Prologue - Erik
I drank the last sip of the sweet, velvety blood from my glass and tried to let it take over my mind.
Every day, for the last couple of years since I became king, was more or less the same. Wake up, go to work, come home, eat alone, go to sleep, repeat. Aside from the occasional visit from my brother, Dominic, I was what one would call a loner.
That was why I decided to come here tonight.
To my very first slave auction.
Purchasing enslaved women, like dogs in a shelter, was well beneath me, but I desperately needed a companion. Someone to talk to, someone to care for.
Perhaps even, someone to love.
Unfortunately, that dream died long ago when I was crowned king. Now, I was nothing more than a commodity. A figurehead made to marry whoever could stop this gods-forsaken country from its next war.
I had no say in who was best for me, no right to deny my betrothed. She would be chosen by my father. A man I hated more than I hated myself.
The very thought of him choosing the woman I’d spend the rest of my life with chilled me to my core, but as tradition went, he was more than qualified to facilitate my marriage.
All I had to do now was wait.
And I was damned tired of waiting.
I wanted someone that made me happy. Someone that I could make happy. Now. And no free woman in her right mind would jeopardize her life to be with me.
So this was the only way.
I quickly erased those thoughts from my mind as I stared at the empty glass in my hand. The small amount of blood it had to offer did nothing to sate my hunger, but that hadn’t surprised me.
Tonight, I was after something much more valuable, more pleasurable.
The freshly spilled blood of a willing woman.
I felt my teeth lengthen as the smell of blood hit my nose. A blonde woman had been pushed onto the stage.
She was the epitome of fear.
Her eyes were wide open and overfilled with tears, her body a trembling mess as she stared at the hungry men around the room. I watched as her feet slowly backed away from the crowd. She was not ready to be sold. “The starting bid is five hundred pieces of silver.” The auctioneer stated. “Do I hear five fifty?” He smirked.
A dark cloud of sympathy fell over my heart as I saw the woman’s lips quake, a sob on the tip of her tongue. A part of me wanted to pay for her freedom right now and declare her safe by decree of the crown, but this was just Ardane’s way of life. To stop a culture so deeply ingrained among my people would only raise questions. Questions that would soon lead to rebellions. Father would no doubt kill me if things got that far. So, I took a deep breath and bit back the ache of my fangs sliding back into place. Tonight was going to be a long night.
My attention was brought back to the woman when she began to strip her worn clothes off of her body, and as whispers erupted around the crowd, I finally knew the truth of her ordeal.
They all wanted her.
More specifically, they all wanted to fuck her.
Standing before us naked, vampire after vampire called out a number until one of them called one no one else was willing to pay. “Do I hear eight-fifty?” The greedy auctioneer called, looking around the room for the next bid. When nobody said anything, he continued. “Going once. Going twice.” He drew out. “Sold to bidder number forty-seven for eight hundred pieces of silver!” He beamed.
As bidder forty-seven, a strong-looking red-haired male, approached the woman, I again considered buying her freedom and giving her a better life, but it was far too late for that. She was now this man’s property and by the look in his eyes, he only had bad things planned for her. “N-No, please sir.” She whispered, but he grabbed her roughly by her arm and tossed the auctioneer a silk sack filled with his payment in full.
While the auctioneer counted the money, the woman somehow escaped her new master’s arm and kneeled before me. “Please, show mercy.” She cried, her tears falling uncontrollably. When I didn’t say anything, she reached forward and took my hand. “I-I will do anything you ask of me, My king. I swear it. Just please, don’t let him take me.” Before I could even open my mouth to speak, bidder forty-seven took a fistful of her hair and pulled her to her feet, ignoring her hysterical cries for forgiveness.
Pasting a charming smile on his face, he disguised his anger and bowed before me. “Forgive me, Sire,” He began. “The next time you see her, she’ll be well-versed in her manners.” I gave him a curt nod and watched as he dragged the still-crying woman out of the room.
No one had given the situation a second glance, so, as much as I hated it, I did the same. I had an image to uphold. One that I would not allow to be soiled tonight.
Just as I was beginning to think that this was a terrible idea, I heard the voice of the next woman. “Let me go, you bastard!” She shouted.
The voice should have irritated me, but after what I saw tonight, nothing could be farther from the truth. She had sparked my interest, and now, I was intrigued.
Kicking like a fighter, two guards dragged her onto the stage and for the first time, I felt my heart lurch in my chest.
She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
Her skin was as dark as the finest chocolate, her hair a mane of black coils and curls. Her dark brown eyes glistened with a sea of unshed tears. Something I found I never wanted to see in her eyes again.
I considered wiping them away more than once, but instead, I closed my eyes and sucked in a breath, letting her hypnotic scent delicately brush against my nose. It was lavender with the sweetest hint of vanilla. A smell I wouldn’t soon forget. It enveloped me in a world of warmth I hadn’t felt... ever.
Who was this woman and why did I want to know everything about her?
I reluctantly opened my eyes and faced the brutal reality I hated more than anything right now. She was a slave and I was a king. We didn’t have a chance together. At all. Besides, I would be fine on my own. Just like I had been my whole life.
Gods, I was pitiful.
Suddenly, one of the guards that escorted her onto the stage ripped away the only piece of thin fabric that covered her body from our view.
And she was gorgeous.
To add to her delicate features, her body was just as perfect. The way her pert breasts fell against her chest, how her luscious hair spilled over the soft plain of her shoulders and back. I couldn’t stop my eyes from drifting lower and lower… Mmm, what I’d do to have her for one night.
“The starting price for this… aberrant whore,” The auctioneer started, eliciting an anger inside me I never knew existed. “Is one hundred pieces of silver.” He finished, causing some of the vampires around me to laugh. I bit back the pain of my fangs descending and forced down the fury I felt bubbling to the surface. A mere hundred pieces of silver was an insult. She was worth so much more.
Nevertheless, I raised my hand to accept the bid.
Her sharp glare cut me like the edge of a honed blade, but surprisingly, that only made me want her more. To hell with the rules. She would be mine by the end of this night. “Alright, do I have one fifty?” An old, greasy man raised his hand with a smirk that made my skin crawl. He wouldn’t touch a hair on my woman’s head. Not as long as I had anything to do with it.
“Five hundred.” I said calmly. Upping the price during a bid like this was never a good idea, but I was willing to take the risk. For her. She was a rare beauty with fire within her very spirit. The perfect companion. The perfect queen.
She glared between us both, the surprise in her eyes nearly palpable. “Six hundred.” The man called next, but I remained still. I couldn’t show him how much he’d thoroughly pissed me off. It would only fuel his amusement and the last thing I needed was to be here all night. So, I dropped my hand and waited for the auctioneer to call out the next price. “Eight hundred?” He called smugly.
Much of the next half an hour went on like this, and soon, her price was nearing a million silver. Father would no doubt hear of this, but unlike him, I wouldn’t spend the taxes of our people on personal matters. I had my own money and I would spend it on whatever the hell I wanted. When I raised my hand for seven hundred and fifty thousand, I looked over and noticed the smirk on the man’s face drop. To an average vampire, it was unnoticeable, but I noticed. He didn’t think she was worth the money, or better yet, he didn’t have it.
I couldn’t contain the smile that made its way onto my face. She would finally be mine.
“Seven hundred and fifty going once.”
“Sold to the king!”
I stood up from my chair and walked toward my small but strong woman. Half of me, expected her to cower away, but as the other half thought, she stood her ground, glaring at me with a fire I was sure had disappeared from humankind long ago.
Her exterior was hard, but I knew that with a little bit of time, she would warm up to me quite nicely.
For she had no other choice.