Home > Bane (Vampire Apocalypse, #1)(6)

Bane (Vampire Apocalypse, #1)(6)
Author: H.M. Ward

The Queen noticed him immediately. Though he was forbidden, she enjoyed looking at him. Her Majesty sat dressed in a formal ball gown at the front of the room on a gleaming dais. Her skin was like snow, cold and pale. She smiled softly at him, but the gesture had no warmth. It was the look of a monarch who was bored to tears and glad to see someone else to talk to.

Will approached her with his shoulders back, a confident swagger to his walk. Stopping before her throne, he bowed deeply, “Your Majesty.”

“Will Tatum,” Will looked up at her and she smiled sincerely, “it seems my idiot brother decided to provoke me at the worst possible time.”

“He usually does,” Will replied, carefully.

“Yes, well, this will be the last time. I’ll deal with this quickly. If he gets blood on my dress… ,” her voice trailed off leaving the threat hanging in the air. Her slim delicate fingers were gripping the arms of her dais so tightly that the wood began to crack. Although most vampires were in a weakened state from the blood shortage, the Queen was not. She’d suck dry as many humans as she needed to maintain her power.

Before Will could say a soothing comment, Regent Reginald stood in the doorway across the room. Guards flanked him on both sides. Will stepped back, moving to the right hand of the Queen. He placed his hands behind his back, expression blank, and stared straight ahead like he had no opinion on anything. Appearances were deceiving, especially in the palace. In his mind, Will was fuming. He trusted this idiot to do as he was told, and the arrogant fool did the exact opposite.

The Queen’s voice was frigid, her eyes narrowed on her brother, “This is beneath you, Reggie. It really is. Tonight is All Hollow’s Eve. You know it’s my favorite event of the year and you have to show up and ruin it.”

Her brother bowed low after crossing the room. The candlelight flickered in his dark eyes as he glared at his sister. A smile twisted his mouth in a way that chilled Will to the bone. Reginald had a reputation for leaving a wake of blood in his path, but his elder sister was the one to watch out for. This temper tantrum she pretended to throw was a rouse. Will knew the only color she was seeing at that moment was red. “Sister, every holiday is your favorite.”

Will groaned inside. The mindless banter between these two made his skin crawl. He wished one would just kill the other and be done with it. Then he’d only have one crazy vampire to deal with.

The Queen’s lips pursed into a thin line, her brown eyes narrowing, “How dare you cross my thresholds and behave this way. How dare you break the law and trample across my front lawn ridiculing me like a monarch that can’t even control her own family!” She stood and walked toward him. Long brown curls were pinned to the back of her head, her bodice hugging tightly to her narrow waist. She didn’t look a day over twenty, though Will knew she was at least a few hundred years old. She was one that survived the flood and the freeze, so did her wicked brother.

Reggie scoffed, turning as his older sister held her skirts in her hands and glared at him, “I was doing nothing of the sort. But you, Sophia Analese,” he stepped closer to her, his body towering over hers, “cannot control me.” As he finished speaking, his hand flew out, reaching for her neck.

Sophia’s instincts were notorious. Before his fingers hand a chance to wrap around her delicate throat, she’d grabbed his wrist and twisted. Hard. The sound of wood snapping made Will flinch, but he didn’t move. He wouldn’t move unless he was bidden. This was the Queen’s guilty pleasure. She liked exercising power over people. Though she acted like it ruined her evening, her confrontations with her brother tended to do the opposite. Her crimson lips were pulled back into a sinister smile as she twisted, showing her perfectly white teeth.

“I can and I will, little brother,” she hissed while smashing his wrist in her grip. When she felt his bones snap, she released him.

Reginald’s body shook with anger. As soon as Sophia released his wrist, he saw his opening and took it. His older sister’s side was exposed, her hand moving a stray hair from her cheek. A knife appeared and he jabbed it into his sister’s side. Blood poured from the wound, soaking her gown. Sophia’s gaze narrowed, the muscles in her arms flinching. She reached for his wrist and withdrew the blade, sending her brother—and the knife—sailing across the room into the opposite wall.

Sophia’s movements were too fast for Will too see. Before he could blink, the Queen had her brother by the throat with a razor-sharp strangle cord biting into his neck. Her white gloves were stained in blood, and protected her hands from the sharp wire. “Oh, how I’ve waited for this day.” She tugged on the cord and it cut open the skin on Reginald’s neck. “Mother always said you were more likely to make something of yourself. She had no idea how wrong she was.” Sophia was trying to control herself. She wanted to do this slowly. She wanted to hear him beg and listen to him suffer. A lifetime of torture wouldn’t heal what he’d done to her in their youth. It took every ounce of restraint to not pull the cord and lop off his head.

Reginald’s hands were on Sophia’s wrists. He shook, trying to pry his sister off his neck, but he was losing. She was stronger, better fed with a better blood supply. She would always be stronger, unless something changed. His mind drifted to Kahli and he wished he hadn’t left her, but it was too late now. Remorse didn’t help win wars.

Will remained still, watching, hoping one of them would destroy the other. It would make his life so much easier, but things never went that way for him. Life was always one hard knock after another, and most of those contusions came from the two vampires in front of him.

“You never let me finish saying anything. You’re like an old crown that dribbles on because she likes the sound of her own voice too much to shut up.” He spoke matter-a-factly, like his sister wasn’t trying to kill him. Sophia’s eyes blazed. She shook trying to kill him slowly, even though she didn’t want to wait anymore. Maybe that’s why he said it, maybe that’s why he offered, “I brought you gift upon gift, and instead of saying thank you, you sick your guard on me. I didn’t even get a chance to wrap anything.”

“You’re a bad liar,” Sophia laughed like a crazy woman and kicked him in the stomach. The cord cut deeper, drawing more blood, weakening her brother and causing his back to slump.

Reginald gasped, “If you destroy me, I won’t get to tell you the secret—”

She hissed in his face, “There is no secret. You’re a cat who has exceeded his nine lives.”

“Ah, there you’d be wrong. Tell them to bring in the girl and see for yourself. She’s filthy, but you’ll see what she is and what she’s not.” Will stiffened. His jaw tightened to keep himself from reacting. Reginald didn’t know why he had Kahli. No one did.

Sophia tugged the chains once more, tightly. A sadistic smile lined her lips, “I’ll see nothing, but another crass attempt at you trying to preserve your overly-long life. I’m bored with this Reggie. Really, I am. I expected more from you.” She smiled at him. Pressing her forehead to his, she said, “Say hello to Mother for me,” and tugged.

“She’s wild!” the words rang out before the Queen had time to pull the cord all the way, before she could severe her brother’s head and end his annoying life.

The wire slackened in her hands. Blood stained the front of her ball gown, but Sophia ignored it. “Wild?” She sat back, dropping the cord, sliding it off his neck. Her big brown eyes looked up at her little brother, his neck spewing blood like fire-hydrant spews water. “That can’t be—”

Her brother sat leaning against the wall, his dark eyes narrowed in hatred, hands clutching his throat. This was the closest she’d ever gotten to killing him, and the condition he was in now didn’t allow him to fight back. Giving up the girl was the price of freedom. Besides, he could steal her back at a later date. “It’s true,” he rasped.

The Queen stood, brushing the blood off her gloves onto the skirt of her gown. She turned to the guards. They watched the entire scene without blinking. This was old news to Will, but to outsiders it looked like the fight of the century. Pulling off a bloodied glove, she snapped at them, “Fetch the girl. Bring her here.” When the guard didn’t move, a dark brow shot up Sophia’s face—a look you didn’t want to get from her. “NOW!”

The two ran out of the room. Sophia eyed Will and glanced back at her brother. She tapped the glove to her lips, not caring about her blood-stained gown or her ruined party. “What do you think of this William? Could there be a wild human?”

Will answered factually, “They are extinct in the wild, Your Majesty.”

“I know that,” she snapped, “I meant do you believe him? Is it possible that we missed one? That a single girl could have survived this long on her own?” Sophia tapped the glove to the side of her lip, leaving a smear of blood on her face. Her slender figure moved slowly, pacing, thinking what it would mean if it were true. She turned to her brother, “You will die more horrifically than you ever dreamed if you deceived me tonight.”

Reggie’s wounds were healing slowly. He pushed himself upright against the wall, still sitting in his blood. “And since I want to live, I wouldn’t lie—not about this.” He spared a glance at Will, but made no appearance that they knew one another, outside of their relationship with Sophia.

“Do you know what this would mean?” Her eyes were wide, filled with wonder and promise of things long forgotten. Her power would be unending. A pure blood supply from a human not ridden by disease of weak blood. She was practically giddy.

“Of course I do—”

Sophia cut him off as she saw the guards drag in a girl between them. “This is it?” she asked. Her lips pulled into a sneer, like she was disgusted. Kahli’s clothes were still crusted with blood and hanging in shreds. Her hair hung in knotted clumps around a face that was stained with blood and dirt. She had stitches in her arm and her shoulder was still bandaged, reeking of ointment. “What’s wrong with her?”

Reginald, pushed himself off the floor and walked over, “Attacked by wolves, or so I was told. She was wandering up in the old Empire region. I bought her off a trader who patched her up.” He ignored Will as he spoke, acting like the man who sold her wasn’t standing right in front of them. Things had always been this way, for as long as Will could remember.

“What makes you think she’s wild?” Sophia’s eyes examined Kahli, sliding over her again and again, appraising the legend standing before her.

Kahli didn’t say anything. She wasn’t sure what was happening. When they brought her inside she half expected to see Reggie had killed the Queen, but the Queen was still alive. Her Regent captor on the other hand, didn’t look so well. Her emerald eyes shifted between them, failing to notice one other person standing in shadow.

Reggie sighed, running his fingers through his black mane, “Her inking is wrong. Her coloring is wrong. Her build is wrong… Damn woman, look at her! Does she have muddy eyes and inky hair? Does she have that gangly build you used to find so appealing? The creature is all color and curves! We didn’t breed anything like that.”

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