She looked over at Nick.
He gave her a half smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Morning.”
“Did you sleep?”
“No. We should be close to wherever they’re taking us soon.”
As if on cue, the van slowed to a stop. The engine stayed running. A screech of metal rang out, then the van moved forward into darkness and stopped again. The metal sang out once more.
“We’re very close.” A tremor of nerves ran through her. “We’ve just entered the mountain.”
Since Willa had touched him, Nick had gained a slight amount of control over the bracelet. He was pretty sure that had more to do with his perception than reality. Either way, he didn’t mind her being the one in control of him. Especially not since she’d confessed she loved him. He wanted to think those words had come from her heart, but he couldn’t help wonder if they had been born out of the stress of the moment and her relief that Jasper would be okay. They’d still been a sweet surprise.
One that would sustain him for whatever lay ahead.
He didn’t have any real plan yet, but at least he was able to form his own thoughts now. It seemed that as long as she stayed in contact with him, the weight of the bracelet’s magic on his mental state decreased enough that he could manage some thinking. What was foremost on his mind right now was keeping her safe.
Zane hadn’t given much away, but common sense told Nick there were two possibilities as to why Willa’s siblings wanted her home. One, they saw her as a potential ally. Or two, they saw her as a potential threat. And if she wasn’t the first, she was definitely the latter.
Either way, he ran the risk of losing her. An unacceptable outcome. But one he was currently powerless to prevent.
She wouldn’t join them. Not after what she’d told him about her childhood. There was too much bad blood there for her to suddenly decide she was ready to become a tool of the fae court.
That meant she would reject them. And they would want to destroy her.
His own fate was fairly certain. Zane must know he was a gargoyle. Martin had seen Nick in gargoyle form at the park. Nick had stepped off the platform as Martin was being cuffed and taken away. Surely he’d told Zane. The fae didn’t strike Nick as the compassionate type. There was no chance Zane was going to let a leviathan-class fly free.
Nick would spend the rest of his life enslaved.
Even while his gut churned with the anger of that injustice, he knew he could live with it. If he could get Willa out. Make sure she was safe.
If that didn’t happen, if she was hurt or…worse, then he no longer cared what happened to himself. And he would act accordingly, taking out as many as he could however he could.
Dim light flickered through the scratches in the paint. Then it turned into strips of white sun. Then dimmed again and finally, total darkness. Like they’d passed through a shaft of daylight before returning underground.
The van stopped.
Willa tensed. Her fingers clutched at him, but with her hands bound she couldn’t get a real grip on him. He wanted to touch her back, but she hadn’t given him the go ahead. He welcomed the anger that produced, adding it to the growing pool in his belly. More fuel for the fire he would eventually set.
The back doors swung open.
Zane stood there, Martin at his side. He pointed at Willa. “Free her ankles so she can walk and get her out.” Then he looked at Nick. “Let’s go, gargoyle. Out. Follow me.”
The command didn’t hold the same amount of power it had earlier after Zane had touched him. It was still impossible to refuse, but not in a way that left him unable to form other thoughts. Had Willa’s touch counteracted it somehow? Maybe it was because she’d been the last one to touch him. Or the last fae to touch the bracelet. Or the most powerful of the two. He wasn’t quite sure how it worked, but this slight advantage might be enough to buy them a chance to escape.
Martin sliced through the duct tape on Willa’s ankles, then grabbed her bound wrists and pulled her to her feet.
The troll’s rough treatment of her made Nick want to smash a fist into him, but instead, he played along like nothing had changed, pushing out of the van to stand beside Zane. They were in a tall, narrow cave, most likely carved out with fae magic if the unnaturally smooth walls and symmetrical structure were any indication. There were other vehicles parked in the space and smaller, man-sized openings led off from both sides.
Nick shifted his attention to Zane. The fae was tall, like Willa, but Nick still had him by eight inches and probably seventy pounds. If—when there was a physical confrontation, Zane was going to get hurt.
Zane took Willa by the elbow and started moving them down an off-shoot of the cave they were in. “Kyanna is going to be so happy to see you.”
“Why?” Willa asked.
“Because she’s never met you. She wants to get to know her long-lost sister.”
“I wasn’t lost,” Willa snapped back. “Why take me hostage? What’s this all about?”
“Hostage?” Zane shook his head. “That’s such an ugly word.”
“Then we’re free to go?”
Zane laughed. “Kyanna’s going to love you.”
The hall around them changed. Designs adorned the plain hewn walls, and the ground beneath them was now paved with large, square stones, perfectly fitted and smooth. Fist-sized crystal were set into the walls, glowing with enough light to mimic a cloudy day. More fae magic at work.