I had just about reached the other side of the room when someone spoke.

“Can I help?”

Behind one of the large piles of books, a tall thin woman stood up. She had long black hair and cold grey eyes.

“Oh,” she said, scowling at me.

I rushed out of the door and into the next hall, only to find the same woman standing there, blocking my path.

This is a witch.

She reached up and gripped my ear, tugging me down to her level. As her fingers touched my skin, a burning sensation rushed through me.

I had to bite my lip to not shout out in pain.

“Where do you think you’re going? Stellan!” she shouted, her voice echoing around the room. “Stellan, come here this instant.”

No.

The ginger vampire who had pulled me through the hatch came rushing into the hall. His mouth dropped open when he saw me.

“What?” he gasped.

“Looks like you need to tighten up on security,” she said.

Stellan’s eyes darkened and he gripped me by the neck, dragging me back through the hallways. I struggled against him, but he kneed me in the gut, winding me. His hold was far too strong for a mere mortal to escape from.

He dragged me back into the kitchen and as soon as we entered, Kristal came rushing out of her hiding place.

“No! Ben!”

“No!” I yelled, pushing her back.

It was too late. She’d just given the game away.

Stellan’s voice boomed through the kitchen as he called for backup.

Five vampires ran into the kitchen and began pulling out humans from under the table. A sixth vampire came running into the room with chains. They lined the humans up against the wall and tied them up.

The witch entered the room behind me, eyeing Kristal, who had tears streaming down her face.

“Hm. Interesting,” the witch said softly.

She grabbed Kristal by the hair and forced her to the floor.

“I say we teach this young Novak a lesson,” she said. “Seeing that he might be with us for quite a while, if he plans to make attempting escape a habit, it will become very tiresome indeed.”

The vampires stopped what they were doing and looked over at us, Stellan’s grip on me unrelenting.

The witch withdrew a dagger from her cloak and held it against Kristal’s neck.

“No!” I yelled, managing to break free from Stellan, only to have three vampires throw themselves at me to hold me down. Stellan lifted my head to face Kristal’s trembling form. Jake shouted and struggled against his chains.

“Watch,” Stellan grunted, holding my head in position.

With one sharp motion, the witch drove the dagger into Kristal’s chest. Her scream was stifled as she choked on her own blood. Both my and Jake’s yells echoed around the kitchen as she bled to death in front of us.

“Now,” the witch said, letting go of Kristal’s hair. “Let this be a lesson to all of you. Stellan. Have your men collect her blood.”

Chapter 25: Rose

I was woken the next morning by another knock at my door.

What is it this time?

I found myself looking at Caleb’s harp. I supposed he’d thought it would give me something to do while I was alone in my room for hours. I felt grateful for the gesture. Then my eyes settled on the floor beside the instrument. A tray full of food. Not oatmeal. Real breakfast food. I pulled the harp into my bedroom. Then I returned to scoop up the tray and put it on my bedside table, and began to eat hungrily. French toast had never tasted so good to me in all my life. I gobbled everything up in less than five minutes.

I wonder where on earth Frieda—Caleb—even got this food? I witnessed for myself how bare the kitchen was.

Once I’d finished, I took a shower and got dressed.

I headed up the stairs toward Caleb’s room. I knocked on the door and waited. He answered it after a couple of minutes, appearing at the door fully dressed, no trace of the scars from the previous night left visible.

“I, uh. I wondered if you’d mind taking me for a walk? Outside, I mean. I haven’t had any proper exercise in days.”

He stared down at me, a flicker of discomfort showing across his face, followed by indecision. I thought he was about to say no, but then he nodded.

“All right,” he said. “Wait here.”

He returned a few seconds later wearing shoes and holding a scarf in his hands.

I eyed the scarf as he stepped out of the room and shut the door behind him.

“I didn’t know vampires needed…”

He handed it to me before I finished my sentence. “For you. It’s freezing out there.”

“Oh. Cheers.” I took it and wrapped it around my bare neck.

He gestured toward the stairs and I followed him.

“Thanks for the harp. And the breakfast.”

Keeping his eyes straight ahead, he nodded slightly.

We descended the stairs in silence. When we reached the main door, he pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked it. Pushing with both hands, he heaved the doors open. The force of the icy wind that came flooding through the doorway knocked me breathless.

“Can you manage?” he asked, frowning.

“Yes,” I said immediately. As if I can’t walk through a bit of wind without his help.

Holding onto the door for support—my eyes now beginning to water from the wind—I walked to the edge of the wide stone doorstep and, rather too brashly, placed one slippered foot onto the icy ground. It started sliding as soon as I made contact with it.

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