The Captive


Chapter One

Fire, Cassie thought. All around her she saw blazing autumn colors. The yellow-orange of sugar maple, the brilliant red of sassafras, the crimson of sumac bushes. It was as if the entire world was flaming with Faye's element.

And I'm trapped in the middle of it.

The sick feeling in the pit of Cassie's stomach got worse with every step she took down Crowhaven Road.

The yellow Victorian house at the bottom of the road looked as pretty as ever. Sunlight was striking rainbow sparks off a prism that hung in the highest tower window. A girl with long, light-brown hair called out from the porch.

"Hurry up, Cassie! You're late!"

"Sorry," Cassie called back, trying to hurry when what she really wanted to do was turn around and run the other way. She had the sudden, inexplicable conviction that her private thoughts must show in her face. Laurel would take one look at her and know all about what had happened with Adam last night, and all about the bargain with Faye.

But Laurel just grabbed her by the waist and hustled her inside and upstairs to Diana's bedroom. Diana was standing in front of the large walnut cabinet; Melanie was sitting on the bed. Sean was perched uneasily in the window seat, rubbing his knees with his palms.

Adam was standing beside him.

He looked up as Cassie came in.

Cassie met those blue-gray eyes for only an instant, but it was long enough. They were the color of the ocean at its most mysterious, sunlit on the surface but with incomprehensible depths underneath. The rest of his face was the same as ever: arresting and intriguing, pride showing in the high cheekbones and determined mouth, but sensitivity and humor showing there too. His face looked different only because last night Cassie had seen those eyes midnight blue with passion, and had felt that mouth...

Not by word or look or deed, she told herself fiercely, staring down at the ground because she didn't dare look up again. But her heart was pounding so hard she expected to see the front of her sweater fluttering. Oh, God, how was she ever going to be able to carry this off and keep her vow? It took an incredible amount of energy to sit down by Melanie and not look at him, to block the charismatic heat of his presence out of her mind.

You'd better get used to it, she told herself. Because you're going to be doing a lot of it from now on.

"Good; we're all here," Diana said. She went over and shut the door. "This is a closed meeting," she went on, turning back to the group. "The others weren't invited because I'm not sure they have the same interests at heart as we do."

"That's putting it mildly," Laurel said under her breath.

"They're going to be upset if they find out," Sean said, his black eyes darting between Adam and Diana.

"Then let them be," Melanie said unemotionally. Her own cool gray eyes fixed on Sean and he flushed. "This is much more important than any fit Faye can throw. We have to find out what happened to that dark energy... and now."

"I think I know a way," said Diana. Out of a white velvet pouch she took a delicate green stone on a silver chain.

"A pendulum," Melanie said at once.

"Yes. This is peridot," Diana said to Cassie. "It's a visionary stone-right, Melanie? Usually we use clear quartz as a pendulum, but this time I think the peridot is better-more likely to pick up traces of the dark energy. We'll take it down to the place where the dark energy escaped and it'll align itself in the direction the energy went and start swinging."

"We hope," Laurel murmured.

"Well, that's the theory," Melanie said.

Diana looked at Adam, who had been unusually quiet. "What do you think?"

"I think it's worth a try. It'll take a lot of mental power to back it up, though. We'll all have to concentrate-especially since we're not a full Circle." His voice was calm and even, and Cassie admired him for it. She kept her face turned in Diana's direction, though as a matter of fact her eyes were fixed on the walnut cabinet.

Diana turned to Cassie. "What about you?" "Me?" Cassie said, startled, tearing her eyes away from the cabinet door. She hadn't expected to be asked; she didn't know anything about pendulums or peridot. To her horror, she felt her face redden.

"Yes, you. You might be new to the methods we use, but