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We snickered and Alex leaned across the table to grab my hands. I offered them to her and she squeezed them tightly. “I’m not going to get all sappy and sentimental with you, Sash, because you know that’s not really my style but I’m going to miss you. I want you to be extra careful, all right?” “I think you guys have the wrong impression of Iceland,” I chuckled. “It’s really not a block of ice, you know?” Alex scowled at my flip response. “I hate to be the one to tell you this, honey, but I’ve traveled more in my job than you have in yours.” I grinned at her and tightened my grip around her hands. “I know. You’re the next Barbara Walters,” I teased. “No one is going to know what hit them when you get your first exclusive.” “Nice deflection, Sash,” Alex muttered, her eyes meeting mine earnestly. “You can’t make me forget my worries by flattering me.” I shrugged. “It was worth a shot.” Alex’s lips parted as if she wanted to say something else but she seemed to think better of it. “Just promise me you’ll be careful, all right?” I exhaled heavily. “I’ll do my best,” I grumbled. “I just hope that Queenie lays off me while we’re there.” Alex’s eyes darkened. “She’s still on you, huh? What is her problem?” “Apparently I am,” I chimed. “Hopefully this will be your ticket out from under her supervision,” Alex offered supportively. “I mean, if you don’t kill her first.” “You know I wouldn’t kill anyone without you, Allie. You know where to hide all the bodies.” Alex laughed and raised her glass in toast. “Truer words have never been spoken, sister.” At that time, I didn’t know how this trip was going to change my life…forever. 2 Sasha The flight from LaGuardia to Reykjavik was almost fifteen hours with a five-hour layover in Boston. At least Mirror, Mirror had granted us business class accommodations so the flight was relatively seamless, even though I was seated alone near the front of the section. In my mind, leading up to the trip, I had envisioned Hunter and I sitting somewhere private, maybe sipping on complimentary champagne and talking about how we both loved dogs. He’d lean in for a kiss and we’d gaze into each other’s eyes… The reality was me spending the journey with my headphones in my ears, craning my neck on occasion to look behind me and see that Hunter and Queenie were seated together. At least they aren’t interlocking arms and toasting one another with goblets of wine, I mused. In fact, from what I could see, Hunter seemed enthralled in his laptop almost the whole time. I didn’t even see him sleeping. By the time we landed, my body was aching from the pressure and I was looking forward to getting to our accommodations. I knew we weren’t staying in a hotel but I hoped wherever it was had a comfortable bed. What I hadn’t anticipated was that it would be another five hours of driving before we got to Hof. The van which took us through the long, winding roads was not built for such a long trip but despite my exhaustion, I couldn’t stop gasping at the landscape as we moved. I’d never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. It was like something out of a fairy tale, the snow-capped fields and towering mountains beyond as far as the eye could see. It was dawn when we landed but the shortening of daylight was already apparent and the sky was still black until we found ourselves passing through Hof. Our driver was a jovial man named Magnus who happily cited off Icelandic history in a heavy accent which made understanding nearly impossible. Still, no one stopped him and his voice was soothing, lulling me almost into a trance as we slipped through the rustic country. I was wedged between Queenie and our suitcases in the back seat, the rest of our equipment piled high in the rear cab while Hunter rode in comfort in the passenger side with Magnus. Queenie didn’t say much but I could tell she didn’t like being pressed up against me any more than I did her. I prayed silently for the housing to appear but when it did, I gasped in shock. “Is this it?” I asked dubiously when the caravan pulled up to something that reminded me of a storage container. We hadn’t seen a house for miles and I couldn’t gauge how far we were from civilization. I really hadn’t been paying attention to be honest. “What were you expecting? A day spa?” Queenie spat. “This is a research and development trip, princess.” I bristled but I held my tongue as we piled out of the van and began to unload the van. “It’s really isolated,” I breathed, mostly to myself and suddenly both my mom’s and Alex’s warnings came flooding back to me in a torrent. “It’s cozy,” Hunter chirped and I looked at him. I hadn’t realized he was at my side but I was glad he was there. It was nice to have an ally against the evil witch.
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