When he touched her back, Kahli felt something, almost like a shock, but it disappeared as fast as it came. She slid her hands over her hips, smoothing her gown where he’d touched her and stepped away. “Is that why I’m here? To tend to you?”
A wicked smile spread across his lips. “Of course,” he breathed, his amber eyes glowing like twin flames. The king took a slow step, watching Kahli as he did so, “You ruined the Purging this year. Completely decimated it.” He took another step. Kahli looked straight ahead. He was trying to intimidate her.
Where is Will? The muscles in her jaw tensed, but she managed to bite back, “Good. It was an archaic practice. The only thing it accomplished was slashing links out of your food chain faster. Seemed rather careless to me.”
The King smiled, nodding when she spoke. He acted as if they were having a polite conversation. He held his hands behind him, his dark hair hung over his brow as he circled her. “Perhaps that is what it looked like to you. And for good reason. However, you only have a limited understanding of things…” he stopped in front of her, spreading his hands, looking down at her, “and this is not something you could possibly understand.”
“I think I do,” she breathed. Every muscle in her body was tense, ready to explode in a rage.
The King’s hand shot out. Kahli saw it coming for her neck, and reacted. She began to drop to the floor, but he was too fast. The King had already corrected the motion. With his other hand, he gripped her waist and pulled her to him, smashing her flush against his hard body. His other hand touched her face, his fingers trailing over her skin, feeling the angle of her cheek. He purred, “I know you don’t.” He held her gaze.
Kahli felt trapped, but instead of fighting free, she just stood there. Her body didn’t want to move. It was like he drugged her without giving her anything. His hands were warm. That wasn’t right. Kahli’s mind tried to stumble out of the stupor she’d fallen into, but as long as the king touched her, she couldn’t seem to think.
“You’re beautiful, much more so than the others. You have this carnal look to you that I find appealing. It goes beyond blood with you. I want to taste you, and I will… but the savage girl who I saw that first night, the same girl who stole my only source of power will need to make amends first.” His hands slid lower as he was talking, feeling the curve of her waist and slipping lower to the swell of her hips.
Kahli’s mind wouldn’t think. She couldn’t react. Instead she just stood there, letting the vampire king grope her. When his lips touched hers, the stupor changed to shock. Warm soft lips pressed into hers while the King pulled her closer and closer. Her body was tightly pressed against his, his arms pinning her in place, holding her against him. The kiss deepened and he tasted her, flicking his tongue between her lips and learning the curve of her mouth. Kahli gasped but it came out like a moan. His hands roved over her body, feeling her soft curves.
A warm burn ignited on her side and flashed through the runes. As if awakened in the middle of a nightmare, Kahli came back to herself. The trance that made her compliant melted away. Her thoughts were her own again, but she did not react. The King’s ability, his power over her was horrifying, and she didn’t know why it just faded away. But if she acted now, he’d know he no longer had her under his command. This was her only way out. This moment of clarity. Thinking fast, her eyes scanned the room for a weapon, but found none. Something cold and hard was pressing against her belly under her corset. The cold metal slid against her skin, nicking her. It was the comb. She’d taken it, and hidden it under her corset before she left the bathhouse. Somehow the comb managed to cut through the shift she wore under the corset and scrape her flat stomach. Warm sticky blood flowed from the cut.
The king stopped kissing her. He remained lifeless, completely still, keeping Kahli pressed against him. It seemed like he couldn’t control himself. Deep breathes that should have calmed him came harder and faster. His fingers were digging into her back.
“I’d arranged this evening’s activities for us down to the last detail. I plan to know you in every way possible before I taste you,” His voice sounded strained. When Kahli glanced at him, she caught a flash of fang. They’d extended. But that couldn’t be. Her stomach fell, stealing her breath, and slowing her thoughts.
The King had fangs. How? Vampires no longer had fangs. She knew this to be a fact. It was one of the reasons why they didn’t drink directly from humans anymore. They were all afflicted by the anemic blood from their food-supply, and weakened as a result. They couldn’t compel without using true names, they had no fangs, and vampires no longer combusted in sunlight—the price of pure blood—because no one had pure blood. No one, but Kahli. And now the King was entering forbidden territory with his kisses and his plans, territory that she wanted no part of.
He took her hand, pulling her toward the door he entered through, “Come with me.” The command of his voice slid over her, and she wanted to do as he said. The moment of clarity began to vanish, slipping away like mist though her fingers.
The King turned, expecting Kahli to follow. She took a step, and staggered taking another. Her mind felt like it was at war with itself. The compulsion, if that was what the King used, made her unable to stop—unable to think. The King turned back to look at her, smiling. Kahli’s hand was placed over her stomach, where her fingers lifted the delicate satin edging of the corset. There was something there, something that she tucked into her bodice before she left Mariam, but the thought derailed.
He inhaled deeply, his eyes sliding over her like he intended to devour her. “I swear I can smell you already. Your scent is utterly intoxicating.” The mental haze cracked and fell away with the sound of his voice. But it quickly frosted over again, leaving Kahli stumbling through her mind, trying to find a way out.
Kahli realized that speaking was the only thing holding her here. If she didn’t talk, she’d be lost. She blurted out, “Aren’t I the Queen’s? If you do anything to me, she’ll… not like it. She’s a bit crazy, in case you didn’t notice.” The words sounded strange to her ears. Her voice was garbled like she’d had too much to drink. The echoing rang on, even though she stopped speaking. Kahli stood there, and blinked once, trying to make the room sit still.
The King rounded on her, throwing her back into the wall. Gasping, Kahli tried to breathe, but couldn’t. The slap stung, but it also helped evaporate the lusty stupor that was building between them.
The King reached for her, sliding his hand up her throat. Kahli looked up, pushing her back into the wall. Palm pressing on her neck, he breathed in her ear, “You are mine in every conceivable way, from now until the day you die.” He breathed heavily, anger pulsating through his body. Kahli tried to tear away from him but he was too strong. Her bones felt like they’d crack under his hands. She tried to slip her fingers under her corset, but he was too close. She couldn’t move.
An idea burned brightly in her mind. It was like seeing a single campfire in the pitch-black darkness. Desperation welled up in her throat and poured over her lips, “Then do it. Prove it. Prove you own me and claim me.”
It was the way things had been before the flood, before the ice. Vampires sunk their fangs into a human and claimed them. After that, the human was off-limits to everyone else. If the King bit her, it would make him a dead man. The Queen was vengeful. It would seal his death-wish while tempting him with more power. If he bit her, it would give Kahli the room she needed to grab the comb. The pointed end was cutting into her, and provoking the King further—he could smell her blood. It was making him reckless. The vampire was leaning heavily on her, his eyes fixated on her neck, watching the pulsing vein beneath her skin. “Do it!” she hissed, “If I’m yours, then act like it.”
Every muscle in his body was tense, practically shaking. It wasn’t rage that coursed through him, it was lust—lust for her blood—lust for the power it would give him. The King jerked Kahli’s neck toward his lips, and found her pulse point. It beat rhythmically below her smooth flesh. The King wanted this, he wanted her. Hesitating, he slid a pointed fang over her neck, scraping a thin white line over the vein. If he bit her, if he went through with it, life as he knew it would end. It was a direct challenge to the Queen. He was no fool. But the girl’s blood and her body called to him. If he claimed her, if he drank from her and her blood did not do what they assumed… The thought made him shudder. There was only one way to find out. His self-control faded to nothing as he felt her heart racing against his chest, her fear coursing through her veins.
Without another thought his teeth sank into her soft skin. Kahli’s body stiffened as she screamed. Pain exploded in the side of her neck. The King’s hands continued to hold her close, but after a few moments she felt wrong. Worse. The lightheaded stupor was rushing back, dousing her kindled mind, and washing away her thoughts. Seconds passed slowly. She blinked once, fighting the drugged feeling, her hand slipping under the hem of her corset. Kahli arched her back, pressing her neck closer to the King’s mouth, one of her hands tangling in the King’s hair.
Kahli’s mind was addled, but her hands kept moving. It was like they’d chosen a course of action and carried it out without her. Gripping the comb tightly, she could feel the tiny silver teeth bite into her palm. Carefully, she slid the metal comb from beneath her bodice. The King drank greedily, not watching what she was doing. Twisting her shoulder, Kahli shoved the pointy end of the metal comb into the king’s belly. When it pierced his skin, she thrust it up toward his chest, trying to maintain her grip on the weapon.
A deafening shriek exploded in her ear as the King’s blood poured out of his chest. Blood ran down her wrists and dripped onto the floor. The King twisted away from her, trying to extract the weapon in his torso. The sudden movement left a gaping hole in her neck, as the King ripped away from her without releasing his fangs from her skin. The holes ripped her neck, leaving a wound that was too large.