The nightmares had greatly diminished since Anya had been given her pet, Antonio. Sherdan had surprised her with the gift but it had been the perfect choice. It had almost torn down her guard completely and she’d had to remind herself that Sherdan had tortured her for several days.

Several time now he had said that he both loved her and wanted her to leave if it would make her happy, but no matter how many times he said it she couldn’t decide if she believed him. His words were still as fresh to her as the moment he’d said them.

Anya wasn’t sure how she felt about him either. She had considered leaving several times recently before she did something she regretted and got herself in too deep.

Every time she told herself she was leaving she’d have the same dream again about saving Sherdan’s life. Thankfully, it didn’t make her throw up any more.

God evidently wanted her to stay. She hoped she could bring herself to leave when it finally came down to it. The longer she stayed the more she felt attached to Sherdan and his country’s fate.

There had been one moment when she’d almost allowed Sherdan right under her skin. She knew that couldn’t happen. He wasn’t why she was here and she would have to leave at some point soon. She couldn’t have a relationship even if she wanted one.

Anya sat down with a thud, surprising herself at thinking seriously about being with Sherdan. Before today she’d denied any desire for anything of the sort. She’d put any feelings down to Stockholm syndrome.

Her thoughts were so muddled. She couldn’t think of anything to do but pray and hope she could leave soon. Her feelings could be worked through in her own home and church, safe from Sherdan’s unhealthy affect on her.

She absent-mindedly stroked the kitten beside her as she prayed. Strength and focus would be important until her task here was done, even if she still didn’t know what that was.

Her karate lessons were going well. Nathan had taught her a lot in a short space of time. They’d gone through all the blocks so many times that Nathan now struggled to land a blow. She had then begun learning attacks, but she wasn’t as good at those yet. Her punches were very weak, although her kicks weren’t too bad.

Nathan had suggested she try sparring with her ability turned on. In her half way stage she’d be invisible but be able to strike back at an assailant if needed. If she thought she was going to be hit she could move into the full state of her ability and any blows would go through her.

She’d turned down his offer to practice this as she’d not felt completely comfortable fighting him naked, even if he wouldn’t be able to see anything. Also, she didn’t know if she would be able to keep herself invisible and concentrate on karate at the same time. His suggestion had merit, however, so she’d spent a further hour each day practising alone whilst invisible.

Another Sunday passed, with her still away from her church, and another week began, leaving Anya feeling down again. She knew she’d need to leave soon. She finally felt like her time here was coming to an end. It still felt like something needed to happen first but, as the week began, her feelings of expectancy grew.

She could hardly focus on her karate Tuesday morning and did very little in the way of research for Sherdan. The public opinion on him hadn’t changed much lately anyway. People mostly thought he was amazing. The houses he’d robbed people of were largely forgotten already.

He joined her earlier than normal that evening but looked even more tired than he usually did. He smiled at her and went straight to his laptop. She came and sat nearby.

“So what’s the plan this evening?” she asked, expecting him to suggest something as he had for the last week.

“I’m too busy this evening. I didn’t get enough of my work done.”

“Why ever not? You’ve been gone since seven?”

“I… Hitchin had me in the lab a lot of the day.” She raised her eyebrows, “I needed some tests… it seems my ability has disappeared. Hitchin is the only other person who knows, however.”

“I won’t say a word. How will this affect your country?”

“Hopefully it won’t. It seems to just be me, and it also appears that there is no discernible scientific reason, but we don’t have the results from all the tests yet.”

“Oh. I will let you work then.” She got up to go, feeling sorry for him.

“Please stay? At least until dinner. Tell me about your day.”

“Nothing really happened. I’ve been practising my karate and my ability but not much else.”

“Keep practising, it’s good for you.”

“What kind of work do you have to do?” she enquired.

“I have to work out some trade agreements with some of the countries that have asked to trade. I don’t want to give them any of our advanced technology so I’m having to come up with other things we have to offer. Trade will be important to us; with some of them at least.” Sherdan looked thoughtful for a moment. Anya thought it sounded rather tedious but let Sherdan continue.

“Also, a few countries want embassies here. Finally, there’s the ball in three days.”

“I’d like to come to that.”

“I’ve already said. If you are staying then I think you should come.”

“I’m not sure I am staying and even if I were, I have no dress.” Anya got up and walked away to inspect the books. She’d looked over them so many times before but the familiar names soothed her agitated mind. A part of her considered saying she’d stay just to go to the ball but she couldn’t lie.

She lost herself in thought until Sherdan made her jump. He had stopped working and come up behind her. He took her right hand in his and turned her to face him.

“I want you to stay. Be on my arm at the ball, in front of my whole country.” She looked away and then back again. “Stay.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Do you want to?”

“No… Well, maybe. I can’t decide.” She couldn’t lie but hated that he’d asked her. “I have things I need to do back home.”

“So do them and come back. I’ll even drive you myself.”

“It’s not that simple.”

Before either of them could say anything else Anne popped her head through the doorway and told them dinner was ready. Anya immediately tore her hand away from Sherdan and went into the dining room. It gave her a moment to compose herself.

She’d come so close to giving in and saying she’d come back. He made her head spin and she was very grateful when he had to carry on working after they had eaten. It gave her some respite to his attentions.

She deliberately fetched her bible and sat reading it in the same room as him. It wasn’t something she’d done before while being in the same room as him. He’d made such a mockery of her beliefs that she hadn’t wanted to draw any attention to it, but it seemed like a good idea now.

The whole evening Sherdan said very little. His work absorbed his attention and she often looked up to see him frowning over it. A part of her wanted to help him. His work load was obviously too much but she’d already got herself far too attached to him and his country to offer any more help. Enough was enough.

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