Rachel Van Dyken
“Go on.” The man urged.
I took another step forward into a large room that could have doubled as some sort of prehistoric throne room. My breath was visible in front of my face as a chill ran down my spine.
The doors shut behind me with a giant click—and I knew I was alone. No parents to fight for me.
No friends to tell me everything was going to be okay.
And no escape as I slowly lifted my gaze to the four immortals seated on stone-looking thrones engraved into the wall, dangling there as if suspended in the air.
Maybe to just remind the humans that they were and always would be, above us, even in the literal sense.
Was I allowed to look directly at them? Was I supposed to speak?
I had no idea what the protocol was, only that if I broke it, I wouldn't even feel pain before they sliced me up and tossed my parts back to where I came from.
I held my head high and waited, all the while repeating the same mantra in my head. “I'm nothing, I'm nothing. I'm everything.”
“Genesis.” A smooth voice called my name.
It was so beautiful on his lips I wanted to cry again, and I'd never thought myself an overly emotional person, one of the only things my mom had applauded me on.
A man dressed in dark jeans and a white t-shirt stood from a silver throne. His hair was impossibly light, almost white, his eyes a glowing blue.
He was smiling.
It looked painful on him.
But beautiful, nonetheless.
The fact that he was directing that smile at me almost felt undeserving, and I wasn't sure if it was because of what I'd been told my whole life or if this man only had a certain allotment of smiles he could give and I'd been the lucky recipient of his last one.
“Fear isn't welcome here.” He repeated the same thing the man had before.
“Apologies…sir.” Or was it my lord? I couldn't remember and hoped it wouldn't be the last thing I uttered. How bad would that suck? Not that I'd be alive to actually care.
I'd just prefer to have my last word be something more heroic.
“Ah…” A blindingly white smile flashed in my direction as heat from his body flew at me in waves, nearly sending me to my knees. From my fingers all the way down to my toes, I wanted to touch him.
I wanted to taste him. It was more than just being near him—I wanted everything about him to consume me until I wasn't even me anymore.
Don't you though? His voice sounded in my mind.
I blinked, trying to stay strong as the pieces fell together. He was a male siren, someone so sensual, so strong in his sexuality that he couldn't help but give off pheromones by merely breathing.
“Beautiful, isn't she?” He said aloud, the waves getting hotter and hotter, making me want to whimper out loud. I wanted to touch him, any part of him, even his feet.
I would literally sell my soul if I could touch his big toe.
He threw his head back and laughed. “This should be fun.”
“Alex, stop it,” a woman said to his right. “She's shaking.”
“So am I.” He winked and shot me a crude smile that promised more than just hand-holding and a peck on the lips—no, his smiles promised sex and lots of it.
Something flew by his head, barely missing his chin.
“Damn it, Stephanie, let me have some fun.”
“You have fun.” The woman rolled her eyes. “Every day; now sit down before you give her a heart attack.”
Alex sat, the waves slowly dissipated, and I was able to focus on the woman next to him.
They could have been twins, except she wasn't just beautiful, but absolutely flawless—her eyes were the same bright blue, and she was wearing one of the dresses I'd seen at Nordstrom the week before…the price tag had been too high, and I was convinced that even if I put it on it would look dumpy on me.
I clenched my fists tighter and managed a head nod in her direction.
When my eyes fell to the third person in the room, I took a step back.
“Fear is not welcome here,” the man barked, his eyes black and cold.
“Right,” I whispered. “I'm…I'm sorry.”
His lips twitched.
Where the others were bright and pretty, he had shaggy brown hair that hung past his shoulders and black eyes that seemed to see right through me, his smile was attractive but predatory, and I was pretty sure that if he wanted to break me in half, just to prove he could, he'd only use two fingers in order to do it.
“You're different than the others,” he rasped.
I wasn't sure if different was good or bad, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask, but I thought otherwise when he leaned forward, causing my heartbeat to skyrocket.
He was a beast or werewolf. I'd studied his kind even though it had terrified me to go over those chapters in class.
They were unpredictable, angry, scary hunters that thought emotions were for the weak. There was no smile, no light behind his eyes, just emptiness—and what felt like longing.
“You really are a pretty one, aren't you?” Another voice chimed in, gaining my immediate attention. The minute we locked eyes, I wondered how I hadn't seen him first.
He was gorgeous.
Light green eyes glowed in my direction. Beamed and twinkled with each blink, almost like I was staring at stars. His skin was smooth and light.
Dark brown hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, and he had a leather bomber jacket on.
He was the epitome of every girl's fantasy come to life.
He would make any sane girl make bad decisions just for one taste, wouldn't he?
I quickly averted my eyes, aware I was blatantly staring at him.
“What?” His warm chuckle made my body tingle. “Are you afraid to look at me, human?”
“No.” I found my voice, “Not at all.” Slowly I lifted my gaze to his and waited.
His smile was blinding.
“Good, that's good as we'll be spending many hours together in the near future.” His smile suddenly dropped as if the idea saddened him or maybe just made him want to kill me and get it over with.
Yeah, that's what I was afraid of.
Maybe I was better off with the werewolf.
Or the siren.
“Enough.” A booming voice sounded throughout the room, shaking me out of my stare down with the man.
Only vampires had green eyes, so I imagined that's what he was though he looked nothing like I imagined a vampire would look.
I glanced around for the location of the voice but saw nothing.
The smile froze on the vampire's face.
He shared a look with the others and leaned back in his chair while the other three seemed to stiffen in theirs as if they were afraid, but what could they possibly have to fear? They were immortal.
I looked around the room again; the lights flickered.
That couldn't be a good sign.
Up until now, I had no idea what immortals I'd be meeting with, and I wracked my brain trying to think of who else would be there—who else I should be afraid of when suddenly the room went black.
It was only three seconds.
But it was enough for my brain and survival instincts to kick in.
I had to force my feet to stay planted.
I had to force the scream to stay in my throat.
And when I felt a hand reach out and touch my shoulder. The pain I felt at that touch was so life-altering that I fell to my knees, my body giving out.
“That's better.” The voice said, “Don't you know you are to kneel in front of those you serve?”
“S-sorry,” I said through clenched teeth. “It won't happen again.”
“No,” he said, “it won't. Because if it does, you'll be dead, understand?”
The ice from his touch wouldn't let up. It continued to flow through my body like he was trying to freeze every vein I had.
The lights flickered again, and then he was standing in front of me.
All seven feet of him.
It hurt to stare.
But not as much as it would hurt if I didn't—I at least paid attention to that part of my studies—to look away was like experiencing the greatest pain imaginable because as a human, I was drawn to his beauty, drawn to his essence in a way that had been programmed since the beginning of time.
He was a dark one.
Half angel, half human.
And he was the leader of the immortals. His punishment, along with his people, had been to watch over both races, keeping them as separate as possible while still making sure both thrived.
They were called dark ones because both light and dark fought for them, making it impossible for lights to stay on or the dark to stay dark for too long of a time.
They commanded the dark.
But were forced to live in the light.
They had no moral compass.
“Interesting—” his head tilted in a cat-like stance, ”—I can hear your brain working, careful little one.” He tilted my chin towards him as a puff of air passed my parted lips.
“Is that an invitation then?”
He slowly pulled me to my feet. I shivered from the cold of his touch as he circled me like he was seconds from pouncing. “N-no.” I found my voice.
“Unfortunate.” He stopped when he was directly behind me and moved my hair from one shoulder to the next, touching the skin on my neck with featherlight presses of his fingertips.
Was he testing me?
The cold continued to race through my veins as my body trembled.
“Do you know how I am?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
Every immortal in that room seemed to hold their breath as they watched our interaction—the only one who looked ready to do something was the very pissed-off-looking hot vampire.
His hands dug into his throne, his eyes blazed green as fangs descended across his lower lip.
The Dark One chuckled behind me. “Something upsetting you, Ethan?”
“Careful before he rips your head off,” Stephanie said with a shaky smile.
“He could try.” The voice came from behind me. “Now, where were we?
“Ah yes…the little human knows what I am—now I'm just being rude…” He circled me again and grabbed my hand in the process, bringing it to his cold lips and brushing a kiss across the skin.
“I'm Cassius.” His full lips tilted up into a seductive smile. White teeth flashed, and then he turned on his heel, slowly walking up the stairs to where everyone else was seated.
“But to you…” He turned slightly, his eyes flashing white before going back to a normal blue. ”…I am master.”
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