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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2152984
Part 2 of many. (Part of it is different POV. Hope it's fun)

I woke up to high pitched, staccato laughter and the opening and closing of doors, but didn't bother to open my eyes. Luke was back and he had brought Amber with him. A very small and unreasonable part off my mind had a fantasy that he would actually realize what a bad idea it was to have a human, that he would probably break up with, involved with the supernatural world. Alas, my punishment for taking him on was to fix his mistakes and make sure this girl didn't get killed.

"Oh my goodness! I didn't know Lizzy had a cat!" I heard Amber's squeals and quick footsteps coming towards me. Hell no. I opened my eyes and in a flash, I had jumped off of the counter and retreated towards the living room, hoping for her to take the hint and leave me to my nap.

I watched confusion cloud her face as she couldn't imagine why and animal would run away from her. In a place where animals could be people. Really it wasn't that hard of a thing to grasp. Amber did not seem to take the hint, but continued to come towards me, more slowly this time. Where the hell was Luke and why was he not stopping this? I glanced out the windows that lined the back wall, and noticed that the sun had gone down. I had slept for a longer time than I thought.

"Here kitty," she simpered as walked over to the edge of the kitchen where I sat with my ears pulled back in annoyance. My claws itched to be raked down her cheek, but I knew better and I also pretty sure that Luke would heavily disapprove and probably be very angry.

"Come on baby I don't wanna hurt you," she reached her hands out for me, but was still about five feet away. I hissed once, in a last-ditch attempt to get her to stop. Luke hurried from the kitchen now, finally realizing what was happening.

"Babe, I don't think that you should pet her," he warned as she cooed. Damn right, I thought, but she just kept coming. A bit late, I realized that she wasn't going to give up. She was only two feet away when I shifted back to myself. I was kind of annoyed at myself for letting her too close, but the look on her face as she watched me change almost made me die laughing. Her eyes were widened in a mixture of fear and awe as I put myself back in my own skin.

When shifters first started to use their power, it was slow and honestly kind of horrific to watch. Those of us that were older however, made the change into a kind of art. I controlled the change, making myself grow in size, then stood up on my hind legs before they elongated and became human once more. The last thing to go was my fur, which slowly faded so as to keep the swirling pattern on my skin until the last moment.

"Call me kitty one more time," I warned her. Her face scrunched up in anger as my words dripped with contempt. Side effect of being of being a cat I guess, nothing angers them more than being woken up.

"How was I supposed to know? A lot of people have pets, it's not like I committed a crime or anything." She yelled and crossed her arms over her chest. She gave me her bitchiest glare and I returned it the best I could.

Amber didn't scream or run away, nor did she look freaked out enough for her to not have known about this ability prior to her arrival only contributing to the growing feeling of displeasure that her presence gave me. I stared past her to Luke, whose apologetic look did nothing to dampen neither my, nor Amber's animosity. I ignored him completely and focused on the problem I saw as soon as she had entered my home.

"What are you even doing here? Do you know why Luke chose to come here?" I asked. This seemed to throw her off guard a bit, making her expression slightly less severe. Ha I was now winning the bitch off.

"Ya of course I do. He said that he was going to help you 'clean out a vampire den', but I've never seen a vampire, so of course I have no idea what is actually happening." She pouted.

Good god, this was just a teenage jealousy thing wasn't it. I fought hard to keep a nasty look off of my face that would let her know how idiotic I found the whole situation. I knew teenagers were drama oriented, but I honestly hadn't dealt with them a lot in the past couple of years. I prepared myself to be understanding and to reassure her about Luke.

"So you believed that people could like turn into animals, but not vampires?" hmm, probably not the best thing to diffuse the argument. I was about to say something probably very profound to take some of the edge off my mistake, but we'll never actually know because Amber actually surprised me.

"Ya, it sounds kind of silly if you put it that way." Amber actually looked sort of embarrassed, "I just heard that he was doing something with his ex and I didn't really know what to expect. He told me that you were quite a bit older than him."

"Well, kind of an understatement, but very true," I told her, "And that is precisely the reason that we would never have worked out."

We studied each other for a few more minutes. She looked like she was trying to assess the truth of my statement and figure out if I actually meant it when I said that I didn't want Luke. I on the other hand, was taking this time to think about the mission to come. Amber had reminded me of what I had been too distracted to think about all day. (To my credit, I was a bit distracted.) Tomorrow, I would spend the day in the library a couple of blocks from the apartment building and rent one of the mostly sound proof rooms to research all that I could on the building that they resided in and the particulars of each murder. I was still kind of annoyed that the Moroi did not send guardians out to take care of the problem. I was pondering the possibility of being able to get into the building by pretending to be stragoi, when Luke spoke up for the first time, making me realize that they were still in the room.

"Hey Lizzy, it is getting pretty late. Amber and I are going to hit the hay for the night," he made almost sound like a question.

"Ya of course," I nodded distractedly, my mind still on different strategies for the task ahead, "I think I'm going to head out to the library tomorrow."

Luke sighed, but his face split as a grin lit his face. Usually, when I went out to do research, I sent him hundreds of links and blue prints of buildings that he had a hard time keeping up with, but we always managed to have a fun time thinking of the most ridiculous plans utilizing the most obscure parts of the information. Usually, I would return his grin, but today I felt drained and anxious. It could have been the after effects of my impromptu trip down memory lane or the nagging suspicion that Amber would want to join us in our little exploits, but I was only able to manage a twitch at the edge of my lips before going to my room. Before I started towards my bedroom I heard a screech coming from the direction that Luke and Amber had gone and rushed around and into the residential hallway. I barely held in a laugh as I saw Amber flat on the ground covering her head, while thirty barbed arrows now graced the wall behind her. Luke stood horrified next to her and I definitely understood his expression. By all accounts, she should have been dead. She had to have some seriously good reflexes to not have been pierced by the barbed heads of the arrows.

"I guess I should probably take down some of your 'security' tonight, shouldn't I?" Luke turned to me sheepishly.

"I did tell you that this apartment was not safe for humans Luke. I don't say things because I like the sound of my own voice." I scolded him, still laughing at Amber's prone position.

"That is highly debatable." Luke grumbled. We said good night again before I was finally able to retreat to my room again. I changed into a pair of leggings and a light jacket before heading out to the gym again. After the rush of emotion that my memories usually brought, there was no way I was going to risk sleep tonight. I knew that as soon as I closed my eyes, I would see Will's face, mocking and furious, as fresh and painful as the day I left.

Luke woke up to sunlight streaming through the window of his room. Amber was still sleeping, with her head burrowed into his chest, and fingers bunching the light grey material of his shirt. Luke loved waking up before Amber because it made her so happy to wake up to a kiss or a compliment on her natural beauty. Luke also loved the way she wriggled around like she was still trying to find a place on the bed that would give her just a couple of more minutes of sleep. Today though, he thought while Amber still slept. He thought about the epic karaoke battles they had gotten into on the way up to New York. Singing at the top of their lungs and with the windows down and hair flying everywhere. It probably wasn't the safest thing he'd ever done, but she had found a way to make the long drive exciting. Luke also thought about his close encounter the day before. He had been startled yesterday by Lizzy since the second he stepped through the door. The wild look in her eyes as she had opened the door had scared him, and made him think she needed someone to look after her, though made a mental note to never suggest such a thing to her. She would most likely slap him. He had also found it weird that she looked the same as when he left. Luke had gotten used to the way that humans changed as they aged, and had been struck that three years had gone by and her face was as young as he remembered and her obsession with working out had stayed intact as well. Luke had not kept up his training since he had been gone, and sorely needed to practice today. Not that he thought he would have the time. He knew that Lizzy would expect him to pore over everything she sent him and he was looking forward to their planning session when she came home.

A hand touched his face, bringing him out of his own head, and he smiled lovingly into Amber's beautiful citrine eyes.

"Good morning love," he told her before planting a kiss on her soft lips, "Do you know what you are going to do today?"

"I don't know," she answered teasingly, "am I going to explore the apartment?"

"Even better, I am going to treat you to a spa day." He told her happily. He had booked her a full day of treatments so that he could tackle all of the information coming his way, but as he looked down at her expression, he saw that she was not entirely happy with this decision.

"Baby, I thought we could spend the day together. Come on," she poked his stomach and moved her eyebrows up and down, "You gotta know Miss Crazy's got a few interesting things here."

Luke frowned uneasily. He did not like the nickname Amber had started calling Lizzy, but he could understand where it came from. None the less, he knew that he had the responsibility to be prepared for something that he had wanted to do. When he had called Lizzy about the mounting body count, she had told him that she would take care of it and that he could help if he wanted, but that she would not make him. Luke had told her that he would be happy to do it and that was true. He missed the excitement and challenge of their fights and plans to keep people safe from things that they didn't even know existed.

"I promise that we can spend the day together after I finish the job," he assured her, "Cross my heart Amber."

She wasn't totally content with that answer, but she agreed that he needed to focus so that he wouldn't get hurt later. Luke didn't bother to remind her that he would heal quickly and he couldn't really die. He just thanked her for understanding and gave her a schedule that listed her first appointment at 9:30, which was in half an hour. While Amber showered, Luke made his way out to the kitchen and walked up to the freezer where he found a note with the magnet centered perfectly that read:

"Out to the library, won't be gone for more than seven hours. Keep you little monster out of my stuff, and be productive. We both know that you need to shake off the rust. I am really happy that you wanted to help." Xo

- Lizzy

P.S. I bought some stuff for you and Amber to eat for breakfast last night, but I didn't know what you wanted.

Luke laughed. Lizzy acted like a drill sergeant at times, but the fact that she actually made the effort to get food for them at all showed him that she cared at least a little. He wasn't even annoyed that she had called Amber a 'little monster'. It was a term that she used to describe most people that were younger than her, which was pretty much everyone.

Luke pinned the note back up and centered the magnet. The fridge was uncharacteristically full. There were eggs, several different types of bread, and packs of bacon piled high. Luke quickly picked the eggs. There was also a small container of red wine cheese, but he knew that it was one of Lizzy's favorites so he let it be.

Luke had the eggs ready by the time that Amber came out into the kitchen and put them on two plates. Amber ate her share quickly before saying goodbye and kissing him quickly on the cheek.

Today, Luke was going to train until Lizzy bombarded him with her research. This way, he could get his mind into the zone, or so he hoped. He tried not to think about how much he had probably forgotten while he had lived in South Carolina, while he put his dish in the sink and made his way over to the gym. Sure, Luke had worked out and even taken yoga classes with Amber while he was away, but it was nothing even close to the regiment that Lizzy kept. Logically, he knew that her constant motion was more to keep her mind in check, but those long hours made her stronger and more agile than he thought he could ever be. Now, coming in cold to a job made him feel like he would let Lizzy down.

This thought made him determined, so he vowed to push himself as hard as he could. Luke started out swimming laps in the pool. He made sure his flip-turns were as fluid as he could make them, and his strokes powerful and efficient. He swam until he had taken four strokes off of his laps consistently. Satisfied with his times, Luke pulled himself out of the pool and checked his phone. No messages from Lizzy yet, but he was sure that they would be coming soon. But they never did.

Luke ran laps until his legs felt numb. Nothing. He spent time slithering along the walkways high off the ground as both human and snake, trying to make as little noise as possible. His phone didn't buzz once. Luke threw punch after punch at dummies, simulating the feeling of being surrounded by enemies and not once did Lizzy's name pop up on his phone. After six hours, he left the gym, panting and drenched in sweat. Luke was disappointed and kind of worried about Lizzy. She was always so eager for his opinions and told him that there was always something that he would think of that she couldn't.

Luke took the stairs back up to the top level two at a time and sprinted across the skywalk to the apartment. There was no real reason for this other than to see how fast he could get to the apartment. Once there, Luke went to his room and showered before changing into clean, grey sweatpants and a plain, green shirt. He heard footsteps coming from the hall and knew that Amber was back. Lizzy had kind of a freaky habit of walking silently and sneaking up on him on accident. There had been more than a few times when she had scared him right out of his skin. Luke opened his door just as Amber made it to the door.

"Hi babe," he greeted her with a kiss," How were your treatments?"

"They were amazing," she smiled up at him, and he noticed that her face looked fresh and soft, "These people really know how to make a girl feel like a princess."

"Only the best for you love." Luke swept into a gallant bow, making his girlfriend giggle and curtsy back to him.

He took her hand and lead her into the living room where he flopped down on the smooth, leather couch. Amber followed his lead and snuggled in next to him. They watched TV for a while, one of their favorite shows was American Ninja Warrior, and were just about to find out who was going to the next round when the door of the apartment swung open. Lizzy stood in the open doorway with her arms full of documents and large blueprints. Her hair was close to escaping the loose bun, and she wore her 'research clothes' as she called them. Black sweatpants and a fitted long sleeve shirt. Somehow, she wasn't wearing shoes and Luke had no idea how she got into any respectable establishment without them. She closed the door with some trouble and continued towards the kitchen without acknowledging the two people on the couch. Luke hurried over to help her leaving Amber pouting in front of the TV.

"Thanks Luke, would you put those on the kitchen table?" Unlike yesterday, when she seemed a bit bored, Lizzy's midnight eyes were focused. Luke was relieved, but still confused as to why she didn't send some of this stuff earlier. It would be much easier for him to contribute to their plan ifs he had had time to go over everything earlier.

Lizzy spread out her findings over the table as Luke watched, "You know, you would have a lot less to carry if you sent some of that stuff over here so I could look at it and printed it out."

Lizzy looked up then, actually surprised, "Huh?"

"Ya, I could have printed them out like I normally do," Luke pointed out. Color flooded Lizzy's face. Clearly, she had forgotten that she could do that. At this moment, Amber started laughing and Lizzy's face closed off, regaining the slightly bored look and got down to business. After the incident yesterday, he wasn't surprised that the hostility hadn't worn off. Luke quickly sat down at the table and picked up some of the papers.

"Alright, all of us know about the mounting body count in the city, right?" Luke nodded and Amber settled down in the chair next to him.

"Well that is mostly due to the fact that the Moroi are doing nothing to stop them, though they are aware of the danger." This, Luke also knew. The Moroi were an ancient race of living vampires, meaning they could breath, eat, reproduce, and most importantly, die. They possessed elemental magic, not unlike Lizzy's fire power, but only used it to help people and try to limit the damage caused by natural disasters. Because of this, they became a target for many other supernatural races that hated them. This is where the Dhampirs came in. These guardians are half human and half moroi. They got enhanced abilities from the moroi while their sturdiness and looks came from the humans. The Dhampirs lived their lives to protect the moroi as they believed that their ancestors were pure beings that deserved to live on. That leaves the worst of all of the vampire race, the stragoi. When you think of the creatures that lurk in the dark, you are thinking of the Stragoi. Made from killing while feeding or drinking the blood of another stragoi, these bloodsuckers had no feelings or soul and never hesitated to kill. It was no wonder that the moroi were scared of them. They could only die three ways: cut off their head, stab them straight through the heart, or burn them to ashes in a fire.

Luke made Lizzy stop her speech so that he could relay this information to Amber. He felt bad. After all her bluster about wanting to come with him, and now she looked to be way out of her depth. Once she was caught up, Lizzy plowed on.

"Looking at the people that were murdered, they were mostly young females. You know how they like to play with their food." At this point, Lizzy's eyes were blazing. She did not like the fact that girls were practically defenseless against the dangers that they didn't know about, "In addition, most of their friends said they were hanging around the clubs on 12th street. Now there is three high profile clubs on that street. Hundreds of people a night, low lights, and heavy alcohol and drug usage facilitate the easy nabbing of an individual that wouldn't stir up any trouble for at least twenty-four hours."

It was true, Luke thought, how often did club goers hook up or end up separated from their friends. It would give the stragoi a head start, and a very easy way to cover their tracks.

"So what we are going to do, is get me kidnapped," Lizzy told them confidently. Luke was not impressed.

"We are going to do what?" he leapt out of his chair and glared angrily at the small girl in front of him.

"Trust me Luke I'll be fine! I fit their target perfectly." Her eyes were glowing now and her lips twitched as if they couldn't get the words out fast enough. "I know a stragoi when I see one, so all I have to do is get them to take me, and we could have you follow behind. If you shifted into a bird and followed them from above, they wouldn't even know what was happening. We know the streets well and these blue prints will give us a good idea of the building we should aim for. You know I am right."

Luke mulled it over. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. He had gotten used to humans and their breakable nature, and therefore worried about her wellbeing. What he didn't factor in was that Lizzy was a shifter just like him. Her cuts healed before his eyes, her reflexes reflected those of the cats she loved to become, and training had made her a fierce opponent by any account. He opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off as Amber made her presence known.

"So where do I fit into this plan?" she asked confused. He and Lizzy had been talking as a team of two and had not even given Amber a second thought. Luke felt bad for not including her, but there was no way that he was going to let her on the mission. The hard look in Lizzy's eyes told him that they were on the same page.

"No." Lizzy said shaking her head slowly, "I am not going to be responsible for your death, which will happen if you come with us."

Amber crossed her arms and stuck her bottom lip out at the other girl. Luke did not like the outlook of the situation. Knowing Amber, she would try to bait Lizzy into letting her come. Lizzy didn't come off as the kind of person to fall for such childish things, but Luke also knew her better than most. She liked challenges and she might deem this as something she wanted to push herself with.

"Oh, so you think two shifters couldn't keep one measly human safe?" Amber sneered and Luke groaned internally.

"Maybe not if the 'measly human' is an imbecile," Lizzy muttered. While he wasn't happy about the insult, Luke's heart lifted, but he knew it was ill placed. She was looking at Amber critically. Luke could almost see her plan expanding in her mind. Where she put Amber, and how she could be useful. Lizzy would either put Amber in the back lines, out of the way or in the front lines where the challenge would be greatest. Luke was worried because the later was more likely. The thing about Lizzy, was that she tended to attract a lot of attention in a club. Not only did her unusual features draw unwanted eyes, but she lacked the relaxed and slightly unfocused nature of most party girls. She knew this and would want to use Amber as a shield to blend into the normal crowd.

"I'm sorry Amber. It was rude to disclude you from our potentially deadly endeavor. Of course you can come." Lizzy smiled at Amber like a Cheshire cat. Her voice dripped sugar and honey.

"Absolutely not. Amber, we can get hurt and it will be painful, but it won't ever kill us. You on the other hand, can be killed easily by these monsters. You have no experience and I will not let you go." Luke said in a firm voice and set his face. He would not allow her to get hurt.

"That was the wrong answer!" Lizzy sang behind him. Luke glowered at her, trying to convey that she was not helping, but evidentially, she was right. His girlfriend was now shaking with anger. Amber pushed her chair back with such force that it skidded a little way across the floor.

"You, friend, do not get to tell me what I am allowed to do. Lizzy is the leader here, right?" Lizzy nodded, trying desperately to contain a laugh, while Luke just looked at her like she was crazy, "If she says I can go, then it's settled."

"Alright then, Amber said it! We are going clubbing tomorrow." Luke's eyes widened as he didn't actually think that Lizzy could be so reckless or that she and Amber would side against him on anything.

Amber seemed to think that she had won the argument. She bumped his shoulder as she walked past him and disappeared down the hallway to their bedroom. How could he let this happen? She was going to get killed and it was his fault. He should have never let her come with him to New York in the first place. Lizzy was angry at him for bringing her here, but now it seems the roles were reversed.

"I won't let her die." Lizzy came up behind him and put her small hand on his arm. All of the laughter was gone now. The lines that showed when she was laughing were perfectly smooth now and the deadly focus was back, "I'll even take her into the gym tomorrow and teach her some things. Trust me, they'll have to kill both of us before they get to her. If she is important to you, then I'll protect her."

Reassured, Luke let the tension drain out of his shoulders. It had been a long day and he was tired. "Thank you Lizzy, but she doesn't know the first thing about fighting," he said hopelessly.

"It doesn't matter," She shrugged, making him tense all over again, "All that we need is for them to think she is the bigger threat, even just for a moment. After that they'll all be dead. For good this time."

Luke shivered. Lizzy's vice had turned savage, scaring him like it always did. It was the only thing that kept him from arguing further. He trusted her to put Amber's safety first. Sometimes, he thought that killing was the only thing that kept her sane. The cold practice counteracted the effects of the searing heat of the memories that left her in varying states of grief. While he liked that she slept better after their missions, he didn't like what battle did to her. She ripped through opponents without regard for her own health and often suffered horrific injuries that she just laughed off. It was terrifying to watch.

Luke turned to say something else but she was gone. Were all of the older shifters this silent? He shook his head and headed down the hall and climbed in beside Amber, who was already asleep.

I cannot believe that I just did that. Did I really just promise to teach Amber how to fight? Why? That doesn't seem like something that I want to do. Actually, it was the least fun thing that I could think of at this moment. Never the less, I had committed to it, so I guess I had to see it through. Ugh. I was sitting on my bed and going over the conversation that had happened in the kitchen. So far, I was not impressed. It went well up until Amber opened her big mouth. She was probably proud of herself for being able to bait me into something like a child, but I was more horrified than anything. The whole time she was talking, I was thinking of her like a science experiment. What if she did come? Could I keep her alive, or would she die? Truthfully, I didn't care what the answer was at the time; I just thought it would be fun to try. I know it was a horrible thing to think, but to me, humans are so temporary. What finally brought me out of it, was the panic I saw written all over Luke's face. Every muscle tensed and lines carved themselves into his usually peaceful face. Amber obviously meant a lot to him, and it would hurt him badly if she were to die. That was really the only thing that really made sense to me. This still wasn't the best reason for wanting to keep someone safe, but I'd take what I could get.

Since I had a big day of trying not to rip my hair out in frustration coming up, I would actually have to sleep tonight. I usually tried to sleep the night before an operation, but the nightmares were so bad lately that I was contemplating staying up just a day longer and waiting for the dreamless sleep that usually followed battles.

Sighing, I climbed into bed and just hoped that I would not dream of Will. My mind had been oddly fixated on him recently and I always came to with my chest aching. It had taken a long time for me to stop missing him, but if this kept up, my hard work could unravel completely. I put my head down and tentatively sank down into the pillows.

I opened my eyes to blue. The color was everywhere, smothering me. Eventually I realized that I was in the water and sinking fast. I tried to kick out and bring myself to the surface, but my legs were tied together. I looked down to find chains circling my feet attached to a large rock that was dragging me towards the bottom of the lake with ruthless efficiency. I took stock of what I could use to free myself and saw that my hands were tied as well. The rope bit into my struggling hands until droplets of blood clouded the water around them.

I screamed, causing bubbles to stream from my mouth, but quickly shut it as I was wasting precious air. Realistically, I knew that I would be ok, but it was hard to fight the burning feeling in my lungs as I struggled to hold my breath.

This was one of the worst times in history. The Salem witch trials were a stupid fad that made anyone that looked, acted, sounded, or did things differently than the mainstream populous a huge target. It created a pack mentality that existed only to rid the world of so called 'witches'. I was deemed a witch in every single town that I had moved to. Looking like I did combined with being the newcomer did not go over well with anyone. Often, I wished that shifters were able to alter their human appearance other than the age we looked, but like our color scheme, that was something that just couldn't be changed.

Anyways, back to drowning. At the time, I had to be calm to shift. I hadn't really had reason to train on how to change in stressful situations, so that wasn't an option to escape. Because of this, I spent hours trying to calm down enough to shift into a small fish and swim down river. Meanwhile, I spent the night feeling like I had a ton of bricks on top of my chest until I jerked awake to sunlight streaming into my room and my comforter twisted around me, restraining my arms.

I ripped off the covers, gulping air. I doubled over with my head between my legs with my mind still trying to justify that I was safe. Slowly, I pulled my legs off the side of the bed and stood up. I was still a bit shaky, but a quick walk would fix that. I let my morning routine fill my mind and take my attention away from the crashing waves of my dreams. I washed my face in the sink instead of taking a shower and brushed my hair. (I did not want to deal with more water than I needed to.) Now this was a task that took some effort. The thick white ringlets seemed to rebel against the brush, tangling in places that just minutes ago I had finished. Once this was done, I felt much better and the haunted eyes that stared at me from the mirror and taken on a much healthier look. The closet door was open and waiting for me to pick the day's clothes.

Ugh. I stiffened, remembering that I had promised to give Amber some training. My mood soured as I pulled on leggings and a grey sports bra. I left my feet bare as usual and walked out to the kitchen where Like and Amber were finishing up their breakfast. They had eggs and bacon piled on their plates and I assumed that Luke told her that I would not be going easy on her. I smiled internally as I saw them making good use of the food I had bought.

Outwardly, my face was stern and my mouth was set in a thin line. I was going to put her through the paces and make her work hard. This would give me an idea of how close of an eye I was going to have to keep an eye on her. I needed to gauge her strength and timidity so I could teach her defensive moves that would be suited to her.

"I think you've had enough kids. Wouldn't want to get cramps." I yelled, enjoying the way they both jumped out of their skin. "Get up maggots, we are going to start with laps." Luke stood and saluted, no doubt remembering the routine that I had made during his first months here. Amber followed his lead and I saw that she was wearing about the same as me, though she was wearing a vibrant pink tank top instead of a bra.

"Sir yes sir," Luke yelled, while Amber snickered.

"Oh you think I'm funny soldier?" I looked up at Amber sternly. She turned to Luke, looking for some backup, but he faced forward at attention, knowing that I was dead serious. "Get in line behind me and try to keep up."

My two recruits trailed behind me as I set a brisk pace towards the gym. I slowed down to what I thought she should be able to run, but even then she was huffing and puffing by the time her feet hit the track. Hmm. I was not optimistic about her ability to out run anything at this point, but I made her run a couple of more laps with me as she complained the whole way. We finally stopped to rest when I deemed her too out of breath to go on any longer. To her credit, she never stopped running for the fifteen minutes that we went, but she did slow down.

I lead her and Luke through some standard stretches to lengthen and loosen our muscles. I watched as her eyes widened when I asked them to go into their splits. I knew that Luke had at least one of his splits, but the look on Amber's face suggested that she did not have either, but then I didn't expect her to.

"You can't expect me to be able to just be able to do all of this stuff instantly. Just because I do yoga, doesn't mean I am super flexible," she looked disgusted that I would even suggest that.

"Well, never fear kid. I didn't think you could in the first place." I explained slowly so as not to display my irritation with her insolence, "The whole point of this is to stretch your muscles so you can become more flexible over time."

"What is the point of that. It's not like I am going to be here for a long time anyways," she pointed out. Amber smirked at me and looked down on me with mocking pity, "Besides, you can't tell me to do something that you can't do. I read somewhere that people with a lot of muscle are too stiff to do their splits anyways."

Man, I hate ignorant people. She might not be staying for long, but to me it felt like forever. She was just that annoying. I shrugged my shoulders at her comment and proceeded to sink down until my pelvis touched the ground. I sat there for a second, examining my body. I certainly did not look like one of the body builders on TV that couldn't even bring their arms fully to their sides. It was true that I had a fair amount of muscle, but it was the lean and smooth kind that came from running and moving around. I had worked hard for that muscle since my tiny, five-foot frame didn't lend its self to much excess of bulk.

Amber grumbled to herself as I pulled myself up and led them downstairs to a studio with mirrors on all four sides. I directed Luke to bring one of the large, heavy dummies from the wall to the middle of the room.

"Now," I explained, "When you punch the dummy, use your body to provide the power your arms don't have. Imagine that you are punching through it."

She squared up the way that I told her and swung. There was a faint whistle as her fist flew through the air. It started off well, but as she came close to the dummy, she slowed and the impact was less than impressive. She seemed proud of herself though. She beamed at Luke, who was trying to look encouraging.

"Amber, you hesitated. There was no reason to. The dummy won't hit you back, pretend it is trying to hurt you and the only way you can save yourself is to punch it as hard as you can." I told her.

She nodded and made minimal adjustments. I coached her through about ten more and though she got exponentially better, it was clear that she would not be able to attempt any offensive maneuvers.

"Alright, Luke come over here and pin her arms to her sides." I instructed, and Luke circled his arms lightly around her body. She giggled and looked up at him while I shook my head and adjusted his arms myself, "How is she going to learn how to escape a real enemy is she practices like she is trying to get away from a small child?"

Once his arms were tight enough for them to pose a real threat, I continued my instruction, "When someone has you trapped like this, there are two ways that you could chose to escape them. Number one: stomp on their foot as hard as you possibly can and elbow them wherever you can reach. Your elbow is sharp and sturdy, so it will pack more of a punch if you put some power behind it."

Amber nodded and tried as I had instructed, but her efforts barely phased Luke. I could understand that she didn't want to hurt him, but if she didn't she wouldn't be able to get out of trouble later. She struggled to get into a position where she could effectively use her elbow. I noted all of this silently and mentally prepared a couple of strategies that would allow me to protect both of us at once after we were taken from the club.

Finally, Amber gave up. "There is no way I am getting out of this." Her hair was disheveled and her clothes wrinkled, but she hadn't really made much headway. She had totally given up on my instructions and had resorted to twisting and flailing about.

"He is just too strong. He outweighs and out muscles me by a lot. How am I supposed to compete with that?" She huffed, "It's like trying to fight my brothers. They just put a hand on my head so I can't reach them."

Hmm. Amber had been conditioned to think that just because she was smaller, she couldn't begin to hurt those who were more vertically inclined. The first step in overcoming that mind set, was seeing proof that size didn't matter. Who was I to deny her that?

"Luke, come on over here. We are going to fix Amber's frame of mind." I rolled my neck and shoulders as Luke tentatively walked over.

"How exactly are you going to do that?" Amber looked at me quizzically. Clearly, she did not know what I was getting at, but by the look on Luke's face, he was beginning to get it.

"You said that there is no way to best someone that is bigger th

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