My sleep was restless that night as it raced through potential plans and outcomes. I hadn’t been able to come up with a single way to get us both out of this mess without harm. My anxiety had balled my stomach tightly and I could feel the exhaustion creeping into my thoughts as my tired eyes began to blink slowly shut once more. My days began to blur together as it seemed an eternity before someone retrieved me again. I wasn’t complaining since it meant that I wouldn’t have to endure anymore pain at the hands of Asher for now, but how long would I be stuck here in this cage. Each time a guard entered the room, I hoped Queen Reina would be coming with her message, but she had not returned.
Fin and I spent most of our time filling the void, talking and enjoying having the chance to just forget about our circumstances for the moment. I appreciated having someone I felt close to again. I’d forgotten that feeling. It was as if I’d known him my entire life, and I tried to rack my brain for how to release him from this horrible life he’d been forced to endure.
The door banged open as two guards walked into the room. We all quickly jumped to sit our knees, eyes downcast with hands submissively resting on our legs, waiting to hear who would be selected. My stomach dropped as I heard the sound of boots make their way to my cage. I fought to control my heart rate as the lock was undone and the door to my cage opened. I crawled forward and stood as a leash was clasped onto the back of my collar. Without another word, I was escorted out of the room and down the hall to the King’s suites once more.
As I entered the room, I made sure to keep my eyes down, but could see it was fuller than normal from my peripheral vision. The door shut and bolted behind me before the guard removed my leash.
After a moment, the King’s voice broke the silence. “Come here girl.”
My eyes snapped up to see him standing near the chair by the window, but it was now matched with two more beside it. I began to search the room in confusion. I immediately saw the General standing slightly to the side at attention, waiting for the next steps to begin. Asher’s hand reached out, taking my arm firmly and spun me around to wait beside the first chair. I saw that the room also held more guards than usual, at least 15, and the entire council was present. My eyes fell instantly to the Queen’s strained expression. Her eyes were filled with sorrow and anxiety. What was about to happen?
Asher nodded to the guard beside the door, who unbolted it and made way for three guards to enter with the two young males I’d encountered previously, along with a third one. He was fully mature and appeared to be larger than the first two. His hair was a dirtied blonde and as his eyes shot up to see us, I saw that they were also a deep, piercing green. My breath caught as my stomach began to tighten in anxiety.
As the three males were placed in their chairs, each one hissed in pain as the silver was placed tightly against their skin. Otherwise, the room was painfully silent. Finally, the older one spoke. “What is the meaning of this Asher? Why are my boys here? You’ve got me. Now let them go.”
Asher chuckled darkly and moved in front of the three males. “Philip, do you really think I’d let them go, knowing they helped harbor you from me?”
Philip snarled in response, leaning forward despite the pain. His green eyes swirled darker. “They knew nothing about where I was, or why I left. Let them go Asher.”
Asher stood thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. “I don’t think I will do that Philip. I think instead, I’ll let them share your fate and finish this whole business all together. It’s just a shame that your queen and her daughter couldn’t be here.”
Philip lurched forward, snarling. “Don’t you dare discuss my wife and daughter.”
Asher nodded quietly before leaning down to speak directly on Philip’s level. “I know you went to great lengths to protect them both. But, you failed Philip.”
Philip leaned back in his seat, frozen as his eyes swirled back to a deep emerald green. “What do you mean?”
Asher stood and raised his hands. “I’ll give it to you, you did a great job. In truth, I didn’t find your queen. I only found later that she’d died. Nor did I find your daughter.”
Philip looked on, locked in place as a muscle in his jaw twitched before Asher continued. The King flashed his eyes to me and grinned. “She found me actually.”
My eyes widened as I met his gaze in shock. Philip’s emerald green stare shot to meet mine as he searched my gaze for any truth to the King’s claim.
I heard a sharp gasp and looked to see that the younger blonde male was staring at me, jaw dropped in shock. “I knew it...” he breathed.
“Blake, be quiet. Now.” Philip snapped, eyes locked on mine.
Asher walked over to me, turning me slowly to give the three males my back. “You see, she bears the mark of the angel. I knew exactly who she was the moment my son so willingly brought her to me.” He leaned in and breathed deeply against my skin. “My son should have known the moment he smelled her delectable scent, but he was too young to know what to look for. I’m sure you won’t be able to turn her blood away either. It’s been at least a week since you last fed, am I right?”
So I’d been in the cage a week. I couldn’t believe it’d been that long since my last encounter in this awful room. I wished I could burn it to the ground after everything that’s happened here. How could I be his daughter? I wasn’t even from this time, much less a vampire. I was human. How could any of this be true? It had to all be a horrible mistake. It had to.
Philip’s face softened as I turned around, realizing it was true. Asher walked me over to stand just in front of Phillip, only inches away from him. His nostrils flared and I could tell he had inhaled my scent as well. He looked up to me with a knowing expression as his eyes glazed with unshed tears.
“I’m so sorry we failed you Amalia.” He breathed.
My stomach lurched as he spoke the name. “Wh-what did you call me?”
He gave me a tight smile. “It was your name. I’m sorry we could not keep you hidden.”
Asher smirked and grabbed my left wrist tightly. I stiffened against his hold, knowing what was coming. I needed to know what happened. I needed to know more. “Wait! Wait, please. I need to know. I need to know!” I struggled against Asher’s strong hold and my right one was instantly matched as the General assisted, snarling. “If you don’t be still, you’ll be punished first before we allow you to die. Submit girl!”
I struggled harder, fighting against them uselessly. It was like trying to move a brick wall, but I didn’t care. I was consumed. “Please, who was my mother? How did she die? How did you hide me?!”
Philip leaned forward again, wincing in pain. I stopped struggling long enough to hear him whisper, “She died protecting you my sweet inger. And we both would have died a hundred times to keep you safe.” A lone tear crested his lashes and dropped down his cheek and I froze. The two strong holds on my wrist tightened and I felt myself lifted lurched forward as the General pushed me down to my knees, holding tight to both of my hands. He looked over to one of the guards who flashed over replacing him. General Cole walked around to the table behind me and I heard the sound of leather dragging against the cold tile floors. I shot a glance over my shoulder to see that he was holding a long leather whip as it drug across the floor. I instinctively began to thrash against my captor’s hold once more, knowing tonight was my last night alive. What would it matter if they killed me now instead? Xander wouldn’t be able to help me now. How could he?
“Hold her still!” General Cole barked as he whipped the sharp leather through the air. A loud cracking sound stopped me in my tracks. My entire body shook in fear as adrenaline coursed through my body. “How many would you like my king?”
Asher’s voice rumbled, “Let’s start with five, and see how we feel after shall we?” He stood in front of me, smirking down at my struggle. “I told you we’d cure you of that fight, but I guess it doesn’t matter now does it?”
I glared into his eyes defiantly, refusing to look away. I wouldn’t die in fear. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of breaking me. I bit hard into my cheek as I felt the first lash come down like white-hot lightning across my back. I refused to scream and fought every urge telling me to shut my eyes tight against the pain. I heard Philip and his sons snarl from the side of us. Without missing a beat, two more strikes followed, stringing like fire against my skin. I felt warm liquid run down my back as the last lash connected. He’d cut me. I took a deep breath in as my entire body trembled in agony. Every breath felt like my skin was ripping apart.
I prepared myself for another lash when a loud bang sounded from my left. I looked over my shoulder, gasping for air. The door hung off of its hinges and Xander was crouched for battle in the doorway growling. The guards swarmed him and I heard the sounds of skin on skin contact as he fought them away. Two dropped to the ground instantly as his hands ripped their hearts out of their chests. He was preparing to end another when my attention was yanked to the front of me. My hands were wrenched apart and my eyes shot up to see Asher holding my wrist in his hands. He yanked me across the floor to sit in front of Philip. His eyes looked down into mine as panic crossed his face.
Without hesitation, Asher slid a silver blade deep across my scarred flesh. Philip’s eyes widened as his nose flared, breathing in the scent of my blood. I heard a loud growl from behind me as Xander smelled it too. Philip turned his face away, but Asher thrust my wrist flush against his mouth. Within a moment, his eyes turned black and I knew he wouldn’t be able to stop himself. They’d starved him for this very reason. Pain shot across his eyes as his fought the urge, but he finally gave in as my blood made its way into his mouth. His fangs sank suddenly into my wrist and I gasped as he began to drink slowly from my wound, his nose wrinkling in effort to stop. His drags began to grow in length and his hold tightened against my arm as a low growl rumbled from the back of his throat, vibrating against my skin.
The dull ache began to fade as I felt myself becoming numb. With every long gulp he took, I felt myself becoming more and more distant, like I was floating away from it all. I no longer felt anything, no pain, no sadness, no fight to live. I just was. Darkness clouded the edges of my consciousness and I saw a familiar pair of blue eyes in front of me, blurred and distant in my vision. This was it. I’d never see them again. I raised my other hand, trying to reach them but couldn’t gather the strength to get my arm high enough off of the ground.
“Goodbye Xander. I love you.” I slurred as the darkness crept in and overtook me. I was gone.