Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(14)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(14)
Author: H.M. Ward

Kahli rolled the tool between her thumb and forefinger, looking at him. "Will thought I'd be safe with you." It was a statement. Kahli said it to see what he'd say, but she didn't get much of an answer.

He laughed, "Will thought wrong."

Kahli stared at Reggie when she lifted the golden tool to her neck. Pressing the sharp point gently, she felt the familiar prick of metal cutting through skin. Kahli pulled it away slowly, careful not to spill the drop, when she felt the side of her neck grow hot and wet. Lifting her hand, Kahli started to offer the drop to Reggie, but her hand lingered half outstretched. She asked, "What do you have on him?"

"What you care?" Reggie snapped. The vamp was always irritated. It was like a chronic case of PMS that never ended. "Will's probably dead, and if by some freak chance he's still alive, the King will fix that when they find him."

"Won't they just follow us back here?" Kahli asked, looking at the bright red drop on top of the needle.

Reggie stared at the drop as he answered, salivating, "We saw to it that they had nothing to track. Now, give that to me." Kahli held the golden tool for a moment, wanting to ask more questions about Will, wanting answers that she couldn't get. Instead of pressing, she handed the vampire the needle with the tiny drop of blood. Reggie took it gingerly, gazing greedily with his narrow black eyes.

An idea formed in Kahli's mind. It was insane, but it might be worth it. Maybe. There wasn't much time to consider the idea and all its drawbacks. Not seeing another option, she quickly offered, "I won't fight back. I'll give you as much blood as you want, when you want, if you'll answer my questions about Will."

Reggie pressed the drop of blood to his tongue and closed his eyes. When he swallowed, a serene expression passed over his face. The only trace that the blood was hard to consume was the repeated bobbing of his adam's apple as he swallowed again and again. Potent blood was like trying to swallow kerosene. Even so, Reggie's expression lingered until he opened his eyes. Looking at Kahli, he said, "I think not. You'll do what I want, when I want, or I start removing body parts, starting with those pretty eyes." Twirling the golden rod between his fingers, Reggie smirked at Kahli, curious, "What could you possibly want to know about Will that's worth such an offer?"

Kahli felt like he wouldn't tell her anything, but she had to try. She'd swallowed enough of Will's blood to know he was alive. His pain was shooting through her body like she was the one trapped beneath the rubble. "What is he to you?"

A slow smile snaked across Reggie's angular face, "Infatuated with the boy, are we?"

"No," Kahli retorted, brows pinching together like she was disgusted. "I just want to know why everyone seems to own a piece of him."


"Yeah. You, the Queen, the King. None of you appear to get along, and yet, he seems loyal to all three of you. How could that be?"

Reginald sat back on a dated couch. It was the color of rust with tufted velvet and cream colored fringe around the skirt. It looked too dense, like it would be really hard and uncomfortable to sit on. He spread his arms over the back of the sofa and looked at her for a moment, before saying, "It must seem strange to you, but it's not. Will's previous owner owed too many people, too many things. Will was sold to me and I gifted him to my sister. He feeds me information.

"As for the King, I have no idea what relationship they had, if any. The King keeps to himself. He's as good as dead now, anyway. My sister was on the warpath last night. A very pleasant maid had the misfortune of losing her head right in front of me. Her blood nearly splattered on my shoes." He sounded more upset about his attire than about the heads rolling at the palace. Continuing, he glanced up at Kahli, "No doubt, Sophie painted the entire palace black with vampire blood last night. She'll destroy the King." Reggie's eyes drifted down and lingered on her neck, before returning to her face, "Nice patch job, by the way. I assume Will fed you vamp blood to heal that wound so fast? I can taste it, a little bit. You're not pure anymore. More like 97 proof." He laughed at his joke, comparing her to wine, and chuckled quietly like he was exceptionally funny.

As he spoke, Kahli's heart constricted. Will was completely alone. All this time, he had no one. Kahli ignored Reggie's last remark, "Will's a slave?"

"That's what the runes say," he smiled, knowing it hurt her to hear those words.

Kahli shook her head and looked down. Will, she thought hoping he could hear her, but there was nothing. No reply. The bond was too weak and she wasn't his. "He's a slave, as long as he has the runes? He has to have a master?"

"Once a slave, always a slave, but you really needn't pity him, Kahli. Will's had a good life." He watched her, knowing that saying his name like that, showing that he thought the guy was as good as dead would rattle her. "I would have thought he was dead by now, but you know he's alive, don't you?" Kahli's eyes remained on the floor of the cage. She didn't want him to see, but if she didn't look up, Reggie would know for certain. As she lifted her face, he said, "Did he claim you? Foolish boy. If he did, he'll die soon enough anyway, and then it will be as it was before."

"The King will find me," Kahli blurted out. "He drank from me. I can feel him. He's looking for me."

"Let him come. If my sister doesn't kill him, I will." Reggie said it with utter confidence, like he knew what he signed up for. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Kahli shook her head, "No, you won't. Don't you get it? You and your sister were played. The King isn't weak. He ripped open my neck with his fangs. FANGS, Reggie. He's got them. He drank from me. You and your sister can tolerate a drop of my blood, but he swallowed an entire mouthful. He's coming for me. I can feel it. And, given a choice between the two of you, I'd rather be with you."

Reggie's arms fell to his sides as he leaned forward. His black eyes locked onto hers, drinking in her words. Finally, he said, "That can't be." Shock lined his face. He didn't blink as he looked at her, and considered whether or not she was telling the truth. Kahli could see it in his eyes.

"You better believe it. He drank from two of my roommates that night as well. The King isn't what you think. He won't go quietly into the night. He started this and he'll end it by taking me away from you." Kahli rose as she spoke and moved to the bars. Clutching them in her hands, she watched Reggie, speaking with urgency, "You can't let him. You can't just sit here and act like the King's not a threat, because he is. Do something."

Reggie leaned forward with a frown on his face, his eyes drifting from hers. His mind was wandering. "What else can the King do?" he asked, lifting his gaze to hers. "Did he compel you?"

Kahli's stomach twisted remembering it. "Yes," she said softly, averting her gaze. She could feel it, the King's thrall, the way his voice snaked inside her mind and claimed her, making her body move and her mind weaken to his will.

"And he knew your true name?"

Shaking her head, Kahli replied, "No, he didn't need it."

"This is bad," Reggie said, fretting. Getting to his feet, he started pacing and stopped talking. It was then that Kahli leaned back, knowing that she just set something in motion. She just didn't know what.

Chapter 18

Sophia smoothed her skirt after she returned to her dais dressed in the most regal outfit she owned - a blood-red, silk gown that flowed to the floor and billowed around her ankles when she walked. Rubies lined her pale throat, strung tightly together on cords of gold. A golden crown sat above her brow with the matching scepter clutched in her right hand. After all the years she reigned as Queen, someone finally challenged her. Sophia grasped the scepter harder thinking about it. For decades she'd felt alone, abandoned. Being the Queen meant that she was above everyone else in every way possible. While she enjoyed the power, she did not enjoy the loneliness. When those feelings were stirred up in the past, she would laugh at herself and banish them to whatever corner of her mind they crept out from.

Breathing deeply, Sophia glanced around the throne room. It was her favorite place in the palace. It was the place her usurper - her darling husband - would come to find her, and she'd be ready. Being alone all these years made her stronger. Sophia no longer relied on anyone for anything.

Let him come, she thought.

The guards were loyal to her. Everyone was, and there was a simple reason for it - a vampire's loyalty could be bought with blood. The masses were near starving. Any promise of blood was more than most could hope for. Sophia's guard went through the lands surrounding the palace and bribed every Tracker and stray vampire they could find, but offering vials of blood was not enough, not by far. Sophia knew that she had to offer them something worth fighting for, worth dying for, and she did.

Each region that supplied the Queen with vampires to fight the King would be given one of the Queen's humans. That meant fresh blood, not vials of half coagulated blood that were difficult to digest. The bottled blood was thick, and the potency diminished by the time it was consumed. The offer of fresh blood was too great to refuse. The vampires quickly agreed to protect the Queen, and were assigned to their posts.

Sophia didn't like being forced to forfeit her own stock, but it was necessary. She wasn't sure how many opposed her in addition to the King, or when they were coming. If they found Kahli before she did... Sophia's slender shoulders cringed at the thought. That wild girl was more trouble than she was worth. No, that wasn't true. That wild girl was power beyond comprehension. Kahli's blood would ensure her sovereignty, and protect her power. She just had to find the girl first.

Irritated, Sophia straightened her shoulders, which extended her neck, and twisting her head to the side. The Queen's dark hair shifted against her pale skin. The style was elegant enough. She had a maid pin her long, inky hair and pile it into spiraling curls on the top of her head. A few stray curls cascaded down her back. The effect was striking, powerful. Everything about Sophia screamed of power and she intended to keep it that way.

A servant, a lowly vampire with onion-sheer skin, entered the doorway and bowed low to the floor. Sophia let her remain like that longer than she should have, before saying, "Rise. Enter." The servant walked quickly toward the Queen. She was wearing a white microfiber suit, ready to fight outside if needed. Sophia found the girl's stride annoying. The vampire walked like she was a child, nearly skipping like these were happy times. If Sophia didn't need every vampire she could find, she would have plunged the scepter into the perky girl's heart. "Report," Sophia snapped.

The servant bowed low again and rose, avoiding the Queen's eyes, she said, "The Pairings have been announced and the humans have not protested in any way. They talk and chatter, but nothing more."

"Very good. And what of the Pairing Rooms? Have they been properly supplied? We only have one opportunity to do this. If they're missing anything, we won't have another chance." Sophia's voice trailed off as she glanced past the maid and out the door beyond. Brows pinched together she said, "The siege will begin by morning. I can feel it." Sophia's gaze drifted back to the woman. The maid had no sense. She continued to smile as Sophia spoke. Anger surged through Sophia. Her eyes were fixated on the side of the vampire girl's face. Sophia's nails clutched the arms of her throne to keep from bounding down the stairs and strangling the girl.

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