Bane (Page 7)
Sophia listened as he spoke, knowing all the things he said were true. This human wasn’t bred from her camps. Everything from her shape, to her coloring was different. It made her wonder if her blood would be different as well. Hope swam inside of Sophia’s head. “And her blood?”
Reggie shrugged, as Kahli’s eyes darted between them. “No one knows. When I got her, she hadn’t been tasted. The traders who caught her said she had no marks.”
The Queen’s eyes went wide, “She’s pure? Nearly grown and never touched?” She reached for Kahli’s face, as if she were reaching for a dream. This girl could fix everything. Her blood could restore them to their former glory.
Before the Queen’s fingers touched Kahli’s cheek, she snapped. Kahli couldn’t stand it. She wrenched her wrists free from the guards holding her back, making her shoulder scream. Will shook his head, eyes wide, trying to tell her not to—but it was too late. The girl didn’t see him. Kahli had already ducked out of the guard’s reach, ready to run. The Queen grasped her neck, plucking her out of the air like a fly. Kahli gasped, her feet kicking off the floor as Sophia twisted her face one way and then the other. Kahli made a gurgling sound as her face turned red, her fingers clawing at the Queen’s hand.
Hastily, Will spoke without permission, “If you intend to keep her, you might want to let her breathe.”
“Oh,” Sophia giggled, putting Kahli’s feet on the floor. The girl gasped, her throat burning as badly as her shoulder. Will remained motionless behind her. Kahli turned her head slightly, eyes going wide when she recognized him. Before she could speak, the Queen said, “Good observation, William. Do me a favor…” she grabbed Kahli’s wrist and pulled the girl across the floor toward the dais, stopping before Will. Sophia thrust the girl at him, “Take her to be cleaned and then bring her back. I want to show her off.” The Queen clasped her hands together, nearly squealing with glee. “I want to show everyone the present my brother brought me!” Sophia turned on her heel, grinning widely at Reginald, who said nothing. The man smiled and bowed like a loyal subject who didn’t enjoy plotting to kill the Queen.
Will grasped Kahli by the forearms stiffly—as if she didn’t matter to him. Will eyed the Queen, asking, “Of course, but are you certain? She has never been at court. We don’t know how she’ll behave. This human could embarrass you.” This was a sore spot for Sophia and Will knew it. Bringing a wild girl to a party would make her the envy of every other vampire in the world, but if that wild human misbehaved, the Queen would likely drain the girl before sunrise. Will didn’t think the red-head would survive the night. Not from what he’d seen of her. Odds were that she was silently accessing every situation looking for a way to escape. The effects of the bread should have worn off by now, no matter how she was acting. It was a ploy, he decided. The girl was smart, she had to be intelligent and shrewd to survive so long on her own.
Sophia laughed at Will’s suggestion, her voice high and flirtatious. Reaching for Will’s chin, she turned his face gently. Her hands were freezing, and he repressed the urge to shiver as he always did when she touched him. Sophia’s eyes were like molten chocolate, “Nonsense. What’s the point in having something like this, and not showing it off?” The Queen snapped her fingers, and servants appeared to tidy up the mess she left behind.
Will groaned, watching her walk away. The Queen regarded the girl as an object. Great. This was going to go well, he thought.
Sophia looked back, and said over her shoulder, “I’m going to change. Reggie, darling, grab something else to wear and make sure it has a collar. We wouldn’t want anyone to see evidence of our squabbling.”
Kahli silently stood there, rage simmering beneath her calm façade. It was two days since she left the safe house and she’d encountered nothing but trouble. The Queen was the epitome of beauty with smooth skin and dark hair. When Kahli first saw her, she thought the Queen was regal beyond compare wearing a ball gown encrusted with seed pearls—and blood. Sophia was a lethal combination of smiles and death. All vampires were. She expected no different from the Regent and his insane sister. It was interesting that they were siblings and squabbling. This didn’t appear to be Reginald’s first assassination attempt. Everything happened so fast. In the end, Reggie sat pressing his hands to his bloody throat, smearing his crimson stained fingers on his shirtfront. He glared at his sister when she spoke, but seemed pensive. She wondered if Sophia had really out fought him. With a vampire that size and age, well, it almost seemed like he was holding back.
Kahli stood perfectly motionless with her shoulders slumped forward like she was still woozy, though the drugs had worn off already. The guards didn’t view her as a threat and neither did the Queen or her brother—but that boy—he was there. The Bane who sold her. The Bane who saved her from the wolves. Those two events gave their familiarity with one another a dual existence. In one act he saved her, in another he condemned her to death.
The look he gave her said he knew exactly what she was thinking—that she would slaughter them all to escape. He knew she was dangerous when the others failed to see it. His posture was perfect, his black suit hugging close to his trim body. His eyes looked the brightest blue she’d ever seen. The floor of her stomach dipped when she looked at him. She scowled in response.
Kahli didn’t understand why there was a Tracker at the Queen’s court. Regent Vampires—the royals and the high-ups—didn’t consort with low-life Trackers. They were worlds apart. It would be like a King befriending a pauper. It was a warning flag—a sign to stay silent and learn as much as she could. The boy didn’t belong. At first, Kahli thought that the boy had been dragged to the Queen, since he was involved. William, that was what the Queen called him, didn’t act like that though. His stance was too confident. And he was dressed too nice, like he was a fancy object to adorn a fancy room.
Reginald didn’t acknowledge the boy, though she knew they had just spoken. What was going on?
Before she had time to consider it, William moved toward her, catching her before she fell—grabbing her by the shoulders. Fire shot through her body where the wolf bite was still healing. It brought tears to her eyes, but she blinked them back. The boy loosened his grip, as if he realized he pained her, and held her firmly just above her elbows.
He spoke to the Queen, warning her. There was a relationship there, maybe. Her green eyes remained on the pale stone floor, though Kahli’s mind was reeling. Was William the Queen’s consort? The idea repulsed her. Not only was it forbidden, but it sickened her—it sickened her because she found him attractive. The way his dark hair brushed his forehead just below his brow, the way his eyes seemed to sparkle like gems, the slant of his lips that were always pulled into something that was between a smile and a smirk. Kahli shook the thoughts away. It was like admiring a beautiful wolf and nothing more. The creature may have a gleaming coat and be exceptionally pretty, but trusting a creature like that would get her torn apart.
After Sophia withdrew and servants rushed in to clean her mess, Will guided Kahli towards the back of the room. They passed through a door and into the servants’ hallways. Will hissed in her ear, “You can stop pretending now. There is no way you’re still drugged. And those two aren’t people you want to cross, so stop thinking about running. You’re trapped here now, like the rest of us.” Will guided her through the halls, nodding at the kitchen staff as he passed, ushering the girl to the maiden’s chambers on the other side of the building.
Kahli didn’t fight him. She walked, paying attention to turns and counting paces trying to figure out how far into the palace she was—and what was the fastest way out.
Will rounded a corner and suddenly shoved her into the wall. She winced, a flash of pain shooting through her arm when her shoulder collided with the stone. “You’re not listening,” Will pressed his body to hers, trapping her against the wall. He slammed his hands on either side of her head. Kahli stared up at him, green eyes blazing with hatred. “If you run, you die. No one escapes the Queen. Ever.” His voice softened as he looked at her. The tension in his arms eased slightly. “Bide your time and I’ll get you out. That ass wasn’t supposed to come this way.” Thinking of Reggie made him furious. This was his fault.
Kahli glared at him, “Why would you care?” He was lying. This was a business transaction gone awry, nothing else, no matter how hard her heart was pounding in her chest. He sold her. Rage flamed through her body, tensing her sore muscles.
His dark lashes lowered, “I don’t care. I just don’t want to deal with Sophia ranting at me for months after you’re dead. The Queen doesn’t play games. You’re on her side or you’re not. And if you’re not—”
“You’re dead,” Kahli finished his sentence, her eyes still locked on his face. Her fingers twitched. She wanted to scratch him. She felt like a caged animal pressed to the wall. That was why her heart raced. She told herself it had nothing to do with his scent or his lips. “Fine. I get it. I won’t run.” She looked him in the eye when she said it, her gaze never wavering. Lies suited her. It was how she tricked the Trackers, slaughtering entire hunting parties one by one. No one suspected a thing, not from her.
But Will saw that she was more savage than the vampire Queen. He could feel it coming, the hand of fate about to backhand him for a lifetime of playing both sides. Inwardly, Will groaned and pushed off the wall. He gestured with his hand for Kahli to walk in front of him. When she didn’t move he tilted his head, “Do you want me to drag you there by your shoulder?” Kahli glanced down and stepped in front of him. He was at her back. She could feel his eyes on her back. “I thought not.”
Kahli wanted to make a sharp retort, but she bit her tongue. He was infuriating. They wound through hallways until they stopped before an enormous bleached wood door. It was hand carved and beautiful. There was no sign, but she assumed these were the maiden’s rooms Will spoke about—the part of the palace that housed the vamps blood supply. Kahli noticed the golden door pulls and the massive locks within the handles. Her throat tightened. She didn’t want to be locked in.
Will sensed her hesitation, and heard her pulse racing in his ears. He spoke softly, his hand on the small of her back as he pulled the door open. “They only lock the doors during an attack. The humans that are here were chosen to be here. If they misbehave, they are thrown out. And being in the palace is the best place to be. Their life span is twice as long, and the girls don’t have to worry about dying from the elements like the people in the camps.” Kahli shivered.
She’d been truly cold once. So cold, buried deep beneath the snow. It made her leery of small spaces, of being locked into a room she couldn’t get out of. Will pushed her through the door and her feet couldn’t move. It wasn’t the cramped quarters she expected. The room was stunning. It was a display of opulence with riches, velvet, tile, stone, and glittering gold at every turn of her head. Will pressed her forward. Kahli’s eyes were huge as they passed through the sitting room. Two women, barely her age, sat across from each other whispering. They had elegantly plated hair, decorated with beads. The women wore fine gowns that accentuated their slender figures and dark hair. The women glanced at her, openly mocking her in her filth as she passed them. She’d not been around another human for so long. It made her heart drop to be dumped in with vapid, catty women. Her fingers balled into fists.