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Tied (Devils Wolves #2)
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He was the myth and the legend of our small town. But no one knew the truth… except me.
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Once upon a time…
I watch as the flames crawl across the pages of the pink bound book, obliterating the tiny words until that very first sentence goes up in flames and smoke.
One by one, I toss all my childhood fairy-tale books into the fire and watch them get eaten by the orange flames. Tears spill down my hot cheeks, and strong arms embrace me from behind, pulling me back against his chest before I can fling myself into the fire to save my precious books. Those worn pages, and the stories they hold, once saved my life.
It’s more than just the books, though. I want to feel the searing burn of flesh like he did. I want the smoke to seep into my lungs and suffocate me like it did to him.
“Let it all go.” His warm lips brush against my ear as he pulls us backward, his arms tightening around me.
He always knows what I’m thinking, what I need to hear or feel from him—often before I do. He understands the aches of my heart and the memories that lurk and claw at my soul. He’s the only one who knows how to chase it all away.
When the last page has burned, and there’s nothing left but ash and memories, we turn away. He drapes his arm across my shoulder, presses his lips to the top of my head, and leads us from the fire as wisps of smoke trail after us like ghosts not wanting to be left behind.
This is where it ends.
Exactly where we began.
The stillness of daybreak has been my favorite time of day for as long as I can remember. That short span of time between dark and light, when the day is slowly awakening, has always felt surreal to me.
And quiet. So very quiet, with the exception of chirping birds and other woodland creatures. But I don’t consider that noise.
Sunbeams peek through the trees, and morning dew glistens over the mossy forest trail beneath my boots as I walk through the woods, barely making a sound. I’m not an intruder here, among the lifting fog and the faint chirping of birds—this is home. I’ve walked this path hundreds of times.
I am daybreak and dusk. I’m no longer light or dark, but some vague, fucked-up place in the middle.
I’m the gray area.
Pausing, I tilt my head at the odd sound coming from my left, recognizing it as the same noise I heard out here yesterday but didn’t have time to check out. I push the hood of my sweatshirt off my head, straining to hear the sound again, but all I hear is my own breath for a full minute.
At first, I think it’s a deer huffing, but I’ve never heard one sound like that before. It seems to be making the sound too often and too frantically. Veering off the trail, I make my way through the trees toward the sound. It could be the lost dog I’ve been trying to find for the past week, possibly hurt or caught in a trap. Dogs get lost up here in the woods all the time, usually with hikers who think their dogs would never run off chasing a squirrel and not come back when called.
So I, Tyler Grace, the alleged small-town psycho, lure and catch the lost dogs and bring them back to their owners. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t bring them back myself. I let someone much more sociable do that part. I let them play the hero. I just like the thrill of chasing and catching things. It satisfies my inner stalker.
The tortured, haunting sound makes my neck hairs stand on end, and an uneasy feeling settles deep in my gut. As I walk deeper into the woods, the noise grows louder until it sounds as if I’m practically right on top of it, but I see nothing.
Fuck. I am on top of it. The sound is coming from somewhere beneath me.
What the hell?
I kneel and run my hands through the layer of dead leaves covering the ground, confused and not sure what I’m looking for until my hand catches on something hard that feels like rusted metal. I brush more of the leaves aside, and a chill settles in my bones when I realize what it is.
Nestled into the dirt is a round wooden door. I grasp the rusty metal knob and slide a heavy wooden door to the side to reveal what may have been a well or shelter at one time. I blink and stare down into the dark hole, thinking the scene in front of me is going to disappear, but it doesn’t.
There’s a teenaged girl down there, staring back up at me with sheer terror in her huge eyes, rocking back and forth. She’s huddled against the earth wall clutching a small white dog, and it makes that horrible sound I now recognize as the sound of a dog with its vocal chords severed. A child’s purple backpack is on the ground next to her, torn and dirty, and it reminds me of one my little sister had when she was young. It’s cool out here in the woods, especially during early fall in this part of New Hampshire, so she must be chilled to the bone down in that hole.