Hunter couldn't believe this was happening. His hands were securely tied behind the base of a tree, and Sparrow Hood's stupid mug was the only visible thing for miles.
"Comfy there hero?" Sparrow asked.
Hunter struggled against the ropes, but not even his own strength could get him free. How could he be so careless? A huntsman never lets his guard down, that's what Dad always told him. But while he was strolling through the Enchanted Forest to meet Ashlynn, Sparrow Hood and his Merry Morons jumped him, and dragged him to the far end of the forest where no one would find them. He should have heard Sparrow's men coming through the forest. He should have seen their shadows in the glint of his eye…but he was too busy thinking about his date. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
"Scream all you want Hunter, this is a special part a' the forest no one knows of." Sparrow was always great at finding secret places. Places that were perfect for an ambush, or a robbery…must be a family thing.
"What do you want Sparrow? I'm kind of in a hurry."
Sparrow was always trying to show Hunter up, no matter what they did. Archery, sword fighting, tracking. Everything.
"Right, you're in a hurry to meet Ashlynn, right?"
And he had a pretty blatant crush on Ashlynn Ella.
Hunter smirked. No matter how handsome all the girls told him he was, he knew, just as well as Hunter did, that none of them wanted anything to do with him. Ashlynn included. Hunter tested the ropes once more, still no luck.
"So what? Did you kidnap me just to talk, or-"
"Kidnap?" Sparrow said, in mock surprise. "Why Hunter, you're my buddy! I just thought you could use a little break from all that stress in your life. Ashlynn included."
Hunter felt a chill run through his spine. When Sparrow said Ashlynn's name…it made Hunter's lungs stop.
"Don't go anywhere near her you snake."
At the beginning of the year Sparrow had wooed Ashlynn, and caught her attention, but really he only wanted her ring. Sparrow was the school bad boy, he broke every rule and every heart just so he could brag about something. He would string Ashlynn along, and then leave her in the dust…that was his idea of a good time.
"Temper, temper, there hero." Sparrow smiled once more. "Maybe I'll just tell the entire school about you and Ashlynn's little secret romance. I bet the Headmaster would love to hear it."
It was an empty threat. Hunter knew that better than anyone. "And then I'd just have to tell the Headmaster about how you and Duchess Swan not only stole Ashlynn's ring, but planned to use it as a way for Duchess to get closer to Daring. You know how the whole 'evil plotting' thing is against school rules." Unless you were a villain…of course.
Hunter tiled his head and smirked. Sparrow had no power, not a paddle to row with, not an arrow to shoot. He had won.
"Oooh, good point." Sparrow said. "Except that with this whole Royals versus Rebels stuff going around the headmaster loves anyone who even remotely sticks to their story. You wanna tell him I'm stealing and being a rogue?" Sparrow began to laugh loud enough to shake the trees. "Go ahead, he'll throw me a parade!"
Hunter felt his stomach fall down to his feet. Sparrow was right. A guy following his story, in any fashion, to Grimm was cause to celebrate.
Hunter was shaken…but he couldn't let on. He was a hero after all, he had practiced this a thousand times in class, he just had to keep cool and keep his captor talking.
"S-so what exactly do you want again?" Hunter asked. If he could keep Sparrow here, then Ashlynn would be safe from whatever prank he was planning on her.
"Oh, doing the old 'keep the villain occupied while the damsel gets to safety' trick huh?" Sparrow asked as he shook his head. "You forget, I take those classes too Hunter." He patted Hunter on the side of the cheek, his palm slapped against Hunter's face. "And you know what? I'm gonna tell you my plan because I know there's nothing you can do about it. In fact, you're gonna be an important part of it."
Hunter squirmed in against the tree trunk, he still couldn't get free.
"I'd never help you Sparrow."
"Oh you will. See, you're not going to make it to your little date, Ashlynn's going to be crushed, and then you're going to break up with her." He laughed again as if this was all one big joke, "And then I'll swoop in, be her hero, and viola, we'll be together."
Hunter shook his head. He'd never do that to Ashlynn. Never.
"I can see you're still not convinced. Well, what if I told Headmaster about the two of you? He'd flip his crown, and poor Ashlynn would be in so much trouble with her family for denying her legacy." Sparrow leaned against the tree and stuck his face to Hunter's ear, so close Hunter could hear Sparrow's tongue move across his mouth. "You know how important her family is to her…just think of how crushed she'll be."
Hunter could hear Sparrow's smirk.
"Just think about it."
What would her family say? Even Hunter himself was too afraid to tell his father that he had stopped eating meat, and didn't want to hunt. Hunter knew the look of disappointment that would adorn his father like a new face. There was no defense against an attack like that. A disappointed father; a broken promise; a family you turned your back on.
He wouldn't wish that on anyone…let alone the girl he loved.
"So hero…what'll it be?" Sparrow asked.
His classes were supposed to train him for stuff like this. Ultimatums were basic lessons, but there was no way around this. He could either keep her safe by breaking her heart, or keep her heart and condemn her life.
Hunter's body loosened, his arms slacked against the tree trunk, and his legs lost all their strength.