The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 16

The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 16

How could Adam be so stubborn? And so stupid? He didn’t stand a chance against Scarlett by himself. Cassie hurried out of Adam’s house in a panic and headed straight to Diana’s. Diana would know what to do.

She banged on the glossy front door of Diana’s lemon-yellow house, but nobody answered. Not again, Cassie thought. She was ready to do another unlocking spell when she tried the nickel handle. It clicked easily beneath her thumb. The door was unlocked. Cassie stepped inside the house’s slick foyer and called Diana’s name. Her voice echoed off the polished mantel and brass knickknacks.

There was no answer, but the thumping bass of too-loud music echoed from Diana’s bedroom. That explained why she hadn’t heard Cassie knocking. Cassie made her way up to Diana’s room and pushed open her door.

“Diana?” she said, as the image before her registered. Diana wasn’t alone. She was on the bed with –

“Oh my God.” It was Max. And he was kissing Diana. And she was kissing him back.

“Cassie!” Diana screamed, pulling away from Max hastily. “What are you doing here?”

“The door was open,” Cassie stuttered. “I tried knocking, but – I’m sorry.”

Max jumped from the bed to a standing position and in one quick motion turned off the music. “It’s not what it looks like,” he said. He was up on the balls of his feet and his tanned calves were flexed, like he was poised to sidestep the rush of a full-on attack.

“It’s okay.” Diana looked sympathetically at Max. “It was only a matter of time before someone found us out. At least it’s Cassie.”

Max settled back on his heels and ran his hands through his hair. Then he dug around on the floor for his socks and sneakers. “You two probably need to talk,” he said in a voice that sounded like an apology. “I should go.”

“You don’t have to leave,” Diana said to him, softly. “Just give us a minute.”

Cassie stepped aside as Max staggered toward the doorway, avoiding her eyes. “I’ll be downstairs.” He closed the door behind him, and Cassie turned to Diana.

“Please let me explain,” Diana said, without giving Cassie a chance to react.

Cassie didn’t know what to say. She needed to tell Diana about Adam going to the Mission House – it was a matter of life and death. But before she could get out even one word, Diana broke into tears.

“This secret has been killing me.” Diana’s emerald-green eyes grew pink with emotion. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I just … I knew it would be hard for anyone to understand.”

Cassie sat down on the soft-feathered bedspread across from Diana and let her talk. She’d obviously been holding this in for a while and needed to get a lot off her chest.

“When I started spending time with Max,” Diana said, “I found myself really liking him. It might not seem like it, Cassie, but he’s charming, and sweet. And despite how he sometimes acts in school, he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Cassie tried to sound objective and unprejudiced. “But Max is our enemy. He marked Faye himself and his people killed Constance and Portia. He must know you’re a witch, too.”

Diana nodded, starting to sob. “I know that. I haven’t forgotten all that he’s done to us. But the cord? The connection that you and Adam have? I’ve seen that between me and Max.”

Cassie swallowed the lump in her throat that formed at the mention of the silver cord. They seemed to be popping up everywhere lately. “Are you sure?” she asked.

Diana was crying so hard, Cassie knew she couldn’t be mistaken.

“You of all people must understand,” Diana begged. “You can’t always choose who you fall for.”

Cassie recognized that Diana never would have chosen this path if she’d had a choice. She felt sorry for her in a way. It couldn’t be easy, falling in love with your sworn enemy.

Cassie rubbed Diana’s back in gentle circles. “I don’t blame you for falling for him. He’s gorgeous and he’s loved you since the first time he saw you. But I guess it’s hard for me to understand exactly how this happened.”

Diana reached for a tissue to wipe her tear-muddled face. “When I was trying to spend time with him, to spy on him, I got to see what it was actually like to be him. How he’s had to move around from place to place his entire life chasing witches with his awful father. How he has no mom, no siblings. Just like so many of us, Cassie.”

Diana plucked a fresh Kleenex from the box and dabbed her eyes. “It’s so hard for him to trust people. He’s scared and alone. Do you know how that started to feel? To trick this really good guy into believing I had no ulterior motives for spending time with him?”

Diana didn’t wait for Cassie to answer. “And then one day we were hanging out in his room and his father came home early. The moment the front door slammed, Max turned to me, terrified. He grabbed my hand and led me to the window and I realized it was me he was worried about, not himself. We climbed out his window and dashed for the woods behind his house. We were barefoot, with our shoes in our hands, and rocks and twigs cut up the bottoms of our muddied feet, but we didn’t stop. Long after it was obvious we were safe, Max was still clutching my hand, pulling me along, until finally I couldn’t go on. I stopped, breathless, and asked him why we were still running. And that was when he kissed me for the first time. He leaned in and placed his lips on mine, and a wave of energy passed through me like nothing I’d ever felt before. He said, ‘I want to keep running until we’re free.’ And it was as if I were suddenly floating outside myself. I could see the two of us standing there in the woods and how we were connected by a band of energy – a silver cord that hummed and sang and bound us heart to heart. And I understood that it could never be broken, that our lives were linked.”

Cassie remained silent, looking at Diana with sympathetic eyes.

“I know it sounds crazy,” Diana said, “but I trust him, Cassie. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.”

“If you trust him,” Cassie said, “I trust you. But as things progress, it’s likely there will be a battle between us and them. You understand that, don’t you?”

“I know.” Diana exhaled deeply. “It’s practically all I can think about. But until we get to that point, can I ask you to keep this between us?”

Cassie wanted to be supportive, but she worried about the position Diana was now in. She would be torn between her love for Max and her devotion to the Circle, and Cassie knew how powerful the draw of true love could be.

“Let me ask you an important question,” Cassie said. “And I need you to tell me the truth. Is there any chance your loyalties will be skewed when it comes time to fight?”

“There is absolutely no chance of that happening.” Diana had stopped crying, but her eyes remained puffy and red. “I assure you. My allegiance will always remain with the Circle, even if it kills me. I’m just not ready for them to hear about this yet. Please.”

Diana sounded pretty convincing. And she was right that the Circle would never understand how she could possibly be in love with Max.

“Your secret is safe with me,” Cassie said. “But we’re not done talking about this.”

Then Cassie stood up to leave. All this talk about cords and irresistible connections was making her even more nervous about Adam. But she didn’t want to risk explaining the Adam situation to Diana with Max so close by.

“Wait.” Diana followed Cassie toward the door when she realized she was leaving. “Didn’t you need me for something?”

“Nothing important,” Cassie said. “Never mind.”

She would have to go after Adam alone. But she had to go now, before it was too late.