Star Chapter 23

Chapter 23

I walked around the house noting all the security risks with Alan. They had an alarm system which could be set for when there was no one in the house and a sleep function, when all the external doors and a sensor in the garage were live.

The alarm system was a good one but it had a few flaws. There were a few downstairs windows that were not alarmed, nor was there a sensor to pick up access and there was no way to identify whoever came to the front door.

“Alan do you mind if we spend a few minutes chatting before I go to bed?” I asked him after we had finished our tour and headed in the back door.

“It is getting late, but I suppose you can have a lie in if you need it. Sure.” We headed back to the kitchen table. Lisa wasn't present and I could hear someone moving around upstairs so I presumed that was her. “What did you want to ask?”

I took a deep breath. “I don't want you to get the wrong impression with this question, so I am going to explain my thoughts before I ask what I really want to ask. Your alarm system is good, but it has some flaws. I think I can protect whoever is with me, but you, Lisa and Barbie are not going to be near me most of the time. I haven't really got a handle on the threat level to work out how concerned I should be. Both these problems can be solved with money.”

“So your real question is?” Alan inquired.

“Can you afford to spend to solve these issues?” I continued. “The alarm system can be upgraded. I'm sure if we contact the Phoenix Group they can recommend a local contractor or if not, send a specialist who can fix the issues. You thought about hiring a bodyguard for Jess, that might still be a good idea, but not just for her. Particularly when I am not in the house. Ideally, if we could also have some camera coverage for where someone might approach the house if they were going to vandalize it. The alarm system should also be linked to either a security firm that will send someone swiftly or the police, depending on their usual response times.”

“Yes, we can afford it and they all sound like good ideas. Some of that is similar to what we were told when we first approached the Phoenix Group. I thought that since I had an alarm system and it was linked to a security company that I had already covered it, but I guess I haven't really done my due diligence. I couldn't tell you their response time and since they were the ones to set up the alarm system which you are not happy with, they probably were not the best. What do you mean about the threat level?” He asked.

“For the average burglar the alarm system is probably fine. Most criminals want easy money with the least risk of getting caught, so with clear evidence that your house has an alarm they are more likely to chose an easier target. Now if there are specific threats against members of a household, that is a higher threat level and would require a better security system. In this case, I don't know how serious the threats against Jess are, so I don't know if hiring more help is required. If they are only interested in targeting her, then I can probably cover it, but if they decide that I have made that target too difficult, do they then look for another way of intimidating her? Like going after a different member of her family. This is where we get to the awkward money question. If hiring extra help is a stretch, then I will judge to the best of my ability how serious the brothers are. If money is not an issue then I would suggest you get the help regardless. I would hate to be wrong and would prefer to have more protection than less.”

“We will get the extra help. Why were you worried about asking about money?” Alan asked.

“Well, I don't have any money and neither does Barbie, so we are going to have to rely on your charity for some years to come. I thought it might be rude to ask how rich you are. I have no intention of abusing that, but..”

“Astra. Stop, just stop.” Alan said, holding up his hands. “I didn't agree to house you and feed you. I agreed to foster you with the probability of adoption. I intend to treat you both as my daughters. That makes you a Daddy's Princess along with your sister. We, as a family, are pretty well off. I have been earning more than we have been spending for years. When Lisa takes you shopping tomorrow I don't want you to just get the necessities. You have almost no clothes, when you return, I expect you to have as full a wardrobe as Jess and I am expecting a modelling demonstration. I will be disappointed if you don't buy anything because you are worried about how much we are spending. You don't need to live out of a suitcase anymore.”

I looked at him in surprise. I was also suspicious. I knew I had no reason to be, but the last man who had bought me clothes was trying to get more money for me when he sold me to a pimp. Not that he was anything like Alan, but still trusting a man was going to be a difficult proposition for me. I wanted to show him that I appreciated his words. At the same time I was feeling confused and unsure.

“Err...Thank you.” I reached across and squeezed his hand briefly and then rushed upstairs. I could feel tears tracking their way down my face although I had no idea why. I got myself ready for bed and did some of the meditation exercises that my psychologist had suggested to try and bring my errant emotions back into equilibrium.

I curled myself into a ball on my large bed and shivered a bit in some weird body response that had nothing to do with cold. Deep breaths and some calming exercises eventually allowed me to settle and drift off to sleep.

I woke briefly when Barbie made her way into my bed and then a bit later I felt Jess hovering outside my door.

“Come in Jess.” I said quietly, but loud enough I hoped that she could hear me.

The door tentatively opened and Jess popped her head in.

“Come on in for a cuddle. I will keep you safe and protected.” I told her again.

She made her way into my bed, but still kept her distance.

“You spoon Barbie and I will spoon you.” I told her and then climbed over her so that she was in the middle between Barbie and me. I could feel her shaking for a while, so I held her firmly and just promised her that I would keep her safe. Eventually I felt her settle and then her breathing changed as she drifted off. I stayed awake thinking of what I needed to do to keep my promises. Realising that was not helping me calm down I diverted myself with thoughts of playing chess. I tried to imagine a chessboard and playing myself. After I got about eight moves in I struggled to remember where all the pieces were and I would have to start again.

I woke up aware that Lisa had opened the door and was peering in. We were still snuggled up and my hand was lying on Jess's stomach with her hand on top. I tried to extract myself gently. Jess tightened her hold on my hand, so I left it there and tried to turn enough to show Lisa that I was awake, but she was withdrawing and carefully closing the door behind her. I guess she wasn't too bothered to find us all together.

I couldn't get back to sleep and it wasn't long before Barbie and Jess woke up. Barbie scampered off to her room quite happily. Jess was going to slink away, but I didn't want that to happen.

“Jess.” I called, stopping her exit. She turned round to face me. I walked up to her and gave her a hug. “Thank you for trusting me and making me feel welcome. I will keep you safe today and every day after.”

I had discussed with my psychologist at the Phoenix Group in general terms what situation I was going to and asked for advice. She told me that there was no point telling someone something that they can't believe. You have to make it believable. She suggested I create a ritual where I tell her that she is safe for that day. If I said I will always keep you safe, then it was unlikely to be believed, but if I said I will keep you safe for twenty four hours, that is more believable. Hopefully repetition will get through to her.

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This story is 1543 words long.