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“Rhys?” Micah called out as I approached.

I removed the invisibility spell from him instantly.

“What happened to you? I’ve been waiting here all night.”

All night.

I loosened his chain from the ground and pulled him up. “Do you have any idea how many hours?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Going by the sun, maybe eight hours. Ten… Where the hell were you?”

I was about to answer when Micah’s eyes lowered to my waist. He stared, frowning. I followed his gaze and found myself looking at a long strand of light blonde hair, entangled in my belt. I pulled it away and examined it.

And then it dawned on me all at once. Of course. I should have realized sooner that this would eventually happen. Everything made sense now. Why she’d stopped me. Why she’d dropped me so near. Why she hadn’t killed me—couldn’t kill me.

Micah looked up at me, confused. “What?”

My eyes narrowed. “It seems we’re not the only hunters in this chase…”

Chapter 15: Rose

The vision of Brody imprinted on my mind, I shook as the woman led me down a narrow corridor, lit by glaring fluorescent lights.

“Where are we going?” I stammered.

“You just come,” she said.

We reached the end of the hallway and she began pulling me up a flight of narrow steps. She pushed open another door at the top and we arrived in a dim entrance hall, surrounded by tall boarded-up windows. There was a silk rug in the center of the room, covering dusty wooden floorboards. Shotguns adorned the walls like ornaments. She pulled me across the room and we began ascending a wider flight of stairs, with a shiny polished banister and carpet stapled to the wooden steps.

“Are you taking me to the circus boat?”

“No. I take you to Sir.”

“Who’s Sir?”

“Aurelio. He decide what you do.”

My knees felt weak, my hands trembling even more as she ushered me forward. I barely took in my surroundings as we ascended several more flights of stairs. My mind was too alight with panic.

Phillipe already intended me for the circus. Maybe Aurelio decided against it. More than anything, the one thought plaguing my mind was: I need to find Caleb.

I now paid more attention to where the woman was leading me. Although I had no idea where I’d go, I knew I had to make a run for it before we reached our destination. Because something told me once I entered Aurelio’s room, I might not get the chance again.

I waited until the woman was four steps away from the top, and then, mustering all the strength I could, jolted downward in one sudden motion. She yelped and struggled to hold on, but it was too late. With gravity on my side, I broke free from her and raced back down the stairs. I looked around wildly as I reached the bottom. I caught sight of three guns splayed out on the wall. I reached for one and tugged on it until it came loose. I had no idea if it was loaded, and even if it was, I wasn’t practiced at shooting. But it was all I had.

I whirled around to find myself face to face with the woman again. I stumbled back as she eyed the gun, her mouth agape. I pointed it at her and pulled my meanest face.

“Where’s the exit?”

“I-I…”

I gripped her collar and pushed her up against the wall, digging the barrel of the gun against her throat.

“You know,” I growled. “Tell me.”

“I can’t…” Her voice trailed away as her eyes found a spot over my shoulder. Horror filled her face. “Sir!” she gasped.

A muscled hand closed around my throat and squeezed, crushing my larynx. I choked, dropping the gun. The hand twisted me round slowly and I found myself looking up at Sir. He must have been at least six foot four. He had tan skin, thick jet-black hair and an impeccably sculpted goatee. He appeared to be in his late forties.

His dark brown eyes drilled into mine. “Marisa,” he said, his voice deep and rasping, his breath smelling of mint. “You can go. I’ll deal with the American flower.”

As Marisa scurried away, Aurelio kicked the gun and sent it skidding down the hallway. His eyes still on me, he loosened his grip around my neck. Reaching behind his pants, he unhooked a pair of handcuffs and fastened one bracelet over my wrist. He began walking forward, tugging me behind him. As we reached the end of the corridor, he pulled me into a room. Other than a small table and two chairs in the center of the room, it was empty. He sat me down in one of the chairs and fastened me to it. He picked up a corded phone from the table and, still eyeing me, began to dial a number.

“Keep him out,” he said in Spanish, then put the phone down. Then he walked through a door at the back of the room and disappeared.

I stood up and, picking up the chair so it wouldn’t make a noise, walked over to the door. I clutched the handle. It was locked. Even if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have gotten far chained to this furniture.

I looked around the room. There were no guns in sight. The walls were painted a deep red, and there was a bearskin rug in one corner—the bear’s head still attached.

I jumped as a banging sounded outside the door. I hurried to sit back down where Aurelio had left me. He re-entered the room, a gun in his hand. He ran its barrel along my neck on his way to the door. He looked through the peephole, then walked back over to the phone and redialed a number. His voice was tense this time as he spoke. “I thought I told you to keep him out while I decide.”

He cast a glance at me. “Yes,” he said, rubbing his jaw impatiently. “But it’s not every day that we come across her type. Young. Innocent-looking.”

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