Stay (Page 31)

I took Casey’s hand in mine before turning around. “Yes. I’m Toby.”

“I’m Gareth.” He held out his hand, and I reluctantly dropped Casey’s so I could stand up to greet him. This was his home, and he could throw me out if he wanted. I knew I could take him, but Casey’s mom thought he, or at least someone here, could help Casey. I wasn’t going to do anything that could mess with that.

“Nice to meet you. How’s Casey?”

“I hear you’re attached to my daughter?”

His daughter? I turned to look at Casey for help. Did he think she was Vera or something?

“I know everything.” He figured out my train of thought. “I still claim her as my daughter. Her mother is my mate and there was nothing consensual about that conception.”

Not consensual? Had Robert raped her?

“It’s all really complicated, Toby. It was more like magic affecting both of them. I really don’t think Robert knew anything.” Casey put that thought to rest. I knew Robert was capable of a lot, but I hated to imagine the former king had been that despicable.

“As interested as I am in hearing all of this, my main concern is for Casey’s health. Do you know what’s wrong? Did her kidnappers do something to her?”

A woman I hadn’t initially noticed walked over. She looked at Gareth. “I assume I have permission to explain everything to him.”

“Yes.” Gareth nodded.

“Casey’s mind has been infiltrated by dark magic. A force is trying to take control.”

“What?” My whole body tensed. “What do you mean?”

The woman placed a hand on my arm. “Stay calm. Getting riled up isn’t going to help anyone.”

“Then explain. You can’t tell me that kind of thing and not give me more details.”

“Casey’s been holding it off. Your girlfriend is very strong.”

I smiled at Casey. “Don’t I know it?”

“But she can’t hold it off forever. She needs to fight harder.”

“You can do it, Case. You can do it.” I returned to Casey’s side.

“We thought you might be able to help.” Her mom smiled lightly. “She seems to draw a lot of strength from your presence.”

“In other words I like having you around.” Casey grinned. I was so relieved she still had her sense of humor. At least that hadn’t disappeared.

“What do we do?” I wasn’t going to waste any time.

“We have to put her into a deep sleep. She needs to do this through her subconscious.”

“Into a deep sleep? You’re not going to drug her.” That wasn’t a question. She’d been through enough already.

“We need to relax her enough.”

“Get Daria.” Taliana turned to Gareth. “Her touch worked on Casey instantly. She might be able to talk her down into a sleep.”

Gareth looked at Taliana with surprise. “Daria? She’s been banished.”

“Banished?” Taliana’s look of horror made it clear that she’d had no clue about the punishment. “For what crime?”

“Aiding your departure.”

“What?” Taliana jumped to her feet. “It wasn’t their fault. I forced them.” I now knew where Casey got her spitfire personality from.

Gareth touched her shoulder. “We both know you didn’t force them. They’d have done anything to help you.”

Tears spilled down Taliana’s face. “You kept them from their home.”

“I’m sorry.” He put his free hand on her other shoulder. “Maybe I acted rashly, but I hoped they’d give me a clue to where you went.”

“But they never did.” Taliana shrugged him off. “Because they didn’t know.”

“I’ll bring them back. I’ll make amends.”

“Yes you will. Right now. Hopefully Daria will still be willing to help.”

“She will.” I felt confident speaking for her. “She will help.”

The man who had escorted me turned to Gareth. “Should I return for her?”

“Bring them here,” Taliana answered for him. “Bring them both here.”

“Yes. Bring them here.” Gareth smiled slightly. There was definitely still something between the two.

Casey leaned into my side, and I quickly put an arm around her. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine. Couldn’t be better.”

I kissed her on the cheek. “Eventually you’re going to look back at this and laugh.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. I mean how many times in your life will you have an excuse for the voices in your head.”

“It’s not funny now.”

“No. Not at all.”

We waited in silence for a while. Gareth and Taliana stood watching us, while Casey and I remained seated. The woman, who I assumed was a healer, had disappeared. I hoped she wasn’t getting some sort of drug. As much as I didn’t like magic, or anything like that, I preferred the Nymph natural magic to anything else. At least it was coming from someone good. My gut instinct was that Daria was a good person. Even her brother, as grumpy as he could be, still seemed genuinely caring. Hopefully we’d be able to take care of whatever was going on with Casey quickly.

“Let me at her.” Daria bounded into the room and ran right up to where we were on the couch. “I heard you need me.”

The other woman returned. “We need to put her into a deep sleep. She needs to fight off an external dark force.”

“Should we put Toby into one too?” Maddock asked.

“Uh, what?” That was the first I’d heard of that idea.

“Oh. Good idea. Maybe he could help her through it,” Daria replied excitedly. “They have a strong connection, so I bet it could work.”

“Why would you need to put Toby to sleep?” Casey asked. “No one hurt him.”

Daria kneeled down to get to Casey’s height. “Do you trust Toby?”

She nodded.

“Do you truly and wholeheartedly trust him?”

My chest clenched. Did she? Did she actually?

“Of course I do.”

“It’s important that you’re honest. This is only going to work if you trust him.”

“I trust him.” She looked right at me. “I trust him completely.”

“Good.” Daria stood up. “We need to move these two couches together so they can lie down.”