Shay’s curiosity turned to skepticism. “How?”
“Does that mean you’re willing to try to help me?”
A tentative smile brightened Shay’s face. “Yeah. Okay.”
Willa smiled back and lowered her voice. “I’m going to need a few things…”
After Shay left, Nick lay on the floor of the cell, arms folded behind his head, which was against the wall that joined his cell to Willa’s. There was a narrow cot along the back, but it wouldn’t have held half of him. The dungeon door opened and closed. He didn’t bother moving. Whoever it was, they weren’t here for him. Willa was the main attraction.
It was a guard with food. He shoved the meal through a slot in the bars. Nick sat up. Some kind of meat stew in wooden bowls with wooden spoons. They were taking no chances where Willa was concerned.
It occurred to him that if they were that worried about her powers, maybe they knew something she didn’t. Hopefully Willa had an idea about how to break them out of here. Her conversation with Shay had made it seem that way. If that was true, things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed.
The guard waited while they ate, then collected the bowls and spoons and left. When the dungeon door was shut again, Nick spoke. “Willa?”
“Here.” She laughed bitterly. “Where else would I be?”
“If you think we could make a break for it, I could get us out of here.”
“Brute strength. I’m sure I could punch through the wall between us, then right through the wooden slats on your side.”
She was silent a moment. Like she didn’t want to shoot his plan down too quickly. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
“Like how many guards are stationed outside and if there’s any sort of safe distance at which the bracelet stops working. I’m not even sure I can remember the way out of here. What if you can’t get airborne before Kyanna gets control of you again? Or Zane, for that matter? And besides…” She sighed. “I can’t leave things the way they are.”
“You mean Shay.”
Her voice was quiet with regret. “Yes.”
“She’s a sweet kid.” He nodded, even though he knew she couldn’t see him. “We’ll come up with a different plan. One that protects her too.”
The soft sigh that answered him sounded happy. “Thank you.”
After a few seconds of silence, she spoke again. “I think I might have a way. If Shay brings me the things I need. You’re right about me needing to try harder. It’s not my instinct, you know? My instinct is to run. From trouble, from confrontation, from anything that upsets my world. But I can’t live like that anymore. I have to fight.”
He wanted to punch through the wall right then and pull her into his arms. Soft rustling noises reached him. Then her voice came at him from a different level, and he knew she’d gotten to her feet.
“I’m going to start practicing right now. I’m going to figure this out.”
“You need anything from me?”
“Not yet. But I will.”
“I’ll be ready when you need me.”
She went quiet again. Then the crystals overhead began to flicker and brighten. When they dimmed, he could hear her breathing hard. Over the next few hours, it became a pattern. The crystals would brighten, then she’d rest for a while before attempting it again. Each time the crystals grew brighter and the rest grew shorter. He made a game of it. When she rested, he did push-ups.
At last, a loud exhale echoed from her side. “I’m spent.”
“Rest then. We haven’t had much sleep, and judging by my internal clock, I’d say it’s after midnight.”
“Are you going to sleep?”
“I’m going to try. We have to stay as strong as we can.”
She was quiet a moment. “Thanks, Nick.”
“For being the strength I need.”
He smiled. He wanted to be that for her always. “Night, Willa.”
In less than ten minutes, her breathing evened out, and he knew she was sleeping. It made him feel good that she was able to rest. He wasn’t so sure he could manage that himself.
He sat there, staring up at the crystal that glowed dim in the carved ceiling. He’d never been taken captive before. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
A soft, scraping sound turned his head. A rat maybe?
But the eyes that stared back at him belonged to Shay. He hadn’t heard the door open. Maybe she knew another way. She hung close to the far wall, peering at him like a human child might look at a lion or a bear in the zoo.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” He kept his voice low to keep from waking Willa. “I would never hurt an innocent.”
She didn’t move or speak.
“Your sister is asleep.”
Shay nodded. She took a step closer. “Kyanna found the things I was gathering for Willa and took them away. You tell her.”
“I will.” He reached his hand out and clasped the bars closest to him. “I won’t let anything happen to her.”
Shay’s gaze narrowed. “Are you really a gargoyle?”
He nodded. “Do you want to see?”
Her eyes rounded slightly, and she gave a quick jerk of her head, yes.
He stood and moved to the center of the cell. If he was wrong and the bracelet was hampering his ability to shift, Shay was going to think he was a liar. But a second later, he’d transformed into his stone form. The available space in the cell had shrunk by half.