I came to in such complete darkness that it took almost five minutes before I realized that I had regained consciousness. My head was spinning; my mind blank. I couldn’t remember anything.
I struggled to sit up, and found that I was bound and gagged, my hands tied together behind my back. My fingers touched rough, cold tree bark.
As my eyes adjusted to the inky blackness, I began to make out figures, standing maybe fifty feet away. In the dark and the fog, it was impossible to make out anything distinct. I couldn’t even tell if they were men or women.
Then one of them turned, and I could see the wings.
It all came flooding back—Hunter’s house, Cain, being kidnapped. My heart began to race, and I took deep breaths to try to calm myself. Whatever was happening, it would only make it worse if I screamed.
A sudden movement to my right made me gasp. I cast my eyes over my shoulder and was horrified to see Hunter’s mother bound next to me. She was coming to, but slowly. I quickly positioned my body so that her view of the soul stealers would be blocked. Hunter wouldn’t want her to see this.
The sound of heated argument reached me, carried through the silent night to my ears. I could pick out Hunter’s voice easily—I would know it anywhere.
“Just let them go. They have nothing to do with this. Please, Cain. I didn’t want this to happen.”
Another voice, that I recognized as Cain’s, replied smoothly, “Wrong on both accounts, Mr. Westran. They do have something to do with this. You dragged them into this as soon as you made the decision to give up your soul. And you did want this to happen. Why else would you have given up your humanity? You told me yourself you wanted some excitement in your life.”
“That’s not what I—I didn’t want this kind of life! I want my old life back. I had everything, I was just…”
“Too blind to see it?” Cain’s condescending voice broke in. “Well, isn’t that a shame. You can’t have your old life back. Your soul has been destroyed. And there’s no way of fixing it. So the only choice you have now is to join us. We’ve seen what you can do. We can help you.”
“Help me?” My heart twisted at the anguish in Hunter’s voice. “No one can help me. I’m a monster. We all are.”
“Maybe. But what if you could learn to control it? We can teach you things. Things you never imagined you could do. What if you could make anything you wanted obey you? What if you could make Scarlet love you?”
“I would never—”
“Wouldn’t you?” His cruel laugh echoed in the night, and the two soul stealers that flanked him joined in his laughter. “You should know now, Hunter—offering you a choice was just a courtesy. You have no choice. You’re coming with us, or your mother and Scarlet die.”