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Mila’s leg was throbbing with every step but she grit her teeth, refusing to give Damion or any of the others the satisfaction of knowing just how much pain she was in. She wondered if her vampire escort had noticed quite how much she was leaning on him. She hoped not. She wondered if he’d bother to catch her if she fell.

They were back in the luxurious part of the house now, heading up a huge staircase, a glass chandelier glinting above them. Gold and white and red affronted her senses. A gorgeous facade to hide the horrors underneath. At the top of the stairs they turned left and Mila caught glimpses of further rooms as they passed by, all empty and silent. She shivered.

They were approaching a huge pair of wooden doors which Damion opened to reveal a moderately sized, mostly empty hall. At one end a huge window looked out to the night, at the other was a tall chair, carved from mahogany. And in the chair sat Caelan’s father.

There was no mistaking him for anyone else, the resemblance between them was so strong it was almost eerie. Lucius looked only a few years older than his son, and his hair was half a shade closer to brown than to gold. He might have been an inch or so taller but they had the same slender frame, the same straight nose, the same strong cheekbones. And those eyes - exactly the same in every way except the one that mattered. If Caelan’s eyes were a summer sky, Lucius’ were a deep, unforgiving glacier, and as he turned those eyes onto Mila she felt her blood run cold.

He had stood as they had entered, casually smoothing down his dark suit. He wore a thick gold ring on one finger. It matched the rest of the house.

Lin forced Mila to her knees in the centre of the room, the hard floor smacking into her and sending more jolts of pain through her injured leg. She could see the vampire who had Caelan forcing him down too beside her. She tried to catch Caelan’s eye but his wide eyes were locked onto his father like a mouse who had just noticed the snake in the room.

That snake approached them, movements as smooth and fluid as a real reptile. His cold eyes flickered up and down Caelan and his lips pursed.

“Damion?”

Damion stepped forward. “Father?

“I thought you said this was a gift.” Lucius’ voice was as cold as his eyes, and nothing really at all like Caelan’s.

The barest flicker of confusion showed on Damion’s face. “It is,” he replied.

“Gifts do not normally come with holes in them,” Lucius said silkily.

Damion lowered his head. “My apologies, Father. He wouldn’t have come quietly.”

Lucius’ lips quirked into something that was very nearly a smile. “True enough.” Suddenly his eyes bore into Mila again. She looked away. From a few feet away his power was evident, slithering along her skin and down her spine. How old was he?

“And what is this?” Lucius was asking.

Mila felt her eyes narrowing and she replied before she could stop herself. “‘This’ is Mila,” she said coolly.

Lucius raised one eyebrow delicately, turning to Damion. “I assume there is a reason you didn’t gag her?”

Damion’s lips curled, the genuine anxiety in his eyes belying the lightness of his tone. “An oversight on my part.”

“Clearly." Lucius turned away, waving one hand dismissively. “I have no use for her. Lin, kill her.”

“No!” Caelan erupted from where he knelt on the floor, eyes wide and desperate. The vampire beside him grabbed him, holding him back even as he struggled.

Lin’s hand was already on Mila’s neck, huge and cold, and she knew that in one twist of his wrist she would be dead. And there was nothing she could do. Everything was happening too fast.

“Please, no!” Caelan was still yelling. Her world, for a long moment, narrowed down only to his face, his panic.

She hoped it wouldn’t hurt too much.

And then…

“Stop.”

Lucius’ voice cut through the air. Lin removed his hand and returned to his original position as if nothing had happened.

Mila could hear Caelan breathing heavily. Otherwise the room was silent. She looked up.

Lucius was smiling, smiling like a crocodile that had just noticed the gazelle at the water’s edge. “It’s true then,” he said. “My son is in love.” He looked up. “Thank you, Damion. You have done yourself proud.”

Damion nodded, a show of humility ruined by his smug expression. Mila was shaking. She understood it now. Damion could have killed them both so many times in the last few months, but he didn’t. He didn’t because the whole time he was leading them here, to Lucius. And because first they had to fall in love.

She felt her trembling hands clenching into fists at her sides.

Lucius was still speaking. “There is still the matter of Seth’s untimely demise.” His lips tightened. “It’s no real loss, of course, but that’s hardly the point. I sent you to protect him and his woman, and you failed on both accounts.”

For the briefest of moments, Damion looked uncharacteristically flustered. “I - ”

“No more excuses,” Lucius snapped. “You’ve grovelled enough. This gift will be atonement enough for now, I’ll deal with the rest later.”

Damion nodded again. “Of course, Father.”

Lucius’ eyes turned to Mila again and she tried not to flinch. “Love is a strange thing indeed,” he said, smirking.

Mila felt her face growing hot and she tried to focus on that. Anger was better than fear, at least at this stage.

Lucius looked away, towards Caelan. “We won’t kill her, have no fear of that,” he said smoothly. “She will be hurt though, brought to the very brink of death again and again and again…” A horrible smile. “Unless…”

Caelan’s eyes were still wide, his skin was still pale. “What do you want from me?” He whispered.

“What I’ve always wanted,” Lucius replied. “Your loyalty to me, your Father.”

“I will never be loyal to you,” Caelan spat.

“But you will co-operate, won’t you? As long as I have her.”

“No…” Mila felt herself murmuring.

“Mila…” Caelan was shaking his head.

“No!” She yelled. This was all going wrong. So wrong. And she didn’t know what to do. “No, you can’t…!”

“Lin,” Lucius snapped, eyes narrowed. Apparently he didn’t appreciate the interruption.

Lin’s fist smacked into the side of her head like a speeding truck and she felt the floor smashing into her before she even realised she’d fallen down. For what felt like an eternity she scrabbled on the edge of consciousness, determined not to fall into the abyss.

“You want me to co-operate?” Caelan’s voice floated to her through the darkness. “Fine. I’ll co-operate, but only if you let her go.”

She struggled to open her eyes. The world was spinning again.

“And lose my bargaining chip?” Lucius sounded unimpressed. “I think not.”

“Those are my terms,” Caelan insisted. “If you keep her here, if you hurt her, I will never stop fighting to free her.” She could hear the tears he was choking back. She wondered if Lucius could to. “If you set her free I swear I will do whatever you want me to.”

No… She couldn’t get the air out and the word rung around her head again and again, trapped. No… No… NO… Briefly she wondered if Lucius even believed the promise. Maybe it didn’t matter. Her head hurt, she didn’t know what to do, what to think, except for no. No… No…

Lucius seemed to think about it. Then he shrugged. “Very well.”

“No!” She screamed. A hand grasped her arm but she struggled against it. “Caelan you can’t do this!”

He looked at her then, and for what felt like the first time in an age their eyes met. Blue… so blue… beautiful, shiny with unshed tears. The lost, terrified, desperate eyes of someone clinging tooth and nail to his last hope.

“I’m sorry.” His lips shaped the words but she didn’t hear them.

Lucius was gesturing towards her. “Damion.”

Damion moved forward, cold hands grabbing at her, hauling her to her feet.

“Get off me!” She shrieked. “Caelan!”

She was being dragged away. She kicked, struggled, but she was weak and her leg was still throbbing, useless.

“Caelan!”

He was saying something else, calling after her. She never heard.

She was in the hallway. The door was closing.

“Caelan!”

Lucius turned away. The vampires moved in, swarming over Caelan like flies on a carcass.

The door slammed shut.

 

 




Submitted: December 19, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Amy R. Beckett. All rights reserved.

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Sylvermyst

Poor Caelan and Mila, my heart goes out to them. I just want to hug them both so much.
Great chapter. His father sounds terrifying.

Tue, March 12th, 2019 2:53am

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Haha me too! And thanks, I'm glad he comes across as appropriately horrifying!

Tue, March 19th, 2019 9:07am

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