Chapter Twenty, Keys

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Perce waited a moment to make sure she was finished before answering.

"Yes, he was following you." Perce said. "And when I say you, I mean, you, Bennie, specifically."

Even though she already guessed, Bennie still felt shocked to know that someone had been sneaking behind her every move.

"But why? And how long has he been following me? What requires that?"

Perce sighed.

"Sometimes Guardians are sent to keep an eye on people–some are spies and some are protectors. Like you said, he only showed himself when you needed him. That's why he was there, in case you needed help."

"Oh, so you're telling me every little, untrained Guardian has a stalker to keep them out of trouble? Are there really that many Guardians to spare that have nothing better to do but watch for jumps in the least likely places? We were in an unlikely place for an attack—which you still haven't explained, I haven't forgotten it. We're not anywhere near a danger zone and wow! We just happen to actually need that poor, bored guy who has to follow us. Perce, don't try to make me believe that because you know I won't."

Perce was quiet for a long time. Bennie wondered if he was even going to answer her, but he did.

"Bennie, you have to understand there are some things I am not at liberty to tell you, or anyone. You are right, not everyone has a 'bodyguard.' You're special, and I'm not just saying that as your 'Uncle Perce.'"

"When did we figure out I was so special I needed to be trailed? And why wasn't I told? Why can't I know now?"

"The answer to the second is, I'm going to talk to Esla about bringing you up to speed because there's no point in protecting you from the truth when you've figured out so much. We wanted you to be free to grow as a Guardian, and as a young woman, without the worry, but we've failed. To answer the first, you've had a protector nearby since I found you during the attack when you lost your eyesight. We had no idea anyone was aware of you before that night and it nearly cost us everything."

Bennie pushed down the emotions that accompanied the unhappy memory. Her eyesight even flickered slightly before coming back.

"They would have had you if you had been alone. You couldn't see what you were doing. You had no idea what to do aside from become a human flamethrower. Effective yes, but still poor odds against your enemies. We knew then we had to be sure your safety was ensured."

"You should have told me," Bennie snapped. "Even if you think I can't be trusted with secrets I should be allowed to know what involves me. But you don't trust me to even try to take care of myself, because you all did such a better job of it!"

"Bennie, it wasn't like that. You shouldn't have to deal with this right now and we didn't want you to; it has nothing to do with your capabilities!"

"No, you can't tell me anything because I might get caught since I'm such a weakling, and Reyortsed obviously wants me alive instead of dead so I need to have plausible deniability of whatever is going on when he finally gets me! Maybe I should have listened to mom and just quit this whole business before I got involved, but now it's too late, isn't it?!"

Her stomach twinged and she doubled over. Perce rushed forward to catch her but she pushed him back.

"I'm fine."

"I wish you were, but you're still healing," Perce said. "The stress isn't helping."

"So you're going to use my stress as an excuse to keep me in the dark?" Bennie sat on the curb, breathless. "Are you ever going to tell me anything? About what's happening to me, about why my dad found this more important than mom and me? Won't you even try to prove her wrong?"

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