they can see and physically touch." Layne then looked away from Genna and out the glass walls to the dark land. "But if he's going to make the argument about what's real or fake, then i don't think it was wise of him to choose the American legal system."

Genna sat back into the chair at his words. There was something very odd about them. "You're not American, are you?" she asked once she had gotten her thoughts into place.

Layne laughed more genuinely this time. "That's a random question," he said. "What do you think I am, if I'm not American?"

Now she felt quite ashamed. He was a guest, and she was no better than her father, prying into his personal life. It bothered her when people she barely knew asked her questions about her life that shouldn't be asked. "I-I'm sorry," she whispered. "That was wrong."

"What was so wrong about it?" Layne asked. He shifted the arm chair closer to her, showing her that he was interested in the conversation. "If you want to know, then go ahead and ask." He waited patiently, and she knew that he was waiting for her to ask the question again. By the nature of his reaction, she assumed that he wasn't American, but she still didn't want to ask. He may not feel uncomfortable about the situation, but she did. It wasn't her place. "Go on," he urged, like he wanted her to ask.

She sighed and decided that if she didn't ask now, she probably wouldn't get another chance and her curiosity would eat at her. "Are you American?" she asked again, suddenly feeling like she was trying to accuse him of something. She studied his face carefully, but he wore a perfect poker face. And he didn't reply right away, and Genna thought he was doing this just to torture her, and before she could stop herself, she asked, "Do you need to think about it?" She immediately bit her lip after the words slipped out, cheeks beginning to redden. She was going to apologize again, but he cut her off.

"'I'm sorry,' right?" he asked, predicting her next words. She could only nod and then drop her gaze to her lap. "Genna," he said, but she wouldn't look up. "You don't need to apologize all the time. If you want to say something, then say it. What's the worst that could happen?"

Genna shook her head. She didn't need to tell him that she was brought up to be "seen and not heard." She took it one step further and preferred not to be seen either, hiding out of view of the quick-to-judge colleagues of her father and those troublesome journalists that loved to follow him. "Anything could happen," she replied to him.

Layne considered this thoughtfully. "That may be true," he said. "But sometimes you can't let people overlook you. Say what you need to say." He reached out to lightly tap her on the forearm. She glanced up at him. "Now, you asked me a question, didn't you?" he asked, and she nodded but remained quiet. He sat back in his chair. "No, I am not American, fully."

"Fully?" Genna asked quickly.

Layne smiled broadly at her. "If you interrupt, you'll never know the story." Genna couldn't help her own smile slip out onto her face. She gracefully motioned him forward. "My father was American, but my mother was Canadian. I was born in Canada, and I grew up in Canada." Genna opened her mouth to interrupt, but Layne held up his hand to stop her. "Before you ask," he said, still smiling. "I came down to follow my father when my mother died. I've lived here since I was fourteen." He stood. "So, we do actually have something in common."

Genna nodded slowly, "It would seem so," she said, thinking about how he could so easily talk about his mother even though she was dead. Genna couldn't even say her mother's name, let alone talk about her. Pictures were the closest Genna could get to openly refer to her mother without bursting out into tears every time. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "About your mother."

Layne shrugged as he walked to the glass, peering outside at something that peeked his interest. "No need to apologize," he said. "It's been so long ago that I learned to get over it. No use harboring a ghost, right?" Genna could only nod. Is that was she was doing, harboring a ghost? That wasn't what Genna thought about when she thought about ghosts. She thought about the white, almost opaque thing that was trapped on this world, doomed to walk it in the place that it died for all eternity. And there certainly wasn't anything like that here.

"Genna!" Layne exclaimed, calling her back to reality. He stood in front of her now, having moved while she was lost in thought, waving his hands in front of her face. "Earth to Genna!"

"What?" she nearly shrieked, pushing his hand away and recoiling back. She breathed deeply. "What?" she asked again with less dramatics.

Layne chuckled. "What time should I get up?" he asked, fighting a yawn. Genna glanced to the clock. It wasn't even nine yet. Could he really be tired? Then she remembered that he could have been traveling. "Anything could happen," she replied to him.

Layne considered this thoughtfully. "That may be true," he said. "But sometimes you can't let people overlook you. Say what you need to say." He reached out to lightly tap her on the forearm. She glanced up at him. "Now, you asked me a question, didn't you?" he asked, and she nodded but remained quiet. He sat back in his chair. "No, I am not American, fully."

"Fully?" Genna asked quickly.

Layne smiled broadly at her. "If you interrupt, you'll never know the story." Genna couldn't help her own smile slip out onto her face. She gracefully motioned him forward. "My father was American, but my mother was Canadian. I was born in Canada, and I grew up in Canada." Genna opened her mouth to interrupt, but Layne held up his hand to stop her. "Before you ask," he said, still smiling. "I came down to follow my father when my mother died. I've lived here since I was fourteen." He stood. "So, we do actually have something in common."

Genna nodded slowly, "It would seem so," she said, thinking about how he could so easily talk about his mother even though she was dead. Genna couldn't even say her mother's name, let alone talk about her. Pictures were the closest Genna could get to openly refer to her mother without bursting out into tears every time. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "About your mother."

Layne shrugged as he walked to the glass, peering outside at something that peeked his interest. "No need to apologize," he said. "It's been so long ago that I learned to get over it. No use harboring a ghost, right?" Genna could only nod. Is that was she was doing, harboring a ghost? That wasn't what Genna thought about when she thought about ghosts. She thought about the white, almost opaque thing that was trapped on this world, doomed to walk it in the place that it died for all eternity. And there certainly wasn't anything like that here.

"Genna!" Layne exclaimed, calling her back to reality. He stood in front of her now, having moved while she was lost in thought, waving his hands in front of her face. "Earth to Genna!"

"What?" she nearly shrieked, pushing his hand away and recoiling back. She breathed deeply. "What?" she asked again with less dramatics.

Layne chuckled. "What time should I get up?" he asked, fighting a yawn. Genna glanced to the clock. It wasn't even nine yet. Could he really be tired? Then she remembered that he could have been traveling.

"Excuse me?" she asked, looking up at him again, afraid that he had asked her something she wouldn't want to answer.

"What...time...do...I...need...to...be...up?" he asked again, much slower for her benefit. She glared at him, nearly feeling the need to remind him that she was not a child, but seventeen years old and eight months away from being a full-fledged adult in the eyes of the American legal system.

"For what?" She obviously was not following him, and he rolled his eyes to show that.

"For school!" he exclaimed with mock excitement. "It's been awhile since I actually went to school. I'm thinking this going to be interesting. I hope you don't have boring classes."

Genna felt the color draining from her face and her eyes went wide in shock. "W-what?" she stammered out, hoping to God that she had heard him wrong.

Layne looked at her like he didn't understand her confusion, or at least, he acted like he didn't understand. "I'm going to school with you."

"WHY?" she exploded. He jumped back, doing a two-step hop in response to her outburst. She could feel the panic rising in her chest, and she knew to soon expect the shortness of breath that usually accompanied complete panic episodes. She'd read all about panic attacks and how they affected the body. She braced herself on the chair as her breathing moved to a more unrhythmic pattern, mimicking her heart that was rushing wildly in her chest.

"Hey, if I'm going to be your bodyguard, then I'm going have to be around you," he said, watching her reaction. He wondered briefly if she had asthma because the way she sat, frozen and stiff, he couldn't see if she was breathing or not. He glanced around the room for an inhaler, just in case. "Are you all right?" he asked finally.

"You...can't," she forced out between gasps, tightening her grip on the chair. She continuously shook her head, faster and faster each time. "You can't...go to school with me!" She could see it now: she would walk into school the next day in her school uniform with a darkly clad, armed man behind her, and he would follow her to class and sit with her at lunch in the back of the cafeteria where she sat alone and quiet. And he would never leave her side, sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of checkered uniforms wearing all black. She could already see the looks her classmates would give her, hatefully watching and not-so-silently making snide remarks. With him there, she wouldn't be able to blend in. No, he would definitely blow her cover, making her a target more than ever.

"Genna?" he asked tentatively, kneeling down in front of her. "Are you ok? You look really pale." He watched her nose and mouth, waiting to see some sign of air passing through. When he didn't after ten seconds, he nudged her knee. "Breathe," he commanded gently. "You need to breathe."

She shook her head. "No, I need you to not go to school with me."

Layne fought back a laugh, "Well, too bad. It's already been worked out, and I'm sure that if Layne Johnson, new student, doesn't come to school tomorrow for his first day, his teachers might get a littler nervous. They tend to do that, you know." He winked at her.

"Johnson?" she asked, completely missing the point.

Layne nodded and stuck out his hand to her in greeting. "I'm your cousin who's come to live with you and finish out the school year up here in New Hampshire." Genna didn't know what to do but looked down at his outstretched hand and shook it.


A/N: I'm happy that chapter one was so well-received! I'm still on the fence with this story, but I love Layne. Then again, I usually love the annoying ones. Thanks again everyone!

Just as a small side-note, the updates on this story may come slowly as I'm trying to do five million other things, including a J-Term class where I'm writing another novel. We'll see, though. Again, feel free to yell at me for typos.

R&R

Later Days,

Katelyn