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My eyelids drooped. I tried to hold them wide open but they remained the same. Dark circles had developed under my eyes and my skin felt dehydrated. I splashed cold water on my face and grabbed some moisturizer from the cabinet, slathering it over myself.

Then sharp pangs in my stomach began to call on my attention and I walked to the fridge. Despite its taste, I chugged down the remainder of the animal blood. I was ravenous. I was about to attempt to call Aiden for more when a knock came at the door. Instantly, the Elder took back control and walked me to open it. There stood Claudia, carrying two more large jugs of blood on a tray.

“Good morning.” She smiled faintly before walking past me and putting the containers into my fridge. “I told Aiden I’d bring the blood to you.” She walked toward me and grabbed hold of my shoulders. “I need to know what happened to Yuri.” Her brown eyes blazed into mine.

“He didn’t make it,” my voice said. “His body was spoiled by the Elders. They made him fight to death with another vampire.”

Claudia took in a sharp breath as though a hunter’s bullet had just shot through her gut. Her eyes became unfocussed and her jaw fell open. Her knees buckled and she crumbled to the ground in a heap. I didn’t help her. I just stood there, peering down at her now trembling form. The slight quivering in my own body didn’t escape my notice, however.

I didn’t know whether the Elder had deliberately told a lie just to get a thrill out of Claudia’s reaction, or whether Yuri had indeed expired since I’d last seen him. Either way, my words had just ripped the blonde vampire apart.

I wanted to scoop the poor girl into my arms and hold her as I had done with Ashley. Instead, I walked over to the bedside table, picked up the phone sheet, and dialed the number to the emergency room.

“Hello, I’m calling from Room 721. There’s someone here who needs your urgent assistance,” I said, without even a hint of emotion in my voice.

“I’ll send someone right over,” a woman replied.

Urgent assistance. What Claudia needs is a friend’s shoulder to cry on. Not someone prodding her on a sickbed.

A few minutes later, a nurse knocked on the door. She helped Claudia to her feet and guided her out of the room. I screamed at the Elder within my head for an explanation, but all I got in response was stony silence.

Barely ten minutes had passed since they’d left when the Elder decided to make me leave the room myself. As we had done the night before, we ignored the elevators and headed straight for the staircases. We descended level after level until we arrived at the third floor. Then we walked along the corridor until we arrived outside of Room 340. I knocked loudly. Vivienne opened it.

“Sofia?” She looked surprised to see me. “Come in.” She opened the door wide and beckoned me inside.

“Oh, no. I don’t need to come in,” I said. “I don’t feel well, so I won’t stay long at all, but I just thought I ought to tell you… Xavier’s dead. His Elder used him up, then his body was thrown into a pit and ravaged by hounds.”

No. No. No.

Vivienne clamped a hand over her mouth, stifling a gasp. She closed her eyes and her face scrunched up as if someone had just cut off her tongue. Then she staggered back into her apartment and slammed the door shut. But I still heard her break down. And as with Claudia, it seemed that with each sob that racked her body, my own limbs quivered, as if in rhythm.

I felt like I was about to collapse, but it seemed that the Elder wasn’t yet finished with his fun.

Room 343.

Cameron emerged from the dark apartment. Like Vivienne, he displayed the same expression of mild shock upon seeing me.

“Sofia! How are you, my dear? You still look exhausted. Are you sure you should be wandering about? Do come in and have a seat.”

“No, Cameron. Thanks for the invitation, but I’m fine, really,” my voice said. “I just came to relay some news to you.” I braced myself for the grenade that I knew was about to shatter him to pieces. “Liana. She’s dead.”

“Wh-what? What did you say?”

“The Elders killed her.”

“No. It can’t be.” Cameron gripped the doorpost to steady himself, struggling to hold on to his denial.

“They possessed her for too long and made her weak. She was no longer of use to them so they drained her blood, then threw what was left of her into the sea for the sharks.”

Cameron let out a wild howl, but his own choking silenced it. Next thing I knew, he was vomiting all over the floor. His knees buckled beneath him and he fell to the marble with a thud, stretched out in the middle of his doorway.

I left him that way. Alone in his suffering. My body once again finding pleasure in his wails.

A low snicker echoed in my ears.

Now that we’ve passed the time a little, we must return once again and rest until night time. I don’t want to have to pay such a visit to your lover to inform him that you’ve expired… at least, not yet.

Chapter 19: Sofia

As soon as all traces of daylight had vanished, I picked up the phone and dialed Arron’s assistant.

“Hayden speaking,” a female voice said. “Please state your name and how I can help.”

“It’s Aiden here.”

The deep tone of my father’s voice filled the bedroom. It took me a few seconds to realize that Aiden had indeed not suddenly entered the room, and that the male voice had emanated from my own mouth.

“I need Arron to meet me at Room 59. Tell him it’s urgent.”

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