(NW Prequel) Beginnings Excerpt
A stone hallway closed in on her, all the walls slowly coming into view. She felt trapped. She could feel 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 she passed were dressed like beggars.
It was freezing here, and with each breath, if felt like she were inhaling frost, the freeze lining her throat and stiffening her lungs. She pulled her fur coat tighter, the bare skin of her fingers flushed.
The other women eyed her with longing eyes. All of them were shivering, their skin beaten red by winter’s strong kiss. This place was not well heated, only the rooms that needed be maintaining a warm fire.
She knew where she was going. To that room at the end of the hall. To 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 partially to face the man holding her.
Moving closer, Nicolas spoke seductively into her ear, “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 was hiding.”
“Cloaked by the darkness of night, I shall surprise even the most delicate of creatures.” He began kissing 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 cushions, the fabric warmed from the raging fire in the hearth. He sat in a casual position, a great arrogance on his sinfully handsome features. He watched her every movement like a cat, his mind seeming to move at an inhuman speed.
“How does my lord find this night?” Though she was making casual conversation, the fear was clear in her soft voice. Her hands rested on her knees, her body rigid.
“Cold.” He chuckled, then forcefully pulled the girl 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.” She rested her head against his shoulder, Nicolas pulling her close. She could feel his love for her. She was his weakness. She knew that. But she also knew what he was. A vampire. The most dangerous demon that walked 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 a bit. His fingers caressed the thick stocking that covered 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 gently made her turn to him. “Tell me one about the devil.” He chuckled, then placed a kiss on her lips.
“As you wish.” She nodded, a small smile on her face. He then moved into a laying position, letting his head rest in her lap. He gazed up at the ceiling, his hand holding hers. He caressed the surface of her skin, his touch light and soft.
Her gaze moved to the corner of the room. There was his discarded dinner. The victim was still breathing, but was bleeding out onto the carpet. His eyes were fixated on her, something that made her startle.
“What troubles you?” Nicolas looked up at her, then turned to what she was looking at. “Ah…” He chuckled. “He has not given up. Would you like me to end him?”
“As you wish.” He stood then bowed to her, a wicked grin on his lips. His blond hair sparkled under the firelight. His eyes were an inhuman green, as if lit by an internal fire. He turned back to the man. “How shall I do it?” Waving his hand, a small knife appeared.
Her voice was mouse-like when she spoke, “Quickly, your majesty.”
“Torturous?” He laughed when he saw the horror on her face. “I like that.” He stalked closer to the man, then bent down slightly. His eyes met with his victim’s, the man now struggling 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 sounded annoyed. “I do not wish to invest anything in his recovery.”
“He has already given you his life blood. Do not take from him anymore.”
He ignored her protest then 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?”
“Then bleed this one.” He motioned toward the man on the floor then handed Bryan the knife. Master Bryan then 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 of her fingers but her index one.
She watched him closely, her breath quickening. Then, he bit down. She closed her eyes when she felt the pain, but she didn’t voice her unhappiness. She took a few seconds to recover, her eyes focusing on Master Bryan, who had returned with a few pails.
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 he was paralyzed by Bryan’s magic.
“Cover his mouth.” Nicolas made a sour face as he glared in Bryan’s direction. “I cannot hear.”
“I apologize, your majesty.” Bryan nodded regally, then 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 eyes looking downward. They connected with Nicolas’. He was smiling, his eyes admiring her. She knew better than to press the subject further. Begging was not something that worked on this man.
Cringing, she heard the sound of severed flesh, followed by a steady stream of blood filling the pan. Hearing the scream that was muffled by the captive’s gag, she knew the cut had been in a place that had not been fatal. Her eyes ticked in his direction briefly. One of his wrists had been slashed.
Bryan smiled at her as he held the man’s hand out so the blood would fill the pail. She quickly turned from him. Her fingers interlocked with Nicolas’, the king pulling their joined hands closer to his chest.
Her eyes looked distantly ahead, her gaze burning into the fine fabric of her master’s coat. It was black, the fabric soft, and perfectly pressed. She heard the captive choke, followed by a great outpouring of blood from his neck. Thankfully, Bryan had ended him.
She tried to refocus her thoughts, though her mind was greatly troubled. Ashleigh continued her tale, “Feeling lost, a young girl seeks out 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, then kissed her hand. “But I did not ask for pleasant.”
“It shall darken.” Her eyes narrowed on Bryan, who was now carrying away the pail of blood. Bryan had ahold of the man’s arm, dragging him over the fine wood flooring. A stripe of blood was left in his path, the man’s body now lifeless. There was no respect for the dead. For human life. Not with these monsters. He then shut the door and the pair was alone again.
Nicolas teased, “Then darken the sky so that I may feel the heat of this sinful tale. Right now, all I can feel is the heat in your palm.”
“Is that all?” She sent him a smile, a love in her eyes.
He seemed to catch onto her hint, his words sweet and smooth, “Then let me feel more.” He snickered as he took her hand and slowly slid it down his chest. He moved it into his pants, Ashleigh’s lips parting slightly when she felt his bare flesh. Her face reddened and she tried to pull her hand back. This made him laugh, his hand holding hers in place.
He teased, “I see it is I that must heat you.” He removed her hand. “Your hands are like ice.” He then gazed at the ceiling and motioned for her to continue.
She slowly moved her fingers in small circles on the surface of his hand. His fingers were covered in jeweled rings, each one perfectly polished and sparkling under the light. His skin was a soft white, his perfect porcelain complexion devout of blemishes.
She watched his eyes close 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 that filled 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 slightly, but it was so subtle she could mask it. Closing her eyes, she tried not to cry, to push past the sadness that heavied 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 then explains to him the promise the sun had made.”
She opened her eyes and looked at her moon—the man who had 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 then counters in a lulling tone, the sound like liquid velvet in her ear, ‘Do you long to see heaven? If that is your wish then I shall make it so. Together we will murder the sun and feast on his heavenly blood. Then you will see that heaven cannot give you the paradise that I can’.”
Nicolas’ eyes shot open and he glared at her. It was a hot, livid stare. She startled and swallowed hard.
He sat up and grabbed her chin forcefully. “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 out the words. “Stop…I—”
“You will never get redemption from the sun. From any man. How dare you invent a man to save you from me?”
“You did!” He was now in her face, a snarl to his words that terrified 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!”
“Then, 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 was punishing her. Making this the most intense pain she had ever felt.