"It won't hurt, sweetheart," he assures me.
His voice carries through the aisles. I press myself against one of the bookcases, gasping for breath. The half-healed cut along my arm burns, and a trickle of blood crawls down my arm.
"It's for your own good!"
I can feel his magic creeping across the planked floor, searching and seeking for a whisper of my presence. He should know by now that he will not find me.
But he also knows I am trapped. I'm exhausted from running, and there is nowhere left to run. In my heart, there is despair. I wipe my sweaty palms against my pant leg and inch further from the sound of his approach.
"Where are you, Anna darling?"
His voice is closer, his magic stronger. I can feel it whispering to me, singing to me. His footsteps echo around the room, dancing off the wood floor and walls. His blood calls to mine, pulling me to him.
My fear is only rivaled by the frantic pulsing of my magic inside of me, over my skin, begging for release. But if I succumb, he will know.
"It's over. You know that. Show yourself, sweetheart."
I hold my breath until it burns inside of my chest, even as my fear seizes my muscles in its icy grip. He's so close. I have to run—somewhere.
I take a deep breath and dash down the aisle away from his voice. But as I approach the end, he appears suddenly from around the corner, silent like a graceful predator. The blood is rushing through my head, like a roaring river as I turn to run.
If only I could reach the door. Then the stairs—then freedom.
But his magic is there again, and this time it is stronger, more aggressive. I can feel it swirling around my legs, tangling itself among my limbs. It makes them sluggish, and with each step, I struggle forward. My racing mind can't even conjure an adequate defense as he approaches me. He doesn't hurry, because he doesn't have to.
But some sort of instinct, or perhaps fear, guides my magic, and an unrefined blast of energy explodes from me. It is not enough to incapacitate him, but the shock of my desperate attack is enough to loosen his magic's hold.
I turn the corner, and he disappears from sight. But I can hear him running now, and his footsteps grow loud behind me.
I'm winded again, gasping for breath and fighting to concentrate. And this time, it is not only my body but also my magic. There's a window at the end of this aisle, and it faces the snow-capped mountains. Too late, I realize the door is not here. It's at the other side of the room—behind him.
His song is even stronger, and I no longer have the will to resist. At the end of the next aisle, I slow to a stop.
I turn to face him.
Perhaps he recognizes his victory, because he smiles as he approaches. How I have come to loathe that exquisite face, those clever grey eyes. His magic's melody becomes even stronger as he comes closer; it is audible. It is a haunting tune, like a lullaby.
Every extremity of my body teams with magic now as the adrenaline seeps through my veins. The desperate desire to run is almost overpowering, but I cannot succumb. I meet his gleaming gaze bravely and force myself to remain still as he stalks toward me.
And then, he is close enough to touch me. I can feel his magic again, mingling with my own. It is dominating and forceful, forcing mine to submit.
"Hello, sweetheart," he whispers.
His magic dances around me like smoke, whispering across my skin. And with its silent voice, it ensures me that escape is gone, because they are all dead.