"Amara!" Rhett cried out. "Amara, where are you?"
I heard Rhett's panicked cry as the hedges grew over, cutting off the way back.
I stumbled forward as my ankle gave way, hitting my right knee on the ground and landing with a hard thud. I attempted to stand, swaying unsteadily on my feet, and accidentally fell into the hedge.
The what was once, neatly trimmed privet hedges, had morphed into thick unforgiving hawthorn hedges. Their thorns scratched deep into my forearm, drawing blood and catching hold of my silk gown. As I pulled away from its hostile clutches, it clung to the silk, tearing shreds from my gown.
My sprained ankle was forcing me to slow down. I had to grit my teeth to try and cope with the pain. Each step I took was agony. The muscle ached in my already bruised thigh, leaving me injured, and cut off from my Lycan warrior.
I hadn't found any sign of children, and I felt so incredibly foolish for not listening to Rhett's warning.
It serves me right.
The sound of children crying had died down and had been replaced by the sounds of malicious laughter, taunting me, jeering me, and making me doubt my own sanity. The sounds seemed to be coming from all around me, yet there was nobody to be seen.
"Amara! Come find us. You're too slow, Amara." The eerie voice commanded.
The sound of multiple children giggling, filled the maze, making me walk in circles to look around, making me dizzy and disorientated.
"Amara you are getting warmer, just a little further." It urged.
I clutched my thighs as I panted breathlessly, unable to carry on.
Rhett was right. It was a trap, and now I was here alone, being lured into God knows what.
The second I turned the corner, I came face to face with a silhouette of a man, no more than fifty feet away from me. He was standing with his back facing me, dressed in a simple white shirt and brown workers trousers.
The closer I got, the more recognisable he became.
"Petr?" I cried out in shock.
It was my brother, Petr. He turned and glanced in my direction, then carried on walking, disappearing around another corner. At first, I wasn't thinking rationally. He couldn't possibly be here. He lay dying back at the orphanage. It wasn't possible for him to know I was there, just by yelling his name from behind. He could lip read if you faced him full on, I knew that.
Petr had never spoken a word, nor had he ever heard the sound of my voice.
My brain was telling me not to believe what I was seeing, but my heart was begging me to make sure I was certain.
What was I supposed to do? Think Amara, come to your senses.
"It can't be Petr," I shouted out into the maze. "You're lying, he's not here." As soon as I spoke it aloud, I knew it was true. This wasn't real, it had been meant to lure me away and leave me vulnerable.
I should have listened to Rhett, I cursed to myself. He tried to warn me and I stubbornly refused to listen.
The Labyrinth had changed once again, blocking the way behind me. I had no idea, whether or not, he could find me again. I also had no way of finding my way back to him. I hated to admit it, but the moody Lycan made me feel safe, in a way.
I had this strange feeling that he would die to protect me. I couldn't explain it, but it felt as if he and I shared a bond.
The air started to grow cold all around me, sending shivers along my skin. I crossed my arms over my chest, rubbing my hands back and forth along both arms for warmth.
Everything had gone deathly silent around me. The only sound I could hear was the chattering of my own teeth and my uneasy breathing.
I didn't know if perhaps I had imagined things, but the labyrinth appeared to be darker and sinister than ever before. It was as if I had walked unwittingly into another one of its dangerous traps.
There were strange flowers amongst the thorns. The bulbous heads were red in colour. They looked like giant Nepenthes plants. I once read about them in the library. Their flower heads were red and shaped like a water pitcher. They were filled with a liquid that aids the digestion of its prey. Or anything unfortunate enough to fall into it.
This type of flesh-eating plant normally sits idle, waiting for its prey. It shouldn't move, nor should each flower head have teeth. They certainly shouldn't be turning to face in my direction, hissing out strange yellow gasses like they were doing right here and now.
I scanned the floor, looking for something to throw. I had needed to try something before I attempted to pass them. They were blocking the way forward, and I was becoming increasingly anxious about how much time had passed already. I didn't want to be trapped in here after sunrise, and I couldn't rely on Rhett to save me for a second time.
I winced as I crouched to pick up a stick. The pain in my ankle throbbed, and it had now swollen to twice the size.
I threw the stick up the pathway, only to shriek in shock, as the flower heads all dived forwards to snap at it. I established quickly, that this was not indeed another illusion, this was just a part of the labyrinth. I wondered how many more strange plants grew in here and whether they were all as deadly. I doubted very much that there was anything pleasant about this place.
With every twist and turn came a test, or an obstacle of some sort. I wished that I still had the shaving knife, at least. Then, I could have hacked my way through the flower heads.
I would have to try and make a run for it, seeing no other choice. Going back was no longer a valid option.
I prepared myself to try and run straight through the middle of the living plants. I took a deep breath, and then another, fearful of breathing in what I suspected was noxious gasses. I edged forwards, but the sound behind me caused me to jump in shock, and I let out a high pitch scream.
"Amara, there you are," Rhett yelled at me in a rough, raspy voice, scowling angrily.
He was in his Lycan form, but although he was slightly terrifying, he still managed to resemble himself. I watched how he transformed from Lycan to man with amazement and intrigue.
"You just can't go running off like that! You're completely impulsive, stubborn, not to mention—" Rhett ranted angrily.
It was at that moment that I completely surprised myself. I don't understand why I did it, and I don't suppose I ever will.
I flung my arms around his neck, so happy to see him and kissed him briefly, but directly on the lips, cutting him off mid-sentence. The only thing he could do was allow me to hang there, whilst he was taken back with shock. That amazing tingling feeling happened again, the moment we made skin to skin contact.
I'd never kissed anybody before. I would never have dreamt of doing it, but being so completely lost in the moment, my emotions had taken over.
"What was that for?" He asked, stunned, with a puzzled look on his face.
I shrugged with a relieved smile on my face,
"I honestly have no idea," I replied, flatly.
He frowned. "You're strange, do you know that? I've never met anyone who has a death wish, as you have."
"And I don't suppose you ever will," I replied with an even bigger smile.
His eyes narrowed as he smirked, clearly amused by my retort.
I winced and looked to my swollen ankle, gritting my teeth with a hiss, each time I had to put any weight on it.
"Why didn't you tell me, you were in pain? Here, allow me to carry you until I can take care of it," his voice was now gentle and full of tenderness.
He picked me up bridal style, causing a million butterflies to flutter all at once around my stomach. I felt the tremors all over my body, sending heat rushing straight to my core. I leaned closer, resting my head upon his shoulder and closing my eyes as I inhaled his masculine, woodsy scent. I buried my face into the crook of his neck, trying hard not to let him see that I was smiling.
"Are you ready? I'm going to run with you, through the Vex Creep." Rhett checked as he backed up ready to run through.
"Oui," I confirmed.
The flower heads drooped docile once more. I knew that as soon as we made an advancement forward, it would be an entirely different matter. I braced myself ready for the assault.
"Hold tight," he warned.
As he lunged, I gasped, despite being fully aware of what was going to happen. Rhett ran at lightning speed through the passage. I doubt the flower heads even had a chance to react.
The sudden motion, teamed with everything racing past my eyes in a blur, caused me to feel nauseous. When he placed me down, I had to cover my mouth with one hand and clutch onto my abdomen with the other.
"Are you alright, Amara?" Rhett asked, showing concern.
I squeezed my eyes shut, whilst taking deep breaths in and out.
I felt his large hand rub the small of my back in slow circles, he then began to rub up and down my arms, as if to offer me relief from the cold.
My eyes widened. "Why are you doing this?" I asked, softly. Not that I was complaining, I was just surprised that he suddenly felt concerned for my wellbeing.
My question appeared to catch him off guard. As if he had only just become aware that he was doing it himself.
His forehead creased as he stared at the ground. "I don't know. It's just you—" He broke off with a sigh, his eyes darting from the floor, straight to my lips.
"No, go on," I prompted, feeling my heart rate increase.
He seemed to struggle inwardly, before finding the correct words to use. "It's just that, you and I....do you believe in fate, Amara?" He asked.
I wasn't sure how best to answer that.
Was there such a thing as fate? Or was it just circumstance?
I decided to answer him carefully so that I didn't appear disrespectful to his customs and beliefs.
"Maybe? I suppose if the right thing happens at the right time, some may call it fate." I shrugged, simply.
Rhett nodded thoughtfully, before mumbling under his breath. "So this is what he meant."
"Is what, who, why?" I asked, more confused as ever.
He leaned down towards me while brushing the side of my face with the back of his fingers. For a moment I actually thought that he was going to kiss me, so I closed my eyes ready.
"You're not going to like this, but if I don't do it, then we won't be able to escape this labyrinth." He spoke gently, trailing his lips along my cheek.
His breath tickled my skin and I involuntarily arched my back, pressing my chest against him.
The combination of his soft lips, rough stubble, and heated breath created a maelstrom of sensations that ran straight down to the valley between my thighs. It was then that I felt it. His teeth bit down hard, tearing into my the groove of my neck. It was painful enough to make me cry out, and I struggled against him.
After several agonising moments, he pulled away, licking the blood from my wound. I had already become incredibly drowsy at this point. And I mumbled something barely audible before my heavy eyelids began to close.
"What have y—" I slurred.
"Shh! Relax, Amara, you'll sleep only for a short while. Your wounds will be fully healed by the time you wake. And then you can yell at me, as much as you wish." I heard him murmur.
I felt myself being swept up into his powerful arms before I drifted into unconsciousness.