"I'm Ivy," the little girl next to Carmen said as she introduced herself, placing her hand on her chest. She then moved her hand over to her brother. They were twins and appeared like well-behaved kids. "This is Jack."

"Carmen," Carmen said as she calmed down. Fortunately, instead of freaking her out like most children do, they helped her wind down from her emotional high. They just looked so friendly and curious, their big eyes looking up at her. She gave them a smile and they smiled back. She hadn't met the children of the couple that ran the hotel, but the last time she spoke to the husband, Norman, he couldn't stop gushing about them. He was a regular at the Pandora Café along with his wife, Clarice.

Clarice, the old-fashioned housewife, turned to look at her from the front seat. "So Carmen, do you think you'll need to stay with us a while? It's no problem if you do, just want to make sure we set you up with the best room."

"I think so, at least for a couple of days until I get something sorted," Carmen answered, hoping she didn't offend her. She didn't mean offence, but the last time Carmen saw the hotel, it was almost derelict and falling apart. It was nowhere near a five-star rating.

"Well take your time honey, there's no rush. You are welcome at the Sunnyside Hotel for as long as you need, free of charge."

"That's so kind, but once I get sorted I do want to pay you guys something, anything, for your troubles. I really appreciate what you're doing for me."

"Nonsense," Norman said proudly from the driver's seat. His driving was beautifully smooth as he passed over the bridge into Lakefield View. He kept to the speed limit and always let people pass if they needed. To Carmen, they were the perfect little family unit.

"What were you all doing before you picked me up? Family fun?" Carmen asked, looking down at the kids as they kept looking at her. She had to admit, after a while it unnerved her.

"Yes," Norman answered. "Family fun. At the Cliffside."

"Awesome."

They continued to drive, Norman taking the stranger routes by passing down streets that had long been evacuated. The houses were mainly empty. They were so old they could fall down at any moment, but some people chose to stay. Those people were the craziest of the town folk. She avoided these streets at all costs, the streets that now have no names.

It was bizarre to see this perfect little family surrounded by the worst parts of Lakefield View, but Carmen knew their hotel really was no better. She needed the roof over her head for the time being, not thinking of anybody else who would take her in. She didn't feel that close to the others yet, her co-workers. She wouldn't burden them with her troubles. She hadn't seen them all week.

"Have you been getting much business lately?" Carmen tried to make conversation, feeling awkward in the silence.

"Well we have a nice old man staying with us in Room 5B. He never causes any problems and isn't fussy, apart from what he eats. It always has to be the same thing over and over, nothing else." Clarice sounded positive, her high-pitched voice now grating on Carmen.

"That's good, anybody else?"

Norman looked at her through the rear view mirror. "Nobody else." He smiled, and looked at his wife. "It's nice and quiet. Perfect for us raising the kids."

Once he finished his sentence, his head dropped onto the steering wheel. The car horn boomed through the inside of the car, deafening its passengers. The vehicle began to swerve in the dark empty street.

Carmen had no idea what was going on as she put her head down at the swerve. Ivy wrapped her arms around her brother and leaned them towards Carmen, who instinctively put her free arm around them to keep them safe.

Ashes of the Innocent (Abyssal Sanctuary #2)Read this story for FREE!