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Home > The Hunt (The Secret Circle #5)(11)

The Hunt (The Secret Circle #5)(11)
Author: L.J. Smith

Whatever song the band was playing was loud and boisterous, nothing Cassie recognized, but it felt good to let her guard down and just enjoy the music - to enjoy the simple pleasure of being a girl at a dance. Nick skipped and bopped about trying to amuse her. She knew he actually hated dancing and that this was all for her benefit. Cassie appreciated the effort and followed his lead, synchronizing her steps to his until together they were making quite a scene.

From the dance floor Cassie saw that Adam had returned with her punch, and Diana was behind him with a glass for herself.

Nick dashed for them, took the cups from their hands to set them aside, and then pulled them onto the dance floor, too. Deborah and Suzan were quick to join in, and before Cassie knew it, Nick had single-handedly altered the energy of the whole group. They were all being silly, rambunctiously bumping into their classmates on the dance floor, infuriating them in the process. It made Cassie remember when she and Nick were together, and how sometimes his refusal to take anything seriously was just the thing she needed to get out of her own head and start having a good time.

Then the music changed to a slow song - one of Cassie's favorites. She looked at Adam, hoping he would ask her to dance, but she noticed his attention was elsewhere. He was watching someone.

"Max is here," he said. "Act natural."

"Whatever that means," Nick mumbled under his breath. He turned around and cut through the crowd toward the punch bowl. Their merriment was nothing more than a lingering memory.

"It's supposed to be our night off," Suzan said, pouting. "Remember? No policing tonight."

But Cassie knew it was only a matter of time before the Spring Fling became about Circle business, just like everything else. Come to think of it, she was surprised it had taken this long. The group dutifully exited the dance floor and gathered near the back wall.

Max sauntered over to them with his usual air of confidence. He was dressed in a black shirt, black pants, and a necktie as brilliantly green as his eyes. "Hey," he said, greeting Diana first, as always. "Is Faye around? I can't find her."

"Didn't she tell you?" Diana said. "Faye's got a terrible cold."

"Oh," Max said, disappointed. "No, I didn't know. She hasn't answered any of my calls." When Max pouted, his features softened, bringing out the boyish charm to his face.

Diana frowned sympathetically. "Don't take it personally. She's been knocked out on decongestants since yesterday. I bet she turned her phone off."

Cassie couldn't tell if Max was buying Diana's story or not. She thought he looked more confused than skeptical, but Diana must have sensed some suspicion in him because she didn't stop there.

"Just because Faye's not here doesn't mean your night should be ruined," Diana said to him.

Max cracked a sideways, hopeful smile.

"Dance with me," Diana said. And before Max could even react, she grabbed him by the arm and hurried him to the dance floor. The band was still playing a slow song, so Diana clasped her arms around the back of Max's neck and let him hold her lower back.

Max gazed into Diana's eyes as if he couldn't believe his good fortune. All his arrogance and swagger had given way to a sturdy modesty, and he held Diana with care. Faye was the furthest thing from his mind, Cassie was sure of that.

"I know we want to keep an eye on Max," Adam said. "But this is ridiculous."

Cassie noticed Adam's jaw tighten as he watched the couple dance. Diana was laughing, squeezing Max close, having what appeared to be a pretty good time. Cassie wouldn't dare say so to Adam, but she couldn't help but sense Diana wasn't thinking about the Circle anymore.

A few minutes later, Chris, Doug, and Sean turned up at Cassie's side.

"Do you see what I see?" Chris asked, and Cassie followed his gaze to the opposite side of the gym.

It was Mr. Boylan, standing with his arms crossed in a finely cut dark suit, his gaze locked on Max and Diana on the dance floor.

"He looks like he's about to kill someone," Doug said. "What should we do?"

Just then Mr. Boylan turned the other way and stormed out of the gym.

"Follow him," Cassie said.

The three of them - Chris, Doug, and Sean - bolted toward the exit without a moment's hesitation. Cassie saw from the look on his face that Adam was anxious to join them.

"This is my chance to search Mr. Boylan's office," he said. "For his relic."

So much for a night off, Cassie thought. But if Adam could steal Boylan's relic from him it would be the equivalent of robbing him of his power. He couldn't perform the killing curse without it.

Cassie grazed Adam's cheek with her hand and nodded. "It's a good idea, but you shouldn't go alone. You'll need a lookout."

"We'll go," Deborah said. She and Suzan stepped forward, a little too anxiously. "We've been itching for something interesting to happen all night. Or at least I have." She acknowledged Suzan, who was still sulking about being pulled from the dance floor.

"Be careful," Cassie said, as if it were an order. She was still a Circle leader, after all. "I'll keep an eye on Diana and Max."

Adam gave Cassie's hand a squeeze and then took off. Deborah and Suzan followed him toward the hallway that led to Mr. Boylan's office. Cassie allowed herself a moment to breathe, to remind herself that though everything was suddenly happening so fast, it was all under control. Her control. Then Nick materialized from the crowd with another glass of punch for Cassie.

"I'm pretty sure it's not spiked," he said. "But at this rate I think we can both at least count on a sugar high." Then he noticed the expression on Cassie's face. "What's going on?" His dark brown eyes darted back and forth. "Where is everyone?"

"Chris, Doug, and Sean are tailing Boylan. Adam, Deborah, and Suzan are searching his office."

"I thought we were here to take it easy," Nick said.

"Change of plan." Cassie scoped the gymnasium for Diana's blond hair and Max's broad shoulders, but they'd gotten lost in the swarm of students. "Do you see Diana anywhere?"

Nick inspected every couple on the dance floor then shook his head. "It's too crowded. But I have an idea." He ran to the punch table and, to the dismay of the servers, climbed up on top of it for a better view. He scanned the room back and forth and then he froze in place. His sharp features turned deathly serious.

"Cassie," he whispered, and jumped down. But before he could utter another word, Cassie caught sight of a wild mane of dyed-red hair. It was no hallucination this time. No paranoia. Right in the center of the crowd was Scarlett.

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