I just hope that Rose is somewhere better than this.

“Kristal!” I hissed through the bars. “Kristal.”

A few humans stirred and looked up at me. But Kristal remained lying still. One of the humans nudged her, bringing her to consciousness.

She rubbed her eyes wearily. Terror set in again on her face after her reprieve. She crawled over to the bars and stared at me. “Has anything happened since I fell asleep?”

I shook my head. Her whole body was shivering. It was freezing down in these dungeons and they hadn’t given us enough blankets.

She gripped the bars tighter, leaning her head against them. Tears spilled down her cheeks.

“What are they going to do with us, Ben?”

I’d already explained to both of them that our kidnappers were vampires. They’d had a hard time getting used to that idea—and I was sure Jake still thought I was a raving lunatic. They’d never been exposed to any supernatural creatures before, so I couldn’t have expected a different reaction from them.

Jake suspected that maybe we’d been taken for ransom because of their wealthy father.

“If these people really are…v-vampires,” Kristal continued, “what would they want with us?”

The answer would have been too troubling for her to hear in her already weakened state, so I just shrugged. She, however, wasn’t going to accept that for an answer.

“Is it our blood that they want?”

I breathed out, unsure of whether to answer.

She read my silence and clasped a palm over her mouth, trembling more than ever.

“Kristal,” I whispered. “Look at me.”

She raised her bloodshot eyes to mine.

“What’s that at the back of your cell?” I asked, pointing at something I’d spotted piled up on the floor.

She turned around and crawled toward it, trying not to wake her cell mates who were blocking her path.

“It’s just a pile of chains,” she murmured.

“Can you throw them to me?”

She picked the chains and crawled back over to the bars. Gathering them in one hand, she reached through the bars and swung them toward me. I managed to catch them before they clattered to the floor.

There was a padlock fixed to one of the metal joints, but no sign of the key. This appeared to be the kind of padlock that locked without a key by pushing it until it clicked.

I sat for the next few hours leaning against the bars, waiting with bated breath for the dungeon door opening. A vampire was due to come in at any time now to bring us our daily food and water.

Perhaps it was just my nerves playing tricks on me, but the vampire seemed to come in much later that day. Eventually, the door unlatched and heavy footsteps approached.

A vampire pushed along a trolley, passing out water jugs and bread. I tried to keep my breathing steady as he stopped outside my cell. He bent down low, pushing the water and bread through my bars. He stood up and before he could continue, I reached through the bars and slipped the chain around his neck.

He gasped in shock and let go of the trolley. I yanked the chain back with all the strength my weak, dehydrated body could muster and pressed against the padlock. It clicked as he thrashed about.

His razor-sharp claws caught my cheek, ripping open a gash. I ducked down and removed the cluster of keys attached to his belt.

The whole gate shook from his struggling. I didn’t have long. I fumbled with the keys until I’d found the one to open my gate. Then I rushed over to Kristal’s cell and unlocked it, freeing all the humans who were inside it along with Jake. I did the same with every other cell along that corridor.

“Follow me,” I hissed once they’d all bundled out. “Don’t make a sound.”

I had no idea where I was taking them. For all I knew, I could have been leading us all to our deaths. But something told me that if we didn’t try to escape at the first opportunity that came our way, we’d regret it.

“Wait here,” I whispered, as we approached the dungeon’s exit. I peered around the door to see that it led to a staircase leading upward. There was nobody in sight. “Okay, follow me.”

I paused again once I reached the top of the stairs. We were now in some kind of kitchen—metal tables lined the room and in the corner stood jugs filled with a red liquid. Human blood.

Kristal’s trembling hand gripped my own.

“What is this place?” she gasped.

I held a finger to my lips. I walked along the edge of the room to the nearest exit.

The door was ajar. As I peeked through the crack, my breath hitched. Two vampires stood talking to each other in the center of a large dark hall.

I gestured urgently at the humans behind me to hide underneath the tables. I needed them out of the way while I figured out the best way to escape. With hindsight, I should have let them out of their cells only once I’d found a way out. It would have been less noticeable in case a vampire went down to the dungeon. But it was too late now for regrets.

Hiding under the tables wouldn’t do much good if they came in. I knew the vampires would smell our blood, but I hoped that it would be masked at least somewhat by the jugs of blood already sitting on the table in the corner of that room.

Once everyone had hidden themselves, I walked back to the dungeon door and pushed it closed as noiselessly as I could.

I walked to the door at the other end of the kitchen. Opening the door, I found myself looking around another high-ceilinged hall. This one was empty.

I crossed the hall and reached the other side, hiding in the shadows of the doorway. The next room appeared to be some kind of library. Bookshelves lined the walls and there was a round table in the center with tall piles of books.


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