Sarah sat up quickly and glanced around. Little flicks of flames sparked in her hair, ready to go full conflagration if needed.
But there was no need.
The room was in perfect order. Nothing out of place. No strangers lurked near the bed. Her bridesmaid dress was right where she’d left it. Not a hem or stitch out of place. The door wasn’t open. The lights were not on.
Sarah pulled aside the blanket and got out of bed. She walked over to the closet. If any creeps were hiding in there, they were so going to get their faces burned off.
She yanked the closet door open.
She was not satisfied. It didn’t make sense to her. She could have and would have sworn that there had been someone standing near the bed just before she woke up. There had been someone. She was sure of it.
At the very least, there had been a presence.
Or had it been only a dream?
She did not know. And, honestly, she didn’t think that even Clarice would know.
Sarah returned to bed and flopped down on the mattress.
She stayed in her fiery wolf form and curled up against the wall. She watched and waited for Carthage to close the door. It was always the same song, the same exact dance. Every single night. He’d let her back into her room. She’d go to her spot. He’d close the door. He’d lock it. She’d lay down and go to sleep.
Yet, there was always that thought, always that temptation, to run out of the room before he could close it. Escape! But where would she escape to? There was no one and nothing waiting for her in the outside world.
The Institute was her only world.
Her only home.
Carthage closed the door and locked it.
Plus, they would just capture her again if she ever ran away.
Sarah laid her chin on the polished, well-sanitized floor. The harsh chemicals assaulted her sense of smell. She wrinkled her nose in annoyance and sneezed several times.
After her last sneeze, Sarah closed her eyes. The door was closed and the door was locked. There was nothing else for her to do but go to sleep.
So, she went to sleep.
Sarah smiled contentedly at the ceiling. Sleeping on a bed was billions and trillions of times better than sleeping on the floor. No one would ever be able to convince her otherwise. Not even Ambrose. She rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in the pillow. She happily kicked her feet against the mattress. Pillows were miracles in softness. They were blessings. They were every best thing in life. That was another indisputable fact.
No more hard floors for her. Not ever again.
“Mmmnn….” Clarice stirred.
Sarah popped her head up. Was Clarice going to wake up now? She watched and waited for a few minutes. But nope. Clarice was planning to sleep in from the looks of it. Sarah got out of bed and strode to the door.
The door was locked.
She slapped her hands on the door, wishing and wanting to scream. She opened her mouth as wide as she could.
But no sound came out. Not even a hiss of air.
She slapped the door again before retreating to her usual spot by the wall.
Sarah turned the doorknob.
The door opened.
The door was always locked. Carthage always locked it. There was no way he would ever leave it unlocked.
She stepped out into the hall.
She transformed into her fire elemental form. Carthage would come again in the morning. He would unlock the door. He would let her out. All she had to do was wait.
Sarah took a couple of steps down the hall before remembering that she was wearing just her underwear. She turned around and returned to the bedroom.
She closed her eyes and fell asleep.