Each passing minute gave me more time to think, a curse in and of itself. The more time I had to think, the more I wondered if there was a way out of this mess, a way Breyona and Giovanni could return safely. I was risking so much on the hopes that my Father would actually let Breyona and Giovanni go.
Breyona was useless to him once he had me in his clutches, but it was Giovanni I worried about. Giovanni had betrayed his King, and any proud leader would want retribution.
There was a large chance the Vampire King had no intention of letting Giovanni go, and I knew Breyona would refuse to leave without him. I needed a plan in case that happened.
One hour and thirty-four minutes is how long it took to hear the quiet crunching of leaves beneath the heavy feet of the Vampire Kings men. I knew the men coming to take me were Luna Freya’s men, as no Vampire would survive a blast of direct sunlight.
The footsteps continued for the next ten minutes, growing louder with each passing second. I remained still, letting my senses drift to where the Luna Freya’s men walked.
I could make out at least six or seven sets of feet, possibly more. A sickening sense of fear settled in my stomach when the heavy footfalls stopped completely, and the forest was once again enveloped in silence.
A stinging pain erupted from my neck, like a sharp bee sting. My hand flew up to the source, plucking a small dart from my skin. The needle was a few inches long, a clear substance dripping from the tip.
The forest around me blurred into bright shades of green and brown. I could no longer hear anything other than my panting breaths. The pain spread into my body, seeping into my bloodstream. The world around me tilted as my vision tunneled, and I found myself looking up from the forest floor. My legs had collapsed from under me, yet I felt nothing.
The sky was a bright shade of baby blue, round tufts of clouds drifted by slowly. The world around me faded, the bright colors leached from my vision until darkness swallowed me whole.
I woke to the sound of voices, though I couldn’t make out who they were coming from. The main person talking had a rough voice, one I hadn’t heard before. I could hear gravel crunching and my body jostling as we drove down some road. My vision was obscured, cloaked by a dark mesh that had been placed over my head.
My entire body ached, my muscles groaning as I fought to remain still. I focused on my breathing, keeping it even and relaxed. Judging from the aching pain in my body, they had used wolfsbane.
A dart that size should have been enough to render me unconscious for a few days, but for some reason I had woken up early. Maya was still down for the count, unconscious in my mind, but I was becoming more lucid with each passing second.
It must’ve had something to do with not being a full werewolf. That was the only explanation I could think of as to why the wolfsbane hadn’t worked to its full capacity. I strained my eyes, trying to peer through the thin fabric that was placed over my head.
It was clear they expected me to still be asleep, as the fabric wasn’t as thick as it could have been. It was still day time, that much I could tell. I could make out blurred shades of green as we passed by a clu*ter of trees.
My hands were bound at the front, and judging from the slight stinging pain, the cuffs had small bits of silver embedded within.
Not enough to cause excruciating pain, but enough to keep me bound and in human form. The silver and wolfsbane kept me from mind-linking Asher, not that I had any useful information at the moment, but it would have been nice to hear his voice.
I was smushed between two large forms, both radiating an intense heat. My head was relaxed against one of the men’s shoulders, who sat still as I slept against him.
From what limited hearing I had, there were four men in the vehicle. Two smushed against me, one in the passenger seat, and one driving.
“Tristan has the room ready. She should be out for the rest of the day.”
I wondered if they were going to throw me in a cell, much like the one they probably put Breyona and Giovanni into. I wasn’t expecting hospitality and kindness, I knew exactly what I was walking into. Would my Father actively try and sway me to his side? Or would he use my friends against me, forcing my hand?
If Maya were awake, I could’ve tapped into her senses, heightening my own. As it stood, I was on my own for the time being. I strained my eyes harder, ignoring the prickling headache that formed across my temples.
We were driving down a narrow two-lane road, there were no other cars passing us by. I could make out a large parking lot at the far end of the road, and what looked like a small clu*ter of vehicles parked inside.
I used my minutes wisely. The closer we got, the more details I could make out. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the large building that stood at the edge. It had to be a warehouse, as it was larger than any house I had ever seen, and looked run down on the outside.
My eyes snapped over to the entrance of the parking lot, where a small sign said ‘Macys Warehouse’. It wasn’t enough information yet, but it was definitely a start.
The white walls of the building were stained with dirt and what looked like mold. I could just make out a bunch of wide bays for semi-trucks to park and make deliveries. I had expected something more extravagant, certainly not an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere.
The car lurched to a stop, and I could hear two of the doors open and slam shut. The man on my left side got out of the vehicle, closing the door behind him. One of the men scooped me into his arms and headed towards a large set of double doors.
The glass was tinted, making it impossible to peer inside. I should have known they would have remodeled this place. I couldn’t imagine the mighty Vampire King living in a mold and rat-infested warehouse.
As we stepped inside, safe from the sunlight, a familiar voice called out, one that nearly made me stiffen.
“I’ve got her.” Tristan said to the men. “Let him know I’m bringing her to her room.”
A large pair of hands grabbed my torso, pulling me from the car much more gently than I had expected. Tristan scooped me up, one of his arms around my back, the other underneath my legs.
I kept my limbs loose, desperately trying to maintain the facade that I was unconscious. I let my head roll against his neck, grimacing under the thin fabric as his scent registered in my nose.
It was nothing like Asher’s rich and intoxicating scent, the smell of nature and male musk. Tristan’s scent was lighter, with just a hint of sweetness that let me know he was in fact a Vampire.
As I remained still in Tristan’s arms, I made sure my mental blocks were in place. Grandma had told me to picture a library, but that technique hadn’t worked so well for me.
Instead of a library, I pictured a thick wall of steel, blocking my mind from anyone who might want to intrude.
As Tristan held me close to his chest, I could feel him slithering into my mind and greeting the thick wall with a frown. I nearly shivered as his fingers grazed down the metal, asking for entrance. My wall remained intact, and I continued scanning the inside of the warehouse.
I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting, but this wasn’t it. The inside of the warehouse had been completely remodeled; false walls had been placed in an effort to make the building look more like a luxurious home. We stood in what was supposed to be the foyer, a thick Persian rug covered most of the floor.
Tristan walked with purpose, giving me little time to scan the room around us. He gave a brief nod to one of the men standing in the room, and continued forward.
We walked through another door, one that lead to a living room and a flight of steps. Tristan moved fast, darting through the living room and up the stairs with ease.
He walked down a thin hallway and unlocked one of the doors, stepping inside and shutting it behind us. I recognized the room, and knew I had come here when I visited Tristan through our one-sided bond. The walls were rough stone, the floor bare except for a black shag carpet. A thick fireplace sat at one end of the room, a bright fire crackling within.
At the other end was a bed and an oak dresser. Another door sat at the far end of the room, hopefully a bathroom. My Father had to have been remodeling this place for years. The inside was too luxurious to have been done in the last few months.
Tristan sat me down on the large bed that sat at the other end of the room. The comforter felt like silk against my skin, red in color. It seemed the color red was an occurring theme in this place, a sad irony. I resisted the urge to rub at my wrists as he removed the cuffs from my hands.
I could see his form through the fabric. He had stopped at the edge of the bed and was looking down on me, but I couldn’t make out the expression on his face, only his large form and blonde hair.
“You can stop pretending now, Lola.” Tristan’s voice called out, soft and somewhat grim.
Every instinct in my body was telling me to chuck the nearest heavy object at his head and make a run for it. I was in enemy territory, and even with Maya unconscious, I already wanted out. This place wasn’t my home, it was more a prison than anything else.
My home was with Asher, with the pack he selflessly ran. My home was my Grandma, Sean, and Dad–my real Dad. As much as I already wanted out of this place, I was here for more than just Breyona and Giovanni.
“We have more pressing matters at hand, Lola.” Tristan grunted.
His footsteps grew louder as he approached. I felt his fingers wrap around the thin fabric they had placed over my head. I gave him my best murderous glare as he yanked the bag from my head, his eyes both flickering with amusement and irritation.
I brushed the hair from my face, pulling myself into a sitting position on the bed as I glared daggers at Tristan. My wrists were red and sore with what looked like rub burn.
I knew the irritation was from the silver, but the cuffs didn’t have enough to actually sear my skin. I could feel Maya stir in the back of my mind, but knew she wouldn’t be awake for a couple hours now.
The lingering pain in my body told me it was still working to get the wolfsbane out of my system. There would be no shifting or contacting Asher for the next few hours.
“There you go, beautiful.” Tristan nodded, his face looked as though it were chiseled from stone, scarred with severity.
“How’d you know?” I asked, surprised at how stubborn and strong my voice sounded.
“I’ve long learned not to underestimate you.” Tristan snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. “Also, you snore when you sleep.”
“I don’t snore.” I snapped, “And stop creeping on me while I’m sleeping.”
“You’re not the only one who knows how to tug the bond.” Tristan shrugged; a half-hearted smirk twitched onto his lips. “Besides, if I remember correctly, you visited me first. You left the door open, I simply stepped through.”
“Next time I’ll make sure the door’s shut, and locked.” My voice came out sarcastically sweet.
“You couldn’t just leave well enough alone, could you? You had to come running to save your friends.” Tristan shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.
It seemed someone was in a sour mood today. I expected Tristan to practically dance with joy, rubbing my surrender in my face as he tried to weasel his way into my heart–or pants. Instead of looking smug or joyful, Tristan looked irritated.
His blonde hair was pulled behind his head, the top half pulled back in a pony tail while the bottom half was draped over his broad shoulders. This time he wasn’t dressed to impress, but was wearing a casual t-shirt and a pair of loose jeans.
“I couldn’t leave them behind.” I replied, “She’s my best-friend.”
“And what about Giovanni?” Tristan asked, his eyes narrowing. “How quick you are to accept him, knowing what side he was once on.”
“People can change, Tristan.” I snapped, “He’s her mate, and he chose her. I’m willing to trust Breyona’s judgement.”
“I hope you have a plan in place, Lola.” Tristan’s voice was like ice, though something else flickered in the depths of his crystal eyes. “Now that he has you, he will never let you go.”
“I can handle it.” I replied, straining to keep my voice calm and confident.
“Can you?” Tristan asked, a single blonde eyebrow lifting in disbelief. I noticed a brief flash of pain in his eyes, though he quickly covered it up. “If you can truly handle it, answer a question for me. Why is the Alpha’s mark on your skin? Why can I smell him on you?”
“He’s my mate.” I grimaced, “That answers all of your questions.”
“If your Father sees his mark on your skin, if he smells his scent on you, he will kill you both.” Tristan hissed lowly, “It was a stupid mistake, Lola.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I snapped. “I let him mark me because he’s my mate. I slept with him because I love him. I can’t just remove his mark–and even if I could, I won’t.”
Low blow, my conscience told me. A felt a sharp stab of guilt as Tristan’s eyes darkened, freezing over. His voice felt like shards of ice piercing my skin, making small beads of blood form along my body.
“You don’t need to remove it, just conceal it.” Tristan’s voice had dropped exceedingly low, “Ask the shadows to hide the mark and cover your scent.”
“And what about the men that brought me here?” I asked, my voice losing some of its previous venom. “I sat in a car with them for who knows how long. They’ve already noticed my scent.”
“I took care of that the moment you arrived.” Tristan grunted, averting his eyes from my face and over to the crackling fire that warmed the room.
“You went inside their minds?” I asked, surprise staining my voice. “Your mind games don’t work on full-blooded werewolves.”
“Luckily, most of the deceased Luna’s men are half-breeds.” Tristan replied, his eyes running over my face as he said the word ‘deceased’.
Tristan had gone inside of their minds, wiping the memory of my scent from existence. He had done that for me, to keep me alive. The somewhat selfless action surprised me, but that didn’t mean I was willing and ready to jump in bed with the man.
Somehow Tristan knew Luna Freya had died at my hands. I wondered if Brittany was here, living somewhere in this warehouse. It was a hopeful thought. I could kill two birds with one stone, rescue Breyona and Giovanni, and kill Brittany.
“Don’t flatter yourself, I did it for completely selfish reasons.” Tristan grimaced, but I could see the lie burning away in his eyes, brighter than the fire that crackled in the room. “Go on, call on the shadows.”
“I’m not willing to pay their prices.” I shook my head, “They ask for too much.”
“That’s because you let them ask for too much.” Tristan sighed, “You know so little about what you can do. It’s a surprise you made it this far.”
“Gee, thanks.” I rolled my eyes, “How do I keep them from asking for too much?”
“More often than not, they’ll do favors for just a taste of some blood.” Tristan shrugged, “It’s the bigger favors that require unique and often unpleasant payment.”
Even Tristan knew more about the Shadows than I did, the thought was somewhat discouraging. I had no doubt that my Father could teach me so much, but I wasn’t willing to betray my entire pack for the information. I would rather remain in the dark and save the people I love than trade thousands of lives for power.
“Do you have a knife?” I asked, my voice hard with determination.
I would make it through this, I told myself. I would make sure Breyona and Giovanni were safe, I would give Asher information that changed the outcome of this war, and I would come home to him.
“You’re going to feed them your blood?” Tristan asked, his face contorting with surprise.
“I’ve done it before.” I shrugged, grimacing at the strange look on his face. “They don’t seem to mind.”
“Well of course they wouldn’t.” Tristan scoffed, “You’re half-vampire, half-werewolf. Not only that, you’re a part of the Kouritis bloodline and heir to the throne.
Your blood is of the highest standard. The Vampire King would lose his mind if he heard you fed the shadows your blood.”
“It’s not like I have an endless line of willing victims.” I rolled my eyes, already catching a glimpse at the kind of person my Father was.
“Use my blood.” Tristan replied, pulling a small silver blade from his pocket, pressing it into my hands gently.
Confusion twisted in my gut at the gentle expression on his face. I was far from ever trusting Tristan with anything, but I wondered what game he was playing. Did he think the werewolves were going to win? Was that why he was suddenly kissing up to me?
He hadn’t tried to force himself on me yet, a positive sign. Not only did he go through the minds of Luna Freya’s men, he was willing to use his blood to call the shadows, to keep me safe from my Father.
I pushed those conflicting thoughts aside and steadied myself. I closed my eyes, reaching with my mind into the deepest corners of the room. Calling the shadows was effortless now, as they responded to my calls with barely contained glee.
When I opened my eyes, the room had darkened, the thick shadows against the wall pulsing. The icy coldness washed over me, though this time my body seemed to handle it better. I was becoming used to calling the shadows, the thought both excited and worried me.
The shadows pulsed and slithered from the darkest corners of the room, gliding across the floor to pool at my feet. Larger shadows remained behind, watching me with silent interest. I had their undivided attention, and was both thrilled and intimidated by that fact.
“Their almost excited to see you.” Tristan scoffed, shaking his head. “Do not mistake their excitement for fondness. They enjoy your blood, your power.”
“I know.” I replied, my voice strong. “I know what they are. They’re not pets.”
“No, they are not.” Tristan agreed, giving the shadows a wary glance. “They are much more obedient to you, it seems.”
I stood from the bed and walked over to Tristan. His eyes were guarded as the shadows followed closely behind, pooling around us in a sea of ebony.
He placed his hand in my own, his crystal eyes smoldering as I pressed the blade against his palm.
Ignoring the intense look in his eyes, and thinking only of Asher, I called out to the shadows.
“Be stern with them.” Tristan murmured.
“I need a favor.” I told them, “I need you to conceal the cobalt mark on my skin, and hide Asher’s scent from my body. Do not remove the mark, just conceal it. I expect it back once I leave this place.”
‘What will you pay, Princess?’ They hissed with their silky voices, ‘The blood of a pure-blood Vampire?’
“Yes.” I nodded, “You can have some of his blood.”
‘We enjoy your blood, Princess.’ They whispered, pooling around my legs, stretching out like cats. ‘Ancient blood, powerful blood.’
“It is mine to give as I see fit.” I told them, “I told you what I offer, do you accept?”
“Yes, Princess.” They whispered, their voices caressing my skin like shards of ice. “For you, yesss.”
Tristan gave me a firm nod, and I pressed the blade hard against his hand. I might’ve been harder than needed, but I couldn’t force myself to feel guilty.
Blood pooled in his cupped hands, a blazing shade of scarlet. The scent swirled around me, rich and potent. Melted chocolate and blood oranges, liquid nectar. The Vampire side of me practically watered at the mouth, but I pushed it aside with ease.
“Drink.” I told them, and watched as Tristan let the blood splash to the floor.
His blood splattered across the floor, tiny crimson drops flying in every direction. The shadows devoured the blood feverishly, leaving the floor spotless.
I pulled the hem of my t-shirt aside, looking down at Asher’s cobalt mark. I ran my fingers along it, remembering how it felt as his teeth sunk into my skin.
I remembered the ecstasy that coursed through me when his l!ps grazed the mark, the way my name sounded when it left his lips. I watched in sheltered sadness as the cobalt mark faded from my skin, the lingering scent of Asher vanishing from my body. Not gone, just concealed.