Being back in the clear, blinding, hot light of day was almost unsettling. The Upper Level was crawling and rushing with thousands of suited men and women alike. I would never get used to this. I hoped I wouldn't. Mason led me towards the heart of the city. Think of it as a jungle. We were deep in the Upper Level and the buildings became fewer as we dotted through huge, iron gates. After the gates, all I could see for miles was lands of green. A whole lot of it. It was decorated with tall pines here and there. They gave off a smell that filled my nostrils in a delightful way. Poppies grew randomly, giving the scene a natural look. An engine reeved behind us. I recognized Loon as she drove besides us in an old, black BMW.
"Hey, lovelies!" She called out, waving a hand out of the car window.
"Get out." Mason commanded and Loon slipped out cheerfully.
"What? I thought you guys might want to drive instead of walking all that way up." She said shrugging.
We all got in the car. Mason drove and Loon called shotgun, which left me riding in the backseat. I didn't mind. Really, I just wanted to get this over with. No doubt Benny and rest knew where I was by now. People talk in the Lower Level. Mason and I heading up to Level One caused quite the fuzz now doubt. I wouldn’t put it past Hobs to have been spying on me either. Hobs is like Benny’s son. He’d do anything for Benny, and probably without questioning. It’s sweet in a way, but right this second it made my stomach turn. It’s been doing that a lot lately. All I feel is this sickness and it won’t go away.
“Would you shut up."
It wasn’t so much of a question as it was a command. It came from Mason, who was gripping the steering wheel so hard that the leather of his fingerless gloves struggled. Loon, on the other hand, laughed it up. I had no idea what they had been talking about to have made Maosn snap. I did know it was Loon's fault and she was till giggling in her seat. Her bouncy locks flew in the space around her when she twisted in her seat. Her head poked from the side of her seat and she took a good look at me.
“Warning.” She began. “They are all like this, so brace yourself. Though, if you have tolerated Mason for more than twenty-four hours then you can make it with the worst of ‘em. Mason is, without a doubt, the worst out of the lot.”
“I’m right here.” His voice was slightly gloomy, maybe even a little threatening. But, looking at Mason now, following with Loon’s jokes, it kind of made me rethink about telling him everything.
“Right. Here we are. Put on your best game face, Jinxy. We have a family to wow.” Loon added jazz hands on the last word and was out of her seat.
“Huh?” The car door opened wide and I was pulled out. I stumbled before Loon helped me straighten up. I looked ahead and my feet threatened to fall off balance.
It was huge. The Dusk estate was big enough to fit the whole city, or most of it. It was at least six stories up, from what I could gather. Pillars decorated the front, marble and solidly posted from floor to roof. There was one on each end of the estate and then two more on either side of the double doors. It was like a temple from greek methology. The walls were of cream color and the entrance doors were of a dark, oak wood. Wide, marble stairs led up to those doors, and I felt Loon pull me towards them. I didn’t want to go. I was afraid that once I stepped foot in the estate I wasn’t going to come back out. Mason followed closed behind us and I looked back with a wary face. He nodded in reassurance, which didn’t do much to calm my nerves, but still I nodded in response.
“Honey! I’m home!” Loon announced after pushing the doors open. Her voice echoed.
If I thought it looked fancy outside, well, it was impressive on the inside. Everything was pure white. White floors, walls, couches… I actually turned towards the door,but Mason clasped his hand with mine and turned me right around. He whistled. I swear it felt like a rumble. Steps, many steps were heard and I saw multiple figures sprinting and leaping down a stair case bigger than the one outside and some coming from the next room. First I saw Robin and the rest followed.
Robin Dusk was even more irritating to look at in person. He stepped up with his chin high and folded his arms over his chest.
"What is this, Mason?"Robin looked bored, a lookI earned after he glanced at me for five seconds. Myabe it was less.
Something in me clicked. He wasn’t any taller than Mason. In fact? Mason dwarfed him, but Robin still had that look on his face that assures he could take on anything. His skin was dark, his eyes an icy blue. He was dressed in a simple shirt of red color and black jeans with matching boots. His hair was gelled up in spikes and every muscle in his body indicated how much he worked out. That click came again. I realized how much I didn't like him. Even though I could see what girls drooled over, he was still a snob in my eyes.
"We may have a problem." Mason announced. "Could we talk?"
"Very well. Let's go to my study."
Mason nodded before looking over at me. He let go of my hand and searched around with his eyes. "Loon, keep an eye on Jinx."
Loon sprang up behind me and hooked her arm with mine, tugging me away. "Got it! I know just the distraction."
Dear goodness I had never seen so much fluff in my whole life. Fluffy pillows, fluffy bed, fluffy clothes, fluffy furniture. Loon's room was a Barbie doll's dream playhouse. Oh yeah. I know what a Barbie is. Anyway, I was afraid to be engulfed by the bed. Loon pushed me to sit on it and I felt it sink beneath me.
"Do you actually sleep on this?" I asked her.
"Of course. Isn't it heaven?"
"That's not exactly how I'd put it. Why am I here anyway?"
"We need to find you a dress for the Annual Ball."
"No. I mean why am I here? In the Dusk Estate?"
"Oh! Well Mason want's to protect you. Reason? I have no idea. He might have a thing for you. The boy easily falls for a pretty girl... Oops... I shouldn't have said that. Anyway, he also wants to know all that there is to know about those mothers of yours. You see, the Dusks are cautious people. If one thinks there is a threat to the city then they seek it out and eliminate it. Once Mason mentions your mothers Robin and the rest will drag you along for interrogation. They will stop at nothing until you feel that the city is safe."
I found that hard to believe. What Loon must have meant is that they will stop at nothing until the Upper Levels are safe. Be damned the Lower Level and the Underground.
"How would they eliminate the Kovra sisters?"
Loon turned to me. "So that's how they are called?" She kept searching in her closet, tossing out clothes left and right. She shrugged. "Oh you know. Resources and such. They have their ways. Unless things get real bad. Then they get involved themselves."
"And if that were to happen? If they have to get involved, what then?"
Loon laughed and came over with a couple of dresses in hand. "Don't worry so much, Jinx. They'll take care of it. Now shush and try these on."
She shoved the dresses at me and hurried out of the room. Once I was alone I placed the clothes on the bed and began to pace back and forth. This was going to be a lot harder.
I tried dress after dress until Loon Squealed to have the perfect one. She viciously yanked out a huge trunk from way in the back of her closet. She opened it eagerly and pulled out a blue dress with a long V-neck and a fitted waist. It flowed down, probably reaching my knees. It was rather plain expect for that strange, dark blue of it. I loved it. Without her even asking I went for it. I started undressing and Loon twirled to look away. "Woah, girl! I know it's gorgeous and all but don't strip in front of me."
She laughed and I assured her it was ok to look. Her jaw dropped.
"Wow... You look super... fantastic! Beautiful! OMG, Jinx! Mason is going to love you!" She was beaming and I couldn't help but get infected by her happiness. I felt excited and eager to appear in the dress. Admittedly, I couldn't wait to know what Mason thought either. Try not to judge. I haven't had a decent guy interested in me in like... ever. Hobs didn't count considering he was the scum of the earth. But Mason? I shook it out of my head. He was out of the question.
"Now take it off. My sweet brother has summoned you." She said while flashing her phone at my face.
On our way Loon kept chatting me up. I blocked her after the first three sentences. I mean really. Did these people ever let her talk? Seems unlikely by the way she keeps going on and on.
"You're on your own."
Loon knocked on a door and left. My eyes followed her in confusion, then the door opened. Mason was in the other side, waiting for me to pass. With his eyes, he urged me to come in and I stood paralyzed. I had no idea what was going to happen now and a part of me considered running. How far would I get? At most? Down the hall. Maybe not even that. I sucked it up and walked past Mason into the dark room. It was packed with books on every wall. A desk stood only a few feet from a wall, a pair of armchairs in front of it. Robin sat behind the desk, eyeing me curiously. I held back every impulse to sneer at him. It wouldn't do me any good.
"Sit down, Jinx." He spoke with such authority.
A hand pressed to my back gently and I looked back at Mason. He gave me a small nod and an assuring glance. I let him guide me towards one of the armchairs and sat down. He took the one next to mine and crossed his legs at the ankle. Both Robin and Mason sat in a lazy manner while I felt my back straighten and stiffen.
"Are you afraid, Jinx?" Robin asked in a tantalizing tone.
"Not of you, if that's what you're asking." It came out horse but I'm pretty sure he knew that I was telling the truth.
"Is that so? What are you afraid of then?"
"What is this? A retake? Mason should have told you already. The Kovras are powerful and dangerous. You two are here playing interrogators and they are out there hunting me down. Let me go already. There is nothing more to tell. They are my problem and as soon as I am gone so will they."
"No. You see, you brought them here. That makes them our problem now. If they are a threat to the city-"
"They are no threat to anyone except me. All they want is me. How thick headed are you?"
"Jinx!" Mason didn't shout. He just sounded alarmed. I looked at him and both of us turned to Robin who raised an eyebrow. What? Is that their thing or something? Raising eyebrows?
"It's fine, Mason. My brother is keen on protecting you. God only knows why? I mean look at you."
"What? What about me? That I'm from the Lower Level? That I'm not a pompous ritchy like you and the rest of your family?"
Mason shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was obvious I was pushing it and soon I'd push right off the cliff. I couldn't stop though. I was furious and this guy made my blood boil like it never has before.
"No. You're rude. But, you're tough too." Robin cleared his throat and turned to Mason. "I don't get it. Why?"
Mason stood and grabbed my arm.
"Is that all? Are you amused?"
"Not nearly." Robin answered before settling back on his seat. "You may go."
Mason pulled me up and ushered me out of the room, closing the door behind us. He didn't stop. He kept walking down the hall and past Loon's room. I heard her ask what had happened, but Mason ignored her and led me out the front door. Soon enough we were in his car and on our way to the Lower Level. When we arrive to the large, staircase buildings, we got out of the car and left it at the parking lot just south of the tallest building. We rode the long elevator ride together in utter silence. Even after we had arrived to the last floor we walked through the streets without saying a word.
The old manor was run down and lonely looking. I didn't ask him if he wanted to come in because he followed me in anyway.
"What was that about?"
"What?" He looked like he had just snapped out of deep thoughts.
"What was all that with Robin?"
"Mason. What the hell was it?'
"Drop it, Jinx."
"It was about me. So cough it up."
"He was curious about you."
"I told him."
"Told him what?"
Silence. I understood though. "I'm a humanoid. You told him I'm a humanoid."
He nodded. "He thinks that it couldn't be possible for you to feel. He thinks that you were too perfectly made to be attractive or appealing to a man. It's irrelevant to the Kovra situation but still he took the time to point that out. His play will get him killed one day."
"And you?" I asked.
"What about me?"
"What do you think of me?" I asked, not noticing the softness of my voice.
He was silent again. He looked at me with those fiery eyes and they burnt through me. His lips parted just the slightest, as if he was going to say something. Instead, he disappeared out the front door. I was alone.