ELEVEN

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A storm was brewing in his blue eyes, accompanying the thunder raging outside.

His words echoed in her head with the power of a hurricane, blurring her conception of time and space. Lynn stared at the man for long seconds, trying to come up with a sentence that would sum up her chaotic thoughts.

"What do you mean?" was her meek question, before she shook her head and let her frustration out. "What is that... thing? What is this place?"

Andrew observed her calmly, unfazed by her glare. "I see you're past the point where you think it's all in your head. Congratulations."

Common sense lost the battle against her buzzing anger, and she wasted no time in throwing a punch. His eyes widened in surprise, but he still managed to dodge her attack and grabbed her wrist to limit her movements. There was much more to Lynn than met the eye, and her vast knowledge of martial arts twisted her body and angled her trapped arm until pain shadowed his features. With a curse, he dropped her wrist and groaned as her foot slammed into the side of his knee.

Lynn felt a rush of satisfaction as the man lost his balance, before his tall form was pushed into the wooden floor with her aid.

"Is this how you thank me for saving your life?" he asked in disdain, lips pulled back to form a snarl as her foot dig into his wrist.

Irritation flooded in her veins as she watched him closely, before she stood up and huffed. "This is how I repay you for your sarcasm and lack of empathy."

Sitting up, Andrew leaned his back against the wall under the window and glanced at his wrist. Its reddish colour seemed to amuse him, for his lips curled into a wry smirk.

"Shame physical strength isn't going to get your pretty ass out of this hell."

Lynn arched an eyebrow and batted her eyes in a mocking way. "You think my ass is pretty?"

Not allowing him to give her an answer and not caring for one, she ran a hand through her hair and sat down on a chair. Her eyes glanced at the bookshelves to her right, taking into the many old-looking books, before drifting towards her companion.

"What is this place?" she inquired again, not as tense as before.

"My family's summer house," Andrew replied after a pregnant pause, voice emotionless. "We used to come here every summer, until..."

Lynn waited for him to continue without interrupting; something in the way he spoke, in the way his eyes clouded over, prevented her from doing so.

"Until my aunt Kristine died," he finished eventually, clearing his throat right afterwards. "After fighting cancer for years, it finally killed her. As you expect, it took its toll on all of us. But my grandmother... Well, she refused to accept it."

"Everyone deals with their pain the best way they can," she commented in a heavy voice, avoiding his inquisitive gaze by staring out of the window. "And sometimes, it's so intense that we think the best option is to live in denial until it fades."

He hummed, and then shook his head. "We thought it was what she was doing. But it was far from the truth, and I learnt it the hardest way."

"What happened?"

"She moved to this house, locked herself in. No matter how many times we called, or came here to see her... She never answered our calls, and if she opened the door, it was to tell us to go home and leave her alone," he continued. "We never knew she was lying when she said she needed more time to heal. What else would she want to be alone for?"

Movement caught her eye, leading her attention to the whispering woods spread around the house. From her seat by the window, she received the eerie stare of the ominous lake and quietly leaned away. The feeling of being watched didn't go away as she turned back to face Andrew.

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