Authors: Lauren Barnholdt,Aaron Gorvine
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Girls & Women, #Paranormal, #One Hour (33-43 Pages), #Paranormal & Fantasy, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)
(The Witches of Santa Anna, Book Twelve)
by Lauren Barnholdt & Aaron Gorvine
Copyright 2011, Lauren Barnholdt and Aaron
Gorvine, all rights reserved
This book is a
of fiction, and any resemblance to any persons,
living or dead, is
―Can we stop at McDonald‘s?‖ Raine asks from the passenger seat. The early light of
morning is seeping through the windshield, illuminating her face.
When she woke up this morning, she spent some time in the bathroom using the pancake makeup, and her face looks a lot better.
―No,‖ I say, sick of al the time we‘ve wasted stopping for things. ―We‘re going to find Cam. No more stalling.‖
―I‘m not stalling,‖ she says, but she‘s looking out the window. Her hands are in her lap, and she fiddles with the silver ring she‘s wearing on her right ring finger. ―I‘m just hungry.‖ But I know that‘s not it.
Raine‘s nervous. Nervous about what‘s going to happen to her when we get to wherever it is we‘re going.
I force myself to focus on the road. My eyelids feel heavy, probably because I spent most of last night awake, tossing and turning in the hotel bed, not being able to fall asleep. After I had that conversation with Samara and then had a good cry, my body and my heart felt wrung out, but my brain was still racing. There‘s a slight headache pricking at my temples, and I feel like I need caffeine, even though I took a huge cup of coffee with me when we left the hotel. I take a sip of what‘s left of it. It‘s lukewarm now.
―Right here,‖ Raine says, sitting up, and pointing a few meters down the road.
―Turn left here.‖
―Turn left? But there‘s no road to turn into.‖ I slow the car down and peer through the windshield to where Raine‘s pointing. There‘s a small path cutting through the trees lining the road, but it‘s extremely narrow. ―My car won‘t fit down there,‖ I say, shaking my head.
Raine rolls her eyes. ―Yes, it will .‖
―No, it won‘t.‖ We‘re stopped now, pulled over to the side. Behind us, the highway is empty, except for the occasional truck that goes flying by.
―Don‘t be a baby, Natalia,‖ Raine says, ―We‘ll fit.‖
―The car will get stuck.‖
―Fine,‖ Raine says, shrugging. ―You‘re right. Let‘s go back to Santa Anna and just leave Cam here. If we hurry, we can be back before the mal closes, which is great because I real y needed to –‖
―Stop,‖ I say. And something in my tone must tell her I mean it, because she immediately shuts up. I look at the road again. She might be right. We might fit. If we don‘t, we‘ll probably get stuck. But I have no choice. I have to try.
So I back up a few feet, and ease the car down the path. It‘s a tight fit, but Raine‘s right.
The car fits. Still , the path is rocky, and I drive slowly, being careful not to push it. The last thing I need right now is to blow out a tire. Branches scratch against the windows as we pass, and I see a white butterfly resting on one of the tree trunks.
Some of the tension flows out of my body. The butterfly wouldn‘t be there if I wasn‘t doing the right thing.
―Listen,‖ Raine says, ―I want you to know that if something happens to me, you need to be careful who you trust.‖
―What are you talking about?‖
―I mean that if I end up dead when this whole thing is over, you need to know that you shouldn‘t trust anyone.‖
She says it matter-of-factly, like the thought of dying doesn‘t scare her, and I wonder again what happened to her while she was gone this past week.
The thought of where we‘re going, that it‘s the kind of place where someone could end up dead, scares the shit out of me. But I don‘t want Raine to know that.
―I don‘t trust anyone,‖ I scoff. ―Including you.‖
―Good,‖ she says, quietly. ―You shouldn‘t.‖
Her voice is sad and subdued, and I glance over at her. She‘s looking straight ahead, her hands folded in her lap. ―Raine,‖ I say, ―What did they do to you?‖
She turns to me, and opens her mouth, like maybe she‘s actual y going to tell me.
But before she can, someone yells, ―Get out of the car!‖ and I look up to see that we‘re surrounded by soldiers.
The soldiers seem like they‘re more interested in Raine than in me. They look at each other excitedly when they see it‘s her, and they‘re definitely a little more aggressive when they pull her out of the car.
But that doesn‘t stop them from handcuffing me, pushing me roughly up
against a tree as they do it.
Then they hustle us into the back of a white van. Two of them sit in the back with us, watching to make sure we don‘t talk. My heart is beating out of my chest, and adrenaline courses through my body. I try to catch Raine‘s eye, to see if I can get any hint of what‘s going on, if we should be trying to escape, how much danger we‘re real y in, but she‘s staring at the floor, despondent.
We drive for fifteen or twenty minutes, and when we stop, the soldiers sitting in the back with us open the doors. They help us out of the van and onto a stone driveway.
In front of us is a huge, modern looking building. It looks like a town hall or a
courthouse, with steps leading up to the main doors, and it seems to rise from nowhere in the middle of the forest.
The soldiers grab us and force us up the steps and into the lobby. Hadley‘s there, pacing back and forth in front of a pair of closed double doors, and when she sees us, she gasps.
She‘s wearing some kind of business suit, which is strange. ―What the hell are they doing here?‖ she asks the soldiers.
―Hadley,‖ I say. ―Where‘s Cam?‖ But she ignores me.
―Out of the way, Hadley,‖ one of the soldiers says.
Raine says nothing. She‘s looking down at the ground, her hair falling into her face. She looks small and vulnerable next to the soldiers, and in the harsh glare of the overhead lights, her bruises show through her makeup.
―Wait,‖ Hadley steps in front of them, trying to block their way into the room.
―Please,‖ she says, ―Reed wants to kill the three of them, you have to –‖
But she doesn‘t get to finish, because the soldiers move past her, elbowing her out of the way like she‘s a rag doll . They push through the double doors, leading us into a room that looks like a cross between a courtroom and a church, with shiny marble floors, and rows of pews. At the front of the room, Cam‘s sitting at a table.
I‘m so relieved to final y see him, that before I can stop myself, I yell out, ―Cam!‖
and wrangle free from the soldier who‘s holding me.
Cam rushes down the aisle toward me, and when we meet, he grabs me, pulling me close.
―Are you okay?‖ he asks into my hair. He steps back and kisses me briefly on the lips. He looks me up and down, checking to make sure I haven‘t been hurt.
―I‘m fine,‖ I say, ―We just got here. I had to bring Raine, she was the only one who knew where you were.‖ I see the bruise on his collarbone, the circles under his eyes.
―What did they do to you?‖ I whisper. I reach out and run my finger down his cheek.
―It‘s nothing,‖ he says, grabbing my hand. ―But Nat, they want to – ‖
He doesn‘t get to finish the rest of his sentence, though, because I‘m yanked backwards by one of the soldiers. ―Stay away from him,‖ the soldier growls. I step on his foot as hard as I can, but I might as well have done nothing. He doesn‘t flinch.
―What‘s going on here?‖ a voice bellows from the front of the room. We all turn to look.
And then I realize there was someone sitting at the table with Cam. A man.
Well , a young man, probably eighteen or nineteen, with broad shoulders and dark hair.
He gets up from his chair and starts walking toward us. He walks with the confidence of someone who‘s a lot older than he is, the confidence of someone who‘s used to being powerful.
―Reed,‖ the soldier holding me says, ―we found them on the property.‖
―How far did they get?‖ Reed asks, looking at us both. He zeroes in on Raine.
She‘s staring down at the floor, not meeting his eye. I wonder if it‘s because she‘s afraid of him. He takes a couple more steps toward her, then reaches out and tilts her chin up, forcing her to look at him. He takes in the bruises on her face, and nods in satisfaction.
―We found them right on the front path,‖ Raine‘s solider says smugly. ―What should we do with them?‖
He sounds excited, like maybe Reed‘s going to order him to torture us or something.
Reed looks at us, considering. ―Leave us,‖ he says.
―But, Reed –‖ one of the soldiers starts.
―I said, leave us,‖ Reed says. His voice is quiet, but firm, and it seems to frighten the soldiers more than if he‘d screamed. They do as they‘re told, letting us go. It reinforces my impression that this Reed person is very powerful. If he wants to be left alone with me, Cam, and Raine, he must feel like if it came down to it, he could overpower us all .
―What are you doing here?‖ he asks Raine once the soldiers are gone. ―And don‘t lie to me. If you lie to me, I‘ll know.‖
―I‘m here to surrender,‖ she says, lifting her gaze from the floor and looking at him.
―Why should I believe you?‖ he says.
―Put a spell on me if you want,‖ she says, ―I‘m done. I don‘t want to be involved in this anymore, not after….‖ She trails off, her voice catching in her throat.
Reed nods, as if he knows what she‘s talking about.
He sighs, then looks at each of us in turn. ―I don‘t want to have to hurt the three of you,‖
―Well , that‘s good,‖ Cam says sarcastically y.
―Especial y since you were just about to kill me.‖
I look at him. Cam was just about to get killed? Why?
I thought these guys were supposed to be the good guys, the guys on our side.
―Listen,‖ I say, ―You better not –―
But Reed ignores me. ―And you‘ll undergo the ceremony? ― he asks Raine. ―To break the bond between you and Campbell ?‖
―Yes,‖ she says.
―And you‘ll tell us everything you know?‖
He nods, thinking about it. He intertwines his fingers, and rests his chin on his hands for a moment. And then he says, ―Okay. We‘ll start to prepare.‖
And then, without him even having to say anything, the soldiers return, and lead us out of the room.
We‘re escorted from the room and led through the halls of the building by about six
―Easy to be tough when there‘s a bunch of you,‖ I say to the guy on my left, who‘s been giving me dirty looks ever since they came and got us.
He gives me a sidelong glance and his lips pull back from his teeth. ―Easy to act tough when you‘re a dumb kid and you don‘t have a clue who you‘re messing with.‖
―And who exactly am I messing with? A bunch of clowns pretending to be in some kind
of secret society? The Feds could be in here shutting this place down in five minutes and there wouldn‘t be a thing any of you could do about it.‖
It‘s bull shit, of course. I know they‘re not pretending to do anything. These guys are for real. But I‘m angry, and feel like lashing out, and I can‘t think of a better way to do it.
Natalia puts her hand on my arm. ―Cam.‖
―Sorry,‖ I say, ―But I‘ve just had about enough of this bull shit.‖
Raine glances at us. ―Awww,‖ she says, ―I forgot how sweet you two love birds are with each other.‖
―Shut up, Raine,‖ I tell her. ―You guys shouldn‘t have come here, and you know it.
Hadley‘s a liar and the rest them are chicken shit.‖ I smirk at my friend and his jaw clenches.
―If you think these guys are bad, you should meet some of the people on my side,‖ Raine says. ―They make these jerks look like Disney characters.‖
One of the other guards looks at her with disgust.
―Raine Marsden. You have a lot of nerve coming to us for mercy.‖
―Hey, why don‘t you just shut your mouth and keep doing the wind up soldier act,‖ I tell him.