Was this a nightmare? No, of course not.
Victoria stood with her eyes closed as the wind lightly grazed her flushed cheeks, blowing her unbound hair back and out of her face. The two men that were with Ezra had left leaving her completely alone with him. They stood in a dark field not far from the heart of Dublin, away from most of the population. She kept telling herself to breathe and everything would be all right; maybe she’d even open her eyes and her life would be normal again. Victoria never thought she’d ever want normal but she did. Her thundering heart told her that wishful thinking never got anyone anywhere, being delusional would gain her nothing. Victoria’s intuition told her that everything Ezra had just confessed to her was the absolute truth. She inhaled shakily, feeling her sanity slithering away like a deadly serpent after the kill.
Ezra was going to bargain her life to save his dwindling soul before he crossed over fully. The information didn’t fully sink into her mind, being unable to process what was said to her moments before.
“Victoria?” he questioned in that dark tone, almost making her flinch. He stood somewhere behind her; she could almost feel his body heat through the chill of the morning.
Thunder rumbled over the distant mountaintops and the smell of rain was strong, promising a heavy downpour. She slowly turned around and pulled up the hood of the wool cloak he’d given her. Victoria whispered, “How do I know that no harm will befall me if you do not get what you want?” she asked, staring up into his pale, glittering eyes. Pieces of his jet-black hair whipped around his face and his loose shirt flapped wildly with the wind. He looked like a rogue pirate, someone dangerous and undeniably powerful. The circles under his eyes and his pale skin confirmed what he had said. Ezra was running out of time, she could see this plain as day. It all made perfect sense, everything…
Dear heavens. Ezra was an actual demon.
No, not just any demon, but the Prince of Darkness. One couldn’t get much worse than that. Victoria shivered as she stared at him, wondering what she had gotten herself into. She let her attraction for him get the best of her, his dark beauty tampered with her judgment, jumbled her thoughts. Maybe she should have fled, leaving him to his own drunken hopelessness. He was a demon, something dark, something better left alone. It didn’t take long for him to finally sober, his mind returning and his vulnerability—gone.
Her only chance at escaping was with the wind now.
He told her she had a choice to stay but deep down she knew he wouldn’t let her go, no matter how much she opposed helping him. She could see the possessiveness in his severe stare for he didn’t even try to hide it. His intensity scared her. He gave the impression that he was ready for the chase if she chose to run, his dominance alarmingly evident. Victoria took a deep breath, knowing she shouldn’t be here alone with him. Like a black panther slyly eyeing its food, daring the prey to challenge him.
Ezra finally spoke. “No harm will befall you, you have my word. If the Liorians do not comply with my request I will still hand you over to them. I would rather die than to give you over to my father,” he paused with a rude smile, the disgust for his father seemed evident. “Do you realize what treason I have committed? A demon of my ranking? I was in line for my father’s legions, commanding millions. Now of my betrayal, I may never again enter the Underrealm where demons like me thrive. So I think it’s safe to say that I am telling the truth about your safety,” he murmured.
Victoria gazed up at him, realizing what risk he was taking to gain his soul back. At least he was trying to save himself, rather than give up. She tilted her chin up and demanded, “I want my questions answered before I agree to help you.”
His mouth twitched, like he thought her demand humorous. “Love, I will tell you everything you want to know but we can’t do it here. The scouts are not far away, and I already sent my only two men ahead to inform Sydonia of our arrival. And, not to mention, my father is no doubt commanding his men to kill me and take you at any cost.”
Victoria peered around, taking in the early morning darkness. “Wait… they’re coming here? Now?” she asked, not wanting to see any more demons. She had seen enough to fuel a lifetime of nightmares.
“Of course, my father will die without you. Moray will try and move heaven and hell to get to you,” Ezra stated matter-of-factly. “Which is why we can’t stand out in the open like this.”
“Sydonia? I have never heard of such a place,” she said carefully, her fear rising.
Ezra smiled and held out his hand. “Sydonia is a demon sanctuary here on Earth. It is legalized through the Liorian council as long as no trouble is caused. It’s not far from here. Think of it as a safe house for the corrupt.”
Victoria furrowed her brows. “Why would demons need a safe house on Earth and the angels—er, Liorians are ok with it?” That didn’t make sense.
Ezra gazed around, appearing paranoid. “In a nut shell. Sydonia is for demons that are exiled from the Underworld or any other realm and can go nowhere else. Earth is the only place that no being can be exiled from because it’s not under anyone’s rule. There are safe houses everywhere, Sydonia being the biggest. The reason the Liorians condone this is because a treaty was signed. To live in Sydonia, one must not feed on human souls. Because, without the safe haven, the exiled demons would run wild making the Liorians job to deport them very hard. It is a place of mutual peace for anything without a soul, not just demons.”
Victoria did her best to soak up the needed information. She finally nodded, his explanation actually making some sort of sense. “Where is it?”
“Here in Ireland, underground. We will have to fly there and use a bit of my power. We have no other choice, let’s go,” he said forcefully, holding out his hand impatiently.
Victoria glanced at his hand, not liking the sound of a demon safe house.
“You have to trust me.”
She glanced up at him, his pale eyes shining down at her. Her breath hitched, his despondent expression arresting her, holding her captive. Taking his hand was the last moment she remembered, for she seen no more. Blackness overtook her consciousness.
* * *
Her eyes fluttered but didn’t open immediately, sparkles of mixed colors seeped through her lids as she tried to open them. Something warm and strong held her, Victoria tried to move but couldn’t.
“Victoria? Can you hear me?” came a voice that sounded far away.
“Yes…” she murmured as her swimming vision stilled. Ezra held her tightly, her body scandalously pressed flat against his. As her mind returned she tensed when their gazes clashed, her face heating. Being this close to him was unsettling, especially when she wasn’t expecting it. Victoria pulled herself back and looked the other way. “Why must I pass out every time we do this?”
“Because I have not taught you how to keep your consciousness yet,” he said without emotion. “We are here.”
Victoria looked around, frowning. There was not a thing around them, not even a tree. It was just an open field with lifeless grass and weeds. “Where?”
She looked back at Ezra and gasped. He held out his hand while his eyes appeared to be lit from within. Through his ripped shirt she could see the ink symbols on his skin flicker with light. “Ezra?” she questioned gently, her limbs starting to tremble. Instantly it felt like the ground tilted producing a wave of nausea which washed over her. Victoria blinked rapidly and focused, seeing a rectangular hole in the ground.
Swallowing, she inched forward, her eyes fastened on the opening that wasn’t there before. The hole looked as though someone had dug a grave but instead of a casket, a long row of dirt stairs disappeared into complete darkness. The opening looked klaustrophobic, terrifying her. “Ezra… I don’t know. When you said Sydonia, I pictured something a little different.” His breathy laugh made her eyes jerk up to his in anger. “I don’t want to go in there, it looks frightening. Like I’m walking into a grave. My grave.”
The boyish grin he was giving her made her skin tingle. She bit her lip; his smile was devastating. Damn him!
“Love, I said you are going to have to trust me. I must inform you of something before we enter,” he said and walked up to her, running his hand down his face. “This is no longer Ireland or England—whatever you’re used to. Whatever you see you must do your best and fit in. And please, do not show your shock...”
“Let me finish.” He eyed her intently. “You are entering a world that is completely foreign to you in everyway. The beings that inhabit this place will know instantly what you are, and will imagine, fantasize you in their dark thoughts…”
“What am I?” she whispered.
He paused and looked her over, like he didn’t know what to say. “Just know that you are very, very valuable. Never in any circumstance can you be left alone with a full blood demon or vampire. Only half-breeds.”
“Oh my god! Vampires?!” she gasped. “I thought they were not real?”
He exhaled. “There are many things you do not know. Vampires are not as dangerous as demons. Vampires are humans without a soul; demons are Liorians without a soul. Big difference.”
She stared in silence, not being able to form words. Dear God, she was going to this place? With monsters? Victoria thought as she bit her lip, wondering if she could trust him. Did he deserve her trust?
“I’m sorry for throwing you into this without the proper preparation,” he paused with a smile, “but to make you feel better, I think you will find Sydonia very agreeable.”
She looked down at the opening and shivered, it did not look agreeable.
“We must go in.”
Victoria took a deep breath and took his firm hand, wanting to pull it back desperately. He directed her to the opening and nudged her back, urging her to start the decent into hell, she was sure. She felt his hand on the small of her back as she stepped down into complete darkness. After what seemed like forever she had to ask, her fear rising. “Ezra, how far down does this go?”
“Until we get to the bottom.”
She rolled her eyes and kept pressing on, smelling the rich sent of mud and something strongly earthy. There was not a sound as they both traveled down further, only their breathing could be heard. The steps were soft under her feet, the damp mud giving a little under each step. “Is there light in this place? Or is everyone nocturnal?”
“There might be a candle or two.”
Victoria could tell from the way he spoke that he was smiling. “Stop laughing,” she said irritably. She’s now ordering the Prince of Evil around! Brilliant.
“I’m merely trying to be encouraging,” he said innocently behind her.
She turned back and stuck her tongue out at him. Childish, yes. But it was pitch dark and he did not see what she’d did. Victoria grinned as she felt with her foot for the next step.
“That wasn’t very nice.”
She tensed. “You can see?”
He softly laughed and leaned down. “Stick your tongue out again and I’ll use mine,” he threatened next to her ear.
Her whole body instantly lit on fire. The seductive tone of his voice moved over her whole body like melted honey. Victoria was so distracted that she didn’t realize that there were no more steps and tripped. His arm was around her waist before she even knew what went wrong. Her heart was hammering as she felt the flat ground with her foot.
She wanted to tell him to stop talking to her so boldly but didn’t, not trusting her vocal cords to work.
“Do you want me to carry you the rest of the way? It will be complete darkness for a little while longer. And, yes, I can see fine,” he said next to her.
His arm was still wrapped tightly around her waist and her backside was pressed firmly into him. She could feel the sheer strength of him, the power radiating from his body. God, just the feel of him made her knees buckle, imagining him touching her. Victoria squeezed her eyes shut. “Uh…” she couldn’t think straight. Being in the darkness with only him was almost too much.
Victoria felt Ezra bend down and in the next moment she was in his arms. She had to wrap her arms around his neck, bringing her dangerously close to him. She couldn’t see him but could feel and smell him, wanting to put her face in his neck and inhale.
Victoria heard him breathe out as he started to walk silently but with purpose. It was like the air around them was charged; it always felt charged when she was too close to him. Ezra set her down and his hands unhurriedly smoothed up her body being quite deliberate about it. Her breathing hitched. Ezra’s hands were under her cloak, molding to the sides of her waist. She didn’t move when she felt his hands slowly slide upwards. Her heart quickened when his thumbs neared the sides of her breasts, massaging them ever so slightly. Victoria heard him exhale harshly, loving how his thumbs were becoming more bold, passionate. She felt his strong thigh move in between her legs applying pressure. She couldn’t support her head, her thoughts scattering at his daring touch. Touch me more, her body begged as she arched into him. She was practically panting, feeling like she’d lost her mind!
But his hands suddenly stopped.
Her tummy was twisting and her body tingled with anticipation, but his arms dropped. She didn’t like the feeling of loss, of sheer disappointment. What was wrong with her?! She shouldn’t want him to touch her intimately; she was playing with fire here. Having to break the silence she asked, “A-are we here?”
He took a moment, like he was regaining his breath. “Thankfully,” his voice sounded husky. He continued after a deep breath, “Remember what I said, Sydonia is through these next doors.”
Sydonia – it sounded exotic.
Curiosity was eating her alive. She wanted to get out of this darkness and maybe get something to satisfy her hunger. Hopefully they had food and not just…blood? That thought made her shiver, not fully understanding what she was getting herself into. Victoria heard Ezra grunt as he opened up two heavy sounding doors and instantly she felt wind rushing by her.
And she could see…
Victoria had to shield some of the light with her arm, squinting through her lashes. The brilliance of the long hallway before her was shockingly vivid, especially since she could detect no obvious light source. The vision stole her breath away; it looked as though the extensive hallway was made out of gold. The ceiling, floors and the walls shimmered like they were enchanted. Walking into the entry she could now see more detail as her eyes quickly adjusted.
This place looked like it came out of ancient Egypt, with all of the encryptions everywhere.
“Don’t get too excited, this is just the hallway,” he said looking back at her with a wink.
“You didn’t tell me that we’re entering heaven instead of hell,” she muttered, feeling mystified.
He laughed at that. “This is a far cry from heaven, love.”
Victoria frowned and followed him, her eyes traveling over the workmanship of the golden walls. It was breathtaking, the artwork was carved into every inch of the wall and the closer she looked the more detail she made out. It would have taken the artist all his life to complete the skill that she was seeing. She gazed up to the ceiling and her eyes widened.
Naked women were carved out of the gold and were crafted with great detail. In fact, every inch of the ceiling was covered with the scandalizing images. She’d never seen anything like it. Her eyes widened, seeing men doing unthinkable things with women. Flames danced up her neck as she averted her eyes.
They stopped at another beautiful door with a goddess carved into the gold, wearing nothing but her long black tresses to cover herself.
“Enjoying the art work?” he asked softly, his eyes hooded.
She stared back at him, a another blush rising to her cheeks. “I have never seen anything like it…”
He tilted his head at her, a piece of black hair falling to the side. “Well, you better get used to it,” he said as he opened the next door.
Victoria stepped through to what seemed like the most beautiful place on Earth. The room in which they entered was massive, easily ten storeys high. Ivory pillars lined the soaring golden walls giving it a Greek Temple appearance. Victoria’s heart was thundering as she took in this foreign place. The music she heard was exotic, intoxicating and seductive. She could not see the source of the music but it sounded as if someone should be right next to her playing. Sparkling fabrics of all shades were hung and draped everywhere making her feel as though she were in some enchanted harem.
She glanced over to Ezra who was being greeted by men who were acting like he was their long lost king. Well, he was the prince she supposed. Victoria was just surprised that they were not kissing his feet.
Victoria now stood on a large balcony looking down a grand staircase leading to the bottom level. Shimmering silver fabric was draped down the center of the staircase like the pearl marble wasn’t brilliant enough. Her eyes focused on a massive fountain in the middle of the grand room, the crystal water gleaming into the circular pool that surrounded it. This place was fit for gods and goddesses, for what she was witnessing didn’t seem real. She had seen pictures, studied other countries and different cultures… but this was beyond her imagination.
The most shocking thing was its inhabitants. “Dear God…” she murmured as her eyes took in the women and men. Large silk pillows were adorned everywhere as the women laid on them in scantly clad gowns, eating and drinking. The gowns were something she had never seen before. They exposed the belly and the tops left little to the imagination. Jewels of all colors draped their bodies as if they too were considered clothes. But as shocking as it all was, the gowns were breathtaking. Victoria had never see such fabric that glimmered with every movement; she couldn’t stop staring. Some skirts had slits clear up to the thigh, making the sinuous fabrics flow around them like it were made of air. Others had their dresses sucked tightly to their bodies resembling a second skin. Victoria’s eyes widened, two women were kissing on a violet silk pillow, seeming not to care who saw! Her face heated as she looked away, completely mortified. What the bloody hell was this place?!
Victoria almost forgot she was standing next to Ezra and the other men. She looked up at him, eyes wide. “A couple candles?!” Referring to what he had teased earlier.
Ezra’s eyes sparkled and then he grabbed her arm. “I want you to meet someone, this is Drake. He keeps this place under control and safe from the Liorians and other enemies alike.”
A handsome man with thick dark hair and expressive eyes gazed back at her. Drake’s black gaze was glassy, holding dark secrets. He held out his hand to her with an assessing expression. “Welcome to Sydonia,” his accent sounded similar to Ezra’s.
She took a deep breath, wondering if she could trust those bottomless eyes. “T-thank you, it is nice to meet you.” She curtsied awkwardly, cursing her nerves. What a fool she must look like!
Drake raised a brow as he assessed her then turned to Ezra. “Are sure this is a good idea? I don’t want to create havoc here. What bloody hellhole did you find her in? For fuck’s sake Ezra, she doesn’t even look Liorian,” he hissed.
“England, she’s lived there for twenty something years. I have no other choice, we both do not want Moray to have her so this is our only option,” Ezra glared and instructed forcefully.
Victoria wanted to die; she’d never felt so ugly in her life.
Drake nodded and looked back at her, like he was measuring her up. Drake regarded her with such intensity that it made her very uncomfortable. She vaguely looked him over like he was doing to her. He was wearing snug breeches and a gold and silver overcoat fit for an Arabian king. His shirt underneath was black silk and unbuttoned to the middle of his chest. Golden rings were on each finger as well as his ears as if he really was king in his own right. The man was handsome, yes, but there was something about him she didn’t trust.
She glanced over at Ezra to see him scowling at her. Victoria frowned back at him, wondering what he was thinking. What was his problem? Did he just notice how unsightly she was too? The comment Drake made still bothered her, because he said it to Ezra. She doesn’t even look Liorian.
Drake faced Ezra. “You need to have her blend in here, you don’t want the others catching wind of what she really is. You need to clean her up, my people will be offended by her lowly state of dress.”
Ezra tore his pale gaze from hers then nodded, glancing at her wool cloak and ratty gown. Victoria shifted uncomfortably under their appraisal that seemed very disapproving. Good God. She must look a mess; it was obvious she didn’t fit in here. She was wearing a trashy whore’s gown and a drunken man’s cloak and this place was fit for gods.
Victoria’s and everybody’s head jerked to the sultry feminine voice. The hair on the back of her neck shot up as a stunning woman came running up the stairs. It was almost as if time slowed itself to preserve the beauty of the woman as she ran. She possessed hair the color of fire that hung to her waist, and her dress…
Her dress matched her flaming tresses to perfection. Her tight glittering skirt hung low on her hips exposing her trim belly that was adorned with rubies. Her breasts were pushed up in a scandalizing top that barely covered her. Jewels were woven through her hair and hung around her neck, wrists, and ears artfully. Her face was exquisite with shining jade eyes and perfect ivory skin. Jade eyes?Not black? She must be a half-breed then, which didn’t sit well with her.
And the way she was gazing at Ezra made her tummy twist in knots.
“Ezra!” She wailed again, her voice sounding too emotional, too overcome with longing. When she finally made it to the top of the stairs she locked eyes with him, her heavy breathing obvious. She was deliberate in her slow, alluring movements making Victoria want to vomit.
Ezra, seeming to take the bait, smiled wide at her exposing his perfect teeth. His silver gaze zoned in on the woman, and her alone. Victoria bit her lip as she watched; his smile appeared so seductive that she wanted to slap him! He couldn’t smile at a woman like that and not make her crazy with lust! It wasn’t just a normal smile, heavensno. His eyes were heavy-lidded and intense. His mouth didn’t form a full smile but hung slightly open and pulled to one side like he wanted to lick his lips. The effect was knee buckling. Ezra stood there in all of his glory, his raven hair wild and his powerful thighs braced like he was commanding abattleship. His shirt was ripped and dirty and it didn’t take anything away from the sheer beauty of him. It made her furious that she was not the only woman to notice. The woman’s eyes were blazing and Victoria was surprised that the girl didn’t out right faint.
Something tore inside of her, something that was very unfamiliar and ugly. Her heart was pounding with anger that was so intense she wanted to cry from it. Victoria was insanely jealous and she knew she had no right to be.
The two embraced, making Victoria advert her gaze, unable to watch. She didn’t want to see the woman’s barely clothed body pressed tightly to Ezra’s. Why was she acting this way? She had no right to be jealous! In her mind she wanted to laugh for how silly she was behaving. Victoria looked down at her dumpy wool dress and then to the stunning woman. How could she compete with that? The only reason Ezra was being sweet on her earlier was probably because he couldn’t help it. He was such at ease with women, knowing exactly what to say and at the right time. He could take any women and make her melt with just one suggestive look.
“Her name is Cateria.”
Victoria glanced up at a man she’d seen before with Ezra in Dublin. He had dark crimson hair with shining emerald eyes. Very handsome, he eluded an undeniable power like Ezra. As she studied him, she realized he almost looked similar to the redhead whore hugging Ezra.
“We have not properly met, my name is Elm. I am Ezra’s cousin,” he said softly and smiled down at her.
That smile. It wasn’t quite like Ezra’s but she could see the resemblance. She forced a smile back and shrugged, acting as best she could. “Oh? I am assuming they are g-good friends,” she barely got out the last part.
Elm raised an eyebrow. “She has known Ezra since she was little. Cateria is my stepsister, not related to Ezra in anyway, thankfully. She is very, very close to Ezra. They were inseparable when they were younger,” he murmured back to her and then eyed her intelligently.
A knife stabbed through her again. Victoria just nodded, unable to find her voice through the tornado of hurt. She unwillingly glanced back at the two and held her head high, they looked like perfection. Cateria was faultless and Ezra went beyond that. He smiled at Cateria and she ran her dainty hand down his muscled chest, eyeing him like a piece of meat.
At this point she loathed Ezra. She hated him because he had made her feel as though she was the only one, and now she can see that it wasn’t so. So gullible she was, so naive.
Ezra turned towards her, like remembering Victoria was there. His eyes held no emotion as he gazed at her, his hand on Cateria’s lower back, sliding lower.
He looked at Cateria. “This is Victoria,” he said then glanced back. “Victoria this is Cateria, a woman I know inside and out.”
Cateria almost purred as her green gaze locked with Victoria’s. “Oh Ezra, stop.” She eyed Victoria from head to toe; hatred sparkled deep in their depths. “Poor thing. So this is her? Are you sure? Oh Ezra, she doesn’t even look Liorian.” She covered her mouth as if to stifle a laugh. “What on Earth is she wearing?”
Ezra’s eyes flickered briefly to hers and then back to Cateria. “Will you find a half-breed to assist her?”
Cateria almost looked as though she’d refuse but then wrapped her arms around Ezra’s neck, smoothing her hands down his neck. “Anything for you darling.”
Victoria turned wanting to leave immediately, her anger knew no bounds.
Ezra spoke from behind her, ”I will escort Victoria to her room and Cateria if you can, find someone to send quickly.”
Elm leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Ignore Cateria and keep your head held high.”
Ezra grabbed her arm, pulling her with him. When they were out of sight of the others she yanked her arm out of his hand. “Don’t touch me. Where are we going?” They didn’t descend the stairs but kept going around the balcony.
“To your room. You’ll find it very much to your liking, knowing that your every need will be taken care of,” he murmured beside her.
Victoria wanted to laugh at that. “So kind of you,” she said under her breath.
“Victoria,” he said sternly.
“What?” she hissed and looked at him. If looks could kill he’d be slaughtered brutally. She wanted to get away from him; no never look at those pale eyes again.
His jaw clenched. He grabbed her arm and jerked her through three more doors then finally they made it to what she assumed was her room.
It was breathtaking like everything else, but her mood refused to let her enjoy it. The room consisted to pink and golden fabrics with a sparkling pool in the middle of the space. She turned around and glared at him, “Thank you Ezra. Just let me know what I need to do and until then I will mind my own business.” She held the hurt from her voice.
Ezra looked furious, his silver eyes narrowed on her. “What are you trying to pull Victoria? Don’t take anything a demon woman says to heart, they’re evil-natured.”
She could slap him… she could. He definitely wasn’t complaining when he held Cateria close. Victoria waved her arm, not wanting to talk about Cateria. “Never mind her. You need to answer me some questions, remember?”
“I only have time for a few, I’m sorry but I am needed elsewhere. The Liorians are hot on my trail; we only have a day or two to put my plan into place, ” he said carefully.
“You promised,” she accused and backed up.
He walked up to her and yanked off her ugly cloak. “I will have that burned.”
Hurt filled her eyes. “Oh yes, you’d better. It’s been made very clear to me how much I repulse everyone here.”
His eyes shot up to hers and he softly laughed making her face heat in irritation. “Love, you have no idea what you’re talking about and I guess that’s my fault.” His eyes softened on her. “I guess that you’ve gathered by now that you are Liorian and not human?”
She swallowed. “Except I don’t look like it.”
His jaw clenched again. “I pray for my soul that you never do, but I know that will not happen,” he whispered then looked away.
She was confused. “What?”
“Nothing,” he continued. “Your mother was Liorian royalty, her name was Assiel. Liorian royalty means that she was a Master, a Master of extreme power. There are Masters and Guardians in the Liorian army, much like the guardian angels humans talk about. The Masters being the elite—like an archangel.”
“Assiel?” Her heart lurched. “My mother’s name… she’s dead isn’t she?”
He looked up at her and exhaled. “Yes, my father killed her. Which that alone should give you motive to help me. If you help me my father dies a painful death.”
She closed her eyes, not believing. Her eyes cramped, never knowing what it was like to have a mother. “So my father was human and my mother Liorian?”
“No, your father is a mystery. I can sense that you are a full-blood Liorian, Victoria. We have no inkling of which Liorian could be your father. Your mother was a very secretive woman.” He brushed his hand on her cheek making her tense.
She could not believe her ears. “So how did I get to be in the hands of the Duke? In England?”
Ezra forced a grin. “Your mother was more beautiful that words could describe. It would not be hard to have an affair with a human and lie to him about the pregnancy. He would have believed anything she said.”
“No…” she denied.
“He must have threatened his wife at the time to say it was hers,” he continued, “the perfect cover-up.”
This didn’t add up. “But, why go through the trouble? Why not hand me directly over to the Liorians for protection? Why hide me on Earth?”
“That’s what I am trying to find out, love.” He paused and his eyes lowered to the curve of her breasts and exhaled. “I think the answer lies on who your father is.”
She turned, not liking how he made her feel. Her skin tingled just from one bold look. “I see.”
“Victoria,” he whispered. Ezra said her name like it was an oath.
“No,” she hissed back not even knowing what he wanted. She can’t fall again, after again! Why was he still doing this to her when he had beautiful women everywhere?! When he had Cateria?
Victoria felt him move behind her and his hot breath fanned the bare skin at her neck making her shiver even though she tried to stop it. She closed her eyes, trying to find her inner strength; the wild smell of him was driving her crazy. His hot mouth was on her skin suddenly and it shot a blot of lightning through her body. Heart pounding she felt his hands come around her waist pressing her backside into his hard groin. His mouth hungrily moved over her pulse and down her throat inflaming her senses to dangerous heights. His hands smoothed their way up to the undersides of her breasts and cupped the weight of them. Ezra hissed in her ear, molding his palms to her mounds in a rhythmic motion.
“I want to taste you,” he rasped in her ear, his breath scorching her.
God. Oh how she wanted to give in to his seductive plea! His hips were moving against her backside making her skin tingle from his animalist movements. If she didn’t stop him now then she wouldn’t have a chance in hell. She cried out when his skilled fingers pinched her nipples sending a shock wave through her body, like a bolt of lightening.
No! No! She had to stop this! “Ezra stop! Stop!”
He paused immediately. After a couple of seconds he whipped her around, out of breath. “Stop?” Ezra’s silver eyes were hooded with desire and anger. “You want me just as bad as I want you,” he hissed. “Let me bring you pleasure Victoria.”
No. Lies! She had to stay strong or she would get badly hurt in the end. He only wanted her because he hadn’t had her yet. And once he had, he would never look at her again in that same way. Victoria couldn’t bear it. “I don’t want you to touch me… ever.”
She couldn’t believe she just said that. Biggest lie ever.
His gaze turned dark, his jaw clenching. “You’re mad about Cateria, let me explain…”
“No! Just tell me what I must do and then that’s that,” she paused as she tried to blink away tears. “Please.”
His eyes were cold and unforgiving, his breathing escalated. “Fine. I won’t touch you again, your loss.” He turned to storm out of the room and yelled back, “I will have Elm deliver information to you in the future.” And then slammed the door.
He was gone.
She slowly sank to her knees, tears spilling out of her eyes like running water. What a mess this was. Ezra was so confusing to her. Why was he behaving like he needed her? It was beyond her comprehension. Victoria sat on the pearl floor for what seemed like forever wallowing in her own misery.
It felt like her heart split in two.
After regaining some composure, she glanced around her room, never seeing anything like it. The blush colored bed had a golden silk canopy hanging above it like it was fit for a queen. The pool was what got her, the water seemed enchanted almost, like the blue of the water was more vibrant than normal. A sizeable vanity made of gold was built into the wall and a grand mirror stood tall beside it.
Victoria rose to her feet and walked over to the looking glass, needing to catch a glimpse of herself. She had not seen her reflection since she was with Sonya, preparing for the ball. Her eyes locked onto the image that was in front of her and barely held in a gasp.
Falling to her knees she crawled closer to the mirror touching her dirty face, unbelieving. She looked horrible, in every way. Victoria placed her trembling hand over her mouth, barely holding back tears. Her hair was in knots, her face looked tattered, her eyes were a dim blue. She didn’t even recognize herself! What happened to her? Why in the bloody hell was Ezra attracted to this?!
Was he trying to make her out to be a fool?!
Victoria stared at her reflection, realizing what a toll this experience had taken on her. She looked about ten years older, worn out. No wonder everyone was mortified by her presence. She didn’t even recognize herself! This was a living nightmare; no this was worse than a nightmare for nightmares you could wake up from.
This was her reality.
She jumped when the door opened and a beautiful woman walked in carrying lush fabrics. The woman’s dark blond hair was plaited with silver and gems, and her eyes were the color of ripe plums. She wore a shimmering lilac dress pulled tightly to her body.
“Hello? And you are?” Victoria meekly asked, standing.
The woman regarded her through cold eyes. “You may call me Perri,” she continued as she walked to the bed, putting the fabric there. “I have come to help you; orders from Cateria.”
“Please, there is no need. I am not leaving this room so your kind services will be of no use,” Victoria said softly and looked the other way. After what happened between her and Ezra, and the fact that she looked and felt horrible, she didn’t want to be seen.
Perri’s cold eyes flickered. “The bastard hurt you, I can see it plain,” she said levelly.
Victoria frowned back at her. “Pardon?”
Perri laughed and sat on the lush bed. “I had seen that you arrived with that worthless devil. He has every female here all hot and bothered and I can’t handle it. And if I know him any better, he has you completely enamored with him also. Trust me, you’re not the first woman he’s tossed and then forgotten about. I hate him with a passion I didn’t know I possessed.”
Victoria sat next to Perri and shook her head. “No, I did not let him touch me in that way. We had shared kisses but nothing beyond that.” She blushed, remembering every delicious incident.
Perri shot up, staring down at Victoria in open shock. “Lies! You mean to tell me that you have been in the presence of that heartless man and you refused him?! And he let you refuse him?!”
Victoria studied Perri and suddenly knew that she was one of Ezra’s victims, scarred by his cruelty. “Yes, just earlier I had told him never to touch me again. I have seen the way he is with other women and I do not want to get hurt,” she whispered and looked down at her dirty hands.
“You care deeply for the man, that is obvious. But what I do not get is that Ezra let you refuse him. He would never have touched you if he did not want you,” she mused to herself.
“You mean he is capable of rape?” she asked, mortified.
Perri smiled coldly at her. “It’s not rape if one enjoys it. If Ezra forced himself on a woman, he’d do it in such a manner that the unwilling became the willing. Desperate for his touch,” she spat and walked over to the window, raising the silk curtains. Victoria didn’t even realize there was a window, for it looked out over into the main hall. From her viewpoint one could see everything that happened in the giant foyer. Victoria’s scanned the people and instantly spotted Ezra.
He wore different clothes from what she could see, all black. All black and irresistible. The dark clothing made him appear more mysterious, more alluring in every way. God, why?! Why was he so beautiful? It was unfair, not having the right defenses! Just the thought of his hands on her made her pulse quicken, her stomach clenching in erotic thought. Her heated gaze then focused on the woman next to him and her heart twisted, like frigid water was just dumped over her. Cateria. Victoria jerked away from the window, her mood darkening again.
“Stay away from her. Cateria is one bad deed away from losing her soul; I’m surprised that she hasn’t lost it yet. And, if there were one thing that Cateria would kill over, it would be Ezra. The woman guards him like a beast after a kill.” Perri said, still standing at the window.
Victoria sat on the bed and laughed. “Oh, please. She would not be jealous of someone like me.” Her eyes drifted to the mirror in front of her and quickly looked away, wondering why she was so important. Ezra has not told her anything yet.
Perri whipped around and grinned slyly. “If I help you, will you promise me that you will not give yourself to him? I want that bastard to pay ten full.”
Victoria’s eyes narrowed. “Help me?”
“Yes, you are slowly dying Victoria. I will reverse it easily and dress you like a goddess.” Perri continued, her eyes shinning brightly. “How long were you living on Earth and eating its food?”
“All of my life.”
Perri’s eyes widened and she took a moment, like she was registering what was said. “You should be shriveled up like a walking corpse!” she pointed at nothing, “I knew it. I bloody knew it! Ezra has an eye for beauty, he always has. He knows what potential you have, that sneaky bastard. So, he didn’t tell you why you look like you’re dying?”
Victoria heart was hammering. “No.”
She put her hand over her mouth and laughed. “I don’t believe it.”
Perri paced, deep in her thoughts. “Finally it has happened! He’s got it bad for you, my dear. Ezra didn’t tell you because if you appear like your true self it would drive him mad if he is already attracted to you now! Finally he’s getting a piece of his own damn medicine! He can’t touch you because you are a pure Liorian, and has to keep the peace.”
“Perri, you’re confusing me,” she said seriously.
“You’re a Liorian, not a human. When you eat food for extended period of time that is not made for you, you will be depleted of your power, your looks, everything. You need only to be re-energized. You look worse now than probably ever before because when you come in contact with another healthy Liorian, your body burns more power trying to mimic it.” Perri paused and held out her hand. “Promise to me, and I will restore you.”
The news excited her, her spirits lighting for the first time since entering here. “What am I promising exactly?”
“To make the devil cry.”