The ride back to Kieran's mansion was short. I hadn't realized how close his mansion was to the school. I sat in the back of the car silently while the vampires up front discussed the reward they were going to receive for bringing me home. I watched the journey out the window, trying to come up with a plan and not be terrified out of my wits. This was a terrible plan and I was a moron for it, but I couldn't leave Hunter and Carl to Kieran. They were my best friends. Hunter meant even more to me. I wasn't sure I loved him. My head was too messed up from being with Reem and under Kieran's control. But I knew I cared about him, and I couldn't let anyone I cared about stay with Kieran.
I knew I couldn't let these vampires take me directly to Kieran. I'd never save my friends if Kieran got ahold of me before I saw them. I remembered how the vampires who attacked Hunter had obeyed my order to stop and they had all frozen, unable to disobey me. My plan was forming, but it wouldn't work on these two goons. They weren't Kieran's men directly. All vampires were under Kieran's control since he was the king, but that's all these two were.
We finally pulled up to the mansion and the vampires got out of the car. "C'mon, pet. Kieran will be happy to see you home," one of them told me as he opened my car door. I slipped out of the car, keeping my head down and trying to look meek and tamed. The act fooled the vampires. They walked me up to the front door where one of Kieran's men was on duty. Kieran's man looked surprised to see me. I had to act now if my plan had any chance of working.
Take me to Hunter and Carl. Take me to where the two new captives are. I sent the order magically, trying to force him to do my will. I saw his eyes glaze for a second before he greeted the goons.
"Kieran is upstairs. He will give you your reward there. I will take the girl," the vampire grabbed my arm and dragged me into the house. One of the servants led the two vampires upstairs. The vampire who held me dragged me to Kieran's ballroom. Hunter and Carl were bound to chairs in the middle of the room. They were both beaten and bloody. Carl was naked except for a towel someone had covered him with. They had somehow gotten him to shift back from wolf form to human form. "You stay in here until Kieran comes for you." He shoved me in the room and left.
The second he left, I ran to Hunter and Carl. They were both bound and gagged. They were bound in chains. I couldn't free them. I cursed Kieran and wished he had bound them in rope. Rope I could have done something with. Chains I couldn't. I knelt beside them, looking for any weakness in their bonds. I found none and I knew I didn't have a lot of time. I reached up to remove their gags at the least. "Hunter, I can't break the chains. You have to help me," I told him urgently. We didn't have a lot of time. I knew he wouldn't be able to help, though. He was barely conscious and was bleeding from a head wound at his temple. Carl wasn't looking any better. I would have to do this alone.
"Adi, run. Get out of here," Hunter groaned. He was mostly out of it and still trying to protect me.
"Not without you," I told him firmly.
I heard footsteps then and whirled towards the door. Kieran, Rose, Reem, and some of Kieran's vampires entered the room. We were out of time. I positioned myself so I was standing between Kieran and my friends. I wouldn't let him hurt them anymore. "I knew you would return to save your friends," Kieran greeted me. It took everything I had not to cower. I was going to do what I had to, to save my friends. But I had lived in the world again, I had known freedom. I wasn't going to submit to him easily.
"Let them go," I told him firmly. I saw a flicker of hesitation. I saw him fight the words. It was just a moment, but I saw it. I just needed to figure out how to work with that hesitation.
"Gladly. Just come back to me, pet," he told me, holding out his hand to me in invitation. I took a deep breath, trying to find a way out of this. "I don't want them. They can leave here in one piece. All you have to do is willingly come back to me." His voice sounded like syrup, too sweet, but also hypnotic. It sounded like such a reasonable trade. All I had to do was trade myself for them.
I'd had to trade myself once before. Four years before when I traded myself for Michael and Paige.
Why do I have to trade myself? Why doesn't he just take me? I'm just a human... the thought came to me, fighting its way through Kieran's words. He could have just taken me then, and he could just do so now. Why did I have to agree, why did I have to make the trade. I'm the daughter of the King and Queen of the vampires. Maester Wright tried to hide me. If I'm their Princess... then I'm the rightful Queen. He was always taking my blood, then my daughter's...
"The student they are targeting is the daughter of two vampires, daughter of their previous king and queen. She is also the Child of Dreams, the Daughter of the Prophecy, Dreams Come to Life. Each of your cultures has a term for what she is, and what she will mean to you." Maester Wright had said only this afternoon. I wasn't just the heir to the vampire throne. That's why Reem had protected me, why the shifters in Kieran's service had always been looking out for me. That's why he had been looking for me for years, why he stole girls with red hair and magic. He wanted me and my power from the beginning. He was only king because of me.
I understood then. Kieran only had the power to rule because I had willingly given my power to him. I was coerced into it, but I had still made the choice to let him control me. When he controlled me, he controlled my power and my birthright.
"No," I told him firmly. I shifted then into my hybrid form. I needed that strength now.
"You do not wish to save your friends?" Kieran asked calmly, still smug, still sure. Nobody had moved. They were waiting for what was going to happen.
"I will save my friends, Kieran," I replied, softly yet strongly. For the first time since he took me, I was taking control. I would not take orders from him anymore. My friends' lives depended on it.
I am the rightful heir. I am queen. Rightfully it is mine. This vampire is not going to take that away from me anymore. I am the rightful ruler. Why should I fear this one vampire?
"You will join me again?" Kieran laughed smugly. I watched him laugh for a second. Let him think that I was going to give up willingly. I wasn't completely cured. Or anywhere near it, but I knew that I had to save my friends. This was the price.
"Adi, no!" Hunter yelled, finally starting to come around some. At least enough to catch up with what he thought I was doing.
"I'm free," I said firmly. Kieran faltered. I looked at him, glaring, fire burning in my eyes as my magic flared around me. "I will not rejoin you Kieran, and you will let them go," I snarled at him. Kieran glared and regained his composure.
"I have power over everyone in this room," He snarled. I glared in reply. He was wrong.
I am queen.
He hesitated, then turned. "Kill the males. Lock her up," he ordered the vampires.
I grabbed my magic, felt the part that felt like the vampires, the part that was cold and still and eternal. I grabbed it and threw it to every vampire in the room. "Don't listen to him," I ordered. They stopped, confused, but they obeyed my order without question.
"You obey me. Don't listen to this bitch!" Kieran shouted at them. "I have the power here!" He was losing control of them and he knew it.
"No. You don't." I told him, matter-of-factly. I glared, finally accepting it for myself. I was free. "I do." Kieran gasped, taking a step back away from me. For once, he was scared of me. I was just hoping that it would last. I looked at two of the vampires in the room. "Untie my friends," I ordered them, still softly. I allowed them a taste of the power I possessed. I knew what it was for now. It wasn't to please Kieran. It was to rule them. The two vampires bowed to me.
"Yes, milady," They said in unison and went to their task. Everyone else stared at me in utter disbelief. I returned my attention to Kieran, trying to figure out what to do with him so that he would leave me alone for good. I gathered my courage and my wits, knowing that I would need both. I also knew that I had precious little of either. At least I was here and not giving up. That has to count for something, right? I also knew in my heart what the final answer would be. I didn't want to accept it. Not yet. The human part of me insisted I had to give him a chance for redemption.
I took a deep breath. "I am you queen, Kieran. As was my mother before me. She died in a fire, as did my father, the king. You took control of me when you didn't have the right or power to rule. You contained my magic so that I could not fight you, and you could try to rule. It's over, Kieran," I said firmly, remembering every punishment I had ever received from him. Carl shifted to wolf, his wounds healing as he did. Hunter stood and moved to stand behind me, in perfect guard position. I was glad to have them at my back for this.
"You are still mine," Kieran snarled, wavering only the smallest amount. He threw his magic at me. I threw up a shield and felt his magic flow off, not even touching me. "You cannot fight all of us," he laughed.
I threw my power then at the other vampires. I wasn't giving them an option to fight against me. I let them feel the power that came from their former rulers, let them feel the cold, still power of the vampires that I carried within me. I knew in my heart that only the rightful king or queen could accomplish that. "I am your rightful queen, all of you. Who dares fight against me?" I demanded in the loudest voice I had managed since Kieran had kidnapped me all of those years ago. No one answered except Kieran. He lunged at me, obviously trying to win by brute force. Three vampires held him and kept him away from me. I knew that what had to come next. I steeled myself. I had given him every opportunity. He hadn't deserved even that much. I knew that I had to do it, it was the only way to be rid of him.
"I, Adianna Kincaid, Queen of the vampires, Child of Darkness, here now pass judgment upon Kieran Rashada for the crime of high treason," I said in a loud clear voice. I tried my best to keep all hesitation out of my voice. It was hard to do all three at the same time: loud, clear, strong. I had too much trauma, too much torture in my past. I wasn't strong enough for this. I had to finish this soon before my resolve ended. I reached out with my magic and felt every vampire in the room. Kieran struggled, knowing my power for what it truly was now. The vampires who weren't holding Kieran went down on one knee, respecting my power.
"You tortured me for four years, Kieran," I stated. I touched him with my magic, drawing energy from him. He couldn't block me, he couldn't stop me. "You hurt me for no reason other than your enjoyment," I pilfered more energy, more of his lifeforce. He was still trying to fight me. I sent the energy to my friends in a much cleaner form. My friends needed the strength. They needed the healing that the energy could provide. "I won't tolerate you, or what you have done to me and countless others any longer. My judgment is permanent death," I said, taking all but the barest spark of energy, of life, from him. He collapsed with only the vampires keeping him on his feet.
"Mercy, please!" Kieran pleaded. Finally he stopped fighting me. He realized that I was his Queen, and that I had power over his life. I wasn't taking the bait.
"How can you ask for that which you cannot even define?" I demanded. He was afraid of me. I gave him one last thought.
You are not better than me, Kieran Rashada. You do not rule me.
With that knowledge, I took the last spark of his life and watched him crumple to dust without blinking. There was no regret. This ha been the right decision. He was finally gone.
The shackles, chains, and collars fell from Kieran's slaves the instant he was gone. Rose collapsed in tears. I nodded to Hunter and he ran to was holding her, calming her as she tried to fight him. "It's okay now, Lily," he soothed. He took off his jacket and wrapped it around her, covering her more than Kieran had.
"Lily?" She asked him softly, scared, confused. She had forgotten him. I saw the moment of hurt in his eyes, but it faded in his relief that he had finally saved her.
"You're my sister, Lil Blake," he said, trying to comfort her, to remind her.
"My liege, what are your orders?" A vampire asked me, pulling my attention from Hunter and Lily. The vampire was bowing and scared. I was getting tired of being strong. All I wanted to do was curl up and be warm, safe, and free. Instead. . .
"Get Sanguis here as soon as possible. We will meet in the throne room. Give us privacy until then," I ordered, exhaustion beginning to creep into my voice. "Reem, Hunter, Lily, Carl, come with me," I ordered. I led my friends into the throne room. We would be okay there, and it wasn't full of quite as many awful memories as the rest of the house.
"How did you-?" Reem asked as soon as we were alone. I sighed. I was too tired for this.
"I am their ruler by right. I reminded them of that with my power." I told them simply. Hunter was cradling Lily, crying softly as he tried to convince her of who she was. Reem stared at me as if he were still trying to believe.
"Adi?" he asked softly, not wanting to be disappointed. I nodded and went to him. I stood in front of him awkwardly. I didn't know what I felt about him and now wasn't the time to figure it out, and yet I was going to have to. "I never would've expected you to come back,"
"I had to get you out too," I whispered. I had forgotten about him for a little while. He had saved me while I was under Kieran's control, but he had also raped me and manipulated and abused me for his own gain. He moved toward me, expectantly, opening his arms, like he was going to hug me, like I was supposed to be in love with him. I took a step back with a small head shake. I couldn't be with him after everything he had done. I realized that I didn't feel anything for him except pity for the situation he had been in.
A knock on the door saved me from having to explain my reaction. Reem went to open the door, half-bowing as Sanguis entered.
"You wished to see me, my queen?" Sanguis asked, bowing to me. He was being careful, he was scared of me. It was definitely a new feeling, having people be scared of me: an ex-slave.
"Yes, please, come, sit," I addressed him. I smiled at him, trying to be perfectly civil. We both took a chair. "I'm not going to spend time with stupid small talk, I have a request of you, Sanguis," I told him bluntly. I was getting really too exhausted for any of this. I just wanted to go home. Sanguis bowed his head.
"What is your request, Lady of the Night?" He asked carefully, trying not to anger me. Note the irony.
"I request that you rule the vampires in my stead. I have responsibilities in the human world and cannot rule full time, which is what the vampires need. I need a regent to rule in my stead. You were always kind when we met previously. I know you know the old ways of the vampires and I trust that you will follow the path I wish for the vampires to take. You would rule with my blessing, but not with my power. We can set up the details later if you accept. My first order, whether you accept or not, is that all of the slaves are now free. They are to be rehabilitated to deal with the real world, or given jobs in yours." I concluded. I sat back and waited for his answer. I was still trying to pretend to be completely healed, completely in control. It was definitely hard. I was still afraid that he, or one of the other vampires was just going to kill me.
Sanguis nodded and bowed from his chair. "I will do as you ask, milady, though I do hope you take your throne when you are ready," he said. I smiled, relieved.
"Thank you. If you'll excuse us?" I stood without waiting for his reaction, except to note that he went down on one knee a second later. There were still plenty of details to figure out, but I couldn't stay in this mansion any longer. It held too many bad memories. "Let's go home," I surveyed my friends. They were beaten, bruised, and sick, but all of us were ready to leave. They nodded.
"Be well, my queen," Sanguis wished me. All of the vampires were waiting with Sanguis in the foyer. All of them bowed when we went past. "A limo is waiting for you, my queen," I nodded, smiling.
"Thank you," I responded simply. He offered me an arm and walked me to the limo. Sanguis himself opened the door for us. Once we were all settled, Sanguis closed the door and gave the driver the address. The next thing I knew, Reem had picked me up and set me in his lap. He hugged me, seeking comfort for himself.
I shrieked and scrambled out of his reach. Carl growled and grabbed Reem, dragging him as far away from me as the limo would allow. "What the hell? She's my mate!" Reem yelled at the werewolf, hitting the wolf.
"No. I'm not," I told Reem firmly. "I am grateful you saved me and helped me during the years I was with Kieran. I know some of the things you did while we were slaves was not your fault, but many of them were. I cannot be with you. I saved you from Kieran. We are even now." Reem sputtered in response.
"Bitch! I saved your life and this is how you repay me?"
"You manipulated an abused, tortured teenage girl for sex. You raped me when I couldn't consent and tried to convince me that I had," I snarled at him. Hunter and Carl both growled at him and Lily cowered in the farthest corner of the limo she could find.
A second later, Carl shifted back to human form and was forcibly removing Reem from the limo, despite the fact that he was naked when he shifted. Reem fought, but Carl was stronger and the better fighter.
Soon we were alone in the limo and driving back to campus. Carl curled up on the seat next to me in wolf form. I hugged him and buried my fingers in his fur. Hunter was preoccupied with Lily. I didn't blame him. She was his sister and he had been looking for him for years. I dozed off, curled with my safe, gay, werewolf bodyguard.
The limo stopped in front of our house on campus. I sat up when we stopped and I noticed that Maester Right, Sebastian, Bree, and Paige were sitting on the porch, waiting for us. Uh-oh I felt the thought from all of us. We were all in trouble. The driver opened the door and everyone stepped out out, leaving me for last. I stepped out slowly, afraid of another confrontation today.
Paige had ran over to greet us, to make sure we were ok. Maester Right and Sebastian both ran over to me and hugged me at the same time. They both took a step back and started ranting at me about how stupid I was to go off to fight a vampire alone. I will not break down. I told myself firmly. I held up a hand to stop them. "If you're both yelling at me at the same time, there's no way I can listen to both of you," I told them, trying to smile.
"Sorry . . . what?" They demanded at the same time, wondering why I wasn't whimpering and apologizing. I smiled at them, willing to take my punishment for running off. I was free now. We all ended up in the livingroom of my campus house. Between the three of us, we explained everything that had happened with the vampires. We talked until early in the morning.
"I knew you could do it, Adi. Though you really should have waited until you had backup and a proper plan," Maester Right was gentle in his scolding. Everything had worked out in the end.
"I know. I apologize for that, but I knew how awful Kieran was and I couldn't leave Hunter and Carl to him," I told him. He nodded.
It was decided that Lily would live here with us. Hunter and the teachers here were going to rehabilitate her, and me too, since I knew I still needed help. I would be attending classes in the fall. I was going to go back to a normal life. I was finally free.
There was one more urgent loose end. I had to give my daughter a proper burial. I had to tell Hunter and Maester Wright about her. "Hunter?" I asked. He looked over at me, away from his sister who was sleeping in the armchair she had curled up in when she got here. "I have something I need to show you," I told him. He needed to know what I had done. He came over and sat on the loveseat next to me. He offered me a hand with a smile.
"Anything," he told me simply. I saw in his eyes that his feelings hadn't changed just because he had found his sister. I took his offered hand and opened my mind, filing through my memories quickly until I found the one I needed to show you.
"You have to know what I did," I told him softly, with tears in my eyes. I was afraid he was going to reject me, to be horrified by what I had done. I hid from the memories. I couldn't relive them, but Hunter needed to know. I let him see my memories of the night I had escaped from Kieran's mansion, the night Reem had killed Hope..
He broke the connection first and dropped my hand. I looked down with tears in my eyes, terrified of his reaction. "It wasn't your fault. You tried to save her," he told me gently, softly. "We'll give her a proper burial. It's the least we can do for her." He opened his arms, offering me a hug if I wanted it. I took the hug and sobbed into his chest, finally allowing myself to feel the emotions I had buried, to feel the horror and dread of losing my daughter.
"I couldn't save her," I sobbed.
"I know, but you tried. Reem was going to kill her regardless," I heard Hunter's snarls at the words and wondered briefly if Reem was going to face Hunter's wrath. I don't think Hunter would be alone, and I hoped I would be invited along as well.
With the promise of a proper burial for Hope and a future of freedom, Maester Wright finally sent us all to bed. Lily had been given the room next to mine. We walked up the stairs together, neither of us truly believing that it was over and we were finally, finally free. I could tell by her expression of shock and wonder, and how she cowered from all the males, even Hunter that it was going to be a long recovery for her.
I knew it was going to be a long recovery for myself as well. I laid in bed, finally thinking about my future, and realizing that I actually had one.
Once, I had thought I was normal. A long while ago I realized I wasn't. I don't belong in this the world of light. Not by birth anyway. In some ways because of Kieran I finally found a place now. A place where I've got Hunter to teach me and train me, maybe even love me. A world with him, Michael, Bree, Carl, and Paige as my friends. I could finally live life how I was meant to, as a free person. I still had a lot of decisions to make, but many of those would come after high school, which suddenly didn't seem as scary, at least not compared to Kieran. Even Kieran wasn't scary once I knew I had power and once I had learned to use it. He knew I had power and he wanted to control it. I saved Carl and Hunter, with my friends' help, I never thought they would be so important, so powerful. So from here I had the rest of my life to decide what I wanted to do.
The rest of my life.
The words seemed so full of possibility, now that Kieran was gone. Much more than they did all of those years ago, when Kieran first kidnapped me. Thoughts keep coming about the future, what was I going to do? Right then, I was just glad I had a decision, that I would not be spending the rest of my days as some vampire's slave. Finally I was free. I knew he'd always have a part of me, a part he spoiled and broke over those years, there was nothing I could do about it, but learn to live with the scars. There was no need to dwell on the past any longer.
I had the rest of my life ahead of me.
The end. For now.