The figure slipped silently into the room. The deep gray cloak it wore covered most of its body; the hood shielded its features as it moved with inhuman silence. But it was not inhuman; Gideon was reminded of that fact by the solid beat of its heart, and the alluring scent that pricked his appetite. But this human, especially this one, was completely off limits if he was to keep his life. Although he couldn’t see the features, he knew that it was female, knew who it was by the sweet aroma she emitted.
No, no matter how hungry he may be at the moment, he would not touch this one. He valued his life far too much to do such a thing. He’d eat rats first.
She stopped before his desk, her head bowed as she inhaled a small breath. Slowly, ever so slowly, she lifted her head and drew back the hood. Her dark auburn hair was the color of blood in the candlelight that flickered over it. Her features, though pretty, were not stunning, especially not under the pallor that now marked her normally healthy hue. Her hand trembled, but there was a steely resolve about her that Gideon couldn’t help but admire.
“I spoke with Jack and Ashby.”
Gideon froze for a moment, his hand tightened around the pen he was holding. “I see.”
Her mouth was pinched, her eyes steady despite the tumultuous fear and anguish he sensed rolling just beneath her seemingly calm exterior. “I understand what needs to be done.”
Gideon let go of the pen before he snapped it in half. He didn’t care about the instrument, but he was far too meticulous to have ink coating him. “You do?”
For a brief moment tears shimmered in her eyes before she blinked them back, thrust out her chin and nodded firmly. “I do.”
“He cannot know about this.”
Gideon was silent for a long moment. “The bond cannot be completed.”
She winced as a flash of grief struck her like lightening. For just a moment her composure seemed to crumple. “It won’t,” she whispered.
Gideon didn’t know what to say, he hadn’t known what to expect from her or how she would react to what Jack and Ashby had to say to her. He realized now that he should have known this was the path she would take, that she would not shy away from this. She turned away from him, but her step wasn’t so sure, or as silent, as she made her way to the door.
“You know what this may mean for you?” he inquired before she could escape.
She stopped in the doorway, her head turned back to him as she studied him over her shoulder. She swallowed heavily as she managed another stiff nod. “If we are unable to dilute his blood in me my death may be the only solution to separating us for good.”
He was immobile, struck by the fact that this young girl was able to see what the others refused to. “And you accept this?”
“It’s what I came to you for,” she breathed.
That answer didn’t surprise him either, he was the only one she could turn to in order to ensure such a thing was carried out. “No one else can know about this.”
“They won’t,” she vowed. He realized he’d just made a deal with the devil as she slid the hood back over her head and slipped from the room.
The Barrens. The place where horror stories were born, cautionary tales were exchanged and people were frightened by the mere thought of entering them. They were desolate, somehow cold, even with the sun relentlessly pounding the earth around them. There were few people that had entered The Barrens and ever come back. The ones that did often ranted of strange creatures, monsters that hunted within the sand, appeared out of nowhere, and were even more vicious than the vampires. Few believed the extent of the stories, but even fewer wandered into The Barrens after hearing them.
And now they were here, preparing to jump head first, straight into hell. They had traveled hundreds of miles through her forest to this godforsaken land of sun and sand. The supposed new home of the vampires that had at one time been some of the most spoiled aristocrats. They were the aristocrats that had stood against the king during the war, and fled the palace when it became clear that they were not going to win and their lives would be forfeit.
Aristocrats that Braith now sought to gain support from for this upcoming battle. That was, if they could ever find these mysterious vampires amongst the vast expanse of emptiness that unraveled beyond this last border town. The town was frightening enough, the lands beyond were overwhelming. Aria wasn’t used to such emptiness, not after being surrounded by trees and caves for most of her life.
Anxiety twisted within her belly. Sweat trickled down her back as she kept her head bowed and the hood pulled low over her brow. She could feel the curious stares burning through the dull gray cloak of the servant’s class covering her. Braith was stiff beside her, his shoulders squared as his body thrummed with tension. She didn’t know what to do with her hands as they walked silently down the street. She ached to reach out and touch him, to somehow connect with him but it was a move she knew she couldn’t make.
She had to fight against the urge to look up. She itched to see the town they had entered, to take in the details of it, but she had been told repeatedly not to make eye contact. No matter how badly she wanted to look, she wasn’t about to endanger the men surrounding her by disobeying.
She started as Braith suddenly grasped her upper arm, swallowing it within his massive hand. Immediately her skin heated to his touch, and though they were in this awful place a low sigh of pleasure escaped her. Her heart leapt in her chest, longing spread through her as her toes curled in her battered shoes.