The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 8
Nick screamed Cassie’s name. He was bent over her, trying to get her to breathe, but Cassie could feel herself losing consciousness with each second that passed. The yellow gymnasium light, their comatose classmates, and even Scarlett’s wicked voice had blended into a soft, shadowy haze. Then Nick stood up and raised his arms with outstretched hands.
No! Cassie tried to cry out – the worst thing Nick could do right now was perform magic out in the open – but no sound escaped her gaping mouth.
Nick centered his energy, closed his eyes, and made his voice deep:
I call on the Power of Air, the element from the East, I call you from the atmosphere to Cassie’s lungs.
He repeated the spell three times, louder each moment, but Cassie continued to fade out of consciousness. The whole world diffused; sound ceased. There was nothing. And then all at once she gasped like a drowned woman resuscitated, reclaiming her life with one greedy breath after another.
Her vision sharpened with each inhalation, and she climbed to her feet just as Nick raised his hands to call out another spell – this time not at Cassie, but up at the ceiling:
Motion of heart, current of soul, spark to my hands, at the speed of light.
His face took on a lustrous glow and electricity seemed to pass through him, up from his feet and out of his fingertips.
The overhead bulbs flashed and then burst, raining down spectacular long-tailed sparks like fireworks. Then the gym went black as night.
“Run,” Nick said, grabbing Cassie’s hand.
Their stupefied classmates panicked in the sudden darkness. Cassie could no longer see them, but she could hear them grunting and groaning. Their elbows and knees knocked against the gym floor as they tumbled over one another in a massive stampede.
Cassie and Nick raced through the maze of bodies, heading for the emergency exit, without once looking back to see what had become of Scarlett. They stormed through the fire door out to the side parking lot, where they ran straight into the rest of the Circle.
“Are you all right?” Diana asked in alarm. “What just happened in the gym?”
Nick and Cassie hurriedly explained the situation and Diana’s mouth dropped open. “Scarlett’s here?”
Both Henderson brothers bolted back to the gym to find her. Cassie screamed for them not to, but they were already gone.
“Someone has to stop them,” she cried out. “They’ll get themselves killed.”
“I’ll go,” Deborah said, taking off in the same direction as the Hendersons. Suzan followed just behind her.
Diana searched Cassie for any sign of an injury. “Are you sure you’re okay? You aren’t hurt?”
Cassie nodded. “I’m fine. I think we got out just in time. Where’s Adam?”
“Right here.” Adam walked up to the group, looking pale. His hands were trembling slightly and they were empty of Mr. Boylan’s relic. “Cassie,” he said. “Have you been out here long?”
“I’m okay,” Cassie said to reassure him.
Adam appeared more shaken than she was. His breathing was heavy and his forehead was soaked with sweat. He scanned the surrounding area with apprehension.
“Scarlett’s nowhere to be found,” Chris called out as he and Doug exited the gym to rejoin the group. Deborah and Suzan were alongside him.
“The lights are still out, but everyone in the gym is back to normal,” Doug said. “Which is too bad, really. I kind of liked the idea of them all being zombified.”
Cassie looked at Nick, happy he was okay. He was so quick to react, and he’d saved her life, but she never intended for him to be in danger like that. Especially with Mr. Boylan and Max around.
Nick returned her gaze. He seemed to understand exactly what she was thinking and he smiled reassuringly for her. It was just then that Cassie saw something glisten on the sleeve of his leather jacket. It was dim at first, but once she noticed it, it appeared to shine more clearly. It was the hunter symbol.
“Nick,” she said, but that was the only word she could get out.
He registered Cassie’s expression and then watched everyone else’s face fall into the same shock.
“What?” he asked. “Why do you all look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
“Your sleeve,” Diana said. “You’ve been marked.”
Cassie went to him, but Nick shook her off. He searched his jacket and located the mark. He concentrated hard on it, squinting as if trying to understand it, but had no other reaction.
“So I have,” he said, in a voice as still and cold as stone.
Adam barely said a word the whole car ride home to Cassie’s. Cassie didn’t take it personally; she didn’t feel much like making conversation either. What was there to say after an evening like this? But when Adam parked in front of her house, he cut the engine and turned to her like he had something to get off his chest.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay on your couch for the night?” he asked. “Scarlett might still be coming after you.”
There was a chill in the air that made Cassie shiver. “Thank you,” she said. “But I’ll be okay. Faye and Laurel are there, and Faye wouldn’t miss the chance to act on some of her anger if Scarlett showed up.”
“That’s true, I guess.” Adam tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
Cassie was wearing his suit jacket draped over her shoulders to keep warm. She went to take it off and give it back to him, but he stopped her.
“Keep it on a little longer,” he said. He made no motion to restart the car’s engine. Something else was obviously on his mind.
Cassie feared she knew what it was. Adam was concerned that Nick being marked would mean he’d have to start spending the night in Cassie’s basement. The two of them would be sleeping under the same roof.
She decided to help him along. “Adam,” she said. “About Nick staying here …”
Adam stared straight ahead. “It’s not that,” he said. “Can I ask you one more time what happened when the lights went out in the school?”
“I told you,” Cassie said. “Nothing happened with Nick while you were gone that you need to worry about.”
“I just need to hear it again.”
Cassie had already given Adam a detailed account of her and Nick’s every move from the moment they spotted Scarlett to their escape. But she repeated the story anyway.
“It’s just so strange,” he said, unable to look at her.
“Adam, what are you freaking out about? I know if you had been there when Scarlett showed up, you would have protected me, just like Nick did. I don’t doubt that for a second.”
Finally Adam turned to Cassie, allowing her to see his tearful eyes. “I felt something,” he said. “An arm brushed up against mine in the chaos.”
“What?” Cassie was confused.
“When the lights went out. I had just come out of Boylan’s office and everyone started running. I was making my way toward the gym when someone grabbed my hand, and it felt like … I don’t even know.” Adam could barely continue, and Cassie began to understand just how upset he was.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to coax the full truth out of him. “What did you feel?”
“I thought it was you leading me to safety, but then we got separated. I could have sworn it was you. Because of the sparks I felt.”
“But I was already out of the gym and in the parking lot by that point,” Cassie said. “It wasn’t me.”
There was a moment of silence as it all sank in.
“Oh,” Cassie said, finally comprehending what this meant. Neither of them wanted to say it out loud, but it was obvious. It was Scarlett who’d grabbed Adam’s hand. The sparks he felt were for her.
“It’s you that I love, Cassie. I swear it.” Adam’s voice rose. “This doesn’t mean anything.”
“It means the cord between you and Scarlett must be real after all,” Cassie said. “That’s the only explanation.”
“I shouldn’t even have told you.”
“Of course you should have told me!”
“This doesn’t change anything.” Adam persisted. But the more he swore and pleaded, the more obvious it was to Cassie that he was just as shaken by this as she was, if not more.
“My hand just got confused,” he said. “That’s all.”
“Your hand got confused?” Cassie took an immediate breath to recalibrate her emotions. If she wasn’t careful, her hurt and anger would blow up right in Adam’s face.
“You don’t have to feel guilty,” she said, trying to sound sympathetic. “It’s not your fault. It just is.”
Adam got quiet then. “But I don’t want this.”
Cassie reached over to give Adam a kiss good night. She needed to get out of his car as quickly as possible. “I know,” she said. “Don’t worry too much about it. We’ll be okay.”
“That’s it? Don’t you think we should talk about this?” Adam asked.
Cassie slipped Adam’s suit jacket from her shoulders. It smelled like him, like autumn leaves and ocean wind. She gently folded it and placed it on his lap. Then she put her hand on the door handle.
“It’s going to be okay,” she said, knowing she had to appear strong for Adam in this moment. Adam could always be relied on to reassure Cassie. Now it was her turn.
“Cassie, please don’t go.”
“Let’s sleep on it,” she said, as sweetly as she could. And then borrowing a favorite phrase of her mother’s, she added, “Everything will look brighter tomorrow.”
She got out of the car and almost made it to the front door before tears filled her eyes and began running down her face. But Adam couldn’t see them, and that was all that mattered.