Stellan frowned as they strolled down into the gardens. “Jeff?”
“You know, tall dude, black suit, sunglasses,” she replied wryly.
Stellan snorted at her joke – all the goons looked the same. He gripped her arm, pulling through the center of the gardens rather than taking a left to the outskirts. That would mean passing the hedge that hid the steps down to the basement where Ryan kept his victims. Just the thought of it made Eden’s stomach clench and Stellan must have felt her tense beneath his hand because he shot her a worried glance. Eden shrugged gently out of his hold and kept walking.
He was quiet a moment as they wound their way through the carefully designed gardens her mother employed an overly expensive gardener to upkeep. Finally they made it out into the acres of green estate behind them that eventually seeped into woodland, some of which her father owned. Lights lit up the entire estate, making the place look more magical than terrifying. She guessed what people said was right - looks could be deceiving.
They walked towards it, moving further from the house, just two dots on the landscape. “You know maybe you and I could just leave?”
Eden’s heart stumbled at the thought and then increased in beat. God, all she wanted was to get out of there. “Yeah?” she asked hopefully.
“Yup. After what Dad said about Teagan, about… giving you to him… well… I started to think about it, you know.”
Eden frowned. “How could we? What would we do? Where would we go?”
“Well, I have access to my trust. Maybe I could start siphoning a little out each month into a bank account Dad can’t trace.”
“You could do that?”
She grinned, a contentment spreading through her at the thought. “So where would we go?”
Catching her mood, Stellan grinned down at her, a goofy, happy smile, his eyes brimming with affection. “Where would you want to go?”
He laughed. “Maybe somewhere a little less conspicuous.”
“OK smartass, where would you want to go?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Ireland could work. I do like the idea of being on a completely different continent from our twisted family.”
“Dublin. The pubs look good.”
Rolling her eyes, Eden sighed. “Beer, Stellan? Really, you’re basing your choice on beer?”
“It’s called Lager or ale over there.”
“One: I think they also call it beer, Mr. Know-it-all. Two: Despite the reason behind the choice, I like it. I think Ireland would like us.”
He snorted. “Sure.”
“So… what would we do there? No wait… I know what you’d do.” They grinned at each and then said in unison, “Bartender.”
They burst out laughing, the sound seeming alien to the Winslow estate. Finally Eden shook her head. “OK, OK, what would I do?”
“Insult the locals?”
“Even funnier. Anyway, I think the Irish have that one down pat.”
He shrugged, still grinning. “Well, I don’t know then. You can do anything you want.”
“Maybe I could be like a tourist guide or something.” She shrugged.
“You’re kidding right? That would actually mean interacting with people.”
“Hmm… strike that off the list then.”
“What about a mime? You can get paid to ignore people.”
She punched his arm.
Stellan laughed, rubbing the spot where she’d hit him. “What? I thought that was a good one.”
Smirking Eden turned her eyes towards the approaching woods, trying to search the shadows between the black trunks and leaves for the answer. After a few moments of silence Stellan spoke again, “You know you could be a photographer. Remember when you wanted to do that?”
Eden did remember. Two years ago she’d decided after her art teacher did a class on the photographer James Porto that that was what Eden was going to do with her life. Celine and Ryan had bought her a camera and everything… but the passion for it fizzled out when she realized she didn’t find anything beautiful about her life in Salton. But in Ireland? God that would be amazing.
“I could open a gallery.” She nodded.
“And I could serve beer at it.”
They chuckled at that, laughter that was cut off when Stellan’s cell rang. His smile slipped as he pulled the cell out and saw the caller ID. “Mom?” he answered. After a few seconds of talk he clicked the call end button and sighed. “We’ve to get back in the house.”
“Donmes qt you mean the prison?”
With twin sighs they turned around and started heading back to the house, the contentment they’d shared as they dreamed of running away to Ireland dying into something cold and hopeless.
They could never run away.
They knew that.
Ryan would find them wherever they ran.
As they stopped at the bottom of the stone steps that led back up onto the balcony and into the sitting room, Stellan smiled sadly down at her. “You might not have Ireland, Paradise… but you’ve always got me.”
And thank god for that, Eden thought, smiling back up at her big brother…
She blinked, coming back to the present, a deep ache gnawing in her chest. It took her a moment to realize Jack was standing in the doorway of her room, his dark blue eyes narrowed on her. “Hey,” she croaked, pulling herself up from the floor near her bed.
“You OK?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder before stepping further into the room. “I heard about…”
His eyebrows drew together. “Anything I can do?”
All I really want is to get out of here. Eden crossed her arms over her chest, her own eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “You deal with the schedule right? The patrol schedule?”
Jack nodded, mirroring her stance. “Yeah?”
“You think you could change it tonight? Put me on it?”
“Alone?” he grunted, shaking his head. “No way.”
“Come on, Jack,” she snapped. “I need to get out of here.”
“Yeah and I need this job. Cyrus would kill me if I let you patrol alone.”
“I’ll go with her,” a flat, accented voice offered and Jack stepped aside to reveal Cameron standing in the doorway. He nodded, his eyes almost dead. “I can go with Eden on patrol.”
Jack’s eyes washed up and down Cameron. Finally he raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”
Eden didn’t know why Cameron was offering to patrol with her and honestly she didn’t care. Right now she could kiss his almost soulless cheek. “Come on. We’ll be fine.”