Magnus was laying beside me, his body propped up on his elbow as he traced the outline of my jaw with his knuckle. When I turned to look at him sleepily, the corner of his mouth quirked up into a crooked smile. With the fluid and graceful movements of a cat, he positioned himself over me and began planting a trail of feather light kisses down my throat and over my exposed collar bone. A soft sigh escaped me, and when I shifted beneath him, Magnus pinned my wrists at my sides. He continued pressing his lips against the skin at my shoulder. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, intoxicated by the fervor of desire dancing across my skin.
I gasped suddenly when Magnus nipped at my shoulder, grazing his teeth across my skin. My eyes flew open when he bit down harder, sending a wave of pain crashing through the entire left side of my upper body.
I cried out as he bit me again, hard enough to break the skin. I jerked underneath him, but his clutch on my wrists tightened and I remained pinned beneath him. He continued sinking his teeth into my flesh.
"Magnus! Stop! Please!" I begged, my cries strangled as he tore the flesh from my shoulder bone.
When the warlock raised his head to look at me, the breath rushed out of my lungs. His eyes were completely black and my blood dripped from his mouth. When he smiled maliciously, I caught the glimmer of two razor sharp fangs amidst his bloodstained teeth. He lowered his head and proceeded to gnaw on my flesh...
My body gave a jolt, snapping me back into consciousness. I panicked for a moment when all I could see was darkness, but then quickly remembered where I was. The walls of the box still enclosed me in tight confinement. The air inside was heavy and moist, but my throat was still raw from screaming.
There was a dull thudding noise echoing rapidly inside the container. I craned my neck and strained to hear where it was coming from. When I realized the noise was not from outside the box, I bit back a cry of panic. I pressed my palms against the bottom of the box and slid them around, searching for anything that might be crawling underneath me. My sharp intake of breath rang in my ears as my fingers touched something warm. I exhaled, though, when I realized I had only touched my thigh. But something was wrong. I pressed my hand against my thigh and felt the tremors passing through me like currents of electricity. My entire body was shaking. The trembling in my legs, I discovered, was making my boots tap against the side of the container.
I groaned and let my head fall back against the floor of the container. My body was shivering and I felt frozen, but when I brushed the back of my hand against my forehead I felt the fever burning in my skin. I wondered if that was the reason behind my hallucinations, or if the remnants of demon blood still floating in my system were really to blame.
All my hallucinations had been about Magnus, which made them all the more terrifying. At one point I'd turned my head and found Magnus laying beside me inside the container. Though it was still pitch black, I could feel it was him. I had been too overwhelmed with relief to even question how he had managed to fit inside with me. The comfort of his presence vanished, however, when he reached up and placed his hand over my mouth. His thumb and index finger pinched my nostrils shut and his palm formed a tight seal over my lips. I clawed at him as he suffocated me, but my struggle was futile. He did not utter a single word as he stole the life from me.
At another point, I'd been asleep when the lid of the container suddenly flew open. Magnus leaned over the edge to look down at me, his face soft with relief. He reached down and cupped my cheek in his palm.
"Magnus," I breathed, a single tear escaping my eye.
"It's ok," he said. "It'll all be over soon."
Something in his voice brought a sinking feeling to my stomach. When I tried to sit up, Magnus pressed his hand to my chest and firmly pushed me back down.
"Magnus, get me out," I pleaded, still fighting claustrophobia even though the lid was open.
"Alec," Magnus said, as if talking to an uncomprehending child. "I can't give Sebastian the Book of White." When I gawped at him, he clarified, "You have to stay in here."
"It's ok," Magnus repeated. "It'll all be over soon."
The lid slammed shut again. As I lay there in shocked stupor, a loud thumping noise sounded above me. Though the noise never stopped, as it began to fade I became aware that I was being buried alive. My heart almost tore free from my chest as I raked my nails against the lid and screamed, and screamed, and screamed...
I shuddered at the memory and shifted my body, feeling the stickiness of blood and sweat against my skin. It occurred to me then that I could not feel any pain in my wounds. Aside from a dull throbbing in my head and the chills from fever, I felt numb.
Is this what death feels like? I wondered. Numb, empty, hollow...
As if sensing my growing state of calm, the lid tore open and I was yanked out of the container. The room spun as I became vertical, and I moaned as bile rose up in my throat. The bald Shadowhunter threw me over his shoulder as if I weighed no more than a child. He carried me down a dark hall and into a brightly lit room. I flinched against the unforgiving light. The Shadowhunter bent over and dropped me on the floor, winding me.
As I struggled to catch my breath, I turned my head and surveyed the room. It was cold and made of stone, like all the others. Besides a small makeshift fire pit made of cinderblocks and the two guards, the room was free of any other visible torture devices. The soft crackling of the fire made my eyelids heavy.
Sebastian was standing near the fire pit with his back to me. When he turned, the flames cast flickering shadows across the side of his face with a sort of lethal beauty. The reddish flare reflected in his dark eyes, enhancing his deadly stare. He held up my cell phone.
"These are lovely pictures you have on here, Alec. Your boyfriend," he spat the word, "is very photogenic."
I rolled onto my stomach and tucked my knees underneath me. My arms wobbled under the toil of getting onto all fours. The effort exhausted me. I remained in that position, wheezing as I tried to catch my breath.
Sebastian crouched down beside me and tilted his head, curious. "I'll bet he's a real riot in bed."
Sebastian backhanded me as I lunged at him. I landed, grunting, back on my side. Sebastian knelt over me and wrapped his hand around my throat, drawing my face closer to his.
"When we're finished here," he whispered, his voice frozen with revulsion, "he'll never want to touch you again."
He thrust me backwards as he released me, cracking my head against the stone floor. Spots danced in front of my eyes. Before I could recover, Sebastian snapped his fingers and the two guards descended on me.
I took kicks to my stomach and back simultaneously. As my body curled reflexively into a ball, another blow struck the center of my back, forcing the air from my lungs and sending sparks of pain down my spine. I choked, tasting blood and fighting to breathe.
The Shadowhunter with the piercings bent in front of me and drew a dagger from his weapons belt. The silver blade flashed as he reached for me. I waited as he leaned forward then threw my fist into his jaw. The swing was weak, but it whipped his head to the side and left a red splotch on his skin. When he turned back to me, his eyes blazed. He snatched my elbow in a bone crushing grip and ripped the blade through the flesh of my arm, opening my bicep.
My cry was silenced by a kick to my ribs. I wrapped my arms around my center and curled in on myself. The guards circled me like a pair of vultures. There was a moment of silence before a scream tore from my lips as the dagger was plunged down into the side of my thigh. As quickly as it was thrust in, it was yanked back out. My breaths coming shallow and rapid, I placed a shaky hand over the wound. Blood oozed between my fingers.
"Hold up, boys," Sebastian interrupted, halting the attack. "Time to call in an order for delivery."
The sound of the dial tone filled the room, followed by the music of numbers being dialed. The call was on speaker phone. Sebastian walked over and crouched beside me again, studying my face as I counted the rings.
My eyes filled with tears and my heart skipped a beat as Jace's voice flowed through my ears. Sebastian held the phone closer to me and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"Jace." My voice shook, both with relief and pain.
"Alec! Are you all right?"
Sebastian's hand shot out and clamped over my mouth before I could reply. He brought the phone closer to himself and grinned. "Hello, Jace."
There was a deafening pause. "Sebastian. You son of a bitch."
"Right back at you," Sebastian replied lightly. "Hello, Magnus."
Again, a hesitation on the other end of the line. "Magnus isn't here," Jace growled.
Sebastian's nails dug into my cheeks. "Lie to me again and I will slit Alec's throat here and now."
Static echoed through the room, followed by a quick beep.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the overflow of tears. My hand and pants were now soaked in blood. Inside me, I felt an overpowering need to say goodbye.
"Hello, Magnus. How are you enjoying the single life?"
Jace's voice came on again. "Let me speak to Alec."
Sebastian looked down at me, contemplating the demand. "You want to hear Alec's voice?"
Sebastian straightened and I sucked in a breath as his hand released my face. He turned and walked back to the fire pit. With his free hand, he reached in and removed a fire iron. The end glowed red and white. I slid my body back as he brought it over to me, desperate to get away.
"Flip him over."
I was pushed onto my stomach. Each guard pressed a knee into my upper arms and pinned my wrists to the floor with their hands. My body tensed, waiting for the new level of pain.
"No!" I begged, my forehead pressing into the floor. "Please, no!"
"Are you listening, Jace?"
Sebastian pressed the iron against my skin at my lower back. I heard my flesh sizzle before the white hot agony scalded me. I arched into the floor, straining to get away from the heat. My screaming persisted long after the iron was removed.
"Did you get that?" Sebastian asked, voice vacant of all emotion.
"I'm going to kill you," Jace hissed.
The iron scorched my skin again, this time along my shoulder blade. I convulsed under the contact. My screams escalated as Sebastian pushed the flat of the iron down harder, burning through the layers of skin and into the tissue and muscle.
"Stop!" Jace cried.
The pressure of the iron disappeared, but the heat continued eating away at my flesh. I gritted my teeth and pushed my forehead into the floor, praying the pressure would divert my attention from the burns.
Pass out. I wordlessly implored myself. Please, just pass out.
"What do you want from us?" Jace demanded.
"The Book of White."
"I know that," Jace retorted impatiently. "How do we get it to you?"
"You and Magnus are going to meet me in Central Park. When the Book of White is safely in my hands, I'll give you Alec's location."
"I'm not handing you the book until you lead us to Alec, alive."
"Don't test me, Jace," Sebastian warned.
I flinched, waiting for another burst of searing pain.
"Fine," Jace agreed reluctantly. "When do we meet you?"
"In one hour. Oh, and, Jace? You should know, I have my Shadowhunters on speed dial. They have been instructed to end Alec's life if they see my number pop up on their phones. If anything should happen to disrupt our trade, or if you think about cheating me--"
"The deal goes both ways," Jace cut in. "Alec better be alive when we get him back."
The iron clanged against the stone floor as Sebastian tossed it aside. He snapped his fingers again and the guards released me and flipped me over. I gasped as the pressure agitated my burns, but relaxed slightly as the cool floor extinguished some of the heat. Sebastian gave a single nod and held the phone out.
The bald Shadowhunter positioned himself beside the calf of my injured leg. Before I could register what he was doing, he jumped up and slammed his boot down on my shin. My bone snapped under his massive weight.
My back arched and my fingers clawed at the floor as fresh agony ripped through my body. I could hear my delayed inhuman scream on the other end of the line.
"Does that sound alive to you?" Sebastian shouted over my cries.
"Please," I whimpered, my voice hoarse and my body wracking with spasms.
Sebastian leaned toward me, his eyes glittering with a renewed interest. "What?"
"Please," I whispered. "Kill me."
Sebastian smirked victoriously. "Magnus, Jace, don't screw this up, or I might just grant Alec his wish."
"Alec! We're coming! Just hang on!"
"Jace..." My voice broke.
"See you in one hour." Sebastian disconnected the call. He glanced over at the guards. "They're not going to meet me in Central Park; they'll be on their way here. Give him another dose of demon blood and lock him in the box. By the time they find him, dead or alive, I'll have found the book at the warlock's place and disappeared."
"You sure you know where it is?" The bald Shadowhunter grunted.
Sebastian's eyes twinkled. "A very reliable vampiress told me where it might be hidden."
I was once again hefted onto the guard's shoulder. He lugged me back the way we came, ignoring my moans and yelps. He dumped me back into the container and pushed his hand against my jaw, turning my face. Under all the other pain I barely felt the pinch of the needle as it pierced my neck.
The lid slammed shut just as the demon blood took effect. I thrashed inside the tight quarters. My entire body had been ignited by fire. I fell in and out of hallucinations. Every scream that ripped from my mouth brought the sensation of swallowing razor blades down my throat. I pushed the heels of my palms into my eyes as sobs wracked my body. The pain, physical and mental, was too much to bear. I couldn't survive this anymore, not for another day, not for another hour, not for another minute.
"Kill me!" I shouted to the darkness. "Kill me!"