After sleeping for what felt like an eternity, I felt myself being pulled out of my nightmares as I heard the chain rattle on my cage. I slowly looked up to see the door opening as the guard reached in to attach my leash. He yanked hard, bringing me to full alertness as I was drug to my feet. I gasped, fighting to move air in and out of my lungs. The guard lead me down the now familiar hall to King Asher’s suites, bringing me to back into the bare room. The King faced me and smiled deviously as his eyes flashed to a young male chained in the chair waiting for me. He had dirtied blonde hair and seemed so small hunched over in his chair. The guard released me and my eyes shot around to see the general leaning against the wall, observing the interrogation from afar.
“Come girl. You know what is needed from you.” I clinched my jaw right in anticipation and walked over to the prisoner.
He pulled his head up proudly and his emerald green eyes cut at Asher and Cole. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do here with this poor girl, but I can’t tell you where my father is because I don’t know!”
Cole laughed tightly and met his glare before glancing back to me. Instantly, he was standing in from of me and I jumped back in response.
Realizing my mistake, my head dropped and I sputtered out, “I’m sorry General.”
Cole gripped my wrist hard in his hand and drug me to stand directly in front of the prisoner. The young male straightened, wincing slightly as the silver burned against his skin. His eyes met mine briefly before I shut them tight, feeling the blade glide smoothly across my flesh.
I heard him breathe in deeply and snarl, “What the hell is this?”
After a moment, the general thrust my wrist into the prisoners mouth. I felt his fangs tear into my flesh before he took several long draws, growling lowly against my skin. He held onto my arm and gripped harder and my eyes flashed to meet his. They were now nearly black but they held an expression of pain and something else. Recognition? Did he know what my blood was capable of?
I felt myself weakening from the pain as the prisoner’s teeth were yanked out of my wrist, tearing at my now scarred flesh. My knees buckled as blood pooled out of my wound. A guard caught me before I could drop to the ground and carried me out of the room as I heard agonizing cries coming from behind me. I felt us move quickly as he carried me back toward the cages now that my purpose was complete for the moment. My other hand moved to apply pressure onto my wrist, still feeling blood seeping through my fingers.
As we came upon the cages, I heard a familiar feminine voice stop the guard. “Put her down now.”
He obeyed and placed me inside the door onto the cold stone floor. My eyes fluttered open to see a familiar pair of icy blue eyes staring down at me, like Xander’s but softer.
“Hang on dear, I’ll get you fixed up in no time,” Queen Reina spoke soothingly.
She bit her fangs into her wrist and gently placed it down to my mouth. My lips formed a tight line and I pulled away. I didn’t want to be healed anymore. I just wanted to wallow in my own pain, letting it consume me. If it was my time to die, I’d welcome it after the hell I’d been through.
She pressed her wrist harder against my lips and held my face still. “Come on sweetie, you’ve got to drink. I have a message from Alexander.”
My eyes widened and I slowly opened my mouth wide enough. I allowed her to hold my head as the thick metallic liquid slowly begin to run down my throat My nose wrinkled in distaste.
The guard entered and stood to attention, barking in response, “My Queen. You’ve been summoned by his majesty. You’re to report to his suites immediately.”
Reina gave me a tight smile and pulled her arm away, looking to my wrist. “It will heal my dear, but I’m afraid there will be a scar. You needed a bit more but I must go now. I’ll try and get back to you soon.”
My eyes shot up to meet hers, urgency in my voice as I whispered, “What about Xander?”
She shook her head shortly, eyeing the guard. “Not now. I’ll try and get back to you. Just hold on and know he has a plan.”
She squeezed my shoulder before following a second guard out of the room, turning toward King Asher’s suites. The original guard remained and leaned down to remove my leash before pushing me back into my cage and locking me in. As I heard his footsteps fade away, I noticed Fin watching me. I turned to face him for the first time, forcing back the memories of our last encounter. His face was strained and his eyes showed his concern as he eyed my wrist.
“Are you ok?” He asked quietly.
I gave him a small smile and nodded, rubbing the new pink scar on my wrist. It was large and sprawling, taking up most of my flesh underneath. Both of my wrists were now marked permanently by my time here.
“What’s one more scar?” I asked.
He smiled tightly and nodded, beginning to turn away from me as he’d done every time I was near since that night. I wasn’t ready then, but I thought I could be now.
“Fin...” My voice broke slightly and I took a calming breath to steady myself.
He stopped and turned back to face me, waiting patiently.
I lowered my voice, leaning forward to speak only to him. “I know you did what you had to do. I know you had no choice.”
He clenched his jaw and stared into my eyes as his own filled with sorrow. “Emma, I’m so sorry...”
A tear crested my lashes and dropped silently down my cheek. “I know. It’s ok Fin. I’m ok now. Thank you.” The last words came out barely a whisper.
His eyes widened. “Wh-what?”
I shook my head as another tear followed. “Had it been anyone else, I wouldn’t have made it out of that room in one piece. I wouldn’t be here right now. I couldn’t have stood that.”
My finger absently rubbed across the new pink jagged line on my inner thigh. I’d scratched deep into my skin with my fingernail as I sobbed myself to sleep after, but it had healed just enough along with my wrist to leave a faded pink scar.
His hands reached through the bars and rested on the ground in front of me, not daring to touch me. I smiled and reached my hand out to place it on his.
“Fin, how did you get here?” They seemed to trust him to know his place, and it seemed so ingrained in him.
His face turned into a scowl as a memory flashed across his eyes. “I was taken by a group of vampires when I was barely twelve. This is the life I’ve known now for eleven years.”
My heart panged. It wasn’t terribly unlike my own life. “Fin, I’m so sorry. That must have been terrible for you. Where is your family?”
He tensed and pulled his hand away, clenching his fists against his legs.
“I’m sorry Fin. I shouldn’t have. I know...” I stumbled, cursing myself for prying. I would react the same way.
He shook his head shortly, trying to calm his breathing. “No, it’s ok. I just...haven’t had to talk about it for so long. I wasn’t expecting that.”
I nodded and gave him a small smile, waiting for him to continue.
“They’re gone. When they take us, they want to ensure that no one comes after us, or that we won’t try and escape. They’ll usually take us in large groups from a small village so that they can clean up behind themselves at one time, for convenience.” He gritted out the last word. “I’ve been here ever since and was brought into the King’s personal group of pets because of my size. They know they can trust me, and this was my reward.”
I leaned closer against my cage, pushing my hand through the bars to rest on his shoulder. At that moment, I only wanted to comfort him. Thoughts of events before were buried deep and locked away.
“I’m so sorry about your family Fin. There’s nothing that could repair the damage they’ve done to you, to your life. I hate that you had to go through this.”
He shook his head in response as his head rose to squeeze against mine. “It is what it is. This is my life and I just have to keep my head down and endure it. Maybe one day I can get out of this cage, but for now, this is what I am. A slave.” His deep mahogany eyes met mine and I felt every ounce of hopelessness coursing through him.
Anger began to build deep inside of me as I saw this gentle man, huge yet helpless. How could anyone live like this for so long?
“Fin, did you ever want to fight back?”
He inhaled sharply and gripped against my hand. “How could I not want to, but it’s useless Emma. There’s no way out of here unless they say so. They’re stronger, faster, and there’s nothing we can do but submit. Even if I managed to escape, where could I go?”
My mind was racing, trying to think of how I could get us both out of this. If Xander had a plan, I could get angry enough to want to make it past this hell. “I don’t know, but I know I won’t go down without a fight. They can’t kill me just because it’s convenient for them for me to die.”
Fin’s eyes snapped to mine as his face strained as the tension built in his strong frame. “Emma, you can’t do something stupid. They’ve done horrible things to pets who tried to fight back or escape. You can’t. Please, just do what you’re told.”
I shook my head furiously, dropping my voice to a whisper. “I will get out of this one way or the other, but on my terms. If I make it out of this Fin, I’ll find a way to help you too. I couldn’t leave knowing that you’re here living this way.”
He reached across the cage and brushed his hand on my arm. “Emma, please promise me you’ll be smart about this. Don’t do anything that could get you caught. Do you understand me? I can’t watch them punish you. Knowing them, they’ll make me or Xander do it.”
He snarled as the last sentence left his lips and my eyes widened, realizing he was right. I’d have to wait to hear back from the Queen. I couldn’t do anything to raise suspicion to Xander or me. But what on Earth could he be planning? How was he going to pull this off with both of us alive? My heart began to race as my brain rattled off the possible outcomes. We didn’t have much time left and I knew that there was only so much help I could offer in my state. I just prayed that we would make it out, no matter what, both of us.