"She wants to do what?" my father and I said in unison.
My mother sighed. "She wants to go," she said, shaking her head.
"It's going to be so dangerous!" my father said. "We can't let her go!"
"What do you think, Cian?" my mother asked and I sighed.
"Well, I agree it's dangerous. She couldn't fight off Cerebus."
My mother rolled her eyes. "No human can fight off Cerebus."
"I know what it's like to feel shut in, though. Perhaps she could come for the journey. If there's danger in the village itself, we'll send someone to take her back here."
We stood in silence for a little while.
"Very well," my father said finally. "Only if her mother agrees to it."
Later the next day, she arrived at the castle with her mother, looking nervous.
"Have we done something wrong?" she asked.
"No, not at all," my mother said. "In fact, we wanted to speak with you about your request to join the group going to the village." She turned to Mary. "Has she explained it to you?"
Her mother nodded.
"We have agreed to let her go," my father said. "Only if she has your consent, though."
Her mother looked terrified. "I don't know," she said hesitantly.
"If we encounter anything that is too dangerous, we will send her back right away," I said.
Her mother thought it over. "Will she be safe?" she whispered.
"Yes," I said firmly.
Her mother turned to talk to her but she was gone. I frowned and looked around. Where did she go?
"Viveka?" her mother called. "Viveka, where are you?"
She didn't answer. For some reason, I felt a stirring of dread. I closed my eyes and reached my mind out to the castle.
Where are you, Viveka?
I saw her walking as if I were beside her. Her eyes were glazed over and I looked around. She was going to the dungeons. But why would she-
My eyes shot open and I took off running, realizing what he was trying to do.
"Where are you going?" my father yelled.
I didn't answer. I had to get to her before Cerebus did. As I ran, I could still see flashes. She was in the dungeons.
"I have been given permission to see Cerebus," she said in a flat voice.
The guard looked unsure but opened the door to the dungeons and stepped to the side. She walked to the very back.
"Well, look who is here," Cerebus purred.
By now I was at the dungeons and I pushed the guard to the side. He gaped at me as I threw the door open. Cerebus had his hand on her cheek and her body was shaking, her head slowly bending to the right.
"No!" I yelled and pulled her from behind.
My parents followed shortly after. They were panting. Viveka was shaking in my arms still and staring at Cerebus with wide eyes. He was smirking at all of us.
"What did you do?" I demanded.
"You'll find your little mind trick no longer works on her," he snarled. "I was so close to making her mine, though. That's the second time you've taken her from me, young Cian. This has become... personal. When I get out of here-"
"You will not be getting out of here," I snarled.
Viveka turned to me slowly and I looked at her. Her eyes were full of rage and she slapped me as hard as she could. I winced as she slapped me again.
"How dare you!?" she cried and pushed herself out of my arms. "How dare all of you!?"
She tried to run but I caught her when she got to the foyer. I wasn't sure where her mother was but I didn't care. I grabbed her arm.
"I had to," I said. "You would've died if I hadn't!"
"Apparently it doesn't matter!" she yelled back. "Someone still tried to kill me!"
"I don't know why he's singled you out but I'll help you. Trust me."
"Trust you!?" she yelled, her voice rising an octave. "Trust you? Why the hell should I trust someone who erases my mind and then implants that-that-that dream!?"
"I did that to ask for forgiveness!" I snapped. "I didn't want to do it! None of us did! Cerebus isn't the first vampire that will try to hurt you! There's something about you, Viveka! I cannot read your mind and neither can my parents. That's not normal among mortals!"
"Maybe you're just weak," she snapped.
"You know I'm not."
She was breathing heavily. "Give me one good reason why I should trust you."
I stared into her eyes, debating with myself. It would probably result in another slap but.... Technically, I had already done it. Would it convince her, though? That kiss was supposed to have healed her bruise but breaking the wall had been too much for both of us. I bit my lower lip.
She was still waiting, glaring at me. I got lost for a second in her eyes. They burned with fury and her orange hair reminded me of a fire.
Just do it, Cian. You want to anyway.
"Fine," I said and grabbed her other arm.
She looked confused as I pushed my lips onto hers. She fought me for a brief second then gasped into my lips. My eyes were closed but I knew what was happening. Warmth spread from our connected lips down to our toes. I slid my hands up to her face but she stood still as a statue. I was about to pull away when she kissed me back. She didn't touch me, though.
Finally, she pulled back.
Her eyes were hard to read and there was no point trying to read her mind. It wouldn't work anyway. We stood in silence, looking into each other's eyes. Then her eyes began to fill with tears.
"Why did you do that to me?" she whispered, pushing my hands off her face. "Haven't you done enough damage?"
"What do you mean?" I whispered with a frown.
She shook her head. "You were supposed to make me trust you, not be afraid of you."
"Me kissing you scares you?" I asked and she gulped. "I'm confused.
"Yes it does."
"Because it only complicates things more."
I sighed. "Come here," I whispered and led her to a mirror. "Look at your reflection, Viveka."
She hesitated but did so anyway. Her eyes widened and she reached up to where her bruise used to be.
"The cream my mother gave you was just lotion," I said. "It didn't heal the bruise. It was me."
"You know how."
"I'm overwhelmed," she mumbled.
"I know you are. But you have to make two decisions right now." She looked at me warily. "First, you have to decide if you're still going on the quest with us."
"And the second?"
"You have to decide if you trust me," I said quietly.
She looked into my eyes and I tried to show how honest I was being. I didn't know how she felt about me, but I was definitely attracted to her. I wanted things to go back to the way they were. Fighting with each other, sharing insults, and teaching one another things.
But I also wanted something more.
As the minutes dragged on, I was losing hope.
"I will trust you," she whispered finally. "But if you break that trust, I will kill you." I smiled. "I'm not joking, Lord Cian."
"That's not why I smiled," I assured her. "I know you will."
She nodded once just as her mother came running down the stairs.
"There you are!" she cried.
"She doesn't remember," I hissed in Viveka's ear and she nodded.
"Sorry for disappearing," she said.
"Where did you go!?"
"I heard music," she lied.
Her mother shook her head, sighing. "You and your music."