Thunder cracked across the sky, waking the rest of nature. Rain drops could be heard pit pattering against the window and roof. Small cracks in the window frame sent a cool gust of wind across the dark room that concealed Serena. A shiver shot across her spine, waking her. Disoriented, she stumbled in an attempt to get to her feet. To no avail, she slumped back to the ground and leaned against a dresser. Though she had no recollection of the last time she had eaten, or how long she had been asleep, she knew one thing; Serena had awoken in Stephen Lightwood's bedroom.
Stephen Lightwood was not a man to become tangled with, but Serena did not know that when they first began talking. Throughout time she learned of him through friends and neighbors. Information flooded her mind as if a dam had been broken down after holding back a tsunami. Waking in Stephen's room could on mean one thing, she had been chosen. How? She wondered. Serena and Stephen had only met on occasion to drink coffee or go on a walk. There had been no tension between them that suggested he wanted her. Once Serena learned of his family and the girls he had captured she quit seeing him. But that was not enough to stop him.
Now Serena lay slumped against a musty wall in the manor of her new enemy. The room was dark except for the moonlight that crept through cracks in the windows; the windows themselves having been painted over to keep out sunlight. An order Stephen's father set in place in a time before windows could be treated to keep out ultra violet rays. Mildew could be smelled in the room, a result of the musty walls. Mold grew in the corners of the ceiling, homes to less than friendly spiders. Though, on this day the spiders had abandoned their homes, leaving spindly webs to blow about in the wind. Outlines of antique furniture began to take shape as Serena's eyes got used to the dark.
Finally finding the strength, Serena hobbled to the bed. A lamp lay on the nightstand beside it. When she was able to see she checked her arms. Just below the crease in her elbow lay the symbol marked in every Lightwood room; the families crest. Without hesitation, Serena picked up the lamp and sent it soaring. Just before it could hit the wall Stephen intervened, catching and placing it back on the night stand.
"Careful, that's an antique," he said teasingly.
"What have you done to me?" The words were less intimidating than Serena wished.
"Oh that?" He held her arm, caressing above the marking. "It's a treat. Like a gift."
"What kind of gift is this?" She became furious. How could he be so happy when all she wanted was to strike him?
"Well," he gently lifted her hand, "me of course," and gingerly kissed the top of it.
Serena stole her hand back and struck him across the face. "That is no gift I would ever wish for. You will never have me."
"Oh contraire, my little feisty one, see," he tugged her closer, "I already have you," his words were fierce now. This was no longer a game; Stephen was going to have her no matter how hard Serena fought. "Now, you sit in here, be a good girl and I'll see about dinner. You look famished." With that he was gone, giving Serena no time to respond.
There were no other options, Serena needed to get out and she needed to do it fast. Before Stephen could notice or catch her. She remembered the rumors of other girls he had 'chosen.' All had become his companions until they passed on and he chose a new one. Knowing that she would be living in the Lightwood manor, dying in the Lightwood manor, she needed to get out. But how, was the question. She knew there would be servant posted around the building to watch out for her. Climbing out the window was out of the question, being that she was several stories up; getting out seemed useless.
When morning came there were no birds chirping morning songs. Ivy grew upon the cobblestone walls, framing each window and door, even smothering some. Debris from the storm lay scattered across the courtyard and other parts of the lawn. Servant searched across the acres of land to discard the blemishes. The Lightwood property was to be spotless at all times. Stephen may have hurt his family's reputation with the way he toyed with emotions, but no person could say anything bad about the manor and its presence. Wind picked up, causing close branches to knock against the house.
Serena awoke to the sound of branches scraping glass. She did not remember falling asleep, but the events of the previous night stayed fresh in her mind. Tears had stained her cheeks the way the rain stained glass. The only sign of morning in the room was the small bits of sunlight coming through cracks in the window. There was no relief in daylight because she was still trapped with no hope of escaping. Stephen would be the victor is this cruel game, but he could never truly win her heart, that's something power cannot win.
She moved at the best of her ability, having refused dinner made her weaker than normal, she moved to the window. In an attempt to see, she pressed her face against the window pane, closed one eye, and focused. Once her vision cleared she could see the wreckage on the lawn and a bit of salvation. A latch to open the window was on the outside, next to a hold big enough to slip a few fingers in. The whole would need widening, but she did not want to risk one of Stephen's servants catching her. She would wait until night fall.
There was a tapping against the door and Serena flinched. She forgot someone would be coming to bring her breakfast. "C-come in," she turned to see who was bringing her food.
A small girl, not yet old enough to be on her own, entered. "The master has prepared a special breakfast for you in the garden. I have come to bring you your clothing and inform you your bath is ready," she laid a dress twice her size on the bed. "The ties are tricky, if you need help just call. I will hear." In truth she could have been older than Serena, being that she was not human, but her body was imprisoned to be young forever.
The garden was acres wide, providing enough space for the flowers as well as a maze. Rose bushes were scattered across the maze to provide a beauty. Ivy wound its way onto pushes and across paths. A plant that found its way everywhere, forcing itself in places it did not belong. The ivy matching Stephen well, the way he forced himself into Serena's life. Not a dandelion in sight and grass mowed so perfectly. Stephen and Serena sat just in the center of the maze where a dining table rested, covered in an assortment of breakfast foods. From fresh cut strawberries to warm pancakes, all was accounted for.
Serena poked at a waffle with her fork. Every inch of her burned to eat, but the overwhelming feelings she had would not make it easy. Stephen himself had gorged on the meats, taking enough to feed the both of them. Though he did not need blood to sustain himself, he needed food, protein. With careful precision, Serena cut her waffle into small pieces.
"Darling, you really do need your strength. Eat up."
"You know, my parents are going to call. They will begin to wonder why I am not answering. Maybe call the police. You should take me home," it was true, her parents would call. But they would assume she had spent the night at a friend's, as they usually do. They would be in no rush to leave their resort in California, soaking in the sun and draining customers of their money.
"Yes, well, they will joyful to know a man of such great stature has taken upon their daughter. Knowing my legacy, I am sure there will be no fight," there was a tinge of anger in his voice.
Serena grew silent. Her parents would not fight if they knew she had been taken by Stephen. He had been known to stop at nothing to keep his chosen one. No matter who he had to hurt in the process, he was going to get what he wanted. Besides, once they hear a vampire had taken her they would assume she was turned herself. Losing her soul, her purity; pieces that made her human. Suddenly the loss burned inside of her. Anxiety and desperation fought their way through her and she broke. The way a violin string can break to instantly searing the skin of the player. Tears burst through Serena's eyes, an occurrence she usually only had while sleeping. But now, of all times, she was falling apart in front of a man who would most desire to see her crumble.
"Now, now sweetie, no need to fall apart," Serena flinched away as he tried to coddle her. "Everything will be perfect, you'll see," with that he was gone.
As night drew closer Serena became nervous about her plan to escape. Being caught in a manor full of servants was inevitable. These men and women were loyal to Stephen and would not like to feel the punishment he would bring if they were to fail him. They would be ripped apart, only to be reassembled and ripped up again. Being immortal means an eternity to be punished. She shivered. What if he made me immortal and did the same? But this was no time to think of such circumstances, she needed to get out.
At dinner she became impatient. The clock's hands were moving but time was at a standstill. Eating took too long in this household and the food was becoming bland; a task not worth wasting precious get away time over. She needed to get out, quit this charade of sharing glances with a man, as if she would ever succumb to him. There would never be a day that he would have all of her, even if he locked her away for eternity.
The drum of the clock ticked through Serena's brain, taunting her. When will this be over? She had devised her plan between lunch and now. Worked out what to do once she was outside. Running would not be easy and the plan surely was not perfect, but it was a chance she was willing to take. Servants began swarming the dining room, collect plates and silverware. Finally. She tossed her napkin on her plate and stormed off to her room, making sure none of the servants had followed her. Nothing could stop her tonight, especially not a snooping maid.
Once inside, she gathered all of the blankets and towels she could find. Wrapping her hand in a cloth, she knocked out a pane of glass from the window. The task was difficult; the glass had to be punched in to keep from falling and making noise. As soon as she had the shard she began cutting and tearing at the clothes to create long strands that were able to support her weight. A plan she had seen on many of her favorite movies, she would use it to scale down the manor.
After assembling all of the pieces she checked the latch to the window. The latch was rusty and in need of greasing, yet easy to reach. With the aid of a small jewelry box, Serena was able to unlatch the window. The moon was full, illuminating the yard. This would be difficult. By this time the servants would be having their break, getting drunk on some poor victim's blood. A perfect time to get down, but once they were full their senses would be heightened. Getting past one would be a relentless task. Serena tore the legs off a chair. Ideal stakes, she thought, in case someone got too close.
With the stakes and sheets secured around her waist, Serena began her descent down the manor. Minuets passed before she could realize her first flaw; she had run out of rope and he legs swung freely. Where's the ground? Panic rose in her chest as she tried desperately to stay calm. Without any other options, she untied herself and went as far as the rope would take her before leaping to the ground. The fall was rough, scraping up her hands and knees, but she made it. Now came the tough part, she needed to run and not stop until she was safe within the city limits. Whoever stood in her way needed to be avoided or taken care of. Having no shoes made the task more difficult but she was determined.
The air was calm and quiet. Owls hooted as small creatures squirmed to their homes searching for shelter. Wind brought a small breeze, but enough to chill the bones of who it passed. Beyond the yard and into the trees the moons beams were useless, leaving darkness to conceal who crossed it. As soon as Serena could break through the entrance of the trees immediate danger would be gone. Obtaining enough stamina would be her biggest challenge and she had the willpower of a mother protecting her young. She ran and ran, kicking her legs out as far as they would go for ultimate coverage. When the path within the woods became visible she could feel tears burn her eyes, she was going to make it.
Before pain could register within her, Serena was planted on her back. Thinking she had missed a low hanging tree branch, she looked up to see something worse. She had prepared herself for this moment, but this was more difficult than she thought. The maid that had brought her dress stood above her, so young but no longer innocent. A death toll could hang above her head surpassing that of the cruelest. Being young made manipulation easy and she did not let it go to waste.
"I hope you weren't trying to leave. You know Stephen would be so hurt."
There were no words to express, only the fast hum drum of a heart so eager to be free. Serena knew there was only one way to keep going and it would be to take her out. A girl with the face of virtue would not be enough to hold her down when her life was on the line. She gripped the stake she had tucked away and struck before the girl had time to react. The stab was tough being that she was a vampire and had thick skin like the rest, but the deed was done. After concealing her body behind a brush, Serena picked up running again. Her legs burned more than they had, but she pushed on until they would become numb and move on their own. Miles passed before the break in the woods became visible, exposing a road. Trusting none of the drivers, Serena kept as hidden as possible. She kept a quick pace, wanting to get the city as soon as possible.
There was a breakthrough of comfort that only city sounds and the smell of exhaust can bring. Bright lights from store windows and street lights igniting a path of security. With the sound of horns and squealing brakes mixed with the voices of familiar people. This was the feeling of a warm blanket of a cold, rainy night. The freedom a bird feels when its owner unhinges the door, making no attempt to hold back its captor.
Just beyond the traffic, the sun soared into the sky. Nightfall had come and past. Serena fought the urge to crumble to her knees, they were sore from a nights worth of running, jumping over ditches, and collapsing into hiding spots. Now was no time for stopping though, she had to press on in order to reach her destination, home. Just beyond the city was a small neighborhood with look-a-like houses. Hers would be the one at the entrance, waiting for her to come back. Inside would be a bed, made for sleeping, that she could collapse in. The doors would be locked and the sun would secure her safety.
While passing a small shop footsteps echoed to the beat of her steps. Nerves fluttered through her stomach, like a swarm of bees in their hive. Determined to maintain composure, Serena squared her shoulders and stood up straight. In school they had taught that maintaining a strong posture makes a person less vulnerable to be attacked. The footsteps quickened, stomp, stomp, stomping, getting closer. The stake she had prepared before hand was secured in her hand, ready to be used at any moment. Just as she could feel the presence behind her she turned, ready to attack, to find no one behind her. Other than the crowd flooding out of a restaurant she was the only one outside. When she turned to continue walking her face met the stiff, cold chest of a man. Stepping back she saw a tall, pale figure dressed in black. She knew this was a servant of Stephens and prepared her attack,
"Now hold it there, I'd hate to suffer the same fate as Patricia," the man grabbed the stake and tossed it into a gutter before she could even lift it. "I come with a message, not to harm or kidnap you," a moment passed before he spoke again. "Stephen is aware of your escape. He is a man of games; however they can be deadly to those you love. If I were you, I'd be careful of which actions I take. It won't be long before he becomes impatient and resorts to other measures. You have until the next sunrise to decide," with that he was gone.
A brick replaced Serena's lungs, making it difficult to get any air. What other measures would he take? Would he hurt Mom and Dad? But they're safe in California. The ground grew closer as her knees buckled beneath her. Her choices were to surrender to Stephen or risk losing her parents. Either way she would become his prisoner. She was the precious one, the tattoo on her arm proved it. At least her parents were safe in another state, enjoying paradise while they could. Currently, the only paradise Serena wanted was to be home.
The entrance to Serena's home came into view. During the walk, the dark shade of blue had transformed into an orange glow. There were 24 hours before she had to decide what to do; make a plan to weasel her way out. This time it would not be easy, the baggage of her decision weighed down her shoulders. Right now was not a good time to devise plans, she needed to rest and eat. Her hunger grew even stronger when she opened the doors to her home to smell freshly cooked French toast. Laughter erupted from the kitchen along with the sound of voices, but whose, she wondered.
"Oh darling, you're home. Your father and I just got back, after receiving your letter we really wanted to be here for you. We didn't know how much you missed us. I made your favorite, come eat," he mother stopped to glance at her. "Sweetie, where are your shoes, and what are you wearing?"
Serena still had on the gown the maid, Patricia as the previous man called her, had lain out. It was stained with blood on the front, something she had just realized. Her feet were black from the dirt, cracked open and bleeding on the soles. She lifted her foot to notice the stains in the carpet she was creating. What was more confusing was who sent the letter to her parents? She had no recollection of writing or sending one, she was also knocked out for days. Within that time had she done other things?
"I-I'm going to wash up. I'm glad you guys are back, really. I appreciate it," she rushed to her room and locked the door behind her. There was no fighting to stand, she slide down the door. Stephen had made accessing her parents easy; they were no longer protected by distance. The worst part is that it was her fault, she had written the letter to bring them back. Whether she remembered it or not, it had been her hand that wrote those words. Now she would have to give herself away, let Stephen have her, to protect her family.
Breakfast was gruesome. Serena had to keep herself composed, to not let her parents suspect anything was wrong. She had a small time frame to be with them and she did not want it to be full of worrying. Whatever happy moments she could create, she wanted, then she would gather her things and leave before they could notice she was gone. While cleaning up she had packed a bag of what she thought she would need. Once she got a chance, she would call Stephen to inform him she was his; he had won.
After her torturous morning, Serena resorted to lounging on the couch with parents, watching a movie she has never quite enjoyed as much as she in now. Know that her time was limited made every moment more magical with her parents. There was no fighting or arguing. Though they were not talking, it was still nice just being with them. Serena felt her arm being fiddled with when she remembered the marking Stephen gave her. Before she had time to retract her arm, her mother's eyes were already wide and swelling with tears.
"Honey, this can't be. How?"
"Mom, mom you need to calm down. Breathe for a minute, okay?"
"What is it dear," her father had yet to see.
"She's been…she's his new precious one. We've lost her," her mother was up and out of the room. The rumors had circulated enough to reach Serena's parents. They knew nothing good could come of this. Their daughter would be gone, maybe even changed. All of their fantasies of her completing college to become a big shot were trashed. Instead she would marry a man no woman could stand for too long. Except for Serena, before she learned who he really was.
"Serena how did this happen?" Her father sat besides her, examining the marking to be sure it was real.
"I'm not even sure. You guys were gone, I needed a friend. We met and had a couple coffees…I didn't know this would happen. This morning I managed to escape, but he's…if I don't go you'll…" the words would not come out. Saying them aloud was admitting to it.
"Darling, calm down, it's all going to be okay."
"No, it's not. Don't you see? He's marked me," she pulled up her arm to exaggerate her statement. "There is no real escape. He will chase me until everyone I've loved, cared about is gone; no longer in the way. The only way to protect you and mom is to give myself up," she dropped her head, unable to look into her father's eyes. "So I've packed my bags, I'm calling him tonight. I had until sunrise and I just wanted to make the best of today, but apparently you know more than I do about him."
"I understand. But dear you don't have to go through this alone; you should have told us when you walked in, bloody; looking like you could collapse at any moment. To be honest I should have picked up the clues then. Where else would get such a garment? The point is," he sucked in his breath, trying to mask the pain in his words. "We should have been here, we should have protected you. Because we were gone this was able to happen."
"No dad, you can't blame yourself. You're doing your best; I understand you can't be here every day. I'm grown up now, I should have been careful. I had no idea that this would happen. I didn't even know who he really was until a bit ago."
"It's okay; most of his precious ones have no clue who he is. You can't be at fault. It's that monster, someone needs to stop him."
"Yeah that's impossible. He's only half, sun won't hurt him and most weapons won't even penetrate his skin."
"What about stakes, I mean I thought they could take out any vampire."
It was so obvious Serena was surprised she had never thought of it herself. She had easily taken out Patricia by staking her, why couldn't she do the same to Stephen? His skills were more developed than Patricia's and he would be able to sense it coming on. Destroying Stephen would take more than a piece of wood.
"Honey, are you sure you want to do this?" Serena's mother had spent the day crying, mourning the loss of her daughter.
"Yeah mom, it's the only way to keep you and dad safe. If I don't go to him there is not telling what he could do to you two," she gave her mother a final hug.
"Serena, your ride awaits," a servant was at her door. She didn't even hear him coming.
"I have to go now. I love you guys, this is not your fault and you need to know that. I'll be okay," she gave her parents a final hug before getting into the sleek black limo.
The manor maintained it clean nature and stood tall. Where the hole in the window had been was a new glass and bars were attached to the outside of the windows. There would be no escaping this time. Even if she did manage to get out again her parents would be in danger. She had to commit to this in order to protect the ones she loved. Serena swallowed her pride and walked through the front doors.
"So glad you could return," Stephen grasped her hand and kissed it.
"This is to protect my family," she removed her hand from his grasp.
"As you say, though it won't be long before you fall for me," he smirked, so assured he was the greatest man to ever live. "Your room has been prepared, I'll be up soon."
Serena followed the winding steps up to the room she woke up in a couple days ago. The room was illuminated my antique lamps. Rose petals covered the floor in a trail to the bed. Her heart skipped as she realized what this meant. A romantic gesture by a beast made it hardly sentimental. She felt sick realizing there would be no weaseling her way out of this situation. Stephen would take her everything.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Stephen caressed her shoulders as he slid off her jacket, throwing it onto the floor. "Only the best for my precious one," he turned her so she was facing him now. She was pulled into his embrace, growing more nervous as the space between them shrank. "Your heart beat is particularly loud tonight, don't worry, I'll be gentle," he pressed his lips into hers. A gasp exited his throat.
"But I won't," she had stake him through the heart, pushing it further and further into his skin.
"Silly girl, don't think a simple stake will," bewilderment crossed his face. His throat was closing, making it difficult to breathe. "What is this? W-why can't," he fell to his knees and clutched at his throat.
"It's called vervain, something that actually can hurt you. Right now it's working its way through your system, killing you slowly," she pushed the stake until it through his back. "Have fun in Hell you monster," he was done. His throat closed and his heart stopped beating.