She was running in a dark field, her black dress was shimmering with the moonlight as she sprinted.
Victoria’s silver hair was unbound and hung in beautiful waves to her waist, bouncing with each hurried movement. Where she was going she wasn’t certain, she was just hurrying across the immense prairie land.
A peculiar feeling washed over her making her graceful movements falter. Suddenly, she stopped feeling bewildered. Something wasn’t right. Yes, something was definitely wrong. The ghostly moon darkened as black clouds eerily moved over it, temporarily dimming the land.
The wind was now blowing her hair forcefully as her silver strands whipped around her face. Her frightful gaze took in the night, not trusting, breathing escalated. Where was she? And what was she running to? The feeling of being watched was overwhelming; her skin tingled in sudden warning. She turned around, and around, seeing nothing but dark shadows, even the trees seemed to move without sound. The ground abruptly rumbled raising the little hairs on the back of her neck, alerting her senses.
“Something is coming for me.”
The sky now was dark and forbidding, twisting with lightning. Victoria gasped and started to run again, knowing something was behind her. Going against her instincts she glanced back and screamed, seeing an enormous man standing with his arms crossed. His skin was white with red symbols engraved into him, his gaze was intelligent as it watched her. The man’s white bald head looked like it was covered in war paint, making him appear absolutely frightening. His eyes were gleaming crimson, his sharp teeth flashing with each lightning strike.
Victoria instantly heard laughing in her mind, like something was taunting her. The amused whispering grew louder and louder, telling her it would find her…
“No!” she screamed back, covering her ears.
Suddenly she was falling down a large black hole, the freezing air rushing by her. Her body fell farther into the dark void for it seemed to have no end. Victoria shrieked in one more final attempt to be heard, “Ezra!”
Victoria thrashed awake, her body jerking as her arms flailed. “Ezra!” she screamed again, breathing hard, eyes squeezed shut. Sweat glistened on her forehead as she gasped for breath. Her eyes flickered open while she frantically inspected her surroundings, her stare finally focusing.
“Please, be calm!” A woman’s stern voice bellowed beside her. “It was only a nightmare, you are safe now! Be calm.”
Victoria realized that she was in her bedroom, lying on the blush bed. She was not falling into a black abyss, thank God. Victoria glanced to her left, seeing a woman with graying brunette hair and chocolate colored eyes. She was dressed in a modest jade silk dress that matched the emeralds in her hair. The woman’s gaze held no compassion in their depths, just mild indifference as she stared back. Victoria let out a sigh of relief and laid her head back on the silk pillow, trying to calm her breathing. It was all just a bad dream. She must have fallen asleep… Victoria frowned, trying to recall earlier incidents. “Where is Perri?”
“Once you are feeling up to it, you may eat some food to restore your strength.” She set a steaming bowl of delicious smelling broth beside her on a marble try. “Your body has been through a lot,” she clipped out.
“My body?” she repeated and glanced down. Victoria scowled. She was wearing a pink satin nightgown; it was lovely, feeling soft on her skin. Taking a second to think, she knew that she didn’t dress herself in this… or did she? Her memory seemed fuzzy at the moment.
“When Ezra restored you, you were too weak to even open your eyes,” the woman said and walked over to the vanity putting random things away. She shook her head while she grabbed some fabric from the ruby chest next to the mirror. “I thought Ezra was the one who was going to pass out when you finally woke. He looked paler than I’ve ever seen him. That man will not last long, holding on to his soul by mere threads. He is worrying Cateria, which I don’t like to see her in such distress. But, contrary to what he thinks, I believe he would make a great dark lord. He doesn’t need his soul, it’s only holding him back.”
Her memory was flooding back to her in flashes. Victoria placed a trembling hand over her mouth as she recalled being under the water, struggling for her life. But…she was alive and breathing. Ezra had brought her back like he had promised. Her skin instantly grew hot as she remembered what Ezra had done to her before he pushed her under the water. God, the way he looked when he touched her made her pulse pound furiously. Victoria placed a hand on her burning forehead, shamelessly wanting to relive it again.
“Are you alright? You looked flushed,” the woman said, standing by the bed.
“Yes,” she said breathlessly. “I’m, sorry. What was your name?”
The woman gave her a cold look then replied, “You may call me Barbelo. I am on orders from my Mistress to take care of you. Perri is no longer able to service you.”
Victoria sat up in the bed, her anger gnawing at her. “Who is your Mistress?”
“Cateria,” the woman gave Victoria another ugly look. “I am loyal only to her. A bit of advice, stop upsetting Ezra if you know what’s good for you. You don’t understand what it means to live here. You are not one of us,” she spat, hatred sparkling in her gaze.
Victoria’s resolve snapped. “Upsetting him? Excuse me? I have been through hell since I met Ezra! And, mind you, I am sick of hearing about Cateria! That woman has issues that go beyond her infatuation with Ezra,” she hissed, narrowing her eyes at Barbelo. “I am here to help Ezra. Everything that has happened so far was his doing; I am merely just trying to not die! And yes, I am glad I’m not like you, thank you.”
The woman’s eyes widened and her lips thinned. She raised her hand high.
“Hit her old woman and I’ll hang you by your feet!” Elm threatened from the doorway.
Barbelo gasped and jerked around, her hand going to her throat. She took a second then stuttered, “S-she was talking ill of her betters!”
“Betters?” he laughed harshly, striding into the room. “Cateria does not deserve the air she breathes.” He pointed to the doorway and lowered his voice, “Leave.”
She gave Victoria a fleeting look, then dashed from the room.
Elm watched her leave then turned back to her, his emerald eyes assessing her immediately. Victoria wanted to squirm but didn’t, holding herself firmly together. She pulled the bed covers higher on her chest, feeling slightly exposed in her thin nightgown. She could feel that she wore nothing under it.
“How are you feeling?” he softly inquired, his gaze searching her face.
Victoria swallowed, noting how much he reminded her of Ezra. They both possessed such intensity, their presence alone taking up any room. She closed her eyes for a second, upset that it was Elm instead of Ezra here to talk with her. She glanced back up at him and observed that his red hair was tied back revealing two golden earrings. Elm wore black breeches with a gold threaded overcoat and a green silk shirt that hung loosely. Victoria looked away, and thought. “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed,” she admitted truthfully.
Elm pulled up the chair from the vanity and sat next to the bed. “I bet you are.” He continued, “I am here to discuss what needs to happen tonight. We have run out of time unfortunately. You’re about to feel more overwhelmed and for that, I’m sorry.”
He nodded. “Yes.” Elm exhaled and took a moment before talking. “Ezra did not want you to become restored for a good reason. Now that you’ve been restored, it’s like a blanket has been lifted off of you. Meaning only that it is now easier to detect you.”
“The Liorians are coming to retrieve you, knowing now that we have you. They can sense your energy, along with the Underworld, I’m sure.”
Victoria took a shaky breath. “So, which part of the Underworld, Perri has explained a little to me.”
“Both?” she echoed, feeling lightheaded. “So, they’re all coming tonight… for me,” she stated meekly.
Elm tilted his head at her. “Correct. Though I am not worried much about Ezra’s father as I am about Zion. Zion does not know Moray wants you but can tell you are here at Sydonia. He is just merely curious. He can tell something secret is going on and he hates to be the one left in the dark. If Zion knew you could cure Moray, then he would have been here by now. Drake invited everyone to a grand party tonight to make it seem like nothing was going amiss.”
“But won’t Zion be very shocked to find out that the Masters have been invited as well as Moray? That seems a little devious,” Victoria said with a scowl.
Elm held up his hand. “Moray has not been invited, we just informed him that he is not welcome. The knowledge that Zion will be here will keep Moray at bay. Moray is dying, too weak to deal with the likes of Zion. Moray will still come, but not to the party. He might have his army outside of Sydonia, just waiting to ambush.”
To her, this seemed like a disaster. “I feel like this might turn out bad,” she admitted honestly.
“We have no choice. Like I said, we have to deal with this because you are restored,” he said gravely. “We will keep Zion occupied with drinks and women, while in the meantime Ezra will make the deal. When and if Michael agrees, they will take you to safety.”
She nodded, soaking in the information. “Where is Ezra?” she had to ask, trying not to sound too interested.
He looked down for a minute, then back up to her. “He is not himself; he is not trusted around you.”
Victoria frowned, not liking the sound of that. “What do you mean?”
“He is close to turning, his dark nature is too unpredictable. He does not trust himself with you, he would never forgive himself if anything happened,” Elm said truthfully.
She sat up higher. He has been fine before...?
“You don’t look the same Victoria,” he paused like he was searching for words. “Ezra, I believe, has a certain fondness for you that could prove to be very dangerous. Your beauty is more radiant now, and Ezra doesn’t seem to have any restraint with you. Though, I don’t say I blame him,” he murmured with a warm smile, his green gaze moving over her.
Victoria blushed, her face heating instantly. “M-may I see a mirror?” she asked, wanting to see what he was talking about. Elm nodded and immediately a mirror manifested in his hand. Not bothering to ask how he did that, she took the mirror, gazing into it apprehensively.
The image starring back at her was someone else. “This is not me,” she whispered unbelieving. She touched her face with her free hand, noting how absolutely pure her skin appeared. Her lips were fuller, pinker. Victoria stared into her own eyes, seeing how crystal clear they seemed. The sapphire was shockingly vivid, seeming to glow through her thick fringe of sooty lashes. Her eyelashes had always been a light color, but now they were black. Her eyebrows were darker as well, arching higher. Her cheekbones appeared to be more pronounced, the graceful line of her nose was simply delicate. It seemed the only thing that stayed the same was her pale hair color, the silver contrasting with her dark lashes.
“Your coloring has changed because you are acquiring your father’s looks, whoever he might be. This is quite interesting; your father’s genes are overpowering Assiel’s. From looking at you now, I’d obviously say that he possessed dark hair and was very strong.” He sighed as he took in her appearance, leaning back in his chair. “It’s a wonder why you were not discovered before this, your mother was so secretive. Still, I can’t even fathom who your father might be. It must be one of the Masters, but I can’t narrow anyone down that would overpower Assiel.”
“This is impossible,” she murmured. “Why am I looking more like my dad now, and not from birth?”
“Liorians are different than humans, do not forget. You would have looked like this sooner if you had had the right substance on Earth. Liorians normally change their coloring when their power is mature. You may not tap into your power until it is mature; we call this your inner Lior. Your time on Earth has done damage to your health, but it’s easily rectified. Once you are strong and healthy you can concentrate on how to use your inner Lior. But, that will be down the road, when you are no longer with us. ”
Victoria nodded, trying her best to understand. “Alright, so what happens tonight?”
“Ezra has already sent a message to Michael informing him to meet at a certain time later. Michael must comply or Ezra said he’d hand you over to Moray or Zion.” At her surprised expression he quickly added, “It’s a bluff, Ezra will not do this, but Michael does not know that. Michael the archangel, I’m sure you know him by that name.”
Victoria’s eyes widened and nodded. This was unbelievable; she will actually meet an angel. The thought was so dizzying. “So what do I do? Hide?” she asked.
“No, you have to blend in. Michael can not know which girl is you, understand?” he continued when she nodded, “The only way we can numb your power so Michael can’t pick you out of the crowd, is to give you a drink. A special drink that you must sip on every ten minutes to be effective. This is a must, for if Michael, Zion, or Moray find out which one is you they will try and take you by force.”
Victoria shivered, a nervous flash coursing through her body. “What if I run out of drink?”
“That won’t happen. Drake, Tiny, and I will have our eye on you with refills ready,” he confirmed.
Victoria took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind of thoughts of fear. It sounded simple enough; she just wished her nerves would settle down. Only drink, and don’t forget to drink. Victoria nervously glanced up to Elm and asked, “What will Ezra be doing?”
Elm smiled at that. “He will be catering to Cateria and overseeing everything. Don’t worry, he will be there too.”
She flushed at the knowing look he gave her. It was like she couldn’t even help herself where Ezra was concerned. “Why does he have to attend to her? Does he… not like her? You make it sound like he is forced.” Why did she have to sound so obvious all the time?!
Elm stood and walked to the window. “I don’t know his intentions toward Cateria. All I know is that if he does not pay attention to the woman she could mess things up tonight, and Ezra does not want that,” he said seriously. “Cateria is very spoiled, and displeasing her would not be wise.”
Victoria deeply loathed that woman. Her anger was starting to boil up, hating that she could not keep it in check. Forcing her mind to other, more important topics, she asked, “So after everything goes smoothly, what happens?”
“You will leave with the Masters. You will most likely no longer see us again,” he said with a sad half-smile.
Fear gripped her, her pulse started to pound. “But, if everything goes to plan you all will have your souls back, right? So, why wouldn’t I see you again?” Why wouldn’t I get to see Ezra again?! Is what she really wanted to say.
Elm gave her a look of misery. “I’m sure Perri has talked to you about aristocracy? Ranks and such? You have this sort of thing in England as well.”
He leaned forward. “Well, us having been demons before we were given a pure soul is as low on the ranks as one could achieve. You will be royalty, and definitely not allowed to converse with us,” he solemnly stated. “They are very serious about this. Yes, we will have a pure soul and will be admitted into Lior, but we will never be fully trusted.”
“That’s horrible.” Victoria looked down, not sure why she was feeling so emotional. The thought broke her heart, no matter how she convinced herself otherwise. “I see. But you both are so powerful, that must mean something? That must place you in high ranking despite everything else,” she said brightly, remembering what Perri had told her.
“You are correct, but it would take years and years to gain trust and respect from the Liorian people.” Elm walked to the door and stopped. “I am sorry but I have to leave. Big preparations have to be made for tonight, as you know. I will send someone other than Barbelo to assist you.”
“I want Perri.”
“No, I don’t think that is wise. Ezra has forbidden her to see you again,” Elm said carefully.
“If you want my help then I want Perri,” she threatened, not wanting to back down on this. She didn’t know why she wanted Perri, but she did.
Elm exhaled and nodded. “Ezra will definitely not like that.”
* * *
The lights were dim, darkly seductive. The music was exotic, penetrating Sydonia’s walls like a drug, floating in and out of the air around them. The gigantic pillars gleamed, rivaling any rare diamond found on Earth. Victoria stared out of her bedroom, seeing the masterpiece unfold before her eyes. The men and women were in their version of royal finery, gathered in the main hall swarming everywhere with their laughter and drinking. The women were scantily dressed in glittering fabrics and the men appeared to be harem kings with their golden attire. Before, when she’d first entered this place, it appeared to be a place for gods and goddesses. But now it seemed so much more… more intoxicating. Possibly extra dangerous with their pagan rituals, she understood now when Ezra said that this place was a far cry from heaven.
This was a place of legends despite the risk, where ancient myths could come to life. Fables and fairytales are a reality here, and evil and good can co-exist.
Everything seemed to shimmer; even the array of food appeared to be enchanted with rich colors and mouthwatering scents. It was shocking, an overwhelming feeling washed over her as she watched. A great pig was hung by its feet upon golden rods as a flaming fire danced underneath. Its skin was beautifully bronzed and charred and ready to be eaten. There were women chained to platforms, dancing upon them as the men below watched with their lustful black eyes. Victoria’s cheeks heated, everything seemed so scandalous. There was a dance floor where the men and women moved very close together, their bodies pressed to one another. This would not be a dance allowed in English ballrooms. Heavens no…
“Magnificent isn’t it?”
Victoria turned to see Perri staring out the window next to her. Barely refraining a gasp, she took in Perri’s striking attire. She was in a gleaming yellow gown that exposed her belly and was adorned with black shimmering jewels. Only one of her sleeves was long, ending at her wrist while the other exposed her bare shoulder. Perri’s skin sparkled gold, matching the large plaits in her artful updo. She looked beautiful, like a sun goddess.
“Do you like it?” Perri eyed her and spun around, the dress flowing outward in multiple shades of gold and yellow.
Victoria knew she shouldn’t like it. But… she did. It went against everything she had known. Modesty was a foreign word here.
“I am here to dress you, much to Ezra’s disproval,” she walked up to her and studied her face. “My, my, you have changed haven’t you?”
“It would appear on the outside, but I assure you I am the same on the inside,” she said strongly.
“Hmm, are you?” She smiled, looking a bit like a cat. “That would be a shame.”
Victoria frowned. Of course she was the same… wasn’t she? In England, Lady Victoria would be appalled by this place, she supposed. But now she could feel it growing on her, she loved this new exotic world, and most of all, she supposed she didn’t really belong on Earth seeing how she was not even human. “Maybe I am a little different from recent circumstances,” she admitted.
“I don’t feel bad for what I did,” she uttered, changing the subject.
Victoria shifted, “Feel bad?”
“Ezra nearly had my head from what I did to you, but he couldn’t touch me though. I am Drake’s sister. You deserved to be restored, no matter what the future holds, it was the right thing to do,” she said forcefully. Perri walked to the bed and sat down on it, her hand smoothing over the silk fabric. “What would you like to wear tonight? You must blend in, I hear Zion will be here shortly so we have to hurry.” She made a face of disgust. “Zion has not been here in ages, that man still gives me the shivers.”
“You have met Zion? Is he mean?” As soon as she said it, it sounded silly.
Perri laughed and shook her head. “Ah, you will see.”
She swallowed, not wanting to see, picturing someone horrifying. Moving over to Perri she shrugged, “I do not know the style of dress that is custom here, you will have to do the picking for me.” Why did she feel like she just let the cat have the mouse?
“Perfect.” Perri continued as she appraised her, her eyes narrowed. “Do you want to look good for him?”
She flushed. “Who?” Again, another ridiculous comment.
“Do you?” Perri whispered again then tilted her head. “I know exactly what he likes. I know what will get his blood pumping, he won’t be able to catch his breath, and I’ll guarantee it.”
Victoria shook her head, and nervously laughed. “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she murmured meekly. But even as she said no, she knew she wanted to say yes. Who wouldn’t? She felt like she had not seen him forever, and when he does finally lay eyes on her she wanted it to count. This could be the last night she’d have a chance to see him. Victoria wanted him to notice her, to look at her like he had in the pool. Yes, she wanted that very much but knew it was a big risk.
“I see that your mind is made up, what shall it be?” she taunted, her plum eyes glittering. “Cateria is looking stunning tonight, and she has his full attention. You’re hardly the only girl who will dress for him. Trust me. Show a little backbone, men like that.”
Victoria squeezed her eyes shut and thought. Sighing she asked, “What does he like? Nothing too scandalous please.”
Perri laughed at that. She stood and her eyes started to flicker eerily, the tattoo on her forearm seemed to contort and shift. As if constructed from the air itself, a stunning dress appeared in Perri’s outstretched hands. Victoria inhaled and stood slowly, her eyes fastened to the glittering garment. The gown appeared to be the darkest of shades and was made out of pure lace.
“Try it on and see for yourself how breathtaking this will be on you. I choose black because there is nothing more alluring than to see innocence dressed in darkness,” Perri murmured with a grin. “Like a black rose.”
Victoria didn’t know how to respond to that but didn’t argue, too awestruck. With Perri’s help, she put the skintight gown on, the fabric sucked to every curve. It was when she gazed at herself in the mirror that she felt faint. “I c-can’t wear this…”
“Yes you can! If you want to blend in, you need to dress the part. If not, Zion will sniff you out within no time,” Perri stood behind her as her grin widened. “You were made for this dress Victoria.”
The dress was long-sleeved and covered her chest and neck, ending high under her jaw line. It would have been a very modest dress if it were not transparent. The glittering black lace was shockingly see-through; the sides of her breasts, her stomach, arms, and legs were all semi-visible. The gown was tight until it reached her lower hips then flowed out like a waterfall of darkness. The intricate designs of the lace were thicker at her nipples and at her womanhood, not comforting her for modesty’s sake in the least. Judging by how the dress was designed, she assumed one could not wear undergarments of any sort. A slit in the dress ended high on her thigh, making her feel naked.
Victoria took a deep breath. “I have to wear something underneath this, this slit is too high not to,” she breathed. If a slight wind were to blow under her dress she would be exposed.
“Yes, of course. Put these on, they’re made with the same fabric, covering you.” Perri tossed a piece of flimsy fabric at her.
“What is this?” There was simply nothing to it for heaven’s sake.
“Undergarments, put your legs through the holes and pull them up,” she said irritably.
Victoria rolled her eyes and did it, not feeling pleased. This dress was so alien to her, she wasn’t sure if she could go out like this. But, something deep and dark inside her loved it. She tried to ignore it, knowing she should not fantasize about Ezra’s reaction, but couldn’t help it.
“Now it’s time for your jewelry.” Perri said as wrapped a long Sapphire necklace around her neck, the color matching her eyes perfectly. The large, crystal clear jewels hung to the middle of her breasts, contrasting with the black lace. Victoria’s hair was styled long and straight, her hair ending at her waist. Half of her hair was pulled back with sapphire gems and black plaits completing the extravagant look. Perri then gave her heeled dress shoes that looked more like ancient sandals, except for the black jewels on them.
Victoria gazed at her reflection, not recognizing who stared back. With her father’s looks, she now appeared like a dark queen rather than an innocent princess. Her eyebrows were arched making her gaze seem very intense. She looked like a woman of sheer confidence, too bad it didn’t reflect on the inside.
“We must leave and meet up with Elm and Drake, you must start drinking to numb your power before Zion and Michael arrive,” she commanded, pulling her along with her.
There was no way of backing out now; they were already out the door. Being outside her room in this dress made her heart pound with indecision. Men walked by, their eyes instantly traveling over her body boldly. Victoria looked away from them, unable to bear their scrutiny.
“Keep your head up,” Perri hissed. “You look stunning, that’s why they look at you that way.”
Victoria nodded, not saying anything. Her body was trembling in fear; this was putting her completely out of her comfort zone.
“Bloody hell,” Perri said and rolled her eyes. She took off one of her necklaces, which held a golden vile. “Take a sip of this. You look like you’re going to pass out.”
“What is it?” she whispered, taking the vial.
“Something that will prevent you from getting killed. You keep looking like you’re scared out of your mind and Zion will feed on that,” she murmured seriously.
Victoria took the lid off with her shaky hands and smelt it, immediately scrunching up her nose. “Yuck.”
“Hurry and take the damn thing!”
With a deep breath she tilted her head back. The liquid in the vial coated her throat then hit her tummy. It sent a flash if warmth through her entire body, like it now coursed through her blood. Victoria shivered, feeling instantly relaxed, her muscles were surprisingly un-tensed. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Just act the part now,” she hissed back.
Victoria nodded and walked beside her with her chin tilted up. The drink was doing wonders to her nerves, she actually felt confident for the first time. Her body seemed in tune to everything around her. The hallway was barely lit with golden torches, the flames flickering in the walls. In front of them she spotted Elm, who was looking very handsome in gold and green finery. He turned to look at them and his eyes widened. Drake followed suit, their eyes roaming down her body in open admiration.
Her cheeks flushed, but didn’t look away this time, feeling bold. What was that drink Perri gave her? It made her feel like she could concur the world, no wonder Perri always seemed so poised.
Elm’s gaze flickered over her once more then glanced across to Perri. He smiled at her, “Perri.”
She grinned back; the smile was seductive, “Elm.” Perri glanced at Drake who was still eyeing her with hungry eyes. “Drake, how long till Zion arrives?”
“Soon,” he murmured, still in his trace.
“You better stop staring at Victoria like she is a piece of meat and get on with it,” she harshly whispered.
Elm laughed at that making Victoria blush, again. Maybe she could use another drink.
Drake looked a little embarrassed. He glanced at Elm and shook his head. “Ezra, God rest his soul,” he clipped out, and then turned to leave.
Elm’s green gaze settled on her. “Drink this quickly.”
She took the golden goblet and put it to her lips. Perri gave her an encouraging look to drink. Downing the substance was not as bad as she thought, for it tasted like fruit.
“You might feel a little light headed at first but you will get used to it. Now, go mingle in the hall, making sure you do not let Drake or me out of sight. We will be the ones refilling your drink.”
A chunky man that she had seen before walked up to them. He was holding a piece of meat, chewing. His beady eyes rested on her and then they narrowed. “You can see her breasts through that,” he pointed.
Victoria cringed, wanting to cover up.
“Tiny, you’re supposed to be the lookout—go!” Elm closed his eyes and exhaled.
Tiny nodded and then smiled creepily at Victoria, with food still visible in his mouth. “Save me a dance princess.” He pointed awkwardly at her for a couple seconds then left with his head held high like a regal king.
Elm watched as Tiny left, his round body power walking past people. “There’s no help for it,” he turned to leave. “Find me if anything goes amiss.”
Victoria looked out over the balcony for the first time, looking for him. She didn’t see him, though it was hard to see with the low lighting. They still had a little ways to go until they reached the main entrance, where she first entered Sydonia. Then they would make their way down the main staircase to the bottom.
“Victoria, Ezra’s at the main entrance with Drake. Keep your cool, and don’t stare at him,” she whispered beside her. “We will head straight down the staircase passed them.”
Her heart started to thunder. How did Perri know? Did she see him?! She almost felt sick with nervousness, butterflies were taking flight in her stomach. Victoria wasn’t prepared to see him just yet, wanting to panic. Her firm confidence was slipping from just the mention of his name.
“Relax,” Perri squeezed her hand.
Taking a deep breath she tried to get a hold of herself. They rounded the last corner and her heart was in her throat. Instantly she spotted him and her whole body tensed unwillingly. Time seemed to stop altogether, suspended. He was not facing her for he was conversing with Drake, his back to her. It made sense that he would be at the entrance; he had to be there when Zion arrived.
She didn’t realized how broad of shoulder Ezra was, for he seemed so much bigger than Drake. Ezra stood half a head taller than him; the air of authority was in his strong stance and Drake’s serious expression. Even from this angle he looked terribly handsome, his allure was undeniable. His hair was pulled back with raven stands falling out from its confines. He wore an immaculate black, gold and crimson dress coat fit for an Arabian king with black pants that hung on his trim hips and molded perfectly to his muscled backside. His wide back and his long powerful legs would make a strong man wary.
She felt her face heat.
As they approached closer to them Drake’s eyes raised and met theirs. Victoria held her breath for this got Ezra’s attention. He slowly turned to see what had stole Drake’s interest, his hands in his hips. His pale gaze scanned and then instantly clashed with hers, arresting time. It looked like it took him a minute to realize what he was gazing at. And once he did, his expression morphed into something she couldn’t read, for she’d never seen it before. His eyes widened and narrowed at the same time, the color of his skin dropped dramatically.
Yes, it was a look of utter… shock.
His stare immediately lowered and paused at her breasts and took one step forward, his mouth dropped slightly open. Victoria felt her heart thumping madly as Perri pulled her along. She tore her gaze from Ezra’s stunned one, trying to calm her dancing nerves.
Perri whispered as they made their way down the stairs. “Bravo, I think that’s the first jaw drop I have ever witness on him,” she whispered, clearly enjoying herself. “I told you this dress would render him breathless.”
She found her voice. “I wasn’t sure if he was mad or shocked. Maybe this was a bad idea,” she whispered, second-guessing her decision.
“It was both,” said a low voice behind them.
Perri gasped and turned around with Victoria to stare at Ezra’s irate expression. Victoria was frozen from fear as she stared up at him.
“A word alone with Victoria, if you don’t mind Perri. I think you’ve done enough,” he hissed, the deep circles under his eyes bespoke of a short temper.
This was the first time she saw Perri blush. She nodded and gave Victoria a pitying look then continued down the stairs alone. Ezra grabbed her arm, pulling her back up the stairs. Victoria tried to pull her arm free but his grip wasn’t budging. They passed the entrance where Drake stood and went into a room close by. Ezra walked in with her and slammed the door, throwing her on a plush couch.
Victoria found her bearings and covered her bare legs that the slit exposed. She said breathlessly, “What are you doing?”
He stared down at her, his harsh breathing apparent. It seemed like hours went by before he spoke, “You dressed for me, did you?”
She forced a smile, trying to mask her absolute nervousness. “Of course. Do you like it?” God, did she really just say that?!
That seemed to catch him off guard, some of the anger leaving, softening his features. He was so devastatingly attractive; his loose black shirt was unbuttoned showing his chiseled chest. Yes, he played the ruthless pirate too well in fact; the silver rings in his ears flashed in the low lighting. He grinned down at her, his smile making her blush and her heart quicken. “You’re scared out of your mind.”
She took a deep breath, knowing that there was no use in lying. “Yes,” she barely said.
“I thought so,” he murmured. He walked towards her and kneeled in front of her, his body so close to hers now.
He was so close she could smell the intoxicating scent of him. His gaze lowered to her breast and he exhaled. “Woman, what are you wearing?” he rasped.
“I’m just blending in,” she said, and wondered how she was able to talk. He was giving her such a smoldering look she shivered from it.
“I want to do bad things to you,” Ezra whispered, his eyes raised to hers, his pupils dilated.
She couldn’t talk after that comment. Her skin tingled and her body felt like an inferno. He needed to stop looking at her like he wanted to pounce.
He tilted his head; his control seemed to waver as he inched closer. “What did you think my reaction would be? You make me hot in a trashy whore’s gown. So, you in something like this…” he trailed off, eyeing her body again.
“I… don’t know,” she said softly, her pulse going wild.
“You wanted to torture me,” he said with a dark smile. His eyes went back to her dress and he sighed. “I could rip this so easily,” he looked up at her. “Are you wearing any under garments?”
She still could not find her voice, scared to move.
Victoria knew what he was doing; Ezra was getting back at her for taunting him by speaking to her so boldly. Now knowing what he was doing, something inside of her wanted to play. “Just a little piece of cloth, made of lace. Hardly undergarments.”
His eyes darkened as he studied her.
“I personally like not wearing them… especially up top.” Her hands smoothed down her breasts, making his breathing hitch and his arms tense. “I believe it’s much more comfortable.” Victoria murmured, trying to keep her head in place and her voice from not quivering.
Ezra took a long moment as he watched her. “You’re a clever girl Victoria, but not very smart.” He grabbed her suddenly and pulled her up against his hard body, her gasp went unheard as his mouth closed over hers. His passion was heady, a deadly tonic as his sensuous lips moved and sucked. Ezra murmured her name against her parted lips and his hands cupped her breasts making her moan in response. His palms squeezed and molded, pinching her peaked nipples through the scandalous fabric. Everything was happening so quickly she didn’t even have time to think, only feel.
Victoria was suddenly flipped on her back and Ezra’s large frame was over hers. The feel of him on top of her was so stimulating; her senses were going wild! This heat was consuming her body and mind. She felt her gown being moved up frantically as his clever hands found her meager undergarment, doing away with it, moving to her center. She cried out as he touched her there, his skilled hands were moving, doing things that were making her mind shatter.
He whispered harshly, “I don’t have time to take this slow, but I need to taste you.”
Ezra’s hand was gone and suddenly he moved swiftly. His hot mouth was now down by her legs, kissing up them with hurried fever. He made it to her inner thighs, sucking the soft skin there. His mouth then moved up suddenly, making her instantly tense and her eyes open.
Panic seized her.
His lips closed over her womanhood and she yelped, trying to squirm away. Ezra laughed against her, moving over her still with his skilled tongue, not slowing, holding her still. What was this?! What was he doing?! Her squirming stilled and pleasure engulfed her reality, blurring everything, only feeling him.
Something crashed and Ezra was instantly on his feet, out of breath.
Victoria, still in her dreamy daze, didn’t realize what happened. She felt him pull her to her feet, smoothing out her dress.
A loud laugh echoed throughout the room. “Excuse me for intruding, I didn’t know this room was occupied.”
Ezra closed his eyes, pushing Victoria behind him.
Victoria peered around him and almost screamed. A man with ghostly white skin leaned up again the wall; his pale flesh had red marking all over it. He stood well over seven feet tall with a bald head and evil crimson eyes. He wore no shirt and loose black pants. His muscles were massive and alarming, he looked like a monster.
Ezra stepped forward. “Zion, what a pleasure.”
Victoria felt faint, and wondered wildly why Zion looked so familiar.