Luke woke her the next morning. He was dressed in a fresh black shirt and jeans. Kenra went into the bathroom, showered and dressed quickly—eager for the day she would meet her father.
When she came out, Luke handed her a steaming cup of coffee he made in the little hotel coffeepot. Two creams, one sugar… just the way she liked it. She wondered how he knew that but then realized if he’d been watching her for the last three years, surely he picked up on her morning rituals. She supposed most people would find it discomforting to know someone had been watching them, but she was relieved to know that she hadn’t been running from something dangerous the whole time. She was consoled by the fact that her father had cared enough about her to have her watched and protected. She was glad that it was Luke.
“Luke, why did he choose you? I mean to watch over me. That means that you were sixteen when you first started. How did you continue in school if you were watching over me?” she asked as they walked back to the car.
He stopped and turned to look at her. “Well, I’ll admit it was more difficult to keep track of you while I was in school, but we weren’t aware that anyone knew of your existence except for a few Protectors, and so it was more of just keeping track of your whereabouts than it was actually protecting you.”
He grinned in amusement and her heart skipped a beat. She was shocked at her response to him. The closeness of the hotel room had made her more aware of him as a man. She would have to be very careful. She didn’t really know him—who or what he was—and she couldn’t afford to have feelings for someone right now. There seemed to be too much at stake.
“I think your father chose me because he trusts me. You are his most important treasure. You are his legacy.” His smile warmed her inside. “Since he had practically raised me, I guess he knew I’d be loyal to him and to you. The first couple years I would find you on weekends and make sure everything was good. If you were running, I’d sometimes miss a few days of classes to make sure we didn’t lose sight of you, but normally we could control that too.”
Kenra laughed. “You’re right! I remember it always seemed like we were driving to the next place with church bells tolling in the background. It didn’t strike me as strange at the time, but I’m surprised Mother never caught on to that!”
He chuckled. “Well, I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of when she was leaving so much as where she was going.” Kenra nodded in agreement. “In the last year though, we realized there were others who knew of your existence. They were looking for you. Anytime you showed up in a town where another super lived, we immediately made you leave. All they needed was for one person to tell them of your recent activity and it wouldn’t be long until they discovered how to locate you. It doesn’t happen often, but there are some who prefer to live among the humans.”
“So what gave me away?” she asked softly.
“Well, the last Protector betrayed your father and told some of the Insurgents, the people against your father, of your existence, but they couldn’t get a current location. You had been gone from the last place where he watched you for too long for them to pick up your trail. But when your mother died, you ran right back through that place. I’m not sure if you even knew that you had been there before but you crossed right into their path. Of course I made sure you were just passing through, but that’s all they needed to get a foothold.”
She cringed at the thought of making a mistake that could have cost her life if Luke hadn’t shown up when he had. He seemed to sense her feelings and put an arm around her, moving them both towards the car. “You would have escaped them had you not begun having second thoughts about running,” he said in a low voice. “You were much better at sensing the danger than your mother was. You ran from the last place two full days before they even arrived… and I didn’t do anything to prod you into it. And you ran to a well-protected place with no supers. You were doing well. Your instincts were good.”
She knew he was trying to comfort her. She wasn’t sure why he felt he needed to though. “Luke,” she smiled over at him. “I’m okay with all this… I may not understand much about what’s going on, but I will… and I’m not sorry that I don’t have to run anymore. I’m relieved. I’m glad you came.” Her voice trailed off and she lowered her eyes to hide her embarrassment. She wasn’t sure if he caught the last part of what she said, except that he squeezed her shoulder tightly.
Suddenly, she felt him become tense. She looked up following his gaze to three of the largest men she had ever seen who were leaning against his car. She was astonished to see the dark-skinned giant from Tara’s shop.
“We don’t want any trouble,” Luke asserted, pushing her behind him. She could hear anger in his voice. “Just move aside and let us go on our way.”
“I don’t think so, Protector,” said the giant, who seemed to be the leader of the group. The second man was blonde and nearly as big as the first. The third man had black hair, but he was much younger than the other two. A woman appeared from the side. “We just came for the girl. Once we have her we’ll leave you alone,” he taunted.
“You know that isn’t going to happen,” Luke said.
“You can’t possibly outrun us with the girl in tow,” the woman sneered at him.
“I don’t have to outrun you,” Luke challenged.
The woman stepped closer to him and the three men started circling Kenra and him. “We don’t want to hurt you, Luke… but we will if we have to.”
Luke was surprised that she knew his name, but he guessed they had been following Kenra and him since they left the little town. He surveyed his surroundings and starting walking to the right, towards the side of the motel, pulling Kenra behind him. The four adjusted their paths to his direction.
“There’s nowhere for you to run,” the woman grinned responded, her dark hair whipping around her face.
Luke smiled at her and raised his eyebrows in mocking disbelief. Kenra realized he was enjoying this. Before she knew what was happening, Luke was in front of the blonde man and punched him in the face, knocking him over backwards. The blonde guy stumbled back in surprise, tripping over something and falling to the ground with a thud. He hit his head against the pavement and blood began to pool around the gaping wound. Luke was back at Kenra’s side in a split second. She blinked at him in astonishment, unable to cope with what she had seen.
The woman growled in anger at Luke and the other two men rapidly closed in.
“Do not let the woman touch you,” Luke ground out instructions. He put her on the side nearest the younger guy. “They won’t kill you. Use that to your advantage. They are under orders to keep you alive.”
Kenra could feel the fear threatening to cripple her. She pushed it back, knowing it would not keep Luke or her alive. She had to help him, but she didn’t have a clue how to do that. She was no threat for these men physically. She didn’t see how Luke could possibly hold his own against the two huge men.
The dark-skinned man lunged at Luke. Luke moved so fast that Kenra didn’t even see him. Immediately he was behind the guy and punched him in the back. She could see the rage in the man’s eyes as he spun around.
The smaller guy was closing in on the fight between the two, but the woman was inching closer to her. Kenra looked around and spotted a broken bottle only a few steps away. She dived for it, picked it up and spun to use it against the woman.
The woman smiled at her and the broken glass. “We’re not going to hurt you, Kenra,” she crooned. “You don’t know what is going to happen if you go to your father. We’re on your side.”
“Then why are you trying to kill Luke?” Kenra screamed at her. Her eyes went to Luke, but he was in the middle of slugging the smaller guy in the face.
“He doesn’t understand either. He doesn’t know,” the woman stepped closer. Her hands were out in front of her, as if she was trying to calm Kenra. “Your father is a dangerous man. Come on. Put the glass down. We’ll talk about it, okay?”
Kenra raised the glass and screamed at her, “Don’t come any closer!”
“Kenra, please…” The woman smiled that disarming smile yet again. Her green eyes seemed to peer into Kenra’s soul. “We’re not here to hurt you.”
Kenra looked to Luke. He seemed to be handling himself well, despite the fact that he was outnumbered. The smaller guy had a bloodied nose and the big one was holding his side, obviously in pain.
“Just leave us alone,” Kenra said. “Now! Just go! Tell your friends to stop fighting Luke now!” Kenra stepped towards the woman and she in return stepped back. “I’m not afraid of you. And unless you and your friends want to end up in body bags, I suggest you just get out of here.”
The woman looked unsure of herself. She glanced uneasily over to her friends and then back at Kenra. Kenra kept walking towards her and the woman kept moving backwards. Kenra was surprised to see fear register in her eyes.
“John! Troy!” the woman called. Both of them looked to her and saw she was afraid. They looked at Kenra who never took her gaze off the woman. Luke stood up straight and brushed his hands on his blue jeans. It was over now.
“We’ll be going now,” he said and strode over to Kenra, taking her by the shoulders and calmly leading her backwards toward the car. The three just stood in silence. Luke grinned triumphantly at them.
When they got to the car, Luke took the broken glass from Kenra’s hands, threw it down and helped her into the passenger seat. He settled into the driver’s seat beside her and peeled out of the parking lot. He could see the three in his rear-view mirror, still standing in the same spot, watching as they sped away.
Luke smiled to himself. Kenra had surprised the attackers. She was stronger than they had believed. He glanced at her sideways and knew she was stronger than he had believed. Luke realized the vulnerability she had shown him the day before wouldn’t be a handicap for her. He thought perhaps it made her stronger; she didn’t seem to like anyone making her choices for her. She shouldn’t have full access to her abilities yet, but that didn’t seem to hinder her.
They drove in silence, each lost in their own thoughts for a while, until Kenra couldn’t take it anymore.
“What are you?” she asked. “What am I? Why did they stop? The woman was afraid of me! Why?” Her voice was on the verge of panic.
“You scared them, Kenra,” Luke stated, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“How?” she asked in disbelief. “I was so afraid of them… that they were going to kill you and I’d be left alone again. Luke, what am I?”
He sighed, “Kenra, you are a Link. They were afraid because they had underestimated you. One of a Link’s gifts is the ability to control our people. In most cases, as long as you are firm, you just demand their attention, their respect, and they give it to you. It’s innate. Honestly, I didn’t think you’d be able to do that yet, but you were amazing! They only confronted us head-on because they thought that you, not knowing what was happening, would be afraid of them and wouldn’t have that kind of authority.”
Kenra still didn’t understand what she had done. Something else had taken over inside, pushing her fear away. But now that the danger had passed, she was trembling all over. Luke, sensing her trouble, grabbed her hand in support.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur of tree-filled landscape. They stopped once for lunch but kept driving, moving as quickly as possible towards their destination. As the hours ticked by, Kenra grew more anxious. It was getting close to the time when she would be reunited with a father she knew nothing about, except what she could piece together from her mother’s words, from Luke’s explanation of the Link and anything she dared to believe from the woman who had attacked them.
The green-eyed woman had seemed sincere. That’s what concerned her most. Luke had said she could tell whether people were lying or not and the woman didn’t seem to be lying. Kenra really didn’t have much to go on and she had so many questions, it seemed impossible to put them all into words.
“Luke?” she asked. “Do you trust my father?”
He looked at her strangely. “Why do you ask that?”
“Well, you told me I could tell if people were lying. The woman… She said my father is dangerous. She said that not even you know the truth of what is happening,” she explained.
“And you believe her?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “What I do know is that she believed every word she said.”
Luke thought for a moment and then responded. “Kenra, I think that you need to trust your instincts with people. They are much better than mine. Whether I trust your father or not doesn’t matter so much as what you think.”
“But I want to know what you think,” she encouraged.
“Well, I don’t trust that woman or those men… They attacked us. They would have taken you and left me for dead had they been able to. They are just pawns for a larger force and have been told things in order to get them to do as the Insurgents wish,” he said. “You don’t understand the bigger picture yet. They weren’t the ones we should be worried about. It’s whoever they are working for that we need to be concerned.”
“But what about my father? Do you trust him?” she urged.
“Yes, Kenra,” he said. “I may not always agree with his methods, but he’s never done anything to make me not trust him. After all, he sent me to watch over you.”
“Thank you,” she said. Maybe he was right that she should trust her instincts, but she didn’t want to. She was wary of her father but if Luke trusted him, shouldn’t she? The woman’s words only added to her feeling of dread of the meeting to come.
Kenra realized that she cared a lot about Luke. When those men had attacked him, she had been so scared that they would kill him. She had no concern for her own life—only his. It was seeing him fighting with those men that had caused the unknown fire to burn within her and come forth in a furious wave to demand that the woman and her friends back down. She didn’t know where that strength had come from, but she most certainly knew the motive behind it. She couldn’t lose him now that she had found him… or rather, now that he had found her.