Chapter 13

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Shock. Utter shock. Confusion. Deep-rooted anger at Viktor. It all swirled together in the room from the three brothers that were standing around me, staring down at the ring in my palm. No one spoke for a long time. The question hung in all of their minds, no one being able to utter the words. "You're Viktor's Bride?" Nicolae at last spoke what they were all asking. I took a deep breath, exhaling before I could answer. "Not yet." Relief. More shock. And then I felt the hurt. "You're engaged to Viktor?" Peter asked with a pained voice. I looked up to meet his green eyes that were sad. "Not right now. I will be once I have to return to him or he comes to collect what's his." I had said the last with such bitterness and pain in my voice it trembled.

They were still trying to process what all this meant. "Victor stole me from my previous master, rescuing me from him, but he too turned around to use me for his purposes; to further his hold over the underworld in Europe. He would send me all over the place to 'work my magic' and slowly build him an empire through manipulation, seduction and," my eyes dropped down to the heavy ring in my hand before I finished, "and assassination." The brothers shuffled a bit, anger at Viktor mixing in with grief for me. "I was his ultimate weapon for the leaders of the underworld, always kept hidden, secret, when I wasn't on a specific mission for him. It's how I know Sebastian so well. Viktor had sent me to him to seduce him, making him fall in love with me, so Viktor could lure him out to pay a blood price to another associate."

"Then what was the 'deal' you made with Viktor?" Nicolae asked, confused. I took another breath, dying inside as my freshly exposed heart bled. "The deal was that he would no longer send me to do that to others but only if I became his Vampire Bride, his queen." I closed my eyes as the tears started streaming down my face, looking down at the eternal prison represented by the stone I held in my hand. I slowly took the ring and slipped it on my finger, trying it on for the first time. All three brothers stared at it twinkling on my finger. I gagged again, bringing my other arm up to my lips to hold it in. Swallowing down the bile I continued, "When "I'm ready," I'm supposed to start wearing it and then he will no longer send me out to do his dirty work."

"But he came and took Mia, why would he do that if he wants you?" Drogo asked, anger in his voice. What could I say? How did I state the truth of the matter. "Mia is just a play thing to pass the time, like the last one and the dozens before her. They are there to keep him amused until he tires of them. I have always been there and through the years, Viktor has become 'attached' to me. As close as that monster can come to loving someone." My chest was starting to physically ache and I crossed my arms over my body, trying to hold my heart together. "If. When I become his Bride, the deal was I become a more willing participant and don't resist him when he comes to me. I am to drink exclusively from his bitter, acrid vein. I -" my words cut off with a sob as my hands covered my face from the horror of it.

And then I was surrounded, on all sides, by pairs of strong arms offering their comfort. Nicolae and Peter each rested against a shoulder and Drogo at my back as I cried. And now they knew. I now feared they would leave me to Viktor's mercy. Forever was a very long time to be the Bride of an evil tyrant like Viktor. Especially now that my heart had been touched, was beating and bleeding for the taste of love that I had sampled. How could I ever return to Viktor now? I couldn't. Not alive. I had this time here but then I would be his; his forever. Unless. "Sasha! No." Nicolae had heard. He grabbed my wrists and pulled my hands away from my face.

I looked up at him through my tears. He turned me to him and brought both of his hands to gently hold my face. "Don't ever think that again. Not ever. We have some time. All is not lost. We will find a way." And then he smiled a smile so beautiful my breath caught as he leaned in close to whisper, "You are not alone anymore. We would never abandon you to Viktor without fighting for you first." My eyes closed at his words washing over me, my lips parting at the thought of being with them instead of Viktor. My heart ached. I should never have let them in; it would have been so much easier if I had never even - My train of thought was silenced as Nicolae's lips met mine.

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