|Home > Pamela Palmer > Vamp City > A Blood Seduction (Page 12)|
|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
This is when he's going to kill you.
Instead, he hauled her against his chest, one arm binding her to him like a steel bar until she could barely breathe.
"This one's a fighter! Perhaps a good choice for the Games. She hasn't much in the way of tits, but she has good long legs and broad, strong shoulders. An excellent laborer. Do I hear five hundred?"
The crowd was silent.
And how screwed up was it that she was offended that no vampire wanted to bid on her?
"Two hundred," a woman called unenthusiastically, as if she were doing the auctioneer a favor in offering so much. Jeez Louise. Unlike the others in the crowd, this vamp looked like she'd stepped out of the 1940s - bright red lipstick, smooth, stylized hair, and a clingy dress that fell to just below her knee.
"Two hundred going once, twice, sold!"
The auctioneer moved in front of Quinn and gripped her chin painfully. At first, she thought he was about to seek his retribution. Almost too late, she realized he was trying to capture her mind. And like Arturo, he was failing.
Her pulse skipped. She had to pretend to be enthralled!
She forced herself to meet his gaze, then let her eyelids droop, her eyes unfocus. As her pulse continued to pound, he knelt to release her shackle. A big, bald, ebony-skinned man strode up onto the stage and took her by the arm. She didn't fight him, didn't even look at him as he steered her down the wooden steps to the woman who'd bought her.
"Hold her with the rest," the woman said with a casual wave of a slender, manicured hand.
"Yes, Mistress." As the auctioneer listed the attributes of the man who'd been chained behind her, the bald man led her through the crowd and out the door into what appeared to be true night. The street was lined with horse-drawn conveyances of every size and shape, the horses nickering softly. Across the street sat a couple of automobiles - a Land Rover SUV and a monster pickup. With disappointment, Quinn saw no sign of a yellow Jeep.
Her captor led her to a small gathering of three men, two of whom she recognized as slaves who'd been bought before her - a skinny man in suit pants and wingtips and an Asian in basketball shorts and high-tops. The third was a big, blond wrestler type with hair that shimmered like Horace's and Susie's had, dressed all in white. A guard, then.
Still fighting to appear mindless, she noted that the other two slaves remained unfettered. And why would they bother to tie or chain them if they'd been enthralled? They wouldn't. Which was exactly what she'd been counting on. If she planned to make a move, she'd have to do it soon, before her new vampire mistress arrived. If that vamp moved anywhere near as quickly as the ones who'd attacked her and Zack, there'd be no outrunning her. Hopefully, the two guards didn't have that kind of speed, or she was going nowhere.
If she could make it behind the building across the street, perhaps she'd find alleyways to escape through.
She waited until the man who'd fetched her from the stage left again, no doubt returning to his vampire mistress. When the man in white turned away, Quinn took a breath for courage and took off, running as fast as her feet would carry her over the dirt-packed road.
Moments later, she heard the guard's shout and feared her escape was over before it had begun. But the big man didn't come after her, and she wondered if she might just pull this off after all. Her heart pounding in her throat, she darted down the nearest alley. It was lined with barrels and crates, boxes, and metal cylinders of all shapes and sizes. She considered trying to hide, but decided that way would almost certainly lead to capture. Ahead, the alley dead-ended into another. Once she turned the corner, she'd be out of sight of any pursuer. She might just make it!
But as she turned right into the connecting alleyway, she pulled up short at the sight of the woman standing there, as if waiting - the red-lipsticked, now-furious-faced vampire who'd bought her.
Holy hell. There is no outrunning these bastards! Not unless an errant sunbeam kept them at bay. The female stood a few feet away in her slinky dress, looking as if she'd merely run a few feet to catch a taxi instead of zero-to-sixtying it in high heels to catch a runaway slave. The woman moved . . . zoomed - there was no other word for it - closing the distance between them to snap a thick metal slave's collar around Quinn's neck before Quinn even registered the movement. She felt the heavy metal bite into her collarbones. A moment later, her mouth exploded in pain, blood tricking over her tongue. The bitch had slapped her across the mouth. Hard! Though she never saw the vamp's hand move.
The woman grabbed her arm and dragged her back to where the others waited, plus one more. Another female slave, a slender brunette, whom she must have just bought. The two big guards placed collars on all of them and fed a chain through the eyebolts of one collar, then the other, stringing them together. Quinn was last. The female vamp pushed Quinn forward, and she soon felt the clank of steel against her neck as she was chained to the others. Four across, the two men on one side, the two women on the other.
One by one, the female vamp unenthralled Quinn's companions. The woman gasped. The Asian growled. Wingtip remained perfectly silent. None of these three had been hysterical during the auction, as Quinn remembered. They'd all been stoic and quietly furious.
The two giants left, returning several minutes later, each carrying a brightly-lit lantern and leading three horses between them.
The humans eyed one another, but remained mute as the two giants and the vampire mounted. The bald guard rode around them, coming to a stop before the four slaves. "Follow me and make no sound. The more you cry out, the worse it will be."
His words chilled. With that cryptic statement, he started forward. None of them moved. Not until the first crack of the whip slashed down the farthest man's back, and he stumbled forward, dragging his chained companions with him. The other three hastily caught up, none wishing for a taste of that whip.
But moments later, Quinn heard the crack, felt the lick of stinging fire down her back, and clamped down hard against the cry of pain that clawed to get out. Over and over, the whip cracked, flaying the four of them equally. It didn't seem to matter what they did, whether they walked quickly or slowly, not even if they cried out as Wingtip had begun to do every time he was hit.
Quinn's back blazed, her cheeks growing damp with the tears she tried to hold back. Fury rode her, a need to grab the lash and beat its wielder to a bloody pulp, but she was collared to the others, unable to move except as they did. And even if she could move, she'd seen the vampire's speed for herself. She was helpless against her. They all were.
The bald man turned, something akin to sympathy in his dark eyes. "She's a pain-feeder. When she's sated, she will stop. If you anger her, she will continue regardless."
She hoped to heaven Zack hadn't been taken by such a creature. More than a week he'd been trapped here.
The lash tore through her shirt, burning a strip of fire down her back for the fourth time. Quinn hunched her shoulders against the pain, squeezing her eyes closed against the tears she couldn't control.
Beside her, the other woman cried out as the lash finally broke her composure.
Block after block, they walked, in the heart of downtown. It was true dark, now, and she could see little beyond the light shed by the two lanterns. But twice she'd spied street names on the corners of buildings and knew they walked east on K Street, not far from the Capitol, for whatever good it did her.
The woman beside her glanced at her, then away. "What is this place?" she whispered.
Quinn hesitated, not wishing to draw the vampire's fury, yet feeling incredible sympathy for the woman. "Washington, V.C. Vamp City. Some kind of otherworld for vampires."
"Hell on Earth for humans," the woman muttered.
"Silence!" The lash burned across Quinn's shoulder. A second snap, and the woman beside her groaned. Quinn had to hand it to her, and to their other two companions. Only Wingtip had yelled at the sting of the whip and only the last time or two. The vampire had chosen her slaves well.
At the corner of K and Third, the vampire called for them to stop, and the black man rode back to his mistress.
"Bring me the smaller woman," the vampire commanded. "I don't want the fighter."
The woman beside Quinn gasped. One of the men muttered a low, "Fuck."
Quinn grasped the other woman's hand. "She won't kill you. She paid too much money for you." She prayed she was right.
As the big black guard unlatched her collar, the woman fought, kicking out, clearly done with acting strong and stoic, and Quinn couldn't blame her. The guard slung her over one broad, bare shoulder, carrying her to his mistress as if she weighed nothing.
Quinn glanced over her shoulder, watching as the female vamp took the struggling woman from him and grabbed her against her with the ease of an adult cradling a small child. The vampire's fangs dropped, her pupils turning white as she struck, sinking her fangs deep into the throat of her victim.
Quinn turned away, sickened, terrified the vamp would drain her dry and toss her aside like so much trash.
The sucking, hungry sound of the vampire's feeding had the rest of them edgy and tense. Quinn was certain she wasn't the only one wondering if she'd be next.
Now that they were still, the chains no longer clanking, the sounds from the auction began to drop like pebbles in a pond around them - the clip-clop of retreating horses, the rattle of horse tackle, the low keening of sharp misery punctuated by the occasional shout or scream. And underneath it all, the sound of a vehicle engine. One of the two she'd seen parked across from the auction?
Moments later, a familiar yellow Jeep turned the corner, kicking up a small cloud of dust, Arturo in the driver's seat. Quinn's knees nearly buckled in relief. Then again, did he even know she was here? Would he care? And if he was looking for her, it might be only to track her down and torture her for hurting . . . killing? . . . Ernesta with the water pitcher.
Her stomach twisted sickeningly at the thought. But she'd still choose him over the pain-feeder who'd just bought her.
With wary eyes, she watched as he slowed the Jeep to a crawl, then pulled to a stop a short distance in front of them, climbing out with a smile she could hardly credit. A bright, boyish, charmer's smile that did strange things to her insides and seemed so out of place on such a dangerous male. And it was firmly directed at her new mistress.
He was dressed, as before, all in black, the sheath of a long knife hanging from his waist. Dangerous and armed. His dark hair ruffled by the wind, Arturo was the epitome of rugged handsomeness as he strolled past Quinn, sparing her no glance.
"I see you've been shopping, Francesca." Clearly, they were old friends. "Stopping for lunch on your way home?"
"Arturo Mazza." The female vamp lifted her face from her meal with a look of faint annoyance.
Okay, so maybe they weren't such good friends.
"You look radiant, Francesca. But then you always do."
The female vamp snorted. "And you have a silver tongue, Arturo. And always have."
He glanced at Quinn, only a moment's look, but enough to tell her he was definitely there for her . . . whatever his motives.
"And how fares your kovena?" he asked Francesca.
Do as I tell you if you want to survive the week, cara. Arturo's voice. Quinn jumped. Arturo hadn't moved. He was still facing Francesca. Pretend you do not hear me!
My God, he was talking in her head. She struggled to relax, to look away.
Francesca goes through a slave every couple of days. We must get you away from her.
Was he really going to help her?
"My kovena fares well enough," the woman replied. "I'll not share my food with you, Arturo, you old charmer. Though my bed is another matter."
Arturo's laugh, warm and appreciative, was a sound that should have pleased and didn't . . . quite. The tone was off. Forced.
"Just a nip, my dear? From one of the others?"
"Absolutely not. I'm saving them for dinner."
Arturo strolled leisurely toward the remaining chained slaves, studying each in turn, revealing no recognition as he looked Quinn over. "You have a good eye for human flesh, Franny."
"Truly, I have a good ear. I can't stand the screamers."
He looked up, that wicked grin all the more dangerous for the sharp incisors it revealed. "I rather enjoy the screamers."
Francesca groaned. "You should have come to the auction, then. Such wailing. Henri has taken to slaughtering two of every bunch, one in front of the other captives for the fear-feeders. The other in torment for those of us who prefer the pain. Such screaming."
Arturo smiled absently, still looking Quinn over. "Perhaps I'll attend next week." He ran his finger down her cheek. "How much do you want for this one?"
Francesca kicked her horse, easing forward, drawing up again a few yards to Quinn's side. The vamp's victim remained tight in her arms, still alive, though lethargic. "She's not for sale, my Italian prince. She takes the lash perfectly. I wish to see what else she can endure."
Wingtip released a trembling moan, and Quinn nearly did the same. Arturo's words, that Francesca went through a slave every couple of days, suddenly made a horrible sense. The vampire tortured her slaves to death. And at the moment, Quinn was one of those slaves.
Wiping her mouth on her sleeve, Francesca straightened in her saddle, allowing her food source to do the same. When she lifted her victim's hand, Quinn thought she intended to hand the slave back to her guard. Instead, she took one finger and snapped it like a twig.
The poor woman screamed. Francesca closed her eyes as if experiencing soft rapture.