The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 17
Using the driving directions she had found on Adam’s computer, Cassie arrived in Stockbridge just after sunset. The Mission House was hard to miss once she had crossed the bridge. It was an old gray house in terrible disrepair with crooked wooden shutters and moss lurking up its facade – just how it had looked in the water of the location spell.
And just as she saw it in the spell, the house was surrounded by a pointed iron gate. Cassie found it was low enough to pull herself up and over it without difficulty. She landed with both feet upon the spongy mud of the side yard and began exploring the fenced-in property.
Cassie walked the perimeter, figuring out all her options for entering the house – and also for escape. As far as she could tell, there were three doors – one in front, one at the back, and one on the side of the house. All of them looked shoddy, flimsy, and easy to open, but the back door wasn’t even latched closed. It creaked open in the faint breeze.
Cassie let herself inside quietly and then waited for her intuition to alert her to where Adam was. She closed her eyes and centered her energy, calling him with her mind.
But then she heard something in the main room. It was a wispy, delicate sound – the wrinkling bend of pages turning.
Cassie followed it down a long, musty hallway. The sound echoed periodically, guiding her through the dark and across the dusty hardwood floor. It led her right to the threshold of the main room.
It was a carelessly-laid-out space filled with what looked like secondhand furniture. Everything was mismatched, as if the owner had just left all the odds and ends he didn’t want in one room before abandoning the place.
Adam was there, standing before Scarlett, breathing heavily. “I brought you your father’s Book of Shadows,” he said. “What more do you want from me? I have nothing else to offer.”
The book. Cassie thought she had recognized its call, and now her worst fear was confirmed. Adam must have taken the book from her room. He was the only one who knew where it was hidden and where to find the key.
The book’s worn leather cover looked even more sinister than usual in Scarlett’s pale hands, and Cassie’s insides stirred. That book was hers, just like Adam was hers.
Scarlett leaned in close to Adam, so their faces were nearly touching. “I want from you exactly what you want from me.”
Adam didn’t turn away. “All I want from you are the Master Tools,” he said, his mouth just centimeters from Scarlett’s. “Nothing else.”
Cassie started to interrupt, to reveal herself, but stopped at the last moment. Adam was safe, for the time being. And in Cape Cod, Scarlett had the upper hand, but Cassie had the element of surprise. If Cassie could catch Scarlett at the right moment … her mind started spinning with possibilities.
“You’re lying.” Scarlett rested her hand on Adam’s chest and held it there. “But at least your heartbeat tells the truth.”
Adam stepped back, swatting Scarlett’s hand from his body. “I know the Tools are here somewhere. If you’re not willing to hand them over, I’ll find them myself.”
He turned toward a chest of drawers, then to the closet.
“I like you, Adam,” Scarlett said. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t hurt you. Do you honestly think I’m going to let you walk out of here with the Master Tools?”
Adam ignored Scarlett’s warning and charged for the chest of drawers.
“Fool,” Scarlett muttered, shaking her head. She shot Adam with a dark spell that brought him down to the floor. Cassie winced just watching it.
“Why do you insist on defying me?” Scarlett’s hands hovered over Adam’s body, drawing a wounded shriek from his mouth. “This pain you’re feeling,” she said, “I want you to understand that it’s your own doing. You’re making me do this to you right now.”
Adam cried out like an injured animal, clawing at the floor, trying to get away.
“And if you make me destroy you,” Scarlett continued, “so be it.” She thrashed her fists and Adam squealed as if he’d been whipped. She did it again, and then again. Each time, Adam screamed louder, begging for Scarlett to stop.
Cassie couldn’t stand by and watch him being tortured for another second. She ran at Scarlett with outstretched hands and shouted, “Fragilis!”
It was the same spell Scarlett had used on Cassie last time they fought. It was a black magic spell, but Cassie knew how to perform it now. She had absorbed it somehow these past few weeks.
Before Scarlett even knew what hit her, she fell to the floor beside Adam, like all the energy had drained out of her body. She struggled to lift her head, to see who’d blindsided her in her own hideout.
Cassie turned to Adam and yelled, “Get out of here!” But the moment he was up on his feet, Scarlett recited a line, “Hoc funem est carcerem,” and Adam flew backward onto the wooden chair across from the sofa. The threads of the chair’s upholstery unraveled in thick ropes and tied Adam tightly in place.
“Really, Cassie,” Scarlett said, standing. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” She raised her arms and focused on Cassie, but Cassie beat her to the punch.
“Cadunt,” Cassie commanded. Scarlett dropped to her knees again, and then tipped over onto the ground. She fell straight-limbed and unyielding in one swift motion, the way a tree goes down in the forest.
“What were you saying about this being easy?” Cassie quipped.
Scarlett lay unmoving flat on her back.
“Untie me, Cassie!” Adam screamed. “We need to get out of here.”
Cassie pretended not to hear him. At the moment she could have easily freed Adam from the ropes without even using her hands. A simple unraveling spell would have done it. But being tied up is what kept Adam safe and out of the crossfire. This fight was between her and her sister, and she was prepared to finish it right then and there.
Cassie yelled over to where Scarlett was lying on the floor. “Have you had enough yet? Or should we keep going? Because I’m just getting warmed up.”
Scarlett refused to surrender. The defense spell she hollered out sounded like a cry for help, or a plea to her own body. “Oriuntur,” Scarlett demanded, and she used every bit of strength she had to stand up again.
The book, though, Cassie noticed – her book – had slipped from Scarlett’s grasp.
Cassie thrust her charged fingers toward its pages and called to it, “Mihi venit!”
To Scarlett’s surprise, and much to her own, the book quivered and rose up from the floor until it was eye-level with Cassie. Then it floated across the room like a leaf caught in the wind, right into Cassie’s outstretched hands.
Cassie gripped the book’s soft cover and hugged it close to her chest.
Scarlett desperately cast her trembling fingers at Cassie again. “Praestrangulo,” she screamed. “Caecitas!” She was frantic, trying every spell she knew. But Cassie had the upper hand now.
“Divorsus,” Cassie said calmly. A simple wave of her arm blocked all of Scarlett’s feeble spells.
With her father’s book in hand, Cassie understood where her new power was coming from. Somehow, it had seeped into her veins those past weeks; Black John’s spells were now hers. She could feel the book’s power coursing through her. This was right. It was Scarlett who had to go.
“And I thought you were going to put up a fight,” Cassie said, egging Scarlett on. “I mistook you for a worthy opponent.”
Scarlett was running out of options. Barely able to stand, exhausted from casting too many spells, she momentarily glanced at the shallow closet closed off from the room by two folding doors.
The quick look wasn’t lost on Cassie. “Hmm,” she said, turning to face the closet. “I wonder what’s in there. Could it be my Tools? The ones you stole from me?”
Scarlett’s eyes widened, and she dashed for the closet doors.
“Desiccare!” Cassie shouted.
Scarlett dropped to the floor once more. Her legs and arms stiffened like the limbs of a corpse.
“I guess that answers that.” Cassie casually walked over to Scarlett. She watched the spell collapse Scarlett’s spine and wrinkle its way up the length of Scarlett’s neck.
“Cassie!” Adam cried out desperately. “Untie me, now!”
Finally Scarlett’s face succumbed to the spell. It dried and shriveled like a preserved peach, then turned gray and ashen – motionless as a mask, except for her eyes, which darted frantically back and forth.
“You know this already,” Cassie said. “But I’ll remind you again just this once. The Master Tools belong to me. And from now on, they answer only to me. And that boy over there?” She gestured to Adam. “He’s mine.”
Scarlett’s dark eyes slowed to a stop, hardening to a stony gray that matched the rest of her desiccated body.
Cassie grinned. “Who do you think is Daddy’s favorite now? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not you.”
“Cassie,” Adam called to her, but he sounded far away, as if he were at the opposite end of a long tunnel. She knew he was there in the room with her, but at the moment he seemed small and unimportant. He may as well have not been there at all.
“You’re nothing,” Cassie said to Scarlett. “Nothing.”
Cassie felt invincible. She could destroy Scarlett so easily now. She suddenly knew the right words. They came to her strikingly from deep within her gut. She could taste them, bitter like licorice on her tongue:
I maledicentibus vobis in mortem.
I curse you to death.