Chapter 1


It took everything in Esmé's power to not turn her head away or even grimace as blood splashed across her front and a blood-curdling scream echoed against the cold stone walls. The crimson pooled on the floor, and three men pounced on the puddle, lapping at it with elongated tongues. Anna, the girl whose throat had just been ripped out brutally, hung lifelessly in the arms of another man who sucked on her neck viciously and tenderly at the same time, as if she were a lover and he a wolf. It was disgusting, twisted, the way that the vampires lapped at the floor below Anna as blood dripped from her toes.

Despite the grotesque scene in front of her, Esmé was not allowed to make a noise until she was spoken to. Neither were any of the other girls next to her, one to her left, and the other to her right. If they behaved, they'd come out alive. It was the role of the slave to either be the meal or the clean up crew in situations like this. If one were weak, then they'd be eaten. If one was stronger, then they could handle cleaning after feeding time.

Esmé noticed before the vampires did the smell of fear that permeated from the girl to her left. A new girl to the Coven de Audet, she surely was used for the purpose of satisfaction before she was traded. Not long after the girl began to shake, and then let out a whimper.

The tiny sound was enough for the vampires, and before she could even blink one of the vampires on the floor was at her throat, draining her precious lifeblood from the main artery in her neck. She began sobbing before the vampire – probably newly turned – cracked her neck in half in its bloodlust, the haze of feeding making it unaware of what it was doing. Her mouth and eyes remained open, newly shed tears coursing down her cooling cheeks. I never even learned her name, she thought, though she didn't much care.

The girl on her right, Charlotte, remained composed as ever. Esmé had spoken to her once, and had learned in the brief conversation that she'd been with the Coven for two years. Impressive, for how brutal this particular Coven could get.

Soon another vampire joined the first on the neck of the girl next to her, the slurping sounds almost too much to bear so close to her. Thankfully they were done feeding within a few minutes, as did the other two. The leader dropped Anna, and strode towards Esmé and Charlotte. Without much ado he lifted the sleeve of Esmé's tunic and wiped his mouth with it. "You will report to Claude when you are done here," he said before he left the room, with two vampires following him.

Claude was the one who had remained lapping at the floor, a vampire of higher rank and obvious obedience and loyalty to the Coven Master. He stood to the side while the two girls began to move the bloody corpses. They were to be wrapped, and later would be carted out by a Newborn to be fed to the wolfhounds that guarded the grounds. After wrapping the bodies they got onto their hands and knees and began cleaning the drying blood. By the end their knees would be bloody too, and it would be difficult to keep more blood joining that which they'd just cleaned. It'd take two hours if they were fast, an excruciating time to be on hands and knees, but it would be a blink of an eye to their keeper.

When they were done, they rose from their places and waited until Claude approved of their work. Then they were taken out of the dungeons, and brought up one level to the human quarters. Still underground, it was slightly better lighted, the flickering torches of the rooms below replaced with dim, incandescent lights that hung in exact distances from the ceiling. They were far out of reach of humans, and with no lightshades would be too hot to touch.

They were taken then to their room, which they shared with six other girls. None spoke a word, and the girls barely even looked up as they entered. Claude closed the door behind him and locked it, leaving them in complete darkness. It was only then that any words were spoken.

"Who else went with you?" a girl said from within the blackness. Esmé recognized the voice as Beatrice's, a brunette child of barely fifteen years.

"Anna and the new girl, from two weeks ago." It felt like forever since she'd used her voice.

"They didn't make it?" another asked.

"No."

Nothing else was said then, though the other girls helped them with the open wounds on their knees and palms. Esmé had only been with for a little while herself, perhaps a little over two months, though time seemed suspended in this place, so she didn't know exactly how long it was. They never saw real light, and they never were told what time it was – not unusual in Covens, but surreal regardless.

No vampires bothered them the rest of the evening, though at some point they were given food that was fed through a slot in the door. The girls moved slowly through the room, for the lack of light to see by and also from the lack of spirit. When eventually they slept, they had an odd nest of thin blankets and sheets and mattresses in a corner. Sometimes they would take turns, and would huddle underneath the covers together to help keep them warm. The young ones would crawl against the older girls, hoping for comfort, though there were little to share and even less to give equally.

Esmé didn't know if it was a full day before their door was opened again and a girl was taken from the shadows by the vampires. The blonde waif didn't come back. Later another girl was taken, and managed to return, in much the same condition that Esmé had returned only a little while ago.

That was how the days passed, tending to the ones who were fed on or that had cleaned up from the feeing, a blur of misery and darkness that was hardly worthwhile to recount. Esmé was called on again eventually, though she wasn't sure if it'd been four, five or even ten days since she'd been in steady light once more. The lightbulbs above her burned her eyes, and it took a while for them to adjust as she followed the vampire who had summoned her down the cool halls of the Coven.

She was led lower than the dungeons though, and she was the only one that was brought along this time. Maybe this was her first lucky chance. She'd expected to need to plan longer, but if this impromptu idea could come to fruition then that would be much, much better for her. She could get out of this hellhole and return to where she belonged.

The floor below the dungeons was the vampire living quarters. As usual and as expected, it was incredibly opulent, with lush dark curtains made of thick velvet draped from the stone walls and quilted carpets lining the floors. But it was much, much colder in this part of the Coven than anywhere else, and Esmé could feel death cling to the walls like a shroud. As she walked she noted there was no sound in this part of the building; even in the dungeons above there was the occasional scream, or in the slave quarters a spoken word or a sniffle.

It was eerie. It made the whole floor seem like it was waiting for something with baited breath. Esmé certainly wanted no part of it, but she knew that whatever was being waited for was her. And while she knew this fact, she also knew that it might be her ticket to freedom.

So she followed, obediently as she was supposed to, until the vampire before her opened a door on their left and led her inside. Within, the room was dark, and since the vampire closed the door instantly behind her she didn't even get a chance to see the faint lines of any furniture or people. The room was more dangerous because of that fact, and suddenly she was ready to ensure that at least not for freedom she would remain alive in this strange situation she was being put through.

She was pushed into the center of the room, and a light turned on once she'd stopped her momentum. The push was hard, but well executed to make her stop only a certain distance away from the door. The glare of the light, as well as the shape of the lightshade, directed all of the light onto her and blinded her from seeing beyond the shadows of the circle that had been placed around her. She regained her balance completely and stood straight. Again, as always, she didn't show any signs of her inner panic or awareness. Though vampires were silent creatures, perfect predators in almost every sense of the word, she could feel them around her, watching her. For a long time she'd trained for that, and so with startling clarity she could tell that there were about a dozen vampires around her. Some were young, but she felt age there too; her Coven Lord, and one other. There were a handful of Newborns, and then the Coven Lord's upper circle, like Claude. She couldn't tell exactly where they stood, but she knew they were there.

It terrified her that she had so many eyes on her at once.

Finally, the Coven Master spoke. "What do you think, my lord?" he asked casually. His voice oozed flattery, and doubtless this new lord heard it too.

He took a few moments to speak again. "She's not bad."

Esmé could have bristled with indignation, but she really couldn't bring herself to care, nor could she offend this man. She could tell from his tone that he was a creature to be reckoned with, and it made her incredibly curious.

"She came into my possession almost three months ago, and she's been incredibly obedient," the Coven Lord said. "I feel like she would be well suited to you, my lord. We've only fed on her a handful of times, and never in our games for how well trained she is."

"Hmm."

Oh? He didn't sound impressed, and this caught her attention even more. Who ever this lord was didn't sound like ones typical vampire.

"Well, what say you? She's yours, if you wish."

Esmé's eyes widened, for the first time since her arrival betraying her emotion. She was being pawned off? This was what this entire thing was about? Sudden anger and frustration spread through her. She hadn't completed her mission yet! Those months of time, waiting and planning so patiently, all gone to waste in a mere moment! It all depended on the answer of the mysterious lord, but vampire etiquette dictated that a lord never refused a gift from another lord.

As she predicted, the unknown lord spoke his acceptance, and she was led out of the light. Too quickly the situation changed for her, and she was none too happy about it. The Coven Lord led the group out of the room, and then her new Lord followed immediately after. She couldn't see his features from the angle in which she was led, but could tell from his gait that he was confident without being cocky, and refined without being elitist. Her keeper, for now, held her arm in a vice grip and held her close to him.

She didn't struggle against this vampire, but it seemed the further they walked, the tighter his grip became. Strange, but she didn't really think too much of it. Maybe he was nervous having the second Coven Master in the building, maybe he hadn't fed in a while. She hardly cared what it was. They walked into the second level of the complex, following the path she'd only just came from, when suddenly the vampire went berserk.

With a snarl it jerked her towards itself, lunging for her always-exposed neck, sinking elongated teeth into the flesh just above her collar. It tore, and it hurt, and she tried to cry out but she was so used to not making a sound when she was in pain. She felt a rush through her, like her life was being sucked out of her, which she figured was happening.

As soon as it happened, the vampire was torn off of her and excruciating pain coursed through her. The venom that paralyzed the skin around the abrasions faded quickly, for how little time the vampire was on her, and the seething pain that followed made her groan in agony. It throbbed and stung and pierced and burned and she almost collapsed under the strain it caused her body. Almost as soon as the vampire released her though, another caught her, encircling her waist with its arm.

She felt a tongue lapping at her neck, and felt a shudder of disgust run through her. But the world, which seemed so blurry only a moment before, slowly began to go into focus again, and the pain faded, slowly but surely from her neck. She realized that her mouth was gaping open and closed it, but as a slave was not allowed to move until their master was done feeding so stayed still otherwise. But she did peek to see who it was that was healing her.

Unsurprisingly it was her new lord. Likely didn't want to lose his new toy so quickly, but she was a little shocked to find he was treating her with such tenderness. It was not unusual to have a vampire heal a slave, if there was a high enough chance that it'd die without the healing, but only if the slave merited the Blood Power it took to do that kind of healing. Afterward, the slave would be in such debt to the vampire that it would be regularly drained to within an inch of its life.

How curious then, that this vampire would use it on her already, but Esmé really didn't give it too much mind. She was his now, technically, so she wasn't allowed to question his motives or his actions. But she could be pissed that his arrival had foiled all her plans.

"Are you alright now?" he asked once he'd finally lifted his mouth from her neck.

She nodded, and mumbled a sheepish, "Yes, my lord," though inside she was screaming with frustration.

Finally though she had a chance to look at this vampire's face. The strong, aristocratic lines of his jaw and nose contrasted with the fine, almost sweet cupid's kiss above his mouth. Dark blue-green eyes stared at her from behind black lashes and brows, and the colour reminded her of the colour of the sea before a storm.

Despite his beauty, which was a trait that many vampires had, his looks unnerved her. Esmé reckoned it was due to the very blank look in his face. He stared at her with no shame, but also with the unsettling gaze of lifelessness. He didn't even look predatorial, unusual especially after feeding.

"Thank you, my lord," she said to break the gaze, and stood on her feet again.

The vampire that had attacked her lay in a crumpled heap against the opposite wall, a large pool of blood around it. She realized that it had been beheaded, and felt dizzy for it. The other vampires, including Claude and the Coven Master, stood in a semi circle around her and her new owner.

"Keep a better handle on your men," the new master said. "Or else next time I'll dismember him and you, Jean Marc."

"I apologize, m'lord," the Coven Master said. "I don't know what was wrong with him. Probably had not fed."

"Or feeds too much. Gluttony is a terrible thing. It only encourages us to act on our basest of instincts."

"Yes, m'lord."

There was a moment of silence that permeated the space. "Well, I am fairly certain I can find myself out from here. Come along, human, I don't like to be kept waiting."

Then he turned on his heel and immediately walked away from Jean Marc Audet, one of the most terrible and cruel Coven Masters, and as Esmé ran to catch up to him she could only wonder what it was that made this vampire so powerful that he should make even Audet submit.