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By:Amy Miles

Roseline rolls her eyes in mock indifference. “Really? Is that all you’ve got? I’ve suffered far worse than those.”

“Indeed.” She can see the massive head bobbing in agreement as it steps into the light, huge and hulking. Its skin is black and leathery and its eyes two lightless voids. The monster’s lips peel back into a leer, showing off powerful jaws riddled with teeth. “But you were fully immortal then. I think you will find that your ability to heal has…changed.”

The hairs along her forearms rise as it hunches over the table, slowly running its claws over the tools. It hovers over a scalpel, turning its head to grin at her.

She braces herself as the creature whips around and launches the scalpel at her. It plunges deep into the crook of her armpit. Her lips bleed as she bites down against the scream lodged in her throat. She refuses to give this monster the satisfaction.

She bucks against the chains, nostrils flaring as she glares at the beast, defiant. Her skin feels flushed as she tries to ignore the pain. Her pulse thumps wildly in her ears as moisture clings to her eyelashes.

The creature’s croaky laughter echoes around her as it rips the scalpel from her arm and stabs it through the palm of her right hand. She is feverish with need, aching to curl her fingers around its jaws and tear it in two.

“See what I mean?” Its dank, moist breath washes over her face as it twists the blade in her hand. She kicks back against the wall, refusing to let so much as a whimper pass her lips. The stench of the creature’s breath curdles in her stomach.

She stills her lungs as it leans in close and runs a single claw down her cheek. It tears through her flesh with ease. “I’m really going to enjoy breaking you.”

She stares into the soulless eyes of her torturer. “You’re lucky I’m in chains.”

It chuckles and slams its hand into her stomach, its claws extended. She cries out as it curls its fingers inward, tearing great gashes through her flesh. It retracts its claws and strikes repeatedly.

Her head lolls forward as one jolt of pain melds into the next. She has no idea how long it takes for her to pass out. All she remembers is that the creature never asked her a single question.


A shadow falls over Gabriel’s face. His hand strikes out and meets flesh in mid-air. “You left me,” Gabriel grumbles sleepily. His head aches, and his back is as stiff as the boards he slept on. He would be hard pressed to imagine a worse night’s sleep.

Seneh smiles, releasing his hand. “Not for long. Katia took good care of you.”

“She’s a stranger. You’re lucky I decided to follow her.” Gabriel groans as he pushes up onto a chair, his long legs protesting as they bend at the knee.

The fire has burned low and the room is blissfully cool against his skin. Gabriel looks around, noticing Katia’s bowl has been washed and replaced on the shelf. The scent of her stew still lingers in the air.

“No,” Seneh says, careful to keep his voice low. He looks to the small mound lying atop the bed, still fully clothed. Blonde hair spills over the pillow as a soft snoring rises and falls with her chest. “Family.”

“Family?” Gabriel stares hard at his guardian. Only a couple days ago he would have been terrified to be this close to such an imposing man. The fading firelight illuminates his many scars, creating a shine on his shaved head. His lone braid of hair at his back falls over his shoulder, curling near his waist beside the broadsword he always carries.

“Not mine. Yours.”

Gabriel props his elbows on his knees, rubbing at the sleep that hides in the corners of his eyes. “This just gets weirder and weirder.”

Seneh sinks onto the bench, his large frame making the wood creak loudly. He winces as Katia stirs, holding his breath until she settles back down before speaking again. “Lucien has fathered many children, Gabriel. Did you think you were the only one?”

Gabriel stares at the curtained bedroom in a daze. “You’re saying she’s my sister?”

“Half. Yes.”

“She never told me,” Gabriel whispers. A strange fluttering sensation fills his stomach as Katia rolls over, restless but still dreaming.

“That’s because she does not know. Her mother was not as lucky as yours was. She lived long enough to give birth but died later that night. Katia grew up an orphan on the streets of Moscow. Elias found her and gave her to me to raise and protect. She has lived out here since she was only twelve years old.”

“That’s horrible.” Gabriel’s chest constricts as he considers how many other children grew up with stories much like Katia’s.

Seneh shrugs. “It’s peaceful. She is safe here.”