The general nodded to the guards holding me and stepped over Xander. As we walked away, I glanced back to see Xander being surrounded as the guards prepared to wait for his recovery. My stomach dropped, knowing there was nothing he could do. Fear rolled through me, but I held my chin high in defiance as I walked through the hall with the guard. Heat flushed my skin in embarrassment as we passed servants who eyed my naked body before nodding to the general.
We walked down the long hallway before entering through two large golden doors, carved with the family crest of Xander’s family. The guards shoved me to a chair in an open room, bare of any décor. I sat quietly, my spine stiff as I waited for the next steps to my judgment.
How could I be a cure to vampirism? What does my birthmark have to do with a prophecy for them? How did I let myself get here? What is the King going to do with me?
I shook my head, trying to shake the terror from my thoughts. I quickly remembered that Xander had promised to give his life for me before he’d let me become a pet. My stomach lurched as I tried to fill my lungs with much needed oxygen. I couldn’t let him do that, no matter what. The doors abruptly opened and the general snapped to attention as King Asher walked into the room. The doors swung shut behind him and his eyes met mine before they dropped to his hands, holding a leather item within their grasp. My jaw dropped as I realized it was a leash and collar. He smirked and nodded, flashing in front of me.
“That’s right. This is what you’ll be wearing for the remainder of your time here.” His fingers clasped the leather collar around my neck tightly before snapping the leash onto the back of my neck. He leaned down to look into my eyes and grinned. “And only this...”
I gasped and heat crept up my neck. I was going to have to stay naked the entire time?
How am I ever going to get through this? My thoughts raced and I let the anxiety begin to overtake me, fighting hard to slow my breathing.
“Finally, a break in your bravado. I knew it wouldn’t take long. I have big plans for you my dear. Don’t worry. You won’t have to endure this for very long.” He smirked and I realized quickly that that promise meant that my freedom from this life was not something I’d welcome. He intended to kill me before this was said and done.
He tossed the leash to one of the guards. “Take her to her cage with the others and then report back to me. General, we have many plans to make. Let’s get started.” The general nodded to King Asher and the two of them exited the room, leaving me alone with the guard holding my leash. He yanked it harshly, causing me to fall from my chair. I cried out as my knees crashed onto the tile floors.
“Let’s go pet,” he rumbled. He yanked the leash again pulling me forward. I fought to get to my feet and keep up with his pace as he pulled me through another door and down another long hallway. We walked into another room and my nose was instantly assaulted with the smell of unwashed human. My eyes adjusted as I took in the room around me, dimly lit with only three candles. Cages lined the walls, filled with naked humans crouching in their collars. The cages were not tall enough to stand. Their eyes instantly dropped to the floor and they knelt on their knees, hands placed on top of their thighs as the guard pulled me toward an empty cage. He opened the barred door and removed my leash before tossing me in. I fell to the ground and whimpered as I banged my head against one of the silver bars.
“You’ll stay here at His Majesty’s pleasure, so enjoy your new home.” He slammed the door shut and left the room, shutting the door loudly behind him.
I heard the sound of a deadbolt latching shut and his steps fell hard as he walked back down the hallway. I could feel the shock slowly wearing off as my eyes began to completely adjust to my surroundings. I counted 15 cages total, including mine. They were filled with both males and females, all naked wearing a leather collar matching mine. I forced my lungs to work, breathing air in and out of my mouth to avoid the smell. I pulled my knees to my chest, hugging my arms around myself in an attempt at some sort of self-comfort. Whimpers and cries came from the cages.
I heard a male whisper speak lowly to my right, causing me to jump. “It’s ok, don’t be frightened. I can help you.”
My eyes snapped over to see a muscular male crouching next to me, hands holding the bars as his chestnut eyes peered into mine.
He gave me a soft smile and nodded. “My name’s Fin. What’s yours?” His voice was soft and friendly, his tired eyes exuding warmth.
I felt my body relax slightly. “My name’s...Emma.”
He nodded and scooted closer to the bars. “Just do what you’re asked, and you’ll be ok. They don’t treat pets well, but if you keep your nose down and do as you’re told, you can usually get by without notice. When someone enters, anyone, drop your eyes to the floor and fall to your knees, resting your hands on top of your legs until you’re told to do otherwise. After that, you must follow instruction. Do not fight back or you’ll be punished severely.”
I nodded and tried to continue regulating my breathing. “What do pets do here? For the King I mean.”
His eyes flashed cold momentarily before he shook away memories clouding his thoughts. He spoke shortly. “It depends.”
My eyes widened as my brain reeled, trying to decode what he meant. “On?”
His lips formed a thin line as he composed his words. “Sometimes we are used for tasks, sometimes they use us for... pleasure. Sometimes they feed on us.”
My jaw dropped. “Pleasure?!”
He nodded shortly, his eyes showing his sadness. He opened his mouth to continue but stopped short as the door flung open, a guard walking into the dark room. He moved to his pose of submission and nodded for me to do the same. I jumped into position and heard footsteps walk over to a cage near the door.
“Come on, the King wants you tonight.” I heard a female whimper as the door opened and drug her out of the room. The door slammed shut and bolted loudly before they continued back down the hallway. My eyes shot over to see Fin sitting tense, his face scowling.
“What’s wrong? Will she be ok? What does the king want with her?” I whispered, my breathing shallow.
Fin gritted his teeth and his mouth turned into a frown. “She will be used for the King’s pleasure tonight. He is not a gentle man.”
My breath caught, understanding the girl’s whimpering response. Fin moved to lay down, curling his knees to his chest as his large body filled the small floorspace. I moved to the floor as well, turning my back to him as I faced the wall. I was thankful I had some form of solace and privacy as I let the silent tears fall freely down my cheeks before a wrestling darkness finally overtook me.
I jolted awake as the door slammed open. A large guard entered and thrust the crying female back into her cage. I scrambled to get to my knees but stopped as my door was promptly opened and I was yanked out by my hair. I let out a loud cry as he pushed me to the floor in front of the cage.
“Be silent pet, or I’ll have you whipped for your resistance.” I instantly froze, keeping my face to the ground and stifling the ragged breaths working through my lungs as he clasped the leash onto the back of my collar. He walked over to the wall and tied my leash onto a loop next to the door. I moved to my knees and sat as Fin had instructed me, my eyes to the ground. As the guard turned his back to me, they flickered up to watch him as he walked over to Fin’s cage. He opened it and Fin edged out, sitting low and waiting. The guard leashed him as well and he stood, allowing himself to be pulled toward the door. Another guard stepped in and took my leash from the wall and yanked up harshly. I quickly stood, trying to move air in and out of my mouth against the tight collar. We were lead out of the room together and down the long hallway to a large conference room off of the King’s suites. As we entered, I fought the urge to survey my surroundings and kept my eyes to the floor. We were lead to the table and shoved to the ground to kneel in front of it. Fin sat stone still and I fought to do the same, fearful of the punishment if I didn’t.
“Ah, so one night in the cages and she’s already learned her place. That was easier than I thought.” I heard the voice I now knew to be Armand’s voice purr. My hands balled into fists against my thighs, but I kept my eyes down.
A low chuckle followed in response next to him. “It seems she’s still got some fight in her. Come here girl.” The King’s voice rumbled. I stood and walked to his place at the table and felt his eyes raking down my body. “Bring him in!” he barked, his eyes never leaving mine. My eyes snapped up as the door opened, giving way to two guards dragging a male vampire. His eyes darted around the room, trying to fight off their hold, but he was unsuccessful.
The male was shoved into a chair behind me, snarling at the King. “You’ll never get what you want out of me Asher. Your piece of shit general couldn’t find him, and I won’t give him up. You’ll have to kill me.”
The king stood and walked over to him, dipping his face down to meet his eyes. A cruel smile danced across his lips as he spoke. “Oh, I fully intend to get answers out of you young prince. Come here girl.” His voice spoke shortly and I jumped before walking over to him, eyes remaining on the floor.
From my peripheral, I could see that the chair had silver chains and cuffs dangling from each leg. The guards moved to cuff him and he hissed as the silver touched his skin.
“Tell me, when was the last time you fed?” His voice purred in calculation, and the young male scoffed.
“What the hell does that matter? You gonna offer me a snack?” He snapped.
The King grinned wider and shoved me toward the male. My eyes snapped up to meet his and my jaw dropped in surprise. The prince’s face mirrored mine, and he searched my eyes, sensing a trap. He did not move to feed from me, but instead stared defiantly at the King. King Asher huffed and pulled out a knife, slicing my wrist open and pushing it in front of the young prince’s face. I gasped, biting my tongue to stifle the painful cry. The young prince’s chiseled face met mine, his eyes darkening to an almost black. My heart dropped as his fangs showed from his lips. Unable to contain his bloodlust, his hands moved to grab my arm, hissing against the pain before his teeth sunk into my bloodied wrist. I winced as the dull ache I was expecting was instead a thrashing bite.
“That’s it. Drink up young prince,” the king cooed.
After several moments, he moved to remove my wrist from the prince’s grasp, but was answered by a snarling growl as his jaw clenched down harder onto my skin. I stifled a cry and stood frozen. The king clenched onto my wrist and wrenched my arm from his grasp, tearing at my flesh as his fangs scraped across it. Unable to contain it, a loud yelp escaped my lips and I instinctively froze knowing my mistake. A hard hand met my cheek and I stumbled off balance, my head reeling from the force. My eyes snapped up to see the general standing over me, looming.
“Pets do not make a sound unless told to do so.” His voice barked.
I nodded shortly as a lone tear escaped down my cheek. I immediately dropped to my knees, eyes on the floor to hide my pain. I focused on my breathing, trying to mentally will the painful throbbing away from my wrist. I pulled my hand away to see the marred flesh ooze blood and quickly placed my hand back over it, applying firm pressure. Without warning, light filled the space in front of me, followed by agonizing cries of pain. My eyes shot up in reflex to see the prince burning in the sunlight. After a moment, the curtain closed, leaving him panting and whimpering in pain.
The King loomed over him, purring. “Are you ready to tell me now young prince? Tell me where your father is.”
The prince heaved, gasping for air as his ravaged body slowly began to heal cell by cell. “What the hell was that?!” He gritted through clenched teeth.
The King chuckled. “Oh! She’s my new party trick. Her blood weakens vampires, even those immune to the sun. It can even turn one human if they drained her. Had I not pulled her away from you you’d be human right now. You’re welcome...”
The prince’s pained green eyes shot over to hold mine. “Can this be true? Is she actually the cure?”
The King nodded and looked at me with pride. He was pleased with his treasure. “Now, shall we have some more or are you going to tell me?”
The prince glared at him, mouth closed tight in a thin line. He spit at the King’s feet, giving him his answer.
King Asher growled, “You know, we have no idea how long this lasts. It’d be fun to find out, don’t you think?”
With another nod, the curtain opened again and the prince’s skin enflamed, burning under the warm sunlight. He cried out, finally begging him to stop.
Asher hung his head low near the prince’s mouth. “Are you willing to share now?”
The prince grunted and gave a small nod. “He’s in the dark realm, with the faeries.” His jaw clenched tight in pain as he uttered the sentence. “That’s honestly all I know. No one knows anything more specific I can assure you.”
The King nodded and the prince was removed. The general walked over to the table as the two of them spoke quietly. The guards grabbed my leash and yanked, but I couldn’t stand. My body had begun to weaken from the loss of blood oozing down my hand, and I felt unsteady on my feet.
“Get up Pet!” The guard barked.
Another failed attempt had the two men looking over at me angrily.
“Have him take care of her wound. Walk them to the healer for fuck’s sake.” King Asher barked.
The guard handed my leash to Fin and allowed him to scoop me into his strong arms, holding me tight against his broad chest. I should have been embarrassed at my nakedness against him, but I was far from caring in that moment. I let myself relax in his hold, letting the motion of his steps comfort me as we walked down the long halls of the castle. I was quickly brought back to reality by a loud growl from somewhere in front of us. My head snapped up, searching for the source, only to cause my vision to blur.
“What the hell happened to her?Let her go now!” Xander’s familiar voice boomed out.
I felt Fin stiffen, and immediately lower me to the ground. He placed me gently on my side, allowing me to curl into as comfortable of a position as possible before stepping back. Xander dropped to my side, inspecting my body for harm. He immediately went to my wrist, smelling the blood. I winced as he removed my hand and felt fresh warm blood ooze down the side of my arm.
He hissed at the sight and gritted out, “How did this happen?”
The guard snapped, “The king needed her blood for a prisoner. It’s his right to do so as her master young prince.”
Xander caressed my cheek gently, and I finally had enough strength to look up at him fully. His eyes were dark and his cheeks were more chiseled than before. He looked like he hadn’t slept or fed since we’d been separated. His nostrils flared and I knew my blood was tempting him. I covered my hand again in reflex.
“I’m sorry Xander, about the blood.” I whispered.
His eyes turned crimson as his anger returned to his features. “Don’t you dare apologize. I’m so sorry I got you into this Emma. I should have just let you go. I never would have thought my father would do this to you. I will get you out of this I swear it.”
He immediately bit into his wrist, opening it for me to drink from, placing it to my lips. I felt the warm metallic liquid slip into my mouth and down my throat. Slowly, the burning sensation began to build at the wound on my wrist as it slowly healed. Before it could finish, the guard yanked Xander off of me, leaving me lying naked on the floor, alone.