Nightshade | Chapter 30 of 37

Author: Michelle Rowen | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2590 Views | Add a Review

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I STAGGERED BACK AND SCANNED MY SURROUNDINGS for a weapon. The closest I could find was the lamp next to my bed, which I grabbed.
“Matthias should have bitten you,” Karen said. “But it seems he was able to resist. Too bad. It only means he’ll have to be killed in another way.”
She stalked toward me, a trained assassin like Declan. I swung the lamp at her and managed to hit her pretty hard, but she shrugged it off. I swung again and she side-stepped the blow, then swiped the blade, shallowly slicing my arm.
“On second thought, a knife’s no good for this,” she said, sheathing it again. “If I shed too much of your blood, the vamps will all come running for a taste.”
She snatched the lamp out of my hands and threw it to the side. Then she grabbed me, closed her hands around my throat, and started to choke me.
I pounded my fists against her, using every last ounce of my energy to break free. We were about the same height, minus the heels she wore. She responded by pushing me backward until she could slam me into the wall, knocking the wind out of me.
“Just die,” she said. “Now you’re only wasting my time.”
After another moment, my arms fell slackly to my sides as I lost the energy to fight for my life. My vision began to blur and darken.
“Karen.” Matthias’s calm voice sounded out from behind her. “What are you doing?”
Her eyes widened. “She’s going to kill you. It’s my duty to protect you.”
“Let go of her now.”
Defeat flickered over her expression and she released me. I slid to the floor, coughing and gasping for air.
Matthias didn’t look at me. His attention was all on Karen.
“You would kill her to protect me?” he asked.
“Of course.”
“I finished with Samuel. He won’t be causing any more problems.”
Her expression tightened. “You killed him.”
“Like I said, he won’t be causing any more problems.”
“He shouldn’t have said those things to you,” she said. “It was disrespectful.”
“Rebellion. Uprising. Releasing Kristoff from where I placed him twenty-nine years ago. Those things?”
“That ... that’s right.”
“You said Catherine was pregnant when she left.” Still, his voice was so calm, it was eerie. At her look of shock, “You know my hearing is good enough to listen through doors. It’s unfortunate my sense of smell was not keen enough to detect a change in Catherine’s body chemistry when she was still here. That would have changed many things. She must not have been very far along at all when she left me.”
Karen let out a shaky breath. “I should have told you, but she made me promise I wouldn’t.”
“But you told Monica Gray. You work for Monica Gray. I also heard that. You were supposed to carry the Nightshade in your blood, not Jillian.” He held up his hand when she tried to say something. “It was only a complete and utter fluke that the formula ended up with her.”
“I had second thoughts. I came to respect you too much to follow through.”
“You asked to be in my bed, to be my willing blood servant. And you were upset when you were not to my liking. Did that make you feel like a failure, Karen? Did your jealousy when I discarded you for Catherine lead you to conspire against me with the likes of Colin, Samuel, and the others, or was it simply because I refused to sire you and gift you with eternal life?”
“Matthias ...”
“Just answer me. Would you have let them kill me? Or would you have killed me yourself? You can’t lie. I won’t let you.”
His gaze was focused on hers and I assumed he was using some of his control over her to make her tell the truth. However, if he’d been listening in, he already would have heard it.
“Yes,” she said. “I would have killed you, you selfish fucking bastard.”
She reached for the dagger on her belt, but her hand didn’t even get a chance to touch it before Matthias reached out, took her face gently between his hands, and then, with a sharp twist, snapped her neck.
She fell to the ground in a heap.
Matthias’s spooky gray eyes flicked to me. “I don’t like traitors.”
My heart pounded as I looked between him and the dead woman.
“I just saved your life,” he said. “Please don’t forget that.”
I nodded my acknowledgement of this. My throat felt crushed and my vision was still unclear. The fear I’d felt when Karen was trying to kill me didn’t seem to be in any hurry to go away.
“She said that the baby had been born, didn’t she?” he asked.
I tried to swallow. It hurt. “She did.”
I couldn’t read anything in his expression to tell me what he thought of the news that he was a father.
“A girl,” he said.
I just nodded.
He held his hand out. “You need to come with me right now.”
I looked at him warily. “Where are we going?”
“There’s someone I need you to see.”
The last time someone said that to me, they’d locked me in a room with a hungry vampire. But this time it was the vampire telling me to come with him. A vampire I was extremely conflicted about. One I knew was a murderer. One that had psychically seduced me into having sex with him—well, almost. One I’d pledged to kill even if it was my last living act.
He’d just saved my life.
That made things even more confusing than they already were.
I held out my hand and he helped me to my feet. He pushed at my hair to look at my throat where Karen had choked me nearly to death, and his gaze flicked to mine.
“You can stand being this close to me now with no problem?” I asked.
“It’s a big problem for me, actually.” He raised an eyebrow. “But I’m able to put on a good front, don’t you think?”
“Very believable.”
“However, my abilities to withstand the Nightshade won’t impress anyone. Seems my popularity level here has taken more of a beating than even I thought it had. I may need to find another home while I figure out my next move. Now, come with me.”
He didn’t pull me along, instead letting me walk on my own. Which meant I either had the choice to stay where I was and babysit Karen’s dead body or follow Matthias.
I followed Matthias.
The hallways definitely gave the underground lair the feel of a subterranean hotel. They were just as lavishly decorated as the rooms and painted in deep burgundy—a color that reminded me of my tainted blood—with gold trim. It was truly a palace. We entered a cavernous room with a massive chandelier hanging from the thirty-foot ceiling. Several support beams looked like thick Grecian columns. There was a wall of large bookcases in here as well.
“Lots of time for reading?” I asked absently as we passed it.
He nodded. “I collect books on magic.”
“Houdini was a good friend of mine for many years, and he helped spark my interest in the world of magic.” A smile played at his lips. “I offered to make him into a vampire, but he refused. He thought he could achieve immortality by other means. As far as I know, he may very well have succeeded.”
“He died.”
“That’s what everyone believes. However, he was the best escape artist the world has ever known, so I’m still not entirely convinced he’s gone forever.”
“Where are we going, Matthias?”
“To get someone to help us.”
“Help us with what?”
“I need to go aboveground.” His jaw was tight.
The awareness of what he meant sunk in. “The baby. You’re going to go get her, aren’t you?”
“I am.”
“Why? Catherine ran away from you. That’s got to tell you something, doesn’t it?”
“Despite what Catherine wanted, I won’t turn my back on my daughter now that I know she exists.”
“Dr. Gray will take care of her.”
His eyes flashed with anger. “You have no idea who Monica Gray is. She’s devoted her life to making people believe I’m a monster. But she’s the monster in this scenario, whether or not she even realizes it. I told you about Kristoff and the child dhampyr, didn’t I?”
I’d been trying very desperately to forget about that. “You did.”
“Kristoff was part of a secret society of vampires called the Amarantos, whose members believed that a female dhampyr baby’s blood would give them true immortality. As it is, a vampire has the potential for a very long life without succumbing to any human ailment, but they’re still vulnerable. Kristoff believed in the immortality ritual and he worked very hard to create such a child with many women—willing or unwilling. When he finally succeeded, he killed his daughter and drank her blood and he forced one other vampire to do the same.”
His voice was tight as he said this. There was deep anguish in his eyes at reliving this horrible memory.
“The other vampire was you, wasn’t it?” My voice shook.
“He had me held in place as he force-fed me the blood.” He looked away from me and didn’t elaborate further.
I shuddered. “So is it true? Are you completely immortal?”
“I don’t know for sure. All I know is it was a waste of a small life. I’d known he was evil before that, but I’d never actually seen the evidence for myself. His followers believed everything he said. They’ve lain in wait all these years for the chance to find him and make him their leader again. They think I’m a hedonist who cares nothing about my people, but they’re wrong. I must feed on sexual energy as much as I do blood—without it I grow weak. Kristoff is the same.”
I was confused. “Do all vampires feed on sex?”
“No. Not the younger ones. But such needs increase over time and affect those like my brother and I.”
“Wait a minute, Kristoff’s your brother?” I said, stunned.
“And you locked him away somewhere so he couldn’t hurt anyone.”
“I couldn’t kill him, despite what he’d done. But he had to be dealt with.” He nodded soundlessly, his face extremely tight and pale. “Female dhampyrs are the ones sought after for the immortality ritual by the Amarantos Society. The males are thought to be useless. All I know right now is that my daughter is in great danger and I have to protect her.”
It was at that moment that all my doubts about Matthias vanished. The fear remained as sharp as ever, but my prior opinion of him—based on a certainty that he was a remorseless rapist and abuser of women—was gone.
He hadn’t raped Declan’s mother. Declan had been lied to over the years. He’d been told stories to build his hatred for a man he’d never met, helping to create an unstoppable weapon to use against the vampire he held responsible for ultimately killing his mother.
“Will you help me?” Matthias asked.
“Yes.” It was a very simple word to describe how strongly I felt about this. Did Dr. Gray know how dangerous it was to have a baby dhampyr in her possession—especially a girl? If anyone found out, they would try to take her. Kill her. Drink her blood in the belief it would make them indestructible.
She was the exact opposite of me.
My blood meant a vampire’s instant death. The baby’s blood meant eternal life.
We passed several people along the way, but Matthias looked neither to our left nor right. We didn’t travel through the area unnoticed. Whomever we passed gave us their full attention. I noted wariness in their expressions, some fear, and a great deal of anger to see dangerous, unwelcome me freely walking alongside their current king.
When we left the large room with the columns and bookcases, we headed down a staircase to a lower level, and down a hall. When we turned a corner, two men blocked our path.
“Matthias,” one said. I was dismayed to see it was Davis. He held a knife in his hand. “I’m afraid I can’t let you pass.”
“This is her?” the other man asked. His breathing was labored and his eyes had already turned black to show he was a vampire. “The carrier of the Nightshade?”
“It is,” Matthias confirmed.
“Why the hell haven’t you killed her yet?” Davis asked. “If you did that, you might be able to get out of this alive. Even still, if you tell us where Kristoff is locked away, I might not have to kill you.”
“You’ll never find my brother,” Matthias said simply.
“You’re wrong. And when we do, he’ll give the blood servants immortality and we’ll help him rise to the surface and take what we want from the humans. Kristoff’s time has come.”
“Get out of our way.”
“Look at me,” he said to Davis.
“So you can use your mind tricks on me and force me to do your bidding? I don’t think so. Not anymore.”
Matthias glanced at the vampire who was eyeing me like I was an ice-cream cone he was dying to lick.
“I tasted her,” Matthias said. “I couldn’t resist. The fang marks on her throat show that I’ve marked her. It did nothing. It was all a trick to make us fear our enemies aboveground.”
“You lie,” the vampire said.
“No, I don’t. Her blood is as delicious as it smells. Do you think even I could resist?”
“Wait, no ...,” Davis began. “It wasn’t Matthias who—”
But before he could get the rest of the sentence out, the vampire had me in his grip—his control was nowhere close to Matthias’s. He pushed my head to the side and eagerly sank his fangs into my neck.
There was no mind control this time to make it pleasant, and the pain was sharp and immediate. Tears welled in my eyes, but I couldn’t fight him since I was immediately paralyzed by his bite.
“Yesss,” he hissed against my throat. “So good ...”
My gaze was fixed on Matthias as Davis lunged at him with the knife. Despite Davis being a good hunter and fighter, he was no match for the vampire king, who easily snatched the knife away from him. His hand was a blur as he slashed Davis’s throat. Davis brought his hands up to stop the gush of blood, his eyes wide with surprise at his own inescapable death.
The vampire released his hold on me, my dark red blood drizzling down his chin and dripping to the floor.
When I was able to move again, I clamped my hand to the side of my injured throat.
The vampire’s gaze moved to Matthias.
“You were right,” Matthias said, wiping the blade off on his black pants. “I was lying. Hope you enjoyed the taste of death.”
It didn’t take long for the flames to consume the vampire’s body. His screams stopped a moment before he burst into fiery ash.
I glared at Matthias. He looked surprisingly amused given what had just happened.
“What’s so damn funny?” I snapped. “You made him bite me.”
“You’ll heal. He won’t.”
“Still not finding the humor.”
“When there’s nothing to laugh at, that’s when you should laugh the hardest.”
He was a regular vampire Confucius. “You’re fucking insane, do you know that?”
“Come. We’re almost there.”
“Why the hell don’t you have bodyguards?”
“Those were my bodyguards.”
Without another word, he turned and began swiftly moving down the hallway, then down a flight of stairs into another more dimly lit corridor.
A man stood at a doorway with his arms crossed. There was no one else in the area.
“I need to see him,” Matthias said.
“I’ve been instructed to no longer acknowledge you as my king.” He uncrossed his arms and clenched his fists at his sides. “I’m sorry, but I can’t follow your orders.”
“Then I’m sorry, too,” Matthias said before he plunged the silver dagger into his chest. The man’s eyes widened before they filled with flames and he exploded into ash.
Guess he’d been a vampire. It was surprisingly hard to tell from a distance. When I recovered from the shock of another vampire death, I grabbed Matthias’s arm.
“Who’s in that room?” I demanded.
“This is where we bring prisoners.”
“Karen told me how you kill rogue vampires. Was she lying about that?”
Matthias’s intense gaze was on me. “Would you like me to tell you she was?”
“I just want the truth.”
He looked at the door. “I’m the king, so their betrayal is betrayal against me. So, yes, I carry out the execution myself, as Karen said.”
My stomach turned. “You rip their hearts out with your bare hands?”
I shuddered. “That’s barbaric.”
“I can do many things with my hands that aren’t quite as barbaric,” he said, his lips curving at the sides. “As you now know.”
I crossed my arms protectively in front of me. “I want to forget about that.”
“All I want is for you to acknowledge that the desire you felt for me wasn’t entirely forced upon you. Will you do that?”
There was no time for this. Why would he even bring it up now?
“Just say it, Jillian. You desired me then. Just as you desire me now. Admit it.”
He wasn’t going to do anything else until he got an answer out of me.
I bit my bottom lip. “It’s not true.”
“As I told you before, never play poker. It’s too easy to see when you’re bluffing.”
He took the chain of keys off the ground, which was the only thing remaining from the guard other than a small scattering of ash, and used it to open up the door.
I gasped.
Inside the room, with his hands chained up above his head, was Declan.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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