|Home > Pamela Palmer > Vamp City > A Blood Seduction (Page 18)|
|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
"It would appear so although that is yet to be confirmed. But we have a banquet to attend."
Kassius nodded and left, cradling the weeping girl against his broad chest.
"A friend of yours?" Quinn asked, as he led her down another long hall. If she ever managed to escape her jail cell, she'd play heck finding her way out of this place without getting lost.
"Yes. Kassius is in charge of the Slavas. He's like a mother hen with them. He does not take well to their abuse, particularly the fresh ones - those not yet immortal."
Another vampire with at least some compassion, some honor. How could such a man stand to live in a place where humans suffered abuse . . . and death . . . on a regular basis?
She glanced at the male at her side, intensely aware of all the contradictions he presented. He was a liar who'd betrayed her. But his own slaves seemed to adore him and he'd never physically hurt her. As much as she might hate him, she had to admit he wasn't all bad. There was compassion in him, too. And honor, buried in there somewhere. Maybe she hadn't been a complete idiot for trusting him the first time.
But that didn't mean she'd ever make that mistake again.
"Why do your friends call you Ax?"
He glanced at her, secrets in his eyes. "It is a long story, cara. One you will be happier not knowing."
Finally, they reached another set of open double doors. "The banquet hall," Arturo murmured, ushering her inside.
Quinn stared, her pulse thrumming. This room was twice the size of the throne room and lacked the gilt splendor, but it was still colorful and intriguing in a disturbing kind of way. Flat chaises covered in bright, solid-color cushions ringed the room on rising heights like four levels of stadium seating . . . or bedding. In the center of the room, at ground level, stood what appeared to be a shallow, waterless pool, marble and rectangular, with several spigots protruding from each side.
Dozens of people . . . vampires, she assumed . . . sat or lounged on the chaises, their excited murmurs rising and falling. They were dressed in flowing, sleeveless, brightly colored gowns, the men's loose-fitting, the women's clingy and sheer. Several nearby saw her, their expressions turning hungry. One male's fangs began to lengthen, his pupils slowly turning white. Yep, definitely vampires.
Quinn's heart began to pound, and she found herself sidling closer to Arturo, watching as a couple of the vampires threw their heads back in pleasure. Fear-feeders.
Arturo's hand shifted from her arm to the back of her neck in a clear display of possession. "Calm yourself, cara," he said softly, and ushered her forward, tight against his side.
"Arturo," the vampires murmured as they passed. Many greeted him with deference, some with genuine warmth. Most appeared intensely curious about her. Quinn met those who stared at her with her best I'll-rip-your-eyeballs-out look.
Arturo led her to one of four sets of steps. As they started up, she saw Cristoff at the top in a gown of gold, surrounded by half a dozen guards dressed all in black. Her pulse escalated, but she remembered what Arturo had said, that Cristoff couldn't taste her fear, only see it. Clenching her jaw, she pasted a hard expression on her face and prepared to meet the dragon.
When they reached him, Cristoff rose and took her from Arturo, squeezing her arm painfully as he pulled her beside him and turned her to face the room. All eyes rose to stare at her.
Cristoff grabbed her hair. Quinn stifled a cry, then lost the battle and cried out as he jerked her head back in a wash of scalp pain, exposing her neck. The damn vampire made a sound of pleasure deep in his throat, clearly enjoying her discomfort.
"I give you the last sorceress!" Gasps and exclamations erupted around the room, quickly followed by raucous cheers. Quinn trembled, tensing for his bite. "Vamp City and all who reside here are saved. Tonight, we celebrate. Bring in the feast!"
The cheers erupted all over again.
Cristoff released her as suddenly as he'd accosted her. Arturo gripped her arm far more gently than Cristoff had, steadying her, then seating her on the cool, peacock blue silk cushion between the two men. The two vampires. She blinked back the tears, knowing the worst thing she could do was show weakness. Of course, Cristoff knew he'd hurt her. Just as he'd intended to.
Double doors on either side of the room opened as if choreographed. Naked people started flooding the room. Slavas, by the looks of it, their hair faintly glowing in that weird way that meant immortal. She blinked. Cristoff had ordered the feast brought in. She'd expected servants carrying platters of food, but that was hardly a vampire feast, was it? No, the slaves themselves would be the feast. Some strode in with surprising confidence, others shuffling with misery. One light-haired female appeared to lose her nerve halfway into the room and turned to escape as a number of vampires threw their heads back, drinking her fear. The woman made it only as far as the door before a vampire grabbed her, gripping her chin as if to force her to stare into his eyes. To glamour her.
"Hold!" Cristoff commanded. "Put her in the basin as she is. Tonight she is mine."
The woman's color drained from her face, and she went absolutely hysterical, screaming, fighting to be free. The vampire picked her up and threw her into the marble pool with unnecessary force. The crack of bone preceded a horrifying scream. A different group of vampires gasped in pleasure. The pain-feeders.
Quinn began to shake. She had to get out of here.
Long, cool fingers curled around her arm. Arturo's. Control your emotions, cara, he murmured in her head. If you cannot watch, look elsewhere. Appear bored.
Bored? He was flipping crazy. But she forced herself to do as he instructed, ignoring the woman in the basin, pretending her screams weren't clawing at her nerves as she watched the other slaves instead.
Beside her, Cristoff rose. Her pulse stuttered, but he stepped past her and began to make his way down to the center of the room, leaving her behind. She thought again of the woman on the floor with the burn marks and wondered what agony the poor woman in the basin would endure. She did not want to be witness!
As Cristoff made his way down to his waiting victim, the other vampires, most of whom now wore rapturous expressions, grabbed a naked slave as they trooped past, deposited him or her on the nearest chaise, and sank their fangs into them. And, if they had them, their cocks.
Quinn turned to Arturo, her voice whisper-low. "They're going to kill them all."
"Most are virtually immortal by now. No matter how much blood is taken from them, they will survive without harm."
"That's why most of them don't seem to be afraid." Not only didn't they appear afraid, but most of the Slavas were now writhing in pleasure, active and eager participants in the sexual acts. "They're enjoying this."
"You've felt the pleasure of a vampire's bite, piccola," Arturo said quietly, a silken sensuality to his tone.
She swallowed and looked at him. "Aren't you going to join them?"
"My assignment is to guard you."
"Just . . . guard me?"
"Just guard you." A teasing light entered his eyes. A decidedly hot teasing light. "Do you wish more?"
"No." She was in no mood for teasing. Not here.
A movement caught her eye, a man moving toward them, dressed not in a gown but in the same jeans and shirt she'd seen him in before. Arturo's friend, Bram.
"Ax," he said, sliding onto the chaise beside Arturo. He nodded to her. "Sorceress." Unlike the other vampires, his expression was closed and rigid, revealing not a whiff of excitement or pleasure though he must be feeling it. "Cristoff is one sick fucker," he said quietly, pain, not pleasure in his words.
How terrible it must be for a moral man, a doctor no less, to be forced to watch people suffer for the pleasure of others.
"How are you holding up?" Arturo asked his friend.
"How do you think?" He leaned forward, pinning Quinn with hard eyes that reeked of desperation. "You've got to fix the magic."
"I'll try." Though wouldn't it be far better if this place failed? If all within Vamp City died? Perhaps not all. Bram seemed decent enough. Perhaps Kassius, too. She hadn't decided about Arturo. But what of the Slavas who'd been captured and forced to live out their lives here? Did they deserve to die? Did Susie? And Horace? Then again, Horace had been alive far longer than any human should ever live. Death for many of the Slavas was long overdue.
Bram rose. "I've had enough. I'm getting out of here."
When he'd left, Quinn turned to Arturo. "When will I have to renew the magic?"
"I do not know. Magic is always strongest on the power days - the solstices, the equinoxes. There are others. A powerful sorcerer could call the magic even on a null day. I know not if Cristoff intends to wait for the equinox or test you on a null."
Would it matter either way? She had no clue how to do what they wanted. Regardless which day they tried, she'd almost certainly fail.
The poor woman's screams ratcheted, clawing at Quinn until she felt like she was going to crawl out of her flesh.
"You need to calm down, cara."
"How?" She didn't know what Cristoff was doing to his victim and had no desire to know. But the screams were cutting into her eardrums until she wanted to cover her ears and hide her face and try to make it all go away. And the smell. God. Sex and blood and raw, blinding fear. "I'm not sure how much of this I can stand. He's going to kill her. As we sit here."
She cut him a disbelieving look.
"Terese has been with us decades, long enough to be immortal and to know that the worst thing a Slava can do is lose her nerve in front of Cristoff."
"So she'll . . . what? Heal anything he does to her?"
"Yes, unless he chooses for her to die, but that is unlikely to happen."
Quinn frowned. "What about the woman with the burns who was in the throne room when we first got here?"
"And mentally. The Slavas are glamoured the moment the abuse ends. The memory taken. She does not remember any of it. Neither will Terese."
Quinn thought about that. The fact that they wouldn't remember, and wouldn't suffer any consequences, didn't mean the torture hadn't happened. It didn't excuse it. And yet, the knowledge eased something tight and pained inside her.
"That's a gift . . . to be able to forget."
He nodded slowly. "One denied to you unless someone else has better luck controlling your mind than I did."
"I don't want to forget." What if they took her memories of her previous life? Of Zack? Of her very reason for living?
He gave her a look that said he expected her to be saying otherwise soon enough.
"Would you want to forget?" she asked.
He turned away, looking out over the gathering. "Yes. There are things I would prefer to forget. Your life has been too short and too protected to feel the same."
She snorted. Her childhood had certainly been no trip to Disney World. Then again, it could have been worse. Much worse.
Without meaning to, she glanced at the horror unfolding in the center of the room, then desperately wished she hadn't. Her conversation with Arturo had helped her focus on something other than the screaming. But that quick glance was all it took to permanently imprint the horrific scene on the backs of her eyes - vampires lying around the basin, drinking blood from the spigots as the woman lay inside, spread-eagled on her back. Her wrists and ankles had been tied with barbed wire until the blood ran down her arms. More barbed wire wrapped around her head, the blood soaking her hair as it ran in rivulets from her scalp. Worst of all was the picture of Cristoff standing naked between the woman's spread legs, fastening a spiked band around his engorged penis.
The blood rushed from Quinn's head.
Arturo pushed her head between her knees. "Deep breaths," he said, his words low and urgent. "If he knows you're this sickened, he'll force you to watch every time."
The woman's screams turned bloodcurdling. Cold sweat broke out on every inch of Quinn's body. Bile rose in her throat. She wanted to vomit, to run away. She longed to tackle Cristoff and cut off his steel-clad dick. The barbarity. . .
Arturo's hand was at the back of her neck. "You must sit up, piccola. You cannot let him see you like this."
"I think he's a little busy to notice." But she took a deep breath and forced herself up, excruciatingly careful not to look toward the center of the room again.
"Watch the others, not Cristoff."
But the others . . . good grief. Sex and blood . . . everywhere. "How often does this happen?"
"Everyone together? At least once a month. But the torturing, the feeding, the sex, happens daily. It's how we feed, how we survive."
"That doesn't make it okay," she gasped. What if Zack and Lily . . .
She couldn't even go there. The thought of them suffering such torture had the blood draining from her head all over again, but she managed to stay upright this time.
"Quinn," the vampire at her side said warningly.
"I'm handling it." Breathing deeply through her mouth, trying to block out the thickening scent of blood and sex, she unfocused her eyes in the general direction of the nearest copulating couple. "I thought you only sensed my fear."
"I only feed on fear. But for some reason I keep getting blasts of your emotions, no matter what they are." He fished in his pocket for something and brought forth a half a roll of SweetTarts, offering her one.
Taking it gratefully, she popped the tart candy into her mouth. "How can you be loyal to such a monster?"