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Ella's P.O.V.

I'm an idiot.

I couldn't believe that I had made arrangements to go across Germany with men I didn't know to hunt ghosts.

Zak made it abundantly clear how he felt about this by staring at me blankly after I had finished explaining myself.

"You're supposed to be the smart one between the two of us, he signed. ''Where is your common sense?''

I just shrugged. I didn't have a defense for myself. What I had done was stupid but I didn't want to back out of it.

As much as the situation made no sense to me, there was a nagging tug in the pit of my stomach that urged me to commit to going with the strangers and find my grandfather.

"What are you going to do about school?'' Zak asked me.

''Then my grandfather's dead." Excuse will only work for so long until you start to get behind on your work.

I sighed. He had a point.

''Thanksgiving break is about to start,'' I signed. ''That will at least buy me a week."

Zak just shook his head

''You don't know these men.'' he reminded me for the

umpteenth time. ''This isn't safe."

Before I could respond I heard the front door open downstairs.

''Not a word to Mom and Dad.''

Zak raised an eyebrow. ''How do you plan on telling them that you're leaving?'' He asked.

"I'm working on it,'' I signed. I opened the bedroom door and walked downstairs. As I walked down the stairs, my mom passed me on the staircase, still teary-eyed. I walked over to my dad, who sat down at the dinner table and was looking through a packet of


"What is that?" I asked him.

He drew in a breath and laid the pamphlets down on the table before taking off his glasses.

"Just a few things the police thought we should be aware of if we wanted to press charges against the mortuary."

Just before I could say anything about the fact that I was leaving the next day, my father interrupted me.

"I think it would be best if you and Zak went home tomorrow."

My eyes widened. Well, that was easy. I fumbled over my words as I struggled to figure out what to say next.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

He ran a hand through his gray, thinning hair.

"This sounds like it's going to be a long, drawn out process. You and Zak can't do anything to help, so I think it would be best ifvyou let Mom and I deal with this. I'm sure you can spend Thanksgiving with your college friends, right?"

"Um, yeah, I have a few people I could call," I said, nodding slowly.

All the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together in my mind as I formulated a plan.

"I'Il go book our plane tickets now," I said, backing away. I turned and went up the stairs to Zak's room.

I opened his bedroom door to see him sitting down on his bed with his laptop in front of him.

''You're not going to believe this,'' I signed. ''Dad wants us to go home.''

"I'm assuming you want me to cover for you while you stay here,'' he signed, shaking his head. I nodded.

"I don't like this,'' he signed.

I sat down on his bed as he purchased his plane ticket. There's no backing out of this now.

I waited until everyone had gone to bed to go up to the attic. I turned on the lightbulb that hung over the musty room and looked around. I was looking for anything that would give me an idea of what my grandfather could have been involved in. I couldn't stop thinking about the things the stranger had said.

He seemed to think this could be due to something that myBgrandfather had brought upon himself. I just couldn't imagine my grandfather, the man who had practically raised me, being involved in something that would require faking his own death.

I searched through countless cardboard boxes looking for something that stuck out to me as unusual but I couldn't find anything.

My intuition was screaming to grab the books on the shelf that I had picked up earlier the day before. I looked over at the shelf warily. There was no way my grandfather's old books would be any help in finding him.

I shook off the feeling and went back to searching.

I found a few things such as old journals and calendars that IBput into an empty box. Before I left the attic, I grabbed the books off the shelf and stuffed them into the box. I told myself it wasn't a big deal. If the men asked why I brought the books, I would tell them it was for joy reading.

I went downstairs and found all of my grandfather's financial statements and health records in the folders my mom had stored away. Knowing she would eventually notice they were missing, I put them into the box as well I tucked the box under my bed and packed my suitcase quietly.

Closing my eyes, I prayed for the few hours I had before the men arrived to be filled with sleep. Sleep didn't come, however, and I laid in the bed and turned the situation over in my mind for hours.

I heard my bedroom door open and I turned over to see Zak standing in the doorway. He nodded for me to follow him and I rolled out of the bed and grabbed my things before going downstairs.

My mom and dad were waiting for us, still dressed in their night clothes.

"Goodbye," she said, hugging Zak and I.

We hugged her and my dad before watching them go back upstairs to their room to go back to bed. It was only four forty five in the morning, I didn't blame them.

Zak grabbed his things as I put my coat on.

I stood by the front door, looking down at my watch

They should be here any minute, I thought. Zak's plane was leaving at seven that morning and he needed to leave, but he couldn't leave until I did. The last thing I needed was my mom or dad to come back downstairs and see me still standing there.

I heard the gravel on the driveway slide and I looked out the window to see a black SUV pull into the very edge of the driveway with its headlights turned off.

I turned to see Zak staring at the vehicle warily.

"That's them," I signed.

I grabbed my suitcase and the box and carried them outside. Snow still coated the ground and my breath froze in the air inVfront of me.

I pulled my jacket closer as I stepped off the porch.

I saw Jai get out of the SUV and walk over to Zak and I.

He nodded at my suitcase and the box and took them from myBhands. I looked over to the SUV as Jai opened the trunk to put my things inside and I noticed the other stranger sitting in the driver's seat of the car.

He stared at me with those dark, lavender eyes and I shivered. I told myself this was because of the cold weather. I turned to Zak as he twirled the keys to the rental car on his finger.

''If you don't hear from me by the end of the week, tell Mom and Dad everything," I signed. "I'll send you my location when I get to where I'm going."

He nodded and leaned in for a hug.

''Be smart,'' he signed as I walked over to the SUV.

I threw up the sign for 'I love you' to Zak and he returned it just as Jai shut the trunk of the car.

"Time to go," he said.

I opened the backseat door of the car and watched as Zak got into the other car himself.VI had a gut feeling this was a both a fantastic and terrible idea. I couldn't figure out which one to listen to. It was only the three of us in the car and no one said a word to me as we backed out of the driveway into the road.

It was still in the early hours of the morning which meant the sun hadn't yet exposed itself over the horizon. We drove in silence and I immediately began to regret my decision to tag along.

I don't know these people, I thought. I watched Jai kill someone right in front of me only twelve hours earlier. Why have I agreed to take a road trip with them?

I made awkward eye contact with the stranger sitting in the front seat more than once and it made me increasingly uncomfortable.

I wanted to scream at him to stop looking at me, but part of meBdidn't want him to stop.BAfter what seemed like ages, but was more than likely only a

few minutes, the SUV pulled into a small parking lot next to a train track.

To have called the platform next to the tracks a train station would have been an overstatement. It was barely a small house and a platform. I didn't even see a ticket booth.

As I followed Jai and the stranger out of the SUV, I heard a train coming and I looked to see a sleek, steel train making its way slowly towards the platform. It was only about ten cars long, but it was more modern-looking than anything I expected to see in America, much less the rural farmlands of Germany.

As Jai began to retrieve the luggage from the trunk, theBstranger made his way over to the house. I stayed behind and grabbed my luggage and the cardboard box I had brought along.

A few similar-looking SUVs pulled into the parking lot as we made our way to the platform and I watched as nearly twenty men spilled out of the cars and began to hand suitcases and bags off to each other.

My suitcase rolled behind me as Jai and I walked inside to see the handsome stranger talking to the old man I assumed was in charge of the station.

He towered over the old man. His black shirt and dark coat and pants made him look even more menacing. But, even his size wasn't nearly as intimidating as his sharp facial features and

piercing eyes.

I felt like they looked right through me, which is why I immediately looked away when he turned to us as the old man walked out.

"Tell them we're leaving in ten minutes," he said to Jai.

"Daniel still isn't here," Jai sighed.

"Call him," the man ordered. "If he isn't here by the time we leave, he'll be walking to Hechingen Jai turned to go back outside, leaving me alone in the hallway with the stranger.

I swallowed hard and shifted on my feet nervously as I heard him walk closer. I felt his hand touch mine as he grabbed the handle of my suitcase and took it from my hand into his own. My heart began to race.

"Follow me," he said.

I looked up and my eyes met his before he turned away. I felt my stomach begin to twist into knots and I rolled my eyes.

Get it together.

I followed him out onto a platform where the door to one of the cars was open. He stopped and gestured for me to go inside first. I hid my flustered cheeks behind the box of books and papers in my arms as I walked past him quickly and boarded the train.

"To the right," he said, directing me as he followed me inside.

I turned and walked into the car.

The old-fashioned interior was unexpected to say the least, considering the modern exterior. The walls were covered in subtle, black wallpaper. There were small light fixtures lining the walls, but the suede, navy blue drapes were pulled tight over the windows.

There were multiple places to sit down and I chose the couch that sat along the right wall. I placed the box next to me and I watched as the handsome man pulled my suitcase over to the door for someone to take to a storage car.

I finally worked up the courage to speak as he walked back towards me.

"You never told me your name," I said.

He hesitated for a moment as he walked over to pour himself a drink at the mini bar. It's not even six o'clock in the morning, I thought.

"Cain," he said, his back still turned away from me.

"What?" I asked him, taken off guard at his answer.

"My name is Cain," he clarified

I nodded. Strong and simple. It fit him perfectly.

"You brought what I asked you to," he assumed, nodding at the box beside me as he took a seat in the chair in front of me.

"Uh, yes," I said turning to it.

I picked it up and placed it on my lap as I opened the top. Digging around inside, I pulled out the file folders containing in the information Cain had asked me for.

"Here," I said, handing them to him.

He took a long drink of what was in the tall, steel cup before he placed it on the floor between his feet and reached forward to take the files from me. Cain's hand touched mine as he did so and I drew in a sharp breath.

I heard footsteps approaching as he took the files from me and began to thumb through them. Jai entered the car and sat down next to Cain.

"Everything's packed up," he informed him.

Cain didn't acknowledge this as he read through the

information. I heard another set of footsteps approaching, these were more rushed, however.

I looked up to see a tall man with a mop of brown curls on his head enter the room.

"Sorry I'm late," he said, taking off his jacket. "I was too busy enjoying my last few minutes of not being here."

He walked over but stopped when he saw me.

Confusion was plastered all over his face as he looked between Jai and Cain.

"Who's this?"

"Otto Müller's granddaughter," Cain said, still not looking up from the folder in his hand.

"And she's here because?" He asked.

"Because I invited her." Cain lied. "Do you have a problem with this?"

I saw a mixture of panic and fear in the man's eyes before he shook his head.

"Nice to meet you," he said, leaning forward to shake my hand.

"I'm Daniel."

"Ella," I said, shaking his hand. Daniel looked at Jai, still confused.

"She's human," he muttered to him, as if it was supposed to mean something.

Cain looked up from the file as he and Jai each gave Daniel a hard stare.

My eyebrows furrowed as Daniel looked at me.

"But aren't we all," he added cheerfully, giving me a fake smile.

I felt my palms begin to get sweaty as I looked between the three strange men in front of me. This keeps getting weirder and weirder.

"Ella" I said, shaking his hand.

Daniel looked at Jai, still confused.

"She's human," he muttered to him, as if it was supposed to mean something.

Cain looked up from the file as he and Jai each gave Daniel a hard stare. My eyebrows furrowed as Daniel looked at me.

"But aren't we all," he added cheerfully, giving me fake smile.

I felt my palms begin to get sweaty as I looked between the three strange men in front of me.

This keeps getting weirder and weirder.

"Ella," Cain said, earning my attention. Hearing him say my name made a chill go down my spine.

"You said your grandfather had a serious heart condition" he said,

I nodded. "He did."

Cain looked up from the file and he handed me a slip of paper that was in it.

"Then tell me why he hasn't been to the hospital in seven years."

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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