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      "What in damnation is this?" Sonya's voice roared through the Council chambers. The walls seemed to shake and Vale's heartbeat jumped into her throat. "I specifically asked for their heads and you failed to produce results, Vale."

      Vale swallowed and unclenched her jaw. "There was not much left of their heads by the time I was done with them. I thought it would be more of an insult to present their brains in pieces to you."

      "I gave you an order, you insolent cretin. I will see you punished for this." Sonya made a sudden motion with her hands and the guards around Vale grabbed her arms and brought her to her knees. "This is the last time you will ever disobey your betters." Despite the urge to scream in pain, Vale remained silent as the guards cut her leather tunic away from her body.

      Her entire back was exposed to the room and the Mark of Possession burned like poison against her skin. She had disobeyed her masters, but she had obeyed her conscience. There was no better way to die. Vale looked up long enough to let Sonya see the defiance on her face and the hatred in Sonya's eyes froze the blood in Vale's veins. If someone didn't stop her, she would kill every person that she came in contact with and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop her. If only Vale was given the chance...

      "Sonya, my dear, let the poor creature off with a warning and a few lashings. She is not as strong as we are, as I am sure you are aware. She still has a human heart and mind. She will never have the resolve that you hold." Gaelen the Green stood from his throne and slinked toward Sonya. His green hair swayed around the length of his body and he gave the woman a seductive smile that made even Vale's heart soften.

      Sonya looked conflicted for a few moments but nodded. "I will do as you suggest, but she will be given more blood before I allow her to go back to her rooms. Maybe if we show her exactly what she will become she will follow her orders." Her eyes flickered to me and hardened. "If the transfusion kills her, then so be it."

      "What if it drives her mad? Are you going to clean up the mess that she leaves behind? It will require quite a bit of damage control." Vale watched in disgust as Gaelen's hand wrapped around Sonya's slender waist. One would think that the Fae were too pure to consort with vampires, right?

      The blissful look on Sonya's face told a different story. If Vale's suspicions were correct, Gaelen the Green would become Sonya's weakness. Only a moment later, Sonya's eyes snapped back to their natural cold state and her entire body seemed to tense. "The girl will be taught a lesson. I will not kill her, but she will understand that she cannot get away with disobeying me. If it weren't for us, she would still be slaving away in the pig sty we dragged her out of."

      The guards continued to hold Vale in place while Sonya grabbed her favorite whip from the rack that stood near her throne. Sonya was always the kind of person to execute any punishments that she gave out. Vale's back stung just from thinking about what she was going to do to it. She was never merciful with her punishments. Vale squeezed her eyes shut as Sonya drew near. Vale didn't want to see Sonya's smug grin as she took away her dignity piece by piece.

      The first crack of the whip made Vale's ears ring. She barely had time for the pain of the first kiss of sharp leather to register before the second landed inches from the original wound. There was no doubt that Sonya had opened the skin. Vale felt the blood trickle in hot rivets down her back, staining the pale, blonde hair red. Blinking away the tears, Vale looked up to see Riordan looking down at where she knelt on the floor. His eyes held a kind of sorrow that Vale didn't understand. Why would he feel pity for her? He was a Councilman and Vale was just an Altered.

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