(NW Prequel) Beginnings Excerpt

 

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A stone hallway closed in on her, the walls slowly coming into view. She was trapped and felt the weight of her gown, the thick layers of fabric swishing as she walked. She wore a fine dress, but the rest of the women were dressed like slaves.

She froze here, and with each breath, it felt like she inhaled frost, the freeze lining her throat and stiffening her lungs. The bare skin of her fingers was flushed as she pulled her fur coat tighter.

The other women eyed her with longing eyes. They shivered, their skin beat red by winter’s strong kiss. Only the king’s rooms were granted the warmth of a fire, the rest of the castle freezing.

Soon she’d retreat to that room at the end of the hall and meet with the man who used her as his slave. She wanted nothing more than to run back to her room and never see his face again.

But, despite her feelings, she walked up to the door. Raising a shaky hand, she readied herself to knock. Feeling hands slip around her waist, Ashleigh gasped. Her head turned toward the man holding her.

Moving closer, Nicolas spoke into her ear in a deep, seductive tone. “Did you think you could hide from me, my love?”

“I was not doing so, my lord,” she stammered, her breath quick with her fear. “You were the one who hid.”

“Cloaked by the darkness of night, I shall surprise even the most delicate of creatures.” He kissed her neck, his sharp fangs scraping her skin. She trembled in his arms. After a few seconds, he used his magic to teleport them to the next room. He took her hand and led her to the sofa.

Clutching her shaky hands to her chest, she moved closer to the fireplace. She took a seat on the cushion, the fabric warmed from the raging fire in the hearth. He sat in a casual position, a great arrogance on his handsome features. He watched her every movement like a cat, his mind moving at an inhuman speed.

“How does my lord find this night?” Though she made casual conversation, the fear was clear in her soft voice. Her hands rested on her knees, her body rigid.

“Cold.” He chuckled and pulled her into his arms.

“I am cold, as well.”

“Then warm yourself with my body.” He admired her, Ashleigh looking at him with obedient eyes. “The heat of my flesh is only a small token of my affections.”

“Thank you, your majesty.” Resting her head against his shoulder, Nicolas pulled her close. She could feel his love for her. She was his weakness and knew it. But she also knew what he was. A vampire. The most dangerous demon walking this earth. Defeating him would not be an easy task.

“Now, my beautiful slave, tell me a story.”

“All right.” She gazed out the window, the moon watching her sinful interaction with the devil. Feeling his hand slip under the heavy skirting of her dress, she startled. His fingers caressed the thick stocking covering the flesh of her leg. She could feel the heat burn in her bottom. The great urge to let this man take her again.

He grabbed her chin and made her turn to him. “Tell me one about the devil.” He chuckled and placed a kiss on her lips.

“As you wish.” She nodded, a small smile on her lips.

He moved into a laying position and rested his head in her lap. As he gazed at the ceiling, he held her hand. He caressed the surface of her skin, his touch light.

Her gaze moved to the corner of the room. There was his discarded dinner. The victim was still breathing but bled out onto the carpet.

His attention moved to what stole her attention. “What troubles you?” Nicolas looked up at her and turned to what she looked at. “Ah…” He chuckled. “He has not given up. Would you like me to end him?”

She nodded.

“As you wish.” He stood and bowed to her, a wicked grin on his lips. His blond hair sparkled under the firelight, his eyes an inhuman green. He turned back to the man. “How shall I do it?” Waving his hand, a small knife appeared.

Her voice was mousey when she spoke. “Quickly, your majesty.”

“Torturous?” He laughed when he saw her horrified expression. “I like that.” He stalked closer to the man and crouched near him. His eyes met with his victim’s as he struggled to stand. “I would bleed him, but old blood has a ghastly taste.”

“Then…” She paused, her eyes meeting with the man’s on the floor. “Let him live. When he recovers, I’m sure he’ll make a good worker for your fields.”

“No,” his answer was annoyed. “I do not wish to invest anything in his recovery.”

“He has already given you his lifeblood. Do not take anymore.”

He ignored her protest and went to the door. He shouted, “Master Bryan! Please come here!”

Hearing his call, a man rushed into the room. He bowed to the King. “Yes, your majesty?”

“Have you eaten?”

“Yes.”

“Then bleed this one.” He motioned toward the man on the floor and handed Bryan the knife. Master Bryan left the room and Nicolas turned to Ashleigh. “Now, start the story.” He laid on the couch once again, his head now resting in her lap. He took her hand. Bringing it to his lips, he curled back all her digits but her index finger.

She watched him, her breath quickening. He bit her finger and she closed her eyes when she felt the pain. But she didn’t voice her unhappiness. She took a few seconds to recover. When Master Bryan returned with a few pails, she turned to him.

He slung the man over a chair back, the victim’s arms and head dangling. Grabbing the man’s hair, Bryan smiled when the captive let out a weak whine. Holding the man’s head at an uncomfortable, upright position, Bryan looked into his eyes.

“Please…” the man choked out. “Spare me. I shall work for you, I’ll—”

With a broad swipe of his knife, Bryan slashed the man’s neck. It was just a surface wound, only a trickle of blood seeping from the cut. The captive screamed out in pain, but couldn’t move because Bryan’s magic paralyzed him.

“Cover his mouth.” Nicolas made a sour face as he glared in Bryan’s direction. “I cannot hear.”

“I apologize, your majesty.” Bryan nodded and pulled a rag out of his pocket. He stuck it in the captive’s mouth.

The king spoke to Ashleigh. “Now, begin.”

“All right.” She turned from the torture, her gaze connecting with Nicolas’. He smiled, his eyes admiring her. She didn’t press the subject further. Begging was not something that worked on this man.

Cringing, she heard the soft squish of blade severing flesh, followed by a steady stream of blood filling the pan. She heard the scream muffled by the captive’s gag, so the cut wasn’t fatal. Her eyes ticked in his direction for a few seconds as Bryan slashed one of the captive’s wrists.

Bryan smiled at her as he held the man’s hand out so the blood would fill the pail. She turned away. Her fingers interlocked with Nicolas’, the king pulling their joined hands closer to his chest.

Her gaze was distant and burned into the fine fabric of her master’s coat. It was black, the fabric soft, and pressed. She heard the captive choke, followed by a great outpouring of blood from his neck. Thankfully, Bryan ended him.

She tried to refocus her thoughts, though it troubled her. Ashleigh continued her tale, “Feeling lost, a young girl seeks the knowledge of the gods. After a long journey, she reaches a plateau. It’s beautiful here—plush fields of tall, blowing pampas grasses and wildflowers, the soft scent of lilacs filling her nostrils.”

“Such pleasant imagery for a dark story.” He chuckled and kissed her hand. “But I did not ask for pleasant.”

“It shall darken.” Her eyes narrowed on Bryan as he carried away the pail of blood. Bryan took ahold of the man’s arm, dragging him over the fine wood flooring. He left a stripe of blood in his path, the man’s body now lifeless.

There was no respect for the dead. For human life. Not with these monsters. He shut the door, and the pair was alone again.

Nicolas teased, “Then darken the sky so I may feel the heat of this sinful tale. All I can feel is the heat in your palm.”

“Is that all?” She sent him a smile, a love in her eyes.

He caught onto her hint, his words smooth. “Let me feel more.” As he took her hand, he snickered and slid it down his chest. He thrust it into his pants, Ashleigh’s lips parting when she felt his bare cock. Her face reddened, and she tried to pull her hand back. This made him laugh, his hand holding hers in place.

He flirted, “I see it is I that must heat you.” He removed her hand. “Your hands are like ice.” He gazed at the ceiling and motioned for her to continue.

She moved her fingers in small slow circles on the surface of his hand. He adorned every finger with a jeweled ring, each one sparkling under the light. His skin was a soft white, his perfect porcelain complexion devout of blemishes.

His eyes closed and she continued. “The clouds above hid her view of the holiest of lands. Heaven. She held up her hand, but couldn’t reach such a place. Not without wings. Squinting, she turned to the sun. Its light was warm and welcoming. Its rays filled her with the gentle heat of midday, making her hair shine like threads of spun gold. ‘This was God’, the girl thought. The being filling the land with goodness and warmth.

“’Dear, sweet child,’ said the sun, ‘a deal I will make with thee. Love me, and I shall gift you with wings. They will take you past the clouds and bring you to the gilded gates of heaven. Are you ready to leave this land and join me?’

“’Tomorrow’, the girl says. ‘I would like to see the moon one last time.’” With those words, her voice faltered, but it was so subtle she could mask it. Closing her eyes, she tried not to cry, to push past the sadness heaving her thoughts. “So…the girl walks on. Soon, the sky darkens. The ruler of the night now floats like a sentinel in the sky.

“His voice is soft as he speaks, this king of darkness also a master seducer, ‘Dear, sweet beauty, a deal I will make with thee. Love me, worship me, and I shall give you eternal life and make you my queen.’ The girl explains to him the promise the sun made.”

She opened her eyes and looked at her moon—the man who offered the same promise. But she didn’t want that. She didn’t want to give up the promise of heaven to become his queen.

She continued, “He counters in a lulling tone, the sound like liquid velvet in her ear, ‘Do you long to see heaven? If that is your wish, I shall make it so. Together we will murder the sun and feast on his heavenly blood. You will see heaven cannot give you the paradise I can’.”

Nicolas’ eyes shot open, and he glared at her. It was a hot, livid stare. She startled and swallowed hard.

He sat and grabbed her chin. “And if refusal is once again your answer, then death, not love, will be the bond that ties us. I am tired of you saying no. Of denying the gift I want to share with you.”

He shoved her onto her back, pinning her to the couch. “I am this moon of yours, aren’t I? How you mock me with this tale! How dare you? After all the generosity I have shown you!”

“Nicolas…” she squeaked. “Stop…I—”

“You will never get redemption from the sun. From any man. How dare you invent a man to save you from me?”

“I didn’t—I—I—”

“You did!” He was now in her face, a snarl to his words terrifying her. Baring his fangs, a small hiss was released from his lips. “You don’t love me, do you?”

“I do!” she shouted, a great desperateness in her tone. “I love you, Nicolas! I do!”

“Vow your loyalty. Say you will stay with me for eternity.”

“I—can’t…” Her lip shook as she spoke, her words choppy. She tried to turn away, but he grabbed her face and made her look at him. He squeezed harder until she winced and opened her eyes. “Please…it’s not that I don’t love you. I do. I just don’t want to become what you are.”

“I will never let a prize as valuable as you wander from my hand. You will become as I. Even if I have to force you.”

“I do not wish to—”

“Say it!” he screamed in her face, his voice booming. There was great pain in his eyes, his anger so hot it burned to her core. “Say you’ll become my queen!”

“No!” Sobbing, she struggled to push him off, Nicolas taking a firm grip of her shoulders. His grip was painful, his fingers digging into her tender flesh.

“Then you will live with the slaves in the catacombs until you submit!”

“Please, Nicolas…” she pleaded, her voice wet as she stopped struggling. Reaching up to his face, she tried to sway him with a loving gesture, but he ripped her hands away. “I beg of you. Allow me to see the sunrise. Do not lock me in there. I’m scared, I—”

“The next sunrise you will see, my blood will flow through you and you will be my queen. And you will stay in darkness until you agree!” he growled.

Swooping down, he sunk his fangs into the tender flesh of her neck. She let out a bloodcurdling scream, the pain magnified by his magic. He punished her. Making this the most intense pain she ever felt.