Devil's Cove (Tortured Souls)(10)By: R.C. Matthews
The doors to the tavern creaked open, and Grace felt the warmth of Brother Anselm’s hand over hers. He gripped it tightly, and a small gasp emitted from his lips. “God, help us.”
“What?” Grace asked, leaning into the table. “What is it?”
Willie snorted in glee. “The caretaker has arrived with his guards. Though I daresay I’m more than willing to assist him in escorting you into the carriage.”
Willie, that sick toad, had not been bullying her with idle threats. Perhaps she’d just made the biggest misjudgment of her life.
“Pity you cannot see the bars lining the windows,” Willie sneered. His voice grew frenzied, and she imagined a dog spinning in circles around the ground where his bone lay hidden. “Though perhaps you recall it from when your mother was carted away.”
Willie grunted, and a whoosh of air expelled from his lungs. Grace snapped her head in his direction.
“Say the word, Grace,” Captain Limmerick repeated, “and I’ll take you away from here. Keep you safe. I promise. No one would dare storm the manor.”
She opened her mouth to reject his offer, but a clammy grip on her wrist stilled her. Pure fear coursed through her veins, and she wanted to yank her wrist out of the strong grip tugging at her, but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak.
“It’s time to go.” The man’s voice was cold and unyielding, and though she didn’t recognize him, she knew deep inside it was the caretaker. “Come quietly, and I promise I’ll not harm you”—his lips caressed her ear—“too much.”
“Say it,” the pirate said in a low growl.
Her throat was dry as a desert, and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. She wanted to say the word. But more than that, she wanted a hole to open up in the ground and swallow her whole. Take her far from here, where she wouldn’t have to choose between the threat of insanity within the walls of the asylum and the threat of the unknown within the walls of Devil’s Cove Manor.
“Please, sir,” Brother Anselm said, the sound of his habit rustling as he stood. “Allow me to escort Grace home. I’ll keep her under my watchful eye. She’ll not disturb the good people of Devil’s Cove.”
A flicker of hope burst through the fog surrounding Grace’s brain. Yes, of course. Brother Anselm would save her from having to choose.
“I’m afraid not.” The caretaker cackled, yanking Grace to her feet. “I have a petition here, signed by her father.”
The man was lying! Her father loved her, had put her in Brother Anselm’s care to ensure she lived a blessed life and used her skills of “sight” for good so that no one could threaten to commit her to the asylum.
“Let me go,” she wailed, yanking her hand out of her captor’s grip. “I’m not insane. If anyone is insane here, it’s Willie. Take him.”
Whispered voices of the patrons rose higher and higher as the argument ensued, and a feeling of desperation stole over her. No, she wouldn’t succumb to the fear, but her body ignored her command and she began to tremble. The tremors inched from her hands, up her forearms, and over her shoulders, until her whole body shook.
“Say the word, Grace.” The captain’s plea was bolder this time, piercing through the fevered pitch of the tavern.
Hands gripped her shoulders and pushed her in the direction of the entrance. She dug her heels in, but her nemesis was stronger.
“Brother Anselm, please!”
The firm pressure on her shoulders subsided as Brother Anselm shouted for the caretaker to release her. Grace held her breath. The cracking of a jaw sounded, followed by another, and then a loud thud reverberated through her as someone hit the floor.
She cried out again, this time falling to her knees and searching in the direction of the scuffle. “Brother?”
Her hands came in contact with the coarse wool of his robes at his shoulder, and the pressure of tears built up in her tear ducts. She roamed higher until her hands cradled his face. Her fingers slid through a wet spot and grazed his lips. A sob wrenched out of her. He was bleeding.
“I’m sorry, child,” he whispered.
She was torn from the floor by the same set of strong hands that held her captive earlier, but she would not surrender without a fight. Turning, she smashed her fist through the air, praying she judged the height of her assailant accurately, and was rewarded with the pounding of rough skin and hard bones against her knuckles. Pain shot through her fist, but she continued her attack.
“You can’t win, you stupid bitch,” Willie taunted, his hot breath on her cheek. He grabbed the bun at the nape of her neck and tugged hard, snapping her head back.