Dire (Page 44)

Another howl announced the wolf’s approach, and before I could process what was happening, there was a blur of fur and a large gray wolf with a silver streak was in front of me. Hunter. He’d found me. I felt a mix of relief and fear.

I blinked my eyes—they were blinking again, and Hunter was standing in front of me in all his naked glory. “Mary Anne.” He pulled me into his arms. “Who did this to you?”

I couldn’t talk.

“It was Vanessa.” He answered his own question. He ran his hands down my arms. “You’re freezing. We need to get you inside.” He picked me up and held me against his chest as he ran through the woods. For the second time in a few days I was being carried by a naked Hunter. It was starting to feel like a pattern, but this time Gage wasn’t with me. After seeing what the witches could do, I knew one thing. He was in more danger than me. At least I knew what Hunter wanted.

I tried to keep my eyes open as Hunter ran us over the snow, but eventually my lids closed. The only thing I was aware of was the beating of his heart and the chill of the wind.

“Stay with me, Mary Anne. Stay with me.” His whispered words kept pulling me from the sleep I wanted to sink into.

“Gage.” My voice returned, and I needed Hunter to know. He needed to help me save him.

“No, it’s Hunter. It’s always going to be me.”

I tried to lift my head to explain more, but I felt too weak. I stopped trying, and let Hunter carry me back. I couldn’t help Gage until I had my strength back.

“Is she okay?” Marni’s voice pulled me out of my fog as I was met by a wave of warmth.

“We need more warm blankets, everything you can find.”

“On it.”

I eventually opened my eyes to find myself in Hunter’s arms in front of the fire.

“Sit down on the couch with her, we can cover you both better that way.” Marni was taking charge. Despite everything, I smiled to myself. I’d never heard Hunter listen to anyone else.

“Good idea.” Hunter sat down, quickly reminding me of how naked he was. At least he wasn’t aroused.

He shifted me slightly, and I wrapped up in the blankets. “I’m so glad you’re okay.” Hunter brushed my hair back from my face.

“Thanks for saving me.” I knew he’d saved my life. Of course I’d have never have been in that situation if he hadn’t been helping the witches.

“You know I’d do anything to keep you safe.” He held me tighter against me. “You need to stop running.”

“We need to find Gage.”

“Don’t worry about that now. You’re safe. You need to rest.” He kissed my forehead.

“Rest?” I pushed off the blankets. “I can’t. We need to save him.” I knew I was crazy to think Hunter would help, but it was Hunter’s ex-girlfriend who took him.

“You have to forget about him. He’s gone.”

“No.” I stood up, nearly falling over.

Hunter steadied me. “Yes. Those witches aren’t giving him back.” He’d let the blankets fall when he stood up, and he was just standing there naked. I couldn’t even worry about it. All I cared about was getting Gage.

“Yes. The witches. You never did tell me what they did to their slaves.”

“It’s not worth worrying about.” He reached out for me. “You need to forget him. He’s gone.”

“Forget him? Are you crazy?” I stepped back.

“Please calm down.”

“How can I calm down?”

He sighed. “You do realize none of this would have happened if you’d just stayed here. If you hadn’t tricked Falcon.”

Falcon. I’d almost forgotten. I looked all around.

“He’s not here.” Hunter’s jaw clenched.

“Where is he?” I didn’t like the guy, but I hoped Hunter hadn’t hurt him too bad.

“I found some other jobs for him.”

“It’s not totally his fault…”

“I imagine you must have been rather convincing.” He stepped toward me. “Maybe you’ll exert that kind of effort for me sometime.”

My relief at Falcon being gone didn’t last long. I made the mistake of glancing down. So much for Hunter not being aroused. I scanned the room for Marni. We weren’t alone, were we? “We only ran away because you were keeping us captive. If you’d have let us leave when we wanted to and driven us into town they never would have found us.”

“That wasn’t an option.”

“I need to go find him.”

“Absolutely not.” His hands clenched into fists. For the first time I was actually scared of Hunter. Every single muscle was there on display for me, and I knew if he wanted to he could hurt me in the blink of an eye. “They’ll kill you.”

I mustered every ounce of courage I had. “I have to try.”

“They left you out to die once before. Do you really want to face that again?”

“Gage is worth it.” I knew that unequivocally.

A look of admiration crossed Hunter’s face. Was he surprised that I’d risk my life for Gage? The look quickly faded. “And what? You expect me to save him for you?”

I put a hand on my hip. “No. I expect you to let me go.”

“Why? So you can leave me for him? So you can sacrifice your life for a boy who shouldn’t mean anything to you?”

“But he does mean something to me.” Everything.

“I’m not letting you.”

“Then you’ll have to keep me here by force.”

“Are you seriously threatening to run again? Even after what the witches did to you? After what I’ve told you?”

I decided to throw caution to the wind. I was willing to agree to anything if it meant getting Gage back. Hunter was acting like it was a lost cause—like he wouldn’t survive. That couldn’t happen. Hunter was right, I had no chance against the witches, but he did. I just had to give him enough of a reason to help.

“I’ll stop running if you bring him back. I’ll stay here. I’ll let you keep me safe.” I used the words I knew he wanted to hear. They had to be enough. Even if it meant being stuck with the wolves for longer, it was worth it. After even just a few minutes with the witches I knew they were dangerous. Who knew what they could be doing to Gage?

“If I bring him back, the rules stay the same. “

“Yes. I promise.”

“And you’re done running? I’m not going to have to keep you here by force?”