Sanaya wiped the bead of sweat from her brow and watched with reverent awe as the sun silently rose above the horizon. San Cristobal, Mexico situated in the highlands of southern Mexico in the state of Chiapas is where Aklia found it best for her team to go. She said it would be the best hideout from Cain and the Darkness Organization at least for now. Yanking her braids into a messy bun high above her head, she leaned over the balustrade that overlooked the small Spanish town, admiring the colonial architecture and the vibrant colors that decorated the city streets. This was indeed a much needed break away from Vatican City. The Guardians here had all been warm and welcoming, embracing her and her friends with love and enthusiasm. Here, she had her own room again, with Maya bunking in the room just across from hers. The male members of her team were placed on the other side of the compound just as they were in Vatican City.
The warmth of the sun chased away the chill of the morning air. It felt nice to have this time and space to simply alone with her thoughts. Archer was still at The Academy, assisting with finding placement for Guardians and students alike. Aklia promised to protect him and Eve and all the senior Guardians that remained on site. As soon as the last student and staff member had filed out, Aklia would bring him, Eve, Congo, and the others here for the time being until the Elders could figure out what to do about the Cain situation.
Speaking of Cain, she too wondered where the Father of All Vampires could have disappeared to? She was certain he was out somewhere under the cover of darkness nursing his daughter, Selene back to life-that is, if she survived. At the mere thought of Selene, Sanaya felt a shifting in her spirit from her personal spirit guardian which happened to be The Phoenix.
“I know,” Sanaya whispered. “I hope she is dead and gone too.”
So much had transpired within a matter of weeks it didn’t make sense. One minute, she was the most misunderstood girl at her school, the next a hero. Then it went from finally being allowed out in the field on live hunts to actually being depended on in a life or death scenario. Now, here she was once again on the other side of the world, unsure of what to expect next.
She took one last glance at the scenery, admiring the magnificent hues of gold that stretched out over the city as the sun once again declared its presence. Retreating the balcony and into her dorm, the scent of bacon filtered into her nostrils and settling to the very bottom of her empty stomach. Most of the Guardians should be up by now, with Ezekial- the head cook- leading the charge as he prepared another one of his scrumptious meals. Sanaya inhaled deeply, deciding it was time to wake the others so they could head down to breakfast together.
Slipping on a pair of white flip flops, after replacing her oversized pajama shirt with a pair of grey sweat shorts and a matching Old Navy tee, she made her way out of her bedroom suite and into the hall. She could feel the energy of the compound awaken, with other Guardians returning from their posts as night sentinels, while others shifted about preparing for their day. She approached Maya’s door with a soft rap and waited for her to answer. Sanaya listened in for clues of Maya being awake when she heard the familiar sounds of her best friend’s snores rattling the room. Sanaya checked the time on her phone: 7:15 a.m. Of course. Maya usually did not drag herself out of the bed until it was closer to eight. And now with them being on the other side of the world in an entirely different time zone, Maya would definitely struggle with the early morning hours.
Instead of banging on the door and forcing Maya out of the bed, Sanaya turned around and heaed towards the dining hall alone. Lisa and Charlie would more than likely already be there. King and the rest of the guys were more than likely on their way. She strolled down the hallway, paying close attention to the epic battle scenes that hung on the walls of Mexican generals fighting off the European whites that threatened to conquer their lands. Pictures of fallen Guardians hung about as well, their eyes haunting yet mournful, triggering the empath in her. She quickened her pace just a tad until she rounded the corner to pass through the billiards room which included a pool table, a small bar, a sixty inch flat screen which hung across the room with ESPN blasting through the speakers.
“Morning princess,” came the voice of the Guardian she came to know as Gustavo.
“Good morning,” she said as she came to a stop next to the leather sofa where he sat.
“You’re up early,” He continued. “I thought you might want to sleep in. You guys have been through a lot.” Warm chocolate brown eyes examined her closely before he rose to his feet.
“I’m an early riser,” she said. “Besides, I’m hungry.”
Gustavo chuckled. “Same here mija. Let’s go see if our home boy Ezekial is done throwing down in the kitchen. I told that fool to make some chorizo, but he ain’t trying to hear me.”
Sanaya giggled, “He can cook though. That chicken he made last night was off the chain!”
“Yeah, from what they say, those southern people can cook. He needs to learn how to make some Empanadas or something…damn.”
Sanaya smiled. “You can’t tell me that since he has been a part of the team you haven’t enjoyed his cooking.”
Gustavo grinned with a shrug. “You got me there sister. I can’t wait until things settle down again so that I can make that trip to New Orleans.”
“Do you think it will ever settle down?”
Gustavo paused. “You got me there mija…I guess there is no time like the present.”
The two then walked in companionable silence from the Billiards room, down a small flight of stairs that led through the kitchen fit for a master chef. The smell of warm biscuits and syrup tainted the air, teasing her taste buds and making her stomach muscles clench up from hunger.
“Ay Ezekial,” Gustavo announced. “We got a hungry Slayer on deck. When is the food going to be ready?”
Sanaya smiled at the tall, lanky Hershey colored Guardian turned and offered a lopsided grin in her direction. Armed with a spatula and an oven mitt, he said, “I’m just about finished, at least with this first round. Got a whole team of young Guardians plus a Slayer to feed.”
Sanaya took a seat on a bar stool in front of the expansive island that sat in the center of the kitchen, propping her elbows up and leaning forward. Without another word Ezekial slid her a plate covered with hot grits dripping with butter, a couple of melt in your mouth buttermilk biscuits, and a few strips of bacon and sausage with a tall glass of orange juice. Sanaya dug in, moaning with delight as the food hit the back of her throat and made its way down to the pit of her stomach.
“Damn Easy,” Gustavo said with a grin. “I told you she was hungry.”
“Starving actually,” Sanaya added with a mouthful of food.
“I knew I would find you guys here,” came the thick Spanish accented voice of the head Guardian of the compound, Giselle. “Good morning.”
“Well look what the cat drug in,” Gustavo teased.
“More like a were panther,” Giselle added. She glanced at Sanaya and smiled before taking position next to her on the island. “Sleep well my dear?”
Sanaya nodded. “I did. It’s beautiful here.”
“It is isn’t it?” Giselle quizzed, taking a look at her plate. She frowned and then looked at Ezekial, who held her gaze. “Ezekial,” she began. “How you gon’ be knee deep in Mexico and not think to cook some authentic Mexican food? I mean I love a good biscuit, but damn brother! Can you make some Pozole or something? You make me want to go back to home to by abuela’s house for a meal.”
“Look,” Ezekial stated aiming his spatula at both Guardians. “I don’t give a damn what neither one of you have to say. As my grandmama used to say, you eat what I put in front of you.”
“You better learn how to cook a taco or something,” Gustavo laughed. “Otherwise you are going to have a mutiny on this team.”
“Whatever. I aint worried about none of you heathens. Yall gon’ eat what I cook or you gon’ fend for yourselves.”
“Anyways,” Giselle said, stealing a strip of bacon off of the tray that Ezekial had moved from the stove and placed on the island. “I received word from the Guardian teams in New York. Andre said it will be years before the Guardian ranks out there could be replenished. With The Academy being evacuated, Guardian recruitment will have to be done the old fashioned way.”
“Man, I was ready to suit up and fly out there,” Gustavo said running a hand over his half shaven head. “Why does all the action take place when I’m not around?”
“Who you telling?” Ezekial asked, setting down the plate of biscuits. “When that shit went down in New Orleans, I was ready to go out with guns blazing. In my city? Hell naw!”
“They will be flushing out nests for weeks,” Giselle continued. “But with The Academy having to relocate so many Guardians and staff, that particular team at least for now will have their ranks filled.” She glanced over at Sanaya who seemed to be in deep thought as she finished what was left on her plate. “We lucked out when we were chosen to host the Slayer and her team.”
“Seriously,” Gustavo added, his gaze fixed on Sanaya. “I couldn’t believe it when you told us. I thought none of us in this lifetime would ever have the opportunity to meet her. The Vatican had you on a tight lockdown.”
“My cousin Congo talked about you all the time Sanaya,” Ezekial said sa he grabbed a dish cloth. “When you first came to The Academy, he was like ‘blood, we aint never seen nothing like her.’”
“Yeah, and then when we heard about you facing off with that Master Vampire who showed up at your school…” Giselle said.
“And how you got down in Louisiana,” Gustavo added.
“But her whole team is bad ass. That little spit fire Maya,” Ezekial continued. “She got some powerful juju in her veins. I know a homegrown Louisiana girl when I see one, and whoever her mother is, man…All I am going to say is I’m glad she is on our side.”
Giselle placed a friendly arm around Sanaya and said, “But don’t worry mija. We are going to take good care of you while you are here.”
“I know,” Sanaya said after swallowing the last bit of her bacon.
“But I do gotta asked you this,” Gustavo began, all seriousness laced his tone. “What’s up with that Cain character? Your primary Guardian, Archer gave us the run down, but is there anything else we should know about him?”
All eyes bore down on Sanaya who calmly took several huge gulps of her orange juice before setting the glass down. She met their concerned stares dead on and said, “He is super strong; can do daylight, but…I think he is running from something which is why he risked it all to try to connect with me.”
The Gaurdians shared uneasy glances.
“Well,” Giselle pressed. “Tell us.”
Sanaya shrugged. “I don’t know what or who it is yet. That is just my suspicion.”
“Well can he track you here?” Gustavo asked. “I just want to know cuz we got something for his ass-“
“He can’t track me,” Sanaya insisted. “Aklia made sure of that. As long as I travel using unconventional means, he will have a hard time pin pointing me…but I will say this. Since we arrived here, I feel something…a strong vibe like something big is coming. In case Archer forgot to tell you, I severely injured Cain’s daughter…this is only the beginning.”
“And God only knows what else is out there,” Giselle muttered.
“Well, this is the part of the job we have been waiting for,” Ezekial sighed. “Breakfast anyone?”
Sanaya stood up and grabbed her plate, spoon and now empty glass and took it to the sink to wash. Dipping her plate into the warm sudsy water, she could only think about what potentially awaited her from the shadows. Yup, this was only the beginning.