Claudia takes me into a bedroom which looks different to any other bedroom I have entered at the Vampire Palace. It is big, however the furniture is all dark wood, the floor is covered in blood-red carpet and the walls are a brown so dark, it almost looks black.
Besides all the darkness in the room, I see a splash of gold-red bright hair and tanned skin from the bed as I glance at the smirking Maximus reclining on a bed almost bigger than Darrius’. Maximus smiles widely as Claudia and I enter.
So this was Maximus’ bedroom!
“Jennifer, Darling!” Maximus welcomes, staying on the bed in the same position, his hands resting behind his head, showing off the width of his shoulders, his raw strength. So similar to Darrius…
“Where’s the girl you kidnapped?” Claudia asks dryly, not amused by the wicked smile plastered over his face.
“Isobel said she wanted a shower,” Maximus says, motioning to the door to the right of the bed, where there is a light on under the door, “I believe she is trying to avoid me.”
“Of course,” Claudia sighs with frustration and crosses her arms over her chest, “What did you do to her?”
“Nothing much… yet,” Maximus winks at a scowling Claudia and I just hold my left arm with my right hand, leaning from foot to foot.
“Um…” I say, catching their attention, “How is she going to make a dress with no materials?” I wonder.
“Good question, Jennifer,” Claudia says happily, giving Maximus a challenging look. Maximus waves his hand through the air dismissively, narrowing his eyes at the assessing look being thrown his way.
“Owen and Leah have that covered, they’ll be here any second,” As Maximus replies, I watch as the door to the bathroom slowly opens a crack, and I see someone peak through the gap.
Maximus and Claudia follow my gaze as the door opens wider and I take in a wide-eyed blonde girl, who is obviously wearing work clothes; black slacks and a grey top, with black shoes. Her wet blonde hair is a honey-colour while wet and it comes down to her waist in waves. Her grey eyes, similar to Maximus’, look around the room and come to focus on me with apprehension.
“Are you alright, Isobel?” Maximus asks, “You took your sweet time in there, darling,” he growls the last part disapprovingly.
“Isobel,” Claudia says, smiling, “It’s nice to meet you, don’t listen to Maximus, he, ah –… well, he’s Maximus…,” Claudia smile turns sympathetic and Isobel takes in Claudia with judging eyes.
“Is this,” Isobel says, nodding towards me, “The girl I have to make a dress for?” she asks.
“It sure is!” Maximus replies happily.
“I’m Jennifer,” I say, “I was kidnapped too,” I hope this will make her feel a little bit more normal. Who knows how many humans were kidnapped to become slaves or god-knows what else, in this palace?
“I know your story,” Isobel says steely. This girl wasn’t giving much to work with, staying coolly distant; not wanting to share too much. What did Maximus do to her? Claudia seems to reflect my thoughts because she says to Isobel…
“Whatever Maximus said to you, don’t fret. All you have to do is make the dress and you’ll be on your way home. The sooner you help us, you can go home. We’ll pay you for your efforts, Isobel. It’s what you deserve –”
“Claudia,” Maximus snaps, “Don’t get involved in my affairs.”
“I’m telling her how it is, to calm her. She is obviously very tense,” Claudia snaps back.
“Isobel is mine to deal with. Stay out of it,” Maximus climbs off the bed and stands threateningly. As Maximus and Claudia have a glaring competition, I walk over to Isobel and I smile at her.
“It’ll be okay,” I whisper. She nods at me, giving me an intense stare. I look back, wondering… was she trying to tell me something?
“What is it?” I ask, just as a door slams open behind us and we all look to see Owen and Leah hauling in rolls of different fabric. Light creams and different shades of white, mostly.
“Here is your god-damn fabric,” Leah hisses, tossing the rolls on a leather couch by the fire place.
“We’d rather not do something so humiliating again, Maximus,” Owen adds in a growl, placing his fabric down too, but more gently, “We are qualified for killing intruders; not doing your shopping.”
“You owed me a favour,” Maximus says, hands in the air, pretending to be innocent.
“Everyone owes you ridiculous favours,” Leah snaps. Maximus can’t help but grin and Leah opens her mouth to snap something else, but then stops herself, rolling her eyes, deciding it isn’t worth her time.
“The rest of the V.I.P vampires have arrived today,” Owen changes the subject, “and security is going to be increased. The witches have also arrived, they are preparing for the ritual to make the human immortal,” Owen adds in, “As soon as she…,” Owen points at me, “…has her dress prepared, keep her locked up so no one can get near her until the wedding tomorrow night. We have already had crazy rouge vampires infiltrate the palace and try and find her to kill her. The vampires of this city won’t be content about this wedding until it is done and the King announces the secret power of Darrius’ blood. Only then will all vampires in the city calm down.”
“Come on,” Leah says to Owen, “We have to go prepare more of the security.”
“Maximus,” Owen says, “You have to come with us.”
“Why is that?” Maximus asks, eyeing Isobel quickly, obviously not wanting to leave her side.
“Darrius will be occupied with this wedding, hence you are the only Hunter in our ranks.”
“Hunter?” I ask, confused.
“He is like Darrius,” Claudia explains, “He hunts vampire hunters with ease because he was turned when he used to me a potential vampire hunter as a human.”
“Oh,” I had no idea Darrius and Maximus were both so similar that they were even turned in the same circumstances. I notice Isobel has stiffened even more beside me, and I give her a funny look.
“Are there threats from vampire-hunters?” Maximus asks Owen and Leah.
“We’ve heard rumours they will try and take Jennifer back again,” Leah responds, and now I glance at Claudia, who I thought had convinced my parents to leave me here at the palace. That I’d be safe here. Maybe it didn’t work. Maybe my parents had been planning to get me away from the palace ever since their last failed attempt to rescue me…!
“We don’t know how many there might be…” Owen says, “We do know they’ve found ways to infiltrate the palace, so we will be on high alert to stop them from ruining this wedding.”
“One more thing,” Leah snaps, “Maximus, you must kill them this time. No capturing anyone alive anymore. The King doesn’t want any more alive vampire hunters in this palace, none. It’s too dangerous when we have other things to worry about.”
“Roger that,” Maximus says coolly back, stalking his way towards the exit. Leah and Owen nod to Claudia and leave with Maximus. Isobel’s hand has visibly started to shake beside me, and I instinctively catch her hand and squeeze it, trying to give her some comfort. I didn’t know what was making her so upset.
“If my parents come,” I say to Claudia, my voice barely a whisper as the three of us are left alone, “They might die trying to protect me.”
“They won’t come here again,” Claudia says firmly, but I see doubt in her eyes. She walks over to the fabric and sighs. She looks over her shoulder towards me and Isobel, “I’ll get some scissors and a sewing machine. I think I know someone who has one. I’ll be back in a second,” Claudia tries to smile, but there are obviously other thoughts running through her head that are stressing her out about this wedding, “Don’t leave the room,” she runs out of the room with vampire speed, to get the last bits of equipment Isobel would need to make the dress.
“Are you okay?” I ask Isobel once we are both alone. Isobel snatches her hand back out of mine and crosses her arms over her chest, giving me a glare.
“You seem happy here, why?” She asks accusingly, “Do you like it here?”
“I have friends here,” I explain, feeling taken aback, “What’s the matter? You look worried about something. Were you trying to tell me something before?”
“It’s nothing,” she mutters, pacing away from me to the materials. Like hell it was nothing, “Tell me what colour you want.”
“Any will do,” I say, walking over and crossing my arms over my chest, “This isn’t the most romantic wedding so I don’t really care…” Any interest in my wedding dress fades from my mind as other thoughts take over.
How many people were going to try and kill me when I walked down the aisle?
Were vampire hunters really going to try and save me from a marriage with Darrius?
And what the hell was Isobel hiding from me?
She had a secret… I guess it was an important one. I just didn’t know what it was!
“White will look best with your black hair,” Isobel says, picking up a roll of the whitest white, she lies it on the coffee table before her and spreads some of it out, “This should do.”
“It’s beautiful –” I’m cut off midsentence as the door to Maximus’ room opens and slams shut in the space of half a second, the sound a loud snap. It was closed unnaturally fast. Isobel and I both look up, expecting to find Claudia…
Instead we find someone else.
Thomas… Darrius’ uncle.
The one that said I was better off dead just last night!
He locks the door. Dressed in a black smart suit, he looks harmless; except he has a wide smirk on his face and a syringe in his left hand.
“Your time at this palace…?” he begins, taking a step forward, “has come to an end, human.”
“Why are you doing this?” I gasp out, taking a step backwards, as if that would protect me.
“For the preservation of the supernatural world,” he snarls, suddenly angry.
Thomas takes threatening steps forward, I stumble back a few more.
“This is the end, girl,” he says simply.
He was right.
I really didn’t see any other way this could possibly end well for me.
I close my eyes for a moment, and Darrius is the first thing that comes to my mind. I didn’t want to die yet! I wanted to spend more time with that god-forsaken, annoying, arrogant prick. I open my eyes and Thomas doesn’t hesitate, he rushes at me with vampire speed. I scream Darrius’ name and I hear Isobel yell something to the right of me…
Hot, disgusting breath fills my face as Thomas grabs my arm and jerks me towards him. The syringe is lifted towards my neck. I scream, this time out of terror as I try and pull away, struggling uselessly, trying to kick him away from me and push him with my free hand.
Struggling is literally useless, he is too strong.
A sharp pain stabs the side of my neck, the syringe sinks past my skin, going in deep.
…cool sharp liquid enters my bloodstream… words die in my throat… my legs collapse beneath me…
I feel myself falling…