AFTER ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door and not getting any response, Lily began pacing frantically on the porch, trying to peer into the windows. She hadn't noticed the shutters on the windows before.
She fumbled out her cell phone, to call her dad.
The phone was dead even though she'd charged it an hour ago. She shook it as if that would help.
She whirled and flung herself at the door and began pounding on it. "Give her back! Give her back!"
"Little girl. What are you doing?"
The voice, male and gently mocking, made her quickly wipe the tears from her face, and turn.
The young man standing at the gate was lean in black, one hand, glinting with rings, settled on the rusting post. Sable hair shadowed his face. His eyes reflected the street lights like a cat's. His flashing smile immediately put Lily on the defensive. She said, "I'm not a little girl. I'm twelve."
He began moving up the walk. "I do apologize, Snow White. I didn't recognize you."
"Do you live here?" she demanded. "Your house took my sister."
"I't s not my house." He halted at the bottom of the steps and surveyed the Queen Anne. "And it's not really a house."
Lily no longer felt so beautiful and grown-up in her lipstick and mascara. She was scared. "What is it then?"
He glanced at her and she told herself he was wearing contacts that made his eyes so silvery, like mirrors. He was gorgeous in the way predatory animals were. He gently told her, "It's a monster's den."
Lily whirled and lunged at the door.
The young man loped up the stairs. He caught her wrist, his fingers cold from all the old rings he wore. "I'll tell you how to save your sister, but you'll have to kill the monster."
Lily stood very still because she couldn't believe this was happening . . . all because she'd taunted Finn. She whispered, "There aren't any such things as monsters."
He didn't say anything He just looked at her. She hunched her shoulders. "Will you help me?"
He crouched before her, gazing at her. His eyes were normal now, only one was blue and one was gray. He took something from his blackpea coat and her eyes widened as he held out a wooden knife in a wooden sheath, all beautifully carved with images of roses and thorns. "I can't. The monster won't let me in until she's finished with your sister. Take it.'
"Are you crazy?" But Lily gripped the hilt of the wooden dagger.
"Perhaps." Again, that flash of a smile. "But that doesn't mean I'm not teling you the truth. All you need to do is stab the monster in the heart. Is that bracelet silver?"
Clutching the dagger against her, Lily glanced at her charm bracelet. "Yeah. How do I get in?"