I was almost ready to see her. My princess. My reason for living. Taking one last look at myself, I smiled at the dark green button-down I was wearing. I knew how much she loved it, having it go so well with her auburn hair. In all my years, I never felt this giddy about anything.
Leaving my room, my excitement was curtailed by the strong scent of blood.
Rushing down the hall, I saw her lying in a pool of her own blood. Veronica was trying to wake her, but her heartbeat was fading.
“What happened here?”
“I don’t fucking know, Silas. I found her like this,” she said, distressed.
“We need a doctor.” Veronica nodded, running from the room.
Not wanting to take a chance on moving her, I grasped her hand which was growing colder. My knowledge of human anatomy was spotty at best, and I didn’t want to exacerbate her injury. All I could tell overtly was that her heart rate was dropping rapidly.
“Marnie, please open your eyes. Please look at me, baby.” Brushing the hair away from her face, the color in her cheeks was becoming paler by the second. “Squeeze my hand. I beg you.” Feeling something unfamiliar, I touched my face. Tears. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
“Silas!” my sister yelled from down the hall.
Running into the room, there were three other people with her, and a stretcher. Growling possessively, I bared my fangs. “ Your Highness, if you want her to survive, we have to move her.” Looking over to my sister, she nodded. Moving back, I allowed the doctor to look at her. “She’s alive, but barely. Put her on the stretcher.” The two others with the stretcher carefully lifted her, putting her on it.
Attempting to follow, Veronica held me back. “Don’t. Let them take her.”
“I need to be with her,” I pleaded.
Standing in front of me, Veronica looked me square in the eye. “We need to figure out who tried to kill her.”
“Call Micheal. And I want Braxton and Zander in my office. Now!”
Going to clean myself up, I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Marnie’s blood was all over my hands and shirt.
Roaring in anguish, I punched the mirror. Shattering the glass, I gazed at my hand blankly seeing shards embedded in my flesh. But, I felt no pain. Only numbness.
Whoever did this was going to pay. The list of suspects was not long, but they all had their own motive.
Heading to my office, I was cut off by Veronica. “Micheal and Braxton are both on their way. But Baron Von Hemming is in the living room.” Clenching my fists, he was my first suspect. “Listen, I know what you’re thinking, but we have no evidence. We can’t go to the council without tangible proof.”
Taking a deep breath, we headed to the living room. The baron was pacing while Delilah was sitting there placidly.
“I heard from my daughter that you are not honoring the agreement we made!” He looked pissed, but it didn’t bother me.
“Yes, that is true. I’m breaking our agreement—”
“For some fucking slave!” he bellowed.
Containing my temper was becoming taxing. “You watch your mouth, you over privileged scumbag! That slave you speak of is my soul mate, and I will not have you disrespecting her!”
“You fucking spoiled brat! How dare you do this to me!”
“Incidentally Baron, was the union between your daughter and my brother sanctioned by the council, as is the law?”
Red faced, he didn’t answer. Instead, his wife stepped forward, looking guilty. “No, my husband did not go through the appropriate channels. I warned him against that course of action, for fear this would happen, but he ignored me.” Facing her husband, the baroness stood her ground. “I’ve had enough Stephen. I won’t allow you to do this anymore. Not to me, and not to our daughter. You’re on your own.”
Walking out of the room, Delilah began to walk after her mother. “Mom’s right. I’m done being your puppet. You are now a lone marionette with no one on your side.” Flipping around to me, she smiled. “Let me know if you need any of our resources for your investigation. My mother and I would be glad to lend a hand.”
Nodding at her, she walked away.
Furious, the Baron screamed after his daughter. “Goddamn it, you walk out now, you’re cut off. Get back here!” Hearing the door slam, his shoulders slumped. Stiffening again, he pointed his finger at me. “This isn’t over,” he yelled.
“Get out of my house,” I snarled.
The door slammed again, and I sighed.
“Well, that was unpleasant,” Veronica said, amusement in her tone.
“He isn’t exactly off the hook yet though. Clearly, it wasn’t Delilah, or the Baroness since neither of them cared about his wishes. Which begs the question, who else do we have to look at?”
As Veronica and I were heading toward my office, my cell phone rang in my pocket. Peering at the screen, I rolled my eyes. “Looks like the council has already been informed.”
Answering, there was an angry man on the other side. “Prince Silas! What do you think you’re doing?” the councilman’s voice grated on my ears.
“To what are you referring to, Councilman?”
“Don’t bullshit me. I just received a call from Baron Von Hemming that you called off the engagement with his daughter!”
“Does that mean you are admitting that he bribed you into making the arrangement? The baroness already informed me her husband used less than reputable means to arrange said agreement. As council leader, that puts you at risk for losing your position. Tell the truth, was it worth risking your position, because as far as I can see you look very guilty right now.”
Silence rang out on the other end of the phone. “Guilty of what, exactly?”
“Did you send someone to kill—”
“Do you think I’m some sort of fool who would go against a Prince? A Prince who could destroy me? I may do foolish things, but this is not one of those times, I can assure you.”
Unsure if I believed him, for the moment, I took his words at face value. “Very well. I suppose, this time, I’ll overlook your stupidity. Just don’t get in my way again.”
Hanging up on him, I continued on with my original purpose.
Sending Veronica to search for Zander, I paced my office waiting for Braxton and Micheal to make their appearance.
My thoughts were plagued with the scene I witnessed earlier. Marnie, lying unconscious, slipping away. Blood pooled beneath her. Her fading heartbeat echoed in my ears. Anger filling me, I slammed both of my fists down onto the desk, splitting it.
“Are you quite finished?” an amused voice asked. Lifting my gaze, Braxton sauntered into my office, smug expression on his face. “So, why am I here?”
Regaining my composure, I leveled a glare at him. “We’re waiting for Count Blackmore, then I’ll explain.”
Shortly thereafter, Micheal walked in.
Seeing my desk in ruins, he shook his head slightly. “Didn’t like the desk anymore?” he joked. When I didn’t respond, he wiped the smile off his face, getting serious. “What’s going on?”
Taking a deep breath, it made my chest squeezed painfully remembering what happened. “A short time ago, my sister found Marnie stabbed in the stomach.” I could feel the bile rising in my throat. “I’d like you two to help me figure out who’s responsible.”
“You have access to all my resources,” Micheal responded immediately. “Anything you need.”
Braxton scoffed. “Are you fucking serious, Silas? You want me to help you?” His look of disgust grew deeper. “As far as I’m concerned, you can kiss my ass.”
He got up, heading for the door, and in my rage, I ran up behind him throwing him into the wall. “I’m still your prince, and you will obey me!”
“Ask me how much I give a fuck!” he spat back in my face. “All you have ever done is flaunt yourself in front of me. I earned my keep, unlike you. You’re nothing to me.”
Micheal tried pulling me off, to no avail. “Don’t, Silas. We don’t need him Between the two of us, we’ll be able to figure out who did this to her.”
Peering over my shoulder at him, Micheal raised his eyebrows in reassurance. Releasing Braxton, I shoved him toward the door. “Get out of my house.” Without a parting word, he left.
“What should we do first?” Micheal asked.
Pausing to think, I recalled the scene. “I want to poke around her room first. Maybe there is something to give us a clue.”
Returning to Marnie’s room, Micheal saw the scene, his expression unchanging. “Do you smell that?” he asked, sniffing the air. Shaking my head, I didn’t understand. “Exactly.”
“Someone covered their tracks? Who has the wherewithal to put such forethought in a situation like that?”
“Someone smart,” he answered. “Perhaps premeditated.”
As much as it pained me, I knelt down beside the drying pool of blood, the knife close by. Picking it up, I looked it over, including the handle. On it, there was an emblem I wasn’t familiar with. A dagger with two serpents intertwined. Additionally, the dagger looked fairly new. Next to zero wear and tear anywhere. However, the blade was mildly singed. Touching the very edge, the metal burned me. “Shit!” I hissed.
“Hand me your handkerchief,” I said, turning my attention back to the blade. “This knife has been dipped in poison.” Looking at my palm, it was healing, but the skin was purple. Not many poisons changed the hue of skin. “Micheal, look,” I said, exposing my palm to him.
“Holy shit, Silas. Your skin.”
“Lethal to vampires if it gets into the bloodstream, but only burns if touched. To humans, its highly poisonous, causing the body to shut down. It’s called Amethyst Death. Very hard to come by, unless you know where to go.”
“How do you know it?”
“When my father was alive, he would employ witches. Those that were in the dungeons would get a dose of it. Since that time though, I haven’t seen such a thing. And, as far as I’m aware, witches went extinct around the time the human population was culled.”
“Silas?” Veronica poked her head in.
“What is it?”
“Is it alright with you if I go check on Marnie?”
“Sure. Where’s Zander? He never showed his face.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. He’s not even in the house. I searched all over for him, and his cell is turned off.”
My blood boiled. Bastard. Why else would he not be here other than to hide his guilt? When I get my hands on him, I’m going to wring his neck. “Go to Marnie. I’ll be there shortly.”
Taking the knife back to my office, my mind was buzzing with ways I would punish my brother. Though we had a tumultuous relationship, to think that he would try to kill someone dear to me, made every fiber of my being seethe with rage. His traitorous acts would be dealt with severely.
“Micheal, I need you to use whatever resources you have to find out who would even have a poison like this. There may be a few witches in hiding. Find them.”
“Shall I take the knife with me?” His inquiry made me rather curious. “Perhaps someone somewhere has seen it before. Since it’s a fairly new blade, someone will surely recognize its distinctive characteristics.”
“No, it should stay here. Just remember the name of the poison.”
Starting to leave, Micheal turned back. “You know, Silas, you should prepare yourself for the possibility that Marnie won’t survive this. Some things in this world just are not meant to be. There may come a point when you have to accept your fate, just like I did.”
Raising an eyebrow, he offered no more words on the matter. I just watched his back recede, with a final clicking of the door closing behind him.
Baffled, I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. His cryptic words swam around my head, but no matter how hard I tried to make sense of them, I couldn’t. For the time being, I put it from my mind.
Huh? What’s happening? Why am I wearing white dress and barefoot? And what’s this green field all around me?
“Hello!” I called out to the air. “Can anyone hear me?” I started to walk forward a little, still very unsure of my surroundings. In the distance, I could see a small building overrun with vines that looked vaguely familiar.
The green field was gorgeous, with purple and yellow flowers dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see. The lush grass felt so good beneath my toes, and the warmth of the sun kissed my skin.
I felt completely at peace.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a female voice said, startling me. Turning, I didn’t recognize her, but there was a familiarity I couldn’t place. “Don’t be afraid. You’re safe with me.”
Backing up, I put my hands up in defense. “W-who are you?”
Smiling softly, she came to stand next to me, looking out into the scenery. “I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me, but it does make me rather sad.” Confused, all I could do was look at this mystery woman.
Taking a better look at her, something in my heart was telling me that she was an important person to me at one point. Her raven hair, green eyes, jogged something deep in my memory. “Tell me who you are.”
“You look just like your father,” she responded.
Anxiety mounting, the answer was becoming ever clearer. “A-are you—”
“I’m your mother, Marnie.”
“But, but you aren’t who I grew up with. How is that possible?”
Tucking strands of hair behind my ears, the pain in her eyes was deep. “There are so many things you don’t know, sweetheart. The sacrifices your father and I had to make in order to keep you safe. From the moment I let you go when you were a baby, I knew someday I would see you again. I just hoped it wouldn’t be like this.”
Body trembling, my mind couldn’t process what she was telling me. It all seemed so fantastical. “Why should I believe a word you say?”
“When you were born, your father was the happiest man alive. It was his dream to have a little girl to spoil. You have his eyes, his hair color. Marnie, you became a beautiful young woman. I am so sorry we had to give you up. I don’t blame you for not believing me.”
Guilt immediately swept over me, seeing the tears forming in her eyes. “You really aren’t lying, are you? You really are my mother, I mean, my real mother.” She nodded. “Why did you give me up? And, where are we?” I asked, gesturing around me.
“Walk with me,” she said, reaching her hand out.
Reluctantly taking her hand, we started through the grassy field.
“A long time ago, I made a decision that was the catalyst for the war against nobility, which was the ultimate reason we had to give you up.” Reaching down, she plucked a flower, tucking it next to my hair by my ear.
Her explanation only raised more questions than it answered. “I still don’t understand what this has to do with me.”
Gazing back to me, she continued her story. “There are things about yourself you don’t know, sweet pea.” Urging her to continue, my heart thumped wondering what she meant. “Before the war started, people lived in general harmony. I met your father in that time. We fell for each other at first sight, not caring about our social statuses.”
“We settled down, married. Life was beautiful. Somehow, we managed to live peacefully for a few years, until we had no choice but to flee.” Pausing, she gauged my reaction. “I’m sure you’re wondering who raised you the few years before you were sold to slavery.”
“They said they were my parents, but clearly, they weren’t.”
“No, they weren’t. The people who raised you were very close friends of your father and I, who happened to also be nobility. Rather, human nobility. They didn’t even question us, just took you in as one of their own. Ultimately, they had to flee as well, ending up in the house you were taken from.”
“Why don’t I remember any of this? Remember you or my father?”
Still moving forward, she took a big inhale of the flower in her hand. “You were so young, my love. Everything happened so fast. It’s no surprise you don’t remember anything.” My expression darkened, and I felt her arm wrap around my shoulders. “Don’t feel guilty. Things were so hectic then, everyone was blindsided.”
There was still more answers I needed, far removed from the history lesson I was getting. “You still haven’t answered me. Why am I here?”
Pondering for a moment, she considered her words carefully. “This is a transition for you, Marnie.”
Taken aback, a distinct shiver went down my spine. “You mean I’m dead?”
Chuckling slightly, she held me close. “No, sweetheart. This is your transition before you become something the world hasn’t seen in a millennia.”