Dire (Page 45)

I let out a deep breath. A vision of Gage’s face when he was pushed into the SUV flashed across my mind. “Yes. I’m done running.”

“Prove it.”

“Prove it?”

He watched me. “Give me something to show me that your word means something.”

I stepped toward him. “Okay.” I leaned up and brushed my lips against his. “I promise I’ll stop running.”

I expected him to try to deepen the kiss, and I prepared myself for it. Anything for Gage. He didn’t. Instead he pulled me into a hug. “I’ll be back with him. Then I expect you to keep your word.” He let go. “I shouldn’t have to post a guard, but I’ll have Marni come by to keep you company.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah, well, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for you.” He brushed some of my hair away from my face. “You keep running, but what you don’t understand is you belong here by my side. Only I can keep you safe. Only I can protect you.”

My heart hurt. Why did he care so much? Was I some sort of replacement for his ex-girlfriend? But how had he ever loved her? How could someone like that have loved a girl so cruel?

I didn’t have too much time to think about it before he walked out the door. “I’ll be back soon. Try to relax and stay warm.”

I nodded, hoping I wouldn’t be waiting long.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Gage

As Tootsie had predicted, whatever the hell Vanessa had done to me wore off. I could walk around, and I could talk. I screamed a few times to no avail. Not even Granola turned to look at me. The poor guy just kept staring at the ceiling. He looked physically fine, but I wasn’t sure if anything was going on in his head.

I waited on the farthest side of the cage from Granola. Granola. I hated even thinking the stupid name they made up.

I knew I was in trouble. Being locked in a cage by a bunch of witches wasn’t good, but all I could think about was Mary Anne. Was she still out there? Since the spell had worn off of me, I hoped the same had happened for her. Maybe she was already on her way into town. I hoped she wouldn’t do something crazy like try to find me. She wouldn’t. She had to have some self-preservation, and I wasn’t worth her life. Even if she were back with the wolves it would be a better alternative. I didn’t like Hunter, but he wouldn’t kill her. He cared about her in his weird, messed-up way.

“They’re ready for you.” Tootsie opened the cage door. He’d changed out of the jeans and sweater he’d been wearing when I arrived. He was now dressed in what looked like a 1950’s sailor uniform. Unbelievable.

“They’re ready?” I turned away. I couldn’t keep a straight face looking at the guy. “What the hell does that matter? I’m not listening to them.”

“You should.”

“Why are you doing this?” I turned to glare at him. “Do you like being treated like a pet?”

“It’s better than ending up like him.” Tootsie pointed to Granola who was now drooling.

“What did they do to him?” I didn’t really want to know, but I needed to know what I was facing.

“Hopefully you won’t find out first hand.” He held out the leash. “Come on.”

I walked out of the cage pretending I was going to go along with things. I let him attach the stupid leash, and I waited for him to open the door to the barn.

I still had no shirt, but freezing in the snow seemed like a better option than dealing with these people. There was a better chance for survival in the former.

Once outside, I yanked the leash out of his hand and took off running. I made it a few feet before my entire body froze again.

“What do we have here?” Vanessa’s shrill voice came from right behind me. She moved in front of me and ran a finger down my chest. “You aren’t very obedient, are you?”

“Obedient? In case you didn’t realize I’m not a dog.” She hadn’t frozen my voice this time.

“No, dogs don’t look like you.” She cupped me through my jeans. “Tell me, are you good in bed?”

Seriously? Was that an actual question?

“I guess I’ll find that out for myself.” She grinned wickedly. I didn’t want to discover how nuts she’d be if she had me naked. I was freezing cold, and I wasn’t even able to move my arms to push her away.

“Come along, Sprinkles. We can finish this assessment inside.” She tugged on the leash.

“What do you want with me?”

She laughed. “That’s what the assessment is for.”

That was it. I couldn’t just go along with it. I used every ounce of strength I had and pushed it toward the goal of resisting. I stopped short, finally breaking out of the spell.

The victory only lasted a moment before she yanked on the leash. “Come on, Sprinkles. I don’t want to have to do another spell.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m going back to find Mary Anne.” I fought against her surprisingly strong tug.

“Mary Anne? You mean the girl who’s probably a popsicle right now? I wouldn’t worry about her. I’m sure an animal will clean up the mess.”

I lunged for her, but my fist only made it within a few inches of her face before it was frozen in place.

“Now, now. Sprinkles.” She wagged a finger in front of my face.

I tried to stop walking again, but I couldn’t.

“Come along, you have to meet Gerry. She’s dying to meet you.” She tugged on the leash.

Once again I felt the strange sensation. She must have strengthened the spell. Fantastic.

The door to their cottage opened, and a woman probably in her mid-forties walked out. “Is this the new one?”

“Yes, Sprinkles.” Vanessa tugged on the leash again.

“Oh. Appropriate name.” She touched my chest. More about the freckles?

“He’s not very obedient, but I think we’ll find a use for him.” Vanessa slipped her hand into the back of my jeans. If I could have moved, I would have jumped.

“I’ll be the judge of that. Bring him in.” The oldest of the witches, who I assumed was named Gerry, turned and walked inside.

Vanessa pulled me inside to where Gerry waited with the other two young witches.

The blonde, Landa, or whatever her name was grinned at me. “Is he ready for the assessment?”

“Yes. He’s ready.” Vanessa dropped the leash and all four of them took seats on a long black leather couch.

The dark haired one leaned back against the couch. “He’s big. That’s always helpful.”

“Yes. He’d be useful for manual labor.” Gerry commented.