Home > The Hunt (The Secret Circle #5)(12)

The Hunt (The Secret Circle #5)(12)
Author: L.J. Smith

Nick looked ready to pounce, but he didn't move a muscle. "She's casting a spell," he said.

Scarlett's arms were rigid at her sides and her eyes were as black as marbles. She was muttering something under her breath, obviously some kind of dark magic.

"We have to get you out of here," Nick said. "Right now!"

Cassie was smart enough not to argue. She and Nick rushed toward the nearest exit, but suddenly everyone around them started to act odd. Their necks went soft and their heads drooped down. Their classmates had all fallen into a stupor.

Nick shot a look at Cassie. "What the heck is going on?" He positioned himself between Cassie and the nearest group blocking the exit.

Whatever Scarlett was doing seemed to be affecting everyone but Cassie and Nick. But it soon became clear that their classmates were simply collateral damage. With them out of the way, Scarlett now had a clear shot at her intended target. She redirected all her wicked mumbling straight at Cassie:

Spirant ultimus spiritus

Ultimus spiritus vitae

Suddenly all the air rushed out of Cassie's lungs and she couldn't inhale any more in. It was like a clamp had fastened around her throat, blocking her breath. She brought her hands to her neck and turned to Nick. There was no breath to enable a scream.

Nick ran to her as if it were a simple piece of food lodged in her throat, as if the Heimlich maneuver could save her - but there was nothing he could do. And with their stupefied classmates crowding every exit, there was no way to escape.

Cassie's head spun from the lack of oxygen. She reached out for Nick as she fell to the gymnasium floor.

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."

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