She glared at me in defiance for several more moments but then nodded, her lips pursing.
“Turn your back toward me and bend down, so I can climb on.”
She turned around slowly and did as I’d ordered. Pressing the barrel of the gun directly against her temple, I said, “Now hold onto my legs and start climbing.”
She gripped my legs and stood up.
“Take me into the castle, though an entrance that will least attract attention. Once we’re there I will tell you what to do next.”
She started walking up the cliff, far too slowly. I gripped her neck and dug the gunmetal harder against her skin. “Faster, Frieda,” I whispered.
“I feed you every day and this is how you repay me,” she muttered.
Although I could practically feel her eyes rolling, she sped up and about a minute later, we had reached the castle. She walked past the main oak doors and crept round the narrow path that ran round the side of the castle. The path was so narrow and there was no railing stopping a person from hurtling hundreds of feet down the cliffs. I shuddered, feeling nauseous as I caught a glimpse of the fall.
I breathed out in relief when Frieda stopped beneath an open window. I gripped hold of her for dear life as she leaped upward. She climbed through the window and we both landed in the corner of a thankfully empty hall.
“Now what?” she asked through gritted teeth.
Now what I really wanted was to be taken to my parents. But that was too dangerous right now until I understood what had happened to them. This would have all been a waste if I also got caught and imprisoned. I lowered my hood so that it covered most of my face. “Do you know where Caleb is?” I whispered.
“In his quarters.”
“Take me there. Avoid walking along corridors where there are likely to be vampires. Take a longer route if you have to. But remember,” I said, digging the gun against her temple again, “I’m watching you.”
I held my breath as she launched forward. She climbed up the main staircase in the hallway and hurried along the corridors. I was relieved that there weren’t many people about. I’d lost track of what time it was now. She climbed higher and higher until we reached the staircase I was so familiar with by now—the set leading up to Caleb’s apartment.
I began trembling as we approached. It wasn’t Caleb himself I was afraid of; it was hearing what he had to say. The truth. From his own lips.
My stomach fluttered as Frieda set me down outside his room. I reached for the door handle and knocked, not taking the gun off Frieda while I waited. I pressed my ear against the door.
Please be in. Please be in.
I reached for the door knob and twisted. It had been left unlocked. I slipped behind the door and locked it. I had to be quick now. Frieda would no doubt warn the witch and everyone else that I’d returned.
I crept along the dark corridor and entered Caleb’s open-plan apartment. I looked around, my heart sinking as I realized it was empty. I ran my hands along his instruments. They appeared to be in the same place as I had last seen them, untouched since. I walked around the living room, then entered the kitchen area.
He’s not here. Now what?
Now I was kicking myself for letting Frieda go before I’d laid eyes on him. She must have lied to me. I cast my eyes desperately around the room once again, then turned the corner toward the exit of the apartment.
My heart leapt into my throat as I saw a tall, dark figure standing in the hallway. His hands rested on either wall. Shadows fell across his face as he blocked the door.
“Caleb,” I whispered.
He slid his hands down and moved forward into the light, stopping a couple of feet away from me. His face was now clearly visible.
“You were using me the whole time?” I asked, fighting to keep my voice steady. “All to get to Anna.”
His face was blank, unreadable. But his eyes were intense as they bored into mine.
He nodded curtly.
His admission stabbed through my chest. My breathing became heavier as the full weight of his deception came falling upon me. I reached into my cloak’s pocket. Pulling out the gun, I held it up in front of me, putting a few feet of distance between ourselves so that I could aim better.
“Where are my parents?” It was hard to contain the fury now bubbling up within me.
His eyes travelled down to the barrel of the gun, then up to my face again. If he was surprised that I had just pulled out a gun and aimed it at him, he didn’t show it. Finally he spoke, his voice deep and guttural. “We’ve taken them as prisoners here.” The way he spoke so calmly grated on my nerves.
His hand shot out and he gripped my arm. That he dared to touch me while I was still holding a gun shocked me. “Stop,” I gasped, pressing the gun against his throat.
He stopped in his tracks, his grip on me loosening only slightly. He glared down at me.
“How could you do this?” I breathed, the biting disappointment close to consuming me.
“I’m not who you thought I was.” His Adam’s apple moved against the tip of my gun.
His grip tightened on me again and he motioned to drag me back out the door. But I said, “Don’t think that I won’t pull this trigger.”
The shadow of a smile crossed his lips.
“You should have pulled it already,” he said. And with one sharp motion, he launched forward, twisted my arm in a hold behind my back and knocked the gun from it.
I stared in horror as it fell to the floor. I bent over to pick it up, but he held me back. Holding both of my wrists with a single hand, he pushed me to the floor. He spread me out on the carpet, his legs straddling either side of my waist. His free hand loosened my belt, disarming me completely as he hurled it across the room along with my dagger and two stakes.