• “Why do you ask?” Trent asked slowly, shifting his arms so that they were in a more comfortable position.

    She stopped braiding for a moment and tilted her head to one side, as if thinking deeply about what she would say next. “Well, you seemed pretty nice to me, and not many men are. Only those who know a girl personally in their lives are nice to me. Just morbid curiosity I suppose. I get that sometimes.” August beamed mischievously and watched Trent smile in return.

    “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be nice to you. You’re so nice to everyone else.” Trent said impishly and lowered his head slightly so that his nose was just above the upper arm. August smirked and shifted in her seat so that she was crossing her legs.

    “I think you’d be surprised, Mr. Bryan.” She said just as playfully and plucked the half-finished braid out of the rest of the mess, then continued it in silence.

    Trent rested his head against his arms and closed his eyes, then felt the cold stare return to his head. He looked up again reluctantly, and saw the other man frowning in their direction. August was staring back just as grimly, her hands fists again in her lap.

    “What’s wrong?” Trent whispered, not taking his eyes off the lone man in the front of the bus. A low growl sounded from August’s throat as she leaned forward slightly. Trent, utterly shocked, reached out to hold her shoulder, but his hand hesitated over the thin fabric of her sweatshirt; what he stopped for, he wasn’t exactly sure.

    “August…” He started, but she stood gracefully and stomped out the rear door. Trent realized the bus had stopped, and after a short look around recognized the scenery around the vehicle. He ran off the bus just before it closed the rear doors for other passengers to board. He found August off to one side, arms crossed and a furious look on her face.

    “August, what happened in there?” Trent demanded worriedly, and soon, her eyes found his face.

    “That man. He—“ She winced, halted mid sentence, and turned sharply on her heel, barging into the gathering crowd. Trent barely kept up, but followed her golden hair bobbing up and down with her lithe step.

    As they reached the edge of the crowd, August halted in her step, frozen in place. Trent bent over with his hands on his knees, panting from nearly running while pushing through the multitudes of people.

    “August, please talk to me. You’re making me nervous.” Trent coughed and glanced up to the little girl.

    “You have to hide me, Trent. Please, please hide me!” August backed slowly toward the crowd, but Trent caught her arm and held her still. Her wild eyes turned on him.

    “I don’t think you understand, Trent.” Her small head was shaking slowly, angrily almost. “They’re after me. You have to get me as far away from here as you can!” August whimpered, tears gathering in her wide green eyes.

    “Wait, who’s after you?”

    “Them!” August cried and pointed past Trent at a large white van that steered wildly around the corner and whipped to a park on the other side of the road.

    “Oh geez.” Trent muttered and looked back to August, his arms outstretched. “Do you mind if I carry you?” August nodded quickly and took one step forward; Trent swooped down and caught one of her arms over his shoulder, and she was on his back in one swift movement.

    “Don’t let her get away!” Trent heard screams from behind them, and he pushed back into the crowd. Once he was sure they were thoroughly lost in the crowd, he slowed to a walk to merge with the rest of the people.

    “What are you doing?” August hissed into Trent’s ear, sending shivers up his spine. “Blending in won’t help us now.”

    As if on a silent command, Trent bolted in a straight line toward a tall, white building that stood too high into the air. August tightened her loose grip around Trent’s neck and she buried her head into his back.
    “They’re coming. They’re coming.” August whimpered almost silently into the cloth of his jacket.

    “There they are! Go get her!” Shouts and startled screams sounded from the crowd around them, only willing Trent to go as fast as his long legs could carry him.

    Finally, they broke free from the crowd, and Trent heaved a deep breath while searching for a place to hide.

    “In that alley.” August whispered, not taking her head from his back or her arms from his neck. Trent’s head whipped around, then seeing a dark alley next to the tall white building hissed back at her, “Dark alleys never work! They’d find us anyway!”

    “Just do it!” The girl cried, voice nearly muted against the jacket. Trent groaned in frustration and dove for the alley that stood just across the street. Dodging three cars in the process, he finally bounded into the alley and ducked behind a dumpster.

    The girl’s moans did nothing to comfort him as he held her close to his chest to hide them from the men, who were all strangely dressed in white jumpsuits with dark blue overcoats. Something about holding August that close seemed illicit, criminal or forbidden even. Yet the trembling girl did nothing to discourage his protecting arms.

    “You lost her?!” One man yelled just outside the alley, and August quieted her sobs immediately. “Get in the van, they couldn’t have gotten far!” Sounds of pounding feet hitting concrete and more irritated shouts from the crowd let the two know they were gone.

    Trent held her away from his body and looked her straight in the eye.

    “Who are you?”