Anchor of Secrets by Tessa Hale
The hingeson the door squeaked, but I couldn’t move. Just opening my eyes felt like a battle. Everything hurt. From the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair.
Footsteps sounded, and I took in the sneakers on the stairs. A little of the tension in me eased. Sneakers usually meant Caspian. He was the lesser of the three evils.
I had no idea how long I’d been in the basement. I’d given up on trying to track time. It didn’t matter anyway.
Caspian came to a stop in front of me. His brows pinched. “You need to drink.”
He crouched beside me, opening a bottle of water. I tried to lift my head, but I couldn’t even do that. Caspian cursed, then tilted my head back and poured a little of the water into my mouth.
The cool liquid was a balm to my raw throat.
He repeated the action twice more until the worst of my thirst was gone. But the ache from screaming was still there. Damien’s torture had intensified. He’d become obsessed with searching for a way to force the bond, and every time he hit a dead end, he took it out on me.
I turned my head so that I could look up into Caspian’s eyes. “Help me. Please.”
His muscles locked.
I knew that he didn’t agree with what Damien was doing. I could see it every time the three of them descended the basement steps. He could set me free. I knew he could. All it would take was one snip of those bolt cutters that taunted me from the corner.
“Please.” My voice was barely audible, more a croak than a word.
“I can’t,” he whispered. “Damien would slit my throat before I could blink.”
I was sure Damien would attempt just that. I didn’t blame Caspian for being terrified, but I did blame him for not trying.
“Get a message to Colt.” Just getting out those five words had my chest heaving with the effort it took.
Caspian’s face went hard. “I won’t betray my brethren.”
“Even if they’re wrong?” I wheezed.
His back molars ground together. “Damien has his reasons. He’s been robbed of his birthright.”
It was bullshit, and Caspian knew it. In some ways, that made him worse than Damien and Lucien. Those two thought what they were doing was right. That made them psychos with no conscience. Caspian had a conscience. He knew this was wrong. That made him evil.
The door at the top of the steps slammed. “Well, well, well. Isn’t this cozy,” Damien snarled, Lucien following him down the stairs.
Caspian jerked to standing. “I was just making sure she didn’t die on you.”
Damien’s eyes narrowed on Caspian. “She’s mine. If I find out you touched a hair on her head—”
“I didn’t,” Caspian hurried to say.
Lucien scoffed. “Your loyalty hasn’t been all that on point lately.”
Caspian’s jaw worked back and forth. “I’m here, aren’t I? I patrol. I covered for both your asses with The Assembly.”
Lucien shoved at Caspian’s chest. “I don’t need you to do shit for me.”
Caspian growled low. “Oh, yeah? Then I can just tell The Assembly that your alibi is nothing but a lie?”
Lucien’s eyes flashed red, and he charged, but Damien stepped between the two of them, pushing them apart. “Enough!”
Lucien and Caspian instantly halted. Damien had some sort of hold on both of them, I’d give him that. Whether it was terror or respect, I wasn’t entirely sure.
Damien glared at his friends. “The last thing we need is to be at each other’s throats. We’re almost there. Almost to the finish line.”
My heart jerked at that, a million questions filling my mind. None of the answers I came up with were good.
Caspian stiffened. “Did you find someone to help?”
Damien grinned. “A caster who was more than willing to share knowledge for a price.”
A fresh wave of nausea rolled through me. I had no idea what a completed bond would feel like when it was one of free will and destiny, but I knew that whatever Damien was trying to force me into would be dark and twisted. Everything surrounding him was nothing but pain and destruction.
“They can bond you?” Caspian pressed.
“He needs to gather some supplies for the spell, but on the full moon tomorrow night, it’ll be done,” Damien assured him.
Hot tears leaked from my eyes, spilling down my face. I thought it was impossible for me to cry any more. I’d spent hours while I was alone, letting the tears free. My only respite was imagining those few blissful moments when I’d thought I was wanted. When I’d thought I had a home. Before I realized everything was a lie.
Caspian shifted on his feet. “Are you sure this is a good idea? It might be an act of war. The Assembly could have you sentenced to death.”
Damien’s jaw hardened to granite. “You doubt me?” he growled.
“N-no. I just don’t want you to have more trouble,” Caspian defended.
“The Crescents won’t have a choice. They won’t be willing to lose Leighton, so they’ll have to live with me as a part of their bond.”
Caspian snapped his mouth closed, but I could tell there was something about Damien’s plan he didn’t think would work.
The red in Damien’s eyes glowed brighter. “I can smell your disbelief. I won’t have your insolence in my den,” he snarled.
Damien’s arm shot out, claw-like talons lengthening from his fingers. They slashed across Caspian’s throat so fast he didn’t have a prayer of stopping it. His hand flew to his neck as blood gushed from the wounds.
Caspian collapsed to the ground, a gurgling sound emanating from him. Damien just watched, a blissful smile on his face.
Lucien laughed. “Thank God. He was getting fucking annoying.”
Caspian’s hand loosened around his throat, his eyes going wide before the life left them altogether. Bile surged up my throat, but I forced it down.
“Clean up this mess,” Damien snapped.
Lucien’s eyes flashed, but he nodded. Just as he reached the bottom step, a series of beeps sounded. Lucien froze, then he yanked out his phone, tapping on the screen. His face paled as his head jerked up.
“The Crescents. They’re here.”