The lights were turned down low.
Silence reigned supreme.
Danger seemed to seep through the black and gold marble floor and ooze out of the red veins in the marble walls.
And Mark Caten’s garlic scent permeated the air.
Ambrose’s entire body twinged with the insistent need to swoop Barbara into a bride carry and run away as fast as he could. His doubts about that phone call were the only thing that kept him from bolting.
Preyuna gave him an arch look. “You’re being terribly quiet, Ambrose Smith.”
“I didn’t realize you expected conversation. Personally, I didn’t want to wake the natives.”
She smiled and led them around the left corner.
Ambrose tightened his grip on Barbara’s hand. “Where are you taking us?”
“You’re not a stranger to this mansion. I’m sure you can guess without me having to say anything.”
His pupils widened.
“Judging by how tense Ambrose is right now, I’m willing to guess that it’s nowhere good.” Barbara said.
“Good?” Preyuna led them past the monitor room, past Mark Caten’s office, and stopped outside the door to the dungeon. “Good is all a matter of perspective.” She turned the doorknob and swung the door open. “The right kind of people would say that this is a good place. Keeps all of those dirty, filthy criminals away from decent folk. The wrong kind of people, however, would say that this is a horrible place. It limits your freedom. You don’t get nice, full course dinners. NO privacy. No decent bathrooms.” She laughs lightly. “Of course, that second group of people would be the criminals no one wants polluting society. Which group do you belong to, Ambrose Smith?”
Ambrose didn’t reply. He stared at the darkness down the stairs. The world closed in around him like a hamster ball. His thoughts ricocheted off those barriers in a discordant echo.
It’s a trap. It’satrapit’satrapatrapatrapatrapatrap! Need to grab Barbara and run. Need to runrunrunrunrunrunrunrun. Don’t want to get trapped again. Don’tdon’tdon’tdon’tdon’tdon’tdon’tdon’t—
Barbara stepped in front of him and stroked his face. “I’m here, kitten. I’m here.”
The sound of her voice shattered the hard plastic bubble around him. He tore his gaze away from the darkness and focused on her instead. “I don’t know if I can do this. It’s a trap, Barbara. If I go down those stairs,” He shook his head. “I’ll never be free again.”
“Okay, so what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know! I want to know for a fact that Robin isn’t here. I can’t leave until I know that for a fact. But, Barbara, I can’t go down there. I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Then, I’ll go.”
His pupils widened in fear. “Barbara—“
“It’s okay, kitten. I want you to have peace of mind, but you won’t have that until you know the truth.” Barbara kissed him. “Stay here. I’ll be back.” She walked over to Preyuna. “Let’s go.”