Prologue

My fingers trace the elegant writing on the cover of Poisons and Antidotes: The Expert Guide. The knowledge that this book will be forthcoming in my duty. As I scour the vast collection my gramma allows me to use, I cock my head to the side. I need to make sure Adero was still allright. This is instinct by now.

Thunk. Thunk.

The sound of the ball hitting the cement driveway tells me she is playing basketball. A light smile graces my face as I turn to my gramma, who's watering flowers by the door.

"Gramma? Do you have a book on plants?" I ask in a light, unsuspecting tone.

"What type of plants, darling?" Gramma inquires when she lifts her head to see me cross the tiny library to the window.

I don't answer yet and instead peer out the window. Seeing Adero shoot a three pointer I feel my heart lift in pride. I relax my tense frame as I took notice that no strangers are looking at her.

Now, I answer her question, "Like a survival guide."

She frowns. I can easily tell whats running through her head. What on earth would I need that for. I simply smile sweetly and explain, "Just to be prepared. 'Sides there's no such thing as too much knowledge."

She nods, but is still unsure. I stifle a sigh of frustration. Closing my notebook I walk to towards the small door leading to the backyard. As my hand clutches the cold metal knob she says suddenly and mysteriously, "What do you want to be when you grow up, Nastusia?"

I pause in my turn of the knob. I shift to face her. Converting my face into a mask of vague determination. Eyes burning with dedication I reply swiftly, unhesitating, "My future is protecting Adero and making sure she's happy."

Her light eyes fog with concern. "But what do you want from life?"

My mask darkens as I growl in agitation, "I will do whatever it takes to keep Adero safe. I don't care if I'm left by myself, so long as she's safe and happy, that's enough for me. That is my duty."

I open the door and slam it behind me. Her soft voice rings in my head as her whisper repeats over and over. "But will you be happy, my child?"