Chapter Four

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I wake up to find dim light trying to force its way through the dusty window. My stomach aches. My arms are numb. Nate stretches his tied-up legs and groans. He sits up, pushing his floppy hair out of his eyes.

"Why am I so hungry?" I ask. "It's barely morning."

From a shadowed corner, Zell laughs. "Morning's come and gone, sweetheart."

"What?"

He comes toward me. "Sorry, had to hit you with another stunner." He starts untying my rubbery arms. "The plan took a little longer than expected to put into place." Heat prickles down my arms as blood rushes toward my fingertips. I clench and unclench my hands, and the prickling intensifies.

Zell hauls me to my feet. "Time to start the show." He holds my hands together and reties my wrists in front of me. "I'm not sure why I'm even bothering with this; I know you're useless without your magic and weapons."

Not true. "Are we taking the paths?" I ask, thinking that perhaps Nate and I can break away from Zell and end up somewhere else.

"Don't be an idiot. Drake's human."

"And so am I," adds Nate.

Zell just laughs and shakes his head. How does he know Nate survived a journey through the faerie paths? "Besides, we don't have to travel anywhere," says Zell. "We're right where we need to be."

He cuts the rope around Nate's ankles and pulls him off the floor just as Drake enters the room. Drake rubs his oversized hands together and exposes his teeth in an ugly grin. "Let's get this party started."

He yanks Nate away from Zell and pushes him out the door, then reaches for my arm and forces me out after him. I trip on a step, regain my balance, and look around. My heart thumps out a faster rhythm. I recognize our location, though I've only been here once before. We're at the edge of the Creepy Hollow forest. The trees come to an end a few paces away, and beyond that is a flat, grassy patch. And beyond that—a sheer drop that ends so far below it's impossible to even make out the bottom.

I wish I didn't know that right now.

Zell and Drake steer us out of the trees. On the other side of the ravine I can see the sun disappearing in a blaze of orange and pink. But something on this side catches my attention. A contraption of some sort, built right on the edge. A wooden beam runs parallel to the ground and juts out over the ravine. It almost looks like one of those hangman diagrams I've seen children drawing in their notebooks when I've been on the occasional school assignment.

Oh no. No no no no no.

"You can't do this," I shout, digging my heels into the ground.

"You don't even know what we have planned," Zell says, forcing me to keep moving.

"You're going to hang Nate from that thing and dangle him over the gorge!"

"W-what?" Nate stammers.

"You forgot about the part where we let the rope drop a little further every few minutes, just to hear him scream," says Zell.

We reach the contraption and Zell pushes me down onto the grass. Drake pulls a lever and the wooden beam swings around so that it's above us. Rings of metal along the top of the beam guide a rope that ends in a hook.

"So, um, you're not actually going to let me die, are you?" says Nate, his voice wavering slightly. "I mean, you believe that my mother cares about me and you're just trying to scare her into showing up. Right?"

"Well, if she doesn't show, then we don't have any further use for you," says Drake. "So I guess we'll let you drop all the way then."

I kick Zell's legs as hard as I can. He falls with a cry, and I scramble to my feet. I run at Drake, leap onto his back, and loop my arms over his head. I yank my rope as tightly as I can against his throat.

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