I got out of the car when we arrived to the gate of my safe house and checked around the walls, just in case. I punched in the code for the iron gate and waved the car through. Sylvia and Catherine waved at me enthusiastically and giggling. I shook my head and laughed at them as I walked over to the small guard tower by the gate. I opened the door with a silent creak and stepped in then smiled.
It was just the way my mom had left it when she last brought the president here. I pushed the red button and the wall facing me turned around to reveal several TVs with the screens flashing on. All of the security cameras came to life. I flipped a small switch and a computer rotated out of the wall next to the TVs. Blue prints of the entire establishment appeared on the screen and I typed in the security code. The schematics on the screen did a 360 turn as it showed all of the security lights come on.
I hit the button again and everything disappeared in the wall again. The house was on a complete lock down. No one was getting in or out without my knowledge.
I slipped out of the door and saw that the limo had already been parked in the garage and the kitchen lights were on. The sun was preparing to set, so it was supper time. I let out a groan as I realized what was happening.
I rushed to the house quickly as I possibly could and entered through the large oak doors.
"Syl! Step out of the kitchen with your hands up and burners off before you burn us down!" I shouted the warning, but was answered with giggling from Catherine. I knew I had been ignored. I glanced into the dark living room and sighed. This use to be our house. Until I learned that us O'Connell's had many safe houses in the world, and this just happened to be the one my mother raised me in. We had no official home, but this was my residential place for our charges when they needed somewhere to be. And in those times, I'd retreat to the apartments in town, even though I hated living in the city.
I smiled at my family's crest before I approached the kitchen and said a silent prayer.
Catherine was sitting on the tall barstool in front of the island; her eyes were wide as she watched Sylvia doing something with the eggs she was getting ready to cook. Rice was sitting in a bowl next to the stove top with diced veggies in it. Sylvia was wearing my chef's hat and a black apron to match it. She looked slightly professional, but we both knew better.
"Really Sylvia? We're getting free Shoguns?" I asked.
She made a face at me as she went on with her act. Her Russian accent was getting thicker as she was getting even more excited by the show itself.
She juggled three eggs in the air and let one drop into the frying pan. She smiled as it broke all over the frying pan, and then frowned.
"Oh man! I forgot about the shells!"
She quickly turned to the trash can and dumped the egg out. I shook my head and sighed. Some of her hair was escaping from the hat and falling into her eyes.
"You make a mess, you clean it up. Got it?"
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Wanna see me do the volcano?" She asked me excitedly.
I felt my face pale at the thought of her attempting the onion volcano in my kitchen and shook my head.
"Absolutely not! You're going to set my fire alarms off and blow our cover Syl!"
Her smile dropped a little bit and she sighed.
"Okay. I'll do it when we AREN'T inside your house!"
I chuckled and felt my phone vibrate. I looked at the caller ID and then turned to Catherine.
"Make sure she doesn't burn my house down Catherine. I'll be back."
I flipped my phone open and answered it as I entered the library behind the living room. I shut the door and made myself comfortable on a large brown leather chair with a foot prop.
"Hello sweetness! How was your day?" I stopped and absorbed the words.
"It was fine mom."
"OH! Am I calling you while you're at school? I'm so sorry, I'll call you back!"
"No, don't do that mom. I'm not at school. Not anymore."
I struggled to find the words.
"Andrea put Sylvia and me on a job." There was a pregnant pause and then I heard her talking fast to my dad. I knew the Irish accent was going to come soon. She was born in America, but her family was originally from Ireland. And so was my dad's. But he lost the accent, and mom would lose hers. Until she got excited.
"Really? So soon? Congrats baby girl!"
I laughed as I heard my dad in the background. "Who, where and the situation?"
"Catherine O'Hara, the only daughter of the hottest CEO and founder for O'Hara Industries. We happen to be at the estate. Her dad couldn't come home from his business trip and he needed sitters for the next night or two. He requested us because he knows us personally."
"You're at the estate?" I heard my dad ask. I knew I was put on speaker now.
"Oh! She's adorable Annie!" I heard my mom squeal.
Frowning, I pulled my phone away from my ear.
"You googled her?"
"Actually, I googled her dad and there happens to be a very cute picture of her and her dad together. She seems happy with him, which is unusual for a man of his status."
"He tries hard to spend a lot of time with her. You should have seen her this morning. Her hair bow was astray. He refuses to get her a nursemaid for the weekend and he vows every single night to be spent with her otherwise. He avoids weekend meetings like they were the plague. Trust me. I know this man pretty well."
"You think you know this man pretty well, Anna." Another male voice answered. I sighed recognizing my brother's voice.
"Marcus. Didn't know you were there. Who called the family reunion and how did I miss it?"
"Actually, Ladybug," I cringed as he used my nickname. "We just got off a big job. Can we crash your girls' night? The estate is the closest thing. Then we'll have a huge family reunion."
"Well, Sylvia is cooking Shogun's style tonight."
"You let her near my stove?" My mother asked, flabbergasted. I smiled in triumph.
"I did. Otherwise, she wouldn't eat anything I make. I think it's a Russian thing. So how soon will I see you?"
"In about two minutes and twenty eight seconds."
"Set the alarms system back on."
I shut my phone off and quickly left the library.
"Syl! We're getting company!" I warned her.
She quickly entered the room with her cooking knife at the ready. Her eyes were wild and excited at the thought of an attack.
"I cover here, you can cover the kitchen!"
I gave her a look.
"No, my family is coming home tonight. They'll be here so-"
The front door opened and a young man walked in. His brown hair was pulled back into a pony tail and his dangerously green eyes drank in the scene before him. A smile broke on his tan face.
"Hello sister. Hello Sylvia. I kinda missed your crazy ways."
I looked over to my friend and rolled my eyes.
"Sorry, after spending a few months protecting a rock star, he lost his manners. Please forgive his ignorance."
She smirked at him.
"I can still take you. But if you excuse me, I must entertain our guest. Anna Lee, you can take care of your family for a bit. I'm sure your mother wants to catch up."
She walked back to the kitchen and called out to Catherine.
"Okay! Are you ready to get some chicken?"
She glanced over her shoulder and made sure she glared at Marcus. When she was gone, he looked at me.
"What did I do?"
I rolled my eyes and I was suddenly grabbed into a bear hug.
"You know I actually missed you. I had no one to pick on!"
"Let me down!" I demanded as he lifted me up off the ground.
He set me back down and glared at me.
"Yeah. I'm glad you missed me too." I rolled my eyes as the door opened again revealing my mom and dad.
"Hey guys." I greeted them as they put the luggage down next to the door. My dad smiled as he held his arms out wide for me. I braced him in the hug as he began to quiz me.
"Poú eínai ta pithaná si̱meía gia na krýpsei to óplo sto próso̱pó mou? Apánti̱si̱ tó̱ra kai tha lávete éna do̱reán eisití̱rio tainía."
I frowned as I began to name them.
"Eísai ypermegéthi̱s kapélo, tsépes paltó, bótes, maníkia, lachaniázo̱ pódia, to vivlío sas, kai to chartofýlaká sas. Pántote parakolouthó̱ tous anthró̱pous me típota sta chéria tous í̱ sto kefáli tous. Écho̱ meletí̱sei skli̱rá. Honestly dad. I need harder questions. And I really prefer them to be in English instead of Greek."
He chuckled as he began to take his hat off and turned to the stairs. I turned to mom who held her arms out for me. I gave her a cautious look. She pouted a little.
"You're going to flip me. I know it."
She sighed frustrated.
"No I'm not! I promise!"
I gave her a tight hug, knowing she would keep her promise. When she let me go, she searched over me.
"When you get Ms. Catherine settled in for the supper, you and Sylvia need to meet me in the library. We've got to talk about some important things." She spoke softly and smiled.
I gave her a look and hugged her again.
"I missed you."
She smiled and ruffled my hair.
"Missed you too kiddo. Now, go to your girl, and the rest of us will be back and presentable for diner."
I nodded my head and avoided my brother as he tried to trip me . I found myself back in the kitchen with the two girls and sat down next to Catherine.
"Who was that? Silly left with a knife." Catherine spoke gently.
I tried to keep myself from busting out with laughter as Sylvia pulled plates down from one of the racks and flipped the stir fried rice and the seasoned chicken on a plate.
"My family came home today Catherine. They want to look good to meet you so they went to their rooms. But they'll be back in time for dinner. Would you like to sit at the table?"
She nodded her head and hopped down from her chair.
Sylvia followed with the frying pan in one hand and plates in the other. The plate on top was already fixed, so as soon as our little charge sat down, she handed Catherine the first plate with a small serving. I grabbed a bunch of forks and followed Sylvia into the dining room. I sat down next to Catherine and handed her a fork.
"Bon appetite. Enjoy dearest."
Catherine giggled and peered up at Sylvia through those dark bangs.
"Wow, you didn't burn the house down Syl! Can I join?"
I frowned at my older brother and started to send him a warning glare before mom and dad walked in behind him. I instantly caught myself and cleared my throat.
Sylvia was a different story however.
"I think you can starve Marcus. But then I would be setting a bad example. Enjoy."
She set the frying pan down on a pot holder on the table and took a seat next to me.
"Hey Catherine, this is my older brother, Marcus. And those two are my parents."
She smiled at them shyly.
"Hi. I'm Catherine." She spoke softly. "Thank you for letting me stay tonight."
Mom smiled that motherly smile.
"Anything for a good friend of my daughters. I do hope you find everything comfortable. Would you like to see your room after your done eating?" She nodded her head. "Good. Well if you don't mind, I'm going to steal Sylvia and Anna Lee from you for a little bit. But I know Marcus is just dying to get to know you. He likes to talk a lot."
A smirk grew on my mother's face. I knew there was double meaning behind her words. I fixed a plate for myself as Sylvia fixed herself one. When I turned to talk to my mother, she was already gone and dad was already getting to the table. Marcus took my seat next to Catherine and began a conversation with her. Sylvia and I shared a look as we disappeared to meet my mother.
Mom took up residence by leaning on a desk in front of the couch. She seemed a little bit tired and I knew it wasn't my place to question what was wrong with her. Her brown eyes seemed a bit conflicted and her beautiful hair was unusually swept up into a ponytail and her makeup looked as if it was fading off a bit. But she was still beautiful. Just by glancing at her, no one would know that she studied as if she was training to be an MMA fighter. And she held a lot of power as one person.
"Girls," She greeted us. "Please sit." Sylvia gave me a look, and I could only shrug. I knew my mother caught it but she continued. "Sylvia, you are an honorary member of this family, and Anna Lee, you are the only daughter of the O'Connell clan. Your grandmother requested that I do a ceremony. It's nothing huge. It's actually just welcoming you into the bodyguard business as a girl. She wants me to remind you that it was her grandmother was the first one in our lineage that started off the family tradition."
"Cool." I didn't know where she was going with this but it seemed a bit weird. I took a bite of the amazing food Sylvia managed to make and almost melted. It tasted like heaven.
She turned to Sylvia and spoke.
"I also requested for you to become part of the ceremony. Mother was a bit reluctant because we never had a Russian sister, but she decided we could share the same family crest. Here you two go. Congrats."
She held out something to the both of us and we saw that they were silver bracelets with the family crest as the charm. I took them both and handed one to Sylvia.
"This is to remind you of where your loyalty lies. It lies with your family. With your charge and definitely with your friends. Whatever it is that you do, and however you take action, think of the consequences to them. You two are old enough to get a job as you have, and we want you to be ready for everything. Loyalty is the world. You can go."