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He yelled out in Portuguese to his friend who also came hurrying over—a shorter man with cropped hair. They both chuckled as they ogled me. The man with long hair reached down and gripped my arm, forcing me to stand.

“No!” I screamed. Lowering my mouth to his wrist, I dug my teeth into his flesh as hard as I could.

He yelped and jumped back, nursing his arm. The shorter man gripped me round the waist and wrestled me to the ground. The banging against the back of the black truck intensified as I shouted. But as I strained my head to look up, there were still no signs of it opening.

The man held me in a chokehold, wrapping my arms tightly behind my back until it felt they might snap from my shoulders. He forced me up again. I tried to stomp on his feet and headbutt him with the back of my head, but he dodged and only tightened his grip on me with each attempt I made.

I screamed again, but immediately regretted that I had. Caleb was in enough torment already—my screaming would only worsen his suffering. It was for his sake that I bit my lip until it bled, forcing myself to stay quiet.

The man shoved me up into the passenger area at the front of the truck and lodged me between him and another man who was waiting for them there. The man I’d bitten took the driver’s seat and started the engine. They continued talking in Portuguese.

“Caleb,” I shouted as loud as I could, hoping he could hear me back there. I wasn’t sure if he would—these walls must be reinforced. But the banging stopped. “I’m okay.”

Okay. If this situation was anything, it was not okay.

I glared at the two men holding me in place. Then my eyes fell on the black canvas bag they’d retrieved from the driver’s seat of our truck. I wondered, had that cursed bag of narcotics not been hidden beneath the driver’s seat, whether they would have bothered tracking us down the way they had.

“You are the Californian girl. Rose.” The man next to me grinned through yellowed teeth. It was more of a statement than a question.

I bit my lip and stared at the ground, refusing to indulge his questions. I guessed Luis’ runaway man had already told them. I wondered why he hadn’t accompanied them. I supposed that Caleb had scared him too much to want to come near him again.

“Well, we ought to get to know each other,” the short-haired man who’d wrestled me to the ground said. “I’m Phillipe.” He pointed to the man on the other side of me. “That’s Guillerme. And driving is Miguel.”

Miguel didn’t bother looking back at me. I noticed with satisfaction that his arm was still bleeding from my bite.

“Neither of them speak English, so you can talk to me,” Phillipe continued, lighting up a cigarette.

I choked as he blew smoke into my face.

“You call that thing back there your husband. What is it?”

I kept my eyes determinedly on the floor.

Phillipe’s hand shot down to my thigh. Drawing up the hem of my dress to reveal my skin, he stabbed his burning cigarette into my flesh. I cried out, despite trying to keep silent for Caleb’s sake, as the fiery end seared through my skin. He lifted his hand five seconds later, leaving a round black burn. I groaned, afraid to even touch it lest it caused more damage. Tears of pain leaked down my cheeks.

“I’m not a patient man.”

I glowered at him. There had never been a time when I’d wished that I was a vampire more than then. I would have torn through his throat and enjoyed every moment of it.

“Do you need me to repeat my question?”

“No,” I spat, my voice hoarse. Clenching my jaw against the pain, I tried to steady my voice, drawing deep long breaths. “His name is Caleb. He is a man, just like you.”

Philippe raised a brow, staring at me in disbelief.

“He has fangs and claws. Crazy strength and speed.”

Clearly, they’d never come across vampires before. The vast majority of humans were still wholly unaware of the existence of vampires. Humans who did witness vampires usually never made it out alive. And our humans at The Shade would never betray us by letting the world know about the existence of vampires.

I had to avoid telling them that he was a vampire. If they decided to sell their story to the media, news would spread everywhere. I suspected that the only reason Rhys hadn’t caught us yet was because he didn’t know exactly where we were.

I breathed in deeply, steeling myself for Philippe’s response. “It’s amazing what adrenaline can do. As for his claws and teeth, you see… my husband has a mental illness.”

It was the only thing I could think of as an excuse. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the humor of returning Caleb’s insult. The situation was too dire for me to think about anything other than surviving for the next few hours.

“What?”

“He studied Romanian folklore in college, and became obsessed with vampires. He’s undergone severe body modifications since then. He saw specialist surgeons. He grew out his nails, takes supplements to keep them strong, and he files them sharp. As for his teeth, they’re also surgically modified. Lengthened, then sharpened. He never goes in the sun either. He’s been trying to resemble a vampire for the past three years, having more and more surgeries done. And he drinks animal blood, though sometimes he asks to try my own blood… He plans to have even more surgeries done this summer. I-I don’t know what’s caused it. He’s very closed about it. But sometimes I wonder if he’s trying to escape something in his life, whether something happened in his childhood and this is his way of trying to deal with it.” I paused, trying to force tears into my eyes. “Other times, I wonder if it’s our marriage. Maybe I make him unhappy, since he only started doing this to himself after we got engaged…” I made my voice crack and covered my eyes with my hands, pretending to break down sobbing.

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