“Why are you down here?” There was a pause and I heard him let out a deep groan. “Are you all right?”
His groans intensified. The anguish in his voice sent chills running down my spine. Clearly he was everything but all right.
I wanted to do something to help, but I was afraid to approach. I didn’t even know what he looked like. And I had no idea what was wrong with him. There wasn’t much help I could offer him when I was just as blind as he.
“Just the drugs wearing off…” His words came amid rapid breathing. “I’m here because my brother did something stupid. Very, very stupid. You see, Rose, when Aurelio’s not happy, entire families feel it.”
“Where’s your brother?”
“Eyes and tongue cut out. Shot three times in the head.”
I winced, my insides churning. “What will they do to you?”
To my bewilderment, Brody began chuckling. Though his laughter soon descended into a violent coughing fit. “You don’t know how funny you are,” he wheezed.
I was too confused by his response to continue that line of questioning. Instead I asked the next question burning at the forefront of my mind. “Phillipe asked me if I liked the circus. Do you have any idea why?” I’d have to be a moron to not have understood by now that Phillipe envisioned Caleb as a circus attraction, but I didn’t know why they would think of me for a circus. I wanted to hear Brody’s perspective on the matter.
“If Phillipe mentioned the circus, then you’re lucky. Exceedingly lucky.”
“It means you’ll likely be handed over to Aurelio’s brother, Camilo. Now, Camilo’s hardly Mother Theresa, but he’s less heavy-handed than his brother. At least with the women.”
“Camilo manages a circus?”
“Camilo owns a traveling circus company. The biggest in South America. But they’re successful overseas too. They normally leave for Europe at this time of year.”
My heart pounded against my chest. “Do you have any idea what they could have done with my friend?”
“Is your friend male or female?”
“Ah, impossible to say. There are any number of possibilities.”
“I’m sure they intend him for the circus, but where would he be kept now?”
Brody groaned again.
“No idea. But a word of advice, Rose. Do all that you can to get on that circus boat. Because once it leaves… you’ll be stuck here. Aurelio’s men will have to think of some other use for you. Trust me, that’s not what you want.”
My throat drier than ever, I picked myself off the floor and staggered over to the wooden door again. I pounded and pounded, my fists close to bleeding. Finally, when I was about to give up, footsteps sounded outside. I stepped back, holding my breath, barely daring to believe my ears.
Keys clinked outside the lock, and then the door swung open. The light that flooded in was blinding. I couldn’t make out the figure at the door. I stumbled back, covering my eyes with the back of my hand.
“Come.” A woman’s voice. She had a thick Spanish accent.
Before my eyes had had a chance to get used to the light, a firm hand reached out and grabbed my wrist. She yanked me out of the room and I almost tripped on the step. But just before she pulled me away down the corridor, I was able to cast a glance back at Brody, the light now shining down on his crumpled form.
That vision I was sure would haunt me in my nightmares.
Brody—a blond, blue-eyed boy, who looked not much older than myself—lay in a pool of his own blood. He had a wide gash around his kidney area. It oozed blood, the skin torn open from faulty stitching.
Caleb had been right when he’d said these men would trade anything.
Chapter 14: Rhys
As I came to, the first thing I became aware of was the ache in my neck. My skin stung—it felt parched, burnt. I opened my eyes only to be blinded by sun beating down on me. I felt moist soil beneath my back. Covering my eyes with a hand, I slowly sat upright. My head felt dizzy.
I was lying in the center of a clearing, lined with tall trees. Sounds of the rainforest surrounded me. I brushed bugs away from my face and arms and stood up. I was still in the Amazon. That much was a relief.
I was still confused as to what had happened. My last memory had been holding someone by the waist, and then disappearing. Soon after that, I must have lost consciousness. But how? Why? Who was that? And where exactly am I now?
Since I’d placed an invisibility spell on Micah, I assumed he would still be trapped by the side of the road. My blood boiled at the realization that I had no idea of how much time had passed. For all I knew, it could be hours or days. Our trail could have gone cold.
Picking myself up off the ground, I began to race through the trees. I tried to listen for any sounds of cars, of the busy highway. I heard nothing but sounds of the rainforest.
It had been a witch who’d done this to me, I was sure of it. The curve of the invisible waist I’d held told me that it was a woman. But who?
Whoever it was didn’t want me to get to Rose. Or perhaps she wanted the girl for herself…
If she was going to draw me away from the human, I didn’t understand why she would keep me in such close proximity. Why not take me to another realm? Hell, why not just kill me? None of it made any sense.
After three hours of running, I finally heard the whizzing of vehicles. I swept over the remaining forest ground quickly and emerged at the edge of the same highway I’d lost consciousness on. I hurried along the concrete toward the closest signpost. At first I’d thought I’d misread. I blinked. I hadn’t. I could barely believe that I was less than a couple of miles away from Micah.