The Girl and the Warehouse

Chapter One: A Meeting of Fate

It's funny how things happen. How fate intervenes in our normal, everyday lives and flips the ordinary on its head. One single incident changes our lives forever and we are powerless to stop it. We don't always notice it at the time, we miss the strings of fate flowing through our reality twisting and changing our lives until it's too late. Of course, this isn't always a bad thing... and sometimes fate's changes aren't for the worse, such as with the case of Kayla Austin. Kayla was nineteen, a brunette, and very attractive and she was in a lot of trouble. She was on the run… and she was also running, right now, away from a police officer down a dank street on the outskirts of Detroit.

She was running from the police officer for an altogether different reason than that which had forced her to flee her Southern California home, but that didn't make her current situation any less serious. Poor Kayla was, well… just that. Poor. Being on the lam didn't offer the opportunities for lawful employment that regular people enjoyed. So, Kayla had taken to… less lawful prospects; most recently the selling of illegal substances. Most people wouldn't really feel sorry for her. They would assume that she was just a drugged up criminal and write her off as a lost cause, deserving whatever she got. And it was partially true. Kayla was, technically a criminal. She was on the run for a reason, after all. She had certainly committed a crime… but she didn't do drugs. She knew all too well what that shit could do to people and she didn't want anything to do with it.

Of course, she couldn't stop other people from buying it and she really needed the money so she could get out of this suckhole of a town. Naturally, as things typically worked out for Kayla, the poop had hit the hypothetical fan and the deal had gone bad in a hurry. And so now she was running. Luckily, she was good at that. She found she had to run quite often and she was very quick. Blessedly, it was a cop that had spent a little too much time in the donut shop that had decided to pursue her, because despite her speed Kayla didn't know Detroit very well at all.

Fleeing at full speed, she dodged into an alley and sprinted down it. She took a left at the end and ran down another street, hoping to lose any pursuing officers in the maze of abandoned factories and warehouses she found herself in. As her luck would go, the officer had called for reinforcements and seconds later a cruiser rocketed off of a side street and skidded to a stop right in front of her. Kayla turned around and bolted across the street as the officers leapt from their vehicle and gave chase. She dodged quickly through a narrow gap between two buildings and tore down another alley. Her new pursuers, however, were almost as fast as she was and she wasn't having a lot of luck evading them.

But here's where fate plays its games, and luckily for Kayla, fate was on her side that day. As she turned a corner at the end of an abandoned red brick warehouse, a young girl about her own age appeared quite suddenly in front of her. Kayla only caught a glimpse of the girl's bright, fire engine red hair before she was forced into a gap in the side of the warehouse. There was barely room for both of them to squeeze into. Both girls were pressed so closely together that Kayla wouldn't have been able to put an ink pen between their noses but at that moment she didn't care about her personal space. Seconds later the cops ran past, oblivious of the two girls hiding in the shadows. The girl waited a few moments before poking her head out of the gap and glancing in both directions. She then motioned for Kayla to follow her.

Kayla slipped out of the gap after her and found herself being led toward a handle dangling from a rope that connected to something high atop the red warehouse's fire escape. Kayla had seriously considered climbing that same fire escape seconds before the redhead had grabbed her. The girl gripped the handle firmly and looked at Kayla with exasperated eyes.

"Well, come on!" she said wearily. "They'll be circling back any moment!" Kayla grabbed the handle too, wondering as she did so why in the world she was trusting this girl. The redhead gave an almighty tug and they were off, soaring up into the air. They scrambled over the railing at the top of the fire escape an instant before the two cops reappeared around the corner of the warehouse.

"Shh!" the redhead hissed as though Kayla had been making tremendous amounts of noise. The cops didn't see them however, and seemingly believing that Kayla had doubled back to the main street, they ran off in the direction of their cruiser.

"Thanks," Kayla said breathlessly as the redhead examined the powered rope ascender that had hauled them up to safety. "That's a cool trick."

"I'm not a magician," said the girl.

"I didn't… what?" Kayla couldn't come up with a proper response to that statement.

"We should go inside," said the redhead. "There's a storm coming." The sky was indeed growing darker by the second and Kayla was chilled to the bone. Damn Detroit winters.

The redhead tugged open the door and stepped inside. Kayla followed her and found herself in what looked to have once been a conference room, although it didn't look remotely like a conference room any longer. In the far left hand corner was what could only be a small kitchen; complete with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, sink, and a tiny round table with two chairs.

A few feet to the right sat a rather ragged sofa and coffee table. Some of the girl's clothes were strewn across its cushions and a number of books and tattered magazines littered the table. Immediately to Kayla's left was an old TV sitting on a small, slightly crooked table. On the other side of that was a very large bookcase, filled to bursting with books of all shapes and sizes.

The far and left hand side walls had wide windows set into them so people could look down on the warehouse floor far below. To Kayla's right was a solid wall with two closed doors. The nearest one had a sign on it that said 'Manager's Office' and the farther one 'Bathrooms'.

The redhead walked across the room and for the first time, Kayla had calmed down enough to actually get a good look at her. Like she had thought, the girl was roughly her age, maybe a little younger. Her waist length hair, so brightly red it was shocking, flowed around her as she walked.

She was very well endowed in all the areas that mattered. Her assets were accentuated by the skin tight, low rise pink pants she wore complimented by a black, midriff-exposing, top with a low neckline held up only by then straps over her shoulders. The cleavage it showed was impressive to say the least. The girl wandered over to the fridge and dug around for a moment before turning around and holding out a juice box toward Kayla.

"Apple juice?" she asking kindly, wiggling the box playfully. This girl was strange, that was certain, but her wide, bright blue eyes gave Kayla the impression that she would be hurt if she refused the juice. Kayla nodded and accepted the box. The girl's full lips turned up in a bright smile. If Kayla had to guess, she'd say she just made the girl's day.

"I'm Ariana, by the way," the girl said, plopping herself onto the counter next to the sink and sipping her juice happily. "Ariana Laine, but you can call me Ari if you want."

"Kayla, Kayla Austin. Well, Mikayla Austin I guess, but people call me Kayla."

"That's a pretty name," said Ariana blissfully. She had a soft melodic voice, filled with a childlike joy and wonderment. In fact, she had an air of childlike sweetness and innocence to her that Kayla had to admit was somewhat endearing. "What'cha runnin' from?" Ariana asked interestedly.

"Cops," said Kayla stiffly.

"Policemen are nice," said Ariana firmly. "They help people. They chase criminals." She gasped suddenly as though an amazing revelation had occurred to her. "Are you a criminal?!" Well, how in the hell could she answer that? Of course, Kayla was a criminal, but she wasn't sure she wanted to tell Ariana that. But then how to explain it? Mistaken identity? Claim innocence? Screw it; she decided to go with the truth.

"Yes, I'm a criminal," said Kayla slowly, not entirely sure how Ariana would respond to that.

"What'd you do?" Ariana inquired, spinning her straw around in her box absently.

"I sold drugs," said Kayla. "Cocaine, to be precise."

"You shouldn't have done that," said Ariana very seriously. "That was bad."

"I… I know," said Kayla, finding herself surprised that being told she had done wrong by this little redhead actually made her feel rather bad about herself. "I'm sorry, but I needed the money."

"It's okay," said Ariana sweetly. "I forgive you," Kayla gave the room another look and turned back to Ariana.

"Do… do you live here?" she asked. Ariana nodded.

"For over a year," she said, sounding quite pleased with herself.

"Why do you live here?" Kayla asked. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen," Ariana replied. "And because I want to."

"Where are your parents?" Kayla asked.

"Dead. Where are yours?" Ariana asked in reply.

"San Diego," said Kayla. She hesitated for a moment before adding; "And I'm sorry about your parents." Ariana's blue eyes looked incredibly sad for a moment and Kayla thought she was about to cry. Instead, she said;

"Do you like cupcakes?" Kayla stared, bewildered.

"Um… okay, random. But, sure… yeah, cupcakes are great, I guess."

"You're funny," said Ariana. She retrieved a pair of cupcakes from beneath a plastic lid and handed one to Kayla.

"Thanks," Kayla said. Ariana peered nervously at her, waiting it appeared to see what Kayla thought. Kayla took a bite, prepared to pretend to enjoy it regardless of how it tasted to spare Ariana's feelings. Kayla was sure she had prepared the cupcakes herself. However, there was no need to pretend. Kayla had just bitten into cupcake heaven. The taste, texture… hell, there was even a creamy filling in the middle.

"Dear God, girl, this is delicious!" Kayla exclaimed. "You made these?" Ariana nodded excitedly.

"Uh huh," she said softly. "You… you like it? I… I've never had anyone to share them with before."

"Like, love… would sell my soul for, whatever," said Kayla, taking another bite. She ignored the part about not being able to share them before. The sadness in her voice actually made Kayla's heart hurt. And here she was thinking she'd stopped feeling for other people a long time ago. There's a reality check.

"Why didn't you sell your soul instead of drugs?" Ariana asked, sounding genuinely curious. "I don't think the police would have chased you then," Kayla actually laughed.

"No, kiddo, I don't suppose they would," Kayla glanced around the room again. "Well, I should probably get moving. I've got to get back to my motorcycle and get out of town while I can."

"You can't leave now!" Ariana exclaimed, leaping off of the counter and rushing over to her. "Look, it's raining! You should stay here until the storm passes. Besides, it's almost night out. You can stay here tonight and find your motorcycle in the morning. I like motorcycles," she added as a point of interest.

It was hard to find a flaw in her logic. It was raining awfully hard and it would be dark out very soon. However, for all Kayla knew this girl would murder her in her sleep. It was clear something wasn't quite right with her, but something about Ariana made her feel welcome. Maybe it was something in the cupcakes... Still, her bike was safe where it was and she could go and get it the following day.

"Well…" Kayla said slowly. Ariana looked highly crestfallen at Kayla's hesitance. "Alright, fine. I'll stay."

"Yay!" Ariana exclaimed. She engulfed Kayla in a tight hug, positively squealing with excitement. "Ooooh, I've never had a house guest before. I'll make up the sofa bed for you. C'mon, there's some extra blankets in the library. Let's go and get them!" Ariana turned and led the way through a door on the left hand side wall and out onto a staircase that gave Kayla her first look at the warehouse.

It was one of the larger warehouses in the area, Kayla would guess somewhere in the area of 400,000 square feet. Apart from beams extending from the floor here and there throughout the building, the warehouse seemed to be empty.

"Oh, right!" said Ariana when she glanced back and noticed Kayla was looking out at the vast facility. "I forgot to say… Welcome to Warehouse 15."

"Any idea what was being made in here?" Kayla asked.

"It's a warehouse, not a factory," said Ariana. "They just stored stuff here. No idea what it was though. There's dozens of tires in Warehouse 16 across the street. It smells funny in there. Oh, and in Warehouse 8 a few blocks over there's all these crates of moldy cheese."

"Old cheese and tires, huh?" said Kayla idly.

"Well, I think it's pretty obvious what the factories made, though," said Ariana brightly.

"Oh, yeah?" said Kayla. "What's that?"

"Cheese wheels!" Ariana exclaimed. Kayla giggled at that. She should have seen it coming. It was certainly an Ariana answer. In her mind, it clearly made sense.

Ariana stepped off at the first landing and held open the door into the library. It had once been a break room, judging by the tables and broken down vending machines, but Ariana had filled it with tumbledown bookcases that were stacked with books. There must have been thousands of books in that room. Near the vending machines sat four large trunks overflowing with clothes. Ariana tugged open one of them and rummaged inside for a moment before standing up holding a bundle of thick blankets.

"Here!" she said brightly, passing the bundle of furiously pink blankets to Kayla, who took them, making a great effort not to look disgusted. "C'mon, let's head back up."

The girls made their way back up to Ariana's apartment and Kayla immediately went to the sofa and started removing the pillows. Without warning, one of the pillows she grabbed hissed loudly at her, squirmed from her grasp and bolted across the room to Ariana. The pillow, of course, turned out to be a very fat gray cat with a bejeweled pink collar around its neck.

"You grabbed Fluffers!" Ariana shouted, clearly outraged. She scooped up the cat into her arms. "Are you okay, sweetie?" She glared at Kayla. "Tell him you're sorry!"

"I'm sorry!" Kayla exclaimed. 'Holy fuck, it's just a cat!' she thought. "I'm sorry; I thought he was a pillow."

"He is really fat," Ariana admitted. "Aren't you Fluffers? Aren't you fat Fluffers McMuffins?" Kayla would have given anything to comment on that cat's name, which has to be the worst name for a cat ever. However, since Ariana seemed to be incredibly protective of the little hairball, she decided against it and pulled out the sofa bed and spread the pink blanket out over it.

Kayla sat down on the edge and lay back across the bed, testing for comfort. It wasn't the best bed she'd ever slept in, but considering some of the places she'd slept over the past few months, she was in paradise. Fluffers leapt from Ariana's arms and up onto the bed. He curled up beside Kayla and almost immediately fell asleep.

"Aww, he loves you," Ariana said happily, smiling brightly at the pair of them. "And... sorry about the bed. I know it's not the softest thing, but..."

"No, please, it's great," said Kayla honestly. "I was sleeping in an alley on a bag of garbage last night so this is heaven."

"You shouldn't sleep on garbage," said Ariana seriously. "That's not healthy."

"Had to sleep somewhere," said Kayla heavily. "So... as good as the cupcake was, is there any chance we could scrounge up some dinner? I'm starving."

"Sure!" said Ariana, her eyes flashing excitedly. "I love to cook! And cats… I love cats, too. But not cooking cats. No, that would be horrible."

"I think they eat cats in some countries," Kayla said conversationally. Ariana gasped, holding a hand to her chest.

"Why would they do that?!" she exclaimed.

"Because… cat tastes good?" said Kayla with a shrug.

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Ariana shouted.

"Hell, I don't know," said Kayla. "It was just a suggestion. I certainly wouldn't eat cat, but to each their own." Ariana didn't reply. She was now quite interested in the contents of a cabinet over the sink.

"Macaroni and cheese?" she asked, turning around and holding up the box hopefully.

"Whatever you'd like," said Kayla. "I'm good with anything… except cat."

"Great!" said Ariana happily. She retrieved a pan from a pot rack hanging from the ceiling and placed it on the stove. Kayla made to get up and help, but Ariana shook her head. "No, you're a guest!" the redhead insisted. "I love to cook."

So Kayla let Ariana go about preparing the meal. She lay back in bed and soon enough the smell of macaroni and cheese filled the air. She glanced over just as Ariana placed two heaping plates of the stuff on the small table.

"That smells delicious, Ari," said Kayla, sliding off of the bed and falling into one of the chairs. Ariana sat down across from her, looking apprehensive again. Her face brightened, however, when Kayla took her first bite and her eyelids fluttered blissfully.

"Damn, girl," she exclaimed. "If I had the money to pay you, I'd hire you as my own personal chef." Ariana was blushing furiously.

"It's… not that good," she said shyly.

"The hell it's not," Kayla exclaimed. "Seriously, you could market this stuff." Ariana just started eating and gave no reply.

The rain began to slack off after dinner. Ariana stood looking out the window beside the television while Kayla washed the dishes. Guest or not, Kayla had insisted. She had just finished scrubbing the pan when Ariana gasped.

"What's wrong?" Kayla asked, expecting her to say something about sad puppies or unicorns going extinct.

"The police are back," said Ariana, pointing down at the street below. "Don't worry," she added when Kayla looked as though she was working out which way to run. "I'll go and talk to them."

"And say what?" Kayla asked quickly. For all she knew, Ariana would suggest the police come up to the apartment and sit down and talk it out. She didn't think Ariana would intentionally rat her out, she would think she was helping.

"Don't worry," Ariana repeated and disappeared down the stairs. Kayla snuck out after her and hid on the stairs to listen. Ariana went down to the warehouse floor and slid open one of the massive doors with the push of a button. The two police officers, different than the ones that had chased her earlier, were waiting outside.

"Hi," said Ariana brightly, glancing between the two of them. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, ma'am," said one of the officers. "We're looking for a woman. Brunette, 5'6"… she was wearing jeans and a yellow shirt with a thin black jacket. Have you seen anyone matching that description around here?" Kayla couldn't see Ariana from her position on the stairs, but she heard her next words quite clearly.

"Actually, yes, I saw someone who looked just like that an hour ago," Ariana said thoughtfully.

"Can you tell us where you saw her? What was she doing when you saw her?" asked the second officer.

"She was just walking right over there," said Ariana. "Then a silver car pulled up beside her and she got in and drove off that way."

"Do you remember the make of the car, miss?" asked the first officer. "Or the license plate?"

"No, I didn't pay much attention to the car," said Ariana. "The only reason I noticed the girl was because she was kinda cute. What did she do, if I can ask?"

"Selling illegal narcotics and evading arrest," said the first officer.

"Oh, well at least she isn't a murderer or something," said Ariana. "Still, if I can help you in any other way, I'll be here at the warehouse."

"Excellent," said the second officer. "We'll contact you if we have further questions,"

"Of course," Ariana replied. "Have a good evening." When the warehouse door banged closed, Kayla hurried down the stairs to find Ariana walking back toward her.

"You are brilliant," she exclaimed. She opened her arms and pulled the redhead into a tight hug. "Thank you!" Kayla suddenly felt a rather curious sensation course through her body as the redhead fell against her. It was shocking and strange and she wasn't sure what had caused it.

"How… how did you come up with that story so fast?" asked Kayla, releasing Ariana rather more quickly than she wanted to. "I would've just said I hadn't seen anything."

"If I had said that, they would probably have asked to search the warehouse," said Ariana plainly. "I could've refused, of course, but then they could've come back with a search warrant… plus, it makes me look like I've got something to hide. This way, they're going to be looking at every silver car in the city that could've picked you up instead of nosing around the warehouse. It'll be a while before they come back, if they even come back at all."

It struck Kayla at that moment that Ariana wasn't stupid or slow or anything else like it. She was actually pretty smart, if somewhat strange.

"Like I said, brilliant," said Kayla. "That's twice you've saved my life in the space of a few hours. You keep this up and I'll start feeling like I owe you something."

"Just a life debt," said Ariana playfully. "But I promise your life of servitude will be simple."

"Oh, yeah?" said Kayla, following Ariana back up the stairs. "What am I going to have to do?"

"You'll be Fluffers' handmaiden," said Ariana proudly. "You'll have to feed him, bathe him… oh, and you'll have to fan him with one of those giant leaf fans."

"I've had worse jobs," Kayla deadpanned. Ariana stopped at a control panel by the apartment door and dimmed the warehouse lights for the night. She still left them on fairly bright. Kayla went to the sofa bed and settled onto it. Ariana disappeared through the door marked 'Manager's Office' and came back a few minutes later wearing a long white t-shirt and a rather lacy pair of black panties. Kayla couldn't help but stare, her eyes drawn up the girl's long legs as Ariana tied her hair up in a messy knot behind her head.

"Need anything before bed?" Ariana asked. Kayla jerked out of her stupor rather violently. Ariana gazed knowingly at her.

"In another world?" she asked interestedly. "I do that sometimes. It helps… losing yourself in another world. When life gets hard, or you're really sad… just… go somewhere else."

"Yeah, it… It wasn't exactly like that," said Kayla quietly. Ariana just shrugged and then turned out the lights.

"Well, goodnight," she said gently.

"Yeah, goodnight," Kayla replied. She hesitated for a moment with a question that had been bugging her all evening. "Hey, Ariana?"

"Yeah?" Ariana asked, pausing in the doorway to the office.

"Why did you help me today?" Kayla asked. "I mean, I was running from the police…" Ariana stared at her for a moment and then shrugged.

"I don't know," she said at last. "I didn't want you to go to jail. You looked like a good person."

"I was running from two cops," said Kayla dryly.

"Doesn't matter," said Ariana matter-of-factly. "It was my first thought when I saw you. I thought you were a good person. You didn't deserve to go to jail. I wanted to help."

"Well… thanks, Ariana." said Kayla, no less confused about Ariana's aid than she was before she asked. "Seriously, thanks for helping… and for the bed."

"You're welcome," the redhead replied. She turned around and disappeared into her bedroom. She turned off the overhead light, but left what must have been a lamp turned on. A soft orange glow illuminated the doorway.

Kayla lay awake for several hours. She just couldn't fall asleep, her mind was still too wired but she really needed to sleep. She had to get back on the road tomorrow, after all. She couldn't risk trying to earn more money in Detroit now, legally or otherwise. She wasn't sure where she would head next, although she was leaning toward New York City. It would be easy to disappear into the crowds there.

As strange as it was, having only known her for a few hours, she knew she was really going to miss Ariana. The bubbly, kooky redhead had brought laughter back into her life for the first time in months. For the first time since she'd lost Claire. And just as the tears started to come, the power went out and the entire warehouse was plunged into darkness. She was sure that Ariana had been asleep, but if she was she woke up immediately. She started screaming at the top of her lungs. She ran out of her bedroom, clutching a flashlight and tore under Kayla's blanket. She latched on to the brunette, crying hysterically and trembling violently.

"Hey, hey, Ariana, calm down," said Kayla, trying to reassure the girl. "Shh, it's okay sweetie." She wrapped her arms around the redhead and held her close.

"The… the lights… it's dark," Ariana whimpered.

"I know, but it'll be okay," Kayla replied, gently stroking the other girl's hair. "It'll be okay. You're fine. Don't worry; it was probably just a fuse. Hey, maybe we can fix it. I'm pretty handy. Do you know where the fuse box is?" She did not and Kayla suspected as much. Someone so innocent and clearly not technologically inclined as Ariana likely wouldn't know what a fuse box was, much less where it could be found.

"Alright, well it's got to be down on the warehouse floor somewhere because it's not up here or in the library." said Kayla. "If I can borrow your flashlight, I'll go and see what I can do."

Ariana refused to be left alone in the darkness without her light, so together the girls descended the stairs to the warehouse floor. The cone of light from the flashlight, which happened to be a pretty heavy-duty one, only illuminated a short distance in front of them in the complete blackness of the warehouse. Even Kayla had to admit that the black void stretching out in front of them was very creepy.

Keeping a firm grip on Ariana's hand, Kayla moved along the wall of the warehouse for a few minutes until they finally came across a long row of fuse boxes. It took a while for Kayla to find which one was responsible for the outage, but she did. Unfortunately, there were no spares.

"Well, I've found the problem," said Kayla. "But there aren't any spare fuses." Ariana, who had been whimpering frightfully the entire time, began to cry in earnest again. From the light from the flashlight, Kayla could see the fear in the redhead's eyes. It wasn't a normal fear, a rational fear. This poor girl was terrified beyond reason, beyond understanding. Ariana was trapped in her own version of Hell.

"There's got to be a storage room around here somewhere," said Kayla softly. "Maybe we can find something there."

"There... there's a room with boxes over there," said Ariana, pointing to an area of inky blackness further down the warehouse. Kayla shined the flashlight in that direction and set off, still gripping Ariana's small hand. They found the store room without difficulty and within a few minutes of searching the rows of shelves and boxes, Kayla had what she was looking for.

They returned to the fuse panel and Kayla worked her magic. A few minutes later she was finished and the warehouse lights flickered to life. Ariana let out a gasp and pulled Kayla into a hug.

"Thank you," she exclaimed, planting a kiss on the brunette's cheek. "Oh, thank you, Kayla!"

"Hey, don't worry about it, kiddo," she replied, blushing slightly. Ariana's lips had certainly been warm. "After today, I still owe you one. C'mon, let's get back upstairs." The girls returned to the apartment arm-in-arm and Kayla followed Ariana into her room.

"I'm staying with you tonight," Kayla said firmly. "You look like you could use some company." Ariana nodded and slipped into bed. Kayla fell into bed as well and Ariana immediately cuddled up beside her.

"Oh no!" she exclaimed suddenly. "This... this could happen again, couldn't it? I couldn't have fixed it... I couldn't have gone down there alone! If it happens again, you won't be here and I'll... I'll... I'll be all alone in the dark."

"Ari, why are you so afraid of the dark?" Kayla asked, wrapping her arm around the redhead and gently stroking her back. Ariana's reply came in a voice so emotionless that it sent a chill up Kayla's spine. She would remember those six simple words for the rest of her life.

"Bad things happen in the dark."

It was a simple answer, but to Kayla it spoke volumes. No one was that terrified of the dark. Something had happened to Ariana, or she had seen something so terrible in the darkness and it had made her fear the dark this way. Whatever had taken place that had instilled this level of terror in the redhead, Kayla sincerely hoped she never had to experience it.

"I could stay here," Kayla said quietly after a couple of minutes. Say what?! Wait just a minute. No, no, no! Stay here? In a musty old warehouse in Detroit?! Where did that thought even come from? And more to the point, why would she suggest it out loud? But in the infinitely long second before Ariana responded, the idea of it took hold in Kayla and she seriously considered it.

"Would you?" Ariana asked, her eyes shining with happiness. "Really? You'd stay here with me?" Well, there was nothing else for it now. She had made the offer and she couldn't take it back and break the little redhead's heart. And to tell the truth, she wasn't sure she even wanted to take it back.

"Sure, kiddo," she said firmly. "In fact, I'd love to stay."

"Yay!" Ariana exclaimed happily. She hugged Kayla and snuggled closer. Very soon, she was fast asleep. Kayla sighed and closed her eyes. She wasn't sure what came next. She wasn't sure how to live and not be on the run any more. She wasn't sure what came next and not knowing what the future held scared her. Regardless, she figured she could give it a try. No one would look for her here, after all. Whatever happened, it was sure to be a long ride… with this little redheaded girl and her warehouse.