Nick’s gaze snapped to Willa’s face, and she looked stunned more than anything. Her voice was strained when she spoke. “My brother? I…I never even knew your name. What do you want with me?”
“We need you at home. Our parents are…not well.”
His words rang false, but Nick didn’t know if Willa would interpret them that way. He stared the fae down. “Why not send a message then? Why come in person?”
Zane shot him an angry look, but spoke to Willa. “Tell your pet to relax.”
Willa scowled. “He’s not my pet. Call him that again, and I’ll—”
“You’ll what?” Zane asked. “Run away again?”
“How do I even know you’re really my brother or that this Kyanna is my sister?”
“You don’t.” Zane shrugged. “But if you want to see your parents again before they die, I suggest you come with me now.”
“Willa, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
Zane’s gaze narrowed. “That’s where you’re wrong, pet.”
Willa’s fists clenched. Zane stepped toward her. Nick’s instincts kicked in at the same moment. He launched toward the other fae.
But Zane didn’t retreat like Nick had expected. Instead, Zane’s hand came up, something shiny held in the curve of his palm. He slapped his hand over Nick’s wrist, clamping down.
Nick shook him off, but it was too late. He looked down at his wrist as his body started to shut down, no longer his to control. He sank to his knees, staring at the metal cuff. The power spilling into his skin from it could mean only one thing. A fae slave bracelet. The realization lit a hot, angry ember in his core.
Willa charged Zane, but Martin grabbed her and held her immobile. She kicked against him, but her efforts were wasted on the rock troll. “What did you do to him?”
Nick tried to come to her aid, but couldn’t move. The ember in his belly glowed red with rage.
“Shut her up,” Zane commanded.
Martin clamped a hand over Willa’s mouth as Zane stared down at Nick. “What I did to him is something you should have already done.”
He shook his head and gestured at Martin. “Put her in the van. I’ll deal with him.”
Martin dragged Willa away. Zane lifted a finger at Nick. “On your feet.”
Against his will, Nick stood. The magic from the bracelet weighed him down like a thick, wet blanket. He could lift small parts of it, but not the whole thing at once. Not enough to make a difference.
Zane pointed toward the side yard where a van was parked. “Walk.”
Nick put one foot ahead of the other, trudging silently. Inside, he was seething. The only saving grace was that he and Willa were going together. He just hoped she didn’t mind too much when he crushed her brother like a bug.
Willa’s wrists and ankles were secured with duct tape. Another strip sealed her mouth. As the van lurched forward, she braced her feet on the door to keep from sliding. If the rust spots were any indication, it was an old vehicle. The square windows on the back doors were painted over, and the inside carried the musty smell of dirt and oil and metal. Or maybe that was the crummy piece of carpet covering the van floor.
Nick lay beside her, staring up at the van’s stripped-down ceiling. Wires stuck out where a light had once been.
“Nick,” she whispered behind the tape. It didn’t come out like much more than a soft, unintelligible word, but he was smart enough to figure out she was trying to get his attention.
He’d been like that since Zane had told him to get in, lie down and shut up. It had to have something to do with the cuff bracelet Zane had clamped on him. It made her think of the one Sheriff Merrow had described finding on Martin Burnside, which made sense. Clearly, it was some kind of controlling device. So why not put one on her?
She thought it through. Martin was a rock troll. Nick was a gargoyle. Creatures whose true natures were born of stone.
They hadn’t put a bracelet on her because it would have no effect on any creature who wasn’t born of stone or metal. But a bracelet like that could have only been created by a fae with the same abilities she had. Another lapidus. Zane? Maybe. They shared the same parents. If he was telling the truth. He did look a little like her father if memory served her right.
She lifted her bound hands to touch Nick’s arm and mumbled his name again.
This time he looked at her.
Had touching him made the difference? She dug a fingernail under the edge of the duct tape covering her mouth and peeled the tape back enough so she could talk, then she wrapped her fingers around Nick’s forearm near his elbow, the same arm that wore the bracelet. It was like holding on to warm stone. “Are you okay?”
He shook his head that he wasn’t.
Another silent no. She was glad he wasn’t hurt.
“The bracelet is doing this to you. Can you fight it?”
He shook his head, his gaze slanting toward his wrist, but not before she caught a distant spark of anger.
The van bumped over something, jostling her away from him. She wriggled back across the carpet remnant, getting close enough to make contact with him again. This time, she touched the bracelet. The second her fingers came into contact with it, magic vibrated off the cuff. The metal was doused with it, thicker and stronger than anything she’d felt before. She whispered the confirmation to Nick, although she was sure he already knew it too. “Fae magic.”