Pietro held Selene closely as she sat in the library doing her research. It had become their routine of late, making her love him even more to know that he was content with being with her while she dove into her own little world. But as always, he knew how to draw her out and kissed the side of her neck. Her body was suddenly very hot.
“Do you really think you’ve gathered enough information for the council?”
“I hope so. Most of them are second and third-generation Reborns. Fear is a ruling concept among them. I’m hoping to prey on that.”
“That’s probably a winning strategy.” He kissed the top of her head as he wrapped his arms tighter around her waist, comforting her. “Do you have your mask for the Masquerade Ball tonight?”
“I do!” she jumped, excited. The Royals were having a Masquerade Ball this year as the winter came to replace the autumn. A Ball was tradition, and the idea of masks had been Selene’s idea, one she was grateful the Queen supported. “Do you is the proper question?”
“I bought mine this morning, along with a very fashionable new suit. Will I be escorting you?”
“I should hope so.”
“It’s a pity Anita is going alone. I know how much she wished Blake was here.”
“You shouldn’t be invading her thoughts.”
“Oh yes, I know, you keep telling me it’s an invasion of privacy.”
Pietro laughed. “You’re just too precious.”
“Well, I should hope so.” She leaned back into him, shutting the book to listen to his heartbeat. A grape hit her nose. Her eyes jerked open to glare at her brother, who was taking a seat, grinning.
“Hello there, love birds. Are you all set for the ball tonight?”
“We were just discussing that, in fact,” answered Pietro, exhaustion and annoyance bearing down on his voice. Selene knew that Pietro disliked Eris, although not nearly as much as Eris disliked him.
“Will Azelia be going?”
“She’s going to meet me there. She has to finish up some stuff around the palace before she can join me.”
“That’s a bit of a nuisance,” commented Pietro.
Eris nodded his agreement. “Aye, that it is. I wish she could join me earlier but she’s in charge and has a job to do.” He popped a green grape into his mouth. “Is your presentation ready for tomorrow?”
“Just about. I don’t see what more I can do except pray that they listen to me. The barriers are doing more harm than good. I can’t believe they don’t see it. Once those go, the ones around the towns can go, and everyone can stop living in fear…you know, for the most part.”
Eris shrugged. “Don’t forget, fear is what’s blinding those self-righteous fools. They believe in a false hope that they will forever be protected. They don’t care what happens in the world as long as they’re safe.”
“Quite stupid if you ask me,” commented Pietro. “For all the wisdom they claim to have, they forget that if you keep a bird caged long enough when you let it out, it will fall to its death, for it never learned to spread its wings.”
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” said Selene in a sing-song voice.
“Amazing. It’s as though you two were cut from the same cloth.” Eris shook his head and, still smiling, he tipped his head to them before finishing off Selene’s glass of ale on the table. “If need be, we’ll destroy them ourselves, won’t we.”
“If need be, yes. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though.”
“I don’t know. I rather enjoy the thought.” Eris winked at her as he drank more ale from an unknown glass. Rolling her eyes, she watched her brother, a sense of dread knotting inside her. A part of her worried it may just come down to that.
Anita finished the last few touches on Selene’s hair. Anita was wearing a sparkling blue gown. The bodice hugged her waist tightly, showing off its tiny size, making it tinier than needed. Selene winced as Anita pulled her hair back.
“Please tell me you’re almost done.”
“Almost. This would be easier if your hair wasn’t so long and thick.”
“You sound like my mother.”
“Good.” Anita pulled and twisted, twirled and tucked at the strands of her hair. Then, she grabbed a few roses from the dresser and wove them into her hair. Selene wished her scalp would go numb. “Done!”
Selene sighed gratifiedly and finally looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was pulled into a braided bun with roses all round. From the center of the braided crown sprung her hair. It fell in waves like a fountain and glistened even more than usual with the added rubies. Her blood-red bodice had black lace down the center, and the gown’s top revealed her shoulders. She was slightly uncomfortable with how high the bodice pushed her bosom. A knock came at the door, and she lit up, grabbed her red mask, layered with black lace, and put it on. It felt weird having such a silly thing on, stuck on with a sticky substance. The only fun part was the growing mystery of the concept.
Selene watched Anita put on her white mask before she opened the door. Pietro bowed to them both and offered each of them an arm.
The girls exchanged smiles before taking up either arm. Pietro led the way in his black suit and mask. The corridors were empty, except for the occasional couple heading down to the Ball Room. Reaching the Ball Room, Selene’s breath caught, the unexpected beauty of the decorations overwhelming her.
Magically lit candles floated high about the room, lighting it up. The ceiling looked like the night sky, only with many more stars to light up the night.
“My lord, what did Anita do to your hair?” Eris appeared beside her, pulling her away from Pietro’s arm. “I hope you don’t mind if I dance with my sister.”
“You take precedent. Just don’t keep her all night.” Eris pulled his sister along and led her around the dance floor. His face was covered with suspicion.
“Have you noticed Kyra?” he muttered as he moved her across the floor.
“All shifty despite her outward appearance? Oh yes, I’ve noticed.”
“Good.” Eris twirled her around and led her back. “Have you noticed how Ranita has looked lately?”
“Yes. Anita doesn’t even know what’s wrong with her. Whatever makes her nervous must be serious if she won’t tell her daughter.”
“Is it just me, or are things feeling a bit ominous?”
“Glad it’s not just me.” He looked over her shoulder and twirled her once more. “Well, here comes Pietro. Don’t trip.” Eris spun her all the way until she was against Pietro’s chest. He smiled at her, his teal eyes sparkling beneath his dark mask. The music briefly stopped, announcing a new dance. Naavah and Uriel began, followed by the other Council Members. Partners switched as they moved across the floor.
As others began to fill the floor, Pietro led Selene onto the floor to join in the dance. As she danced and twirled, she lost sight of Kyra and Ranita. She pushed the dark thoughts out of her mind as she switched to a new partner. Just dance, she told herself.
But when Selene’s hands touched her third partner, all feelings of joy shattered. Black eyes held her gaze from behind a black mask, and his gloved hands wrapped around her wrist tightly, making her wince. Selene willed herself to stay calm while she danced with the masked Senid.
“You can look at me, darling. I’m not a Vampyre. I don’t bite.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
He laughed and spun her, yanking her back to him roughly. Pain shot up Selene’s arm. “You are so like him. How fickle those Gods can be.” He spun her again and yanked her back even harder, forcing her to clench her teeth tightly to not cry out as she nearly slammed into his chest.
“What is it you have on your face?”
“Some diamond and silver dust. I only needed to pass as a simple Witch.”
“We’re hardly simple.”
Senid chuckled. “You are hardly simple, my dear. You know your Vampyre King is here. Your dear Kyra has freed Larkin and Ranita…well, dear Ranita is probably dead. What a pity.” He pulled her close and bent his lips to her ear. His breath was as cold as death.
“Tell me, my dear; are you afraid of the dark?” Senid spun her hard just before darkness descended. The diamond ceiling shattered just as she hit the ground, shattering her soul. Grasping for air, she forced herself to stand and watch as mass hysteria took over. Shadows swarmed into the room. Selene struggled to stand up, screaming for her brother. As she watched, Witch and Reborn alike were cut down. Dear Ranita is probably dead. Selene ran off.
Eris was watching his sister spin around the floor, all smiles. From the corner of his eye, he watched as Kyra left, followed soon after by Ranita. He looked back at the dancing crowd, trying to find his sister. Finally, catching a glimpse of her, his blood turned cold. Her expression of pain and loathing told him all he needed to know.
Eris began running through her, pushing his way through people here and there. Then suddenly, darkness fell over the room like a thick blanket; the diamond ceiling shattered, and screams filled the air. Eris looked for his sister and tried to yell for her, but even he couldn’t hear his screams over the hysteria. He watched as she ran down a corridor. Eris wanted to chase after her, but something told him she would be okay. Someone slammed him against the wall and held him there with unbelievable strength. Eris stared at Senid hatefully.
“How pathetic. You used to be more fun.” Senid punched him, sending him flying to the ground. Eris struggled to get up while blood filled his mouth as Senid stood over to him. “See you around, brother. I have to take care of that honey-colored darling of yours.” He dissipated into shadows, and Eris ran, shoving Reborn and Witch out of his way towards the staircase, slipping on the sleek marble floors.
Running down the stairs towards the kitchens, he looked for any sign of Azelia. Screaming filled the air, his heart stopped. Running towards the kitchen, his feet heavy with each step, Eris threw open the double door. Just as quickly, his heart stopped.
Before him stood Azelia, holding her side, trying to staunch the bleeding that was quickly soaking her dress. Holding her from behind was Senid, his arm wrapped around her throat, a bloodied knife in his free hand.
“Oh good, you made it.” Before Eris could react, Senid drove the knife into Azelia’s back and vanished just as quickly, a grin on his face. Eris screamed and ran to her, catching her in his arms. His knees hit the ground hard.
Laying her in his lap, he felt her warm blood stain his clothes. There was no lie he could tell to fool himself that she would be all right.
“Shh.” He stroked her hair out of her face and stared into her dark honey eyes, watching her life slip away. Eris held her tighter. A sad smile lit up her face. She cupped his cheek with her blood-covered hand, using what little strength she had left.
“I–I lo–love you,” she stuttered.
“I love you too.” She smiled, her eyes fluttering closed. Eris held her hand tighter against his cheek, willing her to live, willing for a miracle to stop her bleeding, but it was no use. No miracle came, and the light in her skin soon began to vanish, her life slowly and steadily snuffing out like a star.
“C–come back t–to me.” Her hand fell limp, falling from his face, and finally, her heart stopped. Eris screamed in rage, shaking her in a heartbreaking attempt to wake her. But it was no use. The light was gone from her body, taking her life with it.
There was so much blood, but no body, at the dungeon entrance. Bending down to examine, she thought only of Ranita. This blood had to be hers.
A scream shook her from her thoughts, and Selene recognized it immediately. It belonged to Urit. Quickly forgetting the dungeon, Selene ran to the aid of her friend, hoping to be in time. She would not lose another friend this night.
Selene stumbled up the steps in her bloodied shoes. So much death, it sickened her to the core. Selene stumbled in the darkness towards the library. She saw a Shadowling standing over fallen bookshelves. Through the shelves and books, she saw a hand.
“Urit!” The hand twitched, the Shadowling vanished, and Selene ran, falling to the floor. She threw book after book across the room. She pulled Urit out from under the heavy load with all her might, clutching her in her arms. Urit’s wings were mangled and broken, and three large gashes were at her side. Urit was broken.
“Selene, t–the Shadowlings”
“I know. They’ve already struck.”
“Az–azelia. F–find Azelia.”
“No, I need to help you first.” Tears fell from her eyes.
“H–he warned me. T–told me my t–time was sh–short. I sh-should be m–more like Abel.” She swallowed deeply, but blood still seemed out the corner of her mouth. “I sh–should accept death w–with dignity. Sh–shouldn’t have fought.”
“Urit, don’t speak. You need to save your strength.” Selene began screaming for help.
“So–sorry Selene, he was r–right. M–my time is up.” Her body shook. Selene ripped off some of her dress to staunch the bleeding.
“Urit, don’t die! Help! Someone help!” Selene continued to scream and scream, even after the light left her, leaving Urit’s body cold.
Blood Hunger (Eclipsing Trilogy, #1)
Eris and Selene Sintas thought their menial Witching lives were simple. That was until the magical barrier protecting their small town vanished in the night, attracting not just the Vampyre’s that go bump in the night. Suddenly, the two siblings discover that they have been dragged into a war between the sisters of light and darkness.
Now, hunted by creatures stronger than Vampyre’s and far more evil, the Sintas Siblings must find refuge before they lose their souls to the Goddess of Darkness.
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