“You… How did you—”

Before he could say another word, I pushed the door open wider and slipped inside.

“If you accidentally leave that main door open,” I said, forcing my eyes up to his face, “I’ll escape and the witch will never know.”

He walked into what was presumably his bedroom and returned wearing a black robe. “Who let you out?”

When I ignored his question, he reached to open the door but I slammed my back against it.

“I’m not going anywhere until you give me some answers.”

He rubbed his face with his hands and sighed heavily. “I don’t need this hassle. Get out.”

“Open the main door, and I’ll disappear into the night. Nobody will ever know you let me escape. It could have been anyone in this castle who left the door open.”

He shook his head and glared at me.

“You really think it’s that easy for a human to escape this place? There’s a spell around this island to keep it cold. Even if you made it down to the sea without getting caught or dying of hypothermia, and somehow broke into one of the submarines and figured out how to navigate it, there’s another spell preventing anyone getting out unless they have permission.”

“Then why don’t you just leave with me now?” I said, tugging on the sleeve of his robe. “Or when the witch is doing something else. She never has to know.”

It seemed that he’d had enough of the conversation. He marched me outside and dragged me down the stairs.

He stopped outside of my door and pushed it open.

“No!”

I clung onto the doorframe as he tried to bundle me inside.

“You’re not locking me up in here again.”

He grabbed both of my hands and pried them away from the door. I leaped at him, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and my legs around his waist. My sudden motion made him lose his footing and he stumbled backward into the hallway, his back slamming against the wall.

He gripped my legs and pried them away from him. Then he did the same with my arms.

I stood in the hallway, glaring at him. He glared back at me.

“All right!” he shouted. “I won’t lock the door. But if you attempt to escape, you’ll end up getting yourself killed or worse. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”

I didn’t nod, but I didn’t object either. He turned on his heel to leave. I was tempted to shout out after him why he couldn’t just escape with me and why he had to listen to what the witch said, but I figured that this was a good first step. I was no longer locked up in that little apartment like a prisoner.

Instead, I was locked up in the castle.

I can’t believe he couldn’t smuggle me out of this place if he really wanted to.

Chapter 20: Rose

That evening as I was lying in bed, I heard the sounds again.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Against my ceiling. I threw the covers off me and stood up on my bed, trying to get closer to the noises.

“Say it,” the witch hissed.

I heard another groan. And the sound of a fireplace spitting.

“I’m losing patience with you.”

The smashing of glass. The screeching of heavy furniture against the floor.

Grabbing my dressing gown, I ran out my front door and crept up the stairs. I didn’t stop until I reached Caleb’s door. I pressed my ear against it, the voices now clearer.

“I need you to say it.”

“No,” Caleb grunted, low and deep. “Never.”

I pushed the door open, wincing as it clicked. I froze.

Oh, no.

There was a silence as the witch came into view at the other end of the corridor. She wore a long dark green dress, her loose hair running down her back. She sported a black eye and a deep bloody cut beneath her collarbone.

As soon as our eyes locked, fury sparked in hers. She walked over to me.

“Well, look who’s here,” she whispered, her voice dangerously low.

Before I could stagger back, she reached out and clutched my throat. I tried to scream, but it came out as a garbled choke. She was crushing my windpipe.

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you that it’s rude to eavesdrop?”

I gripped her hand, trying to pry her clammy fingers away from my throat, but it was useless.

“Leave her.”

The words came as a deep growl from across the corridor.

Caleb stood in the doorway, a gash beneath his lower eye, his shirt ripped and blood seeping through from several gashes on his chest.

The witch chuckled and continued to grip my throat, applying more pressure by the second.

Caleb launched himself at the witch. Gripping her neck, he held her in a choke until she released me.

I slid down the wall, gasping and rubbing my throat.

“Don’t take this out on her,” he snarled, hurling the witch against the marble floor. “And don’t drag her into your sick game.”

“You dare,” the witch hissed, her eyes dilating with fury, her cheeks crimson.

“Yes, I dare,” Caleb bellowed back down at her. “There’s nothing more of me you can break.”

The witch got to her feet, straightened out her dress, then after glaring daggers at me she stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

His eyes burning with fury and his whole body still heaving, Caleb turned around and walked further into his apartment. He disappeared into a room at the end of the corridor, but he didn’t shut his door. I got to my feet and approached the door. I pushed the door open and entered.

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