A muffled screech burst through my nose. The shadow shot toward me.
“Shhh!” A hand closed over my mouth. “I’m not going to hurt you,” whispered a low voice. “Just stay still and be quiet.” Like I could scream. Couldn’t he feel the tape? I flailed, elbowing my captor in the ribs. “Christ,” he hissed, “I said stay still.” His arm wrapped me from behind, holding me against his chest. And that’s when I heard it.
A soft click echoed through the room. I stilled. Only when it clicked again did I recognize the sound as mechanical. Where was it coming from? The grandfather clock? But that was impossible. It was like a thousand years old. It couldn’t possibly be—
The gears turned again, sounding an ominous ticking, and with the vibration of a gong, the clock chimed the hour. I yelped. The boy tightened his hold. Static prickled, igniting a violent tremble in my bones. At the end of every clang, my heart stuttered, only to pick up in double time. When at last the final toll droned out, I was nearly hyperventilating. The boy released me.
I jumped to my feet, gesturing frantically at the door. So blinded by fear, it didn’t occur to me that he couldn’t see what I was pointing at.
“Calm down,” the boy said, standing in full height before me. Even in the dark, I could tell he was much taller than I was.
Dropping to all fours, I patted the floor, feeling for the flashlight. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were shrinking. So were the walls. The light flicked on. I gasped as my fingertips met the toes of black grunge combat boots.
“Looking for this?” the boy said, sounding older, even for a senior—assuming that’s what he was. Dark-wash jeans covered the length of his too-long legs, but the rest of him was hidden in the blinding glow of the flashlight. I scrambled back on my haunches, shielding the light with my forearm.
“Hey, take it easy,” the boy said. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Ironically, he said this at the exact moment he withdrew a pocketknife from the back pocket of his jeans. I squealed, my heart jumping in my throat. “It’s to cut the tape,” he said quickly, lowering the knife to the floor. “Here.” He kicked it toward me. I stared at it.
When he didn’t move, I picked it up. Unfolding the blade, eyes locked on his shins, I raised the knife to the back of my head and maneuvered it under the tape, slicing it outward from my skull. The tape ripped in half. I wrestled it out of my hair. Air gushed in my lungs, and only then did I realize how loudly I’d been breathing through my nose. “Open it,” I choked out, getting to my feet. “Please.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” I snapped. “Just open the damn door.”
“Whoa, hold on a sec—”
“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see you have the wrong girl?”
“The wrong girl?”
“I’m not April.” I threw my arms out. As if it wasn’t already obvious.
“April!” I shouted at him. “I’m not April! You have the wrong girl!”
“Slow down,” the boy said. “I don’t know who you are, and I sure as hell don’t know who April is. Frankly, I don’t care. But if you don’t keep it down, you’re going to fuck up this investigation, and I really don’t like wasting my time.”
Investigation? Who was this guy? Another initiate? Seizing the flashlight, I pointed it at his face. Words caught in my throat as I took in the boy’s features—sharp, angular, and, if I were being completely honest, very attractive. Dark brooding brows. Jade-green eyes. Chiseled cheekbones. And thin, oddly crooked lips, a tiny defect in the corner of his mouth that both chilled and fascinated me. On anyone else, it would’ve looked unattractive. But on him …