House of Royale (Secret Keepers #4)(2)

He bustled off to make up the sofa, which was under the huge bay windows that lined the front of his house. He wouldn’t let me help, so I just hovered close by, staring out at the blue sea. I’d get to sleep with the view of my favorite place in the world.

“Can I shower?” I asked him after a few minutes. “I’ll just leave this arm out.”

He nodded, his almost bald head shiny in the afternoon light through the window. “Yes. A bit of water won’t hurt it.”

I’d showered here before; I knew the bathroom well. “There are new razors and toothbrushes in the same place,” he called when I was about to close the door. “Feel free to use them while I grab you some clothes.”

“Thanks, Doc,” I returned, shutting the door.

I actually didn’t have much body hair … probably because I had so much hair on my head that it had to balance out somewhere. But a toothbrush would definitely help. Mine was in my bag, which was, again, at the lifeguard tower. I hadn’t had a chance to go back for it yet, which meant I was going to be in these clothes for a while.

Worse things have happened, Avalon. My motto for the past six months, ever since my parents had basically packed up their lives here, leaving on a yearlong cruise around the world. They’d sold our house, left me with enough money for a rental, and waved goodbye. Apparently I’d been holding them back all this time, and it was bon voyage, see you never.

The money for the rental had lasted long enough for me to get a job, but not a permanent house. I’d stayed with a few friends until they’d had enough of me. It hadn’t been my intention to mooch, but there was very limited work around this tiny island for an eighteen-year-old who’d barely finished her senior year and had no skills to speak of. If I could tell people about my abilities in the water, that would have made a difference, but the one thing my mom had warned me about was never exposing those unique traits to the world.

They will hunt you down and experiment on you, Ava, she’d always said.

Lifeguarding ended up being a last resort, and as long as I kept my speed modified, I was never singled out. But they also only had part-time hours for me, and the money was really low. So I bummed around, sleeping where I could, often in the tower after shift.

One day I’d get my life together. Not today, of course, but one day.

When the shower stream got nice and hot, I stepped under, then immediately had to adjust it to colder, because I loved the idea of a hot shower more than the reality. I took in a deep breath of the doc’s shampoo, which I knew he only kept for me on those rare occasions I showered here. Firstly, it was my favorite kind: ocean blend, in the aqua bottle. And secondly, he was almost bald.

As soon as my waist-length hair was wet, its silvery gray changed to an almost rainbow-like color. I had no idea why my hair did this under the water, but it had happened for as long as I could remember. I usually wore my hair tied back tightly or under a swim cap when I was on lifeguard duty, because a rainbow sheen was kind of hard to explain.

Within five minutes, because I didn’t waste water, I had shaved, washed my hair, and brushed my teeth. Doc knocked on the door as soon as the water cut off. “Some clothes out here for you,” he said, then I heard him walk off.

I wrapped one towel around the heavy length of my hair and used a second for my body. Padding over to the door, I eased it open and dropped down to grab the small pile. They were his daughter’s clothes; he’d never thrown away anything of his family’s. This wasn’t the first time he’d offered them to me. I couldn’t bring myself to say no when he was trying to look after me. While I was somewhat disturbed wearing dead people’s clothes, they really didn’t need them anymore.

The shorts and shirt were a little small. Judging by the photos, his daughter had been quite a few inches shorter than my six foot height—as were most women. So right now I was wearing a midriff top and short shorts that hugged my butt cheeks. Almost fashionable. And since I was used to wearing swimmers—or nothing in the ocean—the shortness of my outfit really didn’t bother me.

I quickly washed my clothes in the sink so I could put them back on tomorrow.

“Thanks so much,” I said when I found the doc on the deck. I hung my clothes across the railing and together we watched the sun setting.

“You got your bandage wet, girl,” he muttered. Guy was always muttering, and I loved it.

Glancing down, I wrinkled my nose at the wet patches across the white bandage. “Whoops, kind of forgot about it.”

He didn’t seem too bothered, probably because it was warm enough here, even at night in December, that it would dry soon. Along with my hair, which would become a long mess of thick waves. Luckily it never knotted up, and I’d be back in the ocean soon enough so there was no point worrying about it.

“I’m going to make some lomi-lomi salmon for dinner,” Doc told me, and then without another word went back inside.

I followed, trying to ignore the ache in my arm and the confused thoughts in my head. For some reason, the face of the girl who had been in the water wouldn’t leave me. She had stirred an unusual level of protective instinct in me. Maybe it was because she was so tiny. She’d been strong though, fighting the current.

I hoped she was okay. I’d left her on the main patrolled beach, just out of sight, keeping an eye on her from far out. When she’d gotten to her feet and stumbled to help, I’d left. I didn’t understand why they’d shot at her in the first place. It was unusual to have gun violence here. Lanai was a very laid-back island.

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