Chapter 101 - Monster
Time passed slowly for them. What they were waiting for, had yet to happen. When it did, it occurred with no preamble and so unexpectedly as to catch them almost entirely off guard.
One moment they were alone and the next they weren’t. Belvare came as if from nowhere and they sensed him in the way that a horse senses a predator, but when they turned to face him, he was nothing that they would have expected.
He had no wings, no fangs, no tail, and no evil glowing eyes to warn the innocent traveler, no telltale sign of the darkness that hid beneath.
Instead, he was strikingly handsome. More than attractive, but the second his eyes met with theirs, they both perceived a sense of power about him that not even Victor ever possessed.
His smile seemed sincere, charming, even warm, but there was something off about it that was so subtle that if they had not come forewarned, they would never have noticed.
Long blond hair, tied severely back, framed strong chiseled features and eyes as blue as the sky that Rowan remembered in such vivid detail, but with a piercing intensity in their attention.
His tall frame supported broad shoulders, slim hips, and a muscled physique like a statue of the Greek gods, maybe even Eros himself. His lips were sensual, his brows darker than his hair, his nose an ode to creation, but all that perfection could not alleviate their sense of foreboding that kept them vigilant, aloof and uneasy. His smile became more genuine, and his eyes devoured every detail of their bodies like a hungry, possessive caress.
If Marcus looked at Rowan with such a smoldering sensuousness, she would have been putty in his hands, but Belvare’s intent stare made her feel dirty, violated in some manner, and it took all the courage she possessed for her to prevent her aversion from showing. She knew Alena had a similar reaction to Belvare. Their carefully neutral expressions amused him as if he understood exactly what they really thought.
Belvare spoke in a dialect that neither of them understood, and that delighted him even more, but in a superior and self-satisfied manner as if it proved his superiority to them. He bowed with a certain practiced grace as if to excuse himself, but they both spied the condescension deep in his eyes.
“Welcome my greatly removed cousins,” his voice might have been sexy, even alluring, but for what they knew lay underneath. His Hungarian dialect of the vampire language carried an accent they didn’t recognize.
“Sire,” Alena greeted as she regained her composure, and Rowan had to put a tight rein on her emotions. She wasn’t as practiced in the fine art of social deception as Alena had become in her social milieu.
“Sir,” Rowan managed, unused to addressing anyone as Sire, and the oddest expression showed fleetingly in his eyes, almost as if he relived some long-forgotten memory.
“Has Robert treated you well?” Belvare asked as any good host would, except that those blue orbs challenged them to contradict the quality of his hospitality.
“Well enough,” Alena acknowledged with a polite inclination of her head and a sincerity that rolled off her tongue like gospel. Rowan knew it was a lie, Belvare knew it was a lie, but only the glint of his eyes showed that he enjoyed this game of deceit.
Rowan concentrated on keeping her face neutral and not allowing her expression to betray her instinctive dislike of this monster that chilled her soul to the bone.
“Come, let me show you my kingdom?” Belvare invited with just the right amount of charm and indisputable command.
They both smiled on cue and took their places with their hands through the crook of his arms on either side, as he expected of them. Both of them knew they touched death, and it felt warm, almost human.
He walked them through the lavish chambers of his “home” as if they were in some magnificent castle or palace, not in a hole in the ground.
He led them to his quarters which he furnished with expensive furniture and none of the gaudiness some of the wealthy adopted, but they saw no trace of the ancient treasure.
Belvare showed them around before leading them to the barracks which resembled the spartan quarters of a monastery, and past them to the dungeons below. Wherever the fabled treasure of the Dark One resided, it wasn’t in plain sight. There were no heavily guarded areas, and no locked doors, but the caverns were massive, and Belvare was cunning. Not that they cared about his treasure, but they were as curious as any other person.
He spoke to them in low courteous tones, asked them questions about their lives, and honed in on even the lightest of deceptions as if their thoughts betrayed them, but if their opinions revealed their intended treachery, would they still be alive? Or did he dismiss the threat of them with such ease? They could not help but wonder.
Those who came before them did not know what they knew, and hadn’t gathered the knowledge he allowed them, but would it make a difference? Where they doomed as were those that led them here? They could only hope that they would succeed where so many had failed.
Rowan and Alena missed Marcus and his wise counsel. They were lonely without him, and they felt more vulnerable than they ever expected.