Chapter Thirteen: The Condition
Whispers grew in tandem around me. I felt Cain's hand on my shoulder and after a few more seconds of glowering at Johnson I stood, keeping the stake gripped tightly. Johnson half slid away in a rush before standing up. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't glad to see him so shaken. I turned to glance at Sergio, his expression sent chills down my spine. What vampire king looked pleased at a time like this?
“Impressive, for a human,” he finally said. I suppressed the urge to swear at him for his patronisation. Silence reigned as he stood up, even now he still towered over me. I fought the urge to step back as he moved closer, until he was stood directly before me. I didn't let me eyes leave his, waiting for some sign. If his intention was to kill me I wouldn't go down without a fight. Something we both know I just proved.
“Can I have that back?” he asked, holding out a hand for the stake.
“I'd rather keep it actually,” I replied calmly, keeping it gripped at my sides. I heard more whispers. The vampires around were less smug, their panic filled the air. Obviously these were the types who sat in rooms debating the fate of humankind, but never dared get in a fight with a rebel. I felt an odd form of elation, knowing I'd made so many of them feel scared. Sergio smiled down at me, but it was far from friendly.
“Fine, but that sort of trust requires equal trust,” Sergio replied. I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering what he was trying to do.
“I suppose. But personally, why should I trust you? You were all surprised by the outcome. You wanted me to die just now,” I stated everything plainly. He seemed to find my honesty amusing. I could feel Cain holding his breath behind me.
“Actually, I wanted to see if the rebel leader was as great as everyone claimed,” Sergio replied. I soured at the label again but didn't bother denying it. He was pretty set on who I was and there seemed little point wasting my breath.
“I hope your curiosity was satisfied,” I muttered darkly, though I knew everyone in the room would hear it.
“Yes, very much so. But as I was saying. If I should trust you, I need evidence you trust me back,” Sergio said, a worrying glimmer behind his eyes. The sight of it plus his infuriating grin set my teeth grinding, we both knew I would never trust him. Whatever test or task he had in mind would either be deceptively easy or something we both knew I would never do. Turned out it was the latter.
“Tomorrow evening, come to my chambers. You were Cain's feeder once, you can be mine too,” Sergio said. He turned and left swiftly before I could even compute any kind of objection. I just stared after his back with shocked eyes and gulped. I glanced at Cain who seemed to share my panic. Those around us milled out of the room, some faster than others. I shot Johnson a glare, which he returned. Looked like his earlier proud disposition had returned. Eventually it was just me and Cain left standing in the empty hall. Now that I wasn't being surged by adrenaline I could study the large room. Slate grey marble flooring, walls and ceiling surrounded me, pillars rose near the entrance to the room on either side. I didn't notice it earlier since all my attention had been trained on Sergio.
“I have no way to make sure you're safe tomorrow,” Cain whispered, his voice carrying and echoing around us. Like most rooms and corridors, there were no windows. The lack of sunlight was something I struggled to adjust to, at least last time I was here I still operated on a daytime schedule.
“I can protect myself,” I replied, adding more strength than needed to my voice. Cain decided not to reply and instead headed towards the door. I followed quickly, not wanting to spend another minute in the cold, austere place. It wasn't until I was back in Cain's room and he'd quickly excused himself that the effects of the night hit me. I collapsed onto the bed and lay there for a few minutes, my muscles shaking from delayed fear and exhaustion. How on earth I'd managed to hold down Johnson and not die still eluded me. But I decided not to question fate. The amount of scraps I managed to survive where others should've fallen were innumerable. Maybe that's why so many people had this fixation I was a leader. But Matt was, I just told soldiers what to do.