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“Good idea. Now hold still.”

I gritted my teeth as he put tape over my mouth. Was I really going down this easily? Where was the fight in me? I had to try once more. For all I knew, they’d hurt Tiffany anyway.

I went to kick Murphy, but my legs were thrown out from under me, and I ended up on my back. Murphy hovered over me. “I thought you were going to make this easy.”

Tiffany shrieked as the bear twisted her arm.

My whole body shuddered. I needed to stop making things worse. I nodded, hoping Murphy understood that I was agreeing. He held out a heavy fabric jacket I couldn’t place for a moment. Then the reality hit me.

He saw the understanding cross my face as he tied me into a straight jacket. “I wouldn’t want you transforming on me, now would I.”

My fear climbed exponentially. A straight jacket? I’d be helpless. I took one more look at Tiffany. She was whimpering through the hand that covered her mouth. I had to stop thinking of myself. I nodded.

“Good. We’ll let Goldilocks go as soon as you’re on the plane.”

I hoped he’d be true to his word, but I didn’t have any other choice. And a plane? I was going to be on a plane with these crazies. I couldn’t fathom what they were going to do with me. The only thing keeping me sane was the hope that I’d be seeing Vera soon.

I stumbled around as Murphy and two bears led me toward a waiting boat. Murphy pushed me in, and the boat left the shore immediately. I kept expecting Toby to find me before we arrived at the plane. I’d taken for granted the comfort and security he gave me with his presence, and his absence left me terrified and ready to curl up into a ball. It’s not like I couldn’t take care of myself, but being alone with a bunch of terrifying men, let alone bears, wasn’t something I was ever going to be comfortable with.

The only peace of mind I had was that maybe now that they had me they’d leave my friends alone. I kept picturing Tiffany’s bloody arm. I clenched my eyes shut. I refused to let something like that, or worse, ever happen again.

My anger burned, and I felt the transformation starting. I was sure my eyes had changed, and my wings begged to come out. Agony like I’d never felt before hit me as my wings fought for release. The pain was almost too much to handle. My back felt both on fire and bruised.

We reached the plane, and Murphy picked me up and carried me inside. I could barely breathe, and the demeaning treatment only made it worse. He strapped me into a seat and sat directly across from me right as we took off.

“Are you comfortable?” Murphy laughed, watching me with amusement.

His laugh made me angrier, only making the sensation worse. Finally, I figured out what to do. I closed my eyes. I had to calm myself. I tried to take a deep breath, but the tape was in my way. I thought happy thoughts of growing up with Vera and of Toby at the waterfall. Eventually, my body stopped fighting. Hailey had been right. Controlling your emotions was one of the hardest, yet most important parts of being a Pteron.

Chapter Thirty-Two

Toby

The grizzly came after me, showing his teeth as his large body lunged toward mine. I jumped to the side at the last second, letting his heavy, furry body collide with the pavement rather than me. I moved to attack him when a large claw grabbed me from behind. I turned just in time to hit the black bear hard enough to send him flying. He fell in a heap, making a satisfying sound in the process.

I glanced around for Casey again. I never should have let her out of my sight. Everything had been so peaceful one minute, and then the next, the lights were out and at least fifty bears were attacking us. Owen immediately led the few humans to safety. The bears had the numbers, but we had the strength.

The area around the landing strip had quieted down. The only bears in sight were crumpled up on the ground. The Laurent’s men were already handling the mess.

I searched for Casey again. She had to be somewhere. She was stronger than the bears now, and she wouldn’t have been taken without a serious struggle. She was fine. She had to be fine. I searched around for Jared. Maybe he’d taken her somewhere safe to hide. I found Cade first.

I nearly knocked him over in my hurry to get to him. “Have you seen Casey?”

“No… but you’re not the first one to ask me that question.” His light brown hair was a mess from the wind. I’d never seen the guy look so out of sorts.

“What do you mean? Who else asked you?”

“Jared.” He stuffed a hand in the pocket of his slacks. “He was hoping you had her.”

My heart sunk. If Jared didn’t have her, I knew we were in trouble. “I wish I did.” I glanced around the darkness. She had to be somewhere.

Hailey ran up to us, out of breath. “Have you seen Casey?”

I struggled to stay standing. If something happened to Casey, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I fought the despair. I couldn’t wallow. I had to find her. “No. I’m guessing you haven’t either.”

“No.” Hailey sighed. “I think Murphy got her.”

She was only stating what I already knew, but I wondered what made her so sure. “Why? What did you see?”

She crossed her arms over her now ripped bridesmaid dress. Hailey had been just as big a part of the fight as the rest of us. “I didn’t see anything, but Tiffany did.”

“Tiffany?” The human friend of Allie and Hailey? “Where is she?”

“This way.” Hailey jogged off, and I followed, vaguely aware that Cade was at my side. He seemed to always be around when the women in my life were at risk.

Hailey stopped in front of a shaking Tiffany. She was huddled in a blanket, sitting on the patio of the largest of the restaurants. “Tiff, tell Toby what you told me.”

“They took her. They just yanked her away.”

“Who’s they?”

“These huge guys. And one was a bear.” She opened the blanket. She was applying pressure to a cut on her arm. “The bear cut me.” She winced.

“Can you be more descriptive? What did they look like?” I tried to keep the frustration out of my voice, but every second we wasted meant that Casey could be moving further away from me. Just the thought had me sick.

“I couldn’t see. It was too dark.” She started to cry.

I needed to go easy on her, but I also needed information. “Did they say anything?”

“Yes. They said they’d hurt me if she didn’t go with them willingly.”

“So she just went with them? You said the guys grabbed her?” Cade jumped in.