“BOTHER,” SHE EXHALED quietly into the darkness of her bedroom. “Fourth night in a row.”
Danielle didn’t like the new dream any more than the old one. With the destruction of the Key of Kahrnahrgx, she thought she’d no longer have those awful nightmares. As she bitterly wiped the sleep from her eyes, she realized how wrong that assumption was.
She sat up sluggishly, rotated her legs so they swung over the side of the bed, and hopped to the floor. Although she knew better than to look at her alarm clock, she glanced anyway.
“Double bother!” she grumbled. It was 3:52 a.m. She stared at her clock, motionless except for the movement of her lips as she muttered under her breath.
A thump from the darkest corner of her room brought Danielle out of her spin-cycle of gloom. Quickly, she dropped to her knees. “Quiet, girl!” she whispered, patting her legs softly.
In the dim light of the waning moon falling through the window blinds, an enormous dog appeared out of the shadow, canine nails clicking on the hardwood floor. Her tail wagged gently, almost dreamily. The great beast nestled her nose into Danielle’s neck and rubbed against the teenager for a moment. Then, she sat down before her mistress, her eyes level with Danielle’s.
“Hi, girl! I’m sorry to have woken you up again, so early in the morning…” Danielle’s words came unevenly as she struggled through the weariness that builds over several nights of interrupted sleep. “Oh, but that’s a good Anja.” The dog’s tail swished back and forth across the floor, while her mistress gave Anja a long hug and many loving pats on her head.
Anja had been added to the Wheelens’ household within one day of their return home from their terrible adventure. It was crazy to think about: the strange key her parents had unearthed during an expedition just before Danielle was born was actually from another race of creatures. Gargoyles had burst into their lives, some seeking the key to complete its evil purpose, while others protected Danielle and her parents in her quest to destroy it. Still, their house was destroyed early on in the struggle. When Danielle’s parents met with the police to file a report on what happened to their old house, they came up with a convincing story that didn’t include gargoyles. Then, they had to meet with their insurance agent, too, about what would be covered—and what wouldn’t—and when they could get into a new house. To the great relief of the Wheelen family, the fire department had already concluded that something went terribly wrong in the kitchen that had led to the fire that destroyed most of their house. But even with those important meetings during that first day back, they made sure to get to the pound to find a dog. As big and fiercely protective a dog as they could find.
The staff at the shelter introduced them to Anja, an unusually large Akita. This breed was known to make excellent guard dogs, being suspicious of strangers but very affectionate towards their own family. Anja and Danielle hit it off instantly. Danielle loved Anja’s dark, wide and thoughtful eyes, bordered by a heavy coat of brown and black, all the way back to her corkscrew tail. When Peter, Danielle’s father, found out that Anja weighed nearly as much as he did, he took a deep breath, smiled wide at his wife and daughter, and declared, “Perfect!” Amy, Danielle’s mom, had smiled back, her eyes filled with tears. Anja barked enthusiastically.
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