A feeling of hollowness filled Isaac as he turned away from Dante. A frown deepened on his face.
Just as he began to walk away, something shot through his chest. He looked down to find a hand clutching his blackened heart, then slowly looked over his shoulder.
A man stood close behind him, his lips only a breath away from Isaac’s ear.
His heart thumped painfully in the man’s hand.
“Die,” the man said and smashed the heart in the palm of his hand. It popped, blood splattering over the front of Isaac’s shirt, and disintegrated.
A suctioning, wet sound came as the man slid his arm from Isaac’s body. Isaac fell to his knees, clutching his chest, before falling headfirst in a pool of Dante’s blood.
Behind him stood the Prince, accompanied by two other people: Conner and the Prince’s companion.
Conner kept calm as the two men walked around the mess and toward the car stationed at the entrance of the cemetery.
“What do we do with the bodies?” Conner asked as he stayed by the mess. He couldn’t tear his stare away from his Master’s eyes, which stared blankly into the ground.
“Do what you will,” the Prince said as he wiped his bloody hand on his suit. “This is your responsibility. Meet me at the estate when you are done.”
Conner nodded and watched as the Prince and his companion walked back to the car, climbed into it, and drove away. Then he turned to his Master and dropped to his knees. He pulled the body into his lap and grabbed the head, holding it in his hands.
He stared at the man that sired him until the sun’s rays neared his body, then gathered them in his arms. He took one look at Isaac’s body and then turned toward the safe shadows of the forest, following the car back to the estate.
The sun reached Isaac’s body, searing the exposed skin. A wind picked up, dusting off the ashes, until the bones and clothes were all that was left.
Conner made it inside the estate before the sun fully stood over the forest’s horizon. The last of the Independence coven stood in the foyer, watching grimly as Conner brought Dante’s decapitated body into the room and dropped it on the large, lavished rug.
The Prince stood in the middle of the floor, silent and solemn. Everyone gravitated toward him for support and guidance, even Conner.
The Prince’s companion, known as McCowell, ushered a woman toward the Prince.
Anger flared in Conner as Korinna stopped in front of the Prince and bowed her head.
“Succubus,” the Prince said. “I’ve heard and seen what you’ve done, and that’s unforgivable. Notifying me still doesn’t make up for it.”
“I—I’m sorry, Mr. Eph—” Korinna’s words were cut off as McCowell backhanded her. She cried out and stumbled backward, clutching her head.
McCowell grabbed her by her hair and whispered into her ear, “You will refer to him as the Prince and nothing more.” Then he shoved her away.
Korinna fell to her knees in front of the Prince.
The Prince remained unaffected by the mistreatment of the succubus and as she began to sob at his feet, he turned his attention to Conner.
“The Duke has left you in charge, yes?” The Prince asked.
Conner nodded. “Yes, Your Highness.”
“Then disband this coven.”
Many vampires began to protest, Conner included. He knew there was a chance that the Prince would break up the coven, but he hoped for the opposite.
He opened his mouth to retort, but a swift wind of energy flared through the room, knocking a headache through everyone. Everyone but McCowell and the Prince held their heads and yelled at the pain, until it just as abruptly stopped.
They fell in silence as they watched the Prince in total obedience.
“There are so few of you now that there is no reason to keep this coven,” the Prince continued. “You will all come to the main hive for refuge.”
“What about the succubus?” Conner asked, stepping forward by her.
Korinna looked up through her hands and hair, watching with wide eyes and mascara smeared over her cheeks.
“Outcast,” the Prince said. “I will have nothing to do with her.”
“And me?” Conner questioned and crossed his arms over his chest. “Will I also join you, my Prince?”
The Prince studied Conner, who stood before him stoically, bloodied and angered. His lips upturned as he said, “Yes. I have a purpose for you, Conner. A job. If you will take it.”
Conner glanced at the remnants of his coven around him, noting all the terror and loss that his vampires witnessed, then looked at the shriveling wimp hunched at the Prince’s feet. There was nothing left for this coven and therefore no other purpose for him.
So Conner brought a fist to his heart and bowed his head to the Prince, saying, “Of course, Your Majesty.”