As I looked around, I was horrified by the state the place was in. His spacious apartment appeared to be open plan—his bedroom, kitchen and lounge all ran into each other. The wallpaper was torn, canvas paintings on the wall ripped. Bloodstained bedding was strewn all over the floor. The curtains were ripped almost to shreds. Caleb sat in the corner of the bedroom, his back turned to me, in a wooden armchair. A bottle of liquor by his side, he was pouring himself a shot. I watched as he downed it in one gulp.

I approached his chair tentatively.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, without turning around. But he made no motion to pick me up and throw me out the door as he had done the day before.

I walked around and stood so that I was facing him. I stared at the gash beneath his right eye that was beginning to heal slowly.

“What happened?” I breathed.

He shook his head and downed another shot.

“Why do you allow her to treat you this way? Are you ruler of this island or not?”

He got up and walked over to the open balcony door, where he stood, gazing out at the starry night sky. The full moon shone down on his chiseled form.

The living room and kitchen area were in a much less damaged state than the bedroom. My eyes fell upon a collection of classical instruments in the corner of the lounge.

Since he didn’t seem to be willing to answer my questions, I asked, “You play?”

He looked over his shoulder at me as I pointed toward the instruments in the corner.

A faint smile crossed his face.

“No,” he said quietly. “Not any more.”

I walked over to the instruments and was impressed by the quality of their build. They were covered in a thick coat of dust, as though they hadn’t been touched for months, maybe even years. Although I specialized in the piano and the harp, I could play most instruments I saw here. My father was a master of many and had given Ben and I lessons in most.

I absentmindedly ran my hand over the top of the grand piano. Lifting up its cover, I sat down and stretched out my fingers over the keys. I began to play a tune. Soft, haunting, melancholic. I smiled bitterly—my father had played this for my mother when they’d first met.

Caleb left the balcony and walked over to me, placing his glass on top of the piano, staring down at me as I played. It was unnerving at first, playing beneath the intensity of his gaze, but I didn’t let it distract me.

When I finished, I looked up at him. He hadn’t moved an inch the whole time. His eyes had glazed over, as if his mind had wandered somewhere else.

“I’d like you to play for me again… Rose,” he whispered finally.

The way he said my name was gentle, as though his tongue was caressing the word. The attention he was giving me was unnerving—I was used to him brushing me away whenever he could. Perhaps it’s just because he’s drunk? I sure do strange things when I’m drunk. I stared into his eyes, trying to read him. The way he was looking at me was confusing. It was as though he was conflicted as to whether he ought to be looking at me at all.

“O-okay,” I murmured.

Although I didn’t get any of the answers that I needed that night, one thing had become clearer than ever. If anyone had the power and ability to get me out of there and save my brother, it was Caleb. And at that moment, befriending him—or at least trying to—seemed to be the only available option.

Chapter 21: Rose

I was woken the next morning by a knock at my door. I got out of bed and looked around. But whoever it was had already vanished.

A black bundle sat on my doorstep. I picked it up and shut the door, then walked over to my bed and unravelled it.

Wrapped up in a black sheet were clothes. Underwear, beautiful gowns, fluffy slippers, and a warm woolen coat.

About time, I thought. I’ve been walking around in this apartment barefoot with blankets pulled over me in this smelly old nightgown ever since I got here.

I took a shower and, discarding the old nightgown in a bin, I pulled on fresh underwear. I was relieved that it was the stretchy, comfortable type and not the itchy, lacy kind. Then I reached for one of the gowns and pulled it over my head. It was deep purple and made of silk. I layered the coat on top and looked in the mirror.

Hm. Not too shabby.

I brushed my hands through my hair to tame it.

Now all I need is Kristal’s makeup.

Kristal. Her name sent a dagger through my chest. I prayed that nothing had happened to her or her brother. If anything does, it will be all Ben’s and my fault.

I have to get out of here and save all of them.

Putting on the slippers, I decided to leave the room and go for another roam around the castle.

Walking around confirmed that Caleb was my only hope. Apart from Frieda, no other vampire would even speak to me. They avoided me in the corridors. I tried to talk to one of them, and she gave me a funny look and hurried off.

I reached the ground floor and walked from hall to hall until, at the back of the building, I found the entrance to the kitchen Frieda had taken me to.

I walked around, running my hand along the metal counter. The kitchen was huge—as big as any of the other halls.

I wonder where they keep all the humans? If these vampires drink their blood, it would be convenient to keep them near the kitchen. Perhaps in a dungeon. That’s normally where the poor mortals end up being stuffed in fairy tales.

I looked around the room for any sign of a door in the wall, or a trap door, but found none.

Hmm.

And then I heard it. Distant sobbing. I held my breath as I tried to make out from which direction it was coming.

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