Season 2, Episode 2
CONSCIOUSNESS FADED IN AND OUT countless times over what could have been hours, days, weeks. Time meant nothing to me in my waking moments. I was barely aware of the chains holding me down to a cold steel table, or the tubes in my veins—some infusing me with unknown ﬂuids while others drained my blood. I ﬁgured they were drugging me somehow, for which I was thankful. The more lucid periods brought nothing but intense pain during which I begged for the sweet release of unconsciousness.
‘Morning, sunshine.’ The girl with blue hair stood over me. ‘Thirsty?’ She waved a goblet of blood in my face.
My mouth watered at the scent that hinted at cherries. ‘Yes,’ I rasped. My captors had administered a strange form of torment. Amidst the physical abuse, they had fed me some of the most delicious blood I had ever tasted, but only when I was on the verge of starvation.
She held the cup over my mouth, letting the sweet juices drip onto my tongue. ‘You’d better make the most of this meal. This is the last of her.’
Several minutes passed while I imbibed the nourishment before her words registered. ‘Her? Who do you mean?’
The girl simpered. ‘It was a bittersweet moment watching the life fade from her eyes. Then again, it wasn’t really life anymore, was it Hayden? No thanks to you. My friend died the moment you turned her into that monster. I merely assisted in lifting her curse.’
I gaped at her. ‘You killed Sheena?’
She shook her head. ‘No, Hayden. That was all you. You drained her human life and her undead existence.’
The fuck? These cruel bastards have been feeding me the blood of my beloved all this time. My stomach churned and I turned my head to the side, refusing to drink anymore from the cup of betrayal. Her cold laugh echoed in the large open space as the last of Sheena’s eternal life splashed across my cheek.
‘That’s precious—acting like her blood suddenly oﬀends you after you’ve enjoyed it all this time. Want to know what she said in her dying breath?’
Figuring she’d tell me whether I wanted her to or not, I braced myself for the weight of the words and steeled my stare as it locked with hers.
‘Sheena was all like “Please don’t hurt my beloved Hayden. Do what you want to me, just don’t hurt him.” Pathetic really, the way she begged, no, pleaded for us to show you mercy when you’re the monster that did that to her!’
I almost winced but refused to show any more weakness. ‘What do you want from me, Rochelle? Why not just put me down like the animal you think I am?’
She grinned with all the warmth of a northerly wind in November.1 ‘You’re worse than an animal, Hayden. You don’t just eat to survive; you take pleasure from hurting people. For that you must suﬀer.’ Setting the cup aside, she grabbed a mallet and smashed it into my right arm where it lay cuﬀed to the table.
The cracking of my bones echoed in my torture chamber along with my agonising cry. A loud bang! preceded the sound of gunﬁre. Rochelle dropped her implement of torture and drew a sword from the scabbard on her belt. ‘Hold that thought. I’m not done with you yet.’ She left me alone to wallow in my grief while I listened to the battle beyond the threshold of my captivity.
The pain in my wrist and forearm paled in comparison to the ache in my heart. I could already feel the bones knitting themselves back together. A discomfort to be sure, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As I studied my smashed wrist in its cuﬀ, a thought occurred to me. If I break the right bones, I could manoeuvre myself free of the restraints. Taking a deep breath out of habit rather than necessity, I gritted my teeth and contorted my right wrist and hand through the cuﬀ. It hurt like hell and my stomach churned at the snapping sounds, but when I held my limp hand in front of my face, I smiled at my success. Now for the other one. By the time I wrestled my left hand free, my body had already mended the right side. Part of me knew this was in part due to Sheena’s blood. My regeneration powers didn’t work so fast when I was starving or doped up to the eyeballs on whatever junk they were pumping through my veins.
There must have been a supernatural element to that juice for it to work as such an eﬀective sedative on the damned. They must have been relying on it heavily too, given how easily I wriggled free of the remaining chains.
Time dragged during those agonising moments as I sat and waited for my body to restore itself. A loud scream rang out just beyond the walls of my chamber, followed by a thump, then my door ﬂew across the room, spraying bolts and hinges about the place like shrapnel. The most stunning woman I had ever laid my eyes on stood in the aftermath of the blast. She beamed at me with a 9mm Glock in one hand and a falchion in the other. ‘Hello, my darling.’
I couldn’t help but chuckle at her entrance. ‘Hey, Sera. So good of you to pop in. I was just about to put the kettle on.’ Staggering to my feet, I limped across the room and wrapped my arms around her. ‘It’s so fucking good to see you. Now please get me the hell out of here.’
She peered into my eyes and the humour vanished from her expression. ‘Are you okay? Did any serious harm come to you?’
‘Physically? I’ll live. Just a few broken bones that are just about healed, most of which I inﬂicted on myself to get out of their chains.
We can talk about the rest once I’ve had a scalding hot shower and have my feet up on the pouﬀe in our living room.’
Seraphina nodded. ‘Let’s ﬁnd Sheena and get out of here.’
I shook my head. ‘She—’ my voice cracked under the pressure of sorrow.
‘Oh. I am so sorry, my darling. Come one, let’s get you home.’ #
Hot water and a triple shot of Scotch did wonders for the aches and pains throughout my body. I swirled the whiskey in my glass as I watched Rebecca spark the hearth to life with a matchstick. ‘Why don’t you use magic to start the ﬁre?’
When she turned to look at me, the blaze illuminated her vibrant head of red locks, adding to her ﬁerce, yet beautiful charm. ‘It’s foolish to waste our energy on mundane tasks that we can accomplish without magic. If there were no other means to ignite the ﬁre, then I might have resorted to the mystic arts. Thankfully, humans have invited these nifty things.’ She ﬂicked the dead matchstick at me, and I caught it thanks to my enhanced reﬂexes.
I launched the projectile back at her. ‘Yeah, I get it okay. No need to be such a huge pain my arse.’
She sighed. ‘I was just trying to lighten the mood. I know you’ve suﬀered more than your fair share, again, and normally this dark brooding looks good on you, but I’m worried about you. There’s only so much trauma a mind can take before it breaks. So please, talk to me.’
‘What do you want me to say, Bex? I can’t recall my time in hell, but I’m sure it was a cakewalk compared to what those sadistic tossers did to me. Or how about the fact that they fed me my own ﬂedgling’s blood until they killed her?’
Rebecca’s jaw gaped. ‘They did what? Fuck! I’m sorry, sweetheart.’ Sitting next to me on the couch, she slid an arm around my waist and nuzzled her chin against my chest. Time elapsed in a comfortable silence, and I wondered if she had drifted oﬀ to sleep until she murmured against my shirt. ‘Your lack of heartbeat still weirds me out.’
‘Gee, thanks. Such comforting words, you daft cow.’ I nudged her with my shoulder, and she chuckled. ‘It still aches from the anguish of lost love, though.’
‘How did they kill her?’
‘They literally drained the life from her and fed it to me. I had no idea it was Sheena’s blood until Rochelle told me I was drinking the last cup.’
‘That’s so messed up.’ Rebecca rubbed a soothing hand over my chest. ‘So, you don’t know what they did to ﬁnally end her?’
‘No, I never saw her. All I know is that they drained her.’
She sat bolt upright. ‘Now who’s being daft, ya pillock. Draining a vampire of blood doesn’t kill you, it just puts you in a deep sleep. Unless they chopped oﬀ her head, removed her heart, or tossed her out into the sunlight, she could still be alive.’
My eyes widened as the penny dropped. ‘You mean there’s still hope? My little punk could still be out there?’
‘Then what are we waiting for?” I began to rise, but she shoved me back against the couch.
‘You’re in no ﬁt state to be galivanting around. The hunter’s drugs are still in your system, which in turn has compromised your healing factor. And have you forgotten that the duke is after you?
You’re lucky his men didn’t ﬁnd you before Seraphina did, otherwise you would have traded one cell for another.’ She retrieved a phone from her purse and tapped out a message. ‘There. I’ve informed your benefactor. Let’s leave it up to her to sort out.’
Easing back into the sofa, I summoned the willpower to sit tight. ‘Fine.’ A yawn slipped out, followed by another and I glared at the half-ﬁnished Scotch. ‘Did you spike my drink?’
She shrugged. ‘It’s just a little valerian to help you relax. I’d never give you anything dangerous.’
‘Maybe ask me next time. I’m somewhat sick of people drugging me without my consent.’ The last few words came out with another yawn. Rising, I swayed on my feet.
‘Here, let me help.’ With an arm around me, Rebecca supported my weight as I stumbled into bed. As soon as my heavy body hit the mattress, she untied my shoelaces and pulled my boots oﬀ my feet.
‘Shit! That hurts!’ The soft tissues around my ankles were still tender from the self-inﬂicted damage I put them through earlier that day.
‘Sorry, but you’ll thank me for it later.’ With both my boots set aside, she sat on the edge of the bed and kicked oﬀ her own shoes. ‘Mind if I join you?’
‘When have I ever said no to having you in my bed, Bex?’
Feigning deep thought, she fell silent for a moment. ‘Nope, can’t think of a single time.’ She slid under the covers and curled up next to me. ‘I ran some tests while you were… you know.’
‘Chained to a surgical table?’ I oﬀered.
‘Yeh, that. Anyway, I worked out what sort of mage you are, and um… how distantly related we are.’
‘Ah good. Tell me about it in the evening—after I’ve had my beauty sleep.’ No longer ﬁghting the weight of my eyelids, I let darkness and the scent of Rebecca’s rose petal perfume sweep me away.