As they pulled up to the coven’s estate, Isaac could see through the windows of the car looming black iron fences decorating the perimeter. Aside from these fences, the moon ebbed toward the horizon in the sky, making way for the sun to reign another day.
Even just the smallest inconvenience made Isaac feel better about his unsuccessful—and pitiful—attempt on Dante’s life, for when the sun woke up fully, the bodies of Dante’s brethren would disappear into dust, which the wind would carry away within seconds.
Isaac should’ve thought it through, he supposed. All he had planned was running at them with his fangs and claws unsheathed, and for a while it worked…If his arms were free, he would hit himself in the head from the mere stupidity of his decision.
What idiot goes at them with the hope of shear force? He thought.
The car jolted to a stop at the steps of the estate. From what Isaac could see, the estate loomed over everything with its massive four stories worth of building.
Dante and Conner climbed out of the car and slammed their doors behind them. Vampires rushed out, all of them wary of the coming sun, but risking the trip to check on their Master. Most stopped at the stench of death and blood emanating from the back of the car, but still came to Dante’s side.
“What happened?” Morgana questioned. She multitasked, filing her pencil-thin nails, which protruded rather dreadfully from her fingers, while hovering by Dante as the crowd festered around them. She leaned a hand on Dante’s shoulder, as if a source of comfort. “After a while, some of the parties never answered or replied to messages.”
“That’s because Isaac killed them,” Conner said.
There was an uproar around Dante until Conner shushed them.
“Why is he still alive?” Morgana asked for the group, who nodded with her question.
“He’ll come to judgment soon,” Dante said. His words silenced the crowd. He then motioned to the car. “Get him out and take him to one of the prison rooms in the basement. Do not engage and do not attack him.”
Most of the vampires jumped into action, leaving Dante, Conner, and Morgana standing by the steps leading to the estate’s entrance. Morgana continued to lean on Dante.
Dante shrugged her off and climbed the steps to the door. Conner followed suit and Morgana scurried along.
Usually, Conner consoled Dante and vice versa. But with this? Everything was so clouded and Dante seemed to detach himself from the people around him.
Sighing, Conner let Dante disappear into the house. His Master didn’t look for him to follow, but continued up the stairs to the second floor—to the hall where Valeria’s room resided.
Conner turned to the carport, where the vampires were pulling Isaac from the vehicle.
“I can stand myself.” Isaac hissed as he shuffled in his chains, snapping at a vampire that came too close to his face. “Fucking mongrels.”
He was the only “fucking mongrel” around, Conner thought as he snorted to himself.
“Come on, guys. Dawn’s approaching,” Conner urged the vampires. Several of them hurried the pace. One shoved Isaac along, who snarled and kicked at the vampire, only to twist around on his feet and fall flat on his face.
They laughed, watching as he rolled around in his chains and roared.
How could this pathetic creature kill so many of the scouts?
With the sun coming, no one would have time to retrieve the bodies, and Conner assumed most had already decayed into their state of dust.
“Which jail room?” One of the vampires questioned, a newborn named Tyler, just a year after his Turning. He was an obedient enough soldier to Conner and didn’t fail to follow orders, and was the one that held fast to the chains near Isaac’s neck and shook the psychotic vampire when he spat at Conner as the others dragged him through the entrance.
Suddenly, Isaac shoved away from the hold of the vampires. The sound of his knees as they hit the wood floor of the foyer resounded throughout the two-story open space. He lifted his bloodied face, flashing his fangs with a wicked grin. “I smell my sister.”
Conner ran to his side and slammed his face into the floor. Blood smeared on the wood panels as Isaac’s lips split open.
“That’ll be the last time you smell her, too,” Conner snarled in Isaac’s ear.
Tyler and the others hoisted him to his feet and led him to the basement door. Conner followed closely behind as they forced Isaac down the stairs and to the last metal door down the left hallway.
The door was made with the same stainless steel as the enchanted chains that currently held Isaac, with a viewing window. The walls of the cell were proofed for the supernatural. As long as Isaac was kept in that room, he couldn’t do much but pace and throw tantrums.
Conner pointed his hands at Isaac. His blood boiled with magic as it pumped from his heart to his palms and sputtered out toward the psychotic vampire.
The magic gripped Isaac and tightened his muscles.
Conner ordered the others to take off the chains, then to throw him into the cell.
Isaac landed on his side on the concrete floor and stared with hateful, hooded eyes as they closed the door.
Conner pulled out his massive key ring, looked for the matching cell key, and locked the door.
He then pointed to two male vampires standing behind Tyler and said, “Stand guard. Do not leave the door until Dante or I come down.”
They grumbled, inconvenienced with their new job, but followed orders.
Conner left the basement with Tyler trailing behind him, questioning everything from who Isaac was to why Dante hadn’t killed him. None of which were answered.
● ● ●
Through the glass windows of her designated bedroom, Valeria spotted the first rays of morning on the horizon. Along with the sunlight, she saw a vehicle come full-speed through the open gates of the estate. It halted in front of the steps of the mansion before two figures stepped out of the vehicle.
Conner walked around to Dante’s side as several other vampires swarmed the area, all hovering by their Master.
Valeria winced as a female vampire threw herself at Dante, though was surprised when he shoved the female off of him.
Korinna, Lottie and Trisha spread out by the windows, watching just Valeria did. During their waiting, they fell into a comfortable silence, ignoring Valeria, but also watching her every movement.
One moment, not too long before Dante arrived, Valeria wondered aloud: “Did Dante think I was going to cast a spell and escape or something?”
No one answered, of course. They only began to talk and move around when Dante arrived. Trisha and Lottie whispered among themselves as Korinna glanced between Valeria and the windows.
“Where’s he going?” Lottie stopped the conversation with Trisha and leaned her face against the glass window, watching as Dante disappeared into the house.
“He’s not coming up here, is he?” Trisha ran to the door, unlocked it, and peaked her head outside. She stood there for a minute before squealing, “He’s coming up here!”
“Great,” Korinna said as she pulled a fingernail against her teeth. “Now he can tell us what the hell’s going on.”
“We all know what’s going on, Kori.” Trisha stood against the door and rolled her eyes. “Some psychotic vampire’s out there breaking the rules and it just so happens to be the witch’s brother.”
There was no knock at the door, but just seconds after Trisha finished speaking, she was pushed away from the door as it swung open. She stumbled to the side, catching herself on the chair that sat beside the doorway.
Dante stood in the opening, smelling of fresh pine and decaying dust. Various spots of blood decorated his exposed, damp t-shirt. His shoulders and arms were covered with a thick leather coat. His wet dark hair stuck to the skin of his face.
His eyes were dark and cold: a malevolent, nearing storm. They studied the room, jumping from Trisha, to Lottie, to Korinna, and then settling on Valeria. Once his stare stopped on her, the storm arrived in his eyes.
Korinna came up to him, grabbing his hand and rubbing her thumb over his palm. “Are you okay, D?” She asked. Her whole attitude changed when Dante appeared, going a bratty teenager to one of a caring wife. She reached up to wipe his hair out of his face.
Dante turned away and jerked his hand out of her grasp.
Korinna stepped back, her porcelain doll face filled with frustration and anger.
“I need to speak with the sorceress.” Dante turned his gaze back to Valeria, who crossed her arms and pulled up her chin. “Alone.”
The three women left with Korinna slamming the door behind them. Their voices filled the hallway and Korinna’s voice rang distinctly, “Fucking witch.”
Valeria didn’t move as Dante crept toward her. Her eyes, reminding him of a vast, sunlit ocean, were wide and alarmed at his approach. She sat with arms crossed and a raised chin, a show of indifference or deviance. Something appeared off about her appearance: a hint of a sickly hue was beginning to show through her skin, as if a sickness neared.
Dante stopped at the canopy bed. His chest ached at the sight of Valeria. He wanted to go closer, but refrained himself.
“You didn’t use your magic?” His voice was deep, a mutter, and if it was a different circumstance, Valeria could imagine that voice whispering in her ear.
She shut up that thought and narrowed her eyes.
Then Valeria shrugged and turned her face away from him, just as the sun began to hit the glass of the windows.
Dante flinched as the dulled rays hit his bare skin. Luckily, the glass of the windows saved the vampires from direct contact, sealing away the curse of the sun’s rays from the clan. His pale skin lit up in a bright ivory porcelain tint as the sun hit him. His eyes, which seemed like a raging black abyss, illuminated with a toiling sea of blues and silvers. As a damned creature, Dante could not have direct contact with the sun. For almost a century, he missed the warmth licking at his skin, igniting his body. Sunlight and Valeria had a similar affect to each other. Both burned him with warmth and light.
It was so long ago that either did that, but now both Valeria and the sun ignited his world, even just for the moment.
“What are you going to do with me—and Isaac?” Valeria questioned. Earlier, she saw through the window that Isaac was captured. Her brother looked like hell impersonated with his body covered with blood.
“That’s undecided.” Dante crossed his arms and leaned against the bedpost.
His continuous stare made Valeria self-conscious.
She shivered and averted her eyes.
He let out a long sigh through his teeth. “Isaac will die.”
Dante said nothing, but his stare grew tenser. His jaw ticked as he turned his face toward the sun. “That’s entirely up to you, I guess. But I must inform you of consequences.”
He nodded and briefly closed his eyes. “Because of the spell you performed to contain Isaac, there was a sacrifice that you gave.”
Valeria blinked in surprise. As with many spells, there were hidden meanings within the incantations. If Dante knew that when he had Valeria cast the spell…
“You bastard.” The chair squeaked as she lurched to her feet. “How could you do that to me?”
Dante didn’t move from his spot, but his presence seemed to expand to encompass her. His eyes, still a rage storm lit with the rays of the dawning sun, narrowed as he muttered, “I didn’t know—but I hoped that your power was enough to keep you, so that you could live forever.”
“What?” Valeria paled with confusion. “Why would—why would I want to live forever, Dante?”
“You were mortal, Valeria,” Dante said. “And I didn’t know about the repercussions of the spell. I had hoped that your sorcery would keep you alive and that you would eventually wake up—and we could make amends.”
“I already hated you at that moment, Dante. Living on wouldn’t have made any difference.”
“Maybe you would’ve later forgiven me for my crimes,” Dante said.
Valeria froze at the intensity in his eyes. The sincerity…it almost dampened her anger. Almost.
His eyes were the only indicators to what he felt. Everything else about him was reserved, cold, and calculating.
“Do you want to live?” Dante questioned.
“Why should I live now?” Valeria sighed and avoided his stare.
Her family was dead, her brother was a psychotic demon, and the love of her life…betrayed her. She was in a strange world, with no knowledge of current facts, and scared.
The only comfort—if he could be called that—was Dante and that was briefly.
Now, Dante was coaxing her into an eternity with him.
“Because you still have me, Valeria. I will take care of you,” Dante said. His words seemed to bounce around in her head, repeating in echoes. She stiffened as Dante crept closer. “I have missed you.”
“You didn’t seem to miss me when I came to visit your stupid throne room.” Valeria snapped. “Why be so cold if you missed me?”
“Politics, Val. Vampiric politics can be difficult to understand for mortals.”
“What’s there to understand, D?” Valeria crossed her arms. “You all are coldhearted killers. It’d make sense that you’d run yourself that way.”
“I could easily be killed off and replaced if someone saw that I was weak.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be a leader then.” Somewhere deep inside her, the thought of Dante dead sent tremors of terror through her body. She stifled it with a clearing of her throat and a glare. “Maybe you should just go off to Hell, rather than set someone else up to send you there.”
Valeria had stood up while she spoke and turned to the window, crossing her arms. With her back turned, Dante’s armor cracked and hurt and anger showed through those wicked, stormy eyes.
In a moment of impulsiveness, he flashed to her side and trapped her against the window. She looked at him with wide eyes. Her lips parted as she began to snap at him, but Dante cut her off.
“I protected you and your brother while you were asleep. I made sure that no other vampire could reign over this area so that you and your brother wouldn’t be harmed. I’ve kept this secret to myself for years,” Dante hissed through his bared fangs. It was the first time she was ever so close to him after his Turning that she could fully grasp the image of his vampiric assets. “For years, I have longed for you. For years, I have grieved over the fact that I put the love of my life into a coma and my best friend into a prison. For years, I have tortured myself over the fact that I betrayed you two.”
“Let go of me,” Valeria said through her teeth. Her thoughts went to his freezing fingers as they wrapped completely around her arms.
“Listen to me, Val.” He then grabbed her chin and forced her to stare into his eyes.
They swirled with desperation, a chaotic storm set by a ring of crimson blood. Valeria swallowed and trembled in fear.
Dante whispered, “I…I loved you. And I’m so sorry I did such a thing to you. Since it happened, I’ve spent all these years thinking about you. I haven’t been with anyone else—”
“Stop.” Valeria closed her eyes. This was the last thing she wanted to talk about with him. She needed distance from him; only then could she think clearly.
Dante sucked in another breath to continue when she pushed out her two palms against his chest.
A small sonic boom of energy pushed him several feet back. Dante stumbled over a chair, flipping onto his back.
He laid there, dazed, and stared at her in shock, before shoving to his feet.
“I don’t want to hear it, Dante. You’ve lied to me too many times now.”
“That was years ago—”
“Not to me.” It seemed like yesterday to Valeria.
Dante fell silent and turned away from the sorceress as he took a moment to steel himself. His emotions were shielded as he cleared his throat.
“I will do anything in my power to try to gain your forgiveness, Valeria.”
Valeria stared out the window, watching as the sun settled in the sky and lit everything it saw. Right now, she had no idea what she wanted and no idea what she should do. She sighed and looked over her shoulder at him.
“Please…please just leave me alone.”
Dante stared at Valeria, stunned, then dropped his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. He let out several calming breathes before nodding.
“Alright. I will let you be for the day…I have things to take care of.”
Valeria nodded and pursed her lips.
“I will send Lottie later with food.”
Food? Her eyebrow quirked a little bit. “How would you have food if vampires don’t eat?”
“You’re not the only human here, Valeria.”
“Right.” Valeria met his eyes and frowned.
Dante wanted to stay, to beg for her forgiveness, but he didn’t believe he would get anywhere with that. Not yet.
So he headed for the door and stopped, saying over his shoulder, “Do not leave the room. No one can be trusted but the ones that I send to you—understand?”
Dante waited for Valeria to nod and continue, “There is a phone by the bed. If you need anything, dial one and it’ll go to Conner’s office. He’ll be notified quickly and then he will tell me.”
Dante then left, slamming the door behind him. The sound of him turning the lock of the door sent a cold rush down Valeria’s back.
Once again, like with her slumber, she was trapped.