Chapter 20: Vulnerable
I can’t believe I said those horrible things to her…
The bed sunk beneath me as I silently sat on it’s edge. A sadness and great sense of guilt filled my heart, burdening me for what I initially thought was the right thing to do.
Celic was never meant to be mine. We were never meant to be with each other. I knew she knew that for we acknowledged it more often than not; our greatest mistake was fighting the inevitable.
I wish things were different…
The image of I simply standing and watching as tears streamed down her face after her having begged me to leave with her strained my heart. I should’ve, at least, tried to make her feel better, but I didn’t so much as apologize. How could I still call her my ‘best friend’ after this?
A shaky breath passed my lips, the bridge of my nose stinging as tears began to well my eyes. I felt a sense of self-loath for the actions I took.
Maybe I should have left with her, but that would mean exposing myself to not just Erebus, but every pureblood vampire in this world. I would be responsible for a genocide…
I knew my conscience would soon haunt me, and I wanted nothing more than to lock myself away for the night and lay until my mind would allow me to fall into a deep slumber. However, just as the desire came, I felt a familiar unpleasant feeling and hesitantly, I rose my head only to find the man that terrorizes me standing at the doorway of my bedroom.
His hazel-green orbs bored into me with inexpressive features resting on his face. With acknowledgement of his presence, I nearly scrambled to my feet. I could feel the little blood that coursed in my body drain my face.
I was already vulnerable with the incident of Celic, so it came easy to apologize in utter fear before he could so much as take a step toward me.
“I-I’m sorry…” my voice quivered.
His features remained still—stoic. He strayed away for a moment longer and it only intimidated me further until he began steady steps to approach me and my lungs constricted.
With each step that he took, I was only reminded that it was helpless to try to move away for the back of my legs were already pressed against the bed behind me.
Whether it was because I knew I had made a mistake by simply leaving without excusing myself to my bedroom or because I knew I had lost a friendship and it greatly burdened me, my mind was all over the place; I thought the worst.
He’s going to kill me…
When his movements ceased, he stood but a couple of inches before me with the same hard stare on me. The lock in my lungs continued to hold my breath hostage, the very fear that erupted from the mere presence of him drilling into my heart.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw his hand rose and the tears that strayed at the brim fell as I flinched away. I had turned my head to a side, raising my voice, “Please don’t!”
The harsh sting and hard impact that I expected would be felt with stains of an endless trail of uneven tears. However, my anticipations were wrong as, seconds later, I felt Erebus’ touch that came gently.
His hand cupped the side of my face while his thumb brushed my cries away. I had grown to expect punishment over mercy, and before recognizing his odd tenderness, I had gasped audibly. In the mix, a heavy sigh passed his lips, forcing me to hesitantly shift my sight back to him.
My gaze locked with his own in a moment of vulnerability that I knew was not only played from my part. A brief softness flashed in his eyes but quickly averted to the hard look I was familiar with, and the warmth I had disregarded lifted.
“The night is not over. I did not give you permission to return to your room, slave,” he growled.
His hard gaze had turned into a growl and the once brief relief I felt instantly lifted, replaced by the many burdens living inside me.
“I-I’m sorry…” my voice was but a mere whisper.
He arched an eyebrow, tilting his head to a side. A sly smirk came to play on his lips and the hand that hadn’t bothered on falling away hardened it’s touch. He sighed softly, “What am I going to do with you?”
I could see the sarcasm in his eyes, hearing it in his voice. He clicked his tongue and shook his head with the grin plastered on his face before stating, “I should have you thrown back in your cell for being incompetent.” He paused, tugging his lips in a straight line. His eyes studied me carefully as he added, “However, the night isn’t over yet. The deal isn’t off, but now you’ll really have to impress me. Don’t make me regret it.”
I hadn’t so much as processed what he had said until I felt his touch fall away to my waist, his hold pulling me into his side before he began guiding me back into the ballroom. He’d utterly thrown me off, but I dared not question him.
No longer was I merely doing this for myself, but I also needed to get out of here so that I could try to fix my friendship with Celic. I didn’t want to lose her any more than I already had.
When we emerged back into the crowded room, the attention we received the first time we had done so was far from the one we regained and I was thankful for it. I had only swiftly scanned the crowd when I noticed a pair walking toward us.
The man, Enos, walked steadily beside the same blonde woman that stood beside him when Erebus introduced me to them. She continued to cling onto his arm and the same look of disdain lingered on her features.
All the while, I tried to hold my gaze elsewhere. Whatever their reason was for nearing Erebus or myself, I wasn’t interested in the slightest: I wanted the night to be over so that I’d be just that much closer to getting the hell out of here.
“I hope you’re enjoying your night,” Erebus’ voice echoed in my ear as Enos and the woman came to stand but a couple of feet before us.
With this, my eyes shifted to study the couple. While Enos bothered to shift his sight between Erebus and myself, the woman only bored into me.
“Of course,” Enos responded with a humble smile on his face.
I hadn’t bothered acknowledging it to myself before, however, thinking back to the history of the Vampire race, I wondered, how could they be okay? Enos’ brother was the man Erebus killed for the throne.
Could it be an act? Or perhaps...Enos wasn’t fond of his own brother?
“Erebus,” I was drawn out of my thoughts by Enos’ voice, “may I have a dance with your lovely...escort?”
Escort? Is that what they’re calling me now?
I refrained from showing much reaction to anything exchanged between them. It always came down to the fact that I had no right to make decisions for myself, even before I ran away from home. Whether I’d be dancing with anyone other than Erebus tonight, it would be his call, and right now, I didn’t think he’d care what I did.
That was until I felt Erebus’ hold on my waist suddenly tighten and the pull he held for me grew even more so.
Less than two weeks ago, he beat me and threw me in a cell, and now he’s being possessive?
I felt uncomfortably confused, but again, I held my tongue and watched the scene play out. When I glanced at Erebus, he forced a smirk on his hard features and unwillingly nodded.
With this, Enos appreciatively released the blonde woman beside him and offered me his hand, calling, “Miss Hope.”
At least he speaks to me with some respect...
Gladly, I reached out to place my hand in his. In having done this, Enos tightened his hand around my own and guided me to him, but not before Erebus solemnly whispered in my ear, “Behave.”
He truly didn’t have to tell me, I wanted me to behave more than he did; I knew the consequences of doing otherwise and they were far from pleasant.
Acknowledging Erebus with a small smile, I nodded before following Enos onto the center of the ballroom where he confidently placed his hands on my waist, leaving me no other choice but to rest my hands on his muscular shoulders.
In a couple of movements, our bodies dance with the soft rhythm of the music. My eyes had found his chocolate-brown ones, staring boldly into him as he did into me.
A small smile made it’s way onto his lips and he cleared his throat before gently asking, “Where are you from, ma’am?”
My stomach slightly turned, I being clearly unprepared to answer to anyone other than Erebus. I knew how to lie to him, he’d buy anything coming out of my mouth so long as I danced with his arrogance. Enos, on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to read right through me if I was dishonest.
If I slipped, I could lose the ultimate game right now.
“I was born and raised in our home realm,” I calmly respond.
“Interesting…” he hummed. “Personally, I’ve never been there. However, I’ve heard our kind is not enslaved to the night. Is this true?”
I gently nodded.
It was true. The other world was made for beings like us to live. This world has given us natural enemies for we don’t belong here.
“So, I assume you are familiar with the Synns?”
My breath caught in my lungs, my muscles tensing at his question. I knew he noticed this because his eyebrows furrowed at me in a mix of curiosity and confusion.
A sudden dryness concealed my tongue and I forced a hard swallow before questioning, “The Seekers?”
Everyone knew that the only ones given the last name Synn were the Seekers themselves or anyone born of one.
My eyes shifted briefly, glancing at the exit of the room. I was prepared to run, but the instant I heard Enos hum in reassurance, I snapped my eyes back to him.
I knew then he referred to the Seekers and the Seekers alone.
Of course, all were familiar with the Seekers, but I believed his true question was...had I ever met them?
I shook my head, exhaling in a shaky breath, “Just my master’s brother.”
While my hands kept a firm hold, steadily guiding Cam in a dance, my sight wouldn’t dare leave Enos or the woman dancing at his hand a few feet away from us.
I wasn’t too bent on hearing whatever it was that they discussed for my only focus was on that of the way his hands touched her.
Between such and the little stunt she pulled by taking for granted that I had excused her for a moment, I wasn’t in particularly happy. Although, I did wonder...why did she seem so...disappointingly bothered or hurt?
“I don’t like her.”
My attention then was forced to shift from Hope, landing on Cam as she held one arm on my shoulder and the other in my hand. I was her guide on the dance floor, and while she glowered at the silver-white haired woman I know she spoke of, she briefly gazed at me to find my sight.
“And why is that?” I questioned.
I wasn’t concerned for what Cam felt or thought of my slave; I was more concerned with the man dancing with my Hope. It had already registered in my mind: I now had a problem with another man putting his hands on her.
I, and I alone, own her.
I knew it would further anger me if I chose to dwell on it, so it came easy to distract myself by turning to the one that’d amuse me.
“I don’t need a reason,” Cam shrugged with a begrudged look on her face, “I just don’t like her,” she growled.
“Is that so?” I mused.
It was as if I had poured boiling oil on her, she clenched her jaw and spat, “Do you think I’m jealous of her?”
“I do,” I responded nonchalantly.
“And why is that?”
She had arched an eyebrow. Her fingernails tapped my shoulder as she waited for my response, one I knew she’d be far from happy to hear.
With a smirk on my face, I admitted, “She’s unique, strong, beautiful.”
“Strong?” she scoffed. “She only looks beautiful because you picked out her dress.”
The dress hugging her body is the last thing that makes her beautiful.
The look on Cam’s face was enough to confirm that she knew my Hope’s beauty went beyond the mere clothes she wore; it amused me.
“Envy isn’t attractive, Cam.”
If there was anything about the woman I was dancing with that disgusted me was the fact that she simply didn’t know how to be happy for others despite her nearly having all that she wanted.
“I wonder…” her voice trailed off, “how well she’s been trained?”
The sound of her voice, alone, was enough for me to anticipate her intentions, and the instant her hands slipped away from my shoulders, I tightened my hold on her and warned, “Cam.”
She only briefly shifted her gaze to meet my own to show me her determination and persistence to push at my slave’s buttons. Whether I should’ve stopped her or not, I wasn’t exactly sure about.
However, a part of me did want to watch the scene play out before me.
I did tell her to impress me...now’s her chance.
“Be careful,” I muttered, relentlessly releasing her from my hold and stepping back.
“You care?” she mused in a hint of amusement.
With this, I edged toward the far end of the room, crossing my arms before me as I studied Cam. She swayed her hips side to side, moving to approach Enos who held Hope close to him as he danced with her on the ballroom’s dance floor.
She picked a glass of champagne from the trays walking around the room and lightly sipped on it until she came to a stop before the couple dancing and she growled sarcastically, “Do you enjoy having your hands all over my date?”
At the sound of her voice, their movements ceased and Hope gently pulled away from Enos as he hesitantly loosened his hold on her.
“Excuse me..?” Hope’s voice trailed off in confusion. Her eyebrows had furrowed on Cam, Enos slowly drawing away from Hope to further question that who was supposed to be his date, “What’s going on?”
“I don’t like this slave touching what belongs to me,” Cam spat. At this, it seemed as if Enos was flattered.
Of course, he would be. When I spotted them together, it was of no surprise to me that he would bring her as his date once I’d turn her down. After all, he is actually fond of her. When she isn’t entertaining me, she’s entertaining him.
“Cam,” Enos called to her, nearing her cautiously. I could see that he was trying to calm her, afraid of her angering Hope, for her own safety.
However, his efforts were useless as Cam had already brought her hand up against him, motioning for him to back off. And, as expected, he listened.
“It’s alright,” Hope called. I knew the only reason she was doing this was because she noticed the attention quickly directing to her. She wants the bargain between us to happen.
“I apologize,” Hope sighs softly, taking a step back, away from her.
The false smile that crept onto Cam’s face didn’t go unnoticed and I could see the look of disdain raise on Hope’s features as Cam teased, “I forgive you.”
What are you playing at?
Just as the thought crossed my mind, Cam relinquished her hold on the glass in her hand, allowing it to crash and shatter onto the floor. With this, the music ceased and Cam’s sarcastic remark echoed through the silenced room, “Oops. I apologize.”
Hope clenched her jaw, her hands balling up into fists. The malicious grin on Cam’s lips broke into an even greater one as she continued to push, “Well, what are you waiting for? Clean it up, slave.”
“Cam, that’s enough!” Enos rose his voice. This time, he ignored Cam’s wishes of him staying back and grabbed her arm, pulling her to him and away from Hope.
When my gaze shifted from Cam, landing on Hope, I noticed the shift in her own. A threatening pitch-black color filled her once beautiful orbs, expanding to conceal the entirety of her eyes.
There is it…
I knew it was time for me to step in, this was the part where she’d lose control. In full vampiric speed, I moved to her, wrapping my arm around her waist to pull her to me. However, despite my attempt, she didn’t so much as move.
“Behave,” I growled. However, this didn’t have any effect whatsoever as in the next moment, she attempted to lash at Cam. I had gripped my hold on her, holding her back with my arms wrapped around her waist.
This won’t end well...
At that point, I knew it couldn’t stop her nor so much as hope to calm her down. I was down to my last option.
Harshly, I swung my elbow forward, hitting the back of her head. In an instant, I heard the loud crack of her skull and her fight ceased as she collapsed forward.
A pair of gasps erupted from the room, reminding me that we didn’t stand alone.
Oh...the punishment that awaits you, my little Hope.
I shifted her in my arms, positioning her to carefully to lift her and cradle her into me.
I sighed, my gaze grazing her lifeless body.
What am I going to do with you now?
With this, I acknowledged my guests, calmly stating as I briefly glanced at Genesee and Zeus who more than likely came rushing in at the sound of the commotion, “You may all show yourselves out.”