The clang of the shackle locking into place around Ty’s wrist echoed in my heart. I ran my fingers gently beneath the unforgiving metal. The contrast between the iron and his velvety skin stirred the emotions I barely held in check.
“We should pad your wrists first,” I said, my voice thick.
“I appreciate the sentiment, Mac, but it won’t matter.” Before I could argue with him, he added, “Besides, we have to make sure there’s enough give for when I change.”
With his free hand, Ty grabbed the chain attached to the ceiling and pulled with his full weight. It held firm, though a light fall of dirt rained down to dust our shoulders.
“Do you think it will hold?”
He jerked the restraint again. “I hope so.” His green eyes met mine, but he wouldn’t allow me time to succumb to my fears. “You better lock my other arm. It’s almost dark.”
I immediately went to work, struggling with the latch on the metal cuff as Ty softly whispered instructions. At last, it snapped shut and I stepped back as he once again tested the give. Dressed in a pair of dark grey gym shorts, he looked like a modern day Christ waiting for absolution. The deep cuts on his chest were raw and shiny. I turned away, unable to bear the sight before me.
All of our hard work had been for nothing. In the end, we hadn’t been able to cure him. In the end, we were right back where we had started.
The guilt of it all weighed heavy on my shoulders. I’d distracted Ty too much—split his attention with a million irrelevant things that no longer seemed important. Now I had to chain him in a pit and leave him completely defenseless.
“You should go.” Ty’s voice was low and soft, a gentle plea in his tone.
I ran a hand over my mouth to hide the slight tremor in my lips. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
“I promise to stay put.” His attempt at wry humor landed with a thud; he immediately looked repentant. “I’m sorry. No more jokes.”
“Good.” I tried to lighten my tone. “Remember I have you at an advantage. Misbehave, and I can do whatever I want to you.”
He grinned. “Anything?”
I tried to smile, but failed as a tremor stole through me again. Our eyes locked and held.
He motioned me over with a jerk of his chin. “Give us a little kiss before you go.”
I went to him, running my fingertips along the slopes of his chin before kissing him softly on the lips. He buried his face in my neck and we stood for a long time, cheek to cheek, both reluctant to be apart. I knew if I didn’t leave him then, I wouldn’t be able to go. I took a deep breath and memorized the smell of him—that certain Ty scent mixed with sweat and the woodsy outdoors.
“Stay close to your parents,” Ty whispered, his lips warm as he pressed a kiss against my temple.
I turned and quickly ascended the stairs without looking back. I barred the cellar door and set the small alarm that would alert me if the door opened some time in the night. Melanie waited outside and gave me a reassuring smile as we secured the building with yet another alarm.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” Melanie searched my face. In the gray light of dusk, her face was almost white, the slight smattering of freckles across her nose standing out even more than usual. She looked scared. This was the last place on earth she wanted to be, but I knew she would stay if I asked her to.
I shook my head. “No.”
My reasons were numerous, but mostly I needed to be alone. Just for one night, I didn’t want to filter my emotions for the sake of another person. When tears came, they would be shed in privacy.
“You’ll call me if anything happens?” Melanie said, glancing nervously at the shed and back at me. “I can be here in less than ten minutes.”
“You’re on my speed dial.”
She squeezed my arm and hurried up the drive to her car parked at the curb. She cast me one last wary glance, got in, and drove away.
The sun hung low in the trees, weak rays breaking through the now bare branches. A slight breeze scuttled stray leaves across the asphalt, the only sound in the growing twilight. The world seemed to be waiting with baited breath for some dormant unrest to rise and break free from its constraints. I wrapped my arms around my torso and tried to stay the impending doom taking root in my chest. If only I could know the path we’d chosen was the right one.
I paused and studied the small shed, trying to imagine what Ty was thinking, what emotions coursed through him in that moment. I struggled with the urge to release him and finally had to force myself to turn and head inside my house. Once there, I secured the locks, and with a determined set of my jaw, vowed to uphold my end of the bargain.