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Chapter 21...... Things Get Considerably Worse

“Silas!” Faye gasped, running to him as he jumped to his feet.

“Faye! What are you doing here?” he shouted.

She bowled into him, knocking him back onto the armchair and burying her face in his shoulder. “Are you alright?” she sobbed.

“I told you – I specifically told you –”

She kissed him and he pushed her away.

“Faye, why didn’t you listen to me?” he shouted. “I told you to–”

She kissed him again.

“I told you to – leave Boston! Stop it, Faye!”

“Do you know how worried I was?”

“I do know, because while you were running around not paying attention to my warnings, I was worried sick about you getting dragged into all this. And now you’ve gone and –”

“I missed you, Silas,” Faye sobbed, kissing him again. He let her that time.

“Oh, brother,” George sighed, turning away and retreating behind the rows of bookshelves.

Skander and Ira followed him. He pulled out a copy of Ivanhoe and sat in a chair by the window. Glancing down, they could see two grey men putting away the coach. George tried the window, jiggling it, but was painted shut.

“Could break it,” he muttered, glancing down again.

“Yes, and then we could jump out the window and break our necks,” Skander said. “Brilliant plan.”

George shrugged and opened the book, shaking his head. “I’d tell them to get a room, but…” he gestured around them.

“Give them a moment,” said Ira. “They need it.”

“You’re a gem, you know that, Ira?” George smiled.

“I’m not,” Ira murmured, sinking into the chair across from him. “You know that.”

George frowned but didn’t say anything. He glanced down at the book and put his feet up on the windowsill. “In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river, Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest…”

~

Silas sat there with his arms wrapped around Faye and her body against him in a chair too small for the both of them. She had her forehead pressed against his neck and her cheeks were wet and making his shirt damp. His shoulder was starting to ache, but he was too tired and angry to move.

Faye looked up at him. “What happened?” she asked, touching the cut from the heretic’s fork.

“Nothing,” Silas said, wincing and pushing her hand away. “Tripped and fell is all.”

“Onto what?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

Faye smiled and nestled her head into his shoulder again. His legs were starting to go numb now, so he pushed her away and got up, leaning against the mantle and rubbing both hands through his hair, eyes closed.

“I wish you’d listened to me, Faye,” he said.

“I wish you hadn’t even asked me to do that,” Faye countered. “How could you expect me to leave you?”

Silas glanced at her, his eyes distant. “You shouldn’t have come.”

“Well, I don’t much care for what people say I should and shouldn’t do,” Faye crossed her arms.

“I know,” Silas sighed and rubbed his forehead.

“What’s going on? What do they want with the book? What do they want with us?”

“I don’t know.”

“And why are we still being held hostage? They have what they want.”

“I don’t know.”

“What happened? Tell me everything, starting from the beginning.”

Silas sat in the chair across from her and stared at the floor. “Maybe later.”

“Silas,” Faye insisted. “I need to know.”

“I said, later.”

Faye studied him with a frown. “You’re right. We should get out of here. Did you try the window?”

“Faye…”

“What?”

He crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, staring at the ceiling.

“What’s wrong?”

“Things aren’t as simple as you think they are.”

“Then tell me what’s going on.”

“I need to talk to Ira.”

“She’s right over there,” Faye pointed.

“Alone.”

It stung like a slap. Faye swallowed and gave a short nod. “Alright. That’s fine with me.”

Silas got up.

“I understand. You have your own family secrets,” Faye went on, falling back into the chair and cocking her chin. “And I should keep my nose out of places it doesn’t belong.”

Silas’ brows furrowed but he didn’t make eye contact as he turned and walked around the bookshelf. Faye kicked herself. Why did she let things like that out of her mouth? But this wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. They were supposed to rescue Silas and get back home to laugh about the adventure over rum punch. And Silas was supposed to be… himself.

She shouldn’t blame him after everything that had happened. She didn’t even know what had happened. But he was pushing her away, holding her at arm’s length, and it made her feel even more alone than she had before. It was like losing him twice. It wasn’t fair. He was supposed to be glad to see her, not angry.

Silas and Ira walked by without looking at her, stepping into the water closet and shutting the door behind them. She got up and walked to the window, where George was reading Ivanhoe silently and Skander was leaning on his elbow and staring out the window.

She let out a breath and sat on the floor, leaning back on her arms.

“What’s that all about?” Skander asked, gesturing to where Silas and Ira had hidden away.

“Family secrets,” she smiled. “They’re all the rage. Apparently, everyone’s got one.”

“Let him be, Faye,” George said, looking up over the edge of the book. “He’ll tell you when he’s ready.”

“Well, now would be a really good time for him to be ready.”

“He’s only going to withdraw more if you keep pushing. My advice is, sometimes you need to ignore a problem until it works itself out.”

“That’s terrible advice,” said Skander.

“You have no idea how many times it’s worked for me.”

“Oh, I can imagine.”

“You have better advice?”

Skander shrugged. “I think you should tell him that relationships are built on trust, and if he doesn’t trust you, you can’t trust him.”

“So in order to trust someone,” George tapped the book, “you need to know absolutely everything about them or it proves they’re untrustworthy? Sounds like the exact opposite of trust to me.”

They went on arguing, but Faye stared out the window.

~

“Silas, are you alright?” Ira asked, taking his hand as soon as the door shut.

“Ira, I know about father,” Silas said. “And you.”

“You know what?” she asked, cautiously.

Silas rubbed his forehead wearily. “I know he’s part of the Order, and so is your… so is Jack Oscar. And I know you run messages for him sometimes.”

Ira looked at the floor.

“Please tell me the truth. Do these grey men have anything to do with the Order?”

“No,” Ira said with certainty.

Silas ran his tongue over his teeth. “The Fellowship?”

“I don’t know,” said Ira, shaking her head.

Silas closed his eyes and let his head pound into the wall.

Ira wrapped her arms around her chest. “How did you find out?”

“Well, you see,” Silas sighed, “the Order abducted me first. Father found out, and he and I had a nice talk. They thought I’d joined this Fellowship, so I was going to join the Order to prove otherwise. But before I could…” Silas shrugged his hands and let them fall. “You know what this will look like to them?”

“A rescue,” Ira whispered.

“And now you’re all here with me. Isn’t that splendid?” He let it sink in for a minute. “I was going to join the Order because I didn’t have a choice, but I don’t want Faye to have to.”

“But if…”

“And George and Skander, as well. They have nothing to do with any of this.”

Ira’s brows furrowed and she looked down.

“I don’t suppose you could get Mr. Oscar to help. Maybe between him and father…”

“Jack and I haven’t spoken in a few months,” Ira said. “That’s why I came to Boston.”

“Oh?” Silas was relieved, but also ashamed to find himself disappointed. It was bad timing.

“Six months ago, he broke off his engagement, and I assumed it was because he meant to marry me,” Ira gave a bitter smile. “But he’s engaged again, now, and we argued and I… needed some time away.”

“I wish you would stay away,” Silas said. “He doesn’t love you.”

“No, he does,” Ira pulled a loose curl.

“Not the way you should be loved.”

“Either way, I’ll talk to him. He’s only a Baron and won’t be able to do much, but if they only suspect you of being in the Fellowship, it won’t be difficult to prove otherwise.”

“But it’s not only that. They think I orchestrated the sabotage of some experiment.”

“The experiment?” Ira asked, going pale.

“I suppose?”

“Oh,” she said. “Silas, if they think you know about that… it’s very important research.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know. If I knew who these men in grey were, I’d have something to tell the Order, but…” he shook his head and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t even know what they want.” He laughed. “I don’t know what’s safer – being locked in a library by ghosts or at the mercy of the Sovereign Order.”

“I’m so sorry for everything.”

“Me, too,” Silas said, closing his eyes. “I wish none of you had come.”

“Faye would have been shattered. You didn’t see her before.”

“Better that than being dragged into this mess.”

“Does it matter anymore? It can’t be undone. You love each other and you’re together, for better or worse.”

“I didn’t want any of you here. I wanted you safe. Whatever is going on… I’m worried.”

“All the more reason to make the best of the time. Go talk to Faye.”

Silas paused, staring at the floor, but finally nodded and opened the door. They walked together to the window where everyone was sitting silently, George reading a book. Which was unusual and it made Silas wonder if George was taking things less well than he appeared.

“Faye,” Silas started.

“I’m sorry about what I said, Silas,” she interrupted. “I know you’ll tell me what I need to know when you’re ready. And I trust you to know when that is.”

He nodded, gratefully. “I promise I will. It’s just that right now things are… quite complicated, and I need time to think.”

“Alright,” Faye said, getting up.

“I am happy to see you,” Silas said, slipping his hand into hers and squeezing it.

George started clapping. Silas blushed and turned around, walking away.

“George!” Faye hissed behind her as she ran after Silas.

Silas threw another log into the fire and poked at the coals, then sat down and stared into it. Faye sat next to him. She kept leaning closer and closer until her head was on his shoulder and he realized she’d fallen asleep. He leaned back slowly so she wouldn’t wake and wrapped an arm around her.

The fact of the matter was, they had no idea who the grey men were, or what they wanted, or what they intended to do with them. They did, however, know what the Order was, what they wanted, and what their terms were. If it weren’t for their supposed implication in the experiment sabotage, it would have been no problem to prove their innocence. As it was, there was still some risk, but not entirely an uncertain risk.

He wished more than ever he could go back in time and burn the book before the violinist had a chance to give it to him. Faye shifted against him. His shoulder and neck were cramping. He didn’t want to move, though. He pulled a wild stray curl away from her nose. Why did life have to be so awful sometimes?

Noon passed. Faye didn’t wake until an hour later. Everyone was sitting around the fire now, staring at it bleakly. Except for George who was now wandering around the library after having given up on Ivanhoe and three other books.

Faye yawned and sat up, wincing as she rolled her neck. “What time is it?” she groaned.

“It’s about one thirty,” Silas said.

“Why did you let me sleep so long?”

“It’s as good a time as any to rest.”

Faye opened her mouth to argue, but George interrupted her.

“Would you look at this?” he gave a low whistle.

They turned to see what he was looking at. He’d opened a tall, narrow cupboard, which contained nothing but an ornate stand with a small black marble set on it.

“What is it?” Skander asked, getting up.

“Pretty, fancy marble. Looks valuable.” He reached out to take it.

“George, no!” Skander said. “What are you doing?”

“Stealing the fancy marble,” George said, defensively.

“You can’t do that! Close the door and –”

“Oh, come on. I’d say they owe us for the trouble they put us through, wouldn’t you say?”

“You’ll only make them angry.”

“They won’t even notice,” George said, reaching out his hand.

“Stop behaving like a child,” Skander said, exasperated, as he reached out to take it first.

Their hands both touched it at the same time, and in that instant a sound like a tree falling in the distance came from the cabinet. A crack broke the wood and a ring of light circled around the marble. George and Skander screamed as Silas and Faye jumped to their feet.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, George and Skander disappeared entirely, and not a trace or sound was left behind but the marble, which sat on its pedestal as if it hadn’t been touched in centuries. Faye felt a scream trapped inside and stood there, frozen.

“Silas,” Faye said, her voice a hoarse whisper.

Before he could say anything, the door of the library opened. They whirled and turned as all four of the grey men walked inside, their footsteps completely silent, looking from them to the cabinet. Faye felt Silas’ hand slip into hers and grip it like he was holding onto a tether in a hurricane. She winced.

“George and Skander…” she started. “What happened to them?”

The grey men paused and looked at each other. One of them nodded and together they dashed toward them. She barely had time to react before one of them was behind her, pushing them toward the deadly marble. It broke her from the trance and she screamed. They were in the middle of the country, and no one would hear, but she screamed for all she was worth, twisting away from the man behind her.

Silas was still holding onto her hand with a death grip, and he yanked her arm as he dashed for the door. The grey men ran after them and one managed to kick the door shut before they reached it. Silas slammed into it and fumbled for the knob as the man grabbed him and pulled him away.

Faye picked up the heaviest book she could find handy and threw it at the man’s head. The book sailed straight through him and hit the wall behind. She froze a half second, and it was all the time it took for two of the grey men to grab her arms and hold her.

Whatever the ghost had done to turn immaterial had allowed Silas to slip away, Faye noted with satisfaction, as she fought to twist out of their grip. She heard a crash and turned to see a bookshelf fall and tip over another bookshelf until the whole room had collapsed. The shelves had fallen right on top of the marble’s cabinet, destroying it to splinters.

The marble, however, was still where it was before – now hovering in midair. It hadn’t moved so much as an inch.

Faye twisted and found an arm to clamp her teeth on. The grey man howled and jumped away, but the other one got behind her and wrapped his elbows around her shoulders, dragging her toward the hovering marble. Her feet barely touched the floor and she couldn’t get a grip to stop herself.

She heard another crash and looked over to see all three grey men on top of Silas on the floor.

“What do you want from us?” he screamed at them. “I swear, we’ll do whatever you want, but let Faye go!”

They didn’t respond and the man kept dragging Faye toward the marble. She landed a good kick on his shin and he groaned but didn’t even pause.

“Please!” Silas screamed.

“We know some very wealthy people,” Faye tried. “If it’s money you’re after –”

The man grabbed her wrist and pulled it toward the marble. Silas could only watch in numb shock. Their eyes met and she held his gaze as her hand touched the marble. Her face crumpled in pain and in an instant, her skin dissolved and she disintegrated into thin air.

Silas’ world spun and he went limp. He felt tears on his face, and he felt them pull him to his feet, but it was like it was happening to someone else. Like he was watching someone else’s nightmare. He barely kept his feet as they dragged him forward, and when they grabbed his wrist and raised it to the black marble, all he could do was watch.

When his skin touched it, it was as if every cell in his body was being ripped apart. He let out a stifled cry. It felt like he was being sucked into it, atom by atom, and dissected with a thousand razors. Just as quickly, though, the pain went away, and he was quite glad when he lost consciousness.


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