Everything has a price. That was a common saying among the Blood. Everything has a price.
And the price for trying to leave his game by cheating was pain.
The caging spell had worked exactly as he’d been told it would, using the witch’s power against herself to inflict a great deal of pain.
But not enough physical damage to take Surreal out of the game.
Unfortunately, the caging spell wasn’t as effective if it was challenged a second time, but that was why the pain was so vicious—to discourage anyone from trying to break through the spell a second time.
Why were Surreal and Rainier just standing there? Why weren’t they doing anything? They had the first clue. Had theonly clue.
He’d debated giving them even that much, but it seemed necessary. If his character Landry Langston was going to get ensnared by a house that would tighten the trap every time he used his newly learned Craft skills, he had to have a chance to escape the danger—and readers had to beaware of the danger.
Besides, having the gong sound every time one of them used Craft meant none of them could deny using it—and, by using it, taking away another chance for all of them to escape.
Damn!They were using those psychic threads to talk to each other! He hadn’t thought of that. Hadn’t done anything to penalize them for doing that. How was he supposed to make notes for dialogue if he couldn’t hear what they were saying?
No matter. He was betting the Surreal bitch and her stud would have plenty to say once they started seeing his little surprises.
Surreal turned to the children and held out one hand with her fingers slightly curved. “We need to find something about this size—a whatnot or rock or, Hell’s fire, even a loose brick. Start looking.”
Trout and Sage immediately headed for the crowded tables, but Kester asked with a sneer, “Why? Will we finally see something spooky if we look?”
“If you don’t look, you’ll see me kicking your ass hard enough to bounce you off the ceiling.” Right now, she’d end up on the floor if she didn’t keep both feet planted, but no one but Rainier realized that. “Do as you’re told, boyo. We’ve got trouble here.”
“I don’t like this place,” Dayle whined. “I want to go home.”
Surreal looked at Rainier.
"They didn’t notice the cobweb feeling," he said.
This place was a trap for the Blood. Maybe the children would be allowed to leave.
She looked at Dayle. “Sure. Go ahead. Go home.” She stepped away from the door, giving the girl a clear path to the hallway.
“This is a stupid house,” Trist said as he and the two younger boys followed Dayle and Ginger into the hallway.
Sauntering out of the sitting room, Kester paused in the doorway and gave her a look that would have earned him bruises from the adult males in a Blood village. Lucky for Kester, Rainier hadn’t caught that look. Under the circumstances, she didn’t think her Warlord Prince escort would have much tolerance for any kind of c**k wagging from a boy old enough to use his brains instead of showing off his balls.
She gave a moment’s thought to shoving the little prick-ass in the closet under the stairs to see how he liked spending time with a corpse, but she was still too wobbly to take him on without using Craft, so she dismissed the idea. Besides, once all the children were out of the house, it would make things easier for her and Rainier.
Finally the only child lingering in the room was Sage.
The girl looked up at her, genuine concern in those young eyes. “You fell down before. I saw it. Are you hurt?”
She almost dismissed the concern, almost offered a lie in order to reassure. Then she thought of what she would have said to a Blood female that same age.
Glancing at Rainier to make sure he was out of hearing, she leaned toward Sage and said quietly, “Yes, I’m hurt. But right now, that can’t matter.” She tipped her head to indicate the door. “Go on. Join the others. You need to get out of here if you can.”
Moments after Sage left the room, Dayle said in a loud, whiny voice, “Where’s the door?”
Shit shit shit.
“You go,” Surreal said to Rainier. “I’ll look for what we need.”
On a table in the farthest corner of the room, she found a hefty glass paperweight. In the center of the glass was a slightly squashed baby mouse.
She decided not to wonder why anyone would find that appealing.
Rainier’s expression was grim when he came back into the room followed by all seven children.
“Couldn’t get past the bricks blocking the doorway?” she asked, holding the paperweight just behind her hip to avoid upsetting the children.
“No doorway,” he replied. “No door. And nothing to indicate there ever was one.”
Great. Wonderful. “All right. Let’s wrap up our package and figure out a way to deliver it. Do you have a handkerchief?”
“A hankie?” Henn said. “Does it have boogers on it?”
Trist stared at Rainier as if he were part of the entertainment. “Do the Blood make boogers?”
“Some things that are tolerated when said among males arenever tolerated when said in the presence of a Lady,” Rainier said too softly.
"They’re landens, not Blood," Surreal reminded him.
"They’re males," he snapped.
Shit. If Rainier was going to divide acceptable behavior by the criterion of penis or br**sts, they were all in trouble.
Hoping to shift his mood, she said with blatantly false cheerfulness, "We could just kill them now. It would make everything so much easier."
"Don’t tempt me," Rainier replied as he took a clean handkerchief out of his pocket.
Hell’s fire. He might be serious. About the boys anyway. A Warlord Prince didn’t put up with much of anything from a male who didn’t outrank him.
But that caste of male was also primed to defend and protect. If she could get Rainier focused on duty, that would turn his temper toward the problem of getting out of the damn house.
"We invited them to join us, Rainier."
"I invited them, you mean." He took a deep breath—and puffed it out in a sigh as he nodded acceptance of the reminder.
Nothing more needed to be said, so Surreal looked at the double strand of blue ribbon Ginger was using as a hair band. “I need those ribbons.”
“I don’t have to give them to you. I don’t have to do anything you say.” Ginger fisted her hands on her hips. “You make the door open so we can go home.”