A shiver induced by the stone wall ran through Helena. Her heart kicked into the next gear when she noted the restraints around her wrists. She struggled, tugging at the unforgiving shackles time and time again.
“Looks like she’s finally awake,” someone said in a gruff voice.
“Then get on with it,” another replied.
She whipped her head around in search of the voices. The sudden action blurred her vision, causing her to squint. A low-wattage bulb at the end of the room exposed crates and stacked boxes. A bald man sat at a table, his legs crossed at the heel whilst his beefy hands held the local newspaper.
The second man pushed away from the grimy wall, sauntering towards her. His unnerving grin revealed a set of elongated canines.
A breath caught in her throat.
“Aren’t you a tad bit young to be working for Alexander?” he asked.
A deep frown creased her face while her attention darted between her captors. She didn’t work for Alexander nor did she ever want to see him or Lucious again.
The stranger stopped a foot away from her. Dark, greasy hair clung to his scalp in thinning streaks. A few strands separated at the front, curtaining his heavy-lidded eyes. He reached out, grabbing her hair with a sharp twist and lifted her head to meet his narrowed eyes. “I asked you a question, human.”
Her nose wrinkled in disgust. His breath—a mixture of cheap tobacco, beer, and something else—caused her stomach to churn. Panic will not solve anything, she thought, yet her heart ignored her rationalisation.
“I don’t work for him,” she said, surprised her voice came out unshaken.
He waved at her thin shirt and smart trousers. “We saw you leaving his club looking like this.”
Helena fought the urge to roll her eyes. If he’d been inside, he would know Alexander’s staff didn’t wear uniforms. Well, the bouncers did… “This is what anyone would wear to an interview!”
His eyes flared with a light-grey glow, and she instantly regretted her snappy tone. She flinched under his menacing stare which made her think of a glowering two-year-old she used to babysit. The kid always shot daggers her way if she didn’t give him any candy.
“…you listening?” He let go of her hair with a sudden shove as he shouted at her.
Helena’s head dunked, encouraging the faint ache to blaze into a full-blown headache.
“I think I hit her harder than I thought.”
“Rick—” The companion set his newspaper on the table, “—if you can’t get anything out of her…”
Helena figured the one who ran the operation was not ‘Rick’. His literate friend held an authoritative confidence the man in front of her lacked. She imagined Rick struggling to read a novel by Tolstoy. The image alone made her lips twitch upwards.
“What’re you smiling about? Don’t you understand what’s going on?” Rick snapped.
She glared at him. Arguing wouldn’t help, but her mouth lost its filter. “Should I?”
Her left cheek exploded with a burning sting as he backhanded her across the face. Automatically, she moved to rub the pain away and realised with a sickening feeling what situation she was in—chained to a wall with two unknown men in a dingy room.
As a dull ache settled in her arms, she bit her lower lip to suppress her bitter tongue from bringing more trouble.
Rick leant in and peered into her face. His lips hovered next to her ear. “Let’s see how much you know.”
He grabbed the sides of her head, forcing her to look at him. When their eyes locked, he grinned.
Helena struggled, screaming, “Let go!”
“Calm down, human.” His harsh tone switched to a soothing melody.
Right on cue, her body relaxed at his command. His glowing eyes became the centre of her universe. Anything he said would be a binding instruction.
Inside, she screamed, fighting his overpowering control, but nothing happened. Why couldn’t Lucious influence me and this idiot can?
“Are you paying attention?”
“Will you obey my commands?”
Flat and emotionless, she answered him in an instant. “Yes.”
Leaning in to the point their noses almost touched, Rick asked his golden question. “Do you work for Alexander?”
The grey glow in his eyes intensified, causing her to feel like she was floating. Her wrists throbbed. The metal cut deeper into her skin, and a groan escaped her.
“Do you know Lucious?”
The vampire’s fingers dug into her jaw, and she winced. “Where is he? What do you know about him?”
“Russian Roulette. He wanted to meet me to undo the link.”
The silent partner sprang from his chair, knocking it over as he rushed to his feet. “What kind of link?”
Words failed her as she fought through her jumbled mix of emotions.
Rick jerked her head backwards and hissed, “Answer his question.”
“I’m not sure. It was an accident.”
In his frustration, Rick shook her. “I’ll suck you dry if you don’t give me some proper answers!”
His partner pulled out his phone, typing something on the smooth glass screen. “She doesn’t have much information, but she can be useful in other ways.”
Rick trailed his fingers along her arms, inching his way closer to her jugular. “Can I play then?”
His influence on her dropped, and Helena glared at the side of his greasy head.
“You can feed but nothing else. We may be able to fetch a decent price for her later.”
Shivers ran through her when Rick faced her with a growing grin. There was little she could tell them about the link, so she couldn’t use that information as leverage. She didn’t know much about Lucious, Alexander, or their plans.
Helena groaned. Her headache transformed into a constant droning. Closing her eyes, her thoughts turned into a prayer for Michael to appear and tell her some good news. News, of any kind, was better than being with these monsters.
The leader glanced at them before his attention returned to his phone. “You have two minutes.” He strode out of the room without another word.
With Rick’s overseer gone, her smart remarks would lead her to an early grave. She eyed the closing door, willing the second man to return while her heart battered against her ribs.
Rick fished out a folding knife from his jeans pocket. Light bled back into his irises as he teased the blade open.
Helena squeezed her eyes shut. She wasn’t going to be his puppet again.
The cool metal tip touched her cheek. “If you don’t open your eyes, I will cut this pretty little face of yours until you do.”
She wavered. The stinging in her cheek hadn’t gone away, and she wasn’t keen on finding out what being chopped to pieces felt like. After all, he threatened with more than a paper cut. Clenching her teeth, she lifted her eyelids. One second of contact was enough to fall under his rule once more.
“Good. Don’t move.”
Her body refused any further movement, and she berated herself for being so weak.
One by one, the buttons of her blouse popped onto the concrete. With the last one gone, he pulled the material apart. His eyes twinkled as if he was a child, opening his Christmas present. He appraised her chest, and her heavy breathing filled the silence.
No matter how hard she fought his mental hold, she could do nothing. He grazed the knife across her pale skin. Blood rushed to the surface, trickling down her small breasts and staining her plain bra. He slid the dull side of the blade across her chest, entranced by the sweet perfume of her blood.
She was certain it couldn’t be her lack of feminine curves that kept his attention.
His mental hold slipped, and she regained control of her limbs. When the knife touched her waist, her hips bucked. In one painful second, the sleek metal sank into her skin. An agonised scream escaped her, bouncing off the walls of the enclosed space.
The boss reappeared, shouting, “I thought I told you to feed and nothing else.”
Rick jerked the blade out. “This bitch is hard to control. Unless I’m looking right at her, she breaks the bloody hold.”
“I don’t give two shits about that,” the man growled. “Leave her be until he comes for her. We must prepare.”
Grumbling under his breath, Rick licked her blood off the blade and let out a satisfied groan. With a fleeting glance in her direction, he stashed his knife away and left with his partner.
Her mouth went dry. She studied the gash. Dark red tendrils descended her side. She rested her head against the wall, focusing on the chipped white ceiling to stop nausea from claiming her in its rising waves.
What am I going to do? No one knows where I am, she thought.
A silvery voice came from her right. “That’s not true.”
Her eyes darted to the side, and she grunted. A headache hit her like a hammer to the face. Her guardian angel stood three feet away with his angular features encased by his long, straight mane of golden hair.
She glared at him. “Where have you been?”
Michael bowed his head in apology. “I should have come sooner, I know. I wanted to find out who they contacted, so I followed—” He paused mid-sentence and rushed to her side. His hand hovered next her injuries. He gritted his teeth. “He hurt you.”
“I’m alright, but can you—” She stopped short of asking him to untie her. This whole situation was too comical not be in a TV drama. He was right there, but he couldn’t save her. His ghostly presence forced him to become a mere observer in her realm. He couldn’t help her in this predicament even if he wanted to. She knew it, he knew it, and the hurt on his face proved it.
Michael sighed. “He will come.”
“And if I don’t want to see him?”
“Helena, you know what will happen to you if you don’t leave this place.”
She arched a brow. “You called him names mere hours ago, what changed?”
“If he can get you out of here, I will adjust my terminology.”
Helena snorted. This day keeps on getting better and better.