I could see his chest rise and fall, and could count the heartbeats stuttering beneath the thin skin of his wrist.
I knew he wasn’t dead. Every logical sign and symptom pointed towards him still being alive. But when he had fallen into bed after twenty minutes of dry heaving, his eyes fell shut and stayed shut. Now I couldn’t get him to open them again. Panic shredded my heart to pieces.
I tried everything I could to get him to wake up. I shook his shoulders, pinching tender skin to get any kind of reaction. But it only stuck together, dehydrated and lifeless. I sat him upright, only for his bodyweight to nearly bowl me over. I got in his face, holding his cheeks within my hands. “Listen here, fuckhead. You’re going to wake the hell up, and you’re going to wake up now. You are not going to leave me in this house without you. Do you hear me? I’m not doing any of this without you. I can’t. I fucking can’t, Felix. So you need to wake the fuck up.”
Still he lay prone beneath my touch, breathing but not moving. Alive but not living. I wanted to collapse on his chest and cry until he woke up. But that wouldn’t help. I couldn’t get Theo, because he was busy battling his own demons. What I needed was Luther, and his brain filled with information that was only useful half the time. Thankfully, right now was that time. I gave Felix a quick look. Still breathing. I would be gone for all of two seconds to get Luther. I sprinted to the top of the stairs, only to see Luther standing in the foyer, steaming water around his feet, turning up to smile at me. He was talking, but I couldn’t make out a word he said over my thundering heart.
Finally I spit out the words that were rotting my mouth. “Felix won’t wake up.”
Luther jumped into action, passing me on the stairs. “Brynn is at the door. I’ll take over for Felix–you go talk to her.”
Of course Brynn would show up now of all times. I took the last few steps two at a time, racing for the dining room window that looked out onto the porch. My best friend stood outside, red hair a mess in that same breeze I couldn’t feel. “Brynn!”
“Sav! Oh thank God. I was worried when you didn’t come down right away.” Her smile was exactly what I needed right now. My heartbeat steadied as I took in her calm demeanor.
But then my anger surfaced, my blood boiling under my skin. “Where the hell have you been? We have an emergency going on here, and you’ve been nowhere. Didn’t you even think about coming to check on me?”
I had no idea where my fury had come from, but I felt horrible when Brynn held her hands up to stop me. “I’m so sorry. My car broke down, and Granny’s been in the hospital, and I–”
I cut her off. “No. I’m sorry. I’m just running on fumes. I shouldn’t take it out on you. But we are having a bit of an emergency right now.”
“Hey, what’s going on?”
I was about to respond to Brynn, but from behind me, I heard footsteps. Theo appearance at the top of the stairs. He looked much calmer, and his face was its normal color, not the awful white it had been in Felix’s room. “I heard Brynn was back?”
“Yeah. How are you feeling?”
“Better.” He hung over the railing, a mixture of relief and concern warring in his face.
My heart sang when he smiled down at me. “Thank God. I can’t lose two of you.”
We both froze when we realized what I had said. But Theo smiled again, bigger than before. “You’re not going to lose either of us.”
God, I wished that was true, more than anything else in life. I would happily stay in this house for a thousand years without an escape if we all could live happily and healthily together.
“Theo, can you please look in on Felix and let me know if he’s okay?”
He nodded and turned down the hallway while I looked at Brynn. She wasn’t too happy I hadn’t yet answered her question, too focused on Theo. A frown creased her forehead, and she had her arms crossed in front of her chest. “What the hell is going on?”
I sighed, pressing my hand against the window. “Felix was bitten by a spider. It got infected, and he isn’t doing well.”
“Oh, Sav.” She put her palm against mine on the glass. “Have you slept at all?”
I shrugged. “A bit.” Then I locked eyes with her, begging her in a way I could never do with words alone. “Please tell me you have good news for me.”
Her face fell.
“No, Brynn. No, don’t give me that look. You have to have good news for me. You have to.” Those tiny knives shredding my heart were back, tearing into bone and muscle, ripping me to pieces. Brynn was our only hope. Our only chance.
“I’m sorry, Sav. I really am. I explained the situation to Granny. She knew exactly who I was talking about, and what house I meant. She also said there was no way for her to break the spell. Felix has to break it. He’s the only one who can.” She took a deep breath, her green eyes pooling with tears. “She wanted to help. You know her. Of course she’d do anything to help you. But she couldn’t. Said it was completely something that had to happen on the inside.”
I pressed my head to the glass, tears threatening to stream down my face. I could hear Theo call to me as he ran down the stairs. As soon as he grabbed my hand, he kissed it. I didn’t dare look at his sweet face, knowing whatever expression I found there would be my downfall in keeping myself together. I tried to focus on the cool glass against my skin, even as I wanted nothing more than to punch the glass out and feel the wind blowing through Brynn’s hair. I wanted to take Felix to a doctor, to give him the antibiotics he so badly needed. I wanted to show my men the real world that had been stolen from them before their time. You will forever share a lifeforce, each of you keeping the other alive. If he shared a life with the house, shouldn’t it be keeping him alive right now? I sighed, the weight of the world pressing on my back, breaking me down vertebrae by vertebrae. “Thanks for trying, Brynn. We’ll keep trying here.”
She shook her head. “I’m not giving up on you yet, girl. I’ll keep pushing Granny. There has to be something she isn’t telling me. Something that doesn’t involve…”
“Don’t.” I knew what she wanted to say. It wasn’t an option. Not now, not ever. “He’s going to be okay. We’ll just have to figure it out.”
A silent but powerful understanding passed between us. Her eyes flashed with a determination I hadn’t seen since the night after my dad’s funeral, when she dragged me out of my depression, kicking and screaming. “What can I do to help Felix in the meantime?”
We needed to think positive. Plan. “Actually, could you find medicine? Antibiotics? Leave them in my truck, so when we do figure out a way out of here, we can dose Felix before we even take him to the hospital.”
Brynn nodded, happy to have a job. And honestly, thinking logically about things and making a plan helped me feel a thousand times better. It gave me some control over the situation. “I’ll do anything for you, Sav. I mean it.”
I gave her a smile, feeling a bit more hopeful than I had in the last two days. Maybe we would be okay. Maybe. I pressed my hand to the glass, and she mirrored the motion. In silence, I willed her and myself to have faith. Credence.
“Savannah!” Luther’s strained voice cut through the silence. Even Brynn craned her head to see what was going on. “Savannah!”
I dropped Theo’s hand and turned towards the stairs. My heart sank as I realized Luther was racing down the stairs with a boneless Felix in his arms. He wasn’t moving, and his face was paler than I’d ever seen.
Luther sprinted over to the window, laid Felix on the floor, and immediately turned Felix’s head back to listen for breathing. I realized at once what he was doing. “What the fuck happened?”
He puffed breath into Felix’s lungs, then began pumping on his chest. “I was holding his wrist and his heart just stopped. It just fucking stopped, Sav.”
I sank to my knees in front of Felix’s chest, ready to take over for Luther when he tired. I wasn’t going to give up on him. Not fucking yet. He looked so empty, sprawled across the floor. Just Felix, stripped down to nothing. Lifeless.
I wasn’t ready to lose Felix to a stupid fucking curse. “Brynn, call a fucking ambulance!”
Luther met my gaze, realizing how deadly serious I was. “Sweetheart…”
I knew what he was thinking. That they couldn’t come in without getting stuck. That once they burst through the door, more paramedics would follow, not realizing it was a trap. Everyone would find out about the house. The police, the fire department, the whole damn town would know. More people’s lives would be ruined. And our little bubble would burst. The worst thing was, despite any medicine they brought in, they still might not be able to save Felix.
I didn’t fucking care. We had to try. All I cared about in this world were the four people surrounding me, three of them inside with me, and one of them looking in. I would do whatever it took to protect them, even if that was at the detriment of other people. I needed them. “Call. The. Fucking. Ambulance!”
“Okay,” Luther whispered. He looked over my shoulder, towards the window. “Do it.”
I pushed Luther out of the way, taking over the chest compressions. I knew enough about CPR to know what to do, listening for his breathing before I pushed air in myself. I counted my pumps on his chest, my entire world shrinking down to the man in front of me, and everything I could do to keep him alive. Outside, I could hear Brynn on the phone with emergency services, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Thirty pushes on his chest. Listen for breathing. Two breaths in. Feel for a pulse. Repeat. Luther was talking to someone, probably reassuring Theo. He was probably freaking out again, but I couldn’t deal with him right now. He’d be fine. Felix needed me.
Pushing. Listening. Breathing. Feeling. Repeating. I had no idea how long I could keep going for. My arms were tiring, but I couldn’t ask Luther to do any more than he already had. In the distance, I could make out sirens. I had no idea what I would do when they got here, but I had to get to that point before I worried about it.
Knees dropped next to me, and I stole a look to see Theo pushing me out of the way. “Let me take over. Your arms are shaking.”
I nodded, not seeing any signs of panic in his face. We could do this. We could keep him alive as a team, all of us together. I got to my feet, my arms still trembling. Brynn was still on the phone, and the ambulance was pulling up into the driveway. Hopefully we weren’t too late. His lifeforce was connected to the house, right? Maybe that was worth more than we were giving it credit for.
Luther put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you sure about this?”
I knew what he meant. Was I sure about bringing more people inside, for all intents and purposes trapping them with us? I nodded. “I’m not letting him die, Luther. I can’t. We have to at least try.”
I glanced down at the floor. Theo met my gaze as he was checking Felix’s pulse, shaking his head. No pulse. My Felix, our Felix, was dying. Our last chance was the paramedics. Tears were streaming unbidden down my face. Would this have happened if I hadn’t pushed him to show me his secret room, and share it with Theo and Luther? Was all of this my fault?
The paramedics raced up the stairs. Brynn gave me one last glance through the window as if to ask me if I was sure.
I was sure. The two burly men kicked open the door, rushing to where we huddled around Felix. One immediately began taking over compressions from Theo, while the other set up a portable defibrillator. “She said it was a spider bite.”
I nodded, wrapping my arms around my body. When would the guilt set in, that I had traded these innocent men’s lives for Felix’s? “We think a black widow, but it’s the infection that’s…”
I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say killing him.
Pads were placed on Felix’s chest, and the machine charged up. One of the paramedics called, “Clear!”
The other felt Felix’s wrist. “Got a pulse! It’s there, but weak. Let’s get some anti-venom in him, and get him loaded up.” Weak was better than nothing. Weak was still alive. They stuck a large needle in his leg, and I crossed my fingers and toes.
“I think he’s stable.” The paramedic looked up at me. “Your boyfriend is very weak. We need to get him to the emergency room as quickly as possible. But you and your friends did the right thing, the CPR probably saved his life.”
I smiled, tears still rushing down my face. I couldn’t speak. Had they really saved him? Felix still looked pale as they lifted him onto the stretcher, but they had said he was weak. Weak, but not dead anymore. Because as much as I wanted to pretend otherwise, he had been dead, and the three of us had kept him alive artificially. But it had been enough, and for that I’d be eternally grateful.
Now we just had to deal with the fallout.
I caught Luther’s eye. I knew what he was wondering. When would I tell the paramedics they couldn’t leave? I opened my mouth to warn them, to say anything, but nothing came out. They carried Felix towards the door, and still I was silent. I waited for the magic of the house to throw them back, to prevent them from leaving, but instead something crazy happened.
The three of them walked out the door, and Felix went with them.
The paramedic looked back at us, and found us all in shock. He frowned. “One of you can ride with us, but the rest will have to find another way.”
Riding with them. In the ambulance. Or driving in a car. Outside of the house. I looked to Luther, whose mouth was wide open. Beside him, Theo was cursing under his breath.
In the driveway, they again took Felix’s vitals before loading him up into the back of the ambulance.
Theo was the first to step outside, tiptoeing over the threshold, shirtless and shivering in the cold. Luther joined him, smiling and taking deep breaths of air in. He crossed back inside and grabbed my hand. I stepped out with him, wobbling on my feet like a newborn calf.
Brynn’s eyes were wild, and she took a tentative step inside the doorway, and then another. She stepped back, out onto the porch, and then inside again. And again. “It’s broken…holy fuck. It’s broken!”
You will forever share a lifeforce, each of you keeping the other alive. It had never been about the goddamn house. It was about the curse. Felix had kept the curse alive. He was the curse. He just happened to be in the house when the spell happened, and so the house became part of it. Now that he’d died, even for a second, the curse died along with him.
Except Felix was stronger than the curse. Life was stronger than death. And that goddamn credence was the strongest of all. I looked over at Theo and Luther, both standing on the porch with Brynn now.
“Go,” shouted Theo, bringing me back down to the reality of the moment. “We’ll come as soon as we can.”
Felix still needed me. With everyone’s blessing, I rushed to the ambulance and jumped in the back. While I was grateful for my other men to experience freedom, it didn’t mean anything to me if I didn’t have all three of them to enjoy it with.
They had brought him back to life. Now it was just a matter of if they could keep him amongst the living.