Chapter 19

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It was another minute, another hour, another morning, another day where Val was still sick and Alex was still restless. She had been on edge since their talk a few nights ago, the talk when Val had said, Yes. I'll go with you. Since then, each subsequent day had been too similar. It felt like Alex was stuck in an endless loop, where in each new day, nothing really quite changed enough to cause any significant step towards leaving.

Until Val got better, they couldn't actually go anywhere.

Alexis Sterling hadn't moved from her chair beside Val's hospital bed in quite a while. She watched in silence as the young Greco slept soundly. The girl slept almost endlessly these days, and the woman beside her waited just as endlessly for her to wake.

On the increasingly less frequent occasions when Val did wake up, Alex made sure she was always there to greet her with a gentle smile. Val never woke up peacefully. It was always violent, with her arms flailing wildly as if she were fighting some invisible monster off before collapsing back onto the bed, her eyes wide and beads of sweat rolling down her forehead. Alex wasn't sure what was worse, the panicked way in which Val always woke up or the deathly stillness that made Val look like a corpse as she slept.

Either way, Alex always made sure she was there and alert. If she left it was never for long and it was never far.

Chugging coffee had its limits, of course, and sometimes Alex would find herself in a strange meditative state-her mind wanting to shut down but the caffeine in her veins keeping her body awake. Her head would tilt back, her eyes would half-close, and the conversations she had had with Val since the girl had agreed to go with her always replayed over and over again in her mind. She couldn't sleep now, not when there was so much to do, not when Val was like this.

Alex sighed, rubbed at her eyes, and shifted a bit in the chair that had become her home. With another vow to stay awake, Alex once again heard Val's voice in her heard. She let the words come. Maybe if she closed her eyes for just a second... the answers would come.

"Yes, I'll go with you," Val had told Alex, her piercing green eyes lit with a newfound determination that had sent a buzz of excitement through Alex's veins. Then, after they had joined lips in a languid kiss, an exhausted Val had fallen asleep.

Alex had stayed by her bedside, patiently waiting for Val to wake up. As each hour passed, Alex grew more and more nervous. It was hour 14 when Val finally stirred from her deep slumber. Amazingly, she had still seemed exhausted. Alex tried not to let her growing concern get in the way of the important things she had yet to discuss with the teenager. She waited for Val to fully wake up and then with close faces and hushed voices, Alex and Val had discussed their plan.

They'd wait for Val to get better, and then they'd find a way to sneak out-Alex would have to come up with something creative for this part, but she was resourceful and she wasn't too worried. When the time came to leave the hospital, a completely recovered Val in tow, Alex would have the 'how' part figured out. For now, though, it was Phase One, and all Phase One required was for Val to stay in bed and take her medication like a good patient.

Alex knew she had lied to Val. She had conveniently left out the part of the deal she had made with the Costas, where her uncle's territory and the bar that sat on it-her home-would become property of the Costas family.

But right now, she didn't think Val needed to know that detail. She'd figure it out eventually, but by then Alex hoped to be halfway across the ocean and as far away from the Sterlings, Grecos, and Costas as possible. She wouldn't mind being around some normal people, like the 'Smiths' or the 'Millers.' Totally harmless last names.

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