Dire (Page 33)

I knew she didn’t mean the large bag of flour in her hands.

“I still don’t get it.”

“It doesn’t matter, does it? I mean he wants you; he has you. You might as well get used to it and stop fighting. You’re only going to make things harder for yourself and Gage.”

“Do you think Hunter’s going to hurt him?” Maybe Marni could be helpful. The only good thing about her attraction to Gage was that it was possible she’d want him to stay around, and to stay alive.

“If he gets in the way of what Hunter wants, and what he wants is you—then, yes.”

I shivered. “Ok. Let’s make those cookies.”

She measured out the sugar. “I’m glad you get it.”

I decided to play the only cards I had. Our situation looked bleak, but I refused to let it get any worse. At least not for Gage. “Please help me protect him.”

“I’ll do what I can, but it’s mostly going to come down to you.”

“I know,” I whispered the words.

“Hunter’s not that bad,” She said almost as quietly.

“Not that bad? I beg to differ.” We had to find a way to leave, but until then I had to protect Gage. He was the only thing I had left.

Chapter Seventeen

Gage

Chopping wood wasn’t a new experience, but somehow doing it under Hunter’s watchful eye made it seem more like a punishment than usual. That says a lot since it was never a favorite on the long list of chores my father gave me in the winters growing up.

Still, there was something reassuring about the familiar, so I gladly picked up the axe and started splitting a pile of wood. I was mildly surprised they were allowing me to hold a sharp object, but they knew, as well as I did, that I wouldn’t be able to take out all of them, and I’d never manage to get to Mary Anne fast enough no matter what distraction I created. It was amazing how quickly my priorities had changed. Time and again I was giving up my chance to escape in order to protect her. At another point in my life I may have thought it made me weak, but now it made me feel stronger. There was someone else in the world relying on me, and I wasn’t going to let her down.

I threw the axe back again, putting my full energy into splitting up the wood. Despite my annoyance, there was something nice about building up a sweat. I was generally an active person, and sitting around wasn’t my thing.

“You can use an axe.” Hunter made it sound like he was shocked.

I chopped another large piece of wood and set aside the axe. “Why does that surprise you?”

“You aren’t as much of a pretty boy as I had you pegged.”

“Pretty boy?” I was ready to pick up the axe again. That was a term that didn’t apply to me at all. Compared to most guys at Eastern University, I might as well have been a mountain man. I had the look to go along with the experience working outdoors. Mayville wasn’t exactly a glamorous town. I think it’s what made me so popular with the girls in Boston. I was different from the usual guys they knew even if I wore the same clothes.

He grinned, “You’re easy to piss off.”

“And you can make a joke?”

“Sometimes.” He picked up his axe, but he kept his eyes on me.

We continued splitting the wood without talking. The forest was quiet except for the sound of the axe breaking through the wood. Even Chet and Falcon stopped arguing as we finished working. These wolves must have saved up all their wood chopping for the season, because it took a full hour to finish.

I tossed my last piece onto the pile and followed Chet into the shed to hang up the axes. I took in the inventory for future reference. Shovels, axes, rakes, a mower, and a pair of handcuffs. Handcuffs? What the heck did they need those for?

“I’d be careful.”

I turned to Chet. “Careful of what?”

“Pissing off Hunter. Do what he says and accept the girl’s not yours anymore.”

“Why the hell do you care?”

He grunted. “I’d rather not have to clean up the mess.”

I eyed the tools again.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Chet added. “You’ll be dead before you have it off the hook.”

He was probably right, but he didn’t need to worry. I wasn’t planning on doing anything yet.

Chopping wood wasn’t a new experience, but setting traps was. I was ready to go inside to check on Mary Anne, but Hunter told me I had to go with Falcon. My first reaction was that I was stepping into a trap myself. Go off into the woods and leave Hunter to go back into the house with Mary Anne? Besides, Falcon seemed like the loosest cannon of the bunch. I didn’t particularly want to be left alone with him.

I tried to come up with any excuse to stay, but Hunter didn’t give me the chance. “The sooner you go, the sooner you come back.” He had a point, but not one I wanted to admit.

I grudgingly walked with Falcon through the snow. “Aren’t you wolves? Why set traps?”

He pushed me ahead of him. “We need a lot of meat. We can’t hunt too much on our land, so between hunting trips we supplement with what we catch here. Hunter’s big on keeping things on the down low.”

“And you aren’t?” I mumbled.

“Don’t be a smart ass.”

I dragged the traps as we moved deeper into the forest.

Eventually he told me to stop, and I watched as he expertly set up the first trap in the brush. It was a snare by the looks of it. I wasn’t sure what animals they were hoping to catch, but I didn’t want to know. I didn’t plan on staying around long enough to have to eat whatever it was.

He moved back to standing and gestured for me to continue up the makeshift trail. I looked back down the way we came before doing what he asked.

“So how is she?” His voice came from closer than I liked. Couldn’t a guy get any breathing room? His question only made me angry, so I ignored him.

“Come on, she’s got to be good with the way you’re acting over her. I’d love to get a taste of those little tits of hers.”

Was he kidding? Because Hunter wasn’t enough? And to talk about her that way? It wasn’t happening. “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

“Hey now. What’s the problem? You’ve got to be used to guys wanting a taste of her.”

I spun around, coming face-to-face with him. “I don’t put up with guys trying that.”

“Well, Hunter will be getting his fill. He probably has already.” He grinned. “And I can’t wait to get mine.” He licked his lips.

I didn’t think, I just swung.