Alex's Tent, Granite Falls, 2028
Henry followed Luka to Alex’s tent. There was something about the fresh night air that calmed Henry, allowing him to process more clearly the events of that afternoon.
“I didn’t know anyone else was allowed near Alex's tent,” said Henry.
The upper left corner of Luka's lip lifted in disgust. "Your special 'Hellewell' hooks have dug pretty deep into Alex, now, haven't they? Should have pulled those hooks out the moment he returned from Philosophers camp when we were kids... Yeah, I noticed the effect you had on him the moment he invited you into our group when he returned."
"I got off at the wrong stop," said Henry. "I didn't want to be at Philosophers camp as much as you didn't want me there. I was supposed to go to Outward Bound!"
“Yeah whatever! To answer your question," he continued contemptuously, "besides you, obviously, I'm the only one allowed near Alex's tent.”
Luka shot Henry one last scornful look, before heading back to base-camp.
Henry unzipped the tent and walked inside. “Alex?”
Alex sat on his bed, surrounded by curtains, with his head tilted to the ground. Damn this tent must be expensive, Henry thought.
“What’s wrong, Alex?" Henry asked. "You were victorious over Lauren. I mean, yeah, it's unfortunate that two-thirds of my cousins are now dead," there was a trace of bitterness in Henry's voice, "but... they would have killed you, so... I guess better them than you...” After all, they would kill me too if they discovered I am faithful to you and you only.
"I'm sorry Henry," Alex whispered. "I'm so sorry."
No you're not, thought Henry. "Why am I here, Alex?"
Alex paused for a moment. “Lauren’s gone!” he sighed.
“Gone?” Henry furrowed his eyebrows. The whole fight was a blur, during which he had spent most of the time confused and scared. Finally, he had found himself rounded up with the other surviving Hellewells. He hadn't noticed that Lauren wasn’t among them. “Do you think she ran away?”
"Of course she did!” groaned Alex.
Henry sighed. Damn Alex. I was looking forward to Lauren calling you king. Henry walked over to the bed and sat down beside him. Alex leaned closer to Henry and Henry did the same.
“I need to find Lauren,” said Alex. “She must honour our agreement.”
Henry shook his head. “I don’t think she’s willing to do that.”
“Then she must die,” said Alex.
Henry cringed at the thought of Lauren being dead. There’s another tedious book for Paris to write, he thought. When Henry was a kid, Paris wrote a book called Vampires Stole My Sister, based on the true story of Lauren being kidnapped by the Grandmaster Vampire, Vladislaus Straud. Every Hellewell had read it, except Henry who couldn’t be bothered with a book about Lauren.
“Can you... uh...promise me something, Alex?” said Henry, hesitantly. For the first time in ages, he had no idea how Alex was going to react. He shifted awkwardly on the bed.
“Of course, Henry, anything," said Alex, flashing Henry one of his warm smiles.
Gah, thought Henry, as his shoulder sank into Alex's.
The two locked eyes affectionately.
"… although, it is, at the end of the day," Alex continued, "either Lauren or me.”
“I know, Alex,” said Henry. He dipped his head, raising his dreamy eyes at him. “It’s just, it’s my cousins. They have nothing to do with Lauren, other than being related to her. Please believe me… I wa…”
“Henry,” said Alex, putting his arm around his friend. “I’m setting them free. As long as they agree to my terms, they can do whatever they want. I don’t care.”
“How thoughtful of you,” said Henry, playfully sarcastic.
Alex pulled Henry closer, "Well, I aim to please, don't I Henry?"
Henry raised an eyebrow. Uh-huh.