Authors: P.A. Warren
I’m so sick of seeing Mikail. He’s like a tick that won’t go away. I look around expecting for Claire to still be here, but she’s gone. Wait! Where did she go? The only reason Mikail would be here would be because someone knows something, and he was sent. He’s a tracker and does the dirty work of the elite. Looking around and noticing that the area is cleared out, I catch up to Mikail a few yards away. He’s walking towards the parking lot, and I speed over to him and slam him to the ground, I hold his throat and look at him in disgust.
“Who sent you?”
Spitting blood into my face, he laughs. “Are you screwing around with Claire? Does she know exactly what or who you are?”
Rolling my eyes with my hand still clutching his throat, I reply, “Does she know what you are? Does she know that you’re here to kill her?” Grabbing my hand, he forces it away from his throat and manages to twist and pin me to the ground. The area is silent except for the sound of us hitting each other.
“I’m not here to kill her,” he says before he punches me in the face. “In fact, if I kill her I’ll be killed.” He lets me go shoving me away from him in disgust.
“Who sent you?” I ask him again.
“What? You haven’t talked to your old man lately?”
“Shit. My dad and I haven’t talked in decades. I don’t have anything to do with him. Since he killed Audra I haven’t spoken a word to him.”
Audra was someone I loved a long time ago. She was the love of my life and we planned on leaving my dad’s clan. She had everything ready, and the day she left the clan someone found out and staked her. I walked out that day and never looked back, and I blamed myself for not protecting her from my dad. If my dad wanted Claire then something big must be at stake. It also meant that if Mikail didn’t do his job then daddy dearest would be visiting here to complete the job, which meant Claire was in far more danger than I thought. Shoving Mikail, I say, “Stay away from her.” I leave him there as I run to the dorms, hoping I can find Claire before someone else does.
Laughing, he catches up with lightning quick reflexes. “You know not everything is as it seems.” He calls to me as I ignore him disdainfully.
I grab my phone and quickly punch in the lock code and dial the King.
“Hello?” his voice rumbles.
“Sir, we have a problem.”
“What sort of problem?”
“Griffin from the Western Clan has ordered a hit or capture on Claire.”
“How did you find that out?”
Pausing before speaking again, I take a deep breath. “Because one of the best hunters, Mikail Tsarev, is suddenly on campus trying to make friends with Claire. He’s a freelance guy and one of the best at what he does.”
“Get her out of there. I don’t care if you have to kidnap her, get her out of there and into one of the safe houses. I will text you the location once we get off the phone. Griffin must not get her.”
With a click he hangs up, and I make my way towards the dorm, trying to catch up with Claire. It’s frustrating not being able to use my vampire speed due to people being around. I’m mentally cussing each and every one of them out, when I hear a scream. And suddenly a guy comes out of nowhere and grabs Claire. She falls into his arms, and I see something glint and drop to the ground. Two others appear, and I run towards them, grabbing one guy and snapping his neck and get perverse pleasure upon seeing him drop to the ground. Spotting me, they use their agility to throw her into the trunk of an expensive black car and speed away. The tires squeal, leaving nothing but smoke in their wake.
I slam my fist into the pavement and watch as it cracks into small pieces. How could I let this happen?
Mikail walks up behind me and speaks with clenched teeth as if he’s forcing himself to stand still and not chase them. His expression looks dangerous, and I find myself wondering if Claire means more to him than just an assignment. “I know you don’t trust me and you have no right to, but I know what Griffin’s capable of. I also have a pretty vested interest in Claire, so it’s in my best interest to help find her and keep her alive.” He looks me intently in the eyes. “Let’s be real, Jason. I’m just the guy they pay to bring the victim in. Who do you think does the torturing?”
I shrug as my mind pulls a blank.
“Oh, come on now. You know the answer to that one. Your brother Riley does the torturing. He took over for your dad. Did you never pay attention when you lived with him?”
Shaking my head forcefully, I reply, “I apparently was oblivious to it and have failed in the one job the King required of me: keep Claire safe.” Biting my lip, I remember how horrible Riley was, and I remember how hard it was to live with him and try not to get caught in his crosshairs.
“You know what this means, right?” Mikail says with a grimace on his face.
“We have to work together if we want to get her back alive.”
Rubbing my face with my hands, I don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone in range of me as I race to my room, grab my bag, and fill it with clothes. I knock my mattress off the bed and grab all of my weapons. I clutch my silver injector and then strap it onto my hip. Opening my door, I groan. One of the dorm girls, who think she’s in love with me, stands in the hall. All this energy makes me want to feed, and I let my conscience go. Looking both ways, I pull her into the room and slam her against the wall. I tilt her neck and jam my fangs into her throat, taking what I need.
“Is now the best time to have a rendezvous?”
Pulling back, I snap at him, “I need food, back off!” Taking my time, I sink back into her neck and enjoy the sweet taste of blood.
“Come on, time’s wasting, and if Claire dies or anything happens to her I will kill you.” Mikail says seriously.
I almost laugh at that, but he’s right. Time is crucial. I pull back and lock eyes with the girl and tell her the usual spiel: forget everything. Spinning her around, I slam the door as soon as she’s out. I grab the cooler and the bagged blood from the small fridge and shove all of it into the cooler. I look around; double checking to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything when my phone rings. I glance at the number and groan in distaste. It’s the King.
“Shit.” I look over at Mikail who is now stalking out the door to go get what I assume is the car we’re leaving in.
“I asked you to do one job, to keep her safe and you failed.”
“Sir, I’m going to find her now. There was no stopping it. They used some sort of injection on her—”
“Why were you not with her?” he roars into the ear piece.
“It was my fault, and I take full responsibility. I will make this right, and I’m going to apologize now for hanging up on you.” I shut the phone off and stick it in my pocket. I grab my things and rush out of the dorm and duck into the car that Mikail has somehow acquired.
“Nice isn’t it? Now, stop drooling and get the fuck in,” he growls angrily, looking over at me as I jump in the car. “Is that blood on your chin?” he asks, noticing as I wipe it quickly away.
“No,” I lie.
“I still can’t believe you stopped to feed, while Claire is God knows where! I’m going to hurt you the minute I stop the car!”
I listen to him muttering under his breath while I check out the car, anything to distract him away from his anger towards me.
“I hope she drives as fast as she looks.” I swipe my hands through my hair, clenching my hands in tight fists as he slams his foot down on the pedal.
“Oh she drives like a beast.” I watch as he takes the steering wheel, shaking my head at him in disgust.
Sometimes playing the guy who doesn’t give a shit is the hardest job there is. No matter how badly I want to tell Jason to screw off, or break his neck for letting this happen to Claire, I can’t let on that it matters this much to me. I can’t blow off my blasé attitude, even though I might have when she was taken. I tried to be casual, but it was too hard, and too much is at stake for me to be making any more mistakes, Claire’s life for one, and my own as well. Once everything is settled, something even greater is at stake, something I’ve been waiting patiently in the wings for a very long time. I can’t let Jason catch on to my fear for Claire or my cover will be blown, and I can’t have that.
Waiting for his slow ass pisses me off, and when I walked in on him feeding, I had to clench my hands or else I’d have thrown him through the wall. Claire’s life is in danger and he’s wasting time feeding when he could have fed from bags. Jason is an idiot, and I don’t trust him within an inch of my life. Finally, he’s ready to leave, and I walk to my car, the one he thinks I stole.
“Nice isn’t it?” I ask, sinking into the driver’s seat, throwing my sunglasses on, and pushing a small button under my seat to activate GPS for the Queen.
“I hope she drives as fast as she looks,” he says just to agitate me.
I run my hands along the steering wheel, which is just a good luck thing I’ve done since I started driving. Smiling, I hit the gas which causes Jason to slam back into the seat.
“Oh she drives like a beast,” I retort.
I know exactly where I need to go, and that place is the King’s house, or palace as he calls it. It’s actually a mansion, but who really wants to argue with a king? Looking at the road ahead of me, I think about the plan I have in place when my phone rings. Keeping my hand on the steering wheel, I answer the phone and am not in the least bit shocked by who answers: the Queen.
“So, my granddaughter has been kidnapped by that hooligan, Griffin, and you’re currently in the car with his estranged son,” she states in a no-nonsense voice, “Why exactly are you in a car with him?”
I glance over at Jason and start talking to her in Romanian. “He’s an idiot. Antony was a fool to send him to watch Claire, and something’s not right there. Why would he do that? You need to watch him. I’m taking us there, since Jason and Antony both think I’m working for the King, and I have to play the part. I don’t trust either of them, but what really worries me…” I say seriously into the phone as I look in my mirror, turning into a long driveway, “…it’s that Griffin has Riley at his beck and call, and the things I’ve heard about Riley would make a grown man cry.”
The other end is silent for a few seconds before I hear a sharp reply, “I’ll take care of it, and don’t worry.”
“Don’t use your powers,” I say seriously into the phone, still speaking in Romanian, “You know they sometimes go haywire.”
“Young man!” she practically yells into the phone, forcing me to pull it away from my ear, “I’ve been using my powers for years and you just keep your mouth shut and do what you have to do to distract Jason.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” I stifle my laugh and hang up as I continue driving down the highway at top speed.
I wake slowly at first, and then I remember what happened and jolt awake, slowly moving all my limbs and feeling excruciating pain traveling throughout my entire being. It crawls its way through from my legs, all the way to my head. Trying to get up from the mattress, I stand only to be yanked back down. I look down at my wrists and turn them around, examining the shackles that bind me to the wall. I lift my already hurting arms and try pitifully to break the chains, but it’s no use. They are just too strong, and I am simply too weak to manage it.
I’m so stupid. How could I let this happen to me? I should have been aware of my surroundings. I’ve always had the feeling that someone was watching me, and the one time I let my guard down I’m ambushed.
Where am I anyway? I wonder as I glance around at the room. I make out cinderblock walls and the cot. It’s utterly empty and dirty. Cobwebs are in the corners, and the worst part is it’s so dark, and I hate the dark. There are no windows, just a small light bulb giving a miniscule amount of light. Twisting my head, I notice the door has no locks on the inside. Panic claws up my throat, and I feel my heart racing and my throat starting to close on me. I claw frantically at the chains and barely feel my fingernails cut into my skin as I tear at the restraints. I am oblivious to the pain, however, and keep tearing at them to no avail. The feeling of desolation overwhelms me as I contemplate what’s going to happen to me. Lifting my shirt, I glance down at my stomach and find it black and blue from them kicking me yesterday. I mean, I assume it was yesterday. There is no real way for me to know how long I’ve been here. I wince as I press down on my stomach. I can’t tell if anything is broken, but it’s really tender to the touch. My wrists feel weighted down by the chains and they’re rubbing them raw. I yank on them one last time but it does nothing but scratches the scabbed skin off and makes my already bleeding wrists bleed again.
“Get off me, get off me, get off me,” I whisper to myself, hitting the metal chains against the floor. When nothing I do help, I drop my bloody hands in my lap and feel something furry run across my leg. I gasp and then start screaming and continue until my throat is raw. I’m not sure how long I scream, but no one comes to my aid.
Hours later I’m still in the room and somewhere water is dripping, and it’s been dripping the entire time I’ve been awake. It’s driving me insane.
“HELP ME! LET ME OUT!!” I scream but no one comes. Fear keeps me awake.
When the door finally clicks, it makes my body jump and suddenly I’m wide awake, all my nerves on edge. I assume its morning and move my neck to the left and right trying to work the kinks out of it to no avail. I’m not sure when I actually fell asleep since I’ve lost track of time, but at some point my exhaustion won the battle. My stomach growls in hunger but no food is brought until the next day. Even then it’s just a simple plate of eggs and toast, which I eat as if it was the holy grail of food. The only person I’ve seen is the guard who leers and brings a glass of water, but he throws it in my face. This continues for several days.
I’m roughly shaken awake, it’s the only way they ever wake me up. I slowly flutter my eyes open and see that a man is standing in front of me with an evil grin on his face. Rearing back as he startles me, I’m yet again reminded that I am being held against my will, and my heart starts racing.
“Get up!” the guard growls, tugging me up by my hair.
I try to get up, but my legs don’t agree with me and refuse to work. I think the lack of food is starting to affect me. I don’t get up fast enough for the guard, so as he unchains me, he pulls me behind him, causing me to trip. He then drags me out the door and pulls me up roughly in his arms and into a different room. He never says a word as he drops me and I fall to the floor. The man walks around the room turning water on and off. He whistles while he continues to pace the room slowly before stopping in front of me and forcing my chin up with his finger.
“Be a good girl for Griffin and you might make it out alive,” he murmurs to me, his sour breath making me gag.
He removes his finger from my chin and leaves the room without another word, locking the door behind him. Kneeling, I pound on the door as my heartbeat accelerates. I glance around and find absolutely no windows and no way to leave. The room is white, stark white with a bathtub in it. Fear begins to take over my senses as my teeth start chattering. Walking over to the tub and peering down, I see jelly-like clear things floating around and wonder what they are and why they are there. The door creaks open causing my stomach to do a somersault and what little food I ate is threatening to make its reappearance. He slams the door shut just as quickly as he opened it. Looking up, all the blood rushes to my head. I’m staring at a much older version of Jason, only Jason didn’t have that glint in his eyes. I flinch and avert my gaze from his menacing glare. His jaw clenches when he pointedly glances at me, as if I’ve just pissed him off by being alive.
“’I’m Griffin, the leader of the Western Clan, and here you are still alive and kicking,” he purrs at me.
Unsure of how to respond, I nod my head, not looking at him.
“I want to know where the Maji is.”
This draws my attention, and I lift my head to look at him. I suddenly remember my grandmother's words and do the only thing I can think to do—I lie. “I don’t have the Magi.”
Walking towards the tub, he looks back at me and motions for me to come near him.
I refuse and stay right where I am.
He glares with a murderous expression on his face, and before I can even think he’s grabbing me by the hair and dunking me in the ice cold water. Lifting me up again, I’m barely able to get a breath in before he dunks me again. Lifting me up again, he snickers, “The guards said you were starting to smell, so I thought it would be in everyone’s best interest if you had a bath.”
He dunks me again, only this time he doesn’t pull me up. I need air. I start to panic and claw at the slippery tub, trying to hold on to it, but failing. I open my mouth to get air and the water fills my lungs. I choke dramatically as he finally pulls me up, looks at me in disgust, and throws me on the floor.
“You’re worse than pathetic. You’re worthless. If I didn’t have a need for you, you’d be dead by now,” he utters in disgust before stomping from the room and slamming the door, leaving me cold and shivering on the floor. I lift my wet, clammy hair that’s lying limp in my face and try to stand. I slip on the tile and fall back to the floor. I lay there, and the feeling of utter helplessness consumes me. My body convulses as the tears flow, and the realization that I’m totally alone soaks in. It’s never been like me to give up in the past, but I sink lower and finally accept my defeat.
I wake to find a glass of water sitting on the floor by the mattress. My eyes widen in surprise. It’s the first good thing that has happened since I arrived in the horrid place. I delicately sniff it to see if they put anything in it. Taking a small sip, I don’t taste anything as I hold the glass awkwardly, almost afraid to drink it. I have no recollection of being brought back in here, yet here I am, back in the old room. Pushing my matted hair out of my face, I lick my dry chapped lips before shakily grasping the water in both my hands. As some of it spills over the glass, I suck it off my dirty hands. It’s the best tasting thing since… well, since anything. It tastes like pure gold. It wets my dry tongue as I let it roll around my mouth, and then I’m gulping it down with haste, unable to stop myself. I feel such relief as I feel the water slide down my throat and soothe its dryness. After draining the entire glass, my stomach feels queasy, and I clench it, making it to the side of the mattress just in time to heave all the contents onto the floor. I shake from the exertion of getting sick and lay limp on the mattress, staring into the darkness.
I wish I had a watch or something so I wouldn’t feel quite as lost. I don’t know if several minutes have passed or hours, but I apparently passed out after I threw up. I’m awakened by the door slamming and a small beam of light blaring through the opening. It’s almost blinding since I haven’t seen light for so long. I shield my eyes and they are so swollen that I can’t seem to open them very far and the blinding light makes them water. Hearing footsteps coming closer to me, I huddle into a tight ball, expecting the worse. I crack one eye slightly open and gaze at the tops of two very expensive leather shoes.
“Hello, Claire,” a man says softly, standing over me. “My name’s Riley and I can either be your worst nightmare if you don’t cooperate… or your best friend if you do. It is your choice to make.”
His voice sends chills up and down my spine, and I instantly start shaking, wondering what’s to come next. Haltingly, I lift my eyes upwards toward the voice and flinch when his fingers grab my chin, gripping it tightly. He tilts my face towards the light and makes me look him in the eye. Biting down on my lip, I taste blood, but I look directly at him. I watch his pupils get larger and larger. I blink and try and look anywhere else but at his eyes. He lets me go so quickly I fall back towards the floor. I’m shocked at what I see; the expression on his face is one of fear and wonder as he stares down at me without saying a word.
“Well,” he finally says slowly, “that is definitely interesting, which means what they say is true, you can’t be compelled, but I must say your blood smells amazing, I can’t wait to have a taste.”
My brain is going a mile a minute, wondering what exactly he’s saying. I have no idea what this compelled thing is he’s talking about. I mean I’ve heard the phrase on a vampire show I used to watch, but that’s it. This is real life, vampires aren’t real.
Looking at him, I’m still taken aback at how much he looks like Jason, only a few years older than him. Could they be related? No, that’s not possible. He looks so normal that if I met him at school, I wouldn’t say no to a date. Not that I’m considering it right now, because quite frankly, he’s scaring the shit out of me. He has chestnut brown hair with amber eyes; he’s also wearing a button down short sleeved midnight blue shirt and a pair of jeans that really don’t yell ‘I can kill you with one single snap of the neck’.
I refuse to look at him, and stare straight at the wall, my body shaking in fear. “Why am I here and what do you want from me?” I manage to croak out.
Ignoring my question, he studies me as if he’s trying to memorize me. “Do you have any idea who I am?” he asks as he takes his hand and runs it up my arm and tracing the edge of my sleeve. He moves his finger towards the v-neck of my pink tank top. Tugging me closer, he sniffs my neck and stays there inhaling. I try not to cringe as his finger follows the edge of my shirt to the front of my chest where he stares at the necklace I’m wearing. Lifting it, he raises an eyebrow and drops it.
“I asked if you had any idea who I am,” he repeats the question.
“You…you said your name was Riley, but I don’t know why I’m here or who you are other than your name,” I tell him as he moves away from me and walks towards the other side of the room.
My eyes widen in panic as he picks up a black whip that he touches lovingly.
“I’m Riley Dumont,” he tells me, snapping the whip after he says his name.
Jumping, I try to inch away as far as the chains will allow me.
“Do you want to know why you’re here?” he asks, motioning for the guard that’s suddenly appeared with a chair and brown liquid in his hand. Sitting down and crossing one leg on top of the other, Riley swirls the amber liquid, looking at me above the rim of his glass.
“You’re here because your father took something my father wants. He took my family’s right to the throne away from him,” he says in a chilling voice that makes me start shaking, causing the chains to rattle.
He sets his drink down and grabs my shoulders so that I’m facing him and puts his face right into mine. “Your heart rate tells me you’re scared. You should be. If you knew the things I’ve done to people you would wish you were already dead.”
I feel every beat my heart makes, like a jackhammer inside my chest, but I look at him straight in the eye for the first time, and what I see in his eyes scares the hell out of me. They are pure circles of black, and my eyes drop down, looking to his mouth and I gasp when I see fangs drop down. Fangs? People don’t have fangs. Looking up at them again, I don’t even think, just reacts, and my reaction is to move as far as I can from him.
I forget about the chains and jerk back and almost break my wrists. He sits back in his chair and laughs at me. “Bring in the girl.”
A young man wearing a black bulletproof vest brings a blonde girl in, pulling her by the back of her dress and drops her at the Riley’s feet, as if she were trash rather than a human being. Riley picks the girl up and sits her on his lap and plays with her hair as she sits there docile like a doll.
“You know, Claire, your mother was most helpful turning you over to my father, and she sung like a bird, telling him where you were. That is, until I broke her neck. She expected something from my father. I can’t stand a traitor and she was traitorous to you, even though it helped us immensely.”
I gasp at his words, they leave me cold. My mother was an evil woman, but she was still my mother. I sit still as stone, trying to process his revelations when he draws my attention back to him.
He tilts the girl’s head so her neck is bare and starts caressing it, tracing her carotid artery with his finger. I shiver as I watch him and swallow in fear, yanking on the chains and crying out.