Caleb looked down at me.
“It’s a long way up. I’ll have to carry you.”
He didn’t wait for my permission. Placing one arm behind my knees and wrapping the other around my waist, he picked me up. Then he began racing up the narrow winding steps leading toward the castle. His speed left me breathless, the cruel wind whipping past my ears. I wrapped my arms around his neck and looked over his shoulder at the other vampires running behind us.
By the time we arrived at the top, about ten minutes later, my whole body was shivering uncontrollably. Caleb looked like he’d just taken a casual stroll in the park, not sprinted up a colossal ice-covered mountain.
He set me down on the ground once we reached the heavy oak doors leading into the castle. He pushed them both open. They swung backward, creaking.
Cautiously, I stepped in after him. We stepped into a giant hall, lit only by burning candles in the corners of the room, their flames licking the shadowy walls. Walking across the black marble floors, we made our way toward a grand staircase.
The place was so spooky I instinctively reached out and gripped Caleb’s hand. He didn’t look down at me, but his arm tensed. Then his hand closed ever so slightly around mine.
We climbed up to the first level—leaving all the vampires behind us to go their separate ways—and continued up winding staircase after winding staircase until we reached what appeared to be the top of one of the turrets.
We stopped outside a black door, engraved with some weird-looking language. Caleb let go of my hand and knocked.
“Annora!” he called. “Open up. It’s Caleb.”
The door swung open to reveal a tall, pale black-haired woman with cool grey eyes.
“And what have we here?” she said, looking down at me coldly.
Caleb gripped my arm and pulled me inside.
The room was rectangular, with an oblong table at one end and several silk-covered chaise longues at the other. The velvet curtains had been drawn.
“This,” Caleb began as he shut the door behind us, “is the Novak girl. Stellan kidnapped her and her brother.”
Stellan. That must be the ginger-haired bastard’s name.
“So what are you doing with this girl?” Annora said. “I instructed Stellan to bring both twins to his island. I never wanted them here.”
“You what?” Caleb’s jaw dropped as he stared at the young woman.
She smiled coldly and walked up to him, running a finger across his cheek. He flinched at her touch, but he didn’t back away.
“Yes, Caleb. I told Stellan to kidnap them.”
“Are you insane? Why would you do that?” Caleb fumed. “Our task is difficult enough as it is without—”
“When you told me you’d almost taken this Novak girl that night you went to the beach, it got me thinking…” She looked down at me, wrinkling her nose. “But now’s not the time.”
“Christ.” Caleb exhaled, lifting a hand to his forehead.
Annora looked him over sternly. “Did you try to ambush Stellan?”
Caleb nodded. “I didn’t think you’d give such an order.”
She chuckled and wrapped an arm around Caleb’s waist, while the other hand lifted his chin up to face her. Again, he flinched at her advances, but didn’t step away.
“Do you still have no faith in me, after all this time?”
He scowled. “Whatever your plan is,” he said through gritted teeth, “keeping these twins as prisoners is going to cause more mess than it’s worth. We need to return them both immediately.”
“No,” she said, the smile on her lips fading. “The Novak boy will remain with Stellan. And since you’ve brought the girl here, she may as well remain here under your rule. Come to think of it, it’s probably better that the two aren’t kept together.”
Caleb’s jaw twitched. “And what am I to do with her?”
“For now, you can treat her as a guest. Give her her own room. Of course, you’ll need to inform her of what will happen should she try to escape.”
“Wait, no. Please.” I stepped forward and got down on my knees in front of her. “Please, let us go.”
Caleb gripped my arm and pulled me away from her.
“Please!” I shouted, as he dragged me out of the room. “I need to see my brother! At least bring him here, or allow me to go there!”
Caleb slammed the door shut behind us. Once we were outside, he swore and smashed his fists against the stone wall.
I held my breath as I stared at him, tears welling in my eyes again.
“What’s going to happen to my brother?”
“Never try to plead with that witch,” he said, inhaling deeply as though trying to reel in his temper. “It will only make her more bent on her course of action.”
“She’s a witch?”
He nodded, grimacing.
“But you’re the ruler of this place? Just take us back home! Why do you have to listen to that bitch?”
He caught my hand and pulled me down the stairs with him. “For your sake, I hope she didn’t hear you call her that.”
“Answer my question,” I said, tugging on his hand as I struggled to keep up with his speed.
He ignored me and continued to drag me down the steps.
I stopped in my tracks, refusing to take another step. Letting go of my hand, he gripped my midriff and flung me over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” I gasped, winded.
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