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The Dark One: Chapter 36

WINNIE

I’m flying. And clutched in Vane’s arms, held tightly against the solid line of his body.

“Don’t look down, Darling,” he says, his voice rising to cut in across the wind.

I don’t know how fast we’re going but it feels faster than a jet plane.

I have no choice but to cling to him and keep my eyes slammed shut. I’m not quite ready for this level of magic—to be flying among the clouds with nothing beneath me.

Maybe someday I will be but not today.

Vane puts us down just outside of the cold bonfire. The house is quiet in front of us, but there are shadows sliding past the windows.

“Pirates,” Vane says on a growl.

“What do we do?”

We do nothing. I fucking kill them.” He takes my hand in his and slinks through the back yard, then up the stairs and across the balcony. He moves silently, confidently, as if he’s used to moving through the shadows, plotting murder as he goes.

Slowly, he opens the balcony door and then slips us inside.

We come up on the first pirate in the dining room and Vane puts his hands on the man’s arms and lets his darkness seep into skin. The man convulses in Vane’s grip and a strangled cry erupts from his throat.

His buddy hears it and comes running at me.

I yelp and dart away as his meaty hand snatches for me.

“Darling!” Vane yells and drops the man in his grip.

I slam into the kitchen island as the pirate advances. He’s missing a front tooth and his hair is straggly and greasy, and he smells like he hasn’t showered in a month.

“Come here!” He leers at me, swipes again, and I duck away, scooting around the island, and snatch one of the knives from the block on the counter.

He rounds on me and I don’t think. I just stab upward.

It isn’t until something wet and hot and sticky covers my arm that I know I’ve hit something vital. The man’s eyes get wide as his head ticks and blood leaks out of his mouth with a meager cough.

“Get the fuck off me,” I say and shove him.

He goes down in a sloppy mess just as Vane reaches us.

He looks at the man and then at me, the knife still clutched in my hand. “Well done, Darling.”

God, I must be corrupt because hearing his praise after a murder makes me glow.

“Watch out!” Another pirate appears behind Vane. I throw him the knife and he plucks it from the air with no effort at all. He fists it in his hand and turns and stabs down like an ice pick. Once, twice, three times. So many times I stop counting. Boom boom boom.

Blood splatters and springs like a geyser and the man drops where he stands.

Vane turns to me covered in blood.

Fuck. Fuck, he is glorious.

“Are you all right?” he asks me.

“I’m fine.”

He comes over to me and holds up my arms, checks my torso, then my neck.

“I said I’m okay.”

The line of his jaw hardens. “You almost weren’t.”

“You have to get back,” I say.

His teeth grit at the reminder.

“Go. Pan needs you.”

“Get in his tomb. Lock the door behind you. Promise me.” There are hard lines between his dark brows.

“I promise.”

He nods and then turns away. And then—

He races back to me, grabs me by the jaw, and kisses me roughly. A contented sigh escapes him and then he’s kissing me again and we slam against the nearest wall.

I am fucked up. That’s official. Because I’m covered in blood and Vane is covered in blood and there are dead pirates littering the floor, but all I can think about is Vane’s hands on my body. I’m wound up tight, heart pounding.

But no.

No.

I shove him back and he growls at me.

“Get the fuck out of here and go help Pan.”

His mouth ticks. “Down to the tomb. Now.”

“I’m going.”

He darts out the door and immediately takes to the air.

And because I don’t take my promises lightly, I make my way through the loft and past the Never Tree and—

“Winnie.”

Cherry’s meager voice catches me off guard and my heart leaps to my throat. “Shit. Cherry. You scared me.”

“Sorry.”

“What are you doing here? Are you okay?”

She licks her lips. “So, you and Vane?”

Oh shit. “Umm…”

“It’s okay. I knew it would never last with him. I mean, I tried for a really long time. And then you came along. Of course he was going to pick you over me.”

“Cherry, I’m—”

“It’s okay.”

But she doesn’t look like it’s okay.

“I really am sorry.”

“I know.” She blinks and drags a knuckle beneath her eye, mopping up a tear. “Can you help me with something? I heard a noise in my room.”

“Oh no. It might be another pirate. We should go to—”

“No, I only saw the three,” Cherry says. “I think it’s one of the parakeets. I think it’s trapped in my room. Can you help me get it out?”

I look between her and the hall to Pan’s tomb. This will just take a second, right? And I feel so bad for Cherry. If she’s asking for my help, I feel like it’s the least I can do.

“All right. Real quick and then we have to get down to Pan’s tomb.”

“Of course,” she says and follows me down the stairs to her room. “It’ll just be real quick.”


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