Chapter 29: The Boy Appears

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Hey everyone, big update this week, lots to cover. All the pieces I've been placing on the board are about to be revealed, I hope you like where the story is heading. Thanks again for all your votes & comments, please keep them coming!

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Brandon led Kim into the villa and promptly began showing her around. They wandered from room to room and building to building, Brandon pointing out cool features like important art that Cassio had collected and awards Cassio had received for his work with the Foundation. It was fine! But it was kind of a lot? Like it's customary, when someone has traveled a distance to meet you, to let them relax for a while, maybe freshen up? And not just assume that they are interested in hearing about the marble that was imported from Whereverville, or the painting that was a gift from the CEO of WhateverCorp?

Also: there was that whole the lake is blood, Cassio's villa is a castle of bones, the sky is a vortex, and nothing is real vision she'd had outside when she touched the swan.

AND, also: Brandon held Kim's hand the entire time. He used small squeezes and tugs to direct her attention as they moved through the halls. A few times as they rounded a corner or descended a staircase Kim shook her hand casually loose, like she needed to fix something with her hair. She felt like Brandon's hands were a little sweaty and also she didn't like holding hands all the time? Like can she have her own space? It was a little much! But then a few seconds later his hand would find hers again, as though on some level he was unable or unwilling to not be touching her.

Kim tried to roll with it. She was a people-pleaser. Brandon was just being friendly and caring. Kim had basically saved his life after all, you could hardly blame the guy for forming a strong emotional attachment to her. It happened all the time.

Anyways. The villa was nice. Most of the main building seemed to be taken up by administrative offices for the Foundation. There were lots of photos and awards on the walls of Cassio accepting honors from various celebrities for his work. Kim pretended to be interested as Brandon described them but really she was just checking out Willow, the supportive wife smiling patiently behind Cassio in all of the photos. Did she look truly happy? Did she look bored? It was hard to tell. But Willow was wearing a different outfit and looking aggressively hot in each photo, so Kim had to give snaps once again to Regalia Featherstomp.

At one point some wonky-looking dude zipped over and reminded Brandon about some appointment later. He looked like a shorter Taylor Lautner from the side, but then he turned and Kim saw his face was horrendously asymmetrical. It was all droopy and melty-looking on one side, like he'd been left in the microwave too long.

Brandon told Melty Lautner he'd be there and continued saying words to him but didn't bother to introduce Kim.

Their conversation ended, Brandon continued on with whatever he'd been telling Kim before the interruption. Kim watched as Melty Lautner pressed the down button on a nearby elevator. The villa was huge above-ground, seeming to go on forever and forever. What else was underground? How far down did it go?

Melty got into the elevator and turned and stared at Kim, his beady and uneven eyes unblinking, until the elevator doors had closed.

Kim shook the weird chill off her spine and focused her attention back on Brandon, who was listing some important accomplishments that had apparently been worthy of a bunch of awards.

"Wait, hold up," Kim interrupted, suddenly lost. "What was the award for? Cassio's work, or The Foundation's?"

Brandon paused and looked at Kim. "Well, both," he said. "Cassio accepted the award on behalf of The Foundation."

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