"…so when the cops showed up, I told them I'd felt like someone was watching me for a while. And that since my parents were gone, I'd wanted to make sure I was safe. The containers under the windows took the most explanation, but when I explained that I knew our drain cleaning crystals were highly caustic and thought it'd give someone breaking in second thoughts, they seemed to understand.

Now the police have my statement, and have alerted the hospitals for anyone coming in with chemical burns or puncture wounds on their feet. I'm hoping the cops will get at least one of the men who broke in. And if any do get back, I'm hoping the others will hesitate after seeing their injuries," Thalia finished, her eyes on the others as they again sat around Ruth and Anna's kitchen table.

"While I'm glad my nail idea bore fruit, I'm pissed it didn't slow them enough they got caught! You'd think three grown men would at least hesitate at being ordered to break into a high school student's house, but no. That's giving these bastards too much credit," Ruth said, arms crossed over her chest.

Will glared, fists clenched. "I hope the cops don't catch them, or not all of them. I want a shot at beating their faces unrecognizable. Bad enough they're stalking me, but now they break into Thalia's place? I'll kill them."

"We need to secure the house before we continue our plans with the Builders," Colt said. "They'll be wary if they make a second attempt."

"I don't think they'll get many volunteers for that," Thalia replied. "Now that they know my house is protected, they ought to leave me alone."

"No, I don't think they will," Anna said, finally breaking her silence as her eyes narrowed. "This kind of thing is far outside the pattern they've been using so far. Nearly all their attention's been on Liam. Or rather, Liam as Colt's proxy. So why would they suddenly make a legitimate attempt to break into Thalia's? It doesn't make sense. Unless, of course, they've found out the truth."

For several seconds, the only sound in the kitchen was the ticking of the other room's clock. Then Colt's voice rang out, marking the first time either of them had acknowledged the other's existence since their arrival. "But how could they have found out about me and Thalia? We've been…Wait! Boy, you told us they spoke to you. What exactly did you tell them?"

Will snapped his head in his direction and slammed his hands down onto the table. "I didn't say anything about Thalia! They tried to convert me, I said I wasn't interested. They kept saying they wanted to help me, and I told them they could fuck off."

"Did you tell them they were crazy?" Ruth asked.


"You always call them nuts, or you have every time up until you found out about Colt, so…"

William paled. "Shit!"

"I knew bringing you into this was a mistake, boy!" Colt snapped.

"Enough! What's done is done. We can't change anything about it now, so there's no point in casting blame or arguing," Thalia said, standing. "We just need to change our approach a bit. I don't think any of our plans won't work with me as the focus instead of Will, so we just need to decide which one to put into motion and how we need to tweak it."

Ruth nodded sharply. "Thalia's right. We know they know now, so let's get the jump on them and end this."

"My thoughts exactly. We'll get nowhere if we're only reacting to their moves," Anna said. "Offense is the best defense."

Colt snorted. "Thalia's safety is our first priority."

"Did I say it wasn't?" she snapped.

"Which plan should we go with?" Thalia said, raising her voice to drown out the impending argument.

"I vote we go with Plan D. A split-up between people of the opposite sex is far more believable than if it had been Colt and Liam," Ruth said, leaning back in her chair.

Anna rolled her eyes. "They'll see through that in two minutes. Especially since it relies on both Thalia and Colt's acting skills. I think we should do Plan I. I already have several listening and recording devices. It shouldn't take us long at all to get enough to blackmail them with."

"How many plans did you girls make?" William asked, voice tinged with awe.

"Lots," Ruth replied, grinning.

Thalia smiled in a way that worried Colt. "I like plan P. With the break-in and police report, the groundwork's already been laid. It'll take some set-up, and we'll have to be sure to coordinate ourselves properly, but it has the best chance of success, I think. And it's also one that's better with me, since I'm a girl."

"We'll need to have a strong guard on you for this to work and a lot of safety mechanisms set up. I agree it has the highest likelihood of working, but it's also the riskiest. Are you sure you want to do it?" Ruth asked.

She nodded. "We send them packing as soon as we can. And we only discuss this verbally, in places we know they're not listening. We should thrash out the details now and set the plan into motion immediately. None of us wants to have to keep looking over our shoulders for them."