Time passed in a drifting haze as the dark windowed carriage continued through the rural streets beyond Vorst, the ancestral home of Thana's kind. Eventually, she noted the sound of hooves on cobbled roads. Tightness gripped her stomach; soon she would be in her new home. The very thought of it made her feel ill.
Her arms remained wrapped around her long legs during the drive, protecting her from her vampire master. She knew that there would be nothing or no one to stop him from abusing her again, if it was his will, but keeping her body tightly toward itself made her feel a little less frightened.
What truly terrified her was the memories of those wonderful sensations. Would her body betray her for another taste of that pleasure? Deep inside she knew it would. Just thinking of that powerful wave of something made her insides contract with a twinge of pleasure.
And he knew. Master Rhoe knew how much she enjoyed his “gift.” When she dared to look at him on the other side of the velvet carriage, his pale pink lips quirked cruelly. She would shiver and turn her gaze toward the dark window.
She wasn't sure how much time passed, but knew night was upon them. The monster in her carriage would be in full form soon. Demon blood or no, she would be no match. There would be no escape. Of course, she had nowhere to escape to even if she could.
Beyond the vehicle's door she heard the driver stop the horses. Her teeth bared into her lips enough to draw droplets of blood. This was it.
“Ah, it seems we've arrived, Pet,” Master Rhoe cooed. When she didn't respond, the pale man moved to her and grabbed a handful of her dark curly hair. He pulled her roughly, forcing her to look at him full in the face. “I believe I just spoke to you, girl. Didn't I?”
He wrapped his thin hand around her hair tighter until her eyes watered and she whimpered from the pain. “Yes!” she cried.
“Yes, Master Rhoe.”
He released her, shoving her back into her seat, in time for the carriage door to open. The driver kept his head down, more likely out of fear than any sort of respect.
“Master, we've arrived,” the older gentleman murmured.
Master Rhoe sighed contentedly. “Ah, finally. I've longed to be home again.” He looked down at Thana and snapped his fingers. “Up, girl. The night is young and there are thing to settle,” he purred at her.
Shaking, Thana gathered herself quickly, unwilling to deal with Master Rhoe's breed of punishment. Gracefully, Rhoe made his way outside the carriage and into what seemed to be a stone pathway. He turned his head slightly, with eyebrow raised, and gestured for her to follow. The coach man swallowed hard and reluctantly offered his shaking hand to the girl.
Grateful for contact that was not Rhoe, Thana took the coachman's hand. She found it sweaty and clammy beneath her own. The grip was weak as though defeated, and barely supportive. Still, she happily accepted it and allowed him to guide her to the path.
The view was impressive. Beyond an impeccable, well-manicured lawn was an expansive home, suitable for probably a small town's worth of people. Despite her fears, Thana's mouth gaped with awe. Her birth home had been more than modest, but it was nothing in comparison to the mansion ahead.
“Come,” Master Rhoe beaconed, one finger curling her towards him.
Thana bit her lip hard enough to bleed as she obediently followed him up the cobbled path until they reached the set of towering red doors to the home. Instantly, they parted by what seemed at their own accord. The air flowing from within the home smelled old with a hint of decay.
An elderly man stood within the doorway, hair white as a cloud and eyes a dead blue. He looked to Master Rhoe briefly and bowed deeply. When he stood upright again, his eyes flicked to her momentarily before he turned away. That one brief look showed her a hit of his emotions: fear, anger, hatred, defeat. She knew that part of it was directed to her.
He moved aside allowing their passage into the lavish home. Hesitantly, she stepped through with Master Rhoe too close behind. He placed one cold hand on the small of her back causing shudders to run through her body. Gently, he pushed her through the foyer and into the expansive living room.
It was a dark space despite the candles that sensuously lit the area, their orange lights flickering off what seemed to be deep wine colored walls. The seating looked so inviting with the warm, plump, brown leather. She looked down at her bare feet as her toes twitched against the smooth, black wood below.
“Come,” Master Rhoe beaconed again, pushing her away from the surprisingly pleasant space. “My master awaits us both.”
There are two of them, she noted with dismay. She tried her best to swallow the thought down inside of herself for now.
He led her through several well-lit hallways passed many dark wooden doors until finally he stopped before the one at the very end of the hall. This door, while as exquisitely carved as the others, somehow seemed to reek of power and energy. Master Rhoe gave the door three resounding knocks and waited almost patiently for a response. It took a few moments, but the response came from inside—a deep, rumbling voice that apparently washed over her master, forcing his eyes to close momentarily.
Without any further address to Thana, Rhoe opened the grand double doors and then stepped inside the office beyond. With an overly confident strut, the pale vampire walked across the room until he plopped down on a large, very neat desk at the other end. He crossed his arms and with brow raised, he gave her a lewd full body scan.
She was confused. The room seemed empty except for shelves of books reaching from one corner of the room to the other. Surprisingly large windows graced the far wall, centered by the desk and a smaller row of dusty books. It was, much like the other spaces leading to the den: exquisite. If it weren't for the thrums of fear soaring through her, she would have felt inadequate.
It wasn't until the cloud beyond the windows to pass the moon before she noted the shadowed shape—large, tall, and with a perfect stance. It stood in the corner of the window, facing the night as though allowing the moonlight to empower him. He half turned his head, giving her a peak of a very regal looking face.
"Is this her?" the man asked, voice even deeper than Master Rhoe's, and somehow much more dangerous.
"Yes, Master. Our payment from Demon Lord Qelderan."
The older vampire turned completely and crossed his chest with one arm, while he brought his free hand to his chin to pinch. Before she could even really take him in, he was in front of her, staring down into her face.
This vampire was as attractive as Master Rhoe, but his features were manly rather than beautiful. His long, straight, dark hair flowed behind him, though a few locks found their way down his front to his chest. Unlike Master Rhoe's, this man's lips were deliciously full, ready for any woman's kiss.
The thought seized her chest for a moment, frightening her enough that she tried to back away. Master Rhoe was behind her, impeding her progress. The other man stared at her, intently, as though he wanted to drink in every part of her. He raised a hand and bought it to her face. At first she worried he was about to hurt her, perhaps even slap her for some unknown offense. Instead, his hand hovered over her skin without touching as though gliding across her aura.
"A succubus. It has been some time. Even among Demon-kind, you are rare."
"I'm only a half-breed," she countered with a tremble.
He pulled his hand back as a thin smile graced his lips. “That is a matter of perspective.” He leaned into her, too dangerously close. “Hit me.”
Her eyes widened. All she needed was to give the vampires reason to destroy her.
“N-no,” she replied as firmly as she could.
The vampire roared and bared his fangs. “I said, hit me!”
Instincts overruled caution. Balling her hand into a fist, she swung at him as she screamed in terror. The hit made contact with his face with more force than she even knew she had. The vampire stumbled to the side for a moment, grabbing his face. When he looked at her again and lowered his hand, she saw a small trickle of old, thick blood flowing from a small cut in his lip.
“Excellent,” he rumbled. He looked to Master Rhoeshard, dark eyes sparkling with humor. “She will do.”
“I thought you would like her, Master,” Rhoe purred.
Frustration welled in her. What was the game here? What did they need her for? The questions bubbled within her until they reached a boiling point. As soon as Master Rhoe placed his icy hands on her skin, she couldn’t keep them inside.
“’Do’ for what?” she practically growled.
From behind Master Rhoe laughed. The other vampire simply raised a brow, crossing his arms as he did.
“Various reasons, Pet,” Master Rhoe whispered. No doubt he felt the tremble of disgust from her beneath his hands.
The elder gave her a smile one could almost call warm as well as disturbingly fatherly. “An unexpected flame. I suppose I should not be too surprised.” The man paused, turned, and headed towards the towering window in the room, back facing her and Master Rhoe. “There are three main reasons why we have brought you here, child. The first being your father owed us a great deal of money he could not afford to lose.”
Thana swallowed hard. It was no terrible secret that the family was hemorrhaging money, though she could never figure out the source. More than once her sister complained how they couldn’t afford new humans to feed from, especially since the older ones were never quite as enthralled with her sexual desires as they were before. Most of the men were dysfunctional, in fact.
“Secondly, my poor Rhoeshard has been without a companion for a number of years. I am sure you will do very well to fill the void.”
“Oh, yes,” the younger vampire teased, “very well indeed.”
Thana’s body tightened in arousal and in trepidation as the memories of the carriage flashed in her mind. Judging by the way he brushed his frosty arm down her shoulder, he knew exactly what she thought about.
“The third is a bit more complicated. You see, we are both businessmen, Rhoeshard and I, and business has been growing exponentially over the years. Usually one of us would stay here and maintain the household while the other ventures abroad. We have come to the realization work would be more efficient if both of us could travel away from home.
“This is where you come in, child. We cannot expect our human servants to stay without our supervision, except for our most loyal ones. We decided we need someone to take care of house and home in our stead.”
They wanted her as some sort of overseer? The very idea upset her. Granted, she had no particular love of humans. In fact, most treated her with the same contempt as the demons of her village. But the thought of keeping tabs on the servants as opposed to setting them free soured her stomach. Would it be any different than the entrapment she suffered in her father’s house?
“You want me to take care of your slaves?”
He gave her a half-smile that didn’t quite each his eyes. “I will not sugar coat it for you. Yes. They are ours, much in the same way you are now.”
Frustrated tears began to form in Thana’s violet eyes. “I have been nothing but a slave my entire life. Just leave me be. Cast me to the streets. I may not survive there, in fact it is guaranteed I will not, but I would rather take my chances.”
The vampire lord was on her faster than she could blink. His hand grasped her face, squeezing it tight enough for the beginnings of pain.
“Do not disregard what we can give you. We offer sanctuary from a world that does not want you. We offer you a warm bed, full meals, people to take care of you just as you do them. Everything you have ever longed for from afar, I can give you. That is a promise, princess.”
He let her go, gently stroking her face at the release. There was something disturbingly fatherly in that touch.
“I am nothing but a trinket to you. Why give me anything more than scraps?”
The older master chuckled. “The relationship between Master and Companion is much different than Master and Slave. With us, you will be well kept. All we ask in return is to maintain the house and the staff, be a special friend to Rhoe, and on occasion you will be required to run errands, though that will be further down the road. First, you will need a bit of education, both mentally and physically.”
His hands were on her shoulder now, while Master Rhoe’s stroked her hips and waist. It sounded so neat and easy. Something felt hidden in his words, something awful and dangerous.
“What if I am not suited?” she whispered. “What then?”
“Oh, Pet, do not think on it.” Master Rhoe cajoled. “You will certainly be perfect for everything.”
“The humans will not trust me.”
“Hah, do you think they trust us?” he laughed.
“You said to protect. I am not strong enough for protecting anyone or anything.”
“That is your silly tart of a sister talking. Your strength is simply untested.”
“Rhoe, that is enough,” the other master rumbled. “What would it take to convince you this arrangement is to your benefit?”
“I am not sure anything will,” Thana replied weakly.
“Then we must rely on time. I will strike a deal for you, princess. If you are not satisfied with this in a week’s time, we will send you on your way.”
“Master!” Rhoe growled angrily. “She is mine, bought with my own coin as part of a business deal.”
The other master’s eyes flashed a strange orange-red, reminding Thana of the setting sun. Master Rhoe whimpered as he squeezed into her flesh.
“You forget yourself. What belongs to you is truly mine,” he growled in return with hints of madness. His blazing eyes turned on her, making her weak in the knees. “Should you leave, you leave with nothing. Should you stay, you gain the world. But, this is now your choice alone. What say you, little one? Do we shrike a deal?”
He stepped back to give enough room to offer a hand. Thana stared at it a long time. All she had to do was live out the week. She could feign interest in staying, give herself enough time to figure out what to do with freedom, and leave this place never to answer to another again with any luck.
Hesitantly, she took his hand and shook it weakly.
The lids of his eyes lowered heavily as he raised his dead-cold hand to bring hers to his lips. The feeling of his mouth on her skin somehow thrilled her. It ate away at some of her fear and anger enough to finally ask what should have been asked in the beginning of the conversation.
“What is your name, Master?” she nearly choked on the last word.
“Khelman Douncratz, my lady.”
Her eyes widened. “Douncratz? My Gods, you are one of the elder masters. One of the Firsts.”
“Yes. Did Rhoeshard not mention this?”
That he was the progeny of a First? That she would be among two creatures more dangerous than she realized? No, he most certainly did not. Out loud she only shook her head.
“Imagine the power you would have as Thana Rhoedoun, princess. Rhoeshard is known by his name in his own right, but as Rhoeshard Kheldoun, well...he is feared.” He moved closer again, kissing her forehead gently. When he lifted away and looked to her, his eyes had returned to normal and somehow he seemed kinder for it. “You should rest now. Tomorrow will be quite the day. My Child and I may be weak by day, but you will be even less use without your normal resting period.” He looked to Rhoeshard. “Take her to her quarters.”
Master Rhoe seemed shaky since Master Khelman asserted himself. It took several tries, but quietly he agreed to his Master’s demands and escorted her out of the room