Glancing at the shuttered windows then back at Seraphina, I cocked my head. ‘How the hell does Ambrosius get around during the day?’
Rising to her feet, Seraphina paced the living room ‘He uses the underground tunnel network.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me that was an option?’ My eyes narrowed on her, and the hint of a scowl curled my lips despite efforts to curtail my temper. I even surprised myself with the accusing tone I had adopted. My fuse had not been so short during my human years. Is this the lingering effects of whatever drugs Sera suspects I’ve consumed, or part of the demon I’ve become?
Halting, she met my gaze head on. ‘Because there is still so much that I need to teach you both. Follow me, both of you.’ She picked up Sheena’s unconscious friend and carted her into a bedroom, lying her across one side of a king-sized four poster. ‘This is my room. Hide in here, and not a peep out of either of you,’ Seraphina warned in a harsh whisper.
Sheena giggled softly as the latch clicked behind us. ‘She sounds like your mother.’
A shudder travelled through my body at the thought. ‘Seraphina prefers the term benefactor,’ I whispered. ‘Now shoosh.’ Striding across the large open space, I slumped onto the unoccupied side of the bed and surveyed the room. As with the rest of her penthouse, Seraphina had adopted the minimalist aesthetic in here. Strange. She struck me more as the artistic rich type who normally clutter their homes with opulent décor. Then I recalled how much I had already misjudged her.
Sheena perched on the mattress and began drumming her fingers on her thighs. A second later, she moved to the desk chair. Snatching a notepad and pen, she joined me at the head of the bed. After scrawling a message, she handed it to me. It took a few seconds to decipher her messy handwriting: ‘I’m bored. Let’s do something… fun ;-)’
Seriously? We’ve only been in here for a minute. I wondered if her restless nature was a generational thing because I had seen similar tendencies in Rebecca’s younger sister who was about the same age as Sheena. Just thinking of my best friend’s predicament strummed my sympathy chords and soured my mood further. Glaring at Sheena, I snatched the pen and wrote my response: ‘Absolutely not! We need to stay silent. You heard what Sera said about Ambrosius. He is not to be taken lightly.’
‘Then you’ll have to stay quiet.’ By the time I had read her reply, she was already standing at the foot of the bed, shedding her clothes. Mischief glimmered like gold in her eyes as she crawled toward me, and the sight of her hard nipples stirred my traitorous dick. When she reached me, she carefully slid the zip of my jeans down. Dipping her hand through the opening, she searched for my hot, throbbing flesh, grinning victoriously as her prize popped out.
The soft skin of her hand felt like silk caressing my sensitive flesh and I threw my head back. Closing my eyes, I made a conscious effort to suppress the moans threatening to burst from my throat. Tender lips and a probing tongue soon followed, and I almost lost it, bucking against her inviting mouth. Raised voices drifted through the closed door, reminding me that this was not the time or place to lose myself to a moment of passion. Entwining my fingers between long strands of pink hair, I yanked Sheena’s head out of my lap.
Her eyes widened as she stared at me. A moment passed and she opened her mouth expectantly, eyes darting between my face and my erection.
I shook my head, earning a pout as I pointed toward the argument in the adjacent room. A few words caught my attention, drawing me into the conversation and killing my libido.
‘I do not care if the evidence is purely circumstantial, he is still my prime suspect,’ explained a deep, masculine voice. The duke. ‘If you do not bring him in for questioning, I will arrange it myself. Trust me when I say, you do not want that to happen.’
A door slammed and Seraphina appeared a minute later, jaw gaping the moment she spotted Sheena straddling me. ‘Please tell me you did not just have sex!’
‘Would there be a problem if we did?’ Sheena asked.
‘There could have been all sorts of problems. What if the duke heard you? Or worse still, what if he walked in on you?’
Sheena shrugged. ‘Well, he didn’t, so no harm, right?’
‘Okay, forget the huge risk of exposing yourselves to a depraved sicko; what about the fact you are in my bed?’
Lifting Sheena out of my lap, I rose and zipped myself up. ‘Don’t worry, Sera, I didn’t let things get that far. What’s going on?’
Seraphina gave me a sidelong glance for a moment before striding from the room with a beckoning hand. ‘He has summoned you for questioning over the missing UCL students. If you don’t go there willingly, he will take you by force and that will only make your situation worse.’
Gulping, I tried to steady my trembling hands. ‘What should I do?’
‘Your best option is to visit him first thing tonight. My driver can escort you there while I keep an eye on these two.’ Seraphina gestured toward Sheena and her blue-haired friend.
What’s her name again? Rachelle, or something similar?
The realisation hit me like a stone-cold slab of concrete. ‘So, you won’t even come in with me?’
‘Would you rather I left your fledgling to fend for herself? There isn’t much I can do for you in there, but I can try to pull some strings from behind the scenes. Ambrosius is skilled in detecting lies. It takes years of practice and blood potency to learn the tricks that I use to deceive him, so you’ll need to answer him honestly. But don’t give him more than he asks for, whatever you do.’
‘I’m as good as screwed, is that what you’re saying?’
A guard led me through a maze of marbled corridors and down a set of stairs into the bowels of the duke’s mansion. Studying my guide’s appearance, I tried to deduce his supernatural origin. His breath misted the cold night air, which told me he was probably not undead, while his silent footfalls and cat-like eyes suggested something other than human. Are werecats a thing?
A heavy steel door opened upon a room that looked like the torture chamber straight out of The Princess Bride. Sharp surgical tools sat on a trolley beside a hospital stretcher in the middle of the room, and I doubted they were ever used for medical practices that involved healing. The duke himself sat beside the pathetic excuse for a bed. ‘Don’t worry Mr. Black. I will only use these implements if you refuse to answer my questions, or… if you are guilty. Please, will you take a seat?’ He waved a hand across the flimsy foam mattress.
I bowed. ‘Yes, Your Highness.’ The coiled springs dipped and squeaked beneath my weight.
The guard who had brought me here proceeded to strap me down with metal cuffs around my wrists and ankles.
‘They are made of silver,’ explained Ambrosius. ‘You will only hurt yourself if you try to break free.’ Towering above me, he adopted a wicked grin. ‘It is so good of you to come willingly. I respect that about you. Do you know why you are here, Mr. Black?’
‘So, you know that your fledgling’s housemates have gone missing?’
‘Can you tell me where they went?’
My mouth dried out as I considered my words carefully. ‘The clean-up crew took them.’
The duke’s brows rose. ‘Are you telling me they are dead?’
Swallowing, I tried to moisten my parched throat. ‘Yes.’
Ambrosius grabbed a tool from the tray, holding it up for me to see. ‘Do you know what these are?’
‘They look like a small set of pliers, Sir.’
‘Close, but not quite.’ Squeezing the handle, he opened and closed the silver jaws a few times. ‘These are tooth extraction forceps. I use them on vampires who can’t control their fangs. Is this what happened to you, Mr. Black? Did you kill those kids?’
Fuck! ‘I-I’m not entirely sure. I think someone drugged me. After feeding on the first girl, things turned fuzzy and…’
‘I just recall a red haze until awareness returned when I reached Sheena’s room.’
‘Sounds exactly like a feeding frenzy to me. You must learn to control your blood lust, Mr. Black. I can’t afford to have you running around killing my city’s food supply and risking exposure. I hereby sentence you to fang extraction and a month of solitary confinement, during which time you will not be given any blood.’ When I gaped at him, he sniggered. ‘So good of you to comply. This will hurt a lot.’ He smirked while aiming the silver tips of the forceps at my upper jaw. ‘Bare your fangs and don’t even think about biting me.’
Blinding pain tore through my head as he tugged at my right fang. I had never enjoyed trips to the dentist, but this treatment gave me a newfound appreciation for their humane practices and the sedatives they had used. I screamed the moment the duke pulled my second tooth, finding some relief in the vocalisation. Blood oozed from the hollow cavities, and I savoured the taste knowing these would be the last drops I would drink for some time.
‘Jaggar,’ Ambrosius called across the room, beckoning the guard. ‘Take him to his cell.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jaggar left me tied to the stretcher as he wheeled me out of the room, down a long corridor, and into a dungeon cell.
The sparse room contained nothing more than a single bed and a plastic bucket. As soon as Jaggar locked me in, he slid the cover across the small window in my door, plunging me into darkness like I had never known before. Taking small, careful steps, I found the bed and collapsed on it. Ironic how I felt like praying to God for the first time in my life. I hope Sera can get me out of this sooner rather than later.
Time immeasurable passed and all hope fled as I curled into the foetal position and tried to get to sleep. Visions of Sheena’s naked body filled my mind and I wondered if I was dreaming or hallucinating because it did not feel like I was sleeping.
A hand shook me from my trance, and I looked up into a pair of glowing golden eyes.
‘Sera?’ I rasped.
She smiled warmly. ‘No Mr. Black. I am the duchess. This is quite the predicament you are in, isn’t it? It’s a good thing I have better use for you outside of this here prison.’