Elise hurried into the back room and was surprised to see Cage follow her. Her tears ran freely down her face. Roark ran up her side and perched on her shoulder, snuggling his large, black body into her cheek.
Cage closed the door causing Roark to growl. The hunter raised his hands in a peaceful gesture. “I won’t hurt her, in fact, if she’ll cease this curse, I won’t let anyone hurt her every again.”
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“You can,” Cage said gently. “Isn’t this exhausting? All this hate? Wouldn’t you like to ‘retire’ and come back to fully enjoy these neighbors? They are more than that, if you’d let yourself be honest, they are your friends.”
“I think they are and they’d be even better friends if you’d just let them,” said Cage. “Do you know why I picked Apple Hill? I mean, there are other towns with paranormal beings that I could use to stay young. I picked Apple Hill for a reason.”
“Because you grew up here,” stated Elise.
“Yes,” said Cage, “that and because I see the good in you. I see the good in this town. I don’t want to live just anywhere. I want to live in a place that has a town-wide party for the retiring librarian. I want to be a part of a community where they have town hall meetings all the time, because they care what the community thinks. I want to be a part of a place that decorates for every holiday and throws a carnival for giggles.”
“You want to live on a television set,” countered Elise.
He chuckled. “No, I want to live here, because Apple Hill is a community that I want to be a part of and I want to make up for my father’s cruelty. I want you to forgive this community and place blame where it lies. I want to help you find closure so you can enjoy life again … so you can rid yourself of the hate.”
“You don’t even know me,” snapped Elise.
“I know enough and I’d like to get to know you better,” said Cage. “I want to make things right, but to start that, you have to stop the curse. I’m bound as a hunter.”
“I’m bound as a witch,” stated Elise, knowing it was the same kind of bind. If she wanted to she could stop the curse. She simple just had to stop. There was nothing but her own stubbornness keeping her from doing that. Cage was right, it wasn’t the town that hurt her. It was the three men that Roark took care of. The people who had stayed, they had done right by the valley. They put the orchard’s health over their profits. They never used pesticides and they worked hard to make their community included everyone, founding family or not.
Sure there had been snide remarks and a few squabbles, they were, after all, human, but hardly anyone got hurt other than some battered feelings.
She felt her heart open up to the prospect of letting it all go. Actually, going to Paris for a couple of weeks and then coming back and fulling embracing the community.
Before she could say a word, Heather barged into the back room. “We have to hide! All hell is breaking loose outside. We’re all in grave danger!”
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