Reena sighed as she stared up at the sky. She watched puffy clouds, made silver by the moonlight as they drifted slowly across the dark stretch above her. Stars winked in the gaps between the clouds, some sparkling bright while others were barely visible at all in the far distance. The night wind blue golden strands of her long hair across her face but she didn’t bother to remove them. She lay in the damp grass of her favorite field enjoying the moment to herself. It wasn’t to last though. She felt the sudden pull of her sire’s summons and her bodies immediate response caused her to shift to her feet of its own accord. She smoothed down the skirts of her long blue gown and closed her eyes briefly, trying to resist the pull. Her lashes fluttered back open when she started walking, the deep sapphire of her eyes dulling at her failed attempt to ignore him.
It wasn’t long, even with her defiantly dragging feet, before she found herself standing beneath the trees facing the other vampire. He was tall and elegantly built, his black hair cropped evenly at his shoulders. His grey eyes flickered with amusement as he noted her slow approach. Vand was always amused by her attempts at free will, something she lacked almost completely as one that he had turned.
“Trying to ignore me again Reena?” he mused.
“Of course not, my love,” she crooned with blatantly feigned sweetness.
He only laughed and moved closer to her, slowly circling around her. His gaze slid over her, darkening with disapproval. “You’ve been putting off feeding again,” he accused.
“Always for as long as I can, my love,” she affirmed.
Vand hissed, against her in the blink of an eye. His fist wound in her long hair and yanked her closer still. “You’d die of thirst if I didn’t make you feed you stupid thing.”
Reena blinked back unbidden tears as her scalp burned from his pull. She chose not to respond. Her stomach was already sour from calling the bastard her love, a title he’d forced her to use whenever she spoke to him with a simple command the moment she’d finished turning.
Huffing in frustration he threw her to the moss at his feet. “You’re barely worth the trouble of keeping you,” he growled.
Reena smiled and looked up at him as she pushed herself partway off the ground. “You could always free me if I’m such trouble, my love.”
Vand’s scowl deepened and he shook his head. “Go hunt and return to me once you’re fed.”
Reena winced as his command forced her to stand too fast. She didn’t resist the urge to leave him though. She slipped into the night’s shadows and was far from him as fast as she was able to be but then began to drag her feet as much as she could once she drew nearer the village. She turned her course, headed away from the village to a tavern somewhat down the road. At least this time he hadn’t thought to condition her prey as punishment for her attempts to starve herself. On many occasions he’d made her seek a child, on some he’d made her bring her prey to the brink of death and on worse occasions forced her to bleed them dry while he watched in satisfaction at her regret.
Reena still tried hard to slow her steps as the lights of the tavern came into view. Still it was all too soon that she found herself pushing through the door and stepping into the establishment. The place was busy, full of all manner of travelers and a handful of locals from the village. As she was still able to choose and ‘hunt’ included taking the time to select and evaluate her prey she made her way to a table and ordered a glass of wine from one of the serving girls moving through the room.
She settled back, using her fingers to comb the long strands of her blond hair back from her face before letting her gaze drift over the crowd. She passed over those she knew as locals and any that looked like families. By the time the serving girl returned with her glass and took her coin for payment she’d narrowed her options to three. One shadier looking man seemed like one that would deserve his fate if her long ignored hunger got out of hand. Two more were obvious slavers that again would bring her much less guilt if she accidentally drained them. All three seemed like they’d be easier marks, easily distracted by some light flirting and lured to a more private venue. She watched all three as she sipped her wine, contemplating which would be the easier target. She was so lost in her observance that she failed to sense another vampire approaching her until he settled himself in another chair at her table.
“You should try to be a little less obvious when you’re hunting or you’ll attract the attention of slayers passing through,” he mused when she turned her attention to him in slight surprise.
She shrugged as she regained her composure. “I wouldn’t care overmuch if I did but thank you for the advice anyway.”
He frowned, resting his elbows on the table and his chin on folded hands. “Bored and looking for a fight?”
Reena shook her head, trying to keep half her attention on her prey. “A slayer would be a welcome escape,” she mumbled.
His frown deepened as he looked at her more closely. The beauty of her golden blond hair and bright blue eyes had distracted from the obvious. She was paler than even their kind should be. Her movements were less graceful and slower than they ought to be and shadows were just visible beneath her eyes, all signs of one that starved themselves. Her inattention to his approach should have been a sign too but he’d just assumed her to be negligent.
“One of those sirelings with a wish for death are you?”
She met his gaze full on at the question, blinking at the startling anger in his violet eyes. “What business is that of yours?” she snapped.
“You’re still you and there are ways to live with yourself as you are now rather than seeking death through starvation or stupidity,” he snapped. She was bewildered by his anger but frowned back at him anyway.
“Forgive me if I don’t much care for a life beneath someone else’s will doing as he pleases when he pleases it. I could give a damn less about being changed if I was allowed to be myself and still ‘be me’,” she snapped back, briefly losing track of her intended quarry before her sireling’s instincts forced her to return all her attention to them in heed of her sires command.
Apparently, her scenario hadn’t occurred to him in the slightest. He grew silent and watched her attention shift on its own accord. He saw her press her lips tight, angry tears standing in her eyes and continued to watch her watch them for a time.
“Will you please just leave me be?” she muttered when he made no move to go.
Ignoring her request, instead he gently asked her name. She ignored the query as her eyes settled more selectively on one of the two slavers she’d been watching.
“You should be careful with them or you’ll wind up even worse off and in pain when you can’t go at your sire’s call,” he warned. “And I’m Leorn, by the way.”
“Both of them are too weak to take one of us against our will,” she argued.
“At full strength maybe but not near starved like you, lovely,” Leorn reasoned.
Reena gave him a disgusted look. “Don’t call me that,” she hissed.
He grinned at her. “Then give me a name to call you.”
“My name’s Reena but would you please just go away?”
Leorn shook his head and stole a sip from her now untouched glass. “Was the command to hunt or just to feed?”
She glared at him between glances at the slaver but didn’t answer.
“Just tell me which,” he coaxed, adding a please as an afterthought almost like a child might do.
“Hunt,” she finally answered begrudgingly.
Leorn made a face then stood, raking his hand through a mess of chocolate brown hair. “Well then let’s go.”
Reena realized he must be crazy as she looked up at him in confusion. When he offered her a hand up, she looked at it as though it was a viper preparing to strike her. He chuckled and reached for her hand, pulling her to her feet. “You’re going to hunt me.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Just trust me. It’s a far sight safer than you hunting any of the three that you were watching and the one you settled on just left while you were glaring at me anyway.”
“I’ll make it really easy for you and you don’t risk hurting me like you would any of them. I’m offering you a break Reena. If you have to anyway you might as well-“
“Don’t make it easy,” she stammered. When he raised a brow at her she lowered her eyes awkwardly before adding in a near whisper, “Once I’ve fed I have to go back to him.”
Understanding softened his gaze and he nodded, leaning to place a friendly peck on her cheek before disappearing out into the night while the shock of the gesture held her still. She gathered herself and followed, her resolve to hunt him as he asked forcing her to do just that. He was already out of sight when she made it outside but his gesture had given her a chance to tune in on his scent and he made no attempt to hide it from her. She followed it into the forest and moved silently through the shadows, thankful that her starvation slowed her run.
Leorn kept her presence in his senses, pausing to lean against a tree when he felt her falling too far behind but ensuring he remained out of reach. When he’d heard why she didn’t want him to make it easy he’d resolved to keep her busy until near to sunrise and save her from her sire’s whim for at least the night. It wasn’t much but he could give her that for now at least.
At first, he had joined her both to warn her from drawing attention and out of boredom. When he’d realized she was half starved it had struck a deep chord in him. Leorn wasn’t a turned vampire as she was but a born blood. His mother had been turned, his father her sire. She’d starved herself out of hatred for what she’d become but his father had made her feed and survive. When Leorn was barely 10 years old a new sireling had drawn his father’s eye and, in the absence of his attention, Leorn’s mother had finally succeeded in starving herself to death with little thought for the son she left behind. She had been far from an unloving mother but her self-loathing had outweighed that love in the end.
Leorn cursed as his own thoughts distracted him for too long and he realized Reena had nearly caught up. He swung up into the tree he’d been leaning against and waited silently. Reena was nearly stumbling when she came into view, the moonlight on her face showing fever as her effort pushed her starvation even further over the edge. She stopped beneath his tree, frowning when she found no further trace of his scent. She seemed to struggle to orient herself and then he saw her sway and fall.
Swearing, Leorn jumped down beside her, his plan to startle her and bolt forgotten as he realized she’d been further gone than he’d originally guessed. “You could have told me how bad off you were,” he muttered while she blinked up at him in delirious confusion.
He sighed and lifted her from the damp ground, sitting against the tree with her slight frame on his lap. “You’ve hunted now feed.”
She moved her head in what must have been an attempt at a nod but she was too weak and probably too weak to even raise a fang. Leorn rolled his eyes and brought his wrist to his own mouth, sinking his own fangs deep before moving the wound to her lips. Crimson drops dripped passed them until she weakly lifted her hands to hold his, drawing the wound closer and drinking. He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when her hands tightened and he felt her fangs latch around the wound. Her strength was returning and her thirst was taking control.
She drank deeply, causing Leorn’s head to spin but he made no move to stop her. Instead he cradled her against him until finally she let go, gasping for air. As soon as she’d caught her breath she tensed, he assumed fighting the need to return now that she’d fed. Her hands twisted in his shirt as she fought to remain where she was and he held her, even when she began to struggle as her need to leave took control. She fought to free herself even while she still clutched his shirt, tears streaming down a face now flushed from a recent feed.
“I’m going to have to let you go in a minute Reena, before it starts to pain you,” he murmured.
“No,” she whimpered.
“I have to,” he reasoned. “But in three days I want you to meet me at the tavern. I’m going to see if there’s any way I can help you but even if I can’t I want you to feed from me before you’re starved. Then he won’t make you hunt those you don’t want to while we try to find you a way out. Will you do that?”
“You can’t help me,” she whimpered. “If I don’t feed eventually he’ll forget and let me die.. I-“
“I’ll find a way Reena you just have to trust me. I’m going to let you go now but I’ll see you three nights from now,” he promised. She shook her head, whimpering but he dropped his arms, freeing her to move. Her hands still clung to his shirt, tearing it as she stood and disappeared into the darkness. He held her presence in his senses until she was out of reach before he finally stood.
Dusting off he sighed and looked up at the still dark sky. Dawn was still too far off but if he hadn’t fed her she could’ve died and he couldn’t let that happen. As he started towards home he wondered who her sire even was. He hated those that took unwilling sirelings, particularly the ones that sounded as controlling as Reena’s desperation hinted at. He sounded cruel and Leorn already hated the other vampire as much as he did his own father.
Leorn didn’t live far. It would have been surprising he hadn’t come across Layna sooner but he rarely went into that tavern or the village. He was more prone to wandering much further and actually wasn’t often home at all. When he made it to the manor, he went straight upstairs to find his half-brother. Landon was much older than him and might have more idea of how to help the girl.
Landon blinked at him in disbelief when he asked his advice without preamble. “You want to break a sire’s hold without their consent?”
“Something like that. Any idea how?”
“What’s she look like?”
“How is that relevant?”
“Well for starters if I know her, I may know who the sire is and beyond that if you want any information I have you can humor me,” Landon reasoned.
Leorn scowled but gave in. “She looks like she was turned at around 20 years old. About average height, golden blond hair down to her hips, deep sapphire colored eyes, soft rose colored lips and-“
Landon chuckled. “I see.”
Leorn glared at him but he only grinned and pointed him to a chair. “Sit and shut it brother. That sounds like one of Vand’s. He’s weak to say the least but he’s got friends we probably don’t want to tangle with so, at the least, killing him is out.” He sucked thoughtfully through his teeth while Leorn settled into the indicated chair. “If she ripped your shirt walking away than she doesn’t have the strength of will to break free on her own. You could knock her out and take her to one of the other realms but that would only be temporary and as I said he has friends..,”
Landon frowned and paced the room, deep in thought. Leorn was growing impatient when he finally stopped and looked at him. “That leaves only a few options. You find a spellcaster strong enough to break it with a spell, you track down an angel or a demon able and willing to break it, or you convince one of the ancient bloods to bind her to them instead,” he paused, gaging his younger brother’s reaction as he added the last option. “Beyond those the only way to break his hold on her is if she finds a mate to bind herself to.”
Reena gave up struggling against her instincts as she drew closer to the manor she was forced to call home. She let her feet carry her to Vand’s study where he waited with evident impatience. He was glaring into the lit fireplace, his grey eyes storming in his irritance and his lanky frame tensed. He looked up at her entry, greeting her with a disgusted expression.
“That took longer than it should have,” he hissed.
Reena dropped her gaze. “I was weak with hunger, my love. It was not so easy.” She couldn’t outright lie to him but her explanation wasn’t exactly a lie.
“You wouldn’t have that problem if you’d feed before I had to make you.”
“I will feed sooner from now on, my love,” she murmured.
Vand cocked his head, surprised at the statement. He took it as a step toward submitting to him on her own and smirked slightly, stepping toward her. She flinched when he drew her against him, closing her eyes as he slid his hands down her arms. “You’ll be better off that way, Reena. If you just stop fighting me this could be so much easier for you. Now just relax.”
Reena kept silent as she felt him reaching for the ties at the back of her gown. Her body relaxed at his request but she forced her thoughts elsewhere. In her mind she found herself looking into unusually violet eyes that flickered from angry to gentle. After meeting her only once Leorn he had all but sworn to find a way to free her. As she lost herself in an imagined conversation with him she silently prayed he would.