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Perspiration trailed down my brow. Disorientated, I attempted to move my body. Pain stemmed from my temple which made me gasp for air, only to realize a crude gag voided the effort. Panic stiffened my muscles until they cramped. Even in the darkness I could tell the space was compact. My instincts demanded I flail and scream until Nash found me. I almost gave in to the urge when, gradually, the maid’s odd behavior came to the forefront of my mind. Something must’ve been in the cup of water. Sleep usually evaded me especially since the dreams started. An unnatural calm settled in the pit of my stomach. If I was lucky I hadn’t been out that long. Luckily, the mansion was large and sneaking a guest out under all the servants’ noses should’ve taken the maid time.

My hands were bound behind my back but my feet were free to roam. Silently, I pushed my feet against the irregular box. Where was I?

My answer came in the form of a car engine turning over. Red lights lit the trunk through a crack between the metal and plastic covering the brake lights. My calm evaporated with the exhaust. I had to get out now.

I rolled onto my back and kicked upwards hoping to pop the trunk open. Sturdy metal barely made a dent. I changed positions and kicked at where the trunk latched, again nothing. The brake lights beamed in the darkness once again. My feet kicked repeatedly at the lights, until it loosened. One more kick should dislodge it. In my haste I realized too late that the car had stopped. Heavy footfalls crunched on the gravel outside. A key was inserted. I turned my body until my feet were aimed at the trunk opening.

My kidnapper sneered as my bare feet connected with his face and chest. The shock of seeing the handyman from before nearly made me pause. If he kidnapped me, then how did he slip something in my water? Was he working alone or with one or both of the maids?

My unrestrained feet worked my body out of the trunk. The brief freedom lasted until I heard the passenger’s door open and slam close. Unbalanced from the bind on my wrists behind me, I stumbled into the handy man’s waiting arms. If only I wasn’t gagged I’m sure I could put Linda Blair to shame.

The tiny brunette in a maid outfit grumbled at my near escape. The handyman hoisted me over his shoulder. I was thrown in the backseat and buckled in. I had both hoped and feared that Nash would be in the car while I was in the trunk, but seeing the vacant seat I was decidedly relieved. With everyone settled back in the car, we rounded the corner of the driveway and saw the gate open.

“Drive like master’s assistant.” A knowing look passed between the two and he slowed the car. “They’re scooping around the gate. Maybe they’ll think we’re master and keep the gate open for us.” Brandon the handyman smiled, showing his stained teeth. The car steadied at a measured pace. Both men from before noticed the car and bowed slightly before continuing their task of shoveling snow.

He pulled a cellphone from his pocket and dialed a one. With a click I heard a muffled hello from the line.

“Seth you were right. He went straight to his buddy from the council.” A pause. “No he won’t get involved.” Another pause. “You’ll never guess who his accomplice was. A human girl.” The petite brunette looked over her shoulder, pity misted in her eyes. “Yeah Jessica or something is her name.” The man on the other line talked for minutes, I could hear my college named in the conversation. My heart thundered in my ears. They could find my mom and my roommate now that they put two and two together. Brandon repositioned the hanging mirror so it was directly pointed at me. Our eyes locked and I noticed mine were red and puffy. “If you don’t want her I’d be glad to take her off your hands.” A chill slithered down my spine. I shook my head adamantly, sobbing through my gag. “See you soon.”

My body vibrated with tension. Soon didn’t sound like another week driving south. Soon sounded like.. An airport came into view after an hour of driving. A choking sound filled the car, I looked alarmed to the brunette and she mirrored my surprise. She reached out and unbound the gag. I hadn’t realized I was the one choking on the fabric. I gulped lung full after another until I felt in control of at least my breathing again. I thanked her then saw the irony in thanking my kidnapper.

“Why did you kidnap me?” I demanded the moment I could muster the courage.

Brandon snickered. “Because you helped him.”

“I know that, but why didn’t you take him too?”

There was uncomfortable pause as we pulled up to a small private plane. “We don’t have to now. We saw him leave your room, you in nothing but your robe and all it’s not hard to guess what you two were doing. He’ll come for you.”

The tarmac was deserted except for a thin man in a pilot’s uniform standing outside the open door. He had a trimmed red beard and eyes the shade of sand. Golden flecks swirled in its depths. Was that a sign of a werewolf or was he related to Nash in some way?

The pilot nodded us into the plane. Futilely, I thrashed and bit at Brandon. I was secured in a seat between Brandon and his accomplice. After asking one too many unanswered questions, my gag was firmly returned. Hours in the air felt like a few stagnate minutes until we landed in a cut field. From the aerial view I spotted about forty or so scattered cabins.

Three burly men waited at the end of the runway. One in front with high cheekbones and raven hair to his shoulders. The two in back looked nearly identical with buzzed cuts and long beards. The plane circled halfway back and opened up at the trio’s feet.

I hesitated too long and got pushed down the stairs barely keeping my feet under me.

Brandon pushed his way to the front with his hand out. “Seth good to finally meet face to face.”

The man leading the small group took his hand. “It is good to finally have humans in our pack. Welcome to my pack lands.” A closer look confirmed my earlier suspicion. All three men had a fleck of gold in their eyes. A small group was gathered near a fire outside a group of cabins. The people varied in age and warmed to Seth as we approached. Their expressions were vibrant and welcoming as they spoke rabidly, too quick to understand the mixed language. They accepted both Brandon and the brunette into their homes.

Seth turned and eyed me in the firelight. “You look tired Jessica.” It unnerved me that he used my name. “Come.” I flinched at Seth’s hand to my back, in which he tisked in annoyance. It was quickly covered with a kind smile. He gently removed the gag and untied my wrists. I flexed until the blood flowed freely and my wrists tingled. “Better?” I nodded hesitantly. “You will stay with me. We have a lot to talk about.” My heels dug into the dirt but he easily guided me into a cabin with him. “Little one, I do not want to hurt you. We could be good friends. I treasure humans unlike that narrow minded council. I’d be happy to answer any of your questions, as long as you show me the same kindness.” His words were honey coated. This was the man Nash and I were running from. Seth, the man who almost killed Nash. Questions flooded my thoughts. Why was he after Nash, who was really the bad guy? I determinedly set my jaw. I had to know what I was knee deep in. Nash didn’t want me to know his side, what was he hiding?

I nodded my agreement. “You first.”

Seth chuckled and motioned for me to sit at the hand crafted table. “I’ll make us some tea. I can tell this will be a long night.”

“Why did you try and kill Nash?” I narrowed my eyes at his easy smile.

“Why?” Seth chuckled darkly. “Because he’s a murderer.”

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