“I-…” The words were caught in my throat. Was I willing to lie? Wasn’t I in enough trouble already? The huge lump in my throat wouldn’t sooth down and Mason stood in front of me with his arms folded over his chest. He waited for an answer and I tried again. “I-…” Futile.
“You, you. You what, Jinx? Mind completing a sentence sometime today?” Rage. It was all I could feel radiating from Mason, that and disappointment. The guilt was eating at me and I cursed the day I set foot in this city. Why not tell him? He already, in a way, knew. Also, what was the point of hidding anything now? Benny and Hobs are gone, and the rest are dead...
I wanted to say something, but the whole manor rattled. It felt like an earthquake, but the better sense of my brain told me this was anything but a natural occurrence. Mason wrapped his arms around me and yanked me off the bed and across the room. We stood in the door frame while it passed. He pressed me against one end and he stood across me with his hands holding me firmly to the ground. The rattling subsided and everything became a blur.
“We’re leaving.” We were out the door faster than I could form a sentence. Mason threw my bag, which I hadn’t noticed he grabbed, in the trunk then shoved me in the passenger seat. He was speeding out the graveyard when I looked back at the manor, still and dark. I couldn't make out anything, mostly becuase we were half way out and on the streets. I knew there was another way up and down the levels besides the stair tunnel and elevator. I took it once with Benny when he first showed me around. It was mostly a training so I'd know where I needed to go to run his errans. The road that leads up the levels was like stair cases that went up in zig zags. Mason was speeding and I feared we'd go spiraling.
To get past Level One there was an impenetrable gate blocking our way. As Mason got closer, the gates opened for him and shut as soon as he drove through. We were heading towards the Upper Level. With each gate we past, the more guarded they were.
“You know that was-” I began. We've been driving for a while, nearly reaching the last gate to the Upper Level and only now could I form words in my mouth and sound them out.
“I know.” He stepped on the gas.
“Shut up! They will do nothing to you. Don’t you get it already? I won’t let them touch you.”
“Why? Why do you care? You barely know me.”
“Shut up, Jinx.”
“No! Answer me!”
“You need to shut up before…”
“Before what? Why are you protecting me?!”
“Because those are my orders! Robin wants me to keep you alive. Damn it! He wants to know how you came to be. I warned him he couldn’t harm you, so he settled for interrogating you. He wants to know how he can capture your creators and find your blueprints.”
“So this had nothing to do with how you feel?” I blurted it out. I had no idea what I was asking until it was too late. Mason looked at me from the corner of his eye. It was a look that said he thought I was going crazy. I sat back on my sit and looked away. Stupid. He’s a normal person and I’m just some freakish creation to investigate. What man could ever like me? Hobs. I told myself but Hobs was… Not human. Made sense. I sighed, earning another look from Mason. He might have looked guilty but I couldn’t be bothered to care. “When Robin gets what he wants you will let me go. I was willing to spy and you were keeping me as a lab rat. We're even."
“You are not a lab rat.”
“Sure. I’ve heard that before from the very women that made me.”
Silence. We arrived at the estate and it seemed a lot darker, ominous even, than I remember. Now that I know the Dusk’s motives, this place looks like a cage rather than a place to keep me safe. Mason was coming around to open the door for me but I kicked it open before he could grab the handle. I stepped out and disregarded the hand he held out for me to grab. I was going straight for the front doors. They opened. A bouncy, blonde figure hurried out and wrapped her arms around me.
“Jinx! I saw you guys coming up the hill and I just had to come greet you.” Loon was as cheerful as ever. I wrenched her arms from around me and kept walking into the estate with a straight face. I wasn’t in the mood for games. From afar I heard Loon talking to Mason.
“What did you do?” Loon hissed. There was no reply.
Robin was the second of them I saw. He met me half way into the large living room. His smirk streched across his lips and a satisfied look took over the icy blue eyes.
“I’m here. Get on with the questions so I can get going. Want to know how to make a ‘thing’ like me? Want the blueprints? Here you go, bastard.” Mason had braught my bag in and I tore it from his hands. I unzipped it and took out a file of old documents and a number of blueprints I manage to steal before escaping. I tossed them on the table beside Robin and strapped the bag across my torso. “I’ll be going now.”
I was so dead set on getting the hell out of here that I hadn't noticed the blonde, tall guy that moved in to blocked my way. My mind juggled, trying to remember if I had seen him before. I might have. Possibly in the patrols the Dusk make in the Lower Level, or from the last time I was here. Either way I couldn't identify his face. He wasn't the kind of guy you would notice straight away, unless he wanted you to. It was clear in his face. He was more of a shadow, lurking. His face was twisted in a look of disapproval, which I didn't quite get. I nearly ran right into him though, if not for Mason holding me back.
“It seems my little sister…” he pointed at Loon. “Wants you to join us at the Annual Ball next week. Won’t you stay for a little longer? I do have some questions I need to ask.”
“Do I have a choice?” I asked, looking back at him. He gave a grin in response and left the room with the files in his hands.
Loon slowly approached me and she seemed well out of the loop. I wondered if she even had the slightest clue of what was going on, but by the look in her eyes I guessed she was as innocent as a bunny. Her fingers wrapped around my wrist and pulled me up the stairs where Mason was coming down from. As we passed right by each other he slipped me a piece of paper and I crushed it in a fist.
I was forced to sit down on Loons bed, making me have that déjà vu moment. I felt nice to be surrounded by all the fluff once more.
“So what is the deal with your brother?” I asked.
“Mason? He’s grouchy, but sweet when you get to know him. He’s just been through a lot. He doesn’t like letting people in so easy. There seems to be plenty of interest in you though. I’d vote you as a better choice for sure.” She meddled in her closet, fiddling her fingers through every piece of clothing she had.
“Choice?” I pressed.
“You didn’t know? He has a girlfriend. They barely see each other though. They have this “just enough space” thing going on. I find it stupid. Aren’t you supposed to want to be with your partner?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been with anyone.” I tried to hide how disappointed I really felt about this new piece of information. It’s not like I was rushing to make a move on the guy, but knowing he had a girlfriend kind of bummed my day. I hated his guts at the moment, but he;s kept me safe. It make me question those little moments we’ve had though. Like when he indirectly called me pretty, or when he tied my hair back. I had mixed feelings about Mason and it’s all his fault. He took an interest and that caught my own attention. Damn, damn, damn.
Loon gasped, twisting around in an unhuman way. Her hands gripped mine and she shook her head wildly. “What?! You’re kidding right?!”
“Uhh no. I’m not. Why did you say he’d love me in the dress then? Back on the first time I was here?”
She frowned, her face dropping a little. “I was hoping he’d go after someone else, meaning you, if you guys had like this magical moment in the ball. Call me stupid but I’ve been playing cupid around Mason for almost a year now. He insist the girl he is with now is fine but the guy is unhappy. I’m his sister, Jinx. All I want is my big bro to be happy. I thought you could do that. I’ve been talking his ear for a while now about you.” She confessed.
“Oh come on. Why not? You must have some interest in him? Right?”
“I, I, maybe. He’s just so overprotective. He hasn't even given me the chance to know him, or rather I haven't given him the chance. It's complicated. He always gets unedr my skin”
“That’s typical Mason. Truth is, at first he only talked to you because Robin ordered him. None of the Dusk had ever seen you in the Lower Level and it is their job to keep a close eye on everything. But now? I get the feeling Maso-“
The door to Loon’s room burst open and a flaming red head stormed in, her high heels attacking the floor with their ruthless clicking. For a second I was ready to scream my lungs out loud enough for Mason or someone to hear me. When I took a good look, her body was shaped like a perfect guitar, to the point which I thought I could pull her strings and actual music would come from her. The thought was rather dirty and I found myself shuddering until I heard the red head speak.
“I can’t find my hair pins! If Darius took them for one of his stupid experiments again so help me Darza I will-“
“Keep your hair on, woman. I got extra pins in the drawer.” Loon said.
“That’s not the point. That boy needs to keep out of my room or one of these days he will be in for a surprise.”
“What will you do, Armani?”
Armani. I blew out the breath I was holding and gently sighed, looking the red head over with draining eyes.
“I’ll do his best friend. I swear I will.” She said, a threatening tone taking over her voice.
“He’d probably walk by, get what he needs and get out without giving you a second look.”
“Oh, fuck you, Loon. Do you just have to be right?”
The conversation came to a halt when the red head, Armani, saw me. She frowned and took a good look from top to bottom. I felt like she was inspecting me for major flaws, something she can point out later. Her tone changed when she addressed me and I felt like pulling at her perfect waves of scarlet. She was snobby and rude. All things I deducted by simply looking at the way she carried herself through the door.
“And who the hell are you?” She questioned.
“Pleasure to meet you too, Armani. I’m Jinx.” Sarcasm. Damn sarcasm. I couldn’t help it. I know it will get me killed some day. This time though, it seemed to be a brilliant idea.
“I like her.” Armani nodded my way and grabbed a few pins from Loon’s drawer before heading out.
“Way to make a first impression, champ.” Loon pat my back and asked me to turn around. When I did I saw the same blue dress I tried on last time I was here. She held it like a trophy and I could very well understand why. It was the same dress but slightly altered. It had black, delicate lace covering the dark blue of the original fabric and a ribbon waist belt of the same color of the dress. It was tied into a bow at the back. Also, she widened the V at the back and I think that if I put the dress on now the end of the V would reach half way down my back. It was way more beautiful than it was before and Loon noticed how much a loved it.
“I knew it. I knew you would like it. It’s all yours. You’ll ware it for the ball. I even had it fixed to fit your form. I hope I got the measures right. I only had my imagination to pull out the right measurements but I think I did pretty darn good.”
I tried it on and it fit perfectly except for the little flaps under my arms. Loon stuck a needle to secure where she needed to fix. I gave the dress to her and she sat down on a table I hadn’t noticed before. It had a sewing machine and a bunch of leftover fabric or all colors.
“Wait. You did this? You made the dress?”
Loon laughed heartedly. “I didn’t make the dress, but I did lace it up and fit it for you.”
“You amaze me.” I smiled at her. I smiled… A real smile. It scared me how easily she was getting to me.
“Well we shorties must stick together. I got your back, if only to set you up with Mason. He will love you.” She turned to me, her eyes bugging out and her hands clasping with each other in a tight grip. “Even if it kills me!” She went back to the dress and added in a small tone. “Which it might.”
“I’ve been playing match maker for too long. Mason has developed a defense mechanism.”
“He gives me Skittles.” She answered with a shrug.
"What's that?" I rose an eyebrow in question. When she saw me all her energies escaped at the same, damn time.