Hey everybody, I’m so sorry for the lack of updates! As usual, college is still kicking my butt. Biology is such a pain! But I won’t bore you with my excuses, so let’s continue on with the story, shall we?
Disclaimer: Don’t own ‘em.
He stood outside the tiny house watching as the shadows moved behind the curtain. He flexed his fingers in anticipation, his right hand curled around the handle of a small knife he had found. Tonight would be the night of phase one. Giovanni took a deep breath, relaxing his muscles. It wouldn’t do any good to get ahead of himself. He had spent four years in prison planning this, and he would be damned if he messed it up now. His hand tightened around the handle of the knife, and his eyes narrowed. Revenge was sweet and there was nothing better than to hear the horrified sounds of someone screaming. He would find the information he needed, and then swoop in for the kill.
Nothing was going to stop him tonight.
The only sounds in the house were that of plates being stacked into a pile in the dishwasher. A girl with long chestnut hair glanced at her companions in the kitchen as they cleaned up. Michelle Brown was not a girl that was easily intimidated. She had suffered, but she liked to think that she had become stronger because of all her suffering. She was not going to let Giovanni run her life like he once had. Glancing at her friends, she realized just how scared Larissa looked. The poor girl was trying her best not to show it, but how do you hide a look of fear when it was obvious everything in your body was shaking from fright?
She glanced at her other companion. Oliver didn’t look frightened, but she knew deep down inside he was worried. Oliver looked up and caught her gaze. Instantly, she knew what his eyes were trying to say. They both knew that it was only a matter of time before Giovanni came after them. They would be able to fight and they weren’t afraid of dying, but Larissa was a different story.
The small petite girl could’ve been a movie star in another life. With long raven hair, soft hazel eyes and other exotic asian features, a sweet personality and a flair for drama, everyone believed that Larissa could’ve gone far. To put it simply, Larissa was a lover, not a fighter. She hated confrontations and usually tried her best to avoid them. She wouldn’t be able to hold on her own if… when Giovanni confronted them.
It would only be a matter of time.
Life wasn’t fair. Michelle knew that. It still didn’t stop her from wishing her childhood had been different though. If only all their childhoods had different. Girls like Z and Larissa didn’t deserve to live on the streets. Hell, none of them had deserved to live on the streets. Her street life had tainted her and left a hideous scar –both physically and emotionally. Because of Giovanni, she had been molested, beaten, slaved, verbally and emotionally abused… it had scarred her and her past would never be something she would be proud of. There was only her future and her future was looking bright. She would make something of herself. There was no way she would let Giovanni control her ever again.
Michelle’s thoughts were broken when she heard a loud crash. She reacted, turning around sharply to see several shards of glass on the floor and Larissa shaking.
Larissa looked stricken. “I’m sorry!” She cried.
Michelle felt her motherly instincts take over. “Oh honey,” she said, moving to where her best friend stood. She wrapped an arm around the younger girl’s shoulders and pulled her into a hug. “Don’t worry, it’s just a plate.”
Oliver looked concerned, but made no move to comfort Larissa. At the moment, he would let Michelle handle her. “I’ll go get the broom and dustpan,” he offered and then disappeared down the hallway, giving the girls a moment alone.
“I’m just so scared!” Tears began falling down Larissa’s cheeks. “I just have this feeling that something really bad is about to happen. Like someone is watching us! What if it’s Giovanni?”
“Shh,” Michelle soothed. “Whatever happens will happen. You can’t let fear control your life. If Giovanni finds us, then we’ll deal with him, okay?”
Larissa sniffed and nodded, looking a bit more reassured. In truth, Michelle was pretty frightened herself, but wouldn’t let her fear show itself. Her best friend didn’t need that right now.
Oliver came back into the kitchen, carrying a dustpan and a broom. Wordlessly, he cleaned up the broken pieces of the plate and carefully wrapped the shards in a newspaper before throwing the bundle into a plastic bag.
“Thanks Ollie,” Larissa whispered.
“It’s no problem,” Oliver replied and then opened up his arms. Larissa moved from Michelle’s embrace to Oliver’s. He wrapped his arms around her waist and held on tight. “We promise we won’t let anything happen to you, okay? You’ve got big dreams ahead of you, there’s no way we’re letting anything get in the way of that.”
Larissa sniffed, burying her face into his chest. “Okay.”
Shifting, Oliver moved Larissa to one side and opened up his other arm. Michelle grinned and joined the group hug. The three of them stay that way for a few minutes more, each enjoying the warmth of the embrace.
“Well, well, well… look what we have here. Am I interrupting an important moment?”
The cold voice made them freeze. The air suddenly seemed colder and time seemed to slow down. Slowly, the three of them released each other and turned towards the kitchen doorway. Michelle’s eyes went wide, and Larissa let out a tiny gasp, looking fearful. Oliver moved so that he was shielding Larissa and standing next to Michelle.
Giovanni stood in the doorway of the tiny kitchen, his hand fingering the knife in his hands delicately. His presence made the room seem much smaller somehow, but Oliver tried his best to show no fear. “How did you get in here?” He hoped that his voice didn’t betray the nervousness he suddenly felt.
“Naïve little Oliver McAden,” Giovanni shook his head, his malicious grin was apparent as his gaze swept over them. “You should know by now, that I can do anything I want.”
“Leave.” God, he couldn’t sound more intimidating if he had tried.
Giovanni’s eyes flashed. “I don’t think so. Not until I get what I’ve come for.”
Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.
Bridge gritted his teeth as he leaned back against the chair he was sitting in. He had half a mind to throw Syd’s alarm clock out the window. Gosh, it was so annoying. Or maybe he could go find his hammer and smash it into tiny pieces… but then Syd would probably get mad and the last thing he needed was his best friend angry at him. Still, the annoying ticking that the clock was making was worth it. Watching Z sleep had to be one of the best things he had ever done. He was just content to sit there and watch… she was holding nothing back when she was sleeping. He loved seeing the soft smile on her face as she dreamt… she was like an angel…
The doors slid open and Syd slumped through, looking thoroughly exhausted. The pink ranger looked surprised to see him sitting in her desk chair, but all she did was shake her head. She threw the notebook that she had been holding on to her nightstand and flopped onto her bed. Rolling over so that she was facing the green ranger, she grinned tiredly at him. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
Bridge motioned to the sleeping yellow ranger across the room. “Making sure she’s getting her sleep,” he whispered back. “She’s been exhausted for the past few days.”
Syd gave him a knowing look and sat up.
Bridge inwardly groaned. “Don’t even go there, Syd.”
“I mean it. Give up on it.”
“You should still tell her-“
Bridge glanced at Z’s still form. “Let it go Syd,” he whispered as quietly as he could. It would be just his luck if Z woke up during this conversation. “It’s not meant to be. It won’t happen.”
“You never know-“
The pink ranger fell silent at Bridge’s gaze, but she refused to back down and glared right back. Bridge sighed. Syd had always believed in fairy tales and happily ever after… didn’t she realize that life would never be like the stories? But then again… Bridge had to admit Syd was living the life of a fairy tale… sort of… the incident with Jake, Sky saving her, the two of them dating… yeah, she definitely had her own fairy tale and now Syd was out to make everyone else’s life happily ever after as well.
Syd relented and sighed. “Fine, I’m sorry Bridge. I was out of line.”
He instantly forgave her. Bridge could never stay mad at anyone for very long. “It’s alright.” The green ranger gestured toward the notebook Syd had been holding when she had come into the room. “What’s that?”
Syd glanced at the worn notebook nonchalantly and shrugged. “It’s just something Sky and I are working on,” she replied.
“Oh yeah? What’s that?” Bridge questioned.
“Don’t worry about it,” the pink ranger dismissed. “Anyway, how long have you been in here? Are you hungry? I noticed that you and Z weren’t at dinner tonight.”
At that moment, Bridge’s stomach rumbled, causing Syd to giggle. “Yeah, I guess I am hungry,” Bridge said sheepishly.
“Why don’t you go get something to eat and then get to bed?” Syd suggested. “It’s almost time for lights-out anyway.”
Torn between wanting to stay and getting something to eat, the green ranger glanced at Syd. His best friend smiled, causing him to smile back. He was sure that Syd would be there to take care of Z if the yellow ranger needed anything when she woke up. “Okay,” he agreed, giving Syd a brief hug before turning to leave. He gave one last glance at Z’s sleeping form before the doors slid shut.
Syd sighed, watching as the doors closed behind the green ranger. She glanced at the other side of the room, watching her roommate sleep for a moment. She shook her head. “Oh Z,” she said softly. “If only you knew how much Bridge loves you.” Her gaze landed on the notebook on her nightstand. Bridge deserved all the happiness in the world. Hopefully, between her and Sky, they would find a way to help him.
Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.
Z awoke to the sound of Syd’s alarm clock on the other side of the room. Rolling over to her side, the yellow ranger groaned softly. ‘Note to self, must smash Syd’s alarm clock and then get Sky to buy her a digital one,’ she thought as she sat up in her bed. Quickly, she glanced at her own nightstand and groaned at the time. 12:08am. She had slept away for most of the day.
Pulling back the covers, Z found her slippers and stood up, heading toward the common room to get something to drink. Her stomach rumbled and she suddenly realized she was starving. She had missed lunch and dinner. The hallways were dead quiet as she walked toward the common room. She was surprised to find the lights in the common room on as she entered. But a quick glance at the tables took away her surprised and she smiled. “Hey,” she greeted, heading toward the table and sitting down across from him.
“Hey Z,” Bridge replied, setting his cup of hot chocolate down. “Sleep well?”
“You have no idea,” she replied. “I could’ve still been sleeping if it hadn’t been for Syd’s damn clock! That damn thing woke me up.”
The green ranger laughed. “It is annoying, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think annoying is the word to describe it,” Z shot back as her stomach rumbled again. “God, I’m starving.”
“We can fix that,” Bridge jumped up and headed toward the small kitchen.
The yellow ranger stared. “What are you doing?” she asked.
Bridge began pulling out various pots and pans. “Making you something to eat, what does it look like?”
“Why?” Z was curious, and she couldn’t help but smile. “I can just get something from the food replicator.”
“That processed stuff?” Bridge made a face, causing Z to laugh a little. “Trust me, what I make will taste a lot better.”
“I didn’t know you can cook,” Z rested her elbows on the table, her cheek in the palm of her hand.
“There are lots of things you don’t know about me.”
“Where did you learn to cook?”
“Sky taught me,” Bridge moved toward the refrigerator and opened the door, pulling out some butter. “They were holding this cooking course here at the Academy a few years ago. Sky’s mother made him sign up.”
“Really?” Z was interested. “What about you?”
“Well, this was before I joined the Academy. So when I arrived, Sky already knew everything and taught me a few things.”
“I see,” Z paused. “So, what are you making me?”
“Spaghetti sound good?”
“I’ve never had spaghetti.”
“Really?” Bridge stopped and looked incredulously at Z. “Then, you’re going to love it. It’s my favorite food of all time.”
The yellow ranger shrugged. “Well, when you’re living on the streets, you tend not to be picky about what you eat.”
Bridge nodded. “And the food replicator doesn’t make it. So, I guess this is your lucky night! A Spaghetti Special, courtesy of Bridge Carson!”
“Is it better than your buttery toast? ‘Cause that was yummy too.”
“Way better,” Bridge replied, fiddling around with the cooking utensils. “And since, the sauce was made a few days ago, all we really have to do is wait for the noodles to cook.”
“Who made the sauce?”
“Sky and I did. Sky wanted to plan this romantic dinner for Syd, so I helped him cook everything. But for some reason, the dinner never happened.”
Pretty soon the common room was filled with a delicious aroma. Z took a deep breath, inhaling the scent. “It smells so good.”
Bridge grinned and walked toward her, holding a large steaming plate of spaghetti. He set the plate down in front of her and handed her a fork. “Enjoy.”
Tentatively, Z reached for the fork and stuck it into a pile of noodles. She twirled a mouthful of noodles around the fork and stuck it in her mouth. Bridge watched eagerly as she chewed.
“Well?” he prompted.
“Bridge, this is delicious!” Z grinned, sticking her fork back into the steaming spaghetti.
The green ranger grinned, feeling very proud of himself. For the next twenty minutes, he sat in silence as he continued to watch Z eat happily. God, she was beautiful. He had never met anyone like her before. Smart, spunky, sassy and fun all rolled into one. He was convinced that he would never meet another person like her.
Z let out a contented sigh as she set her fork down. “That was so delicious, Bridge,” she said again. “Thank you.”
The green ranger blushed. “It’s no problem.”
They sat there for a few moments just smiling at one another. Finally, Bridge realized that he was staring and adverted his gaze, clearing his throat as he did so. “So…” he trailed off, having no clue what to say. He ran a gloved hand through his hair, causing it to stick up in many places. The yellow ranger giggled. The leather gloves had caused some static electricity and now the green ranger’s hair was standing up on its end in various spots.
“What?” Bridge asked, looking a little confused at Z’s apparent state of laughter.
She shook her head, trying to stifle her giggles. With his hair standing up like that and the confused look on his face, Bridge was so adorable at the moment.
The yellow ranger stopped giggling abruptly. She sat up a little straighter. “What was that?”
Bridge looked perplexed. “What was what?”
Z was silent for a minute. Then shook her head when she heard nothing. “Never mind, it must’ve been my imagination.”
The green ranger shrugged.
Z let out a sharp breath, and she sat up straight once more. Her brown eyes darted from side to side. “Did you hear that?”
“No…” Bridge said slowly. The green ranger suddenly looked tense.
Thump. Thump. THUMP.
“Okay, now I know I’m not imagining it!” Z stood up and headed towards the doors.
Bridge jumped up and was now following her. “I heard it that time too.”
The hallway was dim with florescent lighting as they walked rapidly. Z felt her heart begin to pound and a sense of dread filled her. She just knew that something bad was about to happen. They ended up at the Academy entrance, and found nothing.
Z squinted in the dim lighting. “Do you see anything?”
The green ranger shook his head. “Nothing.”
Thump. Thump. THUMP.
“It’s coming from outside,” Bridge said suddenly as he realized where the noise was coming from.
The yellow ranger slowly reached for her morpher. “Should we wake the others? Or investigate on our own?”
“Let’s check things out on our own first. After all, we’re still at the Academy. We can press the emergency button on our morphers in case we need any help,” Bridge replied.
Z nodded. Cautiously, they both headed towards the doors. The motion sensors detected their presence and on cue, the doors slid open. A figure slumped forward, catching both rangers by surprise.
“Lights turn on!” Bridge commanded. Instantly the hallway was illuminated in bright light.
“Bridge,” Z grabbed the green ranger’s arm. “This person, she’s hurt!”
They both rushed forward toward the fallen figure. It was a woman with long black hair. Her clothes were all torn and there was blood everywhere. Z knelt beside the figure, careful not to move her and pushed her hair out of her face. The yellow ranger went pale and gasped in surprise, her eyes wide with horror.
“What is it, Z?” Bridge asked, kneeling down beside the yellow ranger.
Z couldn’t answer. The figure in front of her was Larissa.
Well, what did you all think? Be sure to review!
Pink-Green-White-4ever and I have started working on a set of challenges that was issued at the Ars Amatoria's Ranger Romance Website. There are forty challenges and the first one is already posted under PGW4ever’s account, so be sure to check it out!